The Essential Elements Of Scriptural Baptism, B.J. Clarke

Perhaps no subject evokes more controversy in the religious world than the subject of baptism. Many have been immersed who have never been scripturally baptized. Thus, we ask, “What are the essential elements of scriptural baptism?” In this article we shall note at least four essential elements for a scriptural baptism.

The Right Subject
Baptism is not for everyone. It is only for certain individuals. In order to be baptized scripturally one must be four things. First, he must be an alien sinner (Rom. 3:10, 23). Baptism is not for those who have already become Christians. In Acts chapter 8, we read of Simon the Sorcerer who believed and was baptized, and was therefore saved (Acts 8:13; Mk. 16:16). Shortly after his conversion Simon sinned grievously by attempting to buy the gift of God with money. Peter told him that his heart was not right with God and that he needed to repent of his wickedness and pray to God for forgiveness. Simon was not instructed to be baptized again to remove his sin. Baptism is not for one who has already become a child of God, but rather, baptism is in order that we might become children of God (John 3:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27). Furthermore, since baptism is only for those who are sinners, infants are not subjects for scriptural baptism. Infants are not sinners (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Deut. 24:16;1 John 3:4).

Second, in order to be scripturally baptized one must be a believer in Christ (John 8:24; Mk. 16:16; Acts16:30; Rom. 10:9-10). Here again, this prerequisite rules out infants and those who are mentally incapacitated and unable to comprehend the deity of Christ and to express their faith in that deity.

Third, one must be a penitent believer in Christ in order to be a candidate for scriptural baptism (Lk. 13:3; Acts 17:30; Acts 2:38). The passage in Acts 2:38 makes it abundantly clear that repentance is a prerequisite to scriptural baptism. Thus, if one is not willing to repent of sin then he is not qualified to be baptized. Therefore, those who are living in adulterous marriages, who have no intent whatsoever to leave those adulterous marriages, are not scriptural candidates for baptism. Repentance must precede scriptural baptism.

Fourth, he must be a confessing, penitent believer (Rom. 10:9-10; Phil. 2:9-11; Acts 8:35-40). Conviction in the deity of Christ must be so deep that the candidate is willing to express it publicly, both with his lips and his life. Many of the chief rulers believed on Christ but because of the Pharisees would not confess Him lest they be put out of the synagogue (Jn. 12:42-43). One who has come face to face with the deity of Christ should be more than willing to make the good confession (1 Tim. 6:12).

The Right Element
At least six baptisms are discussed in the New Testament with several different elements involved. There is the baptism of John, the baptism of fire, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of suffering, the baptism unto Moses and baptism in water. By the time that Paul wrote the epistle to the Ephesians there was only one baptism (Eph. 4:5). Thus, the question arises, which of the aforementioned elements is the right element in scriptural baptism today? The answer is given clearly in the Scriptures.

Water is the only element involved in scriptural baptism today. Jesus said that a man must be born of water in order to enter the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). Upon seeing a body of water, the eunuch requested to be baptized in that water for the remission of his sins (Acts 8:36). Paul discussed a washing of water by the Word (Eph. 5:26). Peter pointed his readers back to the water that saved Noah and his family, and emphasized that water baptism today likewise now saves us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:20-21).

Some have suggested that Holy Spirit baptism is the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5. Such is impossible, for several reasons. First, Holy Spirit baptism had Christ as its administrator, and therefore is not the baptism that will last until the end of the world (Matt. 28:18-20). Second, Holy Spirit baptism in no way pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3; Acts 22:16). Holy Spirit baptism was a direct outpouring from heaven. Contrariwise, water baptism definitely pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the candidate dies to sin, is buried, and then arises from that watery grave to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). Third, Holy Spirit baptism was never a command; it was always a promise. The baptism of the great commission is a baptism that we have been commanded to experience in order that we might enter into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus, scriptural baptism must include the right element.

The Right “Mode”
People often speak of different “modes” of baptism, such as sprinkling, pouring or immersion. In reality, the word “baptism”, properly understood, points to only one manner, and that is immersion. The Greek word “baptizo” has often been defined as meaning to plunge, to dip or to immerse. The only scriptural “mode” of baptism is immersion. Paul described baptism as a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). John chose the waters of Aenon near to Salim because there was much water there (John 3:23). Jesus and John the baptizer as well as Philip and the Eunuch, went down into the water and came up out of water, thus signifying immersion as the manner of the New Testament baptism (Matt. 3:16ff; Acts 8:38ff). Furthermore, only immersion pictures a death, burial and resurrection as described in Romans 6. Thus, scriptural baptism is immersion in water.

The Right Purpose
The purpose of baptism is a matter of great controversy in the religious world today. Some say it has no purpose today, others say its purpose is to save, while still others say its purpose is to add one to a denomination after salvation has already been experienced. But what saith the Scriptures? The Scriptures teach that baptism has primarily a two fold purpose.

First, its purpose is to bring us into contact with the saving blood of Christ so that we might be saved, having our sins washed away (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 6:3; 2 Tim. 2:10). No one can read the aforementioned passages carefully and come to any other conclusion but that baptism is essential for salvation.

Second, its purpose is to call us to a new manner of life. Paul speaks of rising from a watery grave to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4-6). The individual who has been baptized must leave the old man of sin behind and no longer allow sin to reign in his mortal body (Rom. 6:6-14). Paul describes the Colossian Christians as those who had put off the old man to put on the new man (Col. 3:5-10; Eph. 4:22ff).

Though much confusion exists in the world today concerning scriptural baptism, God has made his will abundantly clear. Scriptural baptism requires the right subject, the right element, the right manner and the right purpose. May we be loving and yet bold in our proclamation of this truth to a lost and dying world.

From Gospel Preceptor    www.

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