“What The Bible Says About Baptism”
by Harold Hazelip
To many people baptism is a hackneyed theme; it has been debated and argued for centuries. Yet the subject of baptism has never been settled to a good many people, and others have settled it wrong. Since baptism is a command of God, we will give an account to God for our treatment of this command too. There is hardly a religious body in our land that one can enter without submitting to what is called baptism by that religious body. So one must reach a conclusion about the subject before he can enter a religious body. One may answer that his parents settled his matter for him as an infant, but he still must decide whether he is satisfied with that as his obedience to God!
How Can We Learn About Baptism?
There seems to be a rather common idea today that one must know certain other languages beside his own, such as Greek, in order to reach an intelligent decision about baptism. However, one only needs an English Testament and conscientious study to learn for himself what God requires of him. But how can a man best learn the teaching of the Bible regarding baptism? A man once said, “If my mind were unsettled in regard to baptism, I would open my New Testament, and read the entire volume through, watching for the word ‘baptize.’ Every time I found it, I would study the passage carefully and learn all I could. Then I would compile what I had learned, and with God as my only teacher, I would be sure of His approval.” This is a commendable way to study any Bible subject. With purpose of heart, imagine that you have never heard the word “baptize” before, and with your mind as a blank sheet on the subject, allow God to write on it what He will by studying His Word. This is the nature of our examination of baptism. We will accept nothing on the subject of baptism except what we read from the Bible itself. Read the passages along with me in your own Bible, if you wish.
Matthew Third Chapter
When we open our New Testament at
its first chapter, we have first a long list of names preceding the account of
the birth of our Lord. In Matthew
chapter 3, John the Baptizer is introduced to us, and in verses 5 and 6 there
is a word which we shall imagine we have never seen or heard before. The verses say, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region
round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” What could this mean? These people were “baptized” by him in the
River Jordan. The only thing we can
actually learn about the nature of the act itself is that it took place in
water: the River Jordan. John adds in Matthew
3:11, “I indeed baptize you with
water.” So water is the element
with which the act of baptism was being performed, not wine or milk or honey,
or some other. In the same chapter, Matthew , we have the word
again as Jesus comes to be baptized. Verse 16 says, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the
water.” This verse tells what He
did after baptism, but still does not tell us exactly what baptism was. We may find some strong indications in these
verses of what baptism was but we will not draw any conclusions which are not
specifically stated in the texts themselves.
From the third chapter of Matthew, then, one may learn that John
baptized people, he baptized them in the
Our curiosity has been awakened now about the meaning of this word, and we turn through the pages. The word “baptism” is not found again in its literal sense until we come to the closing verses of Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Here we learn that the command is universal (for all nations), and that it is to be performed in the names of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. But we do not learn any new information about what the act is though we do get an idea of its importance as it is authorized by Christ.
The Gospel of Mark
The next New Testament book is the
Gospel of Mark, and in the first chapter we learn, “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of
repentance for the re mission of sins.” We may wonder about John’s baptizing in the
wilderness until we know something of the geography of
Luke and John
In Luke’s Gospel we are reminded of what we have seen before: “And he (John) came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Luke 3:3). Repentance is connected with baptism, and both are for or unto the remission of sins. The next reference which adds to our understanding of baptism is John 3:22-23: “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, be cause there was much water there: and they came and were baptized.” Here is another indication of the nature of the act of baptism, since it is performed in a certain place because there is much water there. However, the term “much” is a relative term, and we will not assume anything at all which is not expressly stated. We are learning gradually about the meaning of baptism from just the verses themselves.
The Acts of The Apostles
When we open the book of Acts, we
learn a new thought about baptism in chapter 2.
The Apostle Peter tells an audience of Jews who were part of that mob
responsible for the death of Christ what they must do to be forgiven of their
sins: “Repent, and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts ) Additional
importance attaches itself to this command as we learn more of the blessings
which God has connected with baptism, including here the remission or taking
away of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We have other references to baptism in Acts, hut none which actually
helps us to know what the act itself is until we get to Acts 8:38-39. Here Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch have been riding
along in a chariot while Philip preached to him Jesus, and the man from
As we continue our search of the
Scriptures which teach concerning baptism, we read in the book of Acts of the
conversions of Saul,
Baptism In Romans and Colossians
As we proceed with our study into the epistles, we come across vital information in Romans 6:3-5. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” In this passage, baptism is into Christ and into His death, so its importance grows. Then Paul writes, “We are buried with him by baptism.” Now we know what happened while men were down in the water being baptized: they were buried in the likeness of Christ’s burial! Then as Christ was raised up, they were raised to walk in newness of life! The same truth is clearly stated in Colossians , “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him…”
In Ephesians 4:4-5, Paul writes, “There is one baptism.” One baptism could not mean three baptisms, could it? Sprinkling, pouring, and immersion? Which one is a burial as Christ was buried? This is a summary of what the Bible teaches about baptism. From the Scriptures themselves we have learned that baptism is a burial of the penitent sinner in water, in the names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the remission of his sins! The last reference to baptism in the New Testament says that as Noah and his family were saved from the flood in the ark by water (as water bore the ark safely), “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Jesus Christ is the Savior, but He promises salvation only to those who sincerely believe in Him and obey His commands. Have you been buried with Him in baptism? Will you investigate His Word for yourself on these matters?