A. T. Darch, West Monkton
IT IS OF THE VERY GREATEST IMPORTANCE to the Lord's people that they should obey His commandments. Israel were told that not to obey was to sin, Num. 32. 23, and king Saul found this to his sorrow when he did not obey the Lord's command to smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that he had, 1 Sam. 15.
Our Lord commanded His disciples to baptize, Matt. 28. 19; He had before affirmed that, that which He told them was as important as the ten commandments, Matt. 5. 19-28. Moreover, to fulfil all righteousness we must of necessity be baptized, as He was. Here a number of questions arise, and the New Testament supplies the answers.
I. WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?
The Scriptures teach that believers, and believers only, should be baptized. Philip preached at Samaria, and 'when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women', Acts 8. 12. When Paul preached at Corinth 'many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized', Acts 18. 8. These and many other Scriptures plainly teach that believers only should be baptized, nor is there any exception to this rule. Our Lord first made disciples, and then baptized them, John 4. 1.
II. HOW SHOULD WE BE BAPTIZED?
As to the scriptural method, in every case it was by immersion. John baptized in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there, John 3. 23. When our Lord was baptized He 'went up straightway out of the water', Matt. 3.16. When the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized he went down into the water, Acts 8. 38. Much water would not be needed, nor would it be necessary to go down into the water, if baptism consisted of a few drops of water sprinkled on the head or face. The only mode of baptism sanctioned by scripture, is by immersion, i.e., the clipping of the whole body beneath the water.
ril. DOES BAPTISM SAVE?
By no means; we cannot be saved by baptism, and we can be saved without it. The penitent thief on the cross was never baptized, yet he went to Paradise, Luke 23. 43. The apostle Paul, who was so very anxious that others should be saved, thanked God that he had baptized only a few of the Corinthians, whereas, if salvation had been by baptism, how very keen he would have been to baptize as many as possible. Christians are not baptized to be saved, they are baptized because they are saved.
IV. SHOULD HOUSEHOLDS BE BAPTIZED?
Yes, because four baptized households are mentioned in the New Testament, but it is to be noted that in each of these there is no mention of infants. In the house of Cornelius it is said that the Holy Ghost fell on all them who heard the Word, and they spake with tongues. Clearly, there were no infants here, for infants could not speak with tongues, Acts 10. 14-40; so, also, with the household of Lydia, Acts 16. 15-40. There is no mention of infants, and if she had a husband, he is not mentioned. It is said of the Philippian jailor, Acts 16. 30-34, that 'he believed in God with all his house'. Infants could not believe in God. The apostle Paul baptized the household of Stephanas, and wrote later that they had 'addicted themselves to the work of the ministry', thus showing that they were adults, 1 Cor. 16. 15.
V. WHEN SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE BAPTIZED?
When there is clear evidence that they have been saved. The eunuch's question to Philip, Acts 8. 36, 'What doth hinder me to be baptized?', and Philip's answer, v. 37, 'If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest', shows that it was the custom of die early Church to be sure of the reality of the faith of those who wished to be baptized. There is every evidence that those baptized by the apostles were true believers. The bitter persecutions of the time, and the stigma attached to being a Christian, were sufficient to deter people from making false professions; 'and of the rest durst no man join himself to them', Acts 5. 13. If it was true under John's baptism that the baptized must 'bring forth fruit meet for repentance', much more is it true under believer's baptism. It is so easy to make a profession to-day, and great care is needed if we are not to baptize unconverted people.
VI. WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN?
It means for the Christian death, burial and resurrection. He dies and is buried; he rises again to walk in newness of life. This is Paul's view of the ordinance of baptism: '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 from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life', Rom. 6. 4.
Such, briefly, is believers baptism; and we should submit to it, because our Lord commands it.