This entry is part of 50 in the series article 26

(Acts 8: 36-39) 

WE are discussing a question at this time that has 
caused much controversy in the religious world. 
We are not discussing it for the purpose of perpetu- 
ating the controversy, but for the purpose of ascer- 
taining the truth. Some of you are approaching this 
theme with preconceived ideas that are keeping you 
from looking at the question candidly and honestly. 
But we want all of you to forget any previous teaching 
you may have had upon the subject; and to consider 
it as something entirely new concerning which we are 
all going to the Word for information. We shall not 
indulge in negative argument unless compelled to do 
so. We shall not pick out a few passages here and 
there and build a sermon around those passages to 
prove a certain position; but we are going to glance 
through the New Testament, and study the term from 
the different passages in which it is used. 

This is a question which you must settle if you ever 
expect to belong to any Protestant religious institution. 
You can not become a member of any church, excepting 
the Friends', without submitting to an ordinance which 
that church calls baptism. Hence it is important that 
you know what baptism is, what it is for, and who is 
eligible for it. This we will find from the Word. 

In the very beginning, let me say that the word 
"baptize" is a verb. A verb always stands for one 
specific action. It can not stand for three altogether 
unsynonymous actions. "When I say I am going to 
walk down the street, I mean that I am going to walk, 
not to run or crawl. So we see that it is useless to talk 
about the "modes" of baptism. Baptism stands for 
one specific action. It is our purpose, ere we are 
through, to find out just what that action is. 

1. Matthew 3. In this chapter, we find the word 
used for the first time. We find John the Baptist is 
preaching in the wilderness of Judea, heralding the 
advent of Jesus; and the people of Jerusalem and 
Judea, upon the confession of their sins, are being 
baptized by John in the Jordan. Note that the people 
are being baptized in the river Jordan. This testimony 
is very clear. 

In the eleventh verse we find that water is the ele- 
ment. In the thirteenth verse we read that Jesus came 
all the way from Nazareth in Galilee, to be baptized by 
John. In the sixteenth verse we find that, after Jesus 
was baptized, he "went straightway up out of the 
water." Now we know that Jesus was baptized by 
John, and that this baptism took place in the river 
Jordan, after which He came up out of the water and 
the voice of the Almighty recognized Him for the first 
time as His own dear Son. But what did John do 
when he baptized Him? 

2. Matt. 28 : 19. The apostles are given a most 
solemn command to teach all nations, and baptize 
them; and this baptism is to be done in the name of 
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

We note that this is not a promise, but a specific com- 
mand, which the apostles are to obey. We note also 
that the teaching must precede baptizing. 

3. Mark 1. Here we find testimony similar to that 
of Matthew. John is baptizing in the wilderness (v. 
4), or in that part of the river Jordan which pene- 
trates the wilderness (v. 5). The remainder of the 
testimony agrees in all particulars with that of Mat- 

4. Mark 16 : 16. This contains a remarkable state- 
ment. It conveys the same meaning as the statement 
of our Lord in Matt, 28 : 19. He commands the apos- 
tles to preach the gospel to every creature; those 
who believe and are baptized will be saved. If my 
Master says I must be baptized before I am saved, I 
am certainly going to obey Him. This makes the term 
more important than ever. 

5. Luke 3 : 1-22. This language merely corroborates 
the testimony of Matthew and Mark. But it adds some 
information. In verse 3 we are informed that John 
preached "the baptism of repentance for the remission 
of sins 9 '; that is, he required people to repent, or turn 
from their evil way, before submitting to baptism in 
the river Jordan. He did not baptize them for the 
remission of sins because Jesus had not yet made 

6. John 3 : 22, 23 ; 4 : 1, 2. Luke, having given us 
no more information, we turn over to the Gospel ac- 
cording to John. John corroborates the testimony of 
Matthew, Mark and Luke, concerning John the Bap- 
tizer, in the very opening of his narrative. However, 
he throws no additional light upon the subject in hand 
until we come to his third and fourth chapters. Here 
we are informed that Jesus and the disciples were 
preaching and baptizing; and that John was baptizing 
in Aenon, near to Salim, "because there was much 
water there. " Evidently it required a considerable 
amount of water for baptizing, although the phrase 
"much water" is exceedingly vague. As yet we have 
no information concerning the action. 

7. Acts 2 : 38, 41. These passages inform us that 
Peter, to whom Jesus had given the keys of the king- 
dom, makes baptism a positive command. Here we 
find the apostles doing what Jesus told them to do — 
teaching and baptizing. Peter preaches a short ser- 
mon ; three thousand hear and believe, and ask what 
they must do. He tells them to repent and be baptized 
"for the remission of their sins." We read that those 
who received his word were baptized. 

These passages confirm the fact that a person must 
believe and repent, before being baptized; only a peni- 
tent believer is eligible for baptism; that baptism is 
ncessary to salvation, or remission of sins; and that 
those who believe, repent, and are baptized, are added 
to the church by the Lord (v. 47). This clarifies 
matters a great deal. 

8. Acts 8 : 12. This passage merely confirms our 
understanding that a person must hear the gospel, and 
believe, before being baptized. 

9. Acts 8 : 36-39. Here we have a better view of 
the subject. Here we have a very clear illustration of 
baptism. It seems that God, foreseeing all the misun- 
derstanding that would prevail regarding this subject, 
has given us one illustration that is too clear for mis- 
understanding. Here are preacher and sinner riding 
along together in a chariot; the preacher is preaching 
Christ; they come to a certain water; the sinner asks 
what is to prevent him being baptized; the preacher 
tells him that he may, if he believes with all his heart; 
the sinner confesses that he believes that Jesus is the 
Christ, the Son of God; they stop the chariot and both 
go down into the water; the one who has been com- 
missioned to baptize baptizes the one who needs to be 
baptized for remission of sins; they come up out of the 
water, and go their respective ways. This is indeed 
very plain. The only thing we must yet ascertain 
is just what the preacher did when he baptized 
the sinner. In other words, what was the specific 
action? We already have circumstantial evidence 
that he immersed him because of the fact that John 
baptized in the Jordan, that baptism required much 
water, and that in each instance of baptism both 
preacher and candidate went down into the water 
and came up out of the water. But we want 
to be convinced beyond even the shadow of the 
doubt; because, knowing that baptism is for remis- 
sion of sins, we want to be sure that we are really 

10. Acts 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8. These 
passages show that all who came into the church, under 
the preaching of the apostles, had to first submit to the 
ordinance of baptism. In case of Cornelius and 
his household, those who were baptized had previously 
spoken with tongues and magnified God; in the case 
of Lydia and her household, those who were baptized 
were old enough to believe and be comforted by the 
words of the apostles; in the case of the jailor and his 
household, all who were baptized were old enough to 
believe and rejoice. This substantiates our under- 
standing that no one is eligible for baptism who is not 
old enough to believe and repent. 

11. Acts 19: 1-5. John's baptism was that adminis- 
tered on condition of repentance looking forward to 
remission of sins. John's baptism could not have been 
for remission of sins, because remission of sins de- 
pended upon the shedding of the blood of Christ, 
which would take place several years later. It was 
looking forward unto remission of sins. No sins were 
ever remitted until Jesus shed His blood upon the cross. 
They may have been forgiven, but not remitted. Hence 
those whom Paul found at Ephesus, who had been 
baptized by John, upon obtaining a better knowledge 
of the Way, had to be rebaptized into Christ (Acts 
18:24-28). The case of Apollos was similar. 

12. Rom. 6: 3-5. What is the specific action? Here 
we have it — a burial. It is an institution that symbol- 
izes the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Bap- 
tism is a burial with Christ, followed by a resurrec- 
tion, by which the old man of sin dies and the new 
creature in Jesus Christ arises, by the power of God, 
from the watery grave. Very plain indeed. If bap- 
tism is a burial, followed by a resurrection, the action 
can be no other than immersion. And no one can be 
sure that he is baptized until he has been immersed. 

13. Gal. 3 : 27. To be saved, to be sanctified, to be 
justified, to enjoy remission of sins, one must be in 
Christ. Baptism puts the unsaved person into Christ. 
It is the last step in the plan of salvation. And just 
as many as have been baptized into Christ, have put 
on Christ. Since baptism is a burial, followed by a 
resurrection, just as many as have been buried with 
Him by baptism unto death, and risen to walk in 
newness of life, are in Christ. How, then, can one be 
sure that he is in Christ until he has been immersed? 

14. Col. 2 : 12. This passage substantiates the fact 
that baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resur- 
rection of Christ. 

15. 1 Pet. 3:20, 21. Here Peter states explicitly 
that baptism saves us, but not baptism alone. Baptism 
is the answer of a good conscience towards God. A 
good conscience is one trained in accordance with the 
Word, or the conscience of God. We are saved by bap- 
tism as the consummation of the divine plan which 
puts us into Christ, or the church, which is His body. 

We summarize. The penitent believer comes to a 
certain water; goes down into the water; is buried 
with his Lord in baptism; arises to walk in newness 
of life; comes up out of the water, and goes on his 
way rejoicing. How very plain! 

The questions dividing the religious world of to-day 
are not questions of interpretation, but questions of 
authority. The controversy over baptism is a fair ex- 
ample of this assertion. Theologians and religious 
leaders of all ages, including Luther, Calvin and Wes- 
ley, are agreed that the action of baptism practiced by 
the apostles was immersion. History is very positive 
in stating that the substitution of sprinkling and pour- 
ing for baptism was made by the authority of the 
Roman Catholic Church, in the Council of Ravenna, 
1311. The Greek Catholic Church has always prac- 
ticed immersion; and it has preserved the Greek lan- 
guage, in which the New Testament was written. No 
well-informed minister of any religious denomination 
will maintain that any other action than immersion 
can be gotten out of the New Testament. Any Roman 
Catholic priest will inform you that the change was 
made by the authority, of the Pope; but he will also 
add that, since the Pope is the personal representative 
of Jesus Christ on earth, he had the authority to make 
the substitution. So it is a question of authority; and 
we stand ready to affirm under any and all circum- 
stances that no one has the authority to alter a plain, 
positive institution of our Master, as well as destroy 
altogether the symbolical meaning of the ordinance. 

Baptism is a positive command of Jesus Christ. It 
is an ordinance placed at the entrance of the kingdom 
to test the loyalty of the unconverted. Are you ready 
now to do what the Master commands, just because 
He has commanded it?
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