On Baptism
James A. Gunn
Preached on June 18, 2006

To access the Scripture references for this study click HERE.
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This is Father’s Day and what a tribute to fatherhood it is that a father baptizes one of his children. This morning, on the occasion of the baptism of our brother in Christ, Anthony Bunger, by his father, Elder Bob Bunger, I want to make the doctrine of New Testament baptism as simple to you as it is in fact simple. It is complicated only by the convolutions of human logic and the traditions of men that baptism is made difficult for some people to understand.

What if you had no background in church? What if you were not brought up in a Baptist, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Catholic, or any church at all? Suppose that you have never before heard the word “baptism” and now you want to understand what baptism means?

The very first thing that must be settled is what is your source of authority? Do you ask someone who is steeped in a particular church’s teaching on baptism? How will you get an objective answer? Ask four or five different religious persuasions and take your pick of the one that agrees with your own likes and dislikes? May I suggest that the only book that is the authority on baptism is the Bible itself?

What if the teaching of the church in which you are now attending or what you believe about baptism does not agree with the Bible? Will you hold on to some church tradition even if the Bible is clear that baptism is not what that church says it is?

All I can do, is tell you what I actually did to come to my understanding of what baptism means? When the Lord saved me I was not attending a Baptist church. One of the two preachers was a Baptist and the other was a Presbyterian.

What was my source of authority?

My principle of understanding baptism is that the New Testament is authoritative and sufficient and what we believe about baptism must be based on the teaching and examples given to us in the New Testament.

My church at the time I was saved taught something other than what I could find about baptism in the Bible and my conscience would not allow me to put church tradition over the Bible.

In my study of baptism over the years since I was saved I have collected and read about many books; some of them go on for hundreds of pages making the arguments for and against various views and aspects of baptism.

Baptism is not complicated. Baptism only becomes complicated when we stray from what the Bible clearly teaches.

The doctrine of baptism comes down to these simple questions:

“What is baptism?”
“Who should be baptized?”
“How should baptism be administered?”

If so many pages can be written on baptism, how then can we study baptism and make sense of it in about 45 minutes? Let’s see what we can learn?

Baptism is a command.

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded that baptism be a part of a disciple’s introduction to the Christian life. Shouldn’t we obey our Lord?

Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The Lord Jesus Christ claims to have all authority and He gave to the church what is called the “Great Commission” and it has an order to it.

Make disciples!
Baptize them!
Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
Teach them!
Teach them obedience to the Lord’s commands!

The reason there is an order to this commission [command] is because when the order is changed certain things will result that will hurt the disciple and can even hinder the disciple from actually trusting only in the Lord for salvation. They wind up trusting their act of obedience.

For example, some teach that baptism is “in order to” be saved.

They put obedience to the command to be baptized as a necessary act before a person can be saved. By that they teach that unless a person is baptized their faith is not complete and they cannot be saved. As Baptists we strongly reject what amounts to human works to make complete what Jesus Christ has already done.

When the opportunity came to me to teach on baptism I thought that it would be a novel approach to simply take all of the New Testament passages that mention baptism, baptize, baptized, and baptizing and group them under headings such as the different kinds of baptism, examples of believers being baptized, how much water was required, and some examples of infants being baptized.

This is basically the method I used over 37 years ago. Back then we did not have computers and it took a lot longer to find Bible references, even with a good concordance.

There are three popular concordances.
There is Strong’s Concordance for strong believers.
There is Young’s concordance for young believers.
I use Cruden’s. [Take your time.]

What I did for this study was to use my computer and I found 98 references to baptism. Several of the verses fall under more than one category and so a single reference will fall under the subjects for baptism [who should be baptized?] and the mode of baptism [how much water is required?].

Note: Refer to “Categories of Baptism” at www.vinelandparkbaptist.org

How can we discuss baptism without first defining the word “baptize”?
Greek: baptizo (bap-tid'-zo); to immerse, submerge; to make overwhelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the N. T.) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism:
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.
Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

When the English translators came to baptizo they transliterated the Greek word into a new English word “baptize” instead of translating the Greek to the English equivalent of immerse. That was convenient for those who held to church tradition that taught that baptism did not require a total dipping under the water.

So the word simply means to immerse or dip. The word is used in secular writings to describe dying a piece of cloth. If you do not “baptize” the piece of cloth the color of the dye cannot be fully applied.

Therefore, when a person is baptized they must be immersed; otherwise they are not baptized according to the examples in the New Testament.

Another extremely important thing to know is that there are different kinds of baptism in the New Testament and that you will not understand baptism if your mind automatically thinks “water” baptism when you read in your Bible and come across the word.

For example in Romans 6:3 the baptism there is regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 6:1-4
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

If you insist that “baptized” in verse 3 mean water baptism then you will prove too much. By that I mean you would make water baptism the means whereby a person is placed into Christ. To be “Baptized into Christ” is not through water baptism.

Now the Roman Catholics and the Church of Christ [denomination] teach that water baptism is regeneration.

What Baptists believe is that the Bible teaches that a person is regenerated [baptized into Christ] by the Holy Spirit and then based on their public profession of faith in the finished work of Christ they submit to water baptism as a believer.

Water baptism is the symbol of our death, burial and resurrection with Christ and it is not the agent or cause of regeneration.

In Roman Catholic theology “baptismal regeneration” occurs when the baby is sprinkled.  That “baptism” takes care of original sin and then it is up to the person so “baptized” to submit to other six sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church in order to stay out of hell.

“1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, April 1995.

In the teaching of the Church of Christ [denomination] you “meet the blood in the water”. Then in a way that is very similar to the Roman Catholic Church’s requirement that you observe the other sacraments, the baptized person in the Church of Christ must meet with the church and take the Lord’s Supper every Sunday or else they will lose their salvation and wind up in the same place that lapsed Roman Catholics go.

Church of Christ people who miss meeting with the church can go by and take the elements of the Lord’s Supper so they won’t lose their salvation.

“The only time the word regeneration occurs in the New Testament, with a reference to a personal change, it means, or is equivalent to, immersion. Regeneration and immersion are therefore, two names for the same thing…As regeneration is taught to be equivalent to being ‘born again.’ … Being born again, and being immersed are the same thing….”
Alexander Campbell, The Millennial Harbinger, Extra on Remission of Sins, page 28

Our Presbyterian friends teach that baptized children of believing parents enter into a covenant with God that the “baptized” children will [maybe, hope so, probably] later be regenerated.

“Q. 165. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing of water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.”

“Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.” The Larger Catechism, Westminster Confession of Faith.

Those are three examples of the traditions of men overriding the clear teaching of the Bible. They arrive at their understanding by ignoring the meaning of the word “baptize” and by thinking that every mention of “baptize” means water baptism.

Remember that the meaning of the word “baptize” is to immerse or dip.

But Strong’s Greek dictionary gave us another word that should come to your mind that will help you understand any verse where baptism is used.

That word is “overwhelmed.”

If you think “overwhelmed” when you read “baptize” or “baptism” you should be able to understand the context and the way the word is being used.

In water baptism the subject is “overwhelmed” with water. It is impossible to be overwhelmed by a sprinkle of water or even a pouring of water.

John 3:22-23
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.

Matthew 3:16
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water;

In Holy Spirit baptism [regeneration] the subject is “overwhelmed” by the Spirit of God and they are born again. This is also called the baptism of fire

Acts 11:16-17
16 Then I [Peter] remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 
17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"

Matthew 3:11
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The baptism of “fire” is a reference to what happened in Acts 2

Acts 2:1-4
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

In the baptism of suffering the subject is “overwhelmed” with grief and anguish of soul.

Mathew 20:22 But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"

Luke 12:49-51
"I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!

In the baptism into Moses the Israelites were “overwhelmed” by the Red Sea as it stood heaped up on each side and they passed over on dry land.

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3 all ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

So think “overwhelmed” when you read or hear “baptism” and then study the context of the passage for understanding.

There are many abuses of baptism:

Baptism does not save nor is it part of regeneration.

1 Corinthians 1:14-17
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.
16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

Please note carefully that the Apostle Paul makes sure that water baptism is not an essential part of the salvation message. Paul distinguishes baptism from the gospel.

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

Then Peter also makes it clear that water baptism is the answer of a good conscience and not the actual agent of the removal of original sin.

1 Peter 3:21-22
21 There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

The Landmark Baptists [Primitive Baptists] teach that water baptism is the entrance into the local church. Even if you are a member of a local church and have been scripturally baptized following your profession of faith you must be re-baptized if you move your membership to another local church.

Southern Baptists recognize those who have been scripturally baptized and who are applying for membership on the promise of a “letter” from another Southern Baptist church. The Church Letter says that the person has been a faithful supporter of one Southern Baptist church and when that church grants their letter; their baptism is accepted by the new church.

Subjects and Mode

The two most controversial issues about baptism among evangelical Christians are:

1) Who should be baptized, and;
2) How should they be baptized?

This is the controversy is between Baptists [Credo Baptizers] and Paedobaptists [Infant Baptizers]. “Creed” is Latin for “I believe” and “Paedo” is Greek for child.

Baptists require a profession of faith and immerse only those who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A Baptist distinctive is a regenerate church membership. At least every member of a Baptist church professes to be born again.

Paedobaptists, as the word implies, “baptize” unbelievers [babies], usually by sprinkling instead of immersion in water. And these unbelieving babies are then members of the church. At least they are almost a member because they cannot take the Lord’s Supper until they are “confirmed” [Q. & A. 168.].

Confirmation is another unscriptural tradition.

That is very similar to Baptists who “rededicate” their life to Christ. A Christian rededicates his or her life to Christ every morning they get out of bed.

Water baptism

1) Who should be baptized [the subject], and;
2) How should they be baptized [the mode or how much water]?

There are two ways to come to your understanding of subject and mode.

One is by human logic and tradition and the other is to follow the Scriptures.

Of course both Credo Baptists and Paedobaptists claim to follow the Scriptures. You will have to study the appropriate Scriptures and draw your own conclusions.

Allow me to tell you about an incident that I was involved in about 15 years ago. One of our church members gave me a paper written by a local Presbyterian pastor that purported to be the final word on Covenant Theology [Paedobaptism].

In my answer to his stated principle of interpretation, I wrote:

We agree on the basic principle that the New Testament must interpret the Old Testament. However, the writer lapses into classic [Covenant Theology] arguments for infant baptism, extending the Old Testament sign of the covenant (circumcision) given to unbelievers (infants) into the New Testament ordinance of baptism.  He does not produce a single New Testament example of an unbeliever, or an infant, being baptized. The reason he does not produce any New Testament examples of infant baptism is because there are none. How then is the principle being applied, “that the New Testament must be allowed to interpret the Old”?

For this pastor’s “proof text” for infant baptism: He writes: “...baptism has come in the place of circumcision …Colossians 2:11, 12 shows that clearly enough.”

Here is an example of an intelligent, seminary trained pastor with blinders on because of his desire to prove something that the Scripture simply does not support. Because a passage of Scripture contains the words “circumcision” and “baptism” this man misses the meaning completely.

Find Colossians 2: 11 and 12 in your Bible and listen carefully.

Colossians 2:11-12
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Verse 11 refers to regeneration, “the circumcision made without hands,” and in verse 12 to the “baptism” of regeneration.  The subject is regeneration, not physical circumcision nor water baptism, both of which are signs of regeneration. 

How does this passage show “clearly enough” that “baptism has come in the place of circumcision”?

If we allow the Scripture to interpret Scripture we would go to all the references to circumcision and baptism to find our understanding, not just the mention of the two words in the same passage.

Listen to Paul’s interpretation of physical circumcision.

Romans 2:25-29
25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

Paedobaptism teaches that when the children of believing parents are baptized that there is a “covenant” established with God to save the baptized child.

The pastor wrote that he could not hold to “...any form of infant baptism that maintains that the promise of salvation is given to every child of believing parents.” Then he says “That is Arminian.” [An Arminian is one who says salvation is by human works.]

I would argue that in his view that promises salvation to any child of believing parents, based on “baptism” of the infant, is Arminian. 

John 1:13, “not of blood,” could not be clearer on the point that regeneration is not based on your parents’ belief. What is the difference between a presumed promise to “any” child and to “every” child, the result is the same. Regeneration in that system would be based on the actions (works) of the parents.

Here is the basis flaw in Covenant Theology [Paedobaptism].

Paedobaptism teaches that New Testament water baptism is the anti-type of Old Testament physical circumcision. Then they reason by human logic, that if unbelievers [babies] in the OT were circumcised, and because, in their system, that baptism replaced circumcision, then we are obliged to baptize unbelievers [babies], even if we have to compromise and not use too much water.

If Colossians 2: 11 & 12 refer to physical circumcision and water baptism then comparing Scripture with Scripture has no meaning at all.

Both physical circumcision and water baptism are signs [symbolic] of regeneration and baptism does not replace circumcision!
That goes back to understanding that “baptism” in the Bible can means something other than water baptism. In Colossians 2 it has to mean Holy Spirit baptism or regeneration, that is, the “circumcision made without hands.”

Where does the New Testament tell us that baptism replaced circumcision?

Another “proof” of infant baptism is the household baptisms.

Let’s read two passages that refer to household baptisms.

Acts 16:14-15
14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.
15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." So she persuaded us.

Acts 16:29-34
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.
30 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
34 Now when he dad brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced having believed in God with all his household.

Now here again is where human logic takes over. The argument is that in a household there must have been some babies. But the references do not mention babies, just a household. The obvious argument from human logic is that all in the household believed and were saved and were baptized as believers. It is much safer to conclude that the entire household believed than to conclude that the household must have included infants who were baptized.

Someone wrote long ago that the main problem with trying to prove infant baptism is that all of the Scriptures that refer to infants say nothing about baptism and all of the Scriptures that refer to baptism say nothing about infants.

Paedobaptists quote Jesus, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.”
Does Jesus say, “Baptize the little children?”

I said in the beginning of this study:

“When the opportunity came to me to teach on baptism today I thought that it would be a novel approach to simply take all of the New Testament passages that mention baptism, baptize, baptized, and baptizing and group them under headings such as the different kinds of baptism, examples of believers being baptized, how much water was required, and some examples of infants being baptized.”

Well, the truth is there are no examples of infants being baptized.

We must face the choice of following the teaching and examples of Scripture or the convolutions of human logic.

Baptism is after all, very simple.
How do we understand baptism?

First take the meaning of the word “baptize”. It means to immerse or overwhelm.

Then find all of the New Testament references to baptism, baptize, baptized, and baptizing and group them into categories or the different kinds of baptism.

Next, study who the subjects of baptism were [believers] and the mode of baptism; how much water in required.

Just one example:

Acts 8:34-40
34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?"
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"
37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may."
And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."  
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

This passage not only shows that the eunuch was a believer but that a canteen of water that could have been used to sprinkle him would not get the job done. He came up out of the water.

Remember the kinds of baptism in the New Testament.

John’s baptism of repentance.
The obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ to “fulfill all righteousness”.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire in regeneration.
Water baptism of disciples only.
The baptism of suffering.
The baptism into Moses.
Peter’s argument that baptism does not save.

Baptism for the dead.
{Paul is simply using the act of people who perform surrogate baptisms for dead people to argue for the bodily resurrection of the dead.}

As Baptists we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ gave two and only two ordinances to the church. There is believers’ baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Much confusion and abuse has developed by allowing the traditions of men to take the place of the clear teaching of the Bible.

The Gospel is Christ died for sinners.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Baptism is not complicated if you will submit to the New Testament.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ have you made a public confession in baptism as a believer?

If you have experienced Holy Spirit baptism, the new birth, or regeneration, then you should obey the Lord in water baptism.

In some cases a person’s baptism will cause division in their family.
Obey the Lord!

Suffer me another personal story. I grew up in a Baptist Church and professed faith and was baptized at age 14. But I was not saved and lived the next 19 years of my life proving that I had no interest in the Gospel or the person of Jesus Christ.

After the Lord saved me I asked my Baptist pastor if I should be baptized and his counsel was, “No,” that I had already been baptized. Later, I came to believe that this Baptist pastor was compromising because most of our congregation was made up of former Methodists and Presbyterians who thought that they had been baptized as infants and he did not want to make an issue of baptism.

Also, about the same time my Presbyterian pastor tried to persuade me that infant baptism and I suppose my baptism in unbelief were scriptural. He could not convince me from the Bible that unbelievers [babies] were truly baptized.

But after about three years and when I was trying to preach I came to understand that I had not been baptized as a believer. I would not try to preach again until I had obeyed the Lord’s command to be baptized. I asked a visiting preacher to baptize me and he did. So I have been dipped twice and baptized once.

What about you?

Are you a believer?

Have you been baptized?

Behind us is here much water.

What doth hinder you from being baptized?

The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

Chapter 29: Of Baptism
1._____ Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

( Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4 )

2._____ Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.

( Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36, 37; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8 )

3._____The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

( Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 8:38 )

4._____Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance.

( Matthew 3:16; John 3:23 )

New Testament References to Baptism, Baptize, Baptized, and Baptizing