Baptism: A Response of Faith

7. “HOW?” “WHO?” “WHY?” OF BAPTISM

And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.’ (Mark 16:15,16)

Attitudes toward baptism have caused division among those who profess to follow Jesus. “Christians generally have been united in the conviction that baptism is commanded, but they have been divided on almost every other aspect of the subject.”1 The three aspects of baptism that have caused this dissension are the way baptism is to be administered, to who it is to be administered, and its purpose. Let us look at what the Bible has to say about each of these details.

HOW WAS BAPTISM ADMINISTERED?

Almost everyone will agree that immersion is acceptable to God, but controversy arises as to whether or not God will accept sprinkling or pouring instead of immersion.

In all matters relating to God we should follow the way that is certain. The word “baptize” in its contextual usage indicates immersion, not sprinkling or pouring. Even though secular dictionaries give as the modern meaning of baptize “to sprinkle or pour, or to dip,” they state, when giving the etymology (the historical development of the word), that the Greek word from which “baptize” developed meant “dip” or “immerse”:

The American Heritage® Dictionary: “baptize” is derived from “Gk. baptein, to dip.”2

The Anchor Bible Dictionary: “The Gk. verb for ‘baptize,’ baptizein, is formed from baptein, ‘dip,’ and means ‘dip frequently or intensively, plunge, immerse.’”3

Origins, a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English: “The effectual origin lies in Gk. bapatizein, a modified form of baptein…to dip in water.”4

All other major dictionaries agree with the definition “to dip” or “to immerse” as the meaning of the Greek from which baptize is derived. We further read, “The original mode of baptism was by immersion of the entire body in water, but a widely accepted method since the 2d century has been baptism by effusion [pouring]”5; “The normal method in ancient times was immersion, as the ancient baptisteries show.” 6

The usage of baptizo in various passages shows this definition justified. Anders Nygren wrote concerning Romans 6:4, “When he who is baptized is immersed in the water, the act signifies ‘burial with Christ’; and when he again comes up out of the water, that signifies resurrection ‘with Christ.’”7

Concerning the same passage, Everett F. Harrison said, “Apparently, [Paul] pictures burial with Christ, however momentarily, in the submergence of the body under the baptismal waters.”8

J. B. Lightfoot commented, “As Prof. [B.] Jowett rightly observes, the Apostle introduces the phrase ‘were buried’ instead of ‘died’ in order to recall the image of baptism, a parallelism which disappears in our present practice of baptism by aspersion [sprinkling].”9

Martin Luther wrote, “The term baptism is a Greek word; it may be rendered into Latin by MERSIO: when we immerse anything in water, that it may be entirely covered with water. And though that custom be quite abolished among the generality, (for neither do they entirely dip children, but only sprinkle them with a little water), nevertheless they ought to be wholly immersed, and immediately to be drawn out again, for the etymology of the word seems to require it.”10

Also, the context in which “baptize” appears in the Bible indicates that its meaning is “immerse”:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, …(Mark 1:9,10).

John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there (John 3:23a).

… and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, …(Acts 8:38,39).

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death (Romans 6:4a).

Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him …(Colossians 2:12).

 

WHO WAS BAPTIZED?

 

Those who were baptized were men and women who were able to make a decision to commit their lives to Jesus. This and other requirements for baptism indicate that baptism is for those old enough to understand what they are doing.

The Bible states that those who are to be baptized are those who (1) hear the preaching of the gospel (Mark 16:15), (2) believe the gospel (Mark 16:16), and (3) repent (Acts 2:38).l Those who were baptized were men and women (Acts 8:12) who were reported to have (1) heard the preaching (Acts 8:12; 18:8) and (2) received and believed the message (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 16:33, 34; 18:8). They were those who, because of their faith in the working of God (Colossians 2:12), were obeying from the heart (Romans 6:17, 18), ending an old life to begin a new life dedicated to following Jesus (Romans 6:4-7).

Infants cannot understand the spiritual implications associated with baptism, nor can they make the commitment required in baptism. Baptism is for those who have been taught, have come to faith in jesus, and have made a decision to change their lives so that they can live a life of service to Jesus.

The kingdom of heaven is made of those like little children (Matthew 19:14). They are not born sinners, inheriting Adam’s sin, nor are they born corrupted in nature as is taught in some creeds.

God did not say that man had become corrupt and depraved after Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He rather said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22a). They did not become depraved but gained God’s knowledge of good and evil. The penalty was separation from the tree of life–for them and for all following generations. In Adam, all of us face physical death (1 Corinthians 15:22); but in the spiritual realm, each of us is responsible for his own spiritual condition. Our judgment will be based on what we do in our bodies (2 Corinthians 5:10), not on what Adam did.

If Adam and Eve had become spiritually or morally corrupted, they would not have sought to behave in a moral way after eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their seeking to clothe themselves (Genesis 3:7) must be understood as an effort to act morally, based on the new understanding which resulted from eating the fruit from the forbidden tree.

The following questions are frequently asked by those who believe that infants should be baptized.

Q: Are all infants born in sin?

A: No.At birth babies are brought into a sinful world, but this does not make them sinners. If a child is born in a barn, that does not make him a cow. David wrote in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me: (v. 5). This is a literal translation of the verse. It gives the circumstances surrounding David’s birth but does not mention his being born a sinner. Some Bible translations disregard the Hebrew text and write that David was born a sinner. This is unfortunate.

Q: Does every person bear the guilt of Adam’s sin?

A: No.The Book of Genesis tells of the consequences of that sin, such as death (3:3, 19), pain in childbirth (3:16), and a cursed earth (3:17). We suffer the consequences of Adam’s and Eve’s sin, but we do not inherit their guilt. We have the capacity to make moral choices; when we fail to make choices in harmony with God’s Word, we become guilty of sin.

Q: Are babies born separated from the kingdom of God?

A: No.Jesus said concerning them, “The kingdom belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

Q: Do children bear the sins of their parents?

A: No.“The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). A parent’s sins are not passed on to the child. Because each person’s righteousness or wickedness is on himself, judgment will be based on the deeds each one has done (2 Corinthians 5:10). One person’s righteousness or wickedness will not be accounted to another.

Q: Did the household conversions recorded in the Book of Acts include infants?

A: No.Relatively few households have infants. Households were said to have “feared God” (Acts 10:2) and “believed” (Acts 16:34; 18:8). Nothing indicates that Lydia had children or a husband (Acts 16:14, 15). Little ones were counted separately from households (see Genesis 47:24). No example of infants being baptized is found in the Bible. On the contrary, those who were baptized were “men and women,” according to Acts 8:12.

Q: Do babies need to be dedicated to God by being baptized?

A: No.Children are “safe” in the presence of Jesus in their state of innocence. It is human tradition which demands that they be dedicated to God in baptism. ChirstiaNS SHOULD NOT BE BOUND BY HUMAN TRADITIONS (COLOSSIANS 2:8) SUCH AS THIS.

Q: Since infants were circumcised in the Old Testament, shouldn’t children be baptized?

A: No.If this thinking is valid, then like uncircumcised children (Genesis 17:14), every unbaptized child shyould be cutt off from his people. Baptism, being for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), does not serve the same purpose as circumcision, which was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham (Genesis 17:11). Infants cannot do wht is required of those who are being baptized. Peo0le who are baptized are to have the gospel preached to them. They are to believe the gospel (Mark 16:15, 16), repent (Acts 2:38), and live a new life (Romans 6:4). In Acts those who were baptized are said to have heard and received the Word, believed, and repented (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 18:8). Infants have no sin and cannot fulfill what is required, so they should not be baptized.

Someone who was baptized as an infant should realize that at that early age he could not have had the faith necessary to become a Christian. An infant cannot understand that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins (Romans 3:25); he is unable to repent and dedicate his life to serving and following Jesus (John 12:26). A person who is being baptized is committing himsolf to become a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 28:19). Those who have not made such a commitment should be baptized with this intent so that they can be forgiven and live a new life for Jesus.

Q: Are children guilty because of the sins of their parents?

A: No.Children may suffer because of their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5). However, God will also show “{loving kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9b). If they are guilty and will be punished because of their parents’ sins, then they are righteous to the thousandth generation of obedient parents.

WHEN IS SOMEONE READY TO BE BAPTIZED?

 

Some who ask to be baptized are not ready to be baptized, and others refuse to be baptized because they think they have already received the blessings and attained the changes that take place in baptism. Those who administer baptism are always concerned when children who have not reached their teen years want to be baptized. The Bible does not lay down a rule regarding the age of the person seeking baptism. Some have stated that children should be baptized at age twelve because Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:42) when He went to the temple. At that time, He asked His mother, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

However, Jesus was not baptized at age twelve, but at age thirty (Luke 3:23), just before He began His ministry. Of course, Jesus is not our example in this matter, for He did not need baptism for the forgiveness of sins. He did not need to do the things necessary in order to be baptized: to be taught God’s Word (John 6:45), to believe in Jesus (John 8:24), to repent of sins (Acts 17:30), and to confess Jesus (Romans 10:9, 10). the question is not age but comprehension, accountability, and desire. Y9oung people mature at different ages and some people are well informed and others lack teaching.

At least some of the following quiestions may be considered to determine the readiness of those who ask to be baptized:
1. Why do you want to be baptized?

2. Are you a sinner? Do you fear God will punish you because of your sins?

3. Do you believe you are separated from God because of y9our sins?

4. If God were to judge you right now, would He take you to heaven or send you to hell?

5. What do you think is God’s attitude toward yhou?
Do you think that He hides His face from you because of your sins?

6. Who do you believe Jesus is (John 8:24; Romans 10:9)?

7. If you died today, would you die a sinner (John 8:21)?

8. What is repentance?

9. What has Jesus done to forgive your sins (Matthew 26:28)? What forgives and washes away your sins (Hebrews 9:22; Revelation 1:5)? When does this occur?

10. When you are baptized, how will you live differently than you are living now/

11. What must yhou do to be forgiven of your sins?

12. When you are baptized, will Jesus become Lord of your life?

13. What does it mean for Jesus to be your Lord?

14. Whose church will you enter when you are baptized?

15. Are you ready to begin a new life?

The person who realizes that he is a sinner believes that he is separated from God because of his sins. If he believes in Jesus as the Lord and Savior whose blood can forgive his sins, if he is willing to change his life to follow Jesus, and if he realizes that he needs to right a wrong relationship with God, then he is ready to be baptized. He must also understand that his sins will be forgiven and that he will enter into fellowship with God and with fellow Christians.

WHAT ABOUT SOMEONE WHO HAS ALREADY BEEN BAPTIZED?

 

Some who have already been baptized believe that they are saved even though they did not understand the meaning of what they were doing when they were baptized. The following questions may help them to see their need for scriptural baptism if they did not understand God’s will when they were baptized:

1. Were you immerssed?

2. How old were you when you were baptized? Were you immersed?

3. Had you been studyibng the Bible oin your own?

4. Did you learn what you knew about baptism from the preaching and teaching at y9our church?

5. Of what denomination was the preacher who baptized you?

6. Did you go forward during an evangelistic meeting?

7. Describe what happened when you went forward. Did others pray with you?

8. Did someone have you say something he cal;led “the sinner’s prayer”?

9. Did you make a confession like this one before the congregation: “I believe that God for Christ’s sake has pardoned my sins”? If so, did you consider yourself saved after you did this?

10. Did people rejoice and congratulate you on being saved? At what point did they do this?

11. What did the preacher announce concerning y9our spiritual condition when you went before the congregation?

12. How long after this were you baptized?

13. Why were you baptized?

14. How does this compare with the one baptism of the Bible (Ephesians 4:5)?

The validity of our baptism is not dependent on who baptizes us. Our own understanding and commitment are what makes the difference. We need to be sure that we have received the one baptism of the Bible (Ephesians 4:5). Many people have received something called baptism but have not received the one baptism. Thosse who have not received this one baptism should swallow their pride and submit to God’s one baptism.

G.C. Brewer correctly stated,

Our conclusion is, therefore, that anyone who is baptized as the Scriptures teach that he should be baptized must have known that baptism was unto the remission of sins or was a condition of salvation. If he did not know this, there has been some misreading or some misleading somewhere. 12

WHAT WAS THE PRUPOSE OF BAPTISM?

John’s Baptism and Forgiveness

John’s mission was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 3:3, Acts 19:4). Not only did he do this by what he preached, but also by bringing people to baptism. He helped them to realize that discipleship requires a commitment.

He prepared their minds to accept baptism as necessary in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3 say that John was preaching “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The people came to John’s baptism confessing sins (Matthew 3:6) and seeking forgiveness.

“For the Forgiveness of Sins”

Forgiveness in Jesus’ name began first of all to be taught in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death and resurrection (Luke 24:46, 47). Forgiveness is mentioned earlier, but not forgiveness in His name. Peter was thge first to preach forgiveness in Jesus’ name. He said to those who were touched by the fact that they had crucifiued the Lord and Christ, “Repent, anad each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the girgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38a). This message which he preached in Jerusalem is for all nations (Luke 24:47).

The phrase “for the forgivesess of sins” or “for forgiveness of sins” appears in Matthew 26:28, Mark 1:4, and Luke 3:3; 24:47. No serious believer will say that Jesus’ blood was shed because our sins were already forgiven (Matthew 26:28) or that we are to repent because our sins are already forgiven (Luke 24:47). Why, then, would anyone contend that the same phrase means anything other than “so that sins will be forgiven” in Acts 2:38? In Luke 24:47 some manuscripts have “and forgiveness of sins” instead of “for forgiveness of sins.” However, the use of the word “and” (Gk.: kai) is now thought to have less manuscript authority than “for” (Gk.: eis), as is reflected in current publications by the United Bible Societies and in the most recent edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek Text.13

Repentance and baptism, being joined with “and” in Acts 2:38, are both for the same purpose, “forgiveness of sins.” The major reason some have tried to circumvent Peter’s statement is that they do not want to believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. The most natural way to understand eis in this text is to understand it to mean “in order to receive,” according to its meaning in other contexts in the New Testament. “For” in the phrase “for the forgiveness” (as found in Matthew 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38) is the Greek work eis. J.B. Lightfoot wrote concerning eis in Romans 6:3, “The preposition conveys the notion of incorporation into”; then he stated, “…in Mark 1:4 eis aphesin harmartion [“for forgiveness of sins”] the meaning of the preposition …signifies the purpose and result of the baptism.”14

Charles Hodge stated that eiss in Mark 1:4 means “that remission of sins may be obtained.”15

Douglas Moo wrote, “The only other occurrences of eis after baptizo in the NT have a local/physical sense (Mark 1:9 [“into the Jordan”]) or indicate purpose/result (Matt. 3:11 and Acts 2:38 [“forgiveness of sins”]);…”16

Some assert that the one being baptized does not need to understand the purpose of his baptism. They say that if one is baptized to obey God–whether or not he understands the purpose of baptism–then he will be forgiven. It is suggested that forgiveness is God’s part and that baptism is man’s part. This view overlooks the fact that even though God forgives sins, that in order to receive forgiveness we are to be baptized in order to receive that forgiveness.

If a husband offended his wife and she said, “I’ll forgive you if you give me a dozen red roses,” he could give her the roses so that he could be forgiven. He would be doing this in order to, with the intent to, or for the purpose of being forgiven. Forgiveness would be her part, but his giving of the roses so that he could be forgiven would be his part.

The objection is made that if it is unnecessary to understand that the Holy Spirit will be given at baptism, then it is unnecessary to understand forgiveness as the purpose of baptism. The Holy Spirit is given to those who have been forgiven when they repent and are baptized to be forgiven. Peter commanded them to be baptized in order to be forgiven, so they understood they needed to be baptized in order to be forgiven. If Peter had said, “Repent and be baptized for the Holy Spirit,” then they would have needed to be baptized for that purpose. “And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” does not imply that they are to be baptized for forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. He promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to those who repented and were baptized for the forgivesnes of sins.

The two clauses “be baptixed” and “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” are separate statements. In a detailed study of this point Ned B. Stonehouse observes, “One may conclude with confidence that Acts 2:38 is not to be understood as teaching that the gift of the Spirit was conditional upon baptism.” …Hence, in verse 38 Peter insturcts the people to repent and to be baptized; then he adds (in the future tense) that they “will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (In the footnote Kistemaker makes reference to Ned B. Stonehouse, “Repentance, Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit, WTJ 13 (1950-51): 14”17

The offended wife could say, “Give me a dozen roses so that you can be forgiven; and I’ll give you a kiss.” Her huysband can give the roses for the purpose of being forgiven and then receive the kiss because he was forgiven. We are to be baptized in order to be forgiven; then we receive the Holy Spirit because we are forgiven.

Peter told the Jews on the Day of Pentecost to repent and be baptized so that their sins would be forgiven, following which they would recieve the Holy Spirit as a gift. When they repented and were baptized for the purpose of being forgiven, then they would receive the Holy Spirit because they had repented and been baptized to be forgiven. The stated purpose of repentance and baptism was forgiveness, not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would be given when they acted for that stated purpose.

Baptism and Salvation

Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21 are two passages which clearly show the firect relationship between baptism and salvation. Let us look carefully at these passages so that we may more fully understand this relationship.

Jesus associated baptism with slavation–not as a means of producing salvation, but as a requirement in order to recieve salvation. The NASB correctly translates Mark 16:16: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”

Authenticity of Mark 16:16

Some question the quthenticity of thiss verse because it is part of a longer ending to the book of Mark (16:9-20) which is not included in some ancient manuscripts. This section of Mark does not appear in the two of the oldest complete manuscripts of the New Testament, the Vaticanus (Codex B) and the Sinaiticus (Codex Aleph) of the fourth century. In the Vaticanus in chapter 16 of the gospel, Kata Markon (“according to Mark”), following verse 8, “the next column is left blank, suggesting that the copyist of B (Codex B) knew of an ending but did not have it in the manuscript he was copying,…”18

The longer ending was known before these fourth century manuscripts. The antiquity of the ending cannot be questioned. “The ‘longer ending’ (which is printed in the [KJV]) was apparently known to Tatian (ca. 170) and occurs in a preponderant number of [manuscripts].”19

It is also quoted by Irenaeus (A.D. 130-200); appears in the Diatessaron; in codices alexandrinus, Ephraemi, and Bezae, manuscripts of the fifth century; and in an Old Syriac version of the fourth century whose text is thought to go back to the late second century. Some think Justin Martyr (100-167) quoted from the longer ending in his Apology (1.45). Other early allusions to or quotations from the longer ending are in the work of Hippolytus (170?-235), Aphraates, the Gospel of Nicodemus, Ambrose (337-397), Epiphanius, Chrysostom (345-407), and Augustine (354-430).

On the other hand, Eusebius (A.D. 264-340), a church historian, wrote that many manuscripts did not contain the longer ending,20 which is verified by the fact that it is not found in a munbedr of manuscripts. Origen (185-254), Clement of Alexander (?-215), Tertullian (160-220), and others are said to show no knowledge of it; however, the fact that they did not quote these verses is no proof that they did not realize they existed or did not consider them the ending of Mark.

Other considerations–which are too extensive in scope for this work and are without strong evidence–include objections to Mark’s authorship. Some believe that Mark 16:9-20 should not be included in the Gospel account because the words of these verses “display certain peculiarities of vocabulary, style and theological content that are unlike the rest of Mark.”21

The debate over the authenticity of these verses is ongoing and may never be conclusively settled. Since they do not contradict other Bible teaching, since they have been known and accepted from the earliest days of Christianity, and since they possibly were in the original ending of Mark, they should be studied and respected along with other Scriptures.

Understanding of Mark 16:16

In Mark 16:16 both “has believed” and “has been baptized” are aorist participles. The action of the Greek aorist participle always takes place before the action of the main verb, which means that both “has believed” and “has been baptized” must be completed before the action of the main verb, “shall be saved.”

The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, in the interlinear section, also brings out the force of the Greek verbs by translating this verse, “The one having believed and having been baptized will be saved.”22 In this passage Jesus placed salvation after both “has believed” and “has been baptized.” Jesus is “to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). If we desire to be saved, we must obey Jesus by believing the gospel and being baptized.

Salvation in 1 Peter 3:21?

Peter, who heard Jesus make the statement recorded in Mark 16:16, taught the same truth. Speaking of “the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (I Peter 3:20), he made this statement: Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Some have claimed for various reasons that this verse does not teach baptism as a requirement for salvation. (1) They say that Noah’s family was saved “from water” instead of “through water.” (2) Some say baptism in this verse is simply a “figure” of salvation but not to be considered essential to being saved. (3) Others believe “dirt” in this verse refers to sins, thus they teach that the sins of the flesh are not removed when one is baptized.

The problem with (1) is that the passage states that they were saved in the ark “through” (Gk.: dia) water, not “from” water. The ark saved them only because God sent water. If God had sent fire, they would not have been saved in the ark, but would have been burned to death. In the ark they were saved “through” water. This is to be compared with the water that saved the people of Israel fro the Egyptian army but destroyed the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13, 27-30).

The problem with (2) is that the word translated “figure” in the KJV is the Greek word antitupon, meaning “antitype.”. The salvation of Noah and his family in the ark was a type (a figure) of our salvation, which is the antitype (the reality). Baptism is the reality, the antitype, of which salvation in the ark was a type. Baptism now saves us because through it we pass to safety from sin, just as those in the ark passed from peril of death to safety.

The problem with (3) is that it makes Peter contradict himself by interpreting his statements as saying that baptism now saves us but does not remove the sin of the flesh. The more natural way to understand this statement is that Peter associated baptism which our salvation but sought to clarify the fact. He said that the purpose of baptism is not for a good conscience which is found, not in removal of dirt from the body, but in the removal of our sins.

Water is important for life. Scientists believe that life as we know it on earth cannot exist without water. In the beginning, when God created everything, “the earth was formed out of water and by water” (2 Peter 3:5). Life was made possible on earth after it have been formed out of water. Water sustained (Genesis 2:6) and continues to sustain all forms of physical life on earth.

God has selected water to separate and stand between people and blessings He planned. Noah was brought to safety through water (1 Peter 3:20). After Noah had built the ark, water was necessary to carry Noah and his family to safety and to deliver them from destruction. Water was necessary to bring the ark to safety when God sent the flood.

The children of Israel passed though water to safety when they escaped from the army of the Egyptians. Pharaoh’s army was destroyed by water (Exodus 14:26-29). “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:30a). Paul later wrote, “All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:2). Some have argued from this verse that baptism is sprinkling. They assume that hey could sprinkle water on the Israelites as they passed through the sea. If this were true, then Israel did not pass through “on dry land” (Exodus 14:22). In truth, the cloud that God provided for Israel was not a water cloud but a cloud of smoke. It was “a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night” Isaiah 4:5).

Later Israel passed though water in order to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 3:14-17). By passing through water, the people came to the blessing which God had promised them.

Water stood between Naaman and his cleansing from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). Jesus had a blind man wash spit made clay from his eyes in the water of the pool of Siloam before He made him see. Even the sustenance of heavenly life is symbolized by a river of life flowing from the throne of God (Revelation 22:10).

Many of God’s blessings, including life itself, come through water. It may be no coincidence that God chose water as necessary for those who seek through Jesus salvation and the new life. In the comparative sense that physical life is dependent on blood (Genesis 9:4) and spiritual life is dependent on the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:22), so also water is required for physical life and also for the new spiritual life in Christ (Romans 6:3,4).

The Baptism of Jesus

Some teach that Jesus as our example was sinless when He was baptized, which means that we must already be forgiven and sinless when we are baptized or that He was baptized to obey God and that is the only purpose we must have when we are baptized.

Jesus is our example in that we are to run our race, fixing our eyes on Him (Hebrews 12:2). We are to walk in the same manner as He walked, to have the attitude which was in Him, and to be imitators of Paul just as he imitated Christ (1 John 2:6; Philippians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 11:1). Peter wrote that Jesus is our example of suffering for righteousness (1 Peter 2:21). As Jesus laid down His life, we are to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).

Does Jesus’ being our example mean that we are to do all that He did, and for the same purpose? The following principles can guide us in our effort to follow His example.

First, some things Jesus did were incidental and are not necessarily a pattern for us to follow. He chose not to marry. He had no children and no home (Luke 9:58). He was baptized and started preaching at age thirty, and He selected twelve apostles to represent Him (Luke 3:21-24; 6:13). Instead of supporting Himself, He received financial support from others so that He could spend time teaching (Luke 8:3).

Second, some things He did are example in principle but are not required of us. He was circumcised according to the Law (Luke 2:21), but that is not mandatory for us (Galatians 6:15). After His baptism He fasted forty days; then He began His ministry (Matthew 4:2). He preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16, 31, 44; 6:6), kept the Passover (Luke 22:15, 16), and instructed Jewish people to offer animal sacrifices and keep the commandments of the Old Testament (Matthew 19:17; Luke 5:14; 17:14). He obeyed the Law, under which He was born as an example of how we are to obey God’s will for us (Galatians 4:4). Jesus practiced all of these, but they are not binding on us today (Galatians 3:24, 25; Hebrews 7:12, 19; 10:9).

Third, some things He did are to be followed in principle but not in identical action. Jesus paid taxes using a coin which Peter took from a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27). We are to pay taxes (Romans 13:6), but not by money from a fish’s mouth. He washed the disciples’ feet as an example of humble service (John 13:5-5), which His disciples were to follow in principle but not necessarily in exact practice.

Fourth, some things He did are to be followed in practice but for a different purpose. Jesus observed the Lord’s Supper as an example so that we would eat and drink to remember Him, but not for that purpose of remembering Himself (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). He showed us that we should give our lives for others (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 3:16). We may die for others, but not for the same purpose Jesus shed His blood (Matthew 26:28). We are to be baptized, but not for the same purpose Jesus was baptized. He received John’s baptism. John preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Those who came to this baptism came confessing their sins (Matthew 3:6), which was an indication that they were seeking the forgiveness John was preaching. Jesus was not baptized as a repentant sinner in order to be forgiven like all others who came to John’s baptism.

Jesus could not be our true example in baptism, because He had not sinned; therefore, He could not repent of His sins as required by John. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. The baptism Jesus received is not for us. He received John’s baptism which was to prepare people to believe in Jesus (Acts 19:4). If we today receive John’s baptism as Jesus did, we would need to be baptized again (see Acts 19:1-5).

The purpose of Jesus’ baptism was to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). He alone could be baptized for this purpose. He understood the purpose of His baptism even as we are to understand the purpose of ours. His baptism is an example of what we are to do, but it is not an example as to why we are to be baptized. since He had done only righteous things and had not sin, He could be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In contrast, we are sinners who are to be baptized to become righteous. In some things Jesus is our example of what we are to do but not an example as to why we are to do it.

Fifth, in some things Jesus is our example in principle, practice, and purpose. Consider, for instance, His examples of love, service, compassion, and self-giving (Romans 15:2, 3a). We are to follow Him completely in these ways.

SUMMARY

We must understand that the purpose of baptism is to obtain the forgiveness of sins. Jesus commanded it; Peter and the other apostles preached it; we must obey it. Baptism was summarized by Gayla Visalli: “One of the most dramatic rituals observed by the earliest Christians was baptism. Its aim was to wash away all uncleanliness resulting from sin, thus preparing the initiate for his or her new life. In its most basic form, the ceremony called for a confession of faith by the candidate, followed by complete immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ.”10


1Harold Lindsell, ed., Harper Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1965), 1491, n28.19a.
2The American Heritage® Dictionary,3d ed., s.v. “baptize” (New York: Dell Pub., division of Banta Doubleday Dell Pub. Co., 1992), 68.
3David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 583.
4Origins, a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (Longon: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1959),38.
5Massey H Shepherd Jr.m Encyclopedia International (danbury, Conn.: Lexicon Publications, 1981),378.
6Robert Cecil Mortimer, Chamber’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, Rev. ed. (London:Pergamon Press, 1967), 112.
7Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans, trans. Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, Pa.: Muhenberg Press, 1949), 233.
8Everett F. Harrison, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Romans-Galatians, gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids,Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 69.
9J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul: 1-11 Thessalonians, I Corinthians 1-7, Romans 1-7, Ephesians 1:1-14, Thornapple Commentaries, ed. J. R. Harmer (London: Macmillan and Co., 1895. Reprint. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 296.
10Gayla Visalli, editor, After Jesus, the Triumph of Christianity, (New York: Reader’s Digest, 1998), 36.

Comments are closed.