By: Gary L. Hutchens
With so much confusion on the subject of baptism, what does the Bible really say? There is virtually no doctrine more clearly laid out in scripture than that on baptism. Yet there is incredible confusion on the subject in the denominational world. This article will present, in a concise form, what the Bible teaches on baptism. It will rely only upon scripture. God’s word is the ultimate authority on matters of doctrine. What it says is the final word and settles the matter.
First, there is only one baptism that we are to teach and practice in preaching the gospel of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:4-6).
Second, New Testament baptism is immersion, and only immersion. The word in Greek means immerse, submerge, plunge, dip… Paul wrote, “…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.” (Rom. 6:4). He also wrote, “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him…” (Col. 2:12). Both verses vividly portray baptism as a burial, exactly as the word literally conveys.
Third, the baptism Jesus commanded to be practiced, as He ascended back to Heaven, is water baptism. The Holy Spirit sent Philip to teach a man from Ethiopia, a eunuch. In obedience, “Philip…preached Jesus to him.” The Ethiopian responded, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” What happened next? “And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:26-39).
Fourth, baptism is when, and how, a person is forgiven of his sins. When the apostle Peter was asked by many of the Jews gathered on Pentecost, “what shall we do?”, he told them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). When Ananias was sent by Jesus to teach Saul of Tarsus (later to become the apostle Paul) the gospel, he instructed Saul as follows: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16).
Fifth, baptism is also when, and how, a person comes to salvation. Jesus sent the apostles on the Great Commission with this instruction: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mk. 16:15-16). Peter later wrote, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…” (1 Pet. 3:21 KJV).
Sixth, it is through baptism that a person comes into Christ. Paul stated this in his letter to the Romans: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). And in his letter to the Galatians: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27).
Gary L. Hutchens