The Command of Baptism

We are now up to the fifth command in this initial infant stage, or Win Level. So far we have…

  1. Come and see – John 1:39
  2. Repent and Believe – Mark 1:14-15
  3. Fear as a barrier to faith / Do not Fear – Luke 12:5-7
  4. Greed as a barrier to faith / Covetousness – Luke 12:15

This lesson focuses on the topic of water baptism, which is the first step of obedience for a new believer. Jesus baptized new converts and instructs us to do the same.

Historical Background: The gospel of John is the only one to bear witness to Jesus’ early Judean ministry, which lasted about nine months. The synoptics don’t reveal this time period which took place between Matthew 4:11 and Matthew 4:12 (Mark 1:13-14, Luke 4:13-14). Jesus came to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2:13, about April) and stayed until about four months before the harvest (John 4:35). During this time he cleansed the temple (John 2:13-22), performed miracles (John 2:23, 3:2), and baptized disciples (John 3:23). We have very few details about what he actually said and did.

For a short time his ministry overlapped with John the Baptist; imagine the countryside with people and two great preachers, both preaching about repentance and the kingdom of God. They both had disciples, large crowds followed them, and both baptized. In John 3:22, the reference to Jesus baptizing may indicate that he oversaw baptisms done by his disciples (John 4:2).

During this time the influence of Jesus was rising and that of John was declining, just has John desired (John 3:30). John’s disciples may have seen this competition as a setback and the reason for the discussion in John 3:22-36.

Baptizing is commanded in the gospels: Matthew 28:19, and other references are throughout the gospels: Matthew 3:6, 11, 13-14, 16, 18:18, Mark 1:4-5, 8-9, 7:4, 16:16, Luke 3:7, 12, 16, 21, 7:29-30, 11:38, John 1:25-26, 28, 31, 33, 3:22-23, 26, 4:1-2, 10:40.

We find baptism in Acts 1:5, 2:38, 41, 8:12-13, 16, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 11:16, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:3-5, 22:16.

Baptism is even found in the letters: 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, 1 Peter 3:21.

Let’s look at John 3:22-24

1. Identify the two things Jesus was doing while he was in the Judean countryside (John 3:22). Spending time with the disciples and baptizing converts.

2. Why did Jesus chose to baptize in Aenon near Salim (John 3:23)? He baptized there because there was much water there. The Bible indicates that the amount of water needed was “much water.” John did a lot of baptizing in the Jordan, too (Mark 1:5), although the exact location is not known, but is likely in the region of Samaria. Aenon is transliterated Hebrew meaning “springs” which also indicates a lot of water was needed.

3. Which mode of baptism does John seem to support (John 3:23)? Immersion, very similar to what we find in Acts 8:38-39, where they “went down into” and “came up out of” the water. This clearly teaches immersion.

The Didache supports immersion, too. “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.” From the Didache, chapter 7, written about AD 100, one of the earliest known writings on baptism.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and Romans 6:3-4

1. What does the word “baptism” mean? Charles Ryrie puts it this way:

Theologically, baptism may be defined as an act of association or identification with someone, some group, some message, or some event. Baptism into the Greek mystery religions associated the initiates with that religion. Jewish proselyte baptism associated the proselyte with Judaism. John the Baptist’s baptism associated His followers with His message of righteousness (he had no group for them to join). (Incidentally, John was apparently the first person ever to baptize other people—usually baptisms were self-administered.)

  • For James and John to be baptized with Christ’s baptism meant to be associated with His suffering (Mark 10:38–39).
  • To be baptized with the Spirit associates one with the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and with the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1–10).
  • To be baptized into Moses involved identification with his leadership in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:2).
  • Baptized for the dead means to be identified with the Christian group and take the place of a believer who had died (1 Corinthians 15:29).
  • Christian baptism means identification with the message of the Gospel, the person of the Savior, and the group of believers.

Some of the baptisms listed do not involve water. Also observe how impoverished we would be without a proper understanding of the meaning and ramifications of baptism.

The word baptizo really means, “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge,” or, “to dip in or under water.” The definition of baptism will determine the mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling). The Church of England practiced sprinkling before the Bible was translated into English in 1611. Rather than translate the word, they transliterated the word, so they would not contradict the doctrine of baptism, which held to sprinkling.

Patterns-06-Baptism2. According to John 4:2, Jesus did not personally baptize, but his disciples did the baptizing on his behalf. What would be a reason Jesus would not baptize people personally?

  • To put a difference between John’s baptism and his baptism: John baptized all himself, as a servant, which Christ was a master.
  • To apply more time to preaching, which was a more excellent way (1 Corinthians 1:17).
  • To put honor upon his disciples, empowering and employing to them to do this work, training them for future service.

If Jesus baptized people, people would tend to value themselves more than others, which Paul had to deal with in 1 Corinthians 1:13-14.

Jesus would reserve himself the honor of baptizing with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).

Let’s look at Acts 8:36-38 and Acts 10:47-48

1. What does Jesus command the discipler to make sure that a new converts are baptized (Matthew 28:19)? Baptism is the first step of obedience for a new believer. To go public with your faith is a sign of being genuine. Remember that the imperative verb here is “make disciples.” The three participles (go, baptize, teach) help the main verb.

We are to GO and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15) and then baptize the convert. If they refuse to be baptized, we can doubt their conversion. If they are unwilling to take this first step of obedience, we can be sure that the rest of the commands of Jesus will be debated. We don’t just TEACH, we teach them to OBSERVE all that Jesus commanded.

2. How did the early church obey this Great Commission (Acts 1:5, 2:28, 41, 8:12-13, 16, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 11:16, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:3-5, 22:16)?

  • Peter commanded that new converts be baptized (Acts 10:43-44, 47-48).
  • Paul baptized as a part of the disciplemaking process (Acts 14:21, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:5, 1 Corinthians 1:14, 16).

3. Who is qualified to be baptized (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 35, 38, 10:44, 47, 16:14-15, 18:8)? Only believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are candidates for baptism (Acts 8:36-37, 10:44, 47, Romans 8:9, 16).

Let’s look at Acts 2:37-41

1. What should precede baptism (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 35, 38, 10:44, 47, 16:14-15, 18:8)? Candidates must place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.

  • They gladly received the word (Acts 2:41)
  • They believed Philip as he preached (Acts 8:12)
  • Philip preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35, 38)
  • Peter preached and these men received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44, 47).
  • Lydia opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14-15)
  • Crispus believed on the Lord (Acts 18:8)

2. When should new believers be baptized (Acts 2:41, 8:36, 16:30-33, 22:12-16)?

  • That same day (Acts 2:41)
  • At once (Acts 8:36)
  • That same hour (Acts 16:30-33) and immediately
  • Three days after being saved (Acts 9:9, 18, 22:12-16)

3. Is baptism a sacrament or an ordinance? It is an ordinance coming from the word, ordain.
Jesus ordained only two ordinances for believers: Communion and Baptism. An ordinance needed two things: sign and significance.

Those who refer to baptism as a “rite or sacrament” believe that baptism is a means of salvation. The word would literal mean, a “way of obtaining grace” or obtaining salvation. The Bible is clear that righteous deeds do not save.

  • We are saved by grace through faith, not works (like baptism would be a work, Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • It is not by works of righteousness that we have done (Titus 3:5).
  • The thief on the cross was not baptized yet had a place in paradise (Luke 23:39).

4. What about Mark 16:16? A closer examination of this verse reveals that FAITH is the issue, not baptism. Notice it does NOT say that if you do not believe “and are not baptized” you will be condemned. The only thing that condemns a person is refusal to place their faith in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.

If you’re riding a bus to NYC, you simply sit down and reach your destination. What happens when you get on the same bus but don’t sit down? Will you still get to your destination? If you place your faith in Jesus and are not baptized, you will still get to your destination. If you choose not to get on the bus, you won’t reach your destination. If you choose not to trust Jesus for your salvation, you won’t get to heaven.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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