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12 Shocking Truths About Bible Baptism

Baptism continues to be a controversial subject, as even most who undergo it, do not hold that it was necessary to, or even prior to, their conversion or salvation. It might surprise you to find what the Bible says about baptism.

I. Baptism

    A. Etymology

        1. baptism is a rather artificial word in that it is a transliteration, rather than a translation, of a Greek word, and is mean to obscure the real meaning, rather than reveal it

            a. the Greek word baptiðzw (Strong’s #907, Baptizo, pr. bap-tid'-zo)

            b. Baptizo is a verb defined by Thayer as “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) … to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe … to overwhelm”

        2. if the translators desired to make the meaning of the word clear, they would just use “immerse” or “submerge,” but that would offend Bible purchasers whose preferred method involves far less water

        3. Baptizo appears 80 times in the King James Bible and is only actually translated into English twice–as “wash” with reference to hands or cups; otherwise, the word “baptize” was invented so as to obscure immersion as the true meaning and mode of the New Testament act of conversion

        4. no major translation goes any further in using an existing and more descriptive English word to communicate the intent of the Holy Spirit in choosing Baptizo over other Greek words that do mean sprinkle or pour, for instance


    B. History

        1. the biblical and modern practices of baptism owe their methodology to the ritual washings of the Israelites, especially in the proselytizing of Gentile converts to the Hebrew faith

        2. the spiritual cleansing associated with baptism goes all the way back to the Law of Moses, to the commanded bathing of Aaron and the priests before entering the temple to serve (see Leviticus 16:3-4, 23-24)

        3. when John the Baptizer begins immersing penitent people in the Jordan River, there is no obvious confusion about what he was doing – it was clear that he was effecting a change of heart and mind by baptizing the obedient believers in the river

        4.  the practice that developed in the New Testament around, first John, then Jesus, and finally the apostles and preachers of the church, is built upon the concept of a spiritual washing reflected in one’s immersion in water

        5. by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian church, he observed that there remained only “one baptism” that was a commanded part of the unity of the Holy Spirit (4:5)


II. Twelve Shocking Truths About Bible Baptism

    A. Baptism Requires Immersion

        1. baptism requires, not only water, but much water, more than would be necessary if it were reduced to sprinkling a few drops on a baby’s head (John 3:22-23)

        2. the image that we get from the Bible does not include a priest standing beside a font, dipping his fingers in the water, flicking the drops on a baby’s head while it cries

        3. the biblical image of baptism includes a mature person requesting and consenting to being submerged fully in a pool of water (Acts 8:35-38)


    B. Baptism Is Worthless Without Prerequisite Belief

        1. the practice of sprinkling water on babies is made by millions of people every year, but it overlooks another shocking truth about Bible baptism – candidates were first required to express belief in the lordship of Jesus Christ, something no baby can accomplish, mentally or physically (Mark 16:15-16)

        2. whatever belief is for, so is baptism, and without belief, baptism is just an ineffective, soapless bath

        3. confession of belief is made with the mouth that can form words and make choices, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).


    C. Baptism is Worthless Without Repentance

        1. not only are babies incapable of belief, they are also incapable of choosing to sin and thus have no need of the repentance that baptism accompanies

        2. baptism without making a lifestyle change away from accommodating sinful habits is also futile (Luke 3:3, 7-14)

        3. your repentance requirements will vary, but understand if your conversion does not involve change, baptism will not work either


    D. Baptism Is The Only Way Into Christ

        1. many believe the door to the church is the sinner’s prayer or the vote of the congregation, but the Bible describes a believer’s baptism as the means by which he comes into fellowship with Christ (Galatians 3:25-27)

        2. the church is described by the same writer as the body of Christ, Christians being its members, and the way that we enter that body is by being baptized into it, regardless of what others might think or vote


    E. Rejecting Baptism Rejects God

        1. it is fashionable among the creeds of men to reject baptism on intellectual or traditional grounds, as a response to Catholicism or stance on grace, but rejecting baptism is a rejection of God

        2. Christ modeled baptism for us in the earliest stages of his ministry and calls us to follow him (Luke 6:46-49, 7:29-30)

        3. indeed, the Hebrew writer says that Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (5:9).


    F. Baptism Is Circumcision of the Heart

        1. sometimes baptism is judged unnecessary because it is a physical act or looks like work, but baptism is an act of submission, in which the subject becomes passive to the will of God, who circumcises, not his flesh, but his heart (Colossians 2:11-12)

        2. it is not that baptism is completely analogous to circumcision, for it applies to females as well as males, to Gentiles as well as to Jews

        3. it is just that circumcision aptly describes the lopping off of the tumor of sin that people develop over time


    G. Baptism Is Burial With Christ

        1. some would object, however, on grounds that we must be saved by the blood of Christ, not baptism, or some other action

        2. that misses the point, however, for no one argues that we are saved without the blood of Christ or by our own efforts

        3. baptism is the point when the believer is buried with the bloodied Christ (Romans 6:3-6)


    H. It Does Not Matter Who Baptizes You

        1. someone has observed that people in the church of Christ believe you are not saved unless baptized by a church of Christ elder, but that is truly a statement of willful ignorance

        2. first, baptisms by elders in the church of Christ tend to be the exception to the norm

        3. second, biblically, it does not matter who baptizes you

            a. we know that, “Jesus himself did not baptize” (John 4:2)

            b. and Paul baptized only a few, leaving that to others (see First Corinthians 1:10-17)

        4. the baptizer is significant only in the essentiality of someone to do the immersing; he is no mediator, priest, or authorized agent


    I. Baptism Is Not Regulated By The Church

        1. and that is true because baptism is not regulated by the church, subject to ecclesiastical approval

        2. when Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, they were in a pool of water along a deserted road – there was no local church to vote on anybody’s experience or to give the preacher the go-ahead

        3. moreover, the universal church has no earthly organization or hierarchy to regulate anything, let alone the personal choice to seek baptism into Christ


   J. There Is Only One Baptism

        1. according to Paul, writing in Ephesians 4:5, there is but “one baptism” to go with one God and one body, which is the one church

        2. that one baptism could not be John’s, which Paul rejected as out of effect, or baptism by fire, which is never commanded and seems to be more punitive and corrective, or even Holy Spirit baptism, which is also not a command, but a rarity

        3. that one baptism can only be immersion in water of a competent, penitent sinner for the remission of sins


    K. Baptism Saves

        1. the most shocking biblical truth about baptism is the one that is obscured when well-meaning people and false teachers alike try to obscure the purpose of baptism to accord better with their creeds

        2. baptism believe it or not, saves (First Peter 3:18-22)

        3. baptism is our appeal to God, the moment at which a believer’s heart opens to the grace and mercy of God; before Ananias could baptize Saul of Tarsus, he asked the penitent persecutor, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).


    L. Some People Need to Be Re-baptized

        1. finally, it is just as shocking that some people, having been sprinkled as babies or voted into a local denomination, might now need to be re-baptized for the right reason and according to the biblical model

        2. it happened in the first century as well (Acts 19:1-5)



Baptism has been altered so much since Bible times, but it can be restored when we sweep away the dross of creeds and opinion and settle on what the Bible teaches.


Questions For Review

  1. What is the meaning of the Greek word from baptism comes?
  2. What baptisms did the Jews carry out before Christ?
  3. Why does Bible baptism require much water?
  4. Why do some modern people reject baptism?
  5. How does baptism circumcise the heart?
  6. How is baptism like a burial?
  7. How doesn’t baptism save?

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