What is Baptism
The word baptism is translated from the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizo) which means to immerse. Baptism was first practiced by John the Baptist, and he continued the practice throughout his ministry; later it was instituted by Jesus Christ prior to His ascension. The commands that Jesus gave to his disciples just before He ascended into heaven are cumulatively called the “Great Commission;” this commission is found in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20, and Acts 1.
How Should Baptism Be Done?
One of the most quoted instances of the “Great Commission” is found in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” It can be seen from this verse that Jesus intended for His followers to baptize and that baptism should be done in a particular fashion. By example, it was done by immersion in water. Jesus then commanded that it be taught to everyone in every nation and that it should be administered in a name.
In The Name Or Title?
The question is what name? Many Christians believe that baptism should be done in the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (note: these are not names), but when we look at the consistency of Scripture we find that the name of Jesus Christ was the intended formula. Reading Luke’s account of the “Great Commission” Jesus said, “And that repentance and remission of sins (baptism) should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). It’s the same commission, worded differently by a different writer. This in no way indicates a discrepancy among the disciples, nor does it imply a contradiction of Scripture, this was merely two writers expressing the message of Jesus in their own unique writing style. Clearly, everyone was in agreement when Peter began following Christ’s commission on the Day of Pentecost. When he baptized new converts, he did so in the Name of Jesus Christ. The baptism administered by the Apostles certainly attests to their understanding of Jesus’ words, because we find no place in the Bible where anyone was baptized using any other name than that of Jesus.
Understanding The Commission
So, where did the confusion come from? Why did Matthew record the Great Commission the way that he did? One of the central themes of the Bible is that there is One God (Deuteronomy 4:6, Isaiah 44:6, James 2:19 et al). Isaiah 9:6 informs us that Jesus would be known by many different titles, including Everlasting Father, so when the writer, Matthew, penned his account of Jesus’ ascension he chose to use the titles that Christ was known by to depict the name in which baptism should be administered. That is to say, Jesus was the Father, He was the Son, and He lives within the heart of the believer as a Spirit. He is manifest to us in many ways, but when we enter the waters of baptism, Jesus and His Apostles taught that it should be done in the name of Jesus Christ. This stands to reason since the name of the father is Jesus (Isaiah 9:6, John 5:43), the name of the Son is Jesus (Luke 1:31), and the Holy Ghost was sent in the name of Jesus (John 14:26). In fact, the Bible says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Is Baptism Necessary?
It is clear how baptism should be done, but is it really necessary for salvation? The answer to this question can really be summed up with a couple of Scriptures. First, Jesus told His followers to baptize everyone that they taught (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:47). If it were not important, why would he bother telling his followers to baptize? On the Day of Pentecost, when the masses asked Peter what they needed to do to be saved, he did not leave baptism in the name of Jesus Christ out of his sermon (Acts 2:38). In fact, we find that the Gospel is defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; thus, we see that repentance, baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost are in obedience to the Gospel. If we obey not the Gospel, we are under penalty of judgment (II Thessalonians 1:8). In short, yes, baptism is necessary to salvation. It in no way takes away from salvation by grace; since it is truly by the grace of God that we have the opportunity to take on the name of Christ in baptism. Repentance signifies that we are dying out to sin, and baptism signifies burial. We are buried with Him in baptism (Colossians 2:12).
The Ephesian Revelation
Maybe one of the most compelling Scriptures for the necessity of baptism comes from Acts Chapter 19. When the Apostle Paul meets Christians at Ephesus, he asks them if they have the Holy Ghost. At this point the Ephesians did not even know what the Holy Ghost was; in fact, they said, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” (Acts 19:2). Paul, knowing that they did not have the resurrecting Spirit, then asks them how they were baptized. If baptism were not important, why would he ask about it? They had been baptized of John the Baptist, the same as Jesus, but Paul knew that they needed to be re-baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. So, that is what he did, he re-baptized. Here is the account, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). Is baptism necessary? Paul thought so.
Is Baptism a Work
The arguments used to downplay the importance of baptism are many, but I will briefly cover one. Many people say that baptism is a work and that we are not saved by works. This argument, however, is not valid. First, Paul proved that it was important by commanding the Ephesians to be re-baptized. Second, Jesus told his followers to teach all nations and baptize. Lastly, faith without works is dead, so while we are not saved by our works, they are an example of fruit, and any tree that does not produce fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire (Matthew 7:19). If we love Jesus Christ it stands to reason we would want to be buried with Him in the waters of baptism.
If you would like to know more about baptism, and other Biblical doctrines, I would like to invite you to take a look at my eBook entitled “Have You Received Since You Believed?”, it is available on Kindle through Amazon. If you have not read our page about repentance yet, or our page concerning the Holy Ghost you can follow these links.
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