Looking back I don't seem to have written an article on baptism. 

In church history more controversy has probably been stirred up over the subject of baptism than any other.
To understand what I am about to write, you must understand where I am coming from. I take the Bible literally and rely on it for what I believe and practice. If there is a command or example, then that is the way it should be done.

Baptism was not known in the Bible until John the Baptist was sent by God to preach and baptize those who believed. When the disciples where selecting a replacement for Judas, it is said in Acts 1:21-22, "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." From this we learn that:

    1. there was a company of people (besides the Apostles) who accompanied Jesus for over three years
    2. all of the Apostles had John's baptism

When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, and the others to follow Him, they had already been baptized by John. When John came, he was the only person in the world authorized by God to baptize. 

The first point that needs to be made is that baptism is not a part of salvation. There are so many scriptures that declare that salvation comes by faith and not by works that we cannot quote all of them. Ephesians 2:8-10 is a good example, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not or works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." We are saved that we might produce good works, not that we do good works that we might produce salvation. Salvation must come before baptism.

A friend of mine was visiting in a home and was discussing salvation. Another person was also there who believed that baptism was necessary for salvation. This other person quoted the first part of Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." My friend said to him, "You don't believe that verse." To which this other person responded, "Of course I do." My friend said, "That verse says that if a person believes and is baptized they shall be saved. You believe that if a person believes and is baptized they may be saved." After that the person was quiet and my friend had a good uninterrupted conversation about salvation with the family.

Another good example that believing must come before baptism is found in Acts 8:37 when the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip to baptize him. Philip answered, "If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." After that confession they both went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

So, our fist requirement for baptism is that the person be saved. This would do away with baptizing babies or any other person who had not genuinely trusted Jesus as Savior.

As you know our English New Testament is translated out of Greek. Our word "baptism" is not a translation but actually a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma, which actually means "immersion." Our English word "baptize" is from the Greek word baptizo, which means "to dip, to immerse or to submerge." John the Baptist literally means John the Immerser.

This is the reason it says in John 3:23, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized."

You need much water to immerse a person. Also in Acts 8:37 that we have already mentioned, Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch both went down into the water. No need for both to go into the water if it were not going to be an immersion.

We have seen so far that baptism should be the immersion of a saved person.

Baptism and the Lord's Supper are said to be "pictorial ordinances" of the church. That simply means they picture something. The Lord's Supper pictures the broken body and shed blood of our Lord. Baptism pictures the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord (Romans 6:4).
Baptism is like a wedding ring. Wearing a wedding ring does not make a person married, it signifies that a person is married. Baptism does not make a person saved, it signifies that a person is saved. It is like a soldier putting on a uniform. Putting on a uniform does not make a person a soldier, it shows to everyone that the person is a soldier. Baptism shows to everyone that a person has been saved and intends to follow the Lord. Baptism is the first act of obedience after a person is saved.
Now for the sticky part. As Baptists we believe the Bible to teach that baptism is a church ordinance and is to be administered by a church, that is, a Scriptural church, a New Testament type church. The pastor may do the actual baptizing but it is the church that authorizes him to do so.
Either baptism requires authorization or it does not. If it does not, then anyone can perform a baptism. Your cousin could baptize you in the swimming pool. If baptism requires authorization then it is clear to me that the church Jesus started and commissioned is the one that authorizes baptism.

As we already mentioned, God sent John to preach and baptize. At the time he was the only one on earth authorized to administer baptism. When Jesus began His ministry He began to baptize, although He did not do the actual baptizing but authorized His disciples to baptize. That is found in John 4:1-2, "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples)."
Before Jesus went back to heaven He gave the Great Commission, which included baptism, to His church. 

An example of someone who had been saved and immersed but still did not have valid baptism is found in Acts chapter 19. When Paul found some saved, baptized people at Ephesus who knew nothing about the Holy Spirit, he questioned their baptism. They said they were baptized unto John's baptism. They did not say John baptized them but they were baptized unto John's baptism. Obviously someone who had been baptized by John took it upon themselves to baptize others. Paul rejected their baptism and "rebaptized" them, although their first baptism was not good so the second was not actually rebaptism but just baptism.

In conclusion, if you were not saved before you were baptized, you were not baptized in God's eyes. If you were baptized by any other method than immersion, you did not receive the kind of baptism found in the New Testament. And, if you were saved and immersed, but not by a scriptural church, you should consider being baptized by a scriptural church.

by Raymond McAlister
May 2011