Authority to Baptize
The churches are commanded in the Great Commission to baptize those that have been saved and offer an acceptable testimony according to Scripture.
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:
It is very sad to say, but it seems that today many, if not most, independent Baptist churches only observe baptism as a ritual celebration and have no idea concerning the milk-of-the-word principle of the doctrine of baptism. What do we learn from the Bible concerning this inherited church ordinance?
a. It is not a Sacrament
Baptism cannot wash away sins! The Catholics and Protestants claim that baptism is sacerdotal. In other words, they believe that somehow the grace of God gets stirred and appropriated towards that child because he was sprinkled by a priest into the “body” of Christ. As a result, they believe that God can accept that child into glory by His grace through that “baptism.” This is sacrilege! It makes baptism into a work necessary to gain salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Titus 3:4-7 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, (5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (7) That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
An ordinance or command. The Lord was baptized in order to “fulfill all righteousness,” (Matthew 3:15), and commands His churches to carry-out the baptism of new converts as He instructed. In 1 Peter 3:21 we learn that, “…baptism… is the answer of a good conscience toward God…” The immersion of a person into water cannot be thought to wash away sins because the pure Example, Jesus our Lord was baptized, and He is in no need of an applied righteousness. He IS righteousness! The mantra we should exclaim is:
“The Blood before Baptism; Christ before the Church!”
Knowing that the Lord has commanded believers to be baptized, we should naturally desire to obey Him and follow Him through the baptismal waters into the membership of one of His churches! This should come from the love we have for Him because of His death, burial and resurrection for us! A church should never accept a person’s testimony as honest, if that person is not willing to follow Christ in baptism.
1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
b. Only by Immersion into Water
Baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-5). Sprinkling or pouring water on a catechumen does not scripturally constitute baptism.
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.
Acts 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
It is very interesting that many times the oppressors of our Baptist forefathers would drown them or bury them alive. This was because our forefathers were immersionists. The punishment fit the crime in these persecutors’ devilish minds.
c. Adds a Believer to a Church
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
If baptism of one’s body is conducted before the conversion of their soul, it is not biblical baptism. Again, we find in 1 Peter 3:21 that baptism is the, “answer of a good conscience toward God,” so, naturally, one must first acquire a good conscience toward God through salvation before his newly cleansed conscious can answer to God in baptism.
d. A Doctrine that should be Contended For
Being immersed by a Baptist church does not necessarily mean that there is proper authority or the blessings of inheritance that are usually associated with baptism. Just because a religious society bears the name, “Baptist,” does not make it have biblical authority. The opposite is also true in that, throughout history there have been biblical groups that did not bear the name, “Baptist,” but held Heavenly authority. The Waldenses, Donatists, Novatians, Albigenses and Ana-baptists are just a few examples.
Our primary example, however, is the Lord Jesus Himself. He, as the Son of God, could have baptize Himself, but he chose John the Baptist. Why? because John was the only man given the authority from Heaven to administer water baptism at that time. John was the harbinger of the Kingdom of Heaven. He was named John the Baptist by God Himself. Many believe that he was called such because he was the baptizer, but this is not correct. Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14) bore that name because he was a coppersmith. But notice that “coppersmith” is not capitalized. This reveals that his name was Alexander and he did the work of a coppersmith. John, however, bore the title John the Baptist, before he ever baptized a single person:
Matthew 3:1-6 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, (2) And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (3) For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (4) And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. (5) Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, (6) And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
Twice (Matthew 14:8 and Luke 7:20), John is addressed as John Baptist. Obviously this was his name, and it was given by God, and he was the only one authorized to baptize at that time. In a sense, one could say that the Lord Jesus had Baptist baptism!
The Lord Jesus chose His apostles from those who had been baptized by John the Baptist. He carried this baptism with the apostles to form His church. As John decreased and the Savior increased (John 3:30), the Lord’s church held the only authority for baptism. Just before the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven, He passed His authority to His church and commissioned them to make disciples, baptize them, and then teach them sound doctrine. Knowing that the Lord’s church is His executor, it reveals that His church alone bears the authority and responsibility for baptism. Also, as His executor, the church must carry-out the Lord’s commission exactly the way He said to.
Some scriptural questions must be asked in order to discover whether a religious entity is in fact a biblical church which carries an authoritative baptism:
1. How was it started? A group of believers does not have the authority to get together and form their own church, no matter how pure their intentions and motives may be. This is especially true of a split, no matter the reason. Those who leave a compromising, sinning or otherwise unscriptural assembly must join themselves to a true church with authority.
The marching order for churches is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The workings of this commission are detailed for us in the book of Acts. As we read there, the progression becomes obvious: Apostles ordained evangelists and pastors and started new churches; those churches then ordained evangelists and pastors and started new churches. As the executors of Christ, we are bound to function within the confines of the Testator’s instructions alone. Therefore a church can only have authority if it is the result of God’s blessing on an authoritative church’s evangelistic efforts.
2. Who started it? A true New Testament church carries the only authority to start another church. If it was started by a college, fellowship, association, board or convention, it is not a church and it cannot claim its inheritance from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. What is its doctrine?
a. Is it part of the “universal church?”
b. Does it fall under the authority of the government, convention, association, college, or some other hierarchy?
c. Are its baptisms by sprinkling or pouring?
d. Are the immersions of Protestants, Pentecostals or other denominations, to include apostate “baptistic” groups accepted as legitimate baptisms?
e. Are candidates baptized without first evidencing fruits of repentance?
f. Are unqualified men (1 Timothy 3) or women being ordained?
g. Is there a violation of Christ’s proper order of Repentance, then Faith, then Baptism, and then the Lord’s Supper?
h. Is the Lord’s Supper offered to others besides those who are members in good standing?
Any of these doctrinal questions that can be answered in the affirmative brings serious doubt on whether a society can be considered as a New Testament church.
All three of the above questions must be answered in agreement with the New Testament or the assembly in question cannot be considered as a church of Jesus Christ, and thereby possesses no inheritance.
e. A Matter of Ecclesiastical Separation
The truth of baptism is not just a preference, but is a doctrine.
Hebrews 6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
We are commanded in the New Testament to take a stand concerning doctrine:
John 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
2 John 1:9-10 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (10) If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
According to these verses, we should not accept the baptisms of apostates, including “baptist” apostates. We should not have them preach from our pulpits, we should not support their causes, we should have no fellowship with them, but rather reprove them (Ephesians 5:11), for Christ’s sake.
Remembering back to the Baptist martyrs, we recognize that the issue of scriptural baptism was the main reason for their persecution. Ungodly and unmentionable tortures were brought against our brethren of antiquity, along with their wives and children because they refused to submit to the state church’s infant baptism. What has happened today? Why is the doctrine of baptism so watered-down and not even mentioned as one of the “fundamentals of the faith” in our Fundamental Baptist circles? Why is it that we tend to venerate men such as Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey and Billy Sunday (all sprinkled as babies) from our pulpits and in our colleges, while we overlook biblical men of the faith such as Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, Samuel Harriss and Tidence Lane?