What About Baptism?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 28. We will read the paragraph which begins with verse 16:

Matthew 28:

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
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:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world[or, unto the end of the age]. Amen.

Notice particularly verse 19:

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:

We have read this passage of Scripture because it is commonly referred to as The Great Commission and The Great Commission is more familiar to you from this passage of Scripture than it would be from other passages, and because the subject of our discussion is: “What about Baptism?”. This subject has grown out of a series of discussion which we have labeled, for want of a better term, Simple Questions Often Asked . We have been dealing with questions such as, “What does it mean to be saved?”, “How are you saved?”, “What does it mean to believe?”.

We answered the question, “What must I do to be saved?”, with the answer given by Paul to the Philippian jailer, ”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

People ask other questions, because the simplicity of the Gospel down through the ages has been confused by the addition of many things. When we say that an individual is saved because he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, we are asked, “What about repentance?”, and we endeavored to answer that question. We are asked, “What about public confession?”, and we endeavored to answer that question. Then, as we have already suggested to you, we are asked, “What about baptism?”. If you are saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, then what about baptism?

Basically speaking, there are two erroneous schools of thought. One school of thought says, “The answer is simple. You can't be saved without being baptized.” The other extreme school of thought is, “It doesn't make any difference. Don't worry about it. Forget it.”

When we ask the question, “What about baptism?”, we are not interested in the extreme suggested by any man; we are interested in what the Word of God has to say. In order to arrive at what the Word of God has to say in answer to the question, it will be necessary for us to have a brief review of how the word baptism is used in the Scripture.

A Baptism of Suffering

Turn, please, to the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 20, and notice a statement by the Lord Jesus Christ concerning His own life and a few who wished to follow Him. We hear the Lord Jesus Christ saying to men who wanted to follow Him, no matter where He went or what he did:

Matthew 20:

22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of[are ye able], and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

If we examine this verse of Scripture in the light of its context, we would discover that the Lord Jesus Christ was talking about the baptism of suffering. The Bible has much to say about that. So when we review how the word is used in the Scripture, we must recognize that the word baptism is used in relation to suffering.

A Baptism of Fire

Turn, please, to chapter 3 of the gospel of Matthew and notice what John the Baptist had to say concerning the Lord Jesus Christ:

Matthew 3:

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Our English translation would lead you to believe that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is accompanied with fire, and of course you remember that on the Day of Pentecost, cloven tongues of fire came down and rested upon the heads of the individuals who were gathered there. But that is not what the verse is talking about. The grammatical construction of the original language would indicate that the verse could read this way: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and He shall baptize you with fire,” because John was talking about two different baptisms. So we suggest to you that the word baptism is used in relation to the baptism of fire. If we were to examine this passage of Scripture in the light of its context, we would discover that it is a reference to judgment which will fall upon disobedient men, and they will have their baptism of fire indeed.

A Baptism of the Holy Spirit

In this verse of Scripture, there is suggested another use of the word baptism , but for a clearer reference to it, I would ask you to turn to Paul's first Corinthian letter, chapter 12. In Matthew, chapter 3, reference was made not only to the baptism of fire, but to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ would baptize in the Holy Spirit, and in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 13, we find exactly what He was talking about:

I 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.

This is the Holy Spirit baptism. This is a reference to the fact that the Holy Spirit takes individuals the moment they are born again and places them into the Body of Christ. Then you realize three things: The word baptism is used in the Scripture in relation to suffering, it is used in relation to judgment, it is used in relation to the Holy Spirit.

Water Baptism

Then we would suggest to you a fourth use of the word baptism in the Scripture, and that is the one in which we are primarily interested in this discussion. It is used in relation to water. When we ask the question, “What about baptism?”, we are asking, “What about water baptism?”. Here again we must review what the Word of God has to say if we are to understand exactly what we are talking about because the Word of God has four things to say about water baptism, or perhaps I should say describes four kinds of water baptism, and we need to know which kind we are talking about.

Ceremonial Washings

In the book of Hebrews, you will find one of the references to water baptism, and we need to recognize how it is used there:

Hebrews 6:

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Again, if this verse of Scripture were examined in the light of its context, you would discover it is a reference to ceremonial washings, which were related to Jewish sacrifices as they were offered in the Temple and the Tabernacle of Old Testament days.

John's Baptism

Another reference to water baptism we have already touched upon in the gospel of Matthew when we talked about John's baptism when John was baptizing with water, preaching repentance for the prospective coming Kingdom.

Christ's Unique Baptism

Another kind of water baptism is referred to in the Scripture in a number of places closely related to John's baptism, and that is the personal baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ came to John to be baptized of him in the Jordan, and John, you will remember, said, “I should not be baptizing You. You should be baptizing me, because my baptism is related to the confession of sins, and You have no sins to confess.” The Lord Jesus Christ said, “John, you are right in one thing and wrong in another. I do not have any sins to confess. That is not the reason I am coming to be baptized of you. I am coming to be baptized of you in order that I may fulfill all righteousness. I am associating myself with my Jewish brethren as I undergo this rite of baptism.”

A Believer's Water Baptism

The fourth kind of water baptism which is dealt with in the Scripture is the one in which we are interested in this discussion. It is the baptism in obedience to the command of Christ. When we speak of water baptism, we are not speaking of the ceremonial washings of Hebrews, chapter 6. When we speak of water baptism, we are not speaking of John's baptism. When we speak of water baptism, we are not speaking of following our Lord in baptism, because that is an entirely impossible thing. He was baptized for a reason entirely different from the one for which you and I are baptized. When we speak of water baptism, we are speaking of the water baptism which was commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we ask the question, “What about baptism?”, let us re-emphasize that we are thinking about the baptism which was ordered by the command of Christ. We have reviewed the word as it is used in the Scripture. To further understand the answer to the question, may I suggest to you a few things about the recipients of this water baptism as it is illustrated in three basic passages of Scripture. We might turn to any number, but these are basic.

Faith in Christ Before Baptism

Turn with me, please, to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 8. This is the story of how Philip witnessed to an Ethiopian nobleman and of how Philip won this man to the Lord. We read in verse 36:

Acts 8:

36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Evidently, in Philip's message of the gospel was included also the message related to the Lord's command in connection with baptism. So when the eunuch saw water, he said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Notice verse 37 carefully:

Acts 8:

37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip…

The Ethiopian eunuch said, “I would like to be baptized. Is there any reason why I cannot be?” Philip said, “You may be baptized if you believe with all your heart that Jesus is the Son of God.” The Ethiopian eunuch said, “I believe.” The proper recipients of baptism, then, are those who believe with all their hearts that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The proper recipients of baptism are those who have placed their faith and their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:38

Turn back, please, to chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles as I call to your attention a very controversial verse of Scripture and as I emphasize that baptism should never precede faith in Christ. It should always follow faith in Christ; baptism should never precede salvation. Baptism should always follow salvation.

Notice verse 37:

Acts 2:

37 Now when they heard this,[That is, when they heard Peter tell them how they were guilty of crucifying the Lord Jesus Christ] they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Those of you who believe that baptism has a sacramental value will rest upon this verse of Scripture. Individuals who believe that baptism is necessary for regeneration will rest upon this verse of Scripture and will quote it often. But I suggest to you that if it is carefully examined in the light of the Word of God, keeping in mind the original language, it does not teach that baptism is essential to regeneration. Rather, it emphasizes what we have suggested: that baptism should follow an individual's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The grammatical construction in the original text indicates a break in the language which is not evident in our English translation. We would suggest to you that the sense of the verse is simply this: You should have a real change of mind. You should have a real change of heart. The first thing to do is to make a radical change, then be baptized in the name of Jesus after that change has taken place.

Keep in mind this is not a mere idle statement which falls from my lips. This is proven by the grammatical construction of the text; any sincere person who is not anxious to exegete a passage of Scripture in the interest of his own belief will have to admit that the grammar permits no other translation than this that I have suggested to you.

The Correct Translation

There is another problem in this verse because the word eis , which is a Greek preposition, is translated by the word for in the King James version: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” We can say that it is permissible to translate the word eis , by the word for , but it is also permissible to translate it by the phrase because of . When the translation of a Greek word is necessary, it follows the best exegetical practice to select the word that is in harmony with the clear teaching of the Word of God. For example, in Matthew, chapter 12, verse 41, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Ninevah repented because of the preaching of Jonah, and you folk have not repented at my preaching.” When the Lord Jesus Christ said that Ninevah repented because of , those two words were used to translate the word that is translated for here.

I have purposely selected this controversial passage of Scripture because somebody will throw it in your teeth if you don't know how to interpret it. I have taken the passage to emphasize that what Acts 2:38 actually says is: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins have been remitted.” Here is proof again that baptism is something that follows the recipience of salvation.

Another Description of the Great Commission

Turn, please, to another passage of Scripture, the gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verse 15. This is another description of The Great Commission which was delivered in Matthew 28, but it is presented in slightly different words:

Mark 16:

15 And he[Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

This verse of Scripture is wrongly used to emphasize to people that baptism should precede salvation and be the cause of it. We would suggest to you that this verse, like Acts 2:38, does not teach baptismal regeneration, if for no other reason, because baptism is omitted at the end of the verse. The Greek scholars—name them: Robertson, Wuest, Westcott, etc.—all agree that the grammatical construction of this verse indicates that if baptism were essential to salvation, it would have to be included at the conclusion of the verse. If baptism were essential, true exegetical practice would demand that the verse read: ”He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be condemned.” That is not what it says. The word baptized in this verse is but amplification of the word believe , suggesting, as I have been trying to emphasize, that baptism is to follow faith in Christ. He that believeth and is baptized; that is the proper order.

Baptism As An Outward Testimony

In answering the question, “What about baptism?”, let me suggest to you the reasons for baptism, other than the fact that it was commanded. That should be enough—the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ commanded it. But what are the reasons in the Scripture for baptism other than that it was commanded? What is the purpose of it?

Turn, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 6, as I emphasize that the purpose of baptism, the reason for baptism, is that it is an outward testimony of the inner work of grace. God works in the hearts of those who trust His Son as Saviour, but that word is not seen by mortal eye. God would have some picture to represent the work which He has done, and this He has in the rite of baptism:

Romans 6:

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Some folk read this passage of Scripture and see only one baptism in it. There is no need to be greatly concerned if one takes that stand, because that is a possibility. But there are those who believe there are two baptisms in this passage of Scripture: the baptism of the Holy Spirit described in verse 3 when the believer is placed into the Body of Christ, and then water baptism, which is given as a picture of the Spirit baptism. The whole interpretation would rest on whether you were baptized into Jesus Christ in verse 3, or whether you were baptized in verse 4, in accordance with your faith in Christ. Be that as it may, the emphasis is placed upon water baptism as a likeness, as a figure, as an illustration, as an object lesson, because of your faith in Christ. You will notice verse 4:

Romans 6:

4 Therefore [that is the reason] we are buried with him by baptism into death…

That is the reason this illustration is given—because we have been associated with the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the reason for baptism? It is an outward testimony of an inner work of grace.

Baptism as Identification with Christ

Turn, please, to Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 26:

Galatians 3:

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ”; here again there is a difference of opinion as to whether this is Spirit baptism, but that is immaterial to this discussion. I suggest to you that baptism is the badge of our identification with the Lord Jesus Christ. When you have been baptized, then you have put on the uniform.

Baptism as the Answer of a Good Conscience

Turn with me, please, to the first epistle of Peter, chapter 3, as I suggest to you again that baptism is intended as an outward testimony of an inward work of grace; that baptism is intended to represent your identification with the Lord Jesus Christ; that baptism is the answer to a good conscience toward God. In verse 20, the Holy Spirit tells us that Noah was saved in the Ark through water—the water being a figure of God's grace in saving him. In verse 21, he said:

I Peter 3:

21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

He does not suggest in this verse that baptism saves us. He says that baptism is the figure of our salvation. Lest you have some misunderstanding about it, he hastens to add in verse 21 that baptism must not be construed by any individual as the putting away of the filth of the flesh. It is not the putting away of any vileness related to our sin, but rather it is the answer of a good conscience toward God. Baptism, then, as far as reason is concerned, is the answer of a good conscience toward God.

The word answer actually is the translation of the Greek word eperatao , which means an answer to a question which is asked to determine the right answer.

So if I were to ask you, “Why aren't you baptized?”, you should be able to give me a very good reason in the light of the Word of God. If you cannot give me such a reason, then your conscience cannot be right before God in the light of the Scripture. The only way you will get your conscience right is to give the answer that God expects. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. God commands baptism. If you have not been baptized, why haven't you? If you do not have a good answer, then the only way that you can meet the need of a good conscience is to be baptized. Men should be baptized if for no other reason than that it gives them a good conscience toward God.

Baptism for an Obedient Candidate

Let us look at the requirements for baptism. What is necessary for baptism? Let me go over three things with you very hurriedly. The first thing that is necessary for Scriptural baptism is an obedient candidate. What was the Ethiopian eunuch? He was an obedient candidate. Philip had spoken to him concerning baptism, and as soon as the eunuch saw the water, he said, “What is keeping me from being baptized? I am eager. I am ready. I want to be.” In Acts, chapter 2, verse 41, it is recorded:

Acts 2:

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized…

Every one of them. There again it is emphasized that the thing that is necessary is a willing candidate, an obedient candidate, for baptism.

May I suggest to you in passing that this would rule out any infant baptism, because an infant could not begin to express his wishes in relation to baptism. It would also rule out any kind of baptism which is made a necessity for anything. If baptism is made a necessity for salvation, then you are not being baptized under your own volition. If baptism is the door to a church, as some people say, where a congregation has to vote on whether or not you can be baptized, it is not fulfilling the Scriptural requirements, because you are not being baptized under your own volition.

Baptism by a Humble Administrator

Another thing I would suggest to you is that a humble administrator is necessary for proper baptism. I say that because, according to the ecclesiastical teaching which is going abroad in our land, only a duly ordained minister of the gospel has the right to baptize. According to the ecclesiastical tradition which is abroad in our land, only those who are the rightful successors in the line of apostolic succession from Peter have the right to baptize.

I suggest to you, according to I Corinthians 1:12-17, that a humble administrator is necessary for Scriptural baptism. The Apostle Paul was speaking to a group of people who were so proud of who baptized them. Some of them said, “I am of Paul,” and others said, “Boy, you weren't baptized right. Peter baptized me.” Someone economical with the truth said, “Boy, you are all out in the cold, because Christ baptized me,” though it is written that Christ baptized no one. You see what they were doing. The Apostle Paul said, “I thank God that I didn't baptize any of you, with the possible exception of two of you.”

Why did he say that? Did he say it because he did not believe in baptism? Of course not. He said it because he did not want anyone to build himself around him, and boast that he was of Paul. I say to you that if any church or any individual places such emphasis on baptism that it becomes their own peculiar baptism and they refuse to recognize any other baptism, they are guilty of what is recorded here in the Word of God. There is a need for a humble administrator.

Many of you have asked me why we have two people in the baptismal pool when we baptize. Some folk say, “I can understand if you have a great big man in there; you need some help.” That is always true, but the basic reason that I personally always ask someone to assist in administering baptism is that I don't want anybody to say, “Joe Temple baptized me.” And when we administer baptism, I say, “We baptize you in obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I may be leaning overboard and going too far in that direction, but, Beloved, we need humble administrators for the rite.

Baptism with much Water

One last thing. Some of you will not agree with me about this, but love me anyway, because I have to declare the whole counsel of God. What are the requirements for Scriptural baptism? An obedient candidate, a humble administrator, and much water. The word much is a relative thing, but, Beloved, much water has to be there. John was baptizing, we read in chapter 3 of the gospel of John, in the village of Aenon “because there was much water there.”

The Ethiopian eunuch was traveling across the desert, and when he saw some water, he said, “Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” It would be unthinkable that that Ethiopian caravan would travel across that African desert without any water in their canteens to slake their thirst. Surely they had enough to quench their thirst; but they did not have enough to baptize anybody in. They waited until there was “much water there.”

The Historical Translation of Baptism

If these physical suggestions are not sufficient, we would remind you that the word baptize in your Bibles is a transliterated word; it is not translated. This question of how much water it takes to baptize people was raging as far back as 1611 when the King James version was translated. This translation was ordered by the high and mighty King James. The scholars got together, and when they came to the Greek word baptizo , they said, “Fellows, what are we going to do about this? If we translate this word, the King is liable to cut off our heads because he doesn't agree with us,” so they compromised. We are used to compromise in this age, aren't we? You know what they did? They said, “Let's just don't translate it. Let's just spell it with the English letters, and then let it mean to every man what he wants it to mean.”

So the word baptizo was spelled baptize in your English translation, without regard to the fact that the word baptizo literally means to place one object into another object . If I were to take this piece of note paper and place it in my Bible, thus, I would have baptized that piece of paper, for that is all the word means. It is not necessarily related to water. It is placing one thing in another thing. We are talking about water baptism now, and the only way that you can be properly baptized on the basis of God's Word is to be placed into the water and to come up out of the water. Love me still. I just gave you God's Word, and that we must face. What about baptism? You have your answer on the basis of God's Word.

Conclusion

I have one question for you. What are you going to do about baptism? Some of you have already taken care of the matter. You have been obedient to the Lord's command and you have been baptized after you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. But others of you, perhaps, have not. Perhaps you have never thought about the matter seriously. Perhaps you have not felt that it was that important. Perhaps you did not understand. Perhaps there were questions that were not answered. Perhaps there still are. But, I say to you, Friend—listen carefully—if you cannot give to God a good reason you have not obeyed His command in relation to baptism, you had better be baptized, because you cannot be pleasing to the Lord if you don't.


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