In the religious world, there are variations in the doctrines and practices of baptism. Some denominations teach that once a person is baptized he can never fall from grace, while others insist that baptism is not essential for salvation. Still, there are those who practice infant baptism, while others administer baptism through sprinkling, pouring, or through the power of the Holy Spirit. These teachings are in direct conflict with Scripture. What does the word of God teach on this timely subject?
Baptism is derived from the Greek word baptizo. It means to immerse or a burial. The three types of baptism described in the New Testament are Holy Spirit baptism, baptism that is used as a figure of speech, and water baptism.
This form of baptism was limited in two ways. First, the baptism of the Holy Ghost was given only to the apostles. In John 14:17, we read
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.The apostles received this promise in the fullest measure in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.
Second, it was temporal both in purpose and duration. The powers associated with the baptism of the Holy Spirit (i.e. prophesying, speaking in tongues, raising the dead, casting out demons, and healing the sick) were used by the apostles to prove that Jesus was the Son of God, that he was raised from the dead, and that the word that he spoke to them was truth. The only way in which a person could receive a measure (1 Corinthians 12:4-10) of the power of the Holy Ghost was through the laying on of hands by an apostle. This lasted not only until the Bible, "that which is perfect" (1 Corinthians 13:10) was completed, but also when both the last apostle and the person upon whom he laid his hands had died.
There are several instances in which baptism is used as a figure of speech. Jesus, in Luke 12:50, is referring to his death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. Another example is found in I Corinthians 10:2 where Paul is speaking of God's protection of the children of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians who were drawing near to the Red Sea. The third occurrence is located in John 3:3- 7. In this passage, Jesus uses the phrase "born again." Here, we see that Jesus is talking about a spiritual birth, that is, being "born of the water and of the spirit."
God requires that all men everywhere to be baptized in order to be saved from their sins. The Scripture says,
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15-16).A person may believe in Christ, but unless he is baptized his sins are not washed away. If that person dies without having the opportunity to be baptized, it will then be too late. In Hebrews 9:27, we read,
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.Furthermore, baptism is a spiritual circumcision of the heart. Peter says,
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 (I Peter 3:21) .
It is also done "for the remission of sins," (Acts 2:38). The word "for" in this passage comes from the Greek word eis, which essentially means "unto". We are baptized for the purpose of having our sins washed away. In Acts 8:26-39, we see how this is done. Baptism, therefore, is essential for salvation.
When an individual is baptized according to denominational teaching, he becomes a member of that denomination, whether it be the Catholic church, the Methodist church, the Baptist church, the Pentecostal church, or the Mormon church. It is against Scripture when men say that a person can become a christian in a denomination whether the teaching is right and the method of baptism is wrong or vice-versa.
In Acts 2:41,47, we read that
they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.Into which church were these people baptized? It was the church which Jesus prophesied He would build in Matthew 16:18 when He said,
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
If you have been baptized according to denominational doctrine, you are still not saved. We encourage you to attend a church of Christ in your area who preaches and practices scriptural baptism according to the Scriptures.
Last week, we saw that there are many in our world today that have no knowledge of God or the salvation through the Christ, and this should be shameful for every Christian. This group, however, is not the only ignorant party in our world; there are many who have been told about Christ, but choose either to not believe or to believe in a different Jesus which is not really Jesus at all (Galatians 1:6). This ignorance is more sinister, for in many cases it presents itself as knowledge. Willful ignorance is the reason for denominations and many other problems in so-called Christianity today.
This is nothing new. Last week we discussed Hosea chapter four, where God is condemning especially the priests for not instructing the people in the way of God. His condemnation, however, does not stop with the priests, as we see in verses nine and ten:
And it will be, like people, like priest; so I will punish them for their ways, and repay them for their deeds. And they will eat, but not have enough; they will play the harlot, but not increase, because they have stopped giving heed to the Lord.The people in Hosea's time had also done their share of rejecting God, and they would pay dearly for it.
One of the fruits of willful ignorance is denying clear and obvious truths to hold on to the lies. The Pharisees of the time of Christ were masters of this ability, as seen in John 9 and 11. In John 9, we are told of the man who was born blind healed by Christ (verses 1 through 9). He is brought forth to the Pharisees (verse 13), and they ask him about what happened. The Pharisees go to the greatest lengths to deny this story: first, they challenge his testimony by wanting to see his parents (verse 18), denying any power in Christ, and appealing to Moses (verse 28 and 29), and then summarily dismissing him for speaking truth (verse 34). We read in verse 41 a great truth of Christ, where He responds to the Pharisee question of, "we are not blind too, are we?"
"If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'we see,' your sin remains."We see many today that deny that they are in their sins. Such willful ignorance is called "blindness" by Christ (verse 39), and rightly so.
John 11 is even more blatant. In John 11, we read the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead. When the Pharisees hear of it, they convene a council. John tells of this meeting in verses 47 and 48:
Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."Here we have one of the greatest miracles ever performed by Jesus, and a clear demonstration of the truth that was in Him. The Christ had come, the Jews were being delivered, and more signs and wonders are being shown than at any other point in time. Do the Pharisees thus believe? No! They are more concerned about their land and power than truth. No wonder Christ said that they could not escape the sentence of hell (Matthew 23:33)!
If the Pharisees would not see the wonders and signs of Christ and believe, how can we expect people today to be any better than they were? It is a true statement; those who do not wish to see the truth never will, and those who seek out truth shall find it. Many people, in the time of Christ as well as today, refuse to see truth. They dwell in their error, even sometimes rejoicing in it! For these people, all we can do is hope, pray, and continually instruct in sound teaching. Always remember the words of Isaiah in chapter 6, verses 9 and 10, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 13:14-15 and Paul in Acts 28:26-27:
Go to this people and say: "You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should heal them."This is as true when Isaiah spoke this to the Jews in 600 BC as when Christ and Paul did in the first century AD, and it holds just as true in 2000 AD.
Ethan R. Longhenry
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