The subject of water baptism has long been call a great issue and no doubt
has been made such by many church leaders of the past and present. In our
study of it, let us first consider its importance, or the necessity of being
The Importance of Water Baptism
Christian water baptism is
an ordinance in instituted by Jesus Christ. If is not important in
the plan of God, why did Jesus command it in Matthew 28:19? And why did
Peter follow up by saying, "Be baptize every one of you," and by
commanding the Gentiles to be baptized ( Acts 2:38; 10:48)? We must
remember two points about the importance of water baptism. First,
whatever Christ definitely established and ordained can not be unimportant,
whether we understand its significance or not. Second,
Christ and the apostles showed the importance of this ordinance by observing
it. Jesus walked many miles to be baptized, though He was without sin,
saying, "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (See
It is true that water itself does not contain any saving virtue, but God has
chosen to include it in His plan of salvation. Peter explained,
"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). According to Luke 7:30, The Pharisees
and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not
The Mode of
According to the
Scriptures, the proper mode of baptism is immersion. "And Jesus, when
he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water" (Matthew
3:16). "And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the
eunuch; and he baptized him Acts 8:38). "Therefore we are buried with
him by baptism into death" (Romans 6:4). A corpse is not buried by
placing it on top of the ground and sprinkling a little soil on it, but by
completely. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, " at first all baptism was by
complete immersion" (volume 1 page 651). And the Catholic
Encyclopedia states, " in the early centuries, all were baptized by
immersion in streams, pools, and baptisteries" (Volume 2, page 263.).
Immersion was not convenient after the Catholic church instituted infant
baptism; thus the mode was changed to sprinkling (See Encyclopedia Britannica,
11th edition, volume 3 page 365-366).
Repentance identifies us with the death of Christ, and baptism identifies
us with His burial. Coming forth from the watery grave of baptism and
receiving new like in the Holy Spirit identifies us with His resurrection.
The Formula for Baptism
Jesus commanded His
disciples to "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). He did not
command them to use these words as a formula, but He commanded them to baptize
in "the name". The word name is used here in the
singular , and it is the focal point of the baptismal command. The titles
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost describe God's relationships to humanity and are not
the supreme, saving name described here, which is Jesus.
"Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" ( Acts
is the name in which the roles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are
revealed. The angel of the Lord instructed Joseph, "She shall bring
forth a son, and thou shalt call his name, JESUS: for he shall save his
people form there sins" (Matthew 1:21). Jesus said, "I am come
in my Father's name, " and, "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, .
. . the Father will send in my name" (John 5:43; 14:26). Thus
by baptizing in the name of Jesus, we honor the Godhead. "For in him
dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians
Luke 24:45-7 records that just before His ascension,, Jesus
opened the disciples' understanding. It was necessary that their
understanding be opened, and many today need this same operation in order to
understand the Scriptures. Then Jesus said to them, "Thus it is
written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the
third day." The disciples had their understanding opened so that they
could grasp the vast importance of the death, burial, and resurrection of
Christ. Verse 47 describes the commission that Jesus then gave:
"and the repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name
among all nations (Jews and Gentiles), beginning at Jerusalem.
Peter was one of that number to whom Jesus had spoken and whose understanding
had been opened. After having listened to these instructions, a few
days later he was inspired by the Holy Ghost to preach on the Day of
Pentecost. The hearts of the hearers were pierced and , feeling condemned,
they cried out to Peter and the other apostles, "Men and brethren, what
shall we do (Acts 2:37)?" Peter did not hesitate but boldly answered,
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for
there remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost"
(Acts 2:38) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the
same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts
Some say that Peter told them to be baptized in
name because they were Jews and this baptism was to make them acknowledge
Jesus Christ. But let us go with Peter to the house of Cornelius
several years later. Cornelius and his household were Gentiles, yet there
again Peter "commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord"
(Acts 10:48) (Most translations actually say "In the name of Jesus
Christ") If Peter was wrong on the Day of Pentecost, he surely had
ample time be corrected before he went to the house of Cornelius.
Peter wrong on the Day of Pentecost? When the hearers were pricked in
their hearts, they spoke to Peter and to the rest of the apostles (Acts
2:37). This included Matthew, who wrote Matthew 28:19. Moreover,
when Peter preached, he stood up with the eleven (Acts2:14). Matthew was
there, yet we find no words of correction from him. He surely would have
spoken up if Peter had disobeyed the Lord. But all the apostles understood
and carried out the Lord's commission. As Jesus said in prayer, I have
manifested thy name unto the men (the apostles) which thou gavest me out of the
world . . . and they have kept they word" (John17:6).
The Samaritans, who were not Jews, were also baptized in the name of Jesus.
"Then Phillip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto
them . . . But when they believed Phillip preaching the things concerning
the kingdom of God, and the of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and
women . . .They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts
Let us see how Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, baptized.
He went to Ephesus many years after the Day of Pentecost and found some
disciples of John the Baptist there. "He said unto them, Have
ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We
have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. Unto what then
were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance,
saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after
him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in
the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:2-5). Although these disciples
had already been baptized, the name of Jesus was so important as to cause them
to be rebaptized in His
We do not believe that Paul changed the formula or mode of baptism when he
baptized Lydia and her household (Acts 16:14:-15) or the Philippian jailer.
The latter came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas, saying,
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on
the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And he took
them the same hour of the night (shortly after midnight), and washed their
stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway" (Acts
16:30-33). How can we doubt that Paul baptized these people using the same
mode and formula that he used elsewhere, that is, immersion in the name of the
Paul was not with the apostles when Jesus gave his final
instructions to them in Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47, yet Paul baptized in the
name of the Lord Jesus. How did he know what to do? He said that his
gospel was not a tradition of men buy a revelation from God. "I
certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after
man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the
revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul was chosen to
bear Jesus' name to the Gentiles, and he wrote many divinely inspired epistles
to the church. To this apostle, God revealed the mystery of the church,
"which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it now
revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Ephesians
3:5). Paul claimed to have divine authority: "If any man think
himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I
write unto our are the commandments of the Lord" (I Corinthians
14:37). And Paul wrote, "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in
the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him"
(Colossians 3:17). Water baptism is done in both word and deed. We
cannot afford to overlook this command to the church.
The church is
"built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ
himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20). The apostles
not only preached baptism in Jesus' name, but they practiced it. Nowhere
can we find that they baptized using the words "in the name of Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Instead, we find them baptizing
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In baptizing in Jesus' name, they
fulfilled the command of the Lord in Matthew 28:19.
Paul said, "But though we, or and angel form heaven, preach any other
gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be
accursed" (Galatians 1:8). Let his be solemn warning to us.
Some say that they will accept the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 but not those
of Peter in Acts 2:38. But Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost under the
anointing of the Holy Ghost. Peter was one of the apostles, and to him had
been given the keys of the kingdom, so we have no right to discredit his words.
In Mark 7:8 Jesus said, "Laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the
tradition of men." History tells us that it was not until many years
after the apostles that the mode and formula of baptism in the name Jesus Christ
were changed. (See Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, volume 1, page 241.)
Which means more to you, the command of the Lord or the tradition of men?
*Taken from the Word Aflame Press Tract#1567220797 Why We Baptize In