BAPTISM: WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURE? By H.A.Ironside PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION Several years having elapsed since the first publication of this booklet, and a new edition being called for, I have considerably revised my former paper, though altering nowhere the teaching therein set forth. Further study and experience have only confirmed what was first written, although I believe I see many kindred truths in a much fuller, broader way than I did some years ago. The revision consists largely of additional matter which I hope may make clearer what is now sent out, and commended to the prayerful consideration of the people of God into whose hands it may fall. The great essential is Christ, not baptism; but they who love His name will seek to keep His word. But in this it is well to remember that an unkind, critical spirit is far more to be deplored than divergent views and practices in regard to ordinances, however precious. H.A.IRONSIDE Fruitvale, CA, March 1915 PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION While, in the pages that follow, controversy has been so far as possible (consistently with the object of presenting what I believe to be the truth as to Baptism) sedulously avoided, yet it is hoped a careful perusal may prove helpful even to those who have been troubled by conflicting views. The pamphlet presents the conclusions I have been obliged to come to after utterly denying for a number of years any present importance attaching to this ordinance, and after a careful study of what others have put forth on the subject, as well as much time spent, I trust before the Lord, over the word of God. The apology for its publication, if such be needed, can be stated in a few words. In going about, now for some years, seeking to "do the work of an evangelist," I have been importuned again and again for a paper expressing my thoughts on this question. Finding no publication that seemed to me altogether suitable (so few being at all full without being exceedingly controversial), I have tried to give as clearly and briefly as possible, what I believe to be the scriptural teaching upon it. The query as to whether baptism brings its subject into the Kingdom of Heaven, the House of God, or the Body of Christ, has not really been touched. Here I need only to say that I do not believe it brings one into any of the three. To my mind the importance of it is not in regard to what it brings one into (and, as others have noted, Scripture NEVER says it brings one into anything), but in that it is the clearly expressed will of the Lord Jesus for His disciples, and therefore should possess marked interest for all who desire His approval. I presume that those known as Friends, or Quakers, with numbers of other Christians who recognize no ordinances (though they assuredly lose much by such neglect), are yet in the Kingdom, the House and the Body. At least, I know of no Scripture that teaches, directly or indirectly, otherwise. Baptism certainly is connected with the sphere of profession; that is not disputed, but insisted on; only let there be profession and not infantile unconsciousness. The Word is simple: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal.3:27). This can only be true of professed believers, who, in this act, publicly put on Christ, or, in other words, acknowledge Him as their Lord. That it is not, properly speaking, a Church ordinance, but a Kingdom ordinance, I also admit and teach, because, unlike the Lord's supper, baptism had a place before the Church began, and will have one after it has been taken to heaven; but whether tribulation saints will enter into its import as Christians can is very questionable. I am not wholly ignorant of what esteemed brethren? to whom I am indebted for much, have penned on "Household Baptism," etc., though I remember that others, equally gifted and godly, have differed radically from them; so I would beware of following either unless I have a clear Scriptural basis for so doing. I confess that while reading the books of the former, their theories seemed very plausible and had certain charms for me; but when I turned from their writings to the word of God I could not find the theories. It seemed to me that they had read their teachings into Scripture, not out of it; rather eisegesis, than true exegesis. (Persons desirous of investigating the question of the baptism of children in households, in order to weigh what may be said for the practice, will find the leading arguments clearly and graciously stated in "Christian Baptism," by Waiter Scott; "Reasons for my Faith as to Baptism," and "A Review of Objections to Household Baptism," by F.W.Grant. "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge." The principle, at least, of this verse is doubtless applicable here.) I ask an equally careful comparison of my statements in the following pages with the unerring guide, the Word of Truth. " Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. " H.A.IRONSIDE Oakland, CA, April, 1901 BAPTISM: WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURE? Introductory So much has been said and written on this subject, so various and conflicting have been the opinions expressed, so widely divergent are the meanings even, given by scholars to the very word baptism, that one naturally hesitates to write on such a theme. But a verse in the only Book that is authority in the matter says: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). With such a word as this before us, who, really anxious to know the mind of the Lord on any question, need fear to search for himself, in humble dependence on Him whose word it is? Let us then turn to the pages of the blessed volume which alone can thoroughly furnish "the man of God unto all good works" (2 Tim.3:16,17), and of which we are told, "The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Ps.119:130). A similar word comes to encourage us from Ps.19:7; "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (last clause). Simple though we are, then (perhaps the simpler, the easier taught), we need not fear to turn for the time from every human channel to the great river of divine instruction itself, and ask, "What saith the Scripture on Baptism?" That it has much to say upon the subject is evident. It cannot therefore be to the glory of God to ignore it. Where He has spoken He would have us reverently listen and obey. And first, I would desire to press on the reader the former part of the verse last quoted, as it brings before us the great subject of Conversion to God "The law (doctrine, see margin) of the Lord is perfect, CONVERTING THE SOUL." One who does not know what it is to have truly turned to God, in other words, one who has not been born again (John 3:3), need not expect enlightenment in divine things. Scripture plainly declares of such that they " have the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph.4:18); and again, " There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom.3:11). See the first twenty verses of the chapter. Has my reader ever been truly converted to God? If such is your profession how was it brought about? On what are you now resting for salvation? Are you at this moment a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, or do you just believe what the Gospels tell us about Him? Do you know the joy of forgiveness, of justification from all things' (Acts 13:38,39). Can you truthfully say: " Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God?" (Rom.5:1,2). If this be a knowledge foreign to you -- something your soul has never yet entered into -- if these questions must all be answered in the negative, I entreat you to consider for a moment your solemn condition in the presence of God. If unsaved, you are by nature a sinner (Rom.3:19), by practice a transgressor (Prov.13:15); by nature a child of wrath (Eph.2:3), by practice a son of disobedience (Eph.2:2, N.T.); by nature an alien (Eph.2:12), because born at a distance from God; by practice alienated (Col.1:21) and an enemy to God. You are lost by nature (Matt.18:10,11) because of a lost race; lost also by practice, because of having deliberately wandered away from God (Lk.19:10). Terrible, then, is your situation, awful your condition, and do what you will, you are absolutely helpless in yourself to retrieve it. Baptism will not assist you here; church membership will avail you nothing; to partake of the communion is but to eat and drink judgment to yourself (1 Cor.11:27-29); religious efforts are all in vain. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6), and it can never rise above its own level. Cultured, it is only cultured flesh; religionized, it is but religious flesh; no amount of care and cultivation can change it into "spirit." Just as flesh is born of the flesh, "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." There must be a new birth. Without it there is no hope, no salvation, no heaven; for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Cor.15:50). One alone can meet your case, and that One, the Eternal Son of God, of whom it is written: "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him to them gave He power (the right, or authority) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:11-13). Here is hope for you, and here alone. Godly parentage will not insure salvation-- "not of blood." Good resolutions and well meaning professions will avail nothing-- "nor of the will of the flesh." Ordinances, by whomsoever administered, will never save, but only mock-- "nor of the will of man." The Holy One, who has been so grossly sinned against and rejected so long, alone can save and bring about the new birth-- "but of God." "The Word become flesh" (John 1:14) told a religious doctor that, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God " (John 3:5). That is, the word of God, likened to water,* from its cleansing efficacy (Eph.5:26) is that by which new birth is brought about (James 1:18; 1 Pet.1:23-25). This word is applied by the Spirit, and the believing sinner is born anew. ((* I am aware that many have fancied the Lord here was referring to baptism. That such was by no means the case I think the following note, from the pen of an honored servant of Christ, will make plain to any one who carefully weighs the facts pointed out: "CHRISTIAN BAPTISM-- * * * Is not that rite intended here by the water? Let us clear this point. 1st: Christian baptism was not instituted till after the Lord's resurrection; and signified burial with Him unto death (Rom.6:4; Col.2:12). Obviously that could have no meaning nor effect till the Lord had died. Now the Lord was speaking of life through birth, and of a blessing THEN to he enjoyed, not of burial unto death. 2nd: Before His death the kingdom of God was preached, and men were pressing into it (Lk.16:16). 3rd: The apostles were made clean by the Lord before His death, through the word which He had spoken to them (John 15:3), and so before the institution of Christian baptism, of which the Twelve and others had no need, and to which they never submitted. Of a vital work in the Foul the Lord spoke to Nicodemus, and not of a sacramental rite to which the person is now subjected. Of the soul, and not of the body, have we teaching here." --C.E.Stuart in "Tracings from the Gospel of John " I might add that the way the Lord Jesus Himself speaks of "the water that I shall give him," in John 4:14, is, to my mind, proof conclusive that in neither the third nor fourth chapters does He refer to an ordinance, but to "well of water springing up into everlasting life.")) Have you, then, believed God's word? " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God " (John 3:16-18). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" (John 9:35). If so, then to you, as a believer, the remaining pages are addressed. John's Baptism unto Repentance We now go on to look at our subject proper. And first, we speak of John's baptism unto repentance. This is quite distinct from Christian baptism (Acts 19:1-7). By it the Jew expressed his repentance and his need of forgiveness. It could not speak to the people of the death of Christ, though, no doubt, in God's mind, that was what was set forth; i.e., the fact that nothing but death was due the sinner, and that the Lord Jesus was to die in the stead of the guilty. His own baptism was the pledge of this; but I speak of that later. For the Jew it was the owning that the baptized one deserved nothing but death and judgment. It expressed self-judgment, and so it was called a "baptism unto repentance." That the mode of administering it was the same as that of Christian baptism, however, I suppose no one would call in question, for, though we read of change in formula and object, we have no record of a change in mode. It is self-evident that the apostles, some of whom began baptizing shortly after becoming associated with the Lord, simply went on practicing the same manner in baptizing that their former teacher accustomed them to, as some of them had been followers of the Baptist prior to their hearts being directed to "the Lamb of God" (John 1:35-40)-and possibly all, as Acts 1:21,22 seems to teach. They certainly learned no new manner of administering it from Christ. See John 3:22,26; 4:1,2. ("An interesting point in connection with the disciples' practice was suggested to me by a brother since writing the above. When the mothers brought little children to Jesus, the disciples drove them away. Could they have so acted if they or John had ever practiced baby baptism? Jesus, on the other hand, received and blessed them, UNBAPTIZED, as the Christian parent can rest assured He does to-day. Re did not say, as it writer on household baptism, some years ago, that parents who brought unbaptized children to Him in prayer for blessing, were only bringing Cain's offering! Christ declared that "of such is the kingdom of heaven." Baptism is not needed to put them in it. They are already of it, it is the simple, child-like one who is recognized as a true subject of the Kingdom.) Of John, then, we read that he came "preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt.3:1,2). The result is recorded in verses5 and 6: "Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." Mark similarly testifies (chap.1:4,5): "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea; and they of Jerusalem, and were baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins." If the significant little word "in," found in both these passages, be not conclusive as to the mode of his baptism being by immersion; if any can tolerate the amazing conception of John's taking the candidate into the water, then pouring or sprinkling upon his head as he stood there waist- deep, a passage in John's Gospel would seem to effectually dispel such an illusion for those who have ears to hear. "And John also was baptizing in Ænon, near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized. "If " much water" is the cause for choosing a certain place for baptizing, surely then baptism could have been neither by sprinkling nor pouring. To this, the scriptural mode of baptism (abundantly confirmed by other passages, (see Acts 8:38,39; Rom.6:3-5; Col.2:12) our Lord Himself assents, for of Him it is expressly stated that He "was baptized of John in Jordan" (Mk.1:9), and He "went up straightway out of the water" (Matt.3:17), which could not be true if He did not enter the mystic stream that told of what He must yet endure for those under sentence of death, with eternal judgment beyond it. The Baptism of Jesus was not, however, as an example for us, though His word, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt.3:15), certainly should remind us of that obedience which becometh all who profess to know the Father, whom He has revealed. But this, as we have observed, was a "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Lk.3:3), although He was "the Holy One of God," as demons even confessed (Mk.1:24) and Gabriel also testified (Lk.1:35). What wonder, then, that John should "forbid Him" (Matt.3:14), knowing Him to be the Son of God (John 1:29-34); though strangely troubled on a later occasion (Matt.11:2) when the looked-for power did not seem to be manifested? All, however, was in perfect keeping with the time, as "Suffer it to be so now" (Matt.3:15) suggests. He who, as a babe, had been circumcised on the eighth day according to the law, would now, in subjection to the Word given forth by John, put Himself in company with the repentant part of the nation. As the Shepherd of the sheep, He enters the fold* by the door of submission to the rites of the law and the divine testimony of the time. To Him John, as the porter, opened and He entered in, but only to lead out His own sheep, whom He called by name. This could not be, though, until as the Good Shepherd (John 10) He laid down His life for the sheep. Other sheep there were not of the Jewish fold, therefore Gentiles. These He would bring, and He says " There shall be one flock (not fold,** all His sheep are outside of that now) and one Shepherd" (v.16). John's ministry was distinctly separative. The moral condition of the people at his appearing in the wilderness is graphically portrayed in the book of Malachi; notice there God's nine-fold controversy with them (Mal.1:2,6,7,12; 2:13-16,17; 3:7,8,13-15). Yet we see a remnant distinguished from the mass in chapter 3:16-18. Such a company we notice in the early chapters of Luke; Simeon, Anna, no doubt Mary herself, Zacharias and Elizabeth, and all who "looked for redemption in Jerusalem." (* Judaism as owned of God, and only of the baptized portion of it could that be said; the nation was Lo-Ammi (Hos.1:9), i.e., "Not My people.") (** It is well known that the word translated "fold" in the latter part of verse 16 is quite distinct from the word in the former part. The one should be "flock," the other "fold.") Those baptized by John take outwardly this remnant place. By His own baptism the Lord identifies Himself with them, and likewise sets His seal upon the ministry of His forerunner. The repentant part of the nation owned by their baptism that they deserved to die as violators of the divine law. The Lord Jesus took His place with them in baptism as the pledge that He was ready to go down into death for them. As another has beautifully illustrated it, they were like men who had given a note for a debt they could never pay; He in His baptism endorsed their note and offered Himself to pay the uttermost farthing. Sinless, He needed not to repent, but He was to "fulfil all righteousness " by bearing the curse of the law for those who did. Thus it was His joy to take His place with those who sought not to hide, but confessed their guilt and its desert. Of old His Spirit in the psalmist had declared: "O my soul, thou hast said unto Jehovah, Thou art my Lord; my goodness extendeth not to Thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all my delight" (Ps.16:2,3). Was not His baptism but the reiteration of this? The "excellent of the earth" were, in His eyes, not the proud, self-righteous Pharisees, but the humbled followers of the Immerser-- common people and publicans; perhaps the majority of them, were; but they justifiedGod and condemned themselves, and waited expectantly for the coming kingdom. The looked-for King, anointed as such by the descending Spirit (Matt.3:16,17; John 1:32-34), associates Himself with this separated company -- though His baptism in the Jordan is but a shadow of a far more solemn immersion (Lk.12:50) which He must yet undergo, for He is to confess as His own the sins, not only of this remnant company, but of all who will be saved through His mighty sacrifice. His baptism is the pledge of this, as also the intimation that the way to His glory is by the cross. Prophets of old had testified how that Christ must "suffer these things, and to enter into His glory" (Lk.24:26), and Peter tells us they spake of "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow" (1 Pet.1:11). It is plain, then, that it is not merely as an example for us that Jesus was baptized. His baptism was altogether of a different nature from that which He instituted after His resurrection, and for quite a different purpose. One has well said: "He was baptized to identify Himself with a rejected remnant. We, by baptism, are identified with a rejected Christ." The testimony of John was but preparatory. After the birth of Christianity we find that persons baptized unto his baptism were re-immersed when the full truth of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus was declared (Acts 19:1-5). We have no record, however, of the re-baptism of those who had submitted to John's ordinance prior to the cross. Their association with Christ had already identified them with Him, and the twelve and others, unbaptized themselves save " unto repentance," began the work of the new dispensation by baptizing three thousand on the day of Pentecost. It is, then the awful, Baptism of Wrath upon the Cross, which our Lord Jesus endured as our Substitute of which, in its fullest sense, Christian baptism speaks. The prophetic psalms tell us, in no uncertain way, of this. Who can conceive the depth of such passages as the following: "Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts; all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me"(Ps.42:7). In the preceding verse, touchingly and fittingly indeed, the Holy Sufferer exclaims, "I will remember Thee from the land of Jordan!" "This, truly, was the entering of the anti-typical ark into the floods of Jordan at the time of the harvest when it "overfloweth all its banks" (Josh.3:14-16). On the cross, the sinner's just desert was meted out to Him when "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree." Floods, not of water, then rolled o'er His spotless soul in those three awful hours of darkness in which the face of God was hidden from the Holy Sufferer; billows of judgment and wrath when God "made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor.5:21). He could well say, "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me"(Ps.69:2). Solemn, too, it is to hear His cry in the 14th and 15th verses of the same psalm: "Deliver me out of the mire, and let Me not sink. Let Me be delivered from them that hate Me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overflow Me, neither let the deep swallow Me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon Me." Here He has in view, not only the judgment of God righteously meted out to Him as the sinner's substitute, but also the cruel baptism of insult and hatred, which men whom He would fain have saved caused to roll over His devoted head. Another psalm, the 88th, has again more particularly in view the curse of the broken law, so that He can exclaim: "Thou hast laid Me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon Me, and Thou hast afflicted Me with all Thy waves" (vs.6,7). How the "Selah" at the close appeals to the believer! Oh, my soul, I pause" indeed, and "consider" with how great a price thou wast redeemed and from how great a death thou hast been saved! The above quotations give us some slight idea of what Jesus meant when He said: "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished" (Lk.12:50). In a limited sense could His disciples share this baptism with Him (Matt.20:23). That which came from man only, (but not from God) they too could go down beneath, as in the case of James (Acts 12:2) and of John (Rev.1:9) who said, though knowing not what was involved in it at the time, "We are able" (Matt.20:22). This is the great and solemn truth which above everything else baptism pictures to us, as we shall see both Romans and Colossians witness. Could aught but immersion, a complete overwhelming, figure such a scene as that which we have glanced at in the above scriptures? And how unspeakably precious the privilege to be thus baptized unto His death! We turn next to consider the place of Baptism in the Commissions It is after having passed through all the agony of the cross that the risen Lord gives the commissions as narrated in the closing chapters of the Synoptic Gospels. Luke does not mention the baptism at all. He is occupied with the gospel. Baptism is not a part of that, as 1 Cor.15:1-4 bears abundant testimony, as also 1 Cor.1:17. The gospel is concerning God's Son (Rom.1:1-4), and not concerning ordinances, however blessed, or works, however proper to the man already justified by faith and a subject of grace (Titus 2:11-14). We shall look, then, at the commissions recorded in Matthew and Mark. In chap.28:18-20 of the former, we read: "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach (disciple, or make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in (unto) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; 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 (completion of the age). Amen." The thought of baptizing nations, as such, we see no warrant for here unless preceded by national repentance. All nations are to be taught the gospel. If indeed the nations as a whole become disciples, then to baptize them is in place, but that, though it shall actually be, is in a future day (Zech.14:16). At present at least, it is, in my judgment, to individuals that the commission applies. Markedly enough, neither here nor yet in Mark 16 is the believer or disciple told to be baptized, for it was to His servants that the word was addressed by the Lord. Consequently the command is rather to the preacher to immerse the disciple; but would any real lover of the Lord Jesus plead this an excuse for evading responsibility in the matter, shifting it altogether upon the shoulders of the servant, and being careless himself as to whether the divine pattern had been carried out! Do not the words, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," show us the importance of the recipient of the gospel seeing for himself that God's word is carried out? Surely the heart that beats loyally to its absent Lord remembers His saying: "If a man love Me he will keep My words" (John 14:23), as also the other passage, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (v.15). And if these considerations be not enough, is not Peter's message in Acts 2:38 imperative as to it? "Repent, and be baptized every one of you," etc. Here is command and by the Holy Ghost. So, in Cornelius' house, "He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:48). Baptism, therefore, if not directly commanded by the Lord in person, is by the Spirit in the apostle, and is surely one of Christ's "words " which he who loves Him will "keep." As to formula, it is "Unto the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Being, as it is, "baptism unto death," it is fitting that it should be unto the name of the Trinity--for how unitedly do Father, Son and Spirit participate in the offering of the Son of Man upon the cross! It was God, as Father, who withheld Him not, but gave Him out of love to the world (John 3:16); while He, the Son, was the voluntary sufferer (John 10:17,18); and yet it was "through the eternal Spirit that He offered Himself without spot to God"(Heb.9:14). Nor does "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5) nor the kindred passage quoted above from Acts 10 set this aside. Do not these scriptures simply keep before us in whose authority it was done--the former bringing out especially the contrast between the baptism of John and that of the Lord Jesus? It would not seem to be the formula that is in view at all. I take it that a full scriptural formula would be: "In the name of the Lord Jesus, I baptize thee unto the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." In Mark 16:15,16, baptism is directly connected with believing, and in such a way as to make it the public seal of faith, as, in some sense, "confession with the mouth" is in Romans 10:9,10. Here we read, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." Significantly, we do not read, "He that is not baptized shall be damned." Justification before God is by faith, apart from works (Rom.4:4,5); but it is taken for granted that a true believer will be desirous of fully identifying himself with his Lord, and thus baptism is looked upon as the very first act of faith, which alone gives it value, for apart from that it is a meaningless form. Some might be immersed in all good faith on the part of the evangelist, who were not real believers at all, as in the case of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-13,18-23), but nowhere in Scripture do we read of any laborer knowingly baptizing one who was not saved, and never of the baptism of any too young to exercise faith in the Son of God.* (* Philip baptized "both MEN and WOMEN" (Acts 8:12). If little children were also subjects of baptism in apostolic days, this, one would think, would have been the place to mention it. Let the present day evangelist follow Philip's example and he need not fear that he in acting contrary to Scripture.) Baptism presupposes knowledge on the part of the subject as to its purport, as is clear from the apostle's appeal, "know ye not," in Romans 6:3, where he speaks of Baptism unto the Death of Jesus Christ. We will quote the passage referring to this in full. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid (or, by no means). How shall we that are dead [or, died] to sin live any longer therein2 Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into* Jesus Christ were baptized into* His death? 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom.6:15). (* "Unto" is probably a more suited word here. The Greek preposition will bear either rendering. See 1 Cor.10:2. Israel are said to have been "baptized unto Moses." It is the same word. They were separated to Moses as leader; and we to Jesus Christ as Lord.) Here all would seem to be simple; but, alas, even over so clear a Scripture there has been much conflict of opinion. The doctrine of grace in the previous chapters, which show that a man is "justified by faith without (or, apart from) the deeds of the law" (Rom.3:28), with the additional teaching of the change of Headship, from Adam to Christ (Rom.5:12-21) ; that "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience unto death] of One shall many be made righteous" (v.19), might lead some one to ask: "If all be of grace why not indulge myself as I please? The greater my sin, the greater the grace that will bring me through." For answer, the apostle makes an appeal to the foundation truth symbolized in baptism at the very beginning of the Christian course. "By no means," he exclaims: "We died to sin," i.e., died out from under its dominion, because Christ with whom we are now identified died to it (v.10). It must then no longer control us. We are not to live in that to which we died. Was not our baptism a burial unto His death? Did it not say we had died with Him and were now buried with Him? "Know ye not that so many of us as were immersed unto Jesus Christ were immersed unto His death?" Here definite knowledge is connected with the ceremony-- "Know ye not?" They should have been aware of this at the time. He is surprised at the ignorance of any among them who does not realize that his former condition is over forever. In baptism I own that in myself I have no hope. Death is my just portion. But Christ has died, and that for me. His death is my only ground of confidence. Therefore I am buried to it. But not that alone. His death is my death. I died with Him. All that I was by nature God dealt with judicially in the cross of Christ. So having died it is right that I should be buried. My old condition is at an end, and of this the watery grave is witness. Faith says: "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal.2:20). Baptism is the confession of burial with Him. Henceforth "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;" or, as we have it in the chapter before us, "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." If sin would seek to control me, I am to point back to the grave and say, I was buried there. I died with Christ from under your authority. You cannot expect my service this side of the tomb. I am a resurrection man. Baptism has outwardly separated me from your sphere. (It was a fine answer a brother once gave when the question of secret societies was being discussed. Turning to him one said: "But you are a Free Mason, are you not?" "No," was the reply; "I am not." "But you certainly were once; and a Free Mason once, a Free Mason until death," was the retort. "True; but I buried the Free Mason in Lake Ontario," he answered; and it was evident that he at least had entered into the purport of Baptism.) In Colossians the same truth is enforced, more briefly, yet with perhaps added pungency: "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the flesh ("The sins of" is generally considered an interpolation, and should probably be omitted), by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein [or, in whom] also ye were raised together with Him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead" (2:11,12). Here it is clearly taken for granted that all who are rightly subjects of baptism have been raised with Christ "through the inwrought faith of God," as some would translate it. Not that this is true of all the baptized, but it is God's order -- not man's confusion -- that is in view. According to the divine pattern the baptized are a company of people who are actually circumcised with the circumcision made without hands-- that is, have seen the end of the flesh (as before God) in the cross, and now stand on resurrection ground. Circumcision was a cutting off of the flesh. But Christ was cut off for me. So the flesh is gone from God's viewpoint. I died when Christ died, and so I have been circumcised in His death. As to baptism and circumcision viewed as one ordinance succeeding the other, it is enough to say that of old, a natural-born Israelite was to be circumcised the eighth day; in the present dispensation the one who, by new birth, is brought into God's family, is to be baptized. There is a similar thought in Peter's first letter. Commenting on the typical aspect of Noah's deliverance through water (saved by the waves of judgment which, while they overwhelmed the ungodly, carried him and his over to a new earth) he says: "The like figure [antitype] whereunto baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer [demand] of a good conscience toward God) ... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). Noah saved through the flood of wrath in the ark shadows forth the believer's deliverance from judgment, as baptism clearly expresses, i. e., salvation by the work of Christ. He endured all the curse, even as the ark bore all the brunt of the storm; but the believer can say, "His death was mine." It is not to baptism that any efficacy attaches; that could only put away outward filth. There is not the slightest justification here for the ritualistic dogma of baptismal regeneration. The only thing that gives the answer which a good conscience demands, is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. That apprehended, baptism is full of meaning. "He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom.4:25). Connecting closely with the scripture from Peter's epistle is the question of Baptism for the Remission of Sins. If the reader will turn to the book of Acts, chapter 2, it will be observed that the main points of Peter's address on the day of Pentecost are these: God had promised to raise up one of the seed of David to sit on his throne (verse 30), but ere He was manifested in His glory He was to pass through death, and in resurrection Jehovah would give Him a place as Man on His throne, there to sit until His enemies were made a footstool for His feet (verses 25-34). The greater part of this had been already fulfilled. All should be. Jesus of Nazareth (verses 22-24) had been slain by the Jews, but God, in resurrection, had made Him Lord and Christ (verse 36). Consider for a moment the result of such a message if really believed. Messiah was promised. He came. By wicked hands He had been crucified and slain. Jehovah had accepted Him. His foes (they were numbered among them) were to be made His footstool. What of Israel's hopes now? What should they do to escape the threatened judgment! All this and more would be involved in the anxious question, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (v.37). Notice, it is not the query of the Philippian jailor: "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). The thought of personal salvation is perhaps included in it, but it is rather what shall we do to escape the impending fate of His foes, as part of the nation that had rejected Him? In accordance with Psalm 2, Messiah had been set at nought by the rulers and the people; yet God's decree would stand. How, then, could they "Kiss the Son" and avert His wrath. The nation as such had forfeited the favor of God, and with it the outpouring of the Spirit promised through Joel (verses 17-21). What should they do to obtain it again? The answer is simple. Let those who confess the guilt of themselves and their nation, be baptized in the name of the rejected and Crucified One. This would be manifestly snapping the link that bound them to the apostate people. They would then be out of the sphere on which governmental wrath must fall. Administratively their sins would be remitted. They would not share in the judgment so soon to come upon Messiah-rejecting Judah (Luke 21:16-24). Governmental or administrative forgiveness refers to earth, not to heaven. We speak of God's dealing in chastisement with people here as His governmental ways. Such dealing would be averted by baptism, which was in itself the confession of sincere repentance. It was remission of this nature to which the Lord referred when He said, " Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:23). This power Peter was exercising when he offered remission of sins to all who submitted, upon repentance, to baptism. Quite in keeping with this it will be found that Gentiles are never told to be baptized for the remission of their sins. To Paul, a Jew, Ananias conveyed a similar message (Acts 22:16). The erstwhile "persecutor of the way" (v.4) must be baptized, calling upon the name of Jesus, and his sins would be forgiven him. As part of the nation he must share its fate. As baptized out of it and unto Christian ground, his sins would be governmentally washed away. This, of course, does not touch the question of how he was eternally saved. His' own message to others is this: "Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:38,39). To Cornelius, Peter carried a like message, assuring him that, "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." This is eternal forgiveness before God, and upon receiving it by faith, Cornelius and his company were subsequently baptized (Acts 10:43-48).
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