By Bernard Timmerman
A. Its significance or importance is shown in it being the first commandment Christ gives to believers, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16. Also, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in 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. Amen. " Matt. 28:20.
B. Other Scriptures which speak of Baptism.
"What doth hinder me to be baptized?" Acts 8:36. "And he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized." Acts 9:18. "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Acts 22:16.
Peter said to those who asked on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" "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." Acts 2:37b & 38. Please read also verses 39-41.
C. This command to baptize, as well as to repent and believe, was given by Christ and followed by the apostles. Those that gladly received the word were baptized. Acts 2:41. By these and other Scriptures we ought to see that this command was kept, and how it was practiced.
Many think that this ordinance is not important in its meaning and practice, but this is a grave mistake. If anyone will not rightly keep the first command that Christ gives to the believer, how will others be kept? Nor should this privilege be taken away from them, as is done if infant baptism is practiced.
D. I would like to quote a paragraph from a book written by Gordon J. Spykman, "Never On Your Own." It is a course of study on the Heidelburg Catechism. On page 138 we read, "Baptism is not a christening ceremony, (Liberalism) and it is not just a token of remembrance, (Zwinglinanism) nor is it the mysterious cause of regeneration (Roman Catholicism). It's the sacramental representation of our sharing in Good Friday and Easter. (John 3:5; Rom. 6:3,4) It's a means of grace in the hand of God by which He officially adopts us into His family.
By this we can see a few of the opinions held in the sprinkling of infants.
There are also differnt views amongst those who baptize believers.
E. This is an important ordinance and we should know its significance and the scriptural teaching on it. Paul wrote to Timothy stating, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." II Tim. 2:15.
II. What does the word baptism or to baptize mean?
A. It is first used in Scripture in Matt. chap. 3. In verse 1 we read, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." In verse 6 it is stated, "And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins."
He evidently was called John the Baptist because he baptized or was called of God to baptize.
In John 3:23 we find these words, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized." This tells us that there had to be a place where there was much water, for he was at this place near Salim because of this.
By this we should see that baptism is going into the water or immersing or dipping into the water. Most would agree that in the Greek the word "bapto" means "to dip." In the Dutch, I believe that John was called "The Dipper".
B. John Calvin writes the following in his "Institutes," Vol. II, page 524, chap. 15, heading 18, "Whether the person baptized is to be wholly immersed and whether once or thrice, or whether he is only sprinkled with water is not the least consequence. Churches should be at liberty to adopt either according to the diversity of climate, although it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that was the form used by the primitive church."
By this we find that Calvin knew that to baptize meant to immerse. He believed also that the early church practiced that.
On what basis can he then say it is not the least consequence whether this is done or not? Don't words, even commands of Christ, mean anything?
In the same paragraph he writes just before this, "It is lawful for me and all the godly to reject whatever men have presumed to add to the institution of Christ." Also, a little after this he writes, "From our experience of them let us learn that there is nothing holier or better or safer than to be contented with the authority of Christ alone."
Calvin knew this well, yet he did not practice it. He knew what the word baptize meant, but then struck down the importance of what Christ commanded!
C. The Word of God, by its teaching and example, shows us that to baptize as an ordinance is to baptize in or into the water.
"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water." Matt. 3:16a. Also see Acts 8:38,39.
Also in I Cor. 10:2 we see immersion pictured, "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Some have said they didn't even get wet. Immersion doesn't mean to get wet: it means "dip into or put into." Israel was immersed in the cloud and in the sea unto Moses. They were kept from Pharoah by this baptism. The practice was to immerse. It signified burial and rising.
III. What then is Christian Baptism?
A. An ordinance commanded by Christ, practiced by the apostles, received by all who believe.
B. Baptism signifies being buried with Christ into death and rising to newness of life. Rom. 6:3,4. Col. 2:12.
C. In John's baptism each one had to repent, and only those might be baptized. Luke 7:29, 30. As in John's baptism repentance was necessary; so in Christ's baptism faith is necessary, and only those who believe on Him may be baptized.
Philip said in answer to the eunuch's question, "What doth hinder me to be baptized?" "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." Acts 8:36,37.
On the day of Pentecost as many as gladly received the word were baptized. Acts2:41.
When Paul preached to the Philippian jailor we read that he was baptized, he and all his straightway. In the next verse we find him rejoicing, believing in God with all his house. Acts 16:33,34.
D. The two, believing and being baptized, go together in Christian baptism. Those are the Scriptures! Do not take away from them or add to them! There is no other baptism, as an ordinance, taught or shown by example in God's Word.
The law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Rom. 3:20. Gal. 3:24. In our guilt we must repent, believe and be baptized. This is God's way: Christ tells us so. Peter obeyed that command to bring the gospel. So did Paul. They began at Jerusalem. Acts chap. 2. In Acts 20:18-31, we find how the gospel went to all nations.
"Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 25:45-47.