The Ordinance of Baptism

What is Baptism? What about household baptism?


The subject of Baptism is important for all Christians to understand, as it is one of the most basic truths of Christianity. Sadly, many don’t have an understanding of baptism and what it represents, and they are ignorant of the scriptures that bear on the subject. Much of the confusion can be traced back to man’s thoughts and ideas being brought into Christian teaching.

Baptism in General

Baptism (baptisma) simply means “to dip, or submerge.” Water baptism is performed by submerging a person in water. There are two types of water baptism mentioned in scripture, (1) the baptism of John and (2) Christian baptism (see Acts 19:3-4). In both cases there are similar attributes:
Baptism… John’s Baptism Christian Baptism
 Involves passing a person under water  “..went up straightway out of the water” (Mat. 3:16)  “…Water; what hinders my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)    `
 Disconnects you with OLD associations  The apostate nation of Israel  This present evil world
Puts you into a NEW association The faithful Jewish remnant The Christian testimony; or “House of God”
 Is “unto” or “in view of” something  “unto repentance for the remission of sins”
 “unto Christ” or
“unto His death”
 Speaks of death  “the axe is laid unto the root of the trees” (Mat. 3:10)  “Buried with him in baptism” (Col 2:12)
 Puts you in the place of a disciple  Made disciples of John  Made disciples of Jesus
We want to look briefly at John’s baptism because the principles of his baptism are similar to those of Christian baptism, although the details are different. We will also find that Christian baptism has an additional aspect that is not included with John’s baptism.

Kingdom Baptism

John’s Baptism and the Baptism of Jesus on earth can be viewed as “Kingdom baptism” in contrast with “Christian Baptism”. Kingdom baptism is what disconnected the faithful Jews from the guilt of apostate Israel, while Christian baptism bring us into the Christian testimony. Kingdom baptism is connected with the Messiah on earth, and Christian baptism is connected with the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The testimony of the Jewish remnant was simply that they had turned away from Israel's sins and were waiting for the Messiah to come and for the Kingdom to be established on the earth. The Christian testimony goes beyond this.

John's Baptism

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Mark 1:4

“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.” Acts 19:4 

For the Remission of Sins. John’s ministry consisted primarily of baptizing and pointing souls to the coming Christ. His baptism was “of repentance for the remission of sins.” The Spirit of God was doing a work in Israel, preparing a remnant who would receive the Lord when He came. John was raised up to bear witness to Christ, and “to turn the hearts of the people to the Lord again.” In this case the ordinance of Baptism was an outward sign of an inward grief and repentance concerning the moral state of Israel, the desire to turn from sins, and wait with the faithful remnant for the coming King. John’s baptism brought the individual formally into the faithful remnant of his day, in a similar way to how Christian baptism brings us into the House of God in our day. The remission of sins referred to is a governmental forgiveness of sins, rather than an eternal forgiveness. Only the blood of Christ could secure eternal forgiveness for anyone; but if the nation of Israel had outwardly repented from their sins by kingdom baptism, they could have avoided the impending governmental judgment of God, which fell in 70 A.D. The physical event of submersion could never give eternal remission of sins, but the act of faith associated with it did. The same is true in Christian baptism.
Separation from Something. The faithful remnant were baptized of John to separate themselves from apostate Judaism, which was about to come under judgment, and put themselves in a place of looking forward to the coming of Messiah. They were not saved when they came to John (Luke 3). They could have said, “We have Abraham to our father” but John instead called them "a generation of vipers". John explained "the axe is laid to the root of the tree.” What they needed in order to be saved was to have that old connection severed. By being baptized, they separated themselves from that old position, and took a new one.
Incorporation into a New Thing. Those who were baptized by John not only were disconnected from their old position, but they were incorporated into a new thing! Jesus came to John at Jordan to be baptized because He would take His place with the faithful remnant. It was NOT because He needed remission of sins. In fact, God the Father made that point very clear, when the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove upon Him, and Jesus was “justified in the Spirit” by the Father whose voice was heard from Heaven, “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But Jesus would willingly take a place among the faithful Jews that had already been gathered through John’s ministry.
Baptism is in View of Something Ahead. John baptized unto the remission of sins; that is, in view of something ahead. Observe Luke 3:10-14. There are three groups, (1) the people, (2) the publicans, and (3) the soldiers. All three groups ask John what behavior was becoming of them NOW that they were baptized. “And the crowds asked him saying, What should we do then?" (Luke 3:10). John replies, telling them what to do going forward:
  1. To the people: "He that has two body-coats, let him give to him that has none; and he that has food, let him do likewise" (v.11).
  2. To the tax-gatherers: "Take no more money than what is appointed to you" (vv.12-13).
  3. To the soldiers: "Oppress no one, nor accuse falsely, and be satisfied with your pay" (v.14).
It was not that John was saying “You're a candidate for baptism because you have already turned your life around”. Instead he was saying, “Now that you have separated yourselves from this evil world, henceforth this is how you are going to live your life differently”.
Why is this important? Whether it is John’s baptism or Christian baptism, it is always looking forward to new ground, not looking backwards on conversion. Some teach that it is wrong to be baptized until you have turned your life around. Instead, a person should be baptized the moment they see this wicked world for what it is, and want to separate themselves from it, to Christ.
See also Matthew 3:6-16, Matthew 21:25, Mark 1:4-9, Mark 11:30, Luke 3:3-12, 21, Luke 7:29-30, Luke 20:4, John 1:25-33, John 3:23, Acts 10:37, Acts 13:24, Acts 18:25, Acts 19:3-4.

Jesus as a Baptizer on Earth

“After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.” John 3:22

“And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.” John 3:26

“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)…” John 4:1-2

It is evident that the Lord baptized with water while on earth, although He did it through the instrumentality of His disciples. At some point the Lord’s ministry bypassed John’s in terms of its scope, and this John knew would happen, because of the relative greatness of the Lord’s Person. “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The Lord's baptism was of a similar character to John’s, "unto repentance". Christian baptism is “unto His death”.
Jesus refrained from baptizing personally while on earth (John 4:2).

There are a number of possible reasons why the Lord did not baptise personally. First, by refraining from baptizing Himself, the Lord headed off any occasion for the Pharisees to stir up rivalry between His disciples and John's. Secondly, the disciples viewed the Lord (and baptized to Him) as the Messiah of Israel; but Jesus knew from the beginning that He must suffer and die as the Son of man (broader title). True Christian baptism would be after the ascension, and "unto" His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). This could be another reason why the Lord refrained from baptizing personally. Thirdly, and admittedly less likely, it could be that Jesus wanted to avoid a hierarchy of those who were baptized. It would be natural for those who were baptized by Jesus personally to think more highly of themselves than those baptized by Peter, for example. Baptism is about the person we are baptized to, not about the actual baptizer.

Christian Ground vs. Jewish Remnant Ground

A different ground. Those who were baptized with John's baptism later had to be re-baptized with Christian baptism. This is because John's baptism disconnected them with the apostate nation, but did not associate them with Christ. Apollos is an example of one who had not been brought onto Christian ground. He needed to be taught the way of the Lord more fully.
"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, [and] mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John." Acts 18:24-25 
A different testimony. John's baptism formed a testimony of those who decried the condition of Israel, and took their place waiting for the King. The Lord came to Israel as their Messiah, and did not alter that basic message until He was rejected. After the cross He told His apostles to go forth into all the earth with Christian baptism (Matt. 28). Ten days later, the Holy Ghost was sent down and the Assembly of God was formed. Into this public testimony Christian Baptism introduces us.

Baptism with the Holy Ghost and with Fire

John also prophesied that Christ would baptize with (1) the Holy Ghost and (2) with fire. This is not water baptism, so it is a little off topic, but I would like to briefly cover two non-water baptisms.
“John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Luke 3:16 (See also Matthew 3:11 and Mark 1:8)
John’s mission was to create a moral state of repentance in the hearts of the people, but he did not have the authority to judge. He could only baptize with water; i.e. to make an outward, temporal distinction. The One who followed after was far greater, and would make an inward, eternal distinction. The distinction that Christ would make would be in two phases; one phase connected with His first coming, and the other with His second coming. The two baptisms are for two different groups. There was nothing in the Old Testament that would indicate the coming of Messiah would be in two parts, and John had no way of knowing that 2000 years would come between the two events!

Baptism with the Holy Ghost – The Day of Pentecost

“And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts 1:4-5 (See Acts 11:16)

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4

“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.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

The first phase would be an eternal identification or demarking of those who were of faith by the Holy Ghost. These verses make it clear that, in the Lord’s words, the baptism with the Holy Ghost would happen “not many days hence.” It took place in Acts 2, when the Holy Ghost filled all the house where they were sitting. The Spirit literally surrounded them like water does when you are submersed in it. This is the Baptism of the Spirit. It happened once. Every other person to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit is added to a company that was already formed. This event served to unite the believers there into one body, and the outward manifestation was signs of power; i.e. the sign gifts. Jesus is the baptizer, for Peter declared: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

Baptism with Fire – The Harvest Judgment

“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matt. 3:12

“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matt. 13:40-42

The second phase would be an eternal demarking of those who were merely false professors by a sudden gathering together for judgment. As the baptism with the Holy Ghost occurred in Acts 2 when the public testimony was fully surrounded by the Holy Ghost as a manifestation of God’s approval, in like manner the public testimony one day will be immersed in fire when it falls under God’s judgment. This will take place at the harvest judgment – just after the appearing – when the Son of Man will send His angels throughout the Christianized world to gather out all that offend. What remains of the Christian testimony after the rapture will be an empty, hollow profession. The Lord will judge that which professes His name; “he will throughly purge his floor”. The great difference between the Baptism with the Holy Ghost and the Baptism with Fire is that only true believers were present at Pentecost, and only false professors will be taken at the harvest judgment. In both cases Jesus is the baptizer, but the two baptisms have very different characters.

Christian Baptism: What is it?

I will refer to the baptism of individuals after the resurrection as “Christian Baptism”, except where the baptism of John is explicitly distinguished. Baptism began to take on a deeper meaning as time went on, especially as Paul’s epistles unfolded. Baptism, properly speaking, had no part of Paul’s ministry, because baptism has to do with the earth and the kingdom, and Paul’s ministry takes up heavenly things and the Church. To see that baptism has to do with the earth, take the case of the believing thief on the cross. There was no need for him to be baptized because his lifetime on earth was almost over. He would soon be with Jesus in paradise. But Paul’s ministry was not concerned with baptism because his commission was given to him by an ascended Christ; for he said “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor. 1:17). Paul did not do away with baptism, but rather didn’t focus on it. Baptism belongs to an earthly order of things, and the Church belongs to a heavenly order of things. But Paul actually gives a fuller explanation of the significance of Baptism than any of the apostles, even though baptism is never his main subject.
To put it very simply, before getting into all the points:
Christian baptism is the outward dissociation of a person from this wrath-deserving world, and the outward association to Christ.

First, we will look at what Baptism dissociates us from:
  1. This present evil world.
  2. Our own sins.
  3. Our old identity in Adam.

Point #1: Baptism outwardly saves us from the world

“…The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing, into which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which figure also now saves you, even baptism, not a putting away of the filth of flesh, but the demand as before God of a good conscience, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:20-21
Here Peter is writing to the Jewish remnant according to grace. He is exhorting them about the government of God, and the importance of maintaining a good testimony, etc. They were few in number compared to the mass of unbelievers, so he brings in Noah and the eight souls saved by water. The “like figure” of Noah’s deliverance (i.e. baptism) saves us in a similar way. If it weren’t for the flood lifting up the ark, Noah would have been judged along with the world. By making a clean break from the world, the eight souls were saved from judgment. The WATER saved them here, because the aspect is outward salvation. In Hebrews 11 the ARK saved them, because the subject is faith, where inward salvation is concerned. The point is, baptism saves us from the world by dissociating us from it.
“He that believes and is baptised shall be saved, and he that disbelieves shall be condemned.” Mark 16:16
The Lord is linking together in one statement two aspects of salvation. Inward and outward. He doesn’t say, “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” If that were the case, baptism would be nothing but the outward declaration of inward faith. But it doesn’t say that. Yet he carefully adds that damnation is consequent upon not believing, rather than upon forgoing baptism.
“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:40-41
For the Jewish believers in the book of Acts, their “world” was Judaism. God was about to judge the apostate nation for their sin of rejecting Jesus, and resisting the Holy Ghost. The faithful Jews could “save themselves” from perishing with that generation by passing through the separating waters of baptism. This principle is seen all the way through the transitional period, when the clear doctrine of justification was not yet preached. The leading feature was outward salvation via coming onto Christian ground. This of course was accompanied by inward faith, which is what justified the believers.

Point #2: Baptism outwardly washes away our sins

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16
Paul stood in a questionable place OUTWARDLY until he was baptized. His sins were gone before God the moment he was justified by faith, but he still needed to disconnect himself outwardly from all the sins that characterized his life before conversion. Before baptism, we are formally linked to our sinful lifestyle. But when we pass under the waters of baptism, in God’s sight that link is broken, and we now stand free of them, outwardly. Paul speaks about his conversion several times. Look at the context of when Paul was told “wash away thy sins”. He was relating his experience to the Jews in Acts 22. In Acts 26, when speaking to a Gentile king, he doesn’t mention his baptism at all. The Jews especially needed to understand that their ex-captain was now disconnected with all that they stood for.
“Baptism never supposes life in the one baptized though it may be there, but it always supposes death. Thus Saul was in the condition that attached to him as a sinner with sins on him, though himself safe, when he was bidden to “arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16). His sins were not washed away, that is to say, he was outwardly connected with the first man, until baptism to Christ, and as to himself as a man on the earth was not in a Christian state till after baptism.” J. N. Darby

Point #3: Baptism outwardly makes us dead and buried in God’s sight

“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.” Rom. 6:3-4
Paul here is saying, “Don’t you know your own baptism?” Baptism had occurred in the past for the Romans, as understood from the past tense “were baptized”. Now Paul is speaking on deliverance from the law of sin, and he is exhorting believers to “live up to” their baptism. We find in Colossians that we are buried with Him as well. This indicates that in baptism we are not only dissociated from the world and our sins, but also ourselves… our identity in Adam is left behind forever.

Anytime life is mentioned, the scripture is careful to connected it with inward faith, not an outward ordinance. We are “buried with him in baptism” but when it says “risen with him” it is through the “faith of the operation of God” (Colossians 2:12).

Now, we will look at what Baptism associates us with:
  1. The Person of Christ.
  2. The leadership of Christ.
  3. The Christian Testimony.

Point #4: Baptism outwardly associates us with Christ

“For as many of you as have been baptized unto Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27
Baptism bring us in to formal association with Christ. Gal. 3:27 tells us that baptism is like putting Christ “on us”. This is the idea of putting on a uniform. Baptism marks us specifically as a “Christ-one” or a Christian! In context, the being “marked” as a Christian erases all other “markings”; “There is no Jew nor Greek; there is no bondman nor freeman; there is no male and female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). What a wonderful thing! To be outwardly identified with Christ!

Point #5: Baptism outwardly puts us into the place of Christ’s disciples

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
The act of baptism makes us disciples in the kingdom. If we are disciples (or, followers), who are we to follow? Israel was “baptized in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1-5), and it brought them into association with Moses, their divinely appointed leader! Our divinely appointed leader is Christ.
One who has been baptized is in the position of being a disciple, but they are not necessarily a “disciple indeed”. This is seen typically with Israel. “All were baptized”, and yet “most of them” were not real. The same is true of Christian baptism. Those who have been baptized are in association with Christ, but it doesn’t mean they truly have faith. There are many examples of this type of case, most famously the case of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9–24).

Point #6: Baptism outwardly brings us into the sphere of Christian Profession

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Ephesians 4:5
Of the three circles in Ephesians 4:4-6, the circle of profession is connected with Christian baptism. All in this circle are not necessarily saved. By being baptized we are brought into the kingdom in profession, and also into the house of God in profession. Baptism is the way a person is officially brought into Christianity. It puts us into a place of responsibility, but not all in that place have genuine faith. This can be shown by the following scriptures.

One Lord. “Not every one that saith unto me, LORD, LORD, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 7:21

One Faith. “I have been obliged to write to you exhorting [you] to contend earnestly for THE FAITH once delivered to the saints. For certain men have got in unnoticed, they who of old were marked out beforehand to this sentence, ungodly [persons], turning the grace of our God into dissoluteness, and denying our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 3-4

One Baptism. “For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were BAPTIZED unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea… yet God was not pleased with the most of them, for they were strewed in the desert.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

In Acts 8:12-13 we find that Simon Magus “believed and was baptized”. This belief was not the kind of belief that saves, rather it was the kind of belief that we see in Hebrews 6:4-6. Simon was not a real believer.
The next major incident after Paul’s conversion is at the house of Cornelius, although Paul was not present. The Holy Ghost was doing a work to enlarge the House of God to incorporate Gentiles. Notice that the Holy Ghost fell on them first, then Peter says, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Acts 10:47. Peter recognizes that the Holy Ghost had fallen on them, and now they were responsible to welcome them outwardly into the Christian company.

Christian Baptism: Why do it?

Point #7: Baptism allows me to have a good conscience before God

“…The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing, into which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which figure also now saves you, even baptism, not a putting away of the filth of flesh, but the demand as before God of a good conscience, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:20-21
Baptism, Peter says, doesn’t actually put away the filth of the flesh, but by disconnecting you with the world which will shortly be judged, it puts you into a place that a good conscience demands; clear of association with evil. A person really cannot have a good conscience before God while still connected with this evil world. Note: a good conscience is not the same as a purged conscience. A purged conscience comes only from trusting in the blood.
It was for this same reason that Paul need to be baptized. He simply couldn’t stand before God in good conscience until he had formally disconnect himself outwardly from his sins (Acts 22:16).

Point #8: Baptism is normal for every believer in Christ

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 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? 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.” Acts 8:35-38
The desire to be baptized is a normal Christian desire. It would be strange if someone heard the gospel, got saved, and then refused baptism. However, saving faith and the sealing of the Spirit are not required for a person to be baptized. To show this, look at Acts 19:5-6.
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” Acts 19:5-6
Here the order is reversed! These believers had previously been baptized with John’s baptism only. Now they are baptized with Christian baptism, and afterwards the Holy Ghost comes on them. This is important when we come to the question of Household baptism.

Point #9: Baptism allows us to fill in the ranks in place of the dead

“Since what shall the baptised for the dead do if those that are dead rise not at all? why also are they baptised for them?” 1 Corinthians 15:29
Although this verse has been twisted into all sorts of strange doctrines down through the years, the meaning is simple. Those who are baptized in Christianity are baptized “for” or “in place of” those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. In other words, as some depart to be with Christ, the ranks of Christianity are filled in by those who are baptized. Especially, it speaks of taking the place of martyrs who have already fallen; e.g. Paul taking Stephen’s place. It is much like a battle formation. When men fall in battle, new men step forward to fill the holes in the line, that the formation might continue unbroken. There is the assumption here that it is a dangerous thing – in a manner of speaking – to step onto Christian ground by baptism because it means outward association with Christ. Therefore, such a step would be foolish if there was no resurrection. Many good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3) have fallen; the path is rugged and dangerous. Will you take your place with His soldiers? Will you put on the Christian uniform? The way to the front line is baptism.

Christian Baptism: How should we do it?

Point #10: Baptism is accomplished by submersion in water

“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? 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.” Acts 8:36-38
It is very clear from this passage that they went down into the water. It indicates that that normal mode of baptism is submersion. Does sprinkling count? It is still going under the water in a sense, but it would be far better to follow scripture and practice submersion.

Point #11: Baptism is done in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
We might call this the inauguration of Christian baptism; the so called “great commission.” Here it is a command to baptize. Baptism is to be in the Name of the whole Trinity, “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. This tells us that Christian baptism is connected with the full revelation of God!

Point #12: Baptism is “unto Christ” and “to the Name of the Lord Jesus”

“For as many of you as have been baptized unto Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27

“Only they were baptised to the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 8:16 (See Acts 19:5).

When we are baptized it is unto Christ and to His name. This means: “with a view to Christ”. J.N. Darby said, “I believe every one rightly baptized is baptized to the Lord Jesus, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”.1

Christian Baptism: When should we do it?

Point #13: Baptism for households and Baptism for individuals

We have instances in scripture of households being baptized as well as individuals. It is interesting that when a household was baptized, scripture doesn’t specify which members were believing. The salient detail is the faith of the head of the household.
  • The house of Lydia was baptized. It doesn’t say all were believers, and it uses the term “she was baptized, and her household” (Acts 16:15). Note: when it says “the brethren departed from her house” it isn’t talking about her believing family members. Rather, it is talking about Timothy and Luke that were staying over there while Paul and Silas were in prison. To claim that all members of her household were believing requires a supposition that is unfounded.
  • The Philippian jailer was baptized with his house. He was told what he needed for salvation; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” It would be inward salvation for the jailor, because the only mention of personal faith is on the part of the jailor himself. Yet he wastes no time in placing his family on Christian ground in separation from the world: And he… was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” Again, no mention is made of individual faith on the part of his family.
  • Paul “baptized also the household of Stephanas.” It doesn’t mention the personal faith of individual family members here either. However, we see that the household was characterized by ministry (1 Cor. 16:15), which indicates that Stephanas brought up his children true to their baptism.
The point is, households were baptized without the faith of individual members being specified. The important thing seems to be that the head of the household believed; i.e. Lydia, the jailer, and Stephanus. These three examples provide enough for us to glean a principle. There is one example when the Bible specifies that all members believed, and there it does not say the household was baptized.
  • Crispus believed with all his household. Notice that it says “many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” but doesn’t use the term “his household was baptized”. Also later, in 1 Corinthians 1:14 Paul is listing those he baptized. He specifically mentions the households, and the individuals. He says Crispus, without saying “and his household”.

Point #14: Baptism does not need to be repeated twice

“And the apostles who were in Jerusalem, having heard that Samaria had received the word of God, sent to them Peter and John; who, having come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for he was not yet fallen upon any of them, only they were baptised to the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14
The Spirit of God was given here by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. The Lord was showing that these Samaritans had the fellowship of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. These ones had already been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus by others. If baptism needed to be repeated twice, certainly Peter and John would have done so. Also, it says in Ephesians 4:5: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

An Illustration in Defense of Household Baptism

Suppose you are a German diplomat living in Berlin in 1939. The Nazi regime and its symbol, the swastika, has swept across the German nation, transforming the entire culture. You and your family have been swept up in this transformation. You have become a fully integrated part of Hitler’s world. Your wife has decorated the house with the red and black, your sons have joined Hitler youth, all members of your family conform to the wishes of the regime, all the way down to the dress code.
But as time goes on your eyes are being opened to the evils of the Nazi regime. One night, you become especially convicted about the evil. You share your convictions with your wife, and together decide that you cannot continue as Nazis. You make a plan to visit the American embassy on the following day.
Upon hearing your story, the American officials are glad, but are suspicious as to your motives. Are you sure you want to be extricated from Germany to the United States? How can they be sure you are not a spy? Before they are willing to sign your transit papers, they plan a visit to your home on the following day.
You rush home and begin a feverish change… down come the Nazi flags, out go the brochures and other propaganda. You throw your Nazi uniforms into the trash, and put on new, clean, neutral clothing. You want to erase every sign that would mark your home as a “Nazi” household.
What about your children? Your four-year-old and two-year-old sons have Nazi uniforms decorated with the symbol of the Third Reich. Do you even hesitate to remove these symbols of the old Nazi “ground” from which you are fleeing? Not for a moment. Do you wait to change their uniforms until you can explain the reasons for your conviction to each child? No, they are simply too young to understand what is at stake, and the reasons why you must flee the country. In order to “save them outwardly” you change their uniforms so that the whole household is now off the old ground, and onto the new.
In the same way, when parents get saved, they must recognize that the judgment of God is upon this world. The parents’ faith is the deciding factor on what “uniform” their children will wear, because they are part of their parents’ house. How strange it would seem to the American officials to arrive at a home and find the children still wearing their Nazi uniforms? And yet many Christians today are doing the same thing. They place more of an emphasis on baptism as an experience for their children, and less of an emphasis on what baptism means to God.
I am thankful that many of these parents bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) even though they are not baptized. While these parents do not bring their children formally onto Christian ground by baptism, yet they still raise them as Christians by reading and praying with them, and keeping out the influence of the world, etc. But why not raise them as Christians formally as well as informally?
Many argue, what good does it do my child to baptize them before they can understand it? The answer is found in scripture; baptism of children will separate them from the world in the eyes of God, put the name of Christ upon them, and bring them onto Christian ground.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does baptism speak of (1) death, (2) resurrection, or (3) both?

    Baptism always speaks of death, and death means separation. Baptism separates us from an old “ground” and places us on a new “ground”, but it has no power to give life. Whenever resurrection is mentioned, faith is always brought in. We are “Buried with him in baptism… risen with him through the faith of the operation of God (Colossians 2:12).
  2. Does baptism represent something that is already done or does is actually do something new that you didn’t have before?

    Baptism DOES give us something new. It brings us into the sphere of Christian profession. It outwardly separates us from this world which is soon coming under judgment.
  3. Is baptism more for God’s view? or a testimony to the world?

    Contrary to what is commonly taught, baptism is more for God’s view than for mans, although it is seen by men. Like the Lord’s Supper, he has asked us to do it for him, but the world may look on and see it. However, getting the order mixed around can cause issues. Many Christians today believe that there is no point to Baptism unless it is done in front of a crowd. This is false. Why would the Philippian jailor baptize his household in the middle of the night if baptism is primarily for a testimony to others? The answer is, he wanted to separate his household from the world to Christ in God’s sight as soon as possible, because God’s view was the most important.
  4. What are the practical effects of Baptism?

    1. In what way does baptism “now save us”? Baptism saves us outwardly. It separates us from this world this is coming under judgment (1 Peter 3:21) and allows us to have a good conscience before God. It washes away our sins (Acts) in an external sense.
    2. How do we put on Christ? When we are baptized we are brought onto Christian ground. Baptism puts Christ on us (as a uniform), see Galatians 3:27. It marks us specifically as a “Christ-one” or Christian. In context, the being marked as a Christian erases all other “markings”; “There is no Jew nor Greek; there is no bondman nor freeman; there is no male and female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
  5. Who administers baptism? Is it the responsibility of the local assembly or the evangelist? Can I baptize myself?

    The apostles were told “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Most of the time in scripture, the responsibility to baptize is placed on the evangelist. If you preach the gospel to someone, and they get saved, your responsibility is to follow up and see that the new convert is brought onto Christian ground. More intelligent converts may ask, as with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. He asked Philip – the evangelist that was used to convert him – to baptize him, “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?” (Acts 8:36). There is no scriptural precedent for a person to baptize himself.
  6. Is it scriptural for baptism to be repeated two or more times?

    It does not need to be repeated. See Point #9. It says in Ephesians 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” This verse teaches that there is one common baptism for the whole Christian faith. If you are baptized once, you are a Christian (outwardly, of course). Even in the 21st century, when the church is divided, there is “one baptism.”

    1. What if someone was not baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? If someone wants to be re-baptized because the words spoken were incorrect, that is fine, but what God looks for is the intent. Were you passed through the water? Was the intent to baptize you? My personal conclusion is, God is very gracious when it comes to the wording at the pronouncement.
  7. Is baptism required to break bread at the Lord’s Table?

    While scripture does not prohibit one from breaking bread who has not been baptized, we would do well to question the sincerity of one who refuses to be brought onto Christian ground. Is a person a sincere believer who flatly refuses a most basic Christian commandment? We are to judge them that are within (1 Cor. 5:13).
  8. Infant, Household, Believer’s, and Believer’s Only Baptism

      What is it? Is it Scriptural?
    Infant Baptism Infant baptism is the teaching that every child born to Christian parents should be baptized as an infant in order to be eternally saved. No. The scripture never allows or supports this practice, and it is often found in works-based perversions of Christianity.
    Household Baptism Household baptism is the teaching that when Christian parents get saved, they should baptize their entire household, regardless of the individual faith of their children. Yes. The households of Lydia, Stephanas, and the Philippian jailer are cited as having been baptized without the individual faith of the members being specified.
    Believer’s Baptism Believer’s baptism is the teaching that when a person accepts the gospel they should be baptized. Yes. A classic example is the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.
    Believer’s Only Baptism Believer’s baptism only is the teaching that a person should NOT be baptized until they accept the gospel; i.e. that house hold baptism as a principle is wrong. No. Scripture gives us the households of Lydia, Stephanas, and the Philippian jailer that were baptized. Also in Acts 19:5-6 some were baptized first, then sealed with the Spirit.


  9. If Christianity is all about the “spirit” of things and not the “letter”, why would the Lord ask us to carry on with outward ordinances like the Lord’s Supper and Baptism? Doesn’t that seem like a carry-over from Judaism?

    It is true that the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are outward ordinances, but unlike the ordinances of Judaism, as Christians we understand from the Word of God what these ordinances mean. Another striking difference between Judaism and true Christianity is the number of ordinances: Jews had somewhere around 613 ordinances, Christian’s only have two. Note: I say “true Christianity” as opposed to Christendom, which insists on hundreds of ordinances.
  10. Compare the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

    They both speak of death. The Lord’s Supper shows forth His death, the ordinance of baptism shows for the believer’s death with Christ. One difference is that the Lord Supper is collective, while baptism is individual. A second difference would be that Baptism is scripturally allowable before a person has faith, while the Lord’s Supper is prohibited from those who are unsaved.
  11. Baptism gives access into the profession aspect of the House of God, but is this the only way in? What about just profession?

    Can I restate the question? “Why do I have to enter the house of God by baptism? Why can’t I just enter by verbal profession and skip the baptism?” I would answer with the following: would you chose to enter your house by climbing in the window or by using the front door? Baptism is the proper entrance into the house of God in the aspect of profession.
  12. Does Baptism give access into the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of heaven, or both?

    We have no direct scripture that says baptism is the entrance into the kingdom of heaven… but it would seem to be so. The parable of the tares in Matthew 13 gives us the truth of how Satan introduces false subjects into the kingdom of heaven. He does it by sowing them, which we can connect with the parable of the sower and conclude that they “spring up” in profession. Baptism is the primary mode of Christian profession (Eph. 4:5). Tribulation saints will be baptized (see Matt. 28:19) as disciples in the kingdom… this also shows baptism is the entrance into the kingdom of Heaven, in the aspect of profession. The kingdom of God is more of an umbrella term that encompasses the kingdom of heaven, but it usually focuses on the moral aspect; i.e. that which really conforms to the character of God. Certainly, we know that John’s baptism was expressly for those who wanted to separate from apostate Israel, and wait for the King to come. Also in Matthew 28 the commission to the apostles to go into every nation making disciples by baptizing them in the Name of the Triune God would connect itself with the kingdom, because the Church had not been set up yet! Therefore, we might conclude that baptism is the entrance into the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven, yet only in the aspect of profession.
  13. Is baptism an outward expression of an inward change?

    No. It is an outward expression of an outward change (coming onto Christian ground) but it does have a corresponding inward truth; that of death to sin (Romans 6:3-11) and death with Christ (Colossians 2:11-12).
  14. Is it important to be baptized in front of as many people as possible?

    No. The Lord Jesus was baptized in front of a great crowd because He was publicly taking His place with the faithful remnant of Israel. We have no instruction to gather a great crowd to witness Christian baptism, although such an event may prove to be a great testimony and lead souls to Christ. However, a crowd of witnesses is not necessary.
  15. What sphere is a believer in who has yet to be baptized?

    Such a believer is still outwardly identified with the world. It would be unscriptural to remain in this state. Scripture clearly indicates that baptism is normal for a believer. Surely, such a believer does not forfeit their heavenly privileges (those are promised and sure) but there would be something missing from their outward testimony to God and to the world. Apollos was one who fit this bill; although I hasten to add that his lack of Christian baptism wasn’t due to disobedience to the Word of God, but due to ignorance. Acts 18:24-26 shows the roll of those who are more intelligent toward those who haven’t received Christian baptism.
  16. Why does Acts 2:38 seem to indicate that believers had to be baptized first in order to receive the Holy Ghost?

    It was a special case. These believing Jews needed to separate from a guilty nation and what the Lord Jesus called “your house, left unto you desolate” before they could receive the Spirit of God. On the Day of Pentecost, baptism of true believers (told to “repent and be baptized”) was the door to the House of God in the aspect of reality. Going forward baptism is the door to the House of God in the aspect of profession (Eph. 4:5). Look at Acts 10:47 where the Gentiles are baptized after they receive the Holy Ghost. Note: the House of God in profession was co-extensive with the House of God in reality up until Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8), who was the first false professor in the Christian testimony.
  17. Why does it seem like in many of the places where baptism is mentioned it is in a different aspect?

    Whenever baptism is mentioned in scripture, we need to look at the context to determine what aspect is being referred to. This is true of justification, reconciliation, prophecy, and every other subject in the Word of God. Context determines the meaning.
  1. Darby, J. N. Letters of J: N. D. Vol. 3, G. Morrish, 1914. Number 248
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