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August 31, 1999

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Baptism for salvation?

Question:
Must I be baptized in order to be saved? What is meant in the book of ephesians where it says one lord ,one faith, one baptism, is he talking about the baptism of water, or of the Holy Spirit?

Answer:
Romans 6:4 "..therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

The -immersion- and coming back out of water is merely a physical -symbol- of the SPIRITUAL that happens in the heart.

Notice Paul's words "I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius...for Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." (1Cor1:14,17) For all the churches Paul planted, and people he won to the Lord, if baptism was necessary, he would obviously have been baptizing right and left. But he did not. Just like "circumcision [for the Jew] is of the heart" (Rom2:28-29) not of the flesh, so, too, Salvation is "not of works". (Eph2:9) "because by the works of the Law none of all flesh will be justified...we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law." (Rom3:20,28)

So, back to your question, it is a spiritual baptism. Notice that at salvation the Holy Spirit "seals" us. (Eph1:13)

Another Q/A: "Baptism for Salvation?

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Baptized in the 'Trinity' or 'Jesus' name'?

Question:
I came across a young man. That posed a question to me. He quoted a verse in the book of Acts. 19:4 Unto what then were you baptized? He then asked did you get baptized in the trinity or in the name of Jesus? He said if you got baptized in the trinity then you got baptized the wrong way, hence you are not saved.

[Ed: excerpt adapted from out of this person's e-mail]

Answer:
Yes, [many people] take most of their doctrine from Acts...and that confuses a lot of people. And, they also teach false doctrine as a result. In Acts 19:5 they baptized in the "name of Jesus." But notice what Jesus commanded, "..baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Mt28:19)

However, can a person separate "Jesus" from the rest of the God-head? Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." (Jn10:30) And He promised that after He left, He would send the Holy Spirit (Jn16) who would testify of Him, Jesus. When we pray, we pray to the Father, the Spirit making "intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom8:26) along with the intercession of Jesus Christ. (vs27)

So, when Acts 19:5 says they were baptised in the "name of Jesus", can you really separate Jesus from the Father and Holy Spirit? Not really. They, all Three, are One. 'Can't have one, without the other two. So, if a person is baptized in the "name of Jesus" ...they are baptized in the name of Jesus, AND of the Father with Whom He is "one", AS WELL AS the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Rom8:9)

Jesus is the physical manifestation of God. He represents the physical "essence" of God. (Heb1:3) And when Jesus promised to "come" to abide with Believers He says, "We will come to him and make Our abode with him" (Jn14:23) The most immediate context for "we/our" is His mention of "My Father". But then in vs26 He expands that to include the Holy Spirit. Thus, by definition, to immerse in the "name of Jesus" -is- to immerse in the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit". They are both the same thing.

See also: Jesus Christ is God? (there is no trinity)

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More thoughts on Baptism:

Where did "baptism" come from, in the first place? It originated in the levitical system of purification. Before the priests could minister before the Lord they had to dip into the water to "cleanse" themselves, and then put on their priestly garments. Paul speaks of the "washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." (Tit3:5) But notice Paul doesn't speak of "water" in this verse. It is the Holy Spirit. But the term "washing" harks back to the Law, which had been a type of that which was to come. Which is what John the Baptist foretold, I've been baptizing you in -water- but "..He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mk1:8) Which Jesus verified just before He ascended back to Heaven. (Acts1:5)

When writing to Believers of Jewish heritage in his 'first' letter, Peter references the Jewish priesthood. In his 'second' letter to Gentiles, he makes no such mentions, because Gentiles don't have this background in their traditions. But notice how he starts at the -sacrifice- of Jesus as the "lamb without blemish", and speaks of, "Purifying your souls in the obedience of the truth through the [Holy] Spirit..." (1Pt1:19,22)

The levitical system looked -ahead-. Now -water- baptism is merely a -physical- expression and testimony to what has already happened in the spirit. At the moment of salvation we "were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom6:4)

Water baptism is not necessary for salvation, because it is a "work", and our salvation is "not by works of righteousness which we have done." (Tit3:5) In the same way that the "blood of bulls and goats" could not save (Heb10:4) -water- baptism cannot purify. (1Pt3:21) If we understand how water baptism originates in the Law, then, "..by works of law not one of all flesh will be justified before Him.." (Rom3:20) Yes, we -must- be baptized into Christ to be saved. But it is a -spiritual- baptism.

The same Paul who wrote "we are buried with Him by baptism", also says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." (1Cor1:17) If -water- baptism were necessary, he would not have included his disclaimer of how much he -didn't- baptize people. (1Cor1:13-16) When he was saved he was instructed, "Rising up, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts22:16) Knowing that the ones who are "saved" are the ones "all who shall call on the name of Jehovah.." (Joel2:32,Rom10:13)

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Following Jesus in Baptism?

Comment:
I agree with you that baptism in water is not necessary for salvation (look at the thief on the cross), but at the same time Jesus left us an example to follow by being baptised in water...

Answer:
We do not "follow the Lord into the waters of baptism", as typical Baptists proclaim. For the Jewish people there were many baptisms (ceremonial dippings) for purification. When Jesus was baptised by John I don't know that we are told the full significance of it. Jesus said it was to "fulfill all righteousness" (Mt3:15) after which He immediately goes into the wilderness to be tempted by satan. As the "lamb without blemish" (1Pt1:19) in "fulfilling the Law" (Mt5:17) He had to fulfill the Jewish ritual of cleansing -before- ministry. His temptation proved His sinlessness. (Heb4:15) And, it was also for the purpose of showing Who He was, to "identify" Him to Himself and the people (Jn1:33) as God declared, "You are My Son..." (Ps2:7,Lk3:22)

We are not baptized for these reasons. Thus, we do not 'follow' His "example" in that way. His baptism by John was unique -only- to Him.

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Be Careful Who baptizes you

Comment:
...and I feel in your responses that you have not emphasied the fact that as we have the opportunity to be baptised in water, we should by all means take it as a physical witness of what has already taken place in the spiritual. I just think someone reading your replies on water baptism might be tempted to forgo it as it is not required for salvation.

Answer:
Of course! If we have "opportunity" we should. I was baptized as a teen-ager.

However, some people only recently have come to know the Lord. They don't have a fellowship of (local) Believers they can trust as being true to God and His Word. When communicating with people via e-mail like this, I have no way of knowing what kind of fellowships exist where they live. If the situation is anything like where I live, there is NO WAY I can recommend they get out the yellow pages and start looking for a 'church' or pastor, calling around to find somebody to baptize them. 99% of the ones out there are not even saved. But they would -all- be quite happy to baptize the person. And, while they're at it, teach the person perverted doctrine...and then, what would become the state of that person?

Thus, for such a person, when the question comes up, "Do I HAVE TO be baptized?" The answer is, "No". You don't "have to". I'd rather see a person growing in God's Word to maturity, 'alone', as one of the isolated group of the "seven thousand [whose] knees have not bowed to Baal" (1Kg19:18), than to rush out, get dunked in a water tank by somebody he doesn't know; and in doing so, put himself in spiritual peril.

These are "perilous [grievous] times" we live in. (2Tm3:1) We have to be on guard against the "[prowling] lion" (1Pt5:8) whose underlings APPEAR to be "righteous". (2Cor11:13-15)

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Who is Authorized to Immerse? - Added: 9/07/03

READER QUESTION:
Who has authority to Baptize? Can a youth director baptize members in his youth group?

VW ANSWER:
First of all, just so we understand what we are talking about, let us understand that the Scriptural word is "immerse". The word "baptize", while being an OK transliteration from the Greek, depending on what religion or denomination a person is referencing, it can mean different things to different people. Some entities do water dabbing/sprinkling/pouring rituals to seal babies into a religion. Some believe that the water ritual is regenerative, actually saving a person. And in most of these cases the hierarchy requires that a pastor, priest, bishop, etc must officiate.

The question I'm going to answer is that which Jesus commissioned, "Go therefore and instruct all the nations, IMMERSING THEM into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Mt28:19) That which Peter preached, "Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ to the remission of sins..." (Ac2:38) That which is done upon one's confession of faith in Jesus Christ (Ac8:37) which symbolizes: "...that as many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through immersion into death, that just as Christ was raised 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, certainly we also shall be in resurrection..." (Rom6:3-5)

Now, just as there are certain messianists who insist that they have a corner on the proper name for Jesus; in conjunction with our recent addressing of Jesus' 'name', a subscriber also noted that some of these same people insist that there is a proper way to be immersed, according to ancient O.T. priestly (talmudic?) tradition. And even though I've never read any instructions on the matter in the Scriptures, apparently they claim to have a special corner-of-knowledge on this matter. But, considering the source and their tendencies regarding other topics, we're not going to investigate or address that.

Certainly, immersion is based in O.T. roots. Paul speaks of salvation as being the "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit3:5) where our sins have been washed away in Jesus blood. (Rev1:5) In the O.T. they shed/sprinkled the blood of animals, and the priests also had special ritual washings and dippings of things and themselves in water. And all these rituals were done by the Levitical priesthood. It was not for any unauthorized person, not even the king. When King Uzziah decided to take on certain priestly behavior for himself, God struck him with leprosy. (2Ch26:16-20)

However, where the O.T. law was absolutely stringent regarding the priestly functions, the N.T. is suddenly absent any of those edicts and rituals. In fact, due to Christ's finished work on the cross (Heb7:27, 9:12) we now have direct "bold" access to the "throne of grace". (Heb4:16, 10:19) In theological circles the fancy name for this is called: the "priesthood of the believer".

Notice that Jesus does not say, "-ONLY- you who are leaders, elders or pastors, do the immersing". As people come to faith in Christ, then others follow along, chain-reaction style. New convert reaches another; they, in turn, reach others. As Jesus prayed, "...concerning those who will believe into Me through their word.." (Jn17:20)

Even though Jesus, Himself, was fulfillment of the O.T. high priests, He did not immerse people; the disciples did. (Jn4:2) Even Paul, as emminent an apostle as he was, who wrote most of the epistolary N.T., he proclaimed that his ministry had not been to immerse people in Corinth; but to "preach the gospel". (1Cor1:14-17)

Unless somebody can show us from Scripture otherwise, I don't see that the N.T. teaches that immersion requires a special category of person to perform the act. When Ananias was sent to give sight back to S/Paul after he was saved, and he also immersed him, it doesn't say that Ananias was anybody special. It says merely, "..a certain disciple.." (Ac9:10) In other words, God sent a 'Believer' to Saul; it could have been anyone, but in this case God sent this certain person whose name happened to be Ananias... and ministered to Saul.

Traditionally we have been used to seeing pastors and elders doing the immersing. But I don't see anything in Scripture that says youth directors cannot immerse. And strictly speaking...I believe it is N.T. doctrine that 'any' Believer can immerse any other new-baby Believer.

However, I should think the usual Scriptural cautions are in order, that a woman would not immerse a man for the reasons as given in 1Tim2:12-14 & 1Cor14:34, etc. And if a man is immersing a woman, a helping woman should be nearby...or perhaps in the spirit of 1Cor7:1 (although I realise the context is a different topic), women should perhaps immerse women, so that the man does "not touch" the woman? In order that the man's relationship with women (not his spouse) be "with all purity"? (1Tim5:2) Miriam led the women in song and dance (Ex15:20); older women are instructed to teach the yonger women (Tit2:3-4); Anna was in the temple ministering, what? perhaps to the younger women? (Lk2:36-37)

However, on the other hand, if the woman is immersed in the presence of mixed company, in order to not violate 1Tm2:12-14, it likely should be a man doing the immersing? [You see...the N.T. does not give 'specific' instructions in this, like the O.T. did.]

Yes, I know that society has become rather 'relaxed' regarding inter-gender proprieties, and everybody hugs everybody else in huge hug-fests, even men with women. But when I think on the matter, I have to wonder if that is quite right for Believers? Thus, as I say, use caution in these things. Think things through, and be certain (whatever your local culture and decisions) to do things "with all purity".

And considering this last item, let's digress a moment. When people are being immersed, GIVE COUNSEL regarding ATTIRE! How many "baptisms" have you been to, where the one being immersed was wearing next-to-nothing; and consider what water does to certain kinds of clothing. (Why "wet T-shirt contests" are what they are!) Remember: Things about the Church are to be..."with all purity". In the O.T. they were instructed regarding certain types of clothing: "to cover their naked flesh" (Ex28:42), and their worship activity was not to go up by steps, that their "nakedness may not be exposed" (Ex20:26) Christian immersion is not a time for being attired like the world as one who frolicks in water sports, nor "catching rays". Enough said? Good!

Now, regarding youth groups...the way today's youth are, typically, this gets afield of what was asked. But since it is the context in which it was asked, let's digress another time. This is just some personal 'caution' to extend out to you-all who might be in such situations. Paul specifically warns Timothy against commissioning church leaders too prematurely: "...not a new convert, that he not be puffed up with pride and fall into the same condemnation as the devil." (1Tim3:6) nor "hastily" (1Tim5:22)

Considering that immersion comes "after-the-fact" (of salvation); and considering today's prevailing climate of "easy-believerism"; and how when the Ethiopian wanted to be immersed, Philip questions/verifies his salvation first (Ac8:37)...it just seems prudent to me that a person seeking to be immersed be given 'time' to BE SURE they are truly saved, as much as is possible for other believers to discern. (This actually applies for adults, too)

Remember: immersion is not salvific. It is NOT the "works of righteousness" (Tit3:5, Eph2:9, Ga2:16) Thus, if you 'wait' to see the "fruits" of their salvation first, it matters not one way or the other regarding the person's salvation, whether they get immersed immediately, or 'later'. But if it turned out to be the case that they were not truly saved, a disservice would have been avoided; either in blaspheming Christ through a pseudo-immersion, or in providing a 'ritual' which the person translates in their own mind as having been a "work-of-salvation", a saving 'ritual' like the world's pagan religions have. Many religions baptize people, to have them become church "members", and as such the ecclesiastical hierarchy then 'guarantees' them a place in (their) "heaven" because of the ritual which they have done. If such a person wasn't really saved, but you immersed them, they may never see any future need for salvation...because...they "got baptized". See what I'm saying?

Hopefully, this answers the question...and-then-some?

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Immersing one's self?

READER QUESTION

Scenario:
you are stuck on a desert island and you want to be baptized. Can you go under the turquoise lagoon water on your own , as an outward sign of our inward change?

So I ask if you can be immersed by yourself praying in the name of Jesus? I did read it somewhere...

VW ANSWER:
Well...I must say, this is the first I've heard this suggestion. And certainly never imagined it in my own mind.

I expect, if a person considers that immersion has its origins in the priestly washings that they would do prior to putting on the holy garments (symbolizing the "robe of righteousness" Is61:10)...I just went and looked it up to be sure, and it says "..YOU shall WASH THEM with water.." (Ex29:4, 40:12, Lev8:6) This was prior to them having the holy garments PUT ON THEM (Ex29:5, Le8:7-8). However, they also had the laver where the priests would wash (their own?) hands and feet prior to service activities. (Ex30:19-21)

Now, someone who had been cleansed of leprosy, and such things, would "wash himself in water" (Lev14:8)

Our salvation is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit," (Tit3:5) Since immersion is a symbol of Salvation, where we were "buried with Him through immersion..." (Rom6:4) and salvation is not something we can effect upon ourselves, it is the "gift of God" (Eph2:8) ....symbolically, then, it certainly would not seem right that one immerses themself.

Jesus commissioned, "..immersing them.." (Mt28:19) Grammatically, that is an action that one person is doing to 'another' person: "them". He did not say to command new converts to immerse themselves.

But then...getting to the basics: if a person is stranded on an island by themself, what is the 'need' for immersion? It is not salvific. There is nobody else there to give testimony to...to be that "outward sign". And God certainly knows the 'heart' of the individual. The thief who died on the cross next to Jesus was not immersed, and yet Jesus promised him a meeting in Paradise. (Lk23:43)

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Objections answered

Comment:
It's not often that I get involved in a discussion. But I have seen this comment before in some of your writings and decided I should not continue to let the comment slide. The phrase so often used is "Water baptism is not necessary for salvation, because it is a "work", and our salvation is "not by works of righteousness which we have done." There are 2 things I think are clearly wrong with that statement: (1) there is no basis for the premise that "baptism is a work" and just saying it is won't make it so. Baptism is no more a work that "repentance" and you have rightly defended the necessity of repenting in your columns quite frequently. Further, why would one consider baptism a work and not place "confession" in the same category? Or even "belief" for that matter.

Answer:
Repentance, Confession, Faith is of the "heart/spirit". Water baptism is of the "body". When Paul says, "by the works of the law not one of all flesh will be justified" (Rom3:20), part of the works of the Law was the continual ceremonial dippings/washings the priests engaged in before they conducted their work of offering sacrifices, etc.

Comment:
And I am completely amazed that you would miss the reason Paul said he was "not sent to baptize." If people in Corinth were calling themselves by the name of the one who baptized them instead of calling themselves by the name of Christ, no wonder Paul was glad he didn't baptize very many of them. And I think you would feel the same way.

Answer:
Did I miss it? Apollos, Peter, Paul...we have addressed on other occasions. And yes, his lack of baptising is -related- to that. Nevertheless, the fact remains, that he did not baptize much. Again, vs17 clarifies it. His "purpose" in ministry was not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel... the "cross". (vs18) Jesus had predicted His own crucifixion as the "baptism" with which He would be baptized. (Mt20:22-23)

Bring out the nails and hammer! "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple." (Lk14:27)

Amen!

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