WHAT IS REGULAR BAPTISM?
Baptism, being the initiatory rite by which a person is introduced into the membership of a church, is an important doctrine for all professed Christians. It is the commanded duty of everyone that has truly believed in Christ for salvation, and no one can be in the will of God who neglects this first duty. It tests every profession. Neglect to be baptized is declared to be a rejection of the counsel of God in Luke 7:29-30. That is clear enough, isn’t it? The importance of this ordinance is also suggested by Satan’s efforts to corrupt the true form and duty of it. All denominations practice something that they call "baptism," the Friends (Quakers) and Salvation Army alone excepted. But not all, nor even most, churches are Scriptural in their views of baptism.
That there are many erroneous theories about this ordinance is obvious when we consider the diversity of beliefs and practices which are associated with this term. Ail the differing views cannot be right. Two divergent views about anything may both be wrong, but they cannot both be right. Only one sort of baptism can be right, and all others are errors, and so, are alien baptisms (which will be dealt with shortly), and should be rejected.
Baptism has long been one of the strong points in Baptist theology; not because they think that it is necessary to salvation, but because they believe that it is necessary to Scriptural church life. As Dr. J. R. Graves so well put it, "Baptism is not necessary to salvation, but salvation is necessary to Scriptural baptism." However a Scriptural practice of this ordinance will only grow out of a Scriptural understanding of it, and it is the hope of the present writer that this article will be the instrument of establishing the reader in the truth.
Let it be observed first of all in passing that four things are necessary to Scriptural baptism. There must be: (1) A Scriptural subject for it—a person who has already been saved. Remember: Christ, not water, is the Saviour, and those who seek for salvation in baptism are guilty of idolatry; they are trusting water and their own ability to be baptized instead of trusting Christ. Matthew 28:19 and John 4:1, and other texts make it clear that the Scriptural order is to first make disciples by preaching the Gospel, and only then to baptize them. (2) A Scriptural reason for it—to pictorially represent the Gospel and its effects (Rom. 6:3-5). (3) A Scriptural mode—immersion in water. Every text in the Bible that refers to this ordinance points out this fact, and immersion was the almost universal practice of ALL professed Christians for the first thirteen hundred years of this era. (4) A Scriptural authority—a New Testament church. Anything less than these four things renders the ordinance invalid. Some people try to add yet a fifth requirement—a scriptural administrator—an ordained minister—but this is not necessary, for this would be to say that the New Testament church is not the supreme and final authority on earth for spiritual acts.
Not only so, but this would contradict New Testament practice, for Philip, and, for all we know, Ananias (Acts 9:l0ff), baptized without being ordained ministers. It is true that Philip was an ordained deacon, and many assume without proof that he became a preacher before he baptized the eunuch in Acts 8. But Scripture refutes this idea, for in Acts 21:8 he is still considered one of the original deacons, the inspired Greek reading, not "was" (past tense) as the English, but "being" (present participle).
It is not to be denied that generally it will be the pastor that administers this ordinance for the church, but there is nothing to indicate that this is a necessary thing, and Baptists have generally held that ordination was not necessary to the right administration of the ordinances. The reader is referred to the following in proof of this. W. J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, p. 185, Andrew Fuller, Works, Vol. III, p. 494. T. F. Curtis, Progress of Baptist Principles, p. 298-299. Francis Wayland, Sermons To The Churches, p. 35. E. T. Hiscox, New Directory For Baptist Churches, pp. 375, 379-380. H. G. Weston, The Constitution And Polity Of The New Testament Church, p. 35. A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 917. Nor does this exhaust the list, for there are numerous others that agree about this. In fact, very rarely, if ever have we found a standard Baptist author that held to the necessity of the ministry to proper administration of either of the ordinances. To hold to the absolute necessity of ordination for the right administration of the ordinances smacks entirely too much of popish priestcraft.
For a study of what is regular baptism, probably no better text could be chosen than Romans 6:1-6 for here we find set forth a full explanation of baptism. And we are aware that occasionally a rare person is found that holds that this refers only to Holy Spirit baptism, and has nothing to do with water baptism, which some of them claim is no longer a duty. But such that do so are in great ignorance about Holy Spirit baptism, which will be examined in a subsequent article. The time of the writing of Romans is entirely too close to the time when it was written, "there is one baptism" [not two] (Eph. 4:5), to believe that such an extended teaching could have to do with Holy Spirit baptism, which was to pass away shortly.
The groundwork for rightly understanding this passage has been laid in the preceding chapters where the plan of salvation has been extensively dealt with. Hence, this ordinance assumes that those being baptized have been truly saved by the grace of God. Bible baptism always presupposes salvation in the candidate, for faith is always required before baptism, and he that believes on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved the moment he believes in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31). The reason for this supposition will become even more obvious as we get in to what baptism is.
The duty of baptism for every saved person is declared by no less than the Lord Himself when He said, "Suffer it to be so for now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). Note that He did not say "it becometh ME," but "it becometh US." Thus He associated Himself and believers together in this ordinance. This is the same truth that we read in Romans 6:4 where it is declared that ". . . we are buried with Him by baptism unto death." Baptism has the same purpose for the Christian as it had for Christ, for just as He was revealed to be the Son of God by baptism (John 1:31-34), so believers declare by their baptism that they have become sons of God. Thus, since the purpose is the same for both Christ and His people, to claim that baptism is in order to the remission of sins, is to claim that the Son of God had sins that had to be washed away in baptism. False doctrine always eventually gets around to blaspheming God, whether it intends to or not.
No saved person can be in God’s will so long as he refuses to follow the Lord in Scriptural baptism, and to refuse the first command given to a new convert is to throw a question mark over one’s profession. This is so, for ". . . He became [past tense] the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him [present tense]" (Heb. 5:9). This is why we earlier said that baptism is a test of the reality of the believer’s faith, for a genuine saving faith evidences itself in obedience. Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:14). And again, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever (Greek osa-osa, more commonly rendered "as many as") I command you," (John 15:14). And as before noted Luke 7:29-30 declares that "all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel (Greek boule-boule will) of God against themselves, being not baptized of him." Of course, this presupposes the required conditions for baptism of repentance and faith, for John refused to baptize any that did not have real indications of having repented, and accounted such as fuel for the fire (Matthew 3:7-12).
Acts 2:41, 47 show that it is by baptism that God introduces believers into the church, the body of Christ, for these two verses supplement one another. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls . . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (or, literally, "such as were being saved." The same truth is set forth in 1 Corinthians 12:13 where, contrary to many, water baptism is the subject, not Holy Spirit baptism, for the Greek reads exactly as Philippians 1:27 does: "in one spirit." There is a common "spirit" or spiritual attitude to be found in all that are baptized, in whatever church body they may be baptized, for this phrase relates to the purpose of baptism and one’s attitude toward it.
Many moderns try to get around their duty to be Scripturally baptized. Some do so by pleading for an imaginary "baptism by the Holy Spirit," which is supposedly received at the moment of salvation, and by which they become members of the "universal church." This is based upon a wholly erroneous idea of what the baptism of the Holy Spirit was, what the church is, and what a saved person’s duty regarding baptism is. But more of this in the proper place.
Yet others try to evade their duty regarding baptism by pleading that it is not essential to salvation. But most things are not essential to salvation. Shall we then dispense with all duties not related to salvation? To do so would be to place oneself in the class of those that Jesus addressed when He said in Luke 6:46 "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" And let us also remember that Hebrews 5:9 makes obedience a characteristic of those for whom Christ died. Though most things are not essential to salvation, all things are essential to obedience.
Others try to evade their responsibility to obey by corrupting the form of baptism so that they are only sprinkled with water, or have a little water poured upon them, neither of which answers to the demand of Romans 6. In answer to the question "What Is Regular Baptism?" let us notice Romans 6 and the four answers it proposes.
I. BAPTISM IS A PLUNGING.
This has to do with the mode of the ordinance-how it is to be performed-and this is by plunging, dipping or immersing the candidate in the water. No less than three terms are used in verses 4-5 which signify a total envelopment of the person in the water of baptism, and no amount of twisting, distorting or philological reasoning can make these mean anything other than this. Until 1400 A. D., plunging the body under the water was the almost universal practice, and was done even upon infants, and in the coldest of climates, yet without any adverse effects upon the health of the baptized. Nonetheless, some pedobaptists, for want of a better argument to justify their own departure from the Scriptural practice, used the supposed danger to one’s health as one reason why immersion was not the Scriptural mode. Richard Baxter raved:
"That which is a plain breach of the sixth commandment, Thou shalt not kill, is no ordinance of God, but a most heinous sin. But the ordinary practice of baptizing overhead in cold water, as necessary, is a plain breach of the sixth commandment. Therefore it is no ordinance of God, but a heinous sin . . . I conclude, if murder be a sin, then dipping ordinarily in cold water overhead, in England, is a sin; and if those that would make it men’s religion to murder themselves, and urge it on their consciences as their duty, are not to be suffered in a commonwealth, any more than highway murderers, then judge how these Anabaptist that teach the necessity of such dipping, are to be suffered."—Plain Scripture Proof, pp. 134, 137.
And yet, in spite of this supposed danger of immersion to health, the Baptists thrived everywhere, even in cold countries, and there is not a single recorded instance of anyone ever dying as a result of being immersed. But, of course, if one is determined not to receive the Scriptural mode of baptism, one will be driven to strange reasoning in order to justify what does practice.
The first of these terms that signify immersion is the word "buried" which has to do with a total envelopment of the body. This word appears in the New Testament only here and Colossians 2:12, in both of which places the meaning and significance is the same, and "buried" is as near to the meaning of the Greek word as could be found in the English language. Some have argued that it should be rendered "entombed,’ and that if so, immersion would never have been thought of. But this is not so, for this word means to place within a tomb, or, in other words, to be totally enveloped within the tomb, and so, the same idea is maintained. In almost any form of the disposal of dead bodies—burial in the earth, burial at sea, entombment in a cave, cremation on a funeral pyre—there is the total envelopment of the body in some substance, which is the thought in immersion. There is no way to get around this testimony: one either believes it and obeys it, or he rejects it and disobeys:
The second term signifying immersion is the word "baptism" itself, which any English dictionary will tell you comes originally from a Greek word signifying to plunge, to dip or to immerse one thing in some other penetrable substance. In fact, "baptize" is not an English word at all, but is an anglicized word; i.e., the Greek word baptiso-baptizo is made into an English word by dropping the final vowel and adding the letter "e". Similarly, the Greek noun baptisma-baptisma is anglicized by simply dropping the final vowel, but none of this changes the meaning of the original word, which is immersion.
In the last six hundred years, since so many have rejected the inconvenience of immersion for sprinkling and pouring, Baptist scholars have sought out and found literally hundreds and perhaps even thousands of concessions by Catholic and Protestant scholars to the effect that the Greek word means immersion, and that this was the prevailing mode for over 1300 years. Only rarely will one find a true scholar who will risk his reputation by teaching otherwise. The founders of all the Protestant denominations-Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc.,—conceded this, and to this day all Greek speaking churches will recognize nothing else as baptism but immersion. And who should know the meaning of a Greek word better than a Greek?
There surely is something which constitutes a true and genuine Scriptural baptism. And where that something has taken place, a church must recognize it as Christian baptism, no matter what the candidate for membership may have come to think about it. And where that some thing has not taken place, the church can recognize no substitute for it, although not merely the candidate, but all the world beside should believe and say that it would do as well. And what this something is, the church must learn from the word of God, and not from the candidate. She is not, as the administrator and guardian of the ordinances of Christ, to send out to one not yet admitted to her membership, and ask him to decide for her what is essential to true Christian baptism, and be governed by his opinion rather than her own. Yet this is what she virtually does, as often as she receives or refuses to receive a Pedobaptist immersion, according as the candidate is satisfied, or dissatisfied with it."— A. C. Dayton, Alien Baptism, p. 67.
The third word in this text that testifies to the Scriptural mode of this ordinance is the word "planted" (v. 5). Any farmer knows that seed must be covered over when they are sown, and if seed are sometimes simply scattered upon the top of the ground, it is only because with very small seed there is the danger of covering them too deeply if one tries to mechanically cover them. But the common method of planting involves the covering of the seed completely, and in this text, this is made the picture of the burial of Christ Who sprang up into life out of death as a plant does. See John 12:23-24. Many that refuse to be planted in baptism only show the prevailing rebellion of their hearts against the Lord, and while they may appear by their profession to be living plants, it may be that in the day of judgment they shall be rooted up. Jesus said, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13). Too many people spend all their time trying to make Scripture harmonize with their prejudiced practice, instead of harmonizing their practice with Scripture.
Scriptural baptism is a plunging of the whole body under water. Not only does the word itself mean this, but all of the propositions used with it show this same action. In the Bible, men are always baptized into water, and never is water said to be baptized upon them, as would be required if either sprinkling or pouring were Scriptural modes of the ordinance.
II. BAPTISM IS A PICTURE.
Baptism pictures the great Gospel facts, as Romans 6:3-4 show. "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." Many people, by not taking into consideration the context, come up with erroneous ideas. Such is the case here, for they lift (v. 3), from its surroundings and assume that it means that one is literally baptized into Christ when the words "like as" always show that a comparison is drawn. Baptism is a picture of the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 declares what the Gospel is. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Baptism isn’t mentioned here because this text deals with the reality, and baptism is not the Gospel, but it is the picture of it. J. M. Frost well says of baptism:
Baptism also testifies for his death; is a memorial of his dying on the accursed tree, but goes further. It stands for the cross, but also represents the new tomb of Joseph of Anmathea; is a memorial of his burial and resurrection. Herein is the glory of our baptism. This is almost the chief, if indeed not altogether the chief, office of baptism-to tell this wonderful story of how he died for our sins and was buried and rose again and is alive for evermore.—Moral Dignity of Baptism, p. 30.
Baptism is called a "figure" in 1 Peter 3:21: "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." The Greek word rendered "figure," antitapon-antitapon, means a corresponding type, an answering back, as a mirror might reflect an image of a person standing in front of it, and it shows that baptism is not the reality, but is only a reflection of it. Most of the great errors concerning this ordinance have come about because men have tried to make baptism the reality instead of the picture of the reality. They have worshipped baptism as the savior instead of worshipping Christ, and to worship any picture is idolatry.
"O but this verse says that baptism saves," the ritualist will doubtless hasten to reply. Yes, by jerking the phrase out of its context it says this, but the important question is, How does it save? It saves in a "figure"—symbolically—not by the literal washing away of sins, which is denied by this verse, the very thing that is claimed by the ones trusting in baptism for salvation.
Baptism does not touch the soul, the seat of sin, but only the body, and so, it does not touch the real problem area. Not only so, but "the like figure" points backward to the deliverance by the ark of Noah and his family from the physical death. This shows that the likeness is not to deliverance from spiritual death, for Noah was already pronounced to be a just man before he even began to build the ark (Gen. 6:8-9), but only to a physical "salvation." Also, the salvation pointed back to is represented by a Greek word which only appears eight times in the New Testament, and always refers to a physical deliverance. It is not the usual word for "save," so that spiritual salvation is not referred at all.
But not only does baptism picture Christ’s redemptive works, it also pictures the consequences of it, for it pictures the believer’s death to sin and his spiritual resurrection to walk in newness of life (v. 4). "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the gory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life: No one has a right to be nor should any ever be baptized unless he is assured that he has already been saved by grace. Scriptural baptism is the picture and declaration of salvation, and apart from salvation it is worse than useless, it is hypocritical.
It is the picturing of this reality that is meant in Acts 22:16: "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." The act of baptism pictures the cleansing away of sin, which is received the moment one calls upon the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13). And Saul had already done this, and so was already saved, as the past tense [aorist] of "calling’ shows. But having called upon the name of the Lord with the result that he is now saved, he has the responsibility of publicly proclaiming and picturing this fact. That this was not a literal washing away of sins must be recognized, for 1 Peter 3:21 denies this effect to the ordinance, and Scriptures do not contradict one another.
Then again this ordinance pictures and proclaims our belief in our own physical resurrection as a result of Christ’s resurrection (v. 5). "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." This assumes that one is "planted" in baptism for the proper reason-that he has believed that Christ died and rose again for the justification of all that would believe in Him (Rom. 4:23-25), and that he has truly trusted in His redemption work alone for his salvation. If this is so then we are assured that because the Spirit that raised up Christ from the dead also indwells our mortal bodies, we too shall be raised up by the power of God (Rom. 8:11).
This connection of baptism with the resurrection is the basis of Paul’s argument about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:29. "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?" If there were no resurrection, then why should Christians be baptized, thereby testifying to their belief in the resurrection of Christ, when their very act of being baptized drew down upon them the hatred and persecution of the world. Baptism would be a pointless ordinance if the central fact of the gospel-the resurrection-is untrue, for He whom we now revere as the incarnation of God would be nothing more than a martyred deceiver and false prophet. The resurrection of Christ proved His deity (Rom. 1:4), as well as guaranteed the complete salvation, including their resurrection, of all that trust in Him.
III. BAPTISM IS A PLEDGE.
In this ordinance, one pledges that he is saved, for baptism is a burial, and living people are not ordinarily buried; only dead people are. Hence, one pledges that he has died to sin, and for one to be buried in baptism that has not died to sin, is for that person to pledge and picture a lie about himself. Baptism has no meaning or value apart from salvation, which is a death to sin, and a resurrection to walk in newness of life, as Colossians 2:12-13 shows. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." If one is not saved before he enters the baptistery, he will not be saved as he exits. He simply goes in a dry sinner and comes out a wet sinner. Baptismal regeneration is the devil’s theology, for it teaches sinners to rely upon their own abilities, for anyone can be baptized, and it makes water, not Christ, to be the Saviour.
Baptism is a pledge in another way. It is a sort of oath of allegiance to Christ, for it is the outward mark of discipleship, and is meant to mark off plainly those that take their stand with the Lord. Our Lord Himself set the example of seeking out a Scriptural administrator of this ordinance without regard to the inconvenience involved, for He walked some fifty miles or more to be baptized by the only one then authorized to administer this ordinance. This would be equivalent today with our modern means of transportation to a thousand mile trip to find a valid administrator. Matthew 3:13-15 shows that baptism is a mark of discipleship. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me. And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him."
John feared that men would think of Jesus as his disciple, and he wanted of all things to be known as Jesus’ disciple, and hence his scruple about baptizing Jesus. In saying "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" he showed that this involved a confession of discipleship, and only Jesus’ admonition to "suffer it to be so now" persuaded him otherwise. John himself was never baptized because he was a special vessel, a "man sent from God" (John 1:6), to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17, 76-77), by initiating baptism as a mark of discipleship. But no one since that time has had an excuse for foregoing baptism if he is truly saved.
Baptism is also a pledge to walk in newness of life (v. 4). ". . .even so we also should walk in newness of life." This does not mean that the believer is able in his own strength to do this, but this pledge is based upon the Lord’s raising him up spiritually from the deadness of sins and enabling him to do so. Colossians 2:12 says that those who have been buried with Christ in baptism "are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God." "Operation" is the Greek word eaergeia-eaergeia, from which our English word "energy" comes. It is more commonly rendered "working" or "effectual working." The energy of God is the only hope of any for salvation or sanctification, for Jesus said, "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5ff). It is tragic that so many believers do not claim the victory-working energy of God by faith in their daily walks. Inasmuch as Christ was raised up from the dead by the power of God, our baptism, which pictures Christ’s resurrection, also pledges that we have been spiritually raised up into newness of life to walk by the same power. Note how this parallel is brought out in Romans 6:6-14 and 2 Corinthians 13:4. The power to raise the dead from the grave is also sufficient to enable the saved to walk in newness of life.
Baptism is also an act of embodiment into a church, for by it, one becomes a member of the church that authorizes the baptism, as 1 Corinthians 12:13 declares. "For also in one spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles; whether slaves or free; and were all made to drink unto one spirit," (literal rendering. This was not some Spirit baptism into a mystical "universal" church, for by this time baptism in the Holy Spirit had passed off the scene, so that there was only one kind of baptism (Eph. 4:5), which was water baptism. Nor had men yet invented the contradictory idea of a universal church, for there was, at this time, only one kind of ecclesiastical body in existence (Eph. 4:4), which was the local church.
Hence baptism is into the faith of the church administering it, and an individual that transfers his church membership to a different denomination ought to be glad to be rebaptized into the faith of that church if he agrees with their faith. And if that church does not require rebaptism, he himself ought to insist upon it. This is why Baptists do not require a person transferring membership from another Baptist church to be rebaptized, but why they ought always to insist upon rebaptism of all who come from churches of a different faith. This is simply a matter of consistency of belief and practice, for it is illogical for one church that disagrees with the faith of another church, to nonetheless allow them to do their baptizing for them. J. M. Frost brings this out when he likens baptism to the putting on of a uniform.
In putting on a uniform there is a distinction both in the uniform and also in what it stands for with the man to whom it is given. It does not make one a soldier; yet it marks him as a soldier, stands for the nation’s honor, and demands high order of soldiership in his life. So with those in the army of our King who put on Christ by baptism."—Moral Dignity of Baptism, p. 77.
To receive a member into a Baptist church upon his Pedobaptism or other kind of alien baptism is to acknowledge that the church that administered that alien baptism is a Scriptural church though its faith may be totally different from the Baptist faith. Such an attitude is destructive of the faith of the Baptist church receiving the candidate for two diverse faiths cannot both be right, and if the alien baptism is received as valid, then obviously the Baptist baptism is invalid. No Protestant or Catholic baptism is valid because none of these are Scriptural churches, and so, they do not have authority to baptize. A. C. Dayton rightly comments:
The administration of baptism is an official act, done by the authority of the Church, and the question is, whether she can, in her official capacity as a Church of Christ, recognize as Scriptural and valid the official acts of those whom she does not and cannot, without yielding her own right to existence as a Church, recognize as having any authority to perform them. —Pedobaptist and Campbellite Immersions, p. 212.
To be embodied in a New Testament Church requires that certain qualifications must be met in the candidate, and that church which does not sit in judgment on the candidate and determine if he meets those qualifications, is unfaithful to its Divine Lord, and it perverts the basic meaning of baptism.
IV. BAPTISM IS A PROPHECY.
Baptism looks two ways. It looks backward, as we have seen, but it also is prophetic, and so, looks forward to the resurrection of the believer. This so because of its intimate relation to Christ’s resurrection, and so, by consequence, to the believer’s resurrection. Our Lord Messiahship was manifested by His baptism (John 1:31), and His sonship was declared or proven by His resurrection (Rom. 1:4). These two things are also true of the believer. Baptism is a confession of our sonship, which shall be finally proven at the resurrection of the just, which is called in Romans 8:19 "the manifestation of the sons of God." For when their bodies rise, leaving the bodies of the wicked still in the graves, there will be no doubt left that they were truly the sons of God. And those who are not raised will be equally truly proven to not be the sons of God, whatever their profession may have been.
Baptism is a prophecy of the resurrection of every truly born again person, for it points forward in a likeness to the resurrection, as verse 5 shows. "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Immersion pictures the burial of the dead, and the immersion both pictures and promises the rising again. This is another reason why baptism has no application to the unsaved person, for he is yet spiritually dead in sin. He has not died to sit, and so will not rise at the resurrection of the just, Faith in Christ as the risen Son of God is the act of a quickened soul, and it is required before a person can be rightly baptized, according to Acts 8:36-38. "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 Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest, And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 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."
Both ordinances of the Lord’s Church have this prophetic aspect to them, for as the Lord’s Supper implies Jesus’ return—it is observed "till he comes" —so baptism also looks to His return when all the saints will rise to meet Him in the air. Thus we are "buried together with Christ" which also pictures our being "risen together with Christ" (Col. 2:12)—two of the seven "togethers with Christ" in the New Testament. Immersion alone fits the requirement for the prophetic aspect of this ordinance. J. M. Frost says:
Baptism as immersion with its corresponding immersion alone fits the pattern our Lord gave us at the Jordan. Immersion alone cyan serve in figure as a monument of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. Immersion alone can give the answer of a good conscience toward God, showing in figure the resurrection of Christ by which we are saved. Only immersion as baptism sets out in emblem our union with Christ in his redemptive work. Only this baptism tells of our death to sin, of our new risen life, arid of our hope for the final triumph over death. Immersion is full of death, but immersion is full of life and promise and hope and joy. —The Moral Dignity of Baptism, p. 121.
This prophetic aspect of baptism is suggested in 1 Peter 3:21. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Baptism is clearly declared to be a figure or symbol, and if we omit the parenthetical statement, we learn how it saves us—by the resurrection of Christ, which is part of the Gospel. Hence we are saved by believing the Gospel of the grace of God, which tells us that because Christ rose from the dead, we will likewise be victorious over death through Him. That is no salvation that does not save completely, including the final salvation of the physical part of man. Baptism points both directions—back to Christ’s resurrection, and forward to our consequent resurrection.
Your baptism is important, since it is a testimony to the gracious work of the Saviour. A Scriptural baptism is declared by the Lord Himself to be the first duty of the saved person. What will your response be to this duty of baptism? It is a test of the saved person’s attitude toward God’s declared will (Luke 7:29-30). It is also a testimony to the salvation that is in the Son of God alone. Is He your Lord and Saviour? If so, you will obey His commands whether you fully understand them or not.