Why Were You Baptized
This personal question I would like to ask you: “Why were you baptized?” This is an appropriate question for several reasons. Number one, some form of this word is used 123 times in the New Testament. The form baptizo, which means “I baptize,” is found 80 times. The noun form, baptisma, is found 22 times. Baptismos, which is translated, “washing,” in the sense of washing the entire body, is found four times. Baptistes is a word that has to do with John the baptizer. This is how the term ought to be rendered. “Baptist” was not a proper name or noun. It simply told what John did: baptize. So, he was John the baptizer. And the word is found 14 times in the New Testament. The word bapto, which is translated in the New Testament, “to dip” or “to plunge,” is found 3 times. When you add all these up, the total is 123 times.
But the question I asked: “Why were you baptized?” is important not simply because it is mentioned so many times in the New Testament, but because the New Testament is the word of God and “God has spoken.” It is also important because there has been so much misunderstanding of the subject. The Bible, very plainly and without doubt or obscurity, tells us all about the subject of baptism. As we look a little more carefully at these 123 passages of scripture, we learn who can be baptized. By God’s word we can know who is a proper subject for baptism. There are some people you cannot baptize. You could not baptize them even if you tried! You cannot baptize someone who is untaught.
Jesus said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them. . . .” Baptizing whom? Baptizing the taught (Matthew 28:19, 20). Jesus further said, “. . . they shall be all taught of God . . .” (John 6:44). You cannot come to God without being taught, so you cannot be baptized without being taught. This is one of the reasons that I know that it is not possible to baptize an infant. You may, like some churches, immerse an infant three times— in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but you have not baptized that infant because Jesus said he must first be taught and an infant is incapable of being taught of God.
One Must Believe
We also learn from reading these 123 verses that one must believe to be baptized. Jesus, as he issued the Great Commission, said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15, 16). An important man, of whom I read in the Bible, asked the question, “What hinders me from being baptized?” An inspired man answered him: “If you believe with all your heart, you man” (Acts 8:36, 37). He answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” You cannot baptize a person unless he believes—unless he has the ability to believe, is willing to believe and does believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. You may dip him; you may immerse him 100 times, but have not, according to God’s word, baptized him, unless he believes this all important truth.
One Must Repent
The Bible tells us that only those who repent can be baptized. On the day of Pentecost, men inquired, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter, answering for all the twelve apostles, said, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . .” (Acts 2:37, 38). So, one must be able to repent—that is, he must have the ability to repent. Also, he must have the will to repent. And, without that, you cannot baptize him. You cannot baptize an infant; you cannot baptize an imbecile (a mentally deficient person); you cannot baptize one who is not accountable to God; you cannot baptize one who is not willing to repent.
A picture stands out clearly in my mind of a man, seriously injured in World War II, who used to drive to my house occasionally and ask me to baptize him. Without fail he would be drunk. I knew that I could not baptize him. I would not so much as go through the form with him because the Bible teaches that before you can be baptized, you must repent.
So, you see, these passages in the New Testament tell us who is a subject for baptism—one who can be taught, one who is able to believe, and one who can and will repent. Otherwise, what is called baptism is a farce and a mockery.
The Element is Water
These verses tell me something else about New Testament baptism: the element, the physical substance of baptism, is water. Peter asked, “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we” (Acts 10:27)?
Philip and the Ethiopian nobleman were traveling from Jerusalem in the nobleman’s chariot. “. . . they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water . . .’ 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. And when they were come out of the water . . .” (Acts 8:36-39). Four times in these verses, water is said to have been the element. Why was water the element the Lord commanded? I do not know; but if the Lord had said “sand,” “apple cider,” or “milk,” I would believe that. What I am saying is God designates water as the element to represent the burial and resurrection of Christ from the dead.
The Mode of Baptism
Examining these 123 passages on baptism, I am told that the manner of baptism is immersion. I have read the standard scholars in the New Testament language and they say that the word baptism means “to dip,” “to immerse,” “to submerge,” “to plunge,” or “to wash completely.” In the heart of the man desiring to become a citizen of the kingdom of God and acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Savior of men, baptism is a burial and resurrection. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto 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” (Romans 6:3, 4).
The parallel passage in Colossians 2:12 reads: “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” As important as all of these things are which I have written to you, there is nothing that is more significant, nothing that is of greater consequence, than “Why Were You baptized?”
There is nothing more important than Why Was I Baptized? Or, as to that matter, why do I do anything in my service to God? What is your purpose? What is your aim and design in serving God? There is not anything of greater weight or moment than this—whether in the religious realm or in the social and secular realm. This is true of anything in life: the Why. Why a home? Why marriage? Why the particular companion you have? Why did you select that companion?
The Bible tells us why. It gives us the purpose, the reason and the design for these and other things in our lives. Why did you marry your wife? Or husband? I have heard of those who married for money. That is not a good reason. It is a poor foundation for marriage and the home. There are those who have married because of a strong physical attraction. This plays a part, and it should, in drawing two people toward each other; but, if it is the primary reason for marriage, it is a poor beginning. I have heard of those who would marry an American man or woman in order to gain entrance into the United States—so that he or she may be granted a permanent resident visa in the United States. Some marry women because they are beautiful. Other marriages are contracted on the grounds of popularity. Just as in the reasons for marriage, it is also true that men go through the form of obeying God for the wrong reasons.
Jesus Taught on Attitude
This lesson was clearly taught and emphasized in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7). Jesus said that there were some in their giving who sounded a trumpet before them so they might be honored of men (Matthew 6:2). He also said that some pray standing on the street corners and in the synagogues that they might be seen and heard of men. That’s the wrong purpose. No prayer will rise higher than the ceiling if that is the purpose. He said that when some fast they look somber and disfigure their faces to show men that they are fasting (Matthew 6:13). Those are the wrong purposes. Jesus said, “Be careful to do your acts of righteousness not to be seen and praised of men.” It was the wrong purpose to do these things to be seen and heard and honored of men. What is our Lord saying in all this? That the purpose for which you do any service to God is tremendously important. He is pointing out that the acceptance or rejection of a person turns upon this very principle. It is very important that you do
what God says, and because he has said it! But the why of anything is exceedingly important.
Why Was I Baptized?
Look back over that event in your life. Examine it in your mind. Inquire about it carefully, inspect it closely and interrogate it thoroughly to find out whether or not it was done for God’s purpose and whether, therefore, your baptism is right and acceptable in His sight.
Examine These Thoughts
Was I baptized for some personal reason? Was it to gain the hand, the heart, the approval and the acceptance of a companion? Did I do it to enhance my own personal affairs? Will it help me in some way in my business relationships or my social reference to others? Or, when I was baptized years ago, was I very young and impressionable, and did it upon the urging and insistence of my parents? Or, was it the popular thing to do because my peers were doing it? Was it that a gospel meeting was in progress and several of my friends thought we should be baptized? Why Was I Baptized? Was it for the social reasons of being accepted into a group whose fellowship I both desired and needed? This may not be a completely bad reason, but it is not good enough to serve as the Divine design of baptism. Did I do it to become identified with a particular religious group or church? When I was baptized, did I join the church? Were you taught that you were saved at the point of your faith and you wanted to be baptized because you were saved? Was that the reason? Did the preacher ask you, “Do you believe that God for Christ’s sake, has pardoned your sins, and you wish to be baptized because your sins are already pardoned?” This question is asked and this doctrine is taught very widely throughout the religious world. Were you very young when you were baptized and did not understand how important it was—the moral and spiritual implication of it? You see, there may be a number of wrong reasons for being baptized.
Some Were Baptized Again
I read about some people who were baptized unto John’s baptism in the 19th chapter of Acts. They were not baptized for
the right purpose. “And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).
Bible Reasons for Being Baptized
God’s reasons for us to be baptized are the only satisfactory and adequate motives pleasing to God for that act. Here are some of those Biblical, justifiable reasons:
- Baptism is for salvation. I am not talking about baptism as a sacrament for I do not believe that it is a sacrament—that is, it has some particular merit in itself and that by simply going through the motions of baptism one is going to be saved. I do not believe that it is “water salvation” or “baptismal regeneration.” The Bible does not teach that. Those who believe the word of God stand diametrically opposed to such teachings.
My son was born in a Roman Catholic hospital. A bit of minor surgery was done on him the first night of his life and he almost bled to death. The nurses in that hospital conveyed to us the message that he had been taken and baptized. They believed that he came into the world with Adam’s sin, that he was wholly and totally depraved and that he had inherited this sin and corruption. Many churches teach that an infant comes into this world hereditarily totally depraved, and so they baptized him. That’s what’s called “water salvation,” or “baptismal regeneration.” In other words, a sacrament.
Baptism is not a sacrament. The Bible teaches that baptism is for salvation. Mark 16:16 reads, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Let me ask the question: “Who shall be saved?” Now, answer the question according to Jesus’ language: “He that believeth shall be saved.” It does not say, “He that believeth shall be saved and may be baptized if he chooses to do so.” It does not say, “It is not necessary to be baptized.” Just answer what the Lord said. It is about as simple as saying, “Two plus two equals four.” What equals four?” It does not say, “Two equals four.” Even a child knows better than that.
The Apostle Peter, long years after Jesus had issued this command, said, “The like figure whereunto baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the6
answer of a good conscience toward God). . . .” (I Peter 3:21). Reading this same passage from the scriptures in a more modern translation, it says, “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also. . . .”
- Baptism is for the remission of sins. Peter gives this answer to men who had inquired, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? . . . ‘Repent and be baptized . . . for the remission of sins’ ” (Acts 2:37,38). In case you do not know what “remission of sins” is, it means the “forgiveness of sins.” More literally, it reads: “Repent and be baptized that your sins may be sent far away.” The word for “remission” in the New Testament language is “aphesin,” which means to send away.
- Baptism is done so that your sins may be washed away. Why were you baptized? If you answer that question with the Bible answer, you will reply “so that my sins may be washed away.” Ananias, a disciple of the Lord in Damascus, was instructed to go and tell Paul: “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The exact reading in the New Testament language is: “Arise and get thyself baptized and get thyself washed from they sins.” Paul, at that time, still had his sins. He was not saved back on the road to Damascus because the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and there it will be told you what you must do” (Acts 22:10). There, in Damascus, Ananias told him what the Lord said he must do. In that command, he used the possessive pronoun “thy” sins and that conveys the fact that Paul still had his sins. Paul was not saved on the Damascus road when he first believed Jesus. He was not saved then for two obvious reasons: (1) the Lord said he would have to go into the city to learn what he must do, and (2) in the city, he was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. He simply could not wash away sins he did not possess. That’s the purpose of baptism. That is the Bible reason for it. If that is not the purpose for which you were baptized, you need to take a very close and serious look at what you need to do to get right with God.
- In reading those 123 verses in the New Testament which discuss baptism, they show that the purpose of baptism is to put us into the proper spiritual relationship with Christ. “In Christ all of you are children of God by faith; for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27).
How can you be saved? By being “Baptized into Christ.” How can you change your spiritual relationship from that of the world to God? By being “Baptized into Christ.” Are you in Christ? How did you get into Christ? The Bible says, “Baptized into Christ.” Read Romans 6:3, 4: “Do you not know that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?” Can you be saved outside of Christ? If you cannot, then you must be baptized into Christ! Jesus said in Matthew’s record of the great commission, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). What is indicated here is a change of relationship. You were in the world. You were under the dominion of Satan. You sustained a spiritual relationship with him as his child. Now, you can change that relationship by being baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
- The Bible says that baptism is for the purpose of becoming a new creature—so that one may become a new man. We arise from the water to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). That is, baptism is the beginning of a new life. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things pass away, behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). Ephesians 4:22, 24 are two verses which tell us that we have put off the old man and we have put on the new. Colossians 3:9, 10 informs us that we have put off the old self and have put on the new self that “is renewed in the likeness of Him who has created us.”
- There is another reason why one should be baptized—to get into the Lord’s body, the church. “For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (I Corinthians 12:13). By the teaching, guidance and direction of one Spirit we were baptized into His spiritual body, which is His church.
- What does all this mean? Well, there are some things that it does not mean. As I read and examine these 123 Bible verses, it does not mean that baptism is merely some established form or ceremony. As far as the Bible is concerned, it is not a piece of religious pageantry or parade. It is not some kind of drama or exhibition.
I resent, especially while living in a land of great literacy full of Bibles, a religious teacher turning his collar “hind part before,” and taking a little innocent baby up in his arms and sprinkling a few drops of water on its head and calling it8
baptism. I am shocked that people respond to that kind of ceremony by saying, “Wasn’t that a very beautiful, sacred, moving service?” It is no less than paganism in the midst of our enlightened country.
- Baptism is, in actuality, a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. “God be thanked that while you were the servants of sin, you have obeyed from the heart that form of teaching delivered you. Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17, 18). The word “form” means an outline, a likeness, a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- As significant as anything else that I have said is that the purpose of baptism is simply to obey Christ. “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 10:47, 48). Just in that connection, baptism spells a total submission to the will of God. He said, “Be in subjection to the Father of Spirits and live” (Hebrews 12:9). “Submit yourselves, therefore, unto God” (James 4:7). This is an arranging of ourselves under the will of God. It is this spirit that must characterize each one of us, else we cannot obey God acceptably in anything