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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Is Denominational Baptism Scriptural

Many different baptisms are being performed today by religious people, using different methods and modes and for different purposes.  However, the only baptism that I as an individual facing eternity ought to be concerned with is the baptism that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16 NKJV)

This is the baptism of the Great Commission when Jesus told the apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in (literally “into”—see NAS reference note—DS) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20 NKJV)  This is the “one baptism” Paul spoke of in Eph. 4:5 that places one in Christ (Gal. 3:27) where salvation is found (2 Tim. 2:10).  It is therefore spoken of as being “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) and is a baptism into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) of which he is the “the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23 NKJV), the body being the church (Eph. 1:22-23). 

It is a baptism you are required to teach for the Great Commission that was given to the apostles was that they teach those they had made disciples of and baptized to go and do the same thing teaching and baptizing others. (Matt. 28:20)  This continual handing down of the teaching and practice from one generation to another is to last as long as the Great Commission remains in effect--until the day of Christ’s return.  It is the one and only scriptural baptism that was to last for all generations.

While the baptism we have just discussed is the only one a man or woman needs to be personally concerned about the truth is man has come up with his own inventions thus we have differences in baptisms today.  Solomon said, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Eccl. 7:29 NKJV)  Human nature never changed and so it is today as it was back then.

The first invention of man, relating to baptism, was the idea that he could sprinkle men and call it baptism and put his man-made invention on an equal plain with the baptism of the Great Commission.  Man can try it and use that procedure and pay for his error in the end.  God never gave man the authority to change the meaning of his inspired word or to add to it.  “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches.” (1 Cor. 2:13 NKJV)

The words baptize, baptism, etc., found in your New Testament were words from the Greek carried over into the English without ever being translated.  We call them transliterated words.  Why were these Greek words never translated?  Because the Greek means to submerge, immerse, to dip.  By the time the Bible was being translated into English men had already become wedded to their invention--sprinkling and calling it baptism.  To translate the word accurately using the word immerse would end their deception for any capable of reading.  Sprinkling for baptism was officially adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in 1311 A.D. at the Council of Revenna hundreds of years after no apostles were around to object.

Vine’s “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,” a standard work, says of the word baptism, “consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence.”  I encourage the reader to do a Google search or use any other computer search engine and do their own research.  Type into your search engine the keywords “transliterated +baptism” minus the quotes.  Read and learn.

Paul says, “We were buried with him through baptism.” (Rom. 6:4 NKJV)  He was talking to people who had been buried in water, not sprinkled or poured, for baptism was a burial. Sprinkling and pouring are not only frauds but also exceedingly dangerous in that many who know no better believe they have been scripturally baptized.  It would only be scriptural if one could change the meaning of God’s word.  Wise people will not do that, not if they have read scriptures concerning those who would do so.

Scriptural baptism is immersion and immersion only but many denominations do practice immersion and are still in error on the subject of baptism.  How so?  They are in error on the meaning or purpose of baptism.

Let me ask a question that will help clarify.  If I dive off a diving board or someone pushes me into a swimming pool or a lake and I end up immersed is that a scriptural baptism?  If young children were in a backyard pool playing church and one immerses the other would that be a scriptural baptism?  We would all say no to both but why so?  It would be because baptism is about more than just being immersed in water.  There has to be understanding, purpose, and heart behind it of such a nature that will make it pleasing to God.

God has told us if we will accept it exactly what the purpose of baptism is and what it accomplishes.  Acts 2:38 tells us what we need to know about the purpose of baptism but how many believe what they read there today?  Not many.  Man came along generations later and began denying what Peter speaking by the Holy Spirit said in that sermon recorded in Acts 2 and gave baptism a different purpose and meaning to suit themselves and then said “God is pleased.”  When one changes an ordinance of God and gives it an entirely different meaning than he gave it then it is a little presumptuous to just assume he is pleased.  What we have done is set ourselves up as God, displaced God as the lawgiver, and said this is now what this ordinance is going to mean.    We now decide.  He does not.

I do not know of a denomination that believes one must be baptized either for the remission of sins or to enter Christ (which is essentially the same thing) although there may be a few that do.  Generally speaking, they believe one is saved by faith with or without baptism and prior to baptism.  It is to them either a symbolic act or, in some cases, the means of entrance into their denomination.  In the latter case, there is a world of difference between entering a denomination (which they admit is not the body of Christ but only a segment of it) and entering the body of Christ, the church he established.  What denomination was Lydia a member of?  Lydia had it right, denominationalism has it wrong. 

Why is one who believes he is already saved, had his sins remitted, already entered into Christ through his faith alone, and thus already in Christ’s church baptized to get into a denomination?  There were no denominations in New Testament times.  Not a single person in the New Testament was ever baptized to enter into a denomination so why do it now?  Certainly, this kind of baptism is not scriptural for as I have said it was impossible to do such a thing in New Testament times thus baptism was never designed for that purpose.

For those who believe they are saved by faith alone apart from baptism passages like 1 Cor. 12:13 become meaningless, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (NKJV)  It becomes meaningless for that is the very thing a saved by faith-alone advocate must deny.  He must deny that “we were all baptized into one body.”  His point of view is that he was already in the body (Christ’s body and thus saved) before and without baptism.

Salvation is in the body of Christ (Eph. 5:23, 1:22-23).  You are baptized into that body (1 Cor. 12:13) but the saved by faith alone man must claim to have gotten into that body some other way since he claims to be saved without being baptized into the body of Christ.  It logically follows then that his baptism, since he feels it does not put him into the body of Christ, must be to put him into a denomination of which the New Testament knows nothing or else be merely symbolic since it is not a baptism into Christ.

If one is baptized only as a symbolic gesture much of what has just been said applies as well.  Why is one who believes he is already saved, had his sins remitted, already entered into Christ through his faith alone, and is thus already in Christ’s church baptized as a symbolic gesture?  When did God command man to be baptized as a “symbolic gesture?”  My Bible does not say anything about “symbolic gestures.”  If someone would grab a concordance and look up the word “symbol” or “symbols” or “gestures” it might help but when I tried it I only got one hit on the word “symbol” and it related to the head covering in 1 Cor. 11.  I also tried the word “sign” and the word “figure” and came up dry as well.

The old King James does use the word “figure” in 1 Peter 3:21 related to baptism but it does not help those who want baptism to be just a figure for it says, “the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” and that is not the figure those who promote denominational baptism are wanting.  The bottom line is that all of this business about baptism being just a symbol is not found in my Bible or yours but only in the minds of men who have wandered from the truth.  It is a baptism that has no scriptural meaning and is an invention of men who want some changes in the Bible so it will read more to their liking.

Whether one views baptism as a passageway to enter a denominational church, to gain membership in it, or as just a symbol both are inventions of men and worthless as far as the Bible is concerned.  If you were baptized for either reason you were simply immersed like a man diving from a diving board (that is if you were immersed at all).

But the objection is made that I did it to obey God.  How can you obey God when you do a thing he has not commanded?  He never commanded you to be baptized into a denomination (obviously since they did not exist back then) nor did he ever command you to be baptized as a symbol for anything.  He did command you to be baptized for a specific set of purposes none of which are found in denominational baptism. 

One cannot accidentally obey God.  Let me explain.  If I was to partake of the Lord’s Supper without knowing the meaning of it could it be truly said I worshipped God in that act in a way pleasing to him?  We would all say of course not.  So it is with baptism.  To obey God you have to know what you are doing and why and desire to do it for the reasons he said.  One is to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) and faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17).  We cannot walk blindly without knowing what we are doing and think we might just get lucky and do the right thing by accident.  There is no such thing as obedience in that type of action.

Finally, and this is important, when a person presents himself to be baptized with denominational baptism there are certain beliefs assumed by the body or congregation about him and what he believes.  By presenting himself to them as a candidate for their baptism he is assenting to their set of beliefs about what is happening in that procedure.  You are saying by your actions that you are doing this either to enter that denomination or as a symbolic gesture--whatever they teach.  If you did not assent to that and told them chances are they would not baptize you.

Furthermore, there is little doubt that certain things will be said during the baptismal ceremony about what is being done and why.  If you hold your silence you are assenting that you too accept those things.  If you do not agree and hold your silence (you are being baptized for some other reason than what the group holds to be the truth) then you deceive those around you.  Can a deceiver in the act of deceiving be scripturally baptized?

The bottom line is this--in presenting one’s self for denominational baptism one either believes the wrong things about baptism giving it an unscriptural meaning and application or else he believes correctly but deceives all around him into thinking he is going along with their erroneous beliefs about the subject and its results.

Say, for example, I believe baptism is for just what the Bible teaches and says it is--for the remission of sins, to place one into Christ, to place one in his body the church.  However, the denominational group I am associated with believes all that to be true by faith without baptism and believes that baptism is just a symbol of salvation already achieved.  I allow myself to be baptized by them never uttering a word of dissent to their belief or to what they say at the baptismal ceremony.  Have I deceived them?

Why bring this up?  Because years down the road after the fact there are those who learn the truth about baptism and need to be baptized scripturally but they look back some decades earlier and deceive themselves into thinking that way back when 30 - 40 years ago when they were baptized it was for the right purpose.  If it was for the right purpose those decades ago they deceived those baptizing them and being a deceiver is not a good way to go to judgment day.

Furthermore, we all learn the truth gradually, not all at once.  Minds are changed and/or brought to the truth gradually over time bit by bit.  This article will change no one’s opinion but it might be one straw that if other straws are added later will gradually change a mind given enough time which might be years.  Because this process is so gradual by the time we have finally come around a full 180 degrees in our thinking we look back and cannot remember a time when we did not think as we do now.  There is great danger in this.

Because of it we may never obey the truth, never be scripturally baptized, and thus never enter the church of which Jesus is the Savior, because we cannot remember the truth of our thinking and motives at the time years earlier when we first were immersed.  We tell ourselves we thought back then the way we think now thus we do nothing to change our state.  Denominational baptism ends up sinking another ship.  There is but one scriptural baptism and denominational baptism is not it. 

The purpose of this article has not been to be a wrecking ball but before one can build in a location already occupied the old structure must first be torn down.  Denominational baptism is an old structure that needs tearing down so that the truth can be built in the location that old structure once occupied.

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