Baptism is a controversial subject with many. I am not sure why this is the case, but it is. The New Testament is quite clear about the mode and purpose of baptism. Put simply, baptism is an immersion or burial. In the New Testament, the element used for baptism/burial is water (Acts 8:36, 10:47-48). Bible baptism occurs when a believer is immersed in water (Col. 2:12; etc.) by the authority of the Godhead (Matt. 28:19; etc.) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). In other words, one must be baptized in order to be saved (Acts 22:16). This is not the only step in God’s plan of salvation, but it is a necessity if we wish to be saved from sin (Mk. 16:16).
This is simple, straight-forward New Testament teaching. Again, I am not sure why it is so controversial among people today, but it is. In fact, one group, the Baptist people, have a creed book which states, “It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but ‘‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,’ and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, ‘baptism was the door into the church.’ Now it is different. (emp. mine, JJ)” (Hiscox, Edward T., Standard Manual For Baptist Churches, ch. 4, p. 22). I have wondered about that last phrase, “Now, it is different….” What has made these teachings “different”? Is it society? Is it man’s knowledge? What? I find it interesting that even though the New Testament notes the passing of time, the things Christ said did not change during those years.
A prime example of this is seen in the subject of this article. Before Christ left this earth and ascended to His Father, He said to the disciples: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). At this point in time, 11 of the original 12 apostles would have been present to hear Jesus (Judas was dead, Matt. 27:5).
After a short number of days had passed, the apostles were preaching the gospel on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-11). Upon hearing of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and the need for their belief in Jesus as Lord and Christ (v. 22-36), the Jews asked, “What shall we do?” (v. 37). Peter, who had heard Christ speak a few days earlier concerning what to do to be saved, told those who believed (v. 36), to “repent and be baptized … for the remission of sins” (v. 38). In other words, Peter taught the folks just what he had been taught a few days earlier, and those who “gladly received his word were baptized …” (v. 41)!
The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Did the teaching concerning baptism change over time?” Mr. Hiscox claims, “Now it is different”, but is this true? Why not read the Scripture? After some thirty years had passed in the life of the apostle Peter, did his thoughts change concerning baptism? Did he teach that it is not important like it once was at the beginning of the gospel? Let us read the Book and see.
I Peter 3:21 records the inspired words of Peter who said, “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.” In other words, Peter taught the same thing in this epistle that he did some 30+ years earlier! Why then are we not satisfied to just obey and teach what the New Testament has consistently taught? Let us stop arguing with the Lord and simply obey Him!