The Who, When, Why, and How of Water Baptism
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
I. Who may be baptized?
A. Believers may be baptized.
- Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
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 baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38 KJV)
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."...He and all his family were baptized ... they had come to believe in God. (Acts 16:30-34)
B. Those who have repented of their sins may be baptized.
- Repent, and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)
C. There is no infant baptism recorded or taught in the New Testament.
- 1. Belief and repentance are required before water baptism. Infants are incapable of these things.
2. Acts 16:30-34 says the jailer "and all his family" were baptized.
- a. Advocates of infant baptism presuppose that the family included one or more small children.
b. However, verse 34 says that the whole family "had come to believe in God". That would preclude babies, who are still incapable of such faith.
II. When should such repentant Christian believers be baptized?
Water baptism should occur immediately upon receiving Jesus Christ as Savior.
- Those who accepted his message were baptized. (Acts 2:41)
When they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized. (Acts 8:12)
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. (Acts 8:37-38 KJV)
The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." (Acts 16:14-15)
Many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. (Acts 18:8)
Repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)
III. Why should believers be baptized?
A. Jesus commanded it.
- Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19)
B. Water baptism was apostolic doctrine and practice.
- Repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38, Peter speaking)
So he ordered that they be baptized. (Acts 10:48, Peter speaking)
I also baptized the household of Stephanas. (I Cor. 1:16, Paul speaking)
C. We are baptized into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
- Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God. (Col. 2:12)
Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (Rom. 6:3-5)
D. There is a remission of our sins (including a "release from" them [Amplified Bible]) in water baptism.
- Repent...and be baptized...for the forgiveness of and release from your sins. (Acts 2:38 Amplified Bible)
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.... Our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:4-7)
E. The triune name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit — that is, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19)— is invoked upon the person being baptized. An extensive discussion of this truth will follow in Section V.
IV. How Should Christians be Baptized?
A. By full immersion in water. Immersion baptism is the single, correct, biblical method.
- At that time Jesus ... was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water... (Mark 1:9-10)
Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (John 3:23)
B. The Greek word for baptize (baptizo) means to fully immerse something in a fluid.
- 1. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states that the word baptizo is a form of the word bapto, meaning to dip, and was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another.
2. Vine's sets forth the noun form as follows: "baptisma ... baptism, consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip)."
C. The fact that water baptism is to be by full immersion is further validated by its being likened biblically to a burial.
- We were therefore buried with him through baptism. (Rom. 6:4)
Having been buried with him in baptism. (Col. 2:12)
V. In what name should Christians be baptized?
A. Christians should be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (which name is) the Lord Jesus Christ.
- He commanded them to be baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:48 Lamsa)
They were baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 19:5 Lamsa)
Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5 also read the full triune name — Lord Jesus Christ — in the Syriac Peshitta Bible of the church of the East.
B. Jesus commanded baptism to be "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). Since these are titles, not names, let's see how the hearers (as recorded in Acts) understood and applied Jesus' words. (Quotes from King James Version.)
- God hath made ... Jesus ... both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:38) Note: The full name had just been revealed in vs. 36!
- ...and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized... (Acts 8:12)
They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:16) Note: Again, the full name Lord Jesus Christ is revealed in the context.
- Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all). (Acts 10:36)
Be baptized in the name of the Lord. (Acts 10:48) Note: baptism in the full three-part name spoken to the hearers in vs. 36.
- That is, on Christ Jesus. (Acts 19:4)
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:5) Note: Again, all three portions of the name are in the context.
C. God is a trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus said to baptize in the name of the trinity— the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). That triune name is (the) Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1. The name of the Father is Lord.
- I am the Lord; that is my name! (Isa. 42:8)
The Lord who formed it [the earth] and established it — the Lord is his name. (Jer. 33:2, brackets added for emphasis here and throughout this chapter)
The Lord [Father] said to my Lord [Jesus]. (Acts 2:34)
- 2. The name of the Son is Jesus.
- She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21)
- 3. The name Christ (Greek: Christos), frequently applied to Jesus, is the name wherein the Holy Spirit, the anointing, is identified.
- How God anointed [Greek: chrio] Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:38)
Christ [Greek: Christos] in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Note: Jesus is in heaven, the Holy Spirit is in us!
The anointing [Greek: chrisma] you received from him [that is the Holy Spirit's anointing] remains in you. (John 2:27)
- 4. "God has made this Jesus ... both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
- a. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.
b. This full triune name first occurs here, Acts 2:36. It does not occur in the four gospels.
c. This name — Lord Jesus Christ — is the one understood by the apostles to be spoken at water baptism.
d. This name captures the fullness of the Holy Trinity— the lordship of the Father, Jesus the Son, and the anointing (Christ) aspect of the Holy Spirit!
D. God has given Jesus a name — Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36)— a name that signifies the trinity's fullness dwelling bodily in Jesus.
- God...gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:9-11)
God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus]. (Col. 1:19)
In Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form. (Col. 2:9)
The name Lord Jesus Christ means more than the second person of the trinity. It speaks of the fullness of Deity (Col. 2:9) — the fullness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit — dwelling bodily in Jesus and signified by that triune name — the Lord Jesus Christ!
E. Biblically, then, we baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit — (the name of) the Lord Jesus Christ.
F. Baptizing in the name does not merely mean doing it in the authority of. It means invoking the name; it means speaking the name aloud. In the 'great commission,' Jesus said, "In my name they will drive out demons ... they will place their hands on sick people." The apostles did this by invoking the name, speaking aloud his name. The same should be done at water baptism.
- In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. (Acts 3:6, Peter to the cripple)
Finally Paul...said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" (Acts 16:18)
VI. Should Christians be Re-Baptized if They have not been Baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ?
A. Yes! In Acts 19:1-5 the new converts in Ephesus had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and had received water baptism. But Paul discovered that they had only been baptized by the baptism of John, which was a pre-Christian baptism. So he instructed them and then had them baptized in water again, and this time in Christian baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- By what baptism then were you baptized? They said, By the baptism of John. Then said Paul, John verily baptized the people with the baptism of repentance, saying to them that they should believe on him who should come after him, that is, Jesus Christ. When they heard these things, they were baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 19:3-5 Lamsa)
B. Proper water baptism is scriptural water baptism. The record of the book of Acts is that Jesus' disciples obeyed his baptismal command (Matt. 28:19) by baptizing by full immersion in the triune name of the triune God— the name revealed in Acts 2:36 and other verses as the Lord Jesus Christ. Be baptized (or re-baptized) in that name!
- 1. Those who have repented of their sins and have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ are eligible to be baptized. (Infant baptism fails this biblical requirement.)
2. They should be baptized immediately upon conversion to Christ.
3. By receiving water baptism, they are following Jesus' command and the apostolic doctrine and practice.
4. They are baptized into Christ's death, burial, and resurrection for the remission of and release from their sins.
5. Believers are baptized in water by full immersion.
6. Biblical baptism is done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (which name is) the Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Believers who have not been fully immersed, or who have been immersed but not in the triune name, should be immersed in that name!
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