What is the real significance of water baptism and who is authorized to do it

Jesus gave three distinct and separate commands here, and He stipulated baptism second to salvation in order of importance. That means that as soon as repentant sinners acknowledge their need of salvation they are to be baptized, and then, after they have been baptized we are to teach them the way of God and how necessary it is to conform to His way. These commands are directed to the entire New Testament church, not only those in public ministry (CP Mk 16:1516). Every Christian has been authorized in Mt 28:19-20 and Mk 16:15-16 to get saved, to baptize, and to teach repentant sinners the way of God, and it is incumbent upon every Christian to do so. Sadly though most contemporary Christians do not do this and we are remiss in our sacred duty to God's word for not doing so. Generally it is left up to the church leaders to baptize new converts, which invariably means that baptisms then have to fit in with church timetables. This should not be. Sinners do not have to be taken to church to get saved and neither do repentant sinners have to be taken to church to get baptized. This is not denigrating church-held baptismal services, but directing the church's attention to the biblical pattern for baptizing new converts, which is the example we should follow. Baptism is the repentant sinners' pledge of a good conscience -inward cleanliness - toward God, a conscience reconciled to God by the repentant sinners' new-found faith in the resurrected Christ and the salvation benefits He has purchased for them with His blood (CP 1Pe 3:18-21). Obeying Jesus' command to be baptized is the repentant sinners' first act of obedience to God's word and it should not be delayed wherever water is available and the new convert is able to be baptized. Jesus placed baptism second to salvation in order of importance in God's redemptive plan. The first century church followed this order and we should too (CP Ac 2:36-42). You will notice in V41 here that those who received the gospel for their salvation were baptized immediately thereafter "...then they that gladly received His word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls". When the Jews asked Peter "...what shall we do?", he told them to repent and be baptized. He did not mean that salvation depended upon being baptized - he was simply restating what Jesus commanded the church to do. Notice also the order of events in this passage of scripture: first, they were won to Christ (CP V37-38); second, they were baptized (CP V41); third, they were taught (CP V42) - exactly as Jesus commanded in Mt 28:19-20 (CP Ac 8:12, 36-38).

It is obvious here that Philip stressed the importance of baptism as part of his gospel message to the Ethiopian Eunuch because as soon as he saw water in V36, the Eunuch asked to be baptized - he knew it to be an integral part of God's redemptive plan, and immediately he confessed his new-found faith in Jesus, Philip baptized him, and that is the pattern throughout all the other scripture references to water baptism by the first century church in the book of Acts (CP Ac 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18:8; 19:1-7). As soon as repentant sinners acknowledged their need of salvation they were baptized. Baptism does not have to be a public ceremony to be valid in God's eyes. The Ethiopian Eunuch in Ac 8:36-38 was baptized privately, and his baptism was no less valid than that of the three thousand who got baptized on the day of Pentecost in Ac 2:41. None of this is teaching that water baptism saves. It does not, as Peter clearly teaches in 1Pe 3:18-21, but it is to remind the church that to be an effective witness for Christ we must conform strictly to His way, not ours, and that means that we have to instruct repentant sinners that the next step after acknowledging their need of salvation is to be baptized as their pledge of a good conscience toward God and the affirmation of their new-found faith in the resurrected Christ and the salvation benefits He has purchased for them with His blood.

It should be noted here that Paul does not have water baptism in view in Ro 6:34 as so many in the contemporary church believe (CP Ro 6:3-4). This baptism is by the Holy Spirit of repentant sinners at their conversion, into Christ and into His body - the church. This is when repentant sinners are born again spiritually and have the power of sin over their lives broken, which is the "newness of life" Paul refers to in V4. We really need to study the complete context in which V3-4 are spoken to better understand what they teach (CP Ro 6:1-23).

By keeping V3-4 in their proper context we see that being baptized into Christ is the basis for the repentant sinner's power to live a godly life in Christ. The "newness of life" Paul refers to in V4 speaks of a new life imparted by the Holy Spirit at their new birth, which is a motivating energy, providing both the desire and the power for repentant sinners to live a godly life in Christ. That is the theme of Paul's teaching right throughout scripture (CP 1Cor 12:12-14). Here the church is called Christ and is compared to a human body with its many members. This shows how the church is constituted - it teaches us how the Holy Spirit united us with Jesus as members of His church when we were converted to Christ. It was when we surrendered our life to Christ that we identified with His death, burial, and resurrection - not when we were baptized in water, as so many believe Ro 6:3-4 teaches (CP Eph 4:1-6). This is another scripture many in the church also believe refers to water baptism, but it too refers to the baptism of repentant sinners into Christ. Paul illustrates for us here the sevenfold spiritual unity of God and man: one body - the church; one Holy Spirit; one hope of our calling; one Lord; one faith; one baptism, and one God. In V1-3 Paul exhorts the church to be unified in the Spirit because, as he points out in V4-6, there is only one body in Christ, which is the church, and we were all baptized into that one body. Other scriptures referred to as teaching water baptism are Ga 2:20; 3:26 and Col 2:12, but again when kept in the context in which they were spoken, it soon becomes apparent that they are not referring to water baptism either, but to the only baptism that saves - the baptism by the Holy Spirit of repentant sinners into Christ, and into His body, the church (CP Ga 2:20; 3:26-27; Col 2:8-13). It is the element one is baptized into which determines what kind of baptism it is. (See also comments on Mk 16:16 and Ro 6:3-5.)

These Studies by Br Val Boyle may be freely distrubuted but not altered.

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