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Builders of Faith Explorer I:  Exploring Bible Truth

Lesson 13—Christian Baptism

 

 

1.  How important is baptism for the Christian?

 

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”  John 3:3.  “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’”  John 3:5.

 

Answer:  A few have argued that the word “water” does not refer to baptism here, but to the water of natural birth.  But that doesn’t make sense to say that one must be naturally born and then spiritually born also; of course one could not be spiritually born unless he was already living (having been naturally born).  Others have argued that the “water” here is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, so that it should read, “one is born of water, even the Spirit”.  However, the reference in verse 22 to Jesus Himself baptizing in the immediate context of His conversation with Nicodemus earlier in the same chapter surely means that the “water” refers to baptism.  And for Jesus to tell Nicodemus, a Pharisee, that he needs to be baptized means that water baptism is important.

 

 

2.  What is the spiritual significance of water baptism?

 

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”  Acts 2:38.

 

Answer:  Christian baptism is associated with the forgiveness of one’s sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Water is a cleansing agent, which is an appropriate metaphor for the cleansing of one’s sins in forgiveness.

 

 

3.  Why was Jesus baptized since He had no sins to be cleansed from?

 

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John [the Baptist] at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’  But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’  Then he allowed Him.”  Matthew 3:13-15.

 

Answer:  Even though Jesus needed no cleansing from sin, He was baptized as an example for others.  That shows how important baptism is to Jesus!

 

 

4.  Does baptism itself save a person?  In other words, is there anything miraculous about the water itself?

 

A.  I Peter 3:20-21:  “…when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.  There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.—Since the flood waters didn’t save anyone, then the ark and baptism are parallels here.  Then note how quickly Peter denies that baptism itself saves anyone.  Instead, baptism was “the answer of a good conscience toward God”.  This answer of the believer’s decision to accept Jesus as his savior would not have been effective without His resurrection.  So baptism is the public confession in the belief that Jesus was raised from the dead.

 

B.  Romans 10:9:  “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him up from the dead, you will be saved.”—Confession in the saving grace of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead is actually what saves you.  Water baptism is the official ceremony that literally takes place after you have first believed.

 

C.  Luke 23:42-43:  “Then he [one of the criminals on a cross next to Jesus] said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into your kingdom.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”—In this text, Jesus promised salvation to one of the criminals who was on a cross next to him.  Yet that criminal certainly was not baptized before he died.  Therefore, while baptism is important, if circumstances prevent one from being baptized, he can still be saved.  If baptism literally saves you, then there absolutely could be no salvation without it.  So there is nothing miraculous about the water itself.

 

 

5.  When did infant baptism come into the church and why?

 

Answer:  From Christian historical sources, we can infer that the practice of infant baptism had a controversial beginning probably during the 2nd century, that it became more widely accepted by a number of bishops in the 3rd century, and that it was officially sanctioned by church councils early in the 5th century.  While we don’t know the earliest arguments made in its defense, later it was believed necessary to erase the stain of Adam’s original sin, because no one with that stain could be saved.  Nevertheless, adult baptism was the prevailing practice of the church for the first several centuries of the Christian Era.

 

 

6.  According to the New Testament, what three things must a person do before he is eligible to be baptized?

 

A.  Acts 2:38:  “…’Repent, and let every one of you be baptized….”—One must be able to repent, that is, to turn away from his sins, before he should be baptized.  Obviously, babies cannot do this.

 

B.  Acts 8:12:  “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”—One must also believe or have faith in Jesus, and babies cannot do this either.

 

C.  Romans 10:17:  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”—Finally, in order to have faith in Jesus, a person must have a basic understanding of the gospel.  Once again, babies do not have the capacity to understand such things.  Therefore, babies should never be baptized because they cannot meet any of the three requirements for baptism.

 

 

7.  When is a person old enough to be baptized?

 

Answer:  When a person is able to understand his sinful condition and the gospel remedy, and can repent and exercise faith in Jesus as his Savior, he is ready for baptism.  We often call this time in a person’s life as the age of accountability.  But the Bible doesn’t specify what that age is, because it is different for different young people.  However, it is unlikely that any child under the age of 8-10 has reached that point in his life.

 

 

8.  Does it make any difference how you are baptized—by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion?

 

“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 into 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.  “There is…one Lord, one faith, one baptism”.  Ephesians 4:5.

 

Answer:  When the person is immersed under the water, it symbolizes his own spiritual death to sin as an intentional way of life and his spiritual burial.  Then when he is raised up from the water, it symbolizes his spiritual resurrection to “walk in newness of life.”  In this, the believer identifies himself with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  And only baptism by immersion correctly symbolizes these things.  Moreover, the Greek word for “baptism” means “to immerse” or “to dip” and was used to describe the process of dyeing cloth; the cloth was immersed (or baptized) completely in water.  Therefore, sprinkling and pouring don’t even match the meaning of the word “baptism”, and neither do they correctly match the symbolism of death, burial, and resurrection.  As Paul said in the Ephesians quote above, there is “one baptism”, not many different kinds.

 

 

9.  What do the physical circumstances of baptism in the New Testament say about the method of baptism?

 

A.  Matthew 3:16:  “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water….”—Jesus could not have come up from the water immediately after His baptism unless He had been baptized down in the water.  This seems to exclude sprinkling or pouring.

 

B.  John 3:23:  “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there….”—Much water is not needed for sprinkling or pouring; but it is necessary to immerse people under the water.

 

C.  Acts 8:38-39:  “…And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.  Now when they came up out of the water….”—Again, this event demonstrates that baptism must have been by immersion.

 

 

10.  When were sprinkling and pouring introduced into the church and why?

 

Answer:  Sprinkling and pouring were introduced by the end of the 3rd century as a kind of clinical baptism since it was first used on sick believers who could not be physically immersed.  Nevertheless, baptism by immersion was the standard and overwhelming practice of the church until the 14th century, when the Council of Ravenna in 1311 voted that sprinkling and pouring were equally valid as immersion.  This is also testified to by the numerous ancient churches that can still be seen with their baptisteries for baptisms by immersion.

 

 

11.  What is trine immersion, and what is the idea behind it?

 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  Matthew 28:19.

 

Answer:  Trine immersion is the immersion of a believer three times, once each for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and is based on the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19.  This practice can probably be dated in some churches back to the early 2nd century.

 

 

12.  Does this mean that trine immersion is Biblical?

 

Answer:  Trine immersion is not Biblical for at least the following three reasons:

 

A.  Notice in Matthew 28:19, quoted in Question #11 above, says that believers are to be baptized in the name (singular) of “the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  In Greek, it is significant that the word “name” is not repeated before each member’s name of the Trinity.  This fact means that all three members of the Trinity are included in the singular “name”.  In effect, trine immersion constitutes three immediate different baptisms of the same person.

 

B.  Acts 2:38:  “…’Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ….”—Here, and several other times in the book of Acts, the so-called baptismal formula is simply to be baptized in the name of Jesus.  This strongly suggests that one does not have to be baptized in the name of all three members of the Trinity.  However, we prefer the Matthew 28:19 formula because it’s more formal, and baptism is a formal declaration of faith in Jesus.

 

C.  The theology of baptism as the symbol of death, burial, and resurrection (see Question #8 above) speaks against the practice of trine immersion because there is only one death to sin and spiritual resurrection to walk in a new direction that occurs at baptism.  Thus, trine immersion distorts the very theological meaning of baptism.

 

 

13.  What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and when does it usually happen?

 

A.  Matthew 3:16:  “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and…He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.”—Jesus received a special measure of the Holy Spirit at His baptism.  And in Acts 10:38, “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”  Therefore, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a believer’s own anointing to begin a ministry for Jesus, although the specifics of that ministry will depend upon the spiritual gifts the Spirit gives him.

 

B.  John 3:5; Acts 2:38:  “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”  “…’Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”—Remember that being “born of water and the Spirit” is equivalent to being “born from above” (literal Greek in John 3:3).  Therefore, this implies that receiving the Holy Spirit normally occurs at one’s water baptism.  This is reinforced by the quote from Acts 2:38 above.  There are a few examples of the baptism of the Holy Spirit preceding water baptism and of water baptism preceding the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.  But the normal rule is that one is baptized by the Holy Spirit at his water baptism.

 

 

14.  Does baptism have anything to do with becoming a church member?

 

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body….”  I Corinthians 12:13.  “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.  And God has appointed these in the church”.  I Corinthians 12:27-28.

 

Answer:  Yes.  When you are baptized you become a part of the church, which the apostle Paul calls “the body of Christ”.

 

 

15.  But can’t I get baptized without having to join a church?

 

“And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church….”  Colossians 1:18.

 

Answer:  No.  That would be like asking to be part of the Head (Jesus) without being part of His body.  But only Jesus is the Head of the body; and if you want to belong to Him, you must belong to His body.

 

 

16.  May a person be rebaptized under any circumstances?

 

Answer:  There are two reasons that the New Testament allows for rebaptism, as follows:

 

A.  Acts 19:2-5:  “…’Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’  So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’  And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’  So they said , ‘Into John’s baptism.’  Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them….”—Here was a group of disciples of John the Baptist who just learned about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and, as a result, they were rebaptized.  So for those believers who learn new significant truth, rebaptism may be allowed.

 

B.  When one is baptized, he becomes one with Jesus since he becomes part of his body, the church.  This union with Jesus can be compared to a marriage relationship.  Based on this metaphor, if a person backslides far away from Jesus, it amounts to a spiritual divorce.  Under this circumstance, a remarriage ceremony, that is, a rebaptism, is appropriate.  But we should be careful not to use rebaptism simply as a rededication to Jesus; it must either follow a “divorce” from Him or be done as the result of knowing Him so much better because of learning significant new truth about Him from His Word.

 

 

17.  I have heard some groups practice baptism for the dead.  Is this Biblical?

 

“Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all?  Why then are they baptized for the dead?”  I Corinthians 15:29.

 

A.  Some have tried to get around this idea by saying that the preposition “for” means that some are baptized because (“for”) of the influence of others.  Others have said that it means that some are baptized in the place of (“for”) older believers who had already died, as if to take their place in the ranks of the church.  But the best Greek scholars agree that the Greek word for “for” means “on behalf of” so that some are baptized “on behalf of” (“for”) those loved ones who died without having been baptized.

 

B.  We have learned in this lesson that only someone who repents, believes, and exercises faith is eligible to be baptized.  A deceased individual cannot meet these requirements.  Therefore, Paul does not mention baptism for the dead in order to approve of it.  Nor does he mention it in order to condemn it.  Remember that the great theme of I Corinthians 15 is resurrection, not baptism.  So he mentions this false practice to show that even heretical believers in Jesus believe in a future resurrection, and that’s why these false Christians baptize for the dead.

 

 

18.  Have you already been Biblically baptized (immersion)?  Or are you thinking seriously about it now that you are discovering new and amazing truth about Jesus and His Word?

 

 

Quiz for Lesson 13—Christian Baptism

 

1.  Which are the true statements below about baptism? (3)

  Water baptism is an important step to take.

  Spirit baptism is an important step to take.

  Water baptism is associated with the cleansing from sin.

  Water and Spirit baptism are usually separate baptisms that occur at different times.

Answer

Water baptism is an important step to take.
Spirit baptism is an important step to take.
Water baptism is associated with the cleansing from sin.

2.  What does water baptism represent? (2)

  Without water baptism, it is absolutely impossible to be saved, without exception.

  Water baptism is the public confession that Jesus was raised from the dead.

  Water baptism is the official ceremony that says you have already been saved.

Answer

Water baptism is the public confession that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Water baptism is the official ceremony that says you have already been saved.

3.  Adult baptism was the prevailing practice of the church for the first several centuries of Christianity. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

True

4.  Identify the 3 things a person must do before he should be baptized. (3)

  Repent

  Have Faith

  Memorize the list of books in the Bible in their proper order

  Understand the gospel

Answer

Repent
Have Faith
Understand the gospel

5.  Does it make any difference how you are baptized? (2)

  No, since all forms of water baptism represent the cleansing from sin.

  No, as long as you are baptized.

  Yes, because the word baptism means to immerse under water.

  Only baptism by immersion matches the symbolism of death to sin, burial of the old person, and resurrection to walk in a new way.

Answer

Yes, because the word baptism means to immerse under water.
Only baptism by immersion matches the symbolism of death to sin, burial of the old person, and resurrection to walk in a new way.

6.  In what year was sprinkling and pouring declared to be equal forms of baptism in the church? (1)

  1517

  1200

  1311

  321

Answer

1311

7.  Which of the following statements about trine immersion are true? (2)

  It is the immersion of the believer three times, once each for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  It was introduced in the early 2nd century.

  It is based on a text in the book of Acts.

Answer

It was introduced in the early 2nd century.
It is based on a text in the book of Acts.

8.  What does the Bible teach about trine immersion? (2)

  It violates the theology that there is only one death to sin and spiritual resurrection to walk in a new direction that occurs at baptism.

  It actually is the same as 3 baptisms, not one baptism.

  The Bible allows it on the basis of Matthew 28:19.

  It is important as a tribute to the Holy Trinity.

Answer

It violates the theology that there is only one death to sin and spiritual resurrection to walk in a new direction that occurs at baptism.
It actually is the same as 3 baptisms, not one baptism.

9.  What is the relationship between baptism and church membership? (2)

  Baptism is a baptism into Jesus, not the church.

  Baptism is into Jesus, the Head of the church.

  Since Jesus is the Head of the church, and the church is the body of Jesus, baptism should mean that you are joining a church.

  Baptism represents a private decision to belong to Jesus.  Church membership is a separate issue.

Answer

Baptism is into Jesus, the Head of the church.
Since Jesus is the Head of the church, and the church is the body of Jesus, baptism should mean that you are joining a church.

10.  Re-baptism is permitted in the New Testament when (a) a believer learns new and significant truth, or (b) a believer has wandered so far from Jesus that he has really divorced Him and now wants to return to Him. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

True