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Thursday, December 22, 2011
FEATURES OF THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION OF BAPTISM:
We have seen previously that every apostolic tradition is: (1) based on a command of the Lord
Jesus, (2) communicated to us by the spoken or written words of an apostle and (3) has been
delivered or entrusted to believers of succeeding generations to be practiced by us.
In view of the above, we see that the apostolic tradition of baptism is established by the
commands of the Lord Jesus and the apostles Peter and Philip and delivered to us in the
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into
Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach (i.e. make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them (baptized disciples) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I (Jesus) am with you (disciples) alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of (in response to the authority of or in obedience to) Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 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. 38 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 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the
word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with
Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they
heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid
water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of (in response to the authority of or in
obedience to) the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
From these scriptures we learn the following truths regarding baptism:
(1) The people who are to be baptized are disciples (followers) of the Lord Jesus.
(2) The people who are to do the baptizing are other disciples of the Lord Jesus. (There is not a line of scripture from the mouth of the Lord Jesus or the pens of the apostles that teaches that the act of baptizing is restricted to male believers, “credentialed” leaders, apostles or elders as has traditionally been practiced.) Rather the Lord and the apostles clear teach that this responsibility lies upon “disciples” apart from any other requirement.
(3) Being baptized is not an option for any believer but a direct command to be obeyed.
(4) The result of any baptism is that the object of baptism (by definition of the word) is in the medium of the baptism. Baptism may be done by “dipping”, “plunging” or “burying” the object into the medium or by “pouring” the medium upon the object so that the object is “in” the medium. (Sprinkling a few drops on one’s head does not accomplish this result and so sprinkling is NOT baptizing!)
(5) This next point may be surprising to many Christians, but the medium of the baptism of believers was never specified by the Lord Jesus or the apostles. In all the recorded instances of people being baptized in the NT where the medium is also recorded, it was water. However, we have also noted that historical records of events do not establish apostolic traditions. Only divine or apostolic commands establish such. While in most instances water is certainly the most readily available and inexpensive substance to be the medium for baptism, we cannot say that baptizing in some other medium would be disobedient. For example, there are believers who live in the desert of the Australian “outback” who baptize by actual burial in soil! Water is so scarce, precious and valuable that large enough quantities for baptizing are just not readily available. So these folks baptize in soil. The use of soil is a very apt and appropriate medium for an action which is to portray death, burial and resurrection and is in no way a violation of apostolic tradition!
(6) The order of the divine and apostolic commands are as follows: (1) making disciples, (2) baptizing disciples and (3) teaching those baptized disciples to observe all that the Lord Jesus commands them. To delay baptism for the purpose of teaching new converts anything is contrary to the divinely established order of these commands!
(7) There is no scriptural basis, reason or excuse for delaying baptism of a professed disciple for any reason! Every person who professes to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus and desires to be baptized has every right to ask the question asked by the Ethiopian of the apostle, Philip: “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” The apostle made perfectly clear that there was one and only one pre-requisite for baptism, i.e. faith in Christ. If any preacher, teacher, elder or church leader gives any other answer to such a question than that given by the apostle Philip, they have departed from apostolic tradition in the matter! To delay obedience in the matter of baptism on account of one’s age, in order to give them further teaching, in order to allow their profession to be tested and proven, or because of some sinful habit over which they have not yet gained the victory is to stand in direct disobedience to the command of God and apostolic tradition!
May we have the humility to bow in obedience to the commands of the Lord Jesus relative to
baptism and the boldness to stand against any and every tradition of men that would run
contrary to His commands!
Just as in assembly/church/ekklesia gatherings, we all retain and benefit far more from
conversations in which we have been active participants than we do from simply writing or
reading articles or speaking or listening to messages apart from interaction with others
on the subject matter!
So with this in mind, I invite and encourage your comments, questions, challenges or
objections to anything written in this blog. Your interaction on the subject will be beneficial
for both of us and for others who read it. You may enter such as comments below or send
them in an email to me at email@example.com