All About Water Baptism by Herbert W. Armstrong
IS WATER baptism essential to salvation?
What is the proper form, or mode -- sprinkling, pouring or immersion?
Should babies and children be baptized? Suppose you were baptized by
a minister you have since lost confidence in. Should you be baptized over
Suppose you were baptized "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and
the Holy Ghost [Spirit]." Should you be baptized again "in the name of
Should one be baptized IMMEDIATELY, or only "after a six months' probation"?
Must the ordinance be performed by an ordained minister?
WE ARE saved by GRACE, and through FAITH -- make no mistake about that;
but -- there are conditions!
And millions are being deceived, misled into thinking they are saved,
when they are not!
People have been taught, falsely, that "Christ completed the Plan of
Salvation on the Cross" -- when actually it was only begun there. The popular
denominations have taught, "Just BELIEVE -- that's all there is to it;
believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are that instant saved!"
That teaching is false! And because of deception -- because the TRUE
GOSPEL of Jesus Christ has been all but blotted out, lo these 1900 years
by the preaching of a false gospel about the Person of Christ -- and often
a false Christ at that -- millions today WORSHIP CHRIST -- and all in vain!
"In vain do they worship me," said Jesus, "teaching for doctrines the commandments
of men" (Mark 7: 6-9).
Man is mortal. Man has no immortality inherent within himself. Christ
Jesus, only, of all men who have lived, has immortality (I Tim. 6:16).
The penalty of sin is DEATH -- the second, or eternal, death, from which
there will be no resurrection. And ALL have sinned and come under this
sentence. Only GOD has eternal life inherent in Himself (John 5:26) --
only GOD has eternal life to give. And as the Father has life in -- inherent
in -- Himself, so has He given to the Son, Christ, to have immortal life
inherent within Himself. And through Christ, God gives it to us (I John
5:11-12) -- and whoever has not Christ has not eternal life. Eternal life
is a GIFT no man has until he receives it as GOD'S GIFT (Rom. 6:23).
The BLOOD of Christ does not finally save any man. The death of Christ
merely paid the penalty of sin in our stead -- it wipes the slate clean
of past sins -- it saves us merely from the DEATH PENALTY -- it removes
that which separated us from God and reconciles us to God.
But we are SAVED -- that is, given immortal life -- by Christ's LIFE,
not by His death (Rom. 5:10). Christ is a living Saviour! He is not dead
-- He rose from the dead! We could never be saved by His blood alone, if
He had not risen from the dead (I Cor. 15:17-18).
We are mortal, without immortal life inherent in us, under penalty of
eternal DEATH from sin -- unless saved. To be saved, we must be born of
God, who is a Spirit. We were born of human parents, and therefore we are
human -- flesh -- dust -- of the earth, earthy (John 3:3, 6; Gen. 2:7;
3:19; I Cor. 15:47-49). To be born of God, we must, first, now in this
life, receive the impregnating LIFE -- the Holy Spirit -- from God. We
are then merely begotten, spiritually -- comparing to an unborn human babe
still in its mother's womb -- not yet really BORN. We then become merely
HEIRS of the Kingdom -- not yet inheritors.
Becoming converted means being CHANGED. When one receives the Holy Spirit
of God, his whole viewpoint, his outlook, his purposes, goals, ways of
thought -- everything -- becomes CHANGED! It is a renewing of the MIND
-- the Spirit of a sound mind. But he is as yet merely begotten. And, as
the unborn babe must be fed, through the mother, and must develop and grow
physically before it can be born, so the converted human, now spiritually
begotten, must be fed on the spiritual food of GOD'S WORD, and must GROW
SPIRITUALLY -- must grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ as He reveals
His knowledge through His Word (II Peter 3:18). He must OVERCOME the down-pull
of his human nature and achieve self-discipline. He must learn PATIENCE,
must grow in LOVE, FAITH, and UNDERSTANDING. He must do the WORKS of Christ;
and, in this spiritual growth -- this life of active service -- he must
ENDURE persecutions and afflictions and trials UNTO THE END.
It is only those who, during this Christian Spirit-begotten life, have
grown in knowledge and grace, have overcome, have developed spiritually,
done the works of Christ, and endured unto the end, who shall finally be
given IMMORTALITY -- finally changed from mortal to IMMORTAL at the time
of the second coming of Christ (I Cor. 15:53-54).
So, being, as we say, converted -- receiving the Holy Spirit of God
-- is merely the beginning! Then begins a lifetime of LIVING under the
GOVERNMENT OF GOD -- by God's laws which express His will, instead of by
self-will and desire.
A PERSON IS NOT EVEN BEGOTTEN OF GOD UNLESS HE IS CHRIST'S (I John 5:12).
AND HE IS NOT CHRIST'S UNLESS HE HAS RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT (Rom. 8:9).
One is not even converted -- spiritually begotten- -not even STARTED on
the way to final salvation, unless and until he RECEIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT
FROM GOD! The question, then -- how to make the first BEGINNING of becoming
a Christian -- how to START on the Christian life -- which leads to eternal
life -- is how to thus be CHANGED and receive God's Holy Spirit!
"What Shall We Do?"
Notice the very beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15).
Jesus said, "REPENT ye, and BELIEVE the gospel." The very first words He
proclaimed, at the very beginning of His Gospel, were to command the TWO
CONDITIONS to becoming a Christian: REPENTANCE, and FAITH. Those are the
two things we must do! Repentance is toward GOD. Faith is toward Christ.
Repentance means to quit sinning, and sin is the transgression of God's
spiritual LAW -- so repentance means to begin living according to God's
Commandments! And Jesus said "believe the GOSPEL." And the GOSPEL is the
Good News of the Kingdom of God -- which means GOVERNMENT of God, and government
means obedience to LAWS, in this case God's laws, which express the will
of God -- government by the WILL OF GOD, no longer by human self-will!
After Jesus had completed His earthly ministry, had paid the penalty
of your sins, had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, the Holy
Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost.
Thousands were in Jerusalem for this festival. When the Spirit of God
came upon -- and into -- the disciples that morning, thousands came in
awe and wonder at the majestic spectacle. Peter then preached the first
inspired sermon of this Christian dispensation. Thousands were convicted
in their hearts. They realized their lost condition. They realized Christ
was indeed Messiah -- SAVIOUR!
"What shall we do?" they cried out to Peter and the disciples. "HOW
SHALL WE BE SAVED?"
Peter was now inspired. The answer came straight and direct! "REPENT"!
shouted the inspired Peter in great power, "AND BE BAPTIZED, EVERY ONE
OF YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, AND YE SHALL
RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT"! (Acts 2:38.)
There are the conditions -- JUST TWO -- the same as Jesus gave them
at the very beginning of His Gospel -- REPENT, and BELIEVE! For one cannot
be rightly baptized except he believe (Acts 8:37). Baptism is an ordinance
symbolizing FAITH in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Once these conditions are complied with, God stands bound by a PROMISE
to put within the repentant believer HIS SPIRIT -- which means His LOVE,
faith, understanding, gentleness and goodness, power, etc. -- His attitude
of mind -- the Spirit of a sound mind -- His very LIFE -- the impregnation
and begettal of eternal life, and the very character of God! The HOLY SPIRIT
in one CHANGES one!
"For the PROMISE is unto you, and to your children ... even as many
as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39).
WATER BAPTISM, THEN, IS A REQUIRED PART OF THE WAY OF SALVATION!
Jesus in all things set us an example, that we should follow His steps.
He was the example for Christian living for the individual, and also the
living example for His called ministers (I Peter 2:21).
Jesus, though He had committed no sins to be remitted, was baptized,
setting the example for us. You'll read of it in Matthew 3:13-17. In being
baptized, Jesus was immersed in water (not sprinkled or poured upon) because
"Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water." Immediately
the Spirit of God descended upon Him, in this case visibly, and a voice
from heaven said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
God help us, that by His help, power, and grace, we may be enabled to live
such overcoming lives that He may finally say the same of us!
Meaning of "In the Name of Jesus Christ"
Jesus also set the example for ministers. Did you know that Jesus baptized
more disciples than John the Baptist?
Listen: "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land
of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized .... When therefore
the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized
more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples)
... " (John 3:22 and 4:1-2).
There is an important meaning here. Actually Jesus did not do the physical
work of baptizing these people Himself -- He had His disciples do it for
Him! And what they did, by His authority and command, is attributed to
Him! So it was considered as if Jesus Himself had baptized them.
Here is a most important truth. His disciples did the baptizing IN HIS
NAME -- that is, in His stead -- they did it for Him, by His authority
-- and that was considered just the same as if Jesus had actually done
it Himself! In fact, the Holy Spirit actually inspired the direct statement
that Jesus baptized more disciples than John. When, at His direction, and
by His authority, His chosen disciples, chosen by Him, did it for Him,
it is considered that JESUS did the baptizing. He did it, in other words,
by and through His disciples!
To ask for anything in prayer, or to do or perform anything, IN THE
NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, is to ask or do it BY HIS AUTHORITY. It is to act
for Him. To do it for Him, in His stead. It is acting as if by power of
attorney to act FOR Him. It implies He has delegated that authority to
us. And indeed He has! For we are commanded to do all things IN THE NAME
Jesus Commanded Baptism
Keep in mind the clear picture of the true GOSPEL. The true Gospel of
Jesus Christ is the Message which GOD SENT to the world, and Christ was
the divine Messenger who brought and proclaimed it. It was not primarily
a Message about Himself, but about the Kingdom -- the GOVERNMENT -- of
God. Jesus devoted three-and-a-half years to teaching this Message to His
After His resurrection, Jesus gave them the final GOSPEL COMMISSION
for this age, and in it He commanded baptism as an obligatory ordinance
for this Gospel dispensation:
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach THE GOSPEL"
(the Message God sent and Christ proclaimed) "TO EVERY CREATURE. He that
believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall
be damned" (Mark 16:15-16). Note these points: The GOSPEL to be preached
was not the present-day message ABOUT the Person of Christ, but the Message
He brought and preached -- the Good News of the GOVERNMENT of God. What
is it necessary to BELIEVE to be saved? That which is preached -- the GOSPEL!
When even the preachers today do away with God's LAW, and therefore the
government (Kingdom) of God -- for there can be no government without law
-- they deny that which must be believed to be saved -- and their followers
cannot be saved, but are deceived! And, also, it is "he that is baptized"
that shall be saved. It's part of the divine Commission -- a required ordinance
Notice Matthew's version of the Great Commission: "Go ye therefore,
and teach all nations ... " surely the disciples were to teach these nations
that which Jesus had taught them -- the Message God had sent Him to deliver
and proclaim to the world -- the Good News of the government of God --
a Message that has not been preached for 1800 years or more! "... Baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt.
Here again, in the final Great Commission for preaching the Gospel in
this age, Christ commanded BAPTISM. And here He specifically stated "in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]."
In Name of Jesus Only
Since some today are being baptized over again "in the name of Jesus
ONLY" in order to eliminate the Father, and the Holy Spirit, this should
be considered here. The contention of these people is that this passage
in Matthew 28:19 is the only place in the Bible where the names of the
Father and the Holy Spirit are commanded. They argue that a thing must
be established "in the mouth of two or more witnesses," and since they
claim there is but this one witness to this command, it must be rejected.
All other passages mention only the name of Jesus.
The explanation is that two or more witnesses are required only in the
case of HUMAN testimony -- where one accuses another. That instruction
does not apply to the divine Witness, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, and
to assume it does is surely close to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit!
On the contrary, "ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable ...." And, THE SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE BROKEN! If you can break,
disprove, reject, or throw out this one scripture, you can reject all the
In this passage, the word translated "in" should properly be translated
"into." The meaning, then, is that repentant believers are baptized INTO
God the Father, and into Christ the Son, and into the Holy Spirit. But
the one who plunges the new believer under the water performs the act IN
THE NAME OF -- that is, by authority of, JESUS CHRIST. Why? Because Jesus
said "ALL POWER" -- and that includes all authority -- "is given unto me
in heaven and in earth." He has ALL authority! Either we do it by His authority,
or else we are doing it without any authority.
New Testament Ordinance
The apostles understood this as a divine Commission and Command. They
carried it out. They always baptized repentant believers.
The first inspired sermon after the Holy Spirit came to convert Peter
and the apostles was mentioned above. Peter commanded all to repent, and
to be baptized.
And "they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same
day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).
"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto
them ... But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning
THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both
men and women" (Acts 8:5, 12).
Some, who do not believe in water baptism, may say this baptism was
not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. But later, when the apostles
sent Peter and John down to these people at Samaria, they, "when they were
come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: For
as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the
name of the Lord Jesus" (verses 15-16).
None of them had been as yet baptized with the Holy Spirit -- yet they
already were baptized. Since they had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit,
obviously they had been baptized in water.
Baptism Definitely Commanded
As Peter preached the first inspired sermon after the coming of the
Holy Spirit, and commanded baptism -- to the Jews in Jerusalem, so God
sent Peter also to first preach the Gospel to the Gentiles ten years later.
It was at the house of a very devout Gentile, Cornelius. But devout though
he was, he did not understand -- did not have saving KNOWLEDGE. He knew
no better than to fall down at Peter's feet and worship him, a mere man.
God had sent Peter to instruct him.
Peter preached to Cornelius' family, "The word which God sent" -- the
Message God sent by Jesus Christ as Messenger. And "while Peter yet spake
these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word" (Acts
10:44). In verse 45 it is termed "the gift of the Holy Spirit." The word
"ALSO" indicates the same "baptism" with the Holy Spirit as Peter and the
apostles had received. In Acts 11:15-17 it is plainly described as the
SAME "baptism" with the Holy Spirit the apostles had received. Now these
had received the "baptism" with the Spirit.
"Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid WATER, that these should not
be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he
commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:46-48).
Here is a definite inspired COMMAND to be baptized in WATER.
Immersion, Sprinkling, or Pouring?
As in all other points of doctrine, the churches today are in utmost
confusion -- some practicing pouring, some sprinkling, some immersing.
Some say it makes no difference. Those who sprinkle usually apply it to
The word "baptize" is not an English word. It is a Greek word. The New
Testament was written in the Greek language. In translating it into English,
the translators left this Greek word untranslated. Literally, in the Greek,
the word is "baptizo". The definition of this word is "IMMERSE." It means
to plunge into, put into, dip. It does not mean "to sprinkle" or "to pour."
The Greek word for "sprinkle" is "rantidzo", and "to pour" is "cheo" in
Greek. The Holy Spirit did not inspire the use of these words, but baptizo,
meaning IMMERSE, PUT INTO.
Therefore sprinkling or pouring IS NOT BAPTIZING! When one understands
the meaning of the words inspired, it is silly to talk about "which form
or mode of baptizing shall we use -- sprinkling, pouring, or immersing?"
It is as ridiculous as to ask which form of IMMERSING shall we use -- sprinkling,
pouring, or immersing? Or as to ask "which form or mode of skiing shall
we use -- swimming, ice-skating, or skiing?" Swimming and ice-skating are
not skiing. Sprinkling and pouring are not baptizing.
John baptized around about Aenon near Jerusalem, "because there was
much water there" (John 3:23). He would have needed only a cupful to sprinkle,
or a pitcherful to pour -- but baptizing required "MUCH WATER" in a river.
Also this verse indicates John baptized the subject with much water, not
by pouring a cupful of water on the subject.
Jesus set us an example -- there was no other purpose in His baptism
-- and He was put down into the water, for He went up OUT OF the water.
Both Philip and the eunuch went down INTO the water (Acts 8:38). There
was no reason whatever for Philip to go actually into the water, except
for the reason there was no other way he could plunge the eunuch INTO the
river. They came up out of the water (verse 39).
The Meaning of Baptism
Baptism is a BURIAL, and a RISING from a grave. Notice Colossians 2:12.
"Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are RISEN with him through
the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
Neither sprinkling nor pouring is a burial, and one rises up out of neither.
They do not picture the symbolic meaning of baptism, and therefore are
When one is plunged INTO the water, he is in a watery grave. He would
not live ten minutes unless brought up out of the water -- unless RISEN
from this watery grave. Therefore a person immersed in water is in a literal
Notice further: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into
Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with
him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead
by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall
be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom. 6:3-5).
There is the beautiful symbolism -- the real meaning of baptism. It
pictures, in symbol, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
But it is a DUAL picture, as all things in God's Plan are DUAL in operation.
It also pictures the crucifixion of the old self (verses 6-7), or of the
sinning life, the burial of this sinning self, and the coming up out of
this watery grave, symbolic of a CHANGED person resurrected to a new, righteous,
spiritual life in Christ Jesus.
Going down into the water pictures the DEATH of Christ, and of the old
Burial in the water pictures the BURIAL of Christ, and of the old self.
Coming up out of the water pictures Christ's RESURRECTION, and a spiritually
resurrected person walking henceforth "in newness of life."
Water baptism is the ordinance ordained of Christ by which we express
our FAITH in Christ as Saviour -- our ACCEPTANCE of His death, burial,
and resurrection for us, and our repentance of the old life and burial
of it, rising to new and higher life henceforth. It is a beautiful ordinance,
full of meaning!
Not Baptized Into a Denomination
Notice carefully, too -- we are "BAPTIZED INTO JESUS CHRIST" (verse
3, above), or, as Jesus expressed it in Matthew 28:19, into the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit -- NOT INTO SOME CHURCH ORGANIZATION OR DENOMINATION.
In many sectarian churches today the minister will refuse to baptize
one except into his church -- his group or organization of human beings.
That is not proper baptism. We are to be baptized into the DIVINE FAMILY
-- the family of God. And it is to be done "in the name" -- by the authority
-- of Jesus Christ.
Baptism has degenerated in many churches into a rite or ceremony of
entrance into the fellowship of that sectarian organization -- nothing
more than a rite by which one joins a lodge or social club!
Note well these facts: One may "join" a lodge, social club, or organized
group of MEN (and most churches today have degenerated into social societies).
But ONE CANNOT JOIN THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD! You cannot GET in of your own
accord! No, GOD MUST PUT YOU IN -- no man can do it -- you cannot do it
How does one gain entrance into the true CHURCH? "By ONE SPIRIT are
we all baptized into [PUT INTO] one body" -- the Body of Christ, the true
Church of God. "Baptize" means "PUT INTO." When we receive the Holy Spirit
of God to change us -- to make us as new creatures in Christ -- it is the
impregnation of eternal LIFE from God. It is the very life-germ from God
the FATHER. It is the Spirit of sonship whereby we become HIS CHILDREN,
and may call Him "FATHER" (Rom. 8:14-15). The CHURCH OF GOD is the Household
of God- -composed of GOD'S CHILDREN. We do not become His children until
begotten of Him -- until we receive His Spirit -- His Nature -- His Life.
When we receive His Spirit, therefore, we are automatically PUT INTO His
family -- HIS CHURCH! Joining one of the social clubs called churches does
not put one into GOD'S Church!
Now water baptism is a required CONDITION to receiving the Holy Spirit.
At Samaria, and again at Ephesus, they did not receive the Holy Spirit
until after they were baptized in water (Acts 8:14-17; 19:1-6). True, at
Cornelius' house they did receive the Holy Spirit, and thereby were baptized
BY the Spirit into the CHURCH before water baptism -- but Peter immediately
commanded water baptism. This was a rare exception to the rule.
BUT THERE IS NO PROMISE THAT ANYONE WILL RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT UNTIL
BAPTIZED IN WATER -- even though God in His wisdom and love may on rare
occasions make an exception. The command is, "Repent, and be baptized"
-- and THEN "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
How Long Should We Wait?
This brings us to the question -- how soon must we be baptized?
One or two denominations insist it be put off until the candidate has
PROVED HIMSELF -- has proved he has the Holy Spirit and is living a righteous
spiritual life -- or has come to certain spiritual KNOWLEDGE. One denomination
will not baptize people until they come to "see" and accept God's LAW,
and many of this denomination's doctrines, and usually there is a six-months'
Paul says God's Law "IS SPIRITUAL," and that the carnal (unconverted)
mind is not subject to the Law and CANNOT be (Rom. 7:14 and 8:7). The order
of God is: 1st) preach the Gospel, leading to a conviction of sin in the
hearts of those God calls, leading to REPENTANCE and FAITH in Christ; 2nd)
BAPTISM; and 3rd) they shall receive the HOLY SPIRIT, which renews their
minds, teaches them, reveals spiritual truth. Since one cannot spiritually
understand God's spiritual Law or spiritual things UNTIL he receives the
Holy Spirit, and he must be baptized before he has a promise of the Holy
Spirit, he should be baptized first. EVERYONE knows he has sinned, and
lived contrary to God's will, though he may not have spiritual understanding
of God's will. God can grant repentance to a carnal mind before the conversion
of that mind. One does not need a spiritual college education in Bible
knowledge to repent and be baptized into Christ. Jesus' order of events
was, 1st) PREACH THE GOSPEL, 2nd) BAPTIZE repentant believers, 3rd) TEACH
THEM THE COMMANDMENTS (Matt. 28:19-20).
Therefore, how long should baptism be put off? The answer is, just as
soon as one has been convicted in his heart of his past sins and sinful
life -- just as soon as one realizes his own way of life has been WRONG,
and becomes sick and tired of it, and turns from his own ways and wants
to find GOD'S WAYS and live them, truly REPENTS of his past life of sins,
and BELIEVES in and ACCEPTS Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, and the One
whom he must obey henceforth, and WANTS TO TURN TO THE CHANGED, DIFFERENT,
NEW AND HAPPY LIFE OF FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS, and to become a child of God
-- then that person should be baptized IMMEDIATELY if possible -- and if
this is not possible, then AS SOON as a true servant of God is available
to perform the baptism.
Baptism Should Never Be Delayed
It might be neglected until too late! In every case recounted in the
New Testament, repentant believers were baptized IMMEDIATELY.
On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 were baptized THAT SAME DAY. Philip baptized
the eunuch AT ONCE. God sent Ananias to baptize Saul, whose name was changed
to Paul, the apostle. Immediately on meeting him, Ananias said: "And now
WHY TARRIEST THOU? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling
on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Paul baptized the Philippian jailer
and those in his house "the same hour of the night" -- and it was after
midnight (Acts 16:33). They did not even wait until daylight!
Should Children Be Baptized?
One cannot be baptized until after he has fully REPENTED. Only those
who BELIEVE, both the true GOSPEL (the Message Jesus preached, which is
the Kingdom, or Government of God) and on JESUS CHRIST as personal Saviour,
can be baptized (see Acts 2:38; 8:37; 16:31).
Children have not reached that maturity where they have the self-discipline
to truly repent, and believe. I am thinking of instances in which children,
8 to 12 years old, were baptized by others against my objections and protests,
and without exception, those children soon became more unruly, more disobedient,
more sinful, than before.
When some Samaritans repented at Philip's preaching, "they were baptized,
both men and women" (Acts 8:12). Only the adults were mature enough to
be ready for baptism.
The average mind does not mature until about age 25 -- though there
are often exceptions. Some few mature and become sober and serious in life
outlook by 16, or on rare occasions, even younger.
An immature mind may experience an emotional feeling of temporary remorse,
and this may be falsely construed as REPENTANCE when it is only momentary,
soon forgotten. It is like "puppy-love." How many teenagers, 13 to 17,
have a number of temporary emotional experiences of feeling sure they are
"in love." Of course they themselves feel sure of it, and cannot be talked
out of it. Usually they grow out of it, but in rare cases, of course, they
may really "know their minds" -- though this is the rare exception, not
the rule. So with repentance and belief.
The child who is baptized may be ever so serious about it at the time.
But when that child grows older, he or she undergoes an entirely new experience
in life -- comes under "teen-age" influences which are quite different
today than one or two generations ago -- must meet many temptations peculiar
to energetic, dynamic, restless, excitement-craving youth in the blooming
flower of sex- appeal. Experience shows not one in perhaps a hundred can
be truly "converted" prior to this age and REMAIN converted, and constantly
GROWING SPIRITUALLY, closer and closer to Christ and His Kingdom, through
these trying years.
There can be no set rule about the proper age for baptism. It is almost
impossible to be ABSOLUTELY SURE about young people under 21 or 25 -- and
especially under 18 -- and unless POSITIVELY SURE that such a one has really
repented of self-will, self-desire, and the ways of this world, such a
one should be encouraged to live according to God's Word, but refrain from
baptism until SURE. John the Baptist insisted on candidates bringing forth
"fruits meet for repentance" -- or PROVING their repentance by THE FRUITS
in their lives.
Youngsters should let a few years of such fruits PROVE their repentance
and permanent sincerity and earnestness. Adults should be baptized IMMEDIATELY,
or as soon as possible, on real repentance and faith.
In the case of some awaiting baptism among our radio listeners and readers,
unable to find a man of God qualified to baptize them, this very necessity
forces them to wait until we can send them a minister. Where NECESSITY
prevents immediate baptism, in such cases, God understands and makes allowance. But avoid all unnecessary delay.
[The Worldwide Church of God has many ministers throughout the United
States and British Common-wealth of nations. Few should have any real difficulty
in locating a true servant of God.]
Must Baptism Be Administered Only by Ordained Ministers?
Finally, who is authorized to administer baptism? Must the repentant
believer be baptized ONLY by an ordained minister? How much depends upon
the goodness, or belief, or spirituality of the man who performs the ordinance?
First, let us look to the example of Jesus; next, to the instructions
of Christ; and then, to the teaching and practice in the early New Testament
Was Jesus Himself an "ordained minister" -- that is, ordained and approved
by one of the popular denominations around Him? No, He was despised and
rejected of them -- opposed, persecuted, belittled as a non-conformist.
And He baptized more disciples than John. Even John was not recognized,
ordained, or sponsored in any way by any popular group or church. He was
in their sight a rank outsider.
Actually, as pointed out earlier, Jesus Himself immersed no one with
His own physical hands -- His disciples did it for Him, by His authority.
And right there is the point which answers the whole question. The one
qualified to do the immersing must always perform it IN THE NAME OF JESUS
CHRIST -- which means by His authority, acting for Christ as His disciple.
The principle is that IT IS CHRIST WHO IS BAPTIZING YOU. The man who
puts you under the water is merely performing this physical act for Christ,
in His stead. You are not to look to the human man, further than to conscientiously
try to go to one you honestly feel is a man of God, called of Christ, and
used of Him in the work of His true Church. And if later he turns the wrong
way, your salvation does not depend on that man or any other mortal man,
BUT SOLELY UPON CHRIST! There is no cause to be baptized again by another
Always there is the chance that you may be deceived in the man you believe
qualified to act for Christ in the act of baptism. If it depended upon
this man, you would have to have divine powers of reading minds and hearts
to be sure. You might have to be immersed fifty times before you could
be absolutely sure of the man who did it -- and even then you could be
mistaken. Just be as careful as you can, as God gives you to see, in the
man who acts for Christ in baptizing you -- and then DO NOT LOOK AT THE
MAN -- LOOK AT CHRIST -- consider that it is CHRIST who is baptizing you,
by and through a human instrument. And even if the instrument turns out
to be imperfect, remember all humans are imperfect, and it was done for,
and in the name of the only One who ever was perfect. And since it was
in reality done BY CHRIST, it should never be done over by another.
Who Should Baptize?
Now back to the example of Christ. In His own earthly ministry, He had
this immersing performed for Him by His disciples. At that time they were
not even converted -- had not yet received the Holy Spirit- -for the Holy
Spirit was not yet given (John 7:39) because Jesus had not yet ascended
to heaven to send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7), which first came to enter
within and convert these disciples on the day of Pentecost.
Peter was their leader, and even after this baptizing, Peter denied
Jesus three times. If you had been baptized by Peter in Christ's name,
would you, on learning of his denial of Jesus, be baptized over again?
These men, who baptized for Jesus when He was with them in person, were
not ordained ministers -- were not recognized by any popular church --
were merely STUDENTS of Jesus at the time, being taught, not yet prepared
to be sent out as His apostles and His ministers. And the indications are
they were young men, perhaps not yet old enough to be made preachers or
evangelists. They were not perfect, not even converted (Luke 22:32).
Consider now Christ's teaching. Those who go forth teaching, or preaching,
His Gospel (most popular denominations preach a different gospel) are the
ones He commanded and commissioned to do the baptizing (Matt. 28:19-20).
Consider the example of the inspired early Church. Philip was not an
apostle, or a regular minister, but merely a deacon commissioned by the
Church only to perform physical acts, such as waiting on tables (Acts 6:2-5).
Yet he went down to Samaria and preached Christ and His Kingdom, and the
people who believed were baptized (Acts 8:5-6, 12). The text does not even
state that Philip did the baptizing -- he may have had some of his new
converts do it.
If you study the New Testament on the point, you will see it does not
appear to attach great importance as to which man puts the believer under
the water, since it is considered by the one baptized that CHRIST does
it. The Holy Spirit sent Philip later to baptize the eunuch (Acts 8:26-39).
However, notice that the one performing the baptism ceremony was a representative
(though not necessarily an ordained minister) of the true Church of God
in every New Testament case. This was the Church Jesus founded (Matthew
Paul Baptized Few
Consider, finally, Paul's example and teaching.
The Corinthian Church was having a contention as to which man they would
follow. At Corinth some wanted to follow Paul and start a church with him
at the head -- others wanted to follow Peter; others, Apollos.
"Is Christ divided?" asked Paul of them (I Cor. 1:13). "Was PAUL crucified
for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized
none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized
in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides,
I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize,
but to preach the gospel" (I Cor. 1: 13-17).
Notice, PAUL BAPTIZED VERY FEW. He had others -- perhaps among them
a few lay members who were not ordained ministers at all -- do it for Christ.
He was the called minister by whom Christ carried the Gospel to the Gentiles
-- through whom CHRIST as head of the Church ruled the churches which had
been raised up by the preaching of Paul and the young men he taught and
sent out under his direction. Paul did not consider it important or essential
that he, personally, baptize all those being converted under the ministry
God carried on through his supervision. "Christ sent me not to baptize,"
he said. Paul had other ordained ministers and helpers do the baptizing
for him -- UNDER HIS DIRECTION.
Some, today, being converted under the ministry God is carrying on through
the supervision of Herbert W. Armstrong seem to think it important that
Herbert W. Armstrong baptize them. But, as in the days of Paul, there is
danger lest people get to looking too much to the person or the human instrument
God is using, INSTEAD OF LOOKING TO CHRIST, THE HEAD OF THE TRUE CHURCH
And so, as Paul did, we today sometimes have other consecrated and dedicated
non-ordained men do the baptizing. It is done IN THE NAME OF CHRIST --
it is really CHRIST doing it, through human instrumentality. A man does
it merely as a servant, or instrument of Christ -- just as performing a
service, never to his own credit or glory or honor.
The Worldwide Church of God has dedicated, consecrated, converted, ordained
MINISTERS (and assistants) in all parts of the world -- available to call
on you, visit in your home, answer your questions about repentance and
baptism, explain the Bible to you -- IF YOU request it.
These men are all fully instructed and trained in the ordinance of baptism.
Of course, they will not urge you to be baptized. God has made every human
a free moral agent. God compels each to make his own decisions, and the
true God will never force you to be converted.
However, if you of your own volition desire personal counsel about repentance
and baptism, why not request a private appointment with one of God's ministers?
We may be able to have one call on you quite soon. And let me suggest that
you JOT DOWN on paper THE QUESTIONS you are going to want to ask. I've
learned, personally, by more than 46 years' experience, that you'll forget
them unless you do.
Hundreds and hundreds -- yes, thousands upon thousands -- are being
converted -- their lives changed -- by this Work of God, through The WORLD
TOMORROW broadcast, The PLAIN TRUTH magazine, the Ambassador College Correspondence
Course, and through the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God.
Some, not realizing one of God's own called and consecrated ministers
could call and explain, answer questions, and even baptize, have JOINED
one of the churches of this world. You cannot JOIN the true Church of God
-- the Almighty God puts you in.
But if you have questions about fellowship, doctrines or practice, repentance
and baptism -- or any questions about the Bible, or the Christian life,
write me. I cannot call and visit with you personally any more (as I used
to do and wish I still could), but God has now given me many truly called
and chosen men who CAN.
Weigh carefully the FACTS, according to your own BIBLE. Then make your
decision and take what steps GOD shows you.