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                        "ISSUES OF DISTINCTION"

                         The Purpose Of Baptism


1. In this series we have surveyed the following "Issues Of
   a. The Existence Of God - which differentiates between...
      1) Atheists and agnostics, who deny or question God's existence
      2) Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Moslems, Christians, etc., who
         believe in a Supreme Being
   b. The Identity Of God - which distinguishes between...
      1) Buddhists, Hindus, etc., who hold to many gods
      2) Jews, Moslems, Christians, etc., who believe in God of Abraham
   c. The Identity Of Jesus Of Nazareth - over which there is a 
      difference between...
      1) Jews, Moslems, etc., who may accept Jesus as a good man, 
         perhaps a prophet
      2) Christians, who believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
   d. The All-Sufficiency Of The Scriptures - where again there is a
      difference between...
      1) Catholics, Mormons, JWs, etc., who deny the Scriptures are 
      2) Mainstream Protestants, Christians, etc., who profess the 
         principle of "scriptura sola" (the Scriptures alone)

2. Another "issue of distinction" is "The Purpose Of Baptism"
   a. Some say that the purpose of baptism has nothing to do with
   b. Others say that baptism is an integral part in God's plan for
      saving man

3. In this study, we shall examine...
   a. The common view of baptism held by many denominations
   b. What the Scriptures themselves teach concerning baptism
   c. What difference does it really make

[We begin with...]


      1. The view expressed by many Baptists is a popular one:
         a. "Baptists believe that no one is subject for baptism till
            he is already saved."
         b. "We believe it is a positive command, enjoined upon the
            believing, saved soul, and is essential to true, loving
         c. "Baptists believe that the immersion of a believer is an
            open declaration to the world that such a one is dead to
         d. "Again, the immersion is a proclamation to the world that
            we believe in Him who died for our sins according to the
            Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again
            the third day according to the Scriptures."
         e. "So it is a proclamation of our belief that Christ arose
            from the dead..."
         -- What Baptists Believe And Why They Believe It, J. G. Bow
      2. My purpose is not to single out Baptists (my maternal 
         ancestors were Baptists)
         a. Not all Baptists would agree with the above view (see 
            comments below)
         b. But it is indicative of most Baptists, and is held by many

      1. Baptism is simply "a public declaration" of one's faith in 
         Jesus Christ
      2. It is a command to be obeyed AFTER salvation, similar to the
         Lord's Supper
      3. It is therefore non-essential to salvation:  "Is baptism 
         necessary for salvation?  I don't beat about the bush about it
         at all.  I come out with a plain, definite NO!  No, baptism 
         doesn't save, doesn't help save, and I'll go even further to
         say that it doesn't have anything in this world to with the
         saving of a soul."  Good News, Edward T. Hiscox, March 2, 

[Is this true?  Is the only purpose of baptism one of making a public
proclamation of one's faith in Jesus?  Is baptism for those who are
already saved?  Please prayerfully consider...]


      1. There is no teaching in the Bible that defines the purpose for
         baptism as such
         a. An appeal is often made to the example of Christ's 
            1) That Jesus was baptized to publicly introduce Himself to
               Israel as the Messiah
            2) And that therefore the purpose for Christian baptism is
               to serve a similar purpose; i.e., to publicly profess
               ourselves to the world as disciples of Jesus
         b. An interesting correlation, but one nowhere made in the 
      2. If baptism were solely a public proclamation of one's faith...
         a. What about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch? - Ac 8:
            1) When he asked what might hinder him from being baptized,
               why wasn't he told to wait until they got to town or 
               some public place?
            2) The fact that he was baptized when it was just he and 
               Philip would imply that there is some other purpose for
         b. What about the baptism of the Philippian jailer and his
            family? - Ac 16:25-34
            1) They were baptized "immediately", after midnight and 
               before daylight
            2) Why didn't Paul tell them to wait until a special 
               baptismal service could be held that was open to the
               public, or at least to the church?
      3. Both of these examples imply that the purpose of baptism is 
         for some reason other than a public profession of one's faith
         a. There was a sense of urgency in both cases
         b. Indeed, in every case where baptism is described in detail
            in the book of Acts, it occurs immediately after one 
         -- Whatever the purpose, it did not matter whether it was done
            in public or in private

      1. When you are baptized into Christ, the Bible says:
         a. You put on the Lord Jesus - Ga 3:26-27
         b. Your sins are washed away - Ac 22:16
         c. Your sins are remitted (forgiven) - Ac 2:38
         d. You die to sin and are freed from sin - Ro 6:1-7
         e. You are baptized into the body of Christ - 1 Co 12:13
         f. You are saved through the resurrection of Christ, as you 
            make an appeal for a good conscience - 1 Pe 3:21
      2. Here are some thought-provoking quotations from George 
         Beasley-Murray, Baptist scholar, in his book, Baptism In The 
         New Testament:
         a. "In light of the foregoing exposition of the New Testament
            representations of baptism, the idea that baptism is a
            purely symbolic rite must be pronounced not alone 
            unsatisfactory but out of harmony with the New Testament
            itself. Admittedly, such a judgment runs counter to the 
            popular tradition of the Denomination to which the writer
         b. "The extent and nature of the grace which the New Testament
            writers declare to be present in baptism is astonishing for
            any who come to the study freshly with an open mind."
         c. "...the "grace" available to man in baptism is said by the
            New Testament writers to include the following elements:
            1) forgiveness of sin, Ac 2.38 and cleansing from sins, Ac
               22.16, 2 Co 6.11;
            2) union with Christ, Ga 3.27, and particularly union with
               Him in his death and resurrection, Ro. 6.3ff, Co 2.11f,
               with all that implies of release from sin's power, as 
               well as guilt, and the sharing of the risen life of the
               Redeemer, Ro 6.1-11;
            3) participation in Christ's sonship, Ga 3.26f;
            4) consecration to God, 1 Co 6.11, hence membership in the
               Church, the Body of Christ, 1 Co 12.13, Ga 3.27-29;
            5) possession of the Spirit, Ac 2.38, 1 Co 6.11, 12.13, 
               and therefore the new life in the Spirit, i.e.,
               regeneration, Ti 3.5, Jn 3.5;
            6) grace to live according to the will of God, Ro 6.1ff,
               Co 3.1ff;
            7) deliverance from the evil powers that rule this world,
               Co 1.13;
            8) the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, Jn 3.5, and the
               pledge of the resurrection of the body, Ep 1.3f, 4.30.
               (pp. 263-264)
      3. Yes, when one comes to the Bible with an open mind, willing to
         consider whatever the Bible says about baptism...
         a. They will conclude with George Beasley-Murray that the idea
            baptism is a purely symbolic rite:
            1) Must be pronounced unsatisfactory!
            2) Is out of harmony with the New Testament itself!
         b. They will agree with Martin Luther, who...
            1) In answer to the question, "What gifts or benefits does
               Baptism bestow?", replied in his Small Catechism, "It
               effects forgiveness of sins."
            2) Also wrote concerning the sinner:  "Through Baptism he
               is bathed in the blood of Christ and is cleansed from
            3) Again wrote: "To put it most simply, the power, effect,
               benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save."
               (as quoted by Jack W. Cottrell in Baptism And The 
               Remission of Sins, College Press, 1990, p. 32-34)
            4) In his commentary on Ro 6:3, wrote:  "Baptism has been
               instituted that it should lead us to the blessings (of
               this death) and through such death to eternal life.  
               Therefore IT IS NECESSARY that we should be baptized
               into Jesus Christ and His death." (Commentary On Romans,
               Kregel Publications, p. 101)
         c. And they will concur with Augustine, who...
            1) Referring to the efficacy of baptism, wrote that "the
               salvation of man is effected in baptism"; also, that a
               person "is baptized for the express purpose of being 
               with Christ." (Cottrell, p. 30)
            2) With regard to the necessity of baptism, refers to the 
               "apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ
               maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without
               baptism...it is impossible for any man to attain to 
               salvation and everlasting life." (ibid., p. 30)

[Indeed, along with the perspective of church history, the Bible 
clearly teaches that the purpose of baptism is one that relates to the
saving of one's soul, for as one is baptized they are by God's grace 
and power united with Christ and thereby receive all the benefits of 
His death!

If this be true, what are the ramifications?  Does it really make any
difference WHY one is baptized...?]


      1. That God will accept a baptism for a different purpose
      2. That while a person may mistakenly think they were saved at
         the point of believing, their sins are forgiven at the point 
         of baptism
      3. Isn't this rather presumptuous on their part?
         a. To speak for God?
         b. When the Bible does not say what He will or will not do in
            such cases?

      1. At best, it raises serious questions about one's obedience to
         the gospel
         a. Has one really obeyed Christ, if they responded to a 
            perversion of it?
            1) Today, most people are told to simply repent and pray
            2) But the apostles commanded people to repent and be 
               baptized - Ac 2:38
         b. Can a person be taught wrong, and baptized right?
            1) In Ac 19:1-5, we have a case of re-baptism...
               a) John's baptism did not qualify as meeting the 
                  conditions of Christ's baptism
               b) Even though John's baptism was the will of God for a
                  short time
            2) If John's baptism required re-baptism in the name of 
               Christ, how much more those who were not baptized for 
               the right purpose today?
      2. At worst, there are some serious consequences!
         a. People who sincerely think they are saved are still lost!
         b. Preachers and teachers who say baptism has nothing to do
            with salvation are teaching a perverted gospel! - cf. Ga 
      3. In any case, it will affect the way one preaches!  Here is
         Beasley-Murray again:
         a. "First, there ought to be a greater endeavor to make
            baptism integral to THE GOSPEL."
         b. "It is taken as axiomatic amongst us [Baptists, MAC] that
            the proclamation of the Gospel consists of making the
            redemptive acts of God in Christ known and calling for
            faith in Christ as the due response; baptism is then a
            proper subject for exposition in the enquirers' class,
            along with instruction as to the nature of the Church, of
            worship, of Christian obligation in the Church and to the
            world, etc."
         c. "Peter's response, however, to the cry of his conscience
            stricken hearers on the Day of Pentecost was not "Repent
            and believe", but "Repent and BE BAPTIZED"! (Ac 2.38).
         d. "Naturally faith was presumed in repentance, but Peter's
            answer told the Jews how to become Christians:  faith and
            repentance are to be expressed in baptism, and SO they are
            to come to the Lord."
         e. "Baptism is here a part of the proclamation of Christ. In
            an Apostolic sermon it comes as its logical conclusion."
         f. "An effort ought to be made to restore this note in our
            [Baptist] preaching." (Ibid., p. 393)


1. To restore this note in one's preaching will certainly make a
   a. Our response to the question "What shall we do?" will be similar
      to Peter's response on Pentecost:  "Repent...and be baptized!"
   b. People will respond to our "preaching Christ" like the eunuch:
      "Here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"

2. Yet today, rarely do you hear in many churches...
   a. A preacher commanding his audience like Peter did in Ac 2:38
   b. A listener who just heard a gospel lesson ask the question the
      eunuch did in Ac 8:36
   c. A teacher telling a penitent believer what Ananias told Saul of 
      Tarsus:  "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized,
      and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Ac
   -- The reason should be clear:  Something's changed!

3. Yes, "The Purpose Of Baptism" is another "issue of distinction"...
   a. For one's view on the purpose of baptism make a great difference
   b. It affects our preaching, and it affects the souls of those who
      hear us!

4. We must therefore...
   a. Fully understand the distinction between such views on baptism
   b. Make certain that our understanding is in harmony with the
   c. Lovingly reach out to those who are in error

What is your understanding concerning baptism?  Have you been baptized
for the purpose revealed in the Scriptures?
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