Calvary Road Baptist Church

OUR GREAT COMMISSION Part 5

“BAPTIZING THEM”

Matthew 28.16-20

 

“In the year 1807, James Haldane, [a pastor in Scotland] after having sprinkled an infant, was accosted by his little son, a child of six years old, with a pertinent question, ‘Father, did that child believe?’ ‘No,’ said the surprised parent, ‘why do you ask me such a question?’ ‘Because, father, I have read the whole of the New Testament, and I have found that all, who were baptized, believed. Did the child believe?’ It was enough. God’s simple truth, which had been hidden from the wise and prudent, was revealed to the babe. The strange question, “Did the child believe?” haunted the mind of that father, until, after a thorough examination, he renounced his former errors and was publicly immersed. His brother Robert soon followed his example.”[1]

 

Thus, the famous Haldane brothers, Presbyterian pastors in Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, became Baptists.

At about the same time as the Haldanes became Baptists something of a similar sort was occurring in the life of an Irish Presbyterian named Alexander Carson. Tired of the shackles that restricted his liberty that came from having his salary paid by the government, Carson gave up his government salary and embarked upon an independent ministry.[2] The freedom he then enjoyed opened up subjects of study he had previously never considered before, among them New Testament baptism. After much study and prayer he became convinced on the subject of baptism and submitted to baptism by immersion. But Carson did not only become a committed Baptist. The chief mark he left on this world, though spending 50 years pastoring in a village of only 2000 souls, is this monumental work, Baptism: Its Mode and Subjects, which analyzes the subject of baptism so thoroughly that I doubt that anyone has ever dealt with the subject as completely.

Do not think, however, that such astonishing departures from paedobaptism, or the sprinkling of infants, to the immersion of those genuinely converted were defections only from the ranks of Presbyterians. The same type of defection, or should I say improvement, also took place from the ranks of the Congregationalists on this side of the Atlantic Ocean just a few years later. On February 19, 1812, Adoniram Judson and his wife, Ann, sailed from Salem, Massachusetts. Their destination was India. They were thought at that time to be the first missionaries sent from the United States of America to a foreign country. Their mission was fully underwritten by the Congregationalist denomination’s newly formed mission society, known as The American Board.[3] On their months long ocean voyage Judson studied very carefully the subject of baptism, because he knew that when he arrived in India it would be Baptist missionaries from England he would find there, the most notable being William Carey. As he began to be persuaded by his study, his biography tells us, he began saying to his wife, “I am afraid the Baptists may be in the right.”[4] Eventually Judson was convinced, as was his wife, and when they landed in India the two were immersed at the hand of William Ward, a colleague of the British Baptist missionary and father of modern missions, William Carey, on September 6, 1812, almost eight months after leaving the United States.[5] “Thus,” wrote Judson’s wife, “. . . we are confirmed Baptists, not because we wanted to be, but because truth compelled us to be.”[6] Needless to say, this step of obedience cost them the financial support they were receiving from the United States when they resigned as Congregationalist missionaries. The Baptists in the United States had at that time no means to support foreign missionaries, and since the United States and England were at war, there was no chance of receiving support from the British Baptists. Nevertheless, they obeyed God’s Word at great personal cost.

So, three men, scholarly men, well-grounded Christian men who were by no means novices, were prompted by their circumstances to seriously study the subject of New Testament baptism. With only the Bible as their rule of faith and practice they each discovered, to what seemed at the time to be their personal disadvantage, that the Greek word that is transliterated “baptize” is the Greek word baptizw, and that the word always and in every case, when it is used in connection with the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, refers to the immersion in water of a believer in Jesus Christ.

It would be good for us to now read our text, Matthew 28.16-20:

 

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 all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20   Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

Before the sermon I would like for us to spend some time examining a few verses from the New Testament. I want you to look at a number of places where it is reasonably shown that the meaning of the word baptizw has to and can only be immersion. Understand, however, that we will not look at words that use the Greek word for “baptism” in a metaphorical sense, such as when the baptism of the Holy Spirit is referred to,[7] or when mention is made by Paul of being “baptized unto Moses.”[8] The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a figurative expression, as is the phrase “baptized unto Moses.”[9] At this time we will confine our considerations to literal baptism of the kind that results in its subject being wet.

In short, I will leave it up to Alexander Carson to prove to you who are skeptical about the meaning of the word “baptism.” I only assert that baptism is immersion . . . always. And for the next few minutes I will show corroborating evidence that compliments the meaning of “baptism” being immersion. If “baptism” isn’t immersion, only and always, then the examples I will show you would be absurdities.

 

First, WE CONSIDER THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD JESUS

 

Please read with me Matthew 3.16-17:

 

16   And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

17   And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

 

Notice that after our Lord Jesus was baptized He “went up straightway out of the water.” To come up out of the water you must first be in the water. However, if baptism is an ordinance that can be accomplished by sprinkling, why would the Lord Jesus be down in the Jordan River? Why not standing on the bank of the Jordan River with John the Baptist reaching down to scoop out a handful of water with which to sprinkle Him? Why go to the river bank at all if water from a cup was sufficient?

Let us use a bit of common sense here. Study the word baptizw yourself some time. It means to dip or to immerse, if you do a thorough study of the word as it was used by Greek speaking people. Of course, dictionaries will now define the word as dipping, sprinkling, or immersing because they derive their definitions from the current practices of Roman Catholics or Presbyterians or Methodists or Congregationalists, not from the meaning of the Greek word as it was used in the first century.

If the word baptizw means immerse, then we can see why the Lord Jesus would come up out of the water after being baptized. Otherwise His actions make no sense.

 

Next, WE CONSIDER THE BAPTISM OF JOHN’S DISCIPLES

 

John 3.23:  “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.”

 

Why would John the Baptist need to be some place where there was much water if all he was doing was sprinkling people with water or pouring water over them? If baptism was sprinkling or pouring then John could have been anywhere water could be found or carried, and there would be no point to being at a place where there was much water.

The reason John baptized in the Jordan River, and the reason this verse remarks that where John was there was much water, is because John’s baptism was a baptism by immersion. And why was it an immersion? One reason is because that’s what the word “baptism” means.

 

Third, WE CONSIDER THE BAPTISM OF THE EUNUCH

 

Acts 8.36-39:

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.

39   And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

 

Look at verse 36. If the proper mode of “baptism” was sprinkling or pouring, why did the eunuch say “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Surely, his caravan carried drinking water for the travelers. If “baptism” was by sprinkling or pouring there was no need for “a certain water;” he could have been sprinkled or had water poured on him anywhere by using the drinking water carried by his caravan.

Now look at verse 38:  “. . . they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water . . . .”

 

My friends, it’s a real reach to suggest that this finely dressed eunuch and Philip went down into the water together, only to have Philip pour or sprinkle a bit of water on him. No need to plunge into the water to accomplish that task. As well, you can’t come up out of what you haven’t been down in.

Yet another place in the New Testament in which the behavior of the individuals makes sense only if the mode of “baptism” is properly recognized to be immersion in water, and not sprinkling or pouring.

 

Finally, WE CONSIDER THE APOSTLE PAUL’S EXPLANATION OF BAPTISM

 

Romans 6.4 and Colossians 2.12. As with each of the passages we’ve read so far, I urge you to examine the verses in context to satisfy yourself that I am not ignoring the verse’s context to prove a point:

 

Romans 6.4: “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.”

 

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.”

 

There is no need for me to engage in a thorough examination and interpretation of these two verses, except to note that they both show the mode of baptism to be a burial, “buried with him in baptism.” How in the world can a person be buried in baptism unless baptism is immersion?

A person might very well say, “But I disagree.” That’s fine and good. But it was the Apostle Paul who used the word “buried” to portray “baptism,” not me.

 

Why is it so important that the mode of baptism be recognized as immersion? Because baptism is immersion. To baptize by any other mode than immersion is to not actually baptize. And since the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to baptize those who have become disciples of Jesus Christ, which is to say, baptize those who are genuinely converted, it is disobedience to pour or sprinkle instead of immerse in water. As a point of fact, the reason why paedobaptists baptize infants has actually to do with their theology, not with the Bible. First Roman Catholics, and then Protestants, viewed baptism as the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament rite of circumcision, even though the Bible nowhere actually teaches baptism to be such a counterpart to circumcision. It is only when baptism is studied as a subject in the Bible unto itself, and allowing the Word of God to speak with authority and to overrule the traditions of men, that a correct understanding of both the mode of baptism and the proper candidates to be baptized will be gained.

 

SERMON:

 

In the Great Commission, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

 

Baptists have typically understood baptism to be the immersion in water of the baptismal candidate, with other denominations only gradually embracing this scriptural position. Baptists have also always believed that the only fit subject of baptism is someone who is already converted. If you will notice the sequence in our Lord’s Great Commission, it is as follows: First, we are to go. Second, we are to make disciples. Third, we are to baptize. Fourth, we are to teach those disciples we have made disciples and baptized. Who, then, is a fit or proper candidate for baptism? Who is scripturally qualified to be immersed in obedience to Christ’s command? For centuries Baptists have insisted, and my conviction is that scripture clearly shows, that the only fit candidate for baptism is someone who is genuinely converted. And though Baptists argue along that same line today, insisting that only those who are genuinely converted are to be baptized, so that by baptism a Christian becomes a member of a regenerate congregation, there is a great disparity between what Baptists frequently argue and what they generally practice.

 

First, BAPTISTS DO NOT TYPICALLY SEE ANYONE CONVERTED ANYMORE

 

Please understand that I am generalizing, based upon my experiences as a Baptist preacher. And my experiences as a Baptist preacher convince me that it is most unusual for someone to be converted in a Baptist church these days. I say this with regret, as one who is a Baptist by personal conviction.

What does this have to do with a discussion of baptism? Baptist churches most frequently baptize people they claim have gotten converted as a result of their evangelistic efforts. So, the people Baptist churches baptize are people Baptists claim they have led to Christ in one way or another.

But when you keep in mind what Baptists do to get their conversions, what their converts typically believe, and how their converts are typically saved, you, too, would conclude that Baptists do not typically see anyone converted anymore.

The angel Gabriel said, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins,” Matthew 1.21. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “. . . the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” in Luke 19.10. Yet typical Baptist converts these days have only the most superficial grasp of their own sinfulness, and are likely to have no real awareness of their lost condition. This is why Baptist evangelism over the last 100+ years seems to always have been in a rush, for fear that the sinner’s conviction will “wear off” before he is saved.

As well, it is extremely common for Baptist evangelism these days to urge sinners to “ask Jesus into your heart,” even though no such act is sanctioned anywhere in scripture, and such instruction conveys a confusing picture of the “outside work” of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. Justification by faith takes place based upon what Jesus Christ did for the sinner, not what Jesus Christ does to the sinner.[10] But asking Jesus Christ into your heart portrays a saving experience based upon an infusion of grace to make the sinner good enough to go to heaven, which perfectly portrays the Roman Catholic view of justification.

It is also extremely common for Baptists these days to evangelize sinners without taking the necessary steps to persuade them to abandon their unscriptural notions about a false christ in favor of the Savior as He is presented in God’s Word. So many today are supposedly converted, when a couple of properly phrased questions clearly show that they have not placed saving faith in the Jesus of the Bible at all.[11] Rather, these poor misguided souls are trusting in the false christ of some cult, or a christ who is not a coequal member of the Triune Godhead, or a christ who has not risen from the dead in a glorified physical body. Such false christs do not save sinners. Only the Jesus Christ of the Bible saves sinners.

I could go on and on, but perhaps the best reason for concluding that Baptists do not typically see sinners converted anymore comes from talking to many members of Baptist churches. When you hear someone make a comment that no one who believes in the Trinity would make, or a comment that betrays a personal conviction that justification is by works and not by faith, then there is reason to be suspicious about the genuineness of that person’s Christianity.

After all, Psalm 107.2 says, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.” However, if the person either doesn’t say so, or if what he says is utterly at odds with what a redeemed person is shown in God’s Word to understand to be true, then a discerning person reasonably becomes concerned. I do not subscribe to the notion that there are huge numbers of perpetually carnal Christians floating around out and about.[12] People are either lost or saved, with relatively few Christians behaving like lost people. So, my observations lead me to conclude that, for the most part, Baptists do not typically see many people converted anymore.

 

Next, BAPTISTS DO NOT TYPICALLY CARE IF CANDIDATES FOR BAPTISM ARE TRULY BORN AGAIN

 

How long does the typical Baptist pastor wait after a sinner’s supposed conversion before the baptism takes place? Five minutes? Ten minutes? To what lengths will a Baptist church go to make sure the person who is awaiting baptism has what seems to be a genuine, orthodox, scriptural conversion testimony, one that doesn’t sound like a Mormon’s testimony, or a Church of Christ testimony, or a Roman Catholic convert’s testimony?

Sadly, it has been Baptist practice for the last fifty or sixty years to get them into the tank as fast as you can. But what if the person you are trying to get into the tank isn’t really converted? Do you not care whether the baptismal candidate is truly, or as nearly as you can tell, converted to Christ? And are you willing to put off the baptism for a couple of days to make sure, or as sure as you can be, that the hopeful convert really is saved and is thereby qualified to be baptized?

Why is it that Baptist pastors, for all their professed concern about a regenerate membership, cannot see to it that their baptismal candidates have at least some comprehension of the born again experience? And I know that modern pastors complain that the press of ministry makes it impossible for them to deal with and verify the testimonies of baptismal candidates. But Charles H. Spurgeon dealt with each and every baptismal candidate in his huge congregation before immersing them. And that was in the days before automobiles, telephones, and all the other conveniences that enable a pastor to accomplish more by the use of labor saving devices.

The fact of the matter, beloved, is that for the most part pastors these days simply do not care about the spiritual welfare of those they are funneling toward their dip tank. They have set personal and church goals for the numbers they want to baptize for the year, and anyone they can get into the tank (even if they get them into the tank repeatedly) is to be dipped.

Why else is it that pastors steadfastly refuse to consider asking the most basic questions of a baptismal candidate before immersing him? And how else can you explain a pastor’s unwillingness to be careful about his obedience to Christ’s clear intentions that only converted people be baptized? And how else can you explain a pastor’s callus attitude toward someone who, once he has been baptized, may very well be permanently inoculated against the gospel for the rest of his life, either because he wrongly thinks he is a Christian when he is not or because he thinks Christianity based on his sad experiences is not real.

 

Third, BAPTISTS ARE NOT TYPICALLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THEIR MEMBERS

 

How else do you explain the reluctance of Baptist churches to practice church discipline? It has always been possible for a determined lost person to work his way into a church’s membership so he can marry a pretty girl, or for some other reason. We have the examples of Judas Iscariot, Simon the sorcerer, the Corinthian fornicator, and possibly even Demas to illustrate to us this sad fact alongside our own experiences and observations.

That is partly why the Lord Jesus Christ directed us to employ certain steps of church discipline that would restore the sinning Christian and would remove the unconverted person who was causing dangerous trouble with his flagrant sinning.[13] But throughout my more than 35 years in the gospel ministry I have never known of but a couple of pastors and churches to employ church discipline as an integral part of their ministry. And I don’t think but more than one or two pastors I have ever discussed specific issues of flagrant sins with have ever questioned whether or not the flagrant sinner might have not been a Christian at all!

The late and famous Jack Hyles openly refused to make use of church discipline.[14] But church discipline was given to us by the Savior for the benefit and welfare of our church members, so they would not be subverted by unconverted church members who had somehow gotten in. After all, Paul writes to the Corinthians, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”[15] If Baptist churches typically baptize candidates without carefully screening them to make sure they are truly converted, it stands to reason that in our culture, where it costs nothing to profess being a Christian, the likelihood of having a high percentage of lost church members is very great. The question needs to be asked, Doesn’t anyone care whether or not these people are truly saved?

 

Finally, BAPTISTS TYPICALLY DO NOT BELIEVE IT’S POSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE LOST AND THE SAVED

 

I don’t know how many times pastors and Christian workers have expressed to me their firm conviction that no one can really tell who is saved and who is lost. Many have unknowingly embraced the Augustinian view of the parable of the wheat and tares whereby it is imagined that no effort to distinguish between the two should be made.[16] Of course, this view is partly responsible for the Roman Catholic Church becoming what it is today. Let me assure you that I firmly believe what the LORD told the prophet Samuel when He said, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”[17] However, to conclude from the LORD’s words that Christians are left helpless and completely in the dark about the spiritual condition of others is to misread scripture.

Remember, Christians are not supposed to marry lost people. Do you think God wants Christians to engage in a crap shoot to determine whether the person he wants to marry is saved or lost? Has God left that sweet young Christian woman with no way of examining the credibility of her fiancé’s assertion that he is a Christian, in order to make sure she is not being hoodwinked by a scoundrel?

Remember, also, churches are not supposed to baptize lost people. And we admit that we have no means of acquiring perfect certainty. But if we have no means of ascertaining who is saved and who is lost we are left to accept the word of anyone who wants to be baptized and become a member.

So, let’s say you can’t tell at all who is saved and who is lost. Wouldn’t it be prudent for a church to at least find out if they are about to baptize a fellow who denies the Trinity, or a fellow who believes the Lord Jesus is the archangel Michael, or a fellow who is also a member of the Church of Scientology? Yet not even these cursory examinations are conducted by churches in their hurry to dunk as many people in their tank as quickly as possible. Wouldn’t it be good to ask a fellow if he’s ever been convicted of child molestation, or to ask a woman where she stands on such issues as God being mother earth Gaia?

I, personally, believe that no one can tell with absolute certainty who is converted. However, I believe that you can tell with somewhat greater certainty who is not converted. But don’t baseball players work hard during the off season to increase their batting averages from .290 to .300? Say you are only accurate in screening 50 of 100 baptism candidates. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to any church to become more discerning, enough to accurately discern the spiritual condition of 60 of 100 candidates accurately? I think any improvement in dealing with the lost who wrongly think they are saved, or with the lost who attempt to deceive their way into a church, is an improvement which can make a profound difference in individual lives and in the ministry of an entire congregation.

 

No one who is a Bible believer doubts that Jesus Christ commanded us to baptize. But does the Savior’s command to baptize in any way suggest that we are to suspend our thinking and set aside all means of discernment while seeking to obey Him? I don’t think so. People become Baptists, in part, because they believe that what Jesus Christ wants us to do is immerse in order to baptize, and that who we are to baptize are only those who are genuinely converted people. That’s historically who a Baptist is, someone who subscribes to what I have just stated, among other things.

Is it so wrong of us, then, to want to be careful who we baptize? Is it so wrong to take our custodial duties seriously, so that we reduce the number of unconverted people who are erroneously baptized and brought into the church when they are really not God’s people? Would to God more churches and pastors would be more careful than they are. Baptism is how a new convert becomes a member of this church. And we want to make sure that our new members are real Christians, that they really do know our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ, who has risen from the dead and is coming again.

__________

[1] Carson, Alexander, Baptism: Its Mode and Subjects, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1981) page xxxii.

[2] Ibid., page xxvii-xxxi.

[3] http://www.robibrad.demon.co.uk/Judson.htm 12/12/02

[4] Anderson, Courtney, To The Golden Shore, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977), page 129.

[5] Ibid., page 146.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Matthew 3.11

[8] First Corinthians 10.2

[9] Carson, pages 104-120.

[10] Romans 5.1

[11] Matthew 24.24; Mark 13.22

[12] I am convinced the concept of perpetually carnal Christians is an invention of C. I. Scofield to explain the large numbers of clearly unsaved professing Christians resulting from Charles G. Finney’s new approach to evangelism. Prior to Finney neither Arminians or Calvinists believed those Christians who were long term examples of carnality were Christians at all.

[13] Matthew 18.15ff

[14] At a Pastor’s School I attended at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, the church’s pastor, Jack Hyles, angrily denounced a pastor who during a question and answer session asked about the implementation of church discipline by shouting, “A church is a hospital!”

[15] First Corinthians 5.6

[16] Malcom B. Yarnell III, Editor, The Anabaptists And Contemporary Baptists: Restoring New Testament Christianity, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group, 2013), page 185.

[17] First Samuel 16.7

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org