Frank L. Cox
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: and he said unto them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John’s baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying that the people should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And they were in all about twelve men (Acts 19:1-7).
The purpose of this article is to present two baptisms in contrast: not the baptism of John and the baptism of the Great Commission, though they are not identical as we can see from Acts 19. Nor will we contrast the baptism of John and the baptism of the Baptist Church, though they are not parallel. Our contrast in this study will be between the baptism of the Baptist Church and the baptism of the New Testament. These two baptisms, which are not identical, differ in a number of points.
Based On Different Doctrines
The candidates for each baptism are taught different doctrines. The candidate for Baptist baptism is taught the tenets of Baptist doctrine—the impossibility of apostasy, hereditary total depravity, salvation by faith only, unconditional election, and the non-essentiality of obedience to Christ. Unless he is taught these distinctive features of the Baptist faith, he cannot be called a real Baptist.
On the other hand, the candidate for New Testament baptism is taught the fundamental facts of the gospel—the life of Christ, His death, burial, resurrection, ascension to David’s throne and His plan of salvation—faith (John 8:24; Acts 16:30-31), repentance (Acts 2:38; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31), and baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Based On Different Confessions
Baptist baptism and New Testament baptism are preceded by different confessions. The candidate for Baptist baptism confesses that “God has, for Christ’s sake” pardoned his sins. In all the New Testament there is neither precept nor example for such a confession.
The candidate for New Testament baptism confesses faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. He does not confess his faith in a religious party or dogma, but in a person (Matt. 10:32-33; Acts 8:36-38; Rom. 10:10).
Based On Different Requirements
Before a person can be baptized into the Baptist Church, he must have a vote of sanction or approval of the Baptist Church. Without the consent of the Baptists, no man can become a Baptist. The Baptist Church itself is the door of the Baptist Church!
The church of the New Testament does not vote on the acceptance or rejection of a candidate for baptism. Neither a majority vote nor a minority vote can prevent a believing penitent from becoming a member of the church of Christ.
Imagine, if you can, the New Testament saying, “No man can become a Christian without the sanction of Christians,” or “no man can become a child of God without the consent of God’s children.” As the head of the church, Jesus alone has the divine authority to accept or reject. He is the door (John 10:9). He opens and no man can shut and He shuts and no man can open (Rev. 3:8).
For Different Designs
According to Baptist doctrine, a person is saved by faith only, and his obedience in baptism is not necessary to salvation. He is not baptized in order to be saved, but because he is already saved.
The New Testament teaching on this important point is crystal clear. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), placing baptism between the believer and salvation. And the apostle Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Peter further said, “The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21).
These Baptisms Induct Into Different Institutions
Baptist baptism inducts a person into the Baptist Church—a man made religious body which is not mentioned in the New Testament.
New Testament baptism inducts one into the New Testament church, the spiritual body of Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:22-23).
These Baptisms Differ In Ultimate Results
The Baptist Church is a party, a division, a denomination. The moment a man is immersed into the Baptist Church, he becomes a denominationalist, a partisan, a sectarian, and separated from other professed followers of Christ.
Because Baptist baptism divides the professed followers of Christ, it opposes the purpose of God who wants his people to be one.
New Testament baptism, on the other hand, unites the followers of Christ Said Paul to the Corinthians, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free” (1 Cor. 12:13). To the Galatians, he wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28).
Baptist baptism divides by putting one into a sectarian party. New Testament baptism unites all believers in Christ by baptizing them into Christ’s spiritual body.
The twelve at Ephesus (Acts 19) had been baptized—buried, immersed. Doubtless, they had been moved in this act of obedience by the right motive—the desire to please God. The action of their baptism was right—immersion—and the motive was right, but we know from Luke’s account that their baptism was null and void in the sight of God and the apostle Paul baptized them with his own hands.
Why was their first baptism invalid? Because they had not been sufficiently taught. There were some vital things they had not learned. We conclude, therefore, that improper instruction or lack of instruction in the right way of the Lord invalidates a person’s baptism. Instruction in the fundamentals of the gospel must precede the baptism of Christ’s Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).
If the baptism of men whose minds are filled with religious error is valid, what is the point of teaching them the pure doctrine of Christ?
If the baptism of a man who confesses that “God, for Christ’s sake, has pardoned my sins” is valid, what is the point of teaching a man to confess his faith in Christ as the Son of God?
If the baptism of a man is valid who believes that obedience to the Lord in baptism is not essential, what is the necessity of teaching him the Bible doctrine that “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21)? If the belief of error does not invalidate a person’s baptism, why should it be thought necessary to teach him the truth as it is found in Jesus?
If the baptism of a man is valid who has been baptized “because of the remission of sins” why the necessity of teaching him that baptism is “for (unto) the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38)?
If the baptism of a man is valid that makes him a partisan or a sectarian in the eyes of the Lord, what is the necessity of baptizing men into the body of Christ, which is his church (Col. 1:18)?
The state or condition of the candidate’s mind—not the administrator’s—is the important thing in baptism. The administration of baptism at the hands of a denominational preacher or of an unfaithful gospel preacher does not invalidate the baptism of a person who has been enlightened by the word, who believes with all his heart that Christ is the Son of God, and who has repented of his sins.
On the other hand, the administration of baptism by a faithful gospel preacher does not validate the baptism of a person who has not been properly taught, who does not believe with all his heart, or who has not repented of his sins.