Is My Baptism Valid? – Lee Moses

Lee Moses

Baptism is glorious, baptism is beautiful, and baptism is crucial. Why? Because God says it is! Baptism is the point at which one enters into the church of Christ (Acts 2:41, 47; compare with John 3:5), the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4), Christ Himself (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), freedom from sin (Rom.6:4, 7, 17-18), and salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Because baptism is the point at which one enters into Christ, it is the point at which one enters the location of “all spiritual blessings” (Ephesians 1:3, emphasis added). Truly it is difficult to overstate the glory, beauty, and importance of baptism.

Yet not all baptisms are valid. As one considers today’s religious landscape, he sees numerous “baptisms” being administered by different religious bodies. Some immerse, others sprinkle or pour; some consider infants appropriate candidates for baptism, while others limit baptism to adults; some baptize as an outward sign of salvation that has already taken place, while others baptize for the purpose of obtaining salvation. But God only recognizes “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). Just as there is only one true God (v. 6), there is only one true baptism. The one true baptism is that which is commanded in the New Testament. Paul wrote, “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26, emphasis added). Those in the church are sanctified, or set apart for God, and cleansed from their sins because their baptism is according to the teaching of the Holy Spirit in God’s word (John 3:5; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). As one asks the crucial question, “Is my baptism valid?” he must turn to the New Testament to find the correct answer. And in turn, the New Testament provides the following questions one should ask himself to determine if his baptism is valid in God’s eyes.

Was My Baptism Immersion?

There have been questions raised and debates held regarding the correct “mode” of baptism. Some people aver that they baptize someone when they merely pour or sprinkle water on that person. However, the word for “baptize” (Greek baptizoo) means literally, “dip, immerse.”1 God’s word describes baptism as a burial: “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” (Colossians 2:12; see also Romans 6:4). It would certainly be a less than adequate burial that would sprinkle or pour a cupful of dirt upon a deceased person’s body; truly it would be no burial at all. And truly it is no baptism at all that fails to immerse its recipient.

Was My Baptism in Water?

As the Ethiopian eunuch traveled in his chariot, listening to Philip the evangelist “preach Christ.” “They came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Indeed the fact that there was water made baptism possible, an opportunity seized on that occasion as “they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (v. 38). The word for “baptize” generally refers to immersion in water, unless a figurative use is specifically stated.2 Although Jesus administered Holy Spirit baptism to some, He commanded only water baptism (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 3:5). Baptism is said to be “the like figure” of Noah’s salvation through the flood, “wherein eight souls were saved by water” (1 Pet.3:20-31). Regarding the household of Cornelius, Peter asked, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47-48). The “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 is clearly water baptism.

Was My Baptism Administered by Another Person?

The Scriptures never speak of baptism as an act one does by or for himself. One must “be baptized” (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 36; 10:47-48; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; et al.). When the Ethiopian eunuch desired baptism, Philip accompanied him into the water that the baptism might be Scripturally accomplished (Acts 8:38). There are no particular qualifications for an administrator of baptism—certainly the effectiveness of one’s baptism can only be dependent upon his own faith and intentions. But one must have his baptism administered by another person for his baptism to be valid.

Did I Complete the Necessary Prerequisites?

As previously mentioned, baptism is the point at which one enters into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), and therefore into the place where all spiritual blessings are located (Eph. 1:3). However, there are other prerequisites that must be met before one can successfully enter into this location of blessedness.

Before one can be baptized Scripturally, he must be taught by the Scriptures and not by error (compare with 1 Pet. 1:22-23). And before one can meet the prerequisite of belief, or faith (see below), he must be taught by the Scriptures: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

One must believe in Christ before he can be Scripturally baptized. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The conjunction and demonstrates that there are at least two acts that must take place prior to salvation, and belief is every bit as crucial as baptism. In a way it is more crucial, because belief precedes baptism, and leads to one’s appreciating the need and having the desire to be baptized. One must believe in Christ before he can obtain the “power” or “right” to become a child of God (John 1:12), a right which one exercises at baptism (Gal. 3:26-27). One must repent of sin before he can be Scripturally baptized. When the sinners gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost asked the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37); Peter responded, “Repent, 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 Ghost” (v. 38). Again, there are two acts spoken of as taking place prior to receiving the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit’s gift. Repentance has to precede baptism for it to be Scriptural; for, as the Lord said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). One must confess Christ before he can be Scripturally baptized. Confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is said to precede salvation (Rom. 10:9-10; compare with John 12:42-43; Acts 8:37; 1 Tim. 6:12); and therefore, this good confession also precedes baptism.

One baptism” (Eph. 4:5). This is the number of baptisms that God has authorized for man today. Yet countless different baptisms are being administered and received every week, all by those who would claim that their goal is to please God and serve Christ. Thankfully, God’s word penetrates through this murk of man made tradition and opinion, enabling each of us to answer the question, “Is my baptism valid?” Last week, it was seen from God’s word that baptism must be immersion, it must be in water, and it must be administered by another person. Scriptural baptism also must follow the necessary prerequisites of hearing (or reading) God’s instructions on the subject, belief in Christ, repentance from sin, and confession of Christ. We will conclude by considering four other questions the New Testament provides us which serve to answer the larger question, “Is my baptism valid?”

Was My Baptism “For the Remission of Sins”?

The apostle Peter clearly stated the purpose of baptism: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, 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 Ghost” (Acts 2:38, emphasis added).

The word for is used in this phrase “to denote purpose”; and “for the remission of sins” could just as well be translated, “so that sins might be forgiven.” Christ’s purpose in ordaining baptism was for the salvation of men’s souls (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21); and man’s purpose in receiving baptism must be the same. If one is baptized believing that his sins have already been forgiven, he is not baptized with the “one baptism” of the New Testament. If one is baptized with his object being other than the remission of his sins, he is not baptized with the “one baptism” of the New Testament. While the religious world administers many different baptisms for many different purposes, the apostle Peter clearly stated the purpose of the “one baptism” of the New Testament—“for the remission of sins.”

Did I “Obey From the Heart”?

The sixth chapter of Romans speaks at length of the implications of Scriptural baptism, in particular contrasting the spiritual states of a person prior to and following baptism. Thus the apostle Paul exclaims, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (verse 17). Obedience to the Gospel in baptism requires sincere motivation proceeding from the heart; the seat of one’s intellect, emotion, and will.

So one should ask himself, “Did I know what I was doing?” One cannot accidentally obey the truth without having understood the truth (compare with Matthew 13:19; John 8:32; Acts 2:41). This does not mean that one needs to understand exactly how Scriptural baptism takes away sins, nor that one needs to understand every fine point of doctrine found in the Bible. But one needs to know why he is being baptized.

One who is immersed against his will cannot be said to have “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered him.” Neither can it be said of one who is baptized merely to please his parents, friends, or significant other. One’s intellect, emotions, and will must be wholly given to submitting himself to God in the glorious, beautiful, and crucial reception of baptism.

Was I of the Age of Accountability?

While there is no clear numerical age one must reach in order to be Scripturally baptized, there is a point of mental maturity one must reach. For one to understand what he is doing when he is baptized, he must have attained an age where he is capable of understanding his need and purpose for being baptized. This by no means places children who have not yet reached this age among the lost. The apostle Paul stated, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). Of course, Paul had been born under the Law of Moses—the “commandment came” to him in the sense that he was now accountable to it, found to be in sin, and therefore spiritually dead. But prior to that time he had been spiritually alive. Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). Children possess the nature that citizens of God’s kingdom possess. Upon another occasion Jesus told His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (18:3). Jesus was not saying that the disciples needed to become as those who forsook God’s commandments and were dead in sin, but as those who remained spiritually alive. Children who have not yet reached the age of accountability can neither properly understand baptism—nor can they need baptism.

Into What Church was I Baptized?

Most religious bodies professing affiliation with Christ claim that the baptisms they practice place one into their respective churches. However, the “one baptism” of the New Testament only relates to “one body” (Eph. 4:5-6), which is the church of which Christ is head (1:22-23). When the glad recipients of God’s word in the first century were baptized, the Lord added them to His church (Acts 2:41, 47). None of them were added by men to man-made denominations. They had no need to be, for as the apostle Peter wrote them, “Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth” (1 Pet. 1:22). One who is baptized to be added to a man-made denomination cannot be said to obey God’s truth, for he has merely obeyed a tradition of men (compare with Matthew 15:9). Thus his soul has not been “purified,” but remains lost in sin.

Conclusion

It is sad and unfortunate that so many invalid baptisms are being taught and practiced in the religious world today. Yet the New Testament teaches but one valid baptism for mankind today. For one to ensure that his baptism is valid, he should ask himself the questions that have been discussed in this article:

  1. Was my baptism immersion?

  2. Was my baptism in water?

  3. Was my baptism administered by another person?

  4. Did I complete the necessary prerequisites?

  5. Was my baptism “for the remission of sins”?

  6. Did I “obey from the heart”?

  7. Was I of the age of accountability?

  8. Into what church was I baptized?

While this may strike some as overly complicated, it comes down to one question: “Did I do what the Bible says to do?” The conversions of the New Testament did not usually take a long time to occur, because these things are not terribly difficult to understand for one who truly desires to please God. Upon an occasion in Ephesus, the apostle Paul encountered some men who had been baptized with the intention of pleasing God, but they had not been baptized with the “one baptism” of the New Testament (Acts 19:1-3). Paul then taught them correctly, and “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (verse 4-5). Have you been Scripturally baptized? If not, your response should be the same as those earnest God-seekers whom Paul encountered. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:26).

Endnotes

1 F. Wilbur Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969 printing), p. 35.

2 “(‘To baptize’) means technically ‘to baptise in water.’ Hence it is unnecessary to specify a medium.” Oepke, “Baptoo, baptizoo,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999 printing), 1:539; See also Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, A Greek, English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 164-167.

3 “eis,” in Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 290. Matthew 26:28 is the verse particularly under discussion here, but Acts 2:38 is cross-referenced under this usage, and uses the same exact phrase as that found in Matthew 26:28.

4 “kardia,” BDAG, pp. 508-509

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