Foy E. Wallace Jr.
Other texts on baptism—by that we mean the abundance of teaching in the New Testament besides Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. If sectarian debaters were able to prove that Mark 16 is spurious (which they are not) and that Acts 2:38 means because of (which they cannot) they would yet be confronted with a formidable array of “other” texts, which, indeed, are just as decisive as the two against which all denominational genius has for generations been concentrated. Having followed the subject through the Acts of Apostles in previous article we now advance to other texts in the apostolic epistles.
The Roman Christians had “died to sin” “and should no longer live therein.” To impress this lesson upon them Paul said:
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: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might, be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin: For he that is dead is freed from sin (Rom. 6:3-7).
The subject “we”—“we are buried with him by baptism”—includes Paul; hence, the baptism of this passage is linked with Saul’s baptism of Acts 22:16, They are, in fact, twin passages. Whatever Saul was baptized for—the Romans were baptized for also. And the form of the Romans’ baptism was the form of Saul’s baptism.
Taking the two passages together, therefore, by Paul’s own words; we have both the how and the what of baptism definitely settled. Ananias told Saul to “arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins”—that is the what of it as to design. “We are (ASV were) buried with him by baptism”—that is the how of it as to its form.
Observe further that the text says very plainly what baptism does: “So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized, into his death.” Baptism puts one into Christ, and in so doing it puts one into His death The word into, is a preposition that denotes motion, out of one state into another—from without to within. Baptized into Christ, previous to baptism one is out of Christ, after baptism is in Christ, by baptism he is brought from without to within. And there are no degrees in a state; one is either in or out of Christ, just as he is either married or unmarried, or as he is either a citizen or an alien. Hence, to the Galatians (Gal. 3:26-27), Paul again says: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Thus baptism preceded by faith is God’s appointed way of bringing men into Christ.
Still not satisfied with the emphasis, the apostle further says that we are baptized “into his death.” Baptism stands between the sinner and the death of Christ—it stands, between the sinner and the blood of Christ, the merits and the benefits of his atoning death. Baptism is the recapitulation of the death of Christ; there the sinner being buried with Christ into death is made in the likeness of His death, His burial and His resurrection; there in death with Christ, and in Christ; he loses his sins, for “the old man is crucified with him” and “he that is dead is freed from sin.” No stronger figure could be employed by which to set the design, form and benefits of baptism. It is the reenactment of Calvary.
But the capstone of the argument is yet found in the clause, “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.” Baptism stands between the sinner and newness of life.
This statement is embellished in the Colossian passage (Col. 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.” In baptism there is a burial and a resurrection with Christ through faith in the operation (working) of God. In baptism God performs an operation. The comparison begins with verse 11. Circumcision was a physical operation, made with hands; the circumcision of Christ is a spiritual operation, without hands. One was the putting off of the flesh; the other is the putting off of sins. In baptism God performs an operation—the putting away of sin by the power of God. And the same power that God exerted in raising Christ from the dead is the power that is exerted when in baptism we raised up with Christ—“wherein ye also are raised up”—and the one baptized is baptized through faith in the operation of God. But if one believes he is saved before baptism, hence, has already had the operation—how could he, be baptized through faith in the operation here required? It is mighty strong indication of the faith that qualifies baptism. But having been buried and raised, concluding his effort to edify the Colossians on the subject of baptism, the apostle adds: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Baptism thus stands between Christian and the risen life with Christ.
Returning to the Roman letter, there is yet another reference to baptism in the sixth chapter, following, closely upon the declaration that “we are buried with him by baptism.” It is verse 17: “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. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” Obedience to the form of doctrine stands between the sinner and freedom from sin. But baptism is the form of death, burial and resurrection, which Paul says is the doctrine delivered (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Being baptized then is obeying the form of the doctrine–and Paul says, being then made free from sin. When do you say? Paul says then, and then means when, and that means freedom from sin comes when one is baptized.
The One Baptism: Ephesians 4:5
One frequently hears the expression “modes of baptism.” There is no such thing. As well talk about shades of white! White has no shades and baptism has no modes.
Baptism being a noun, stands for one thing; and baptize, being a verb of action, cannot denote several actions. Grammatically, it is impossible for the noun baptism and the verb, baptize to denote several things and actions. But Paul settles the argument scripturally when he says: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” That cannot mean two in kind (Holy Spirit and water) nor three in form (sprinkling, pouring and immersion). As to the form there being but one, if sprinkling is baptism, pouring is not, if pouring is baptism sprinkling is not; and if either is baptism, immersion is not and if immersion is baptism neither sprinkling nor pouring is. The process of elimination will decide the point, since all the world has admitted that immersion is baptism. Paul, knowing the how and the what of it all, said: “We are buried with him by baptism.”
It is often argued that these passages on baptism in the epistles refer to Holy Spirit baptism. This is done in an effort to escape the apostolic teaching on the design of baptism—that it puts one into Christ. If that be true, the antecedent admission is the elimination of water baptism, for Paul says there is one baptism (which cannot mean two) and if Holy Spirit baptism prevails, there is no such thing as water baptism, and all such has been but a wet, meaningless ceremony, without New Testament authority or sanction. But most of those who preach Holy Spirit baptism, practice water baptism also. We wonder why. When water baptism is established, Holy Spirit baptism is eliminated—Paul being the witness.
It should not require a tedious or devious argument to arrive at the right conclusion. If the Great Commission is now in force—water baptism is in force. Jesus commanded the apostles to teach and baptize men (Matt. 28:19). The apostles could not administer Holy Spirit baptism. Paul preached to the Corinthians and they were baptized (Acts 18:8). Paul baptized some of them, and other men baptized the others (1 Cor. 1:14-16). So the Corinthians were baptized by men; but men cannot baptize with the Holy Spirit; therefore, the baptism of Corinthians was not Holy Spirit baptism. Hence, when Paul said to the Corinthians, “For by one Spirit are (ASV were) we all baptized into one body,” the Spirit was the agent and not the element. By one Spirit, by the authority of, as commanded by Christ in the Commission.
To the Ephesians in chapter four, Paul said: “There is one baptism.” But in chapter five, he said: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse with the washing of water by the word.” Surely, Paul would not tell the Ephesians that there is but one baptism—chapter four—(if it refers to the Holy Spirit) and then enjoin water baptism in chapter five! The one baptism of chapter four, therefore, is the water baptism of chapter five. This baptism is said to be “by the word” in Eph. 5:25 and “by the Spirit” in 1 Cor. 12:13. The word is not the element of baptism in Eph. 5 and the Spirit is not the element of baptism in 1 Cor. 12:13. It is “by” the word and “by” the Spirit that men are baptized with the washing of water.” This being the one baptism in Ephesians, it is the one baptism in all the Book besides. Holy Spirit baptism was special, never general; its purpose was inspiration, never obedience. No man was ever commanded to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. But the Bible commands men to be baptized; and there is but one baptism; it follows, therefore, that Holy Spirit baptism does not prevail today.
Then, is the one baptism essential or nonessential? Read Ephesians 4:4-6 and pick out the non-essentials: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling on the Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Out of these seven things, is there but one non-essential? This ought to expose the weak and feeble claim of denominationalists that baptism is nonessential.
The Like Figure, Baptism 1 Peter 3:21
As Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 compared our baptism into Christ with Israel’s passing through the sea, so Peter compares our salvation by baptism with the deliverance of Noah’s family by water. He said:
Wherein (the ark) few, that is eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:21).
Leaving out the parenthetical clause, the passage simply states that “baptism doth now also save us by the—resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That should be plain enough.
First, it is argued that baptism is just a figure, because Peter said “the like figure.” But when Paul referred to Israel passing through the sea as a figure of our baptism into Christ, and the drinking of the rock in the wilderness as a type of Christ, “and the Rock was Christ”—does that make Christ figurative? The text says that “baptism doth now also save us by the resurrection of Christ.” The salvation is actual, and the resurrection of Christ is actual—why not baptism? The comparison is that God used water to deliver Noah and his family from the old world, its corruption, and environment; and God uses water, even baptism, to save us, to deliver us from sin. The figure is in the comparison—not in the thing done. The meaning of the passage must be evident—that as water delivered Noah, so baptism saves us—and any explanation that says baptism does not save is not an explanation, but a contradiction.
But we are told that Noah was saved by staying out of the water! Then, if that be the point of comparison, the ante-deluvians were lost, by getting into the water. That sinks the Baptist church, preachers and all, for no one can be a Baptist and stay out of the water! According to such sophistry the Great Commission should read, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be damned—like the ante-deluvians!” And Peter was wrong—for baptism damns, instead, of saves, per the conclusion of the objector. Such objections serve only to reveal and to expose a class of arch-perverters of the word of God.