Repentance and Baptism – Robert H. Farish

Robert H. Farish


One condition which the one to whom the gospel is preached must comply with is repentance. This condition of remission of sins cannot be dispensed with without flaunting the authority of Christ who gave the commission. Luke’s record of the commission states that, “repentance and remission of sins” was to be preached in the name of Christ. Repentance precedes remission of sins. It is a thing which God commands all men everywhere to do. “But now he commands men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30).

Repentance is the change of will or mind which is caused by godly sorrow. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). The idea is that a person who was set to do his own will, follow his own inclinations, changes his mind and resolves to do the will of God, follow God’s wishes. This is seen to be the correct view of what repentance is by a study of the parable of the two sons, which is recorded in Matt. 21:28, 29, “A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, son, go work today in the vineyard, and he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself and went.” Notice, “I will not” is placed in opposition to “he repented himself.” He repented by changing his will or mind—refusal became compliance.

This change of will or repentance is an act which is within the power of every responsible being to perform, for God has commanded every man to repent and God does not require the impossible of his creature. How then does repentance come? Some have taught that God gives repentance in a direct or immediate way to man. This theory would relieve man of any responsibility in the matter of repentance; it would make God responsible for all who are lost. This flatly contradicts the Bible doctrine that, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is long-suffering to youward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). God wishes all to be saved and if repentance is a direct gift from God, then God would realize his wish by giving repentance directly to every man. This is not the case though, for God recognizes man’s free moral agency and has provided for the exercise of man’s will. The consent of the two wills, the human and the divine, is essential in every case of the salvation of a soul. The existence and exercise of the two wills is recognized by our Lord in his lament over Jerusalem: “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not.” (Luke 13:34). Christ would have gathered the people of Jerusalem under his protection but they would not. The will of Christ would not be imposed arbitrarily; there must be consent of the will of the people. These considerations made it clear that God will not irresistibly impose repentance upon man.

The Bible doctrine is that God gives repentance to man through means. He has supplied the means and it is up to man to respond properly to those forces. That God gives repentance is taught in the scriptures, “Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins” (Acts 5:3); “…and when they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God saying, then to the Gentiles also hotly God granted repentance unto life.” There can be no questioning the fact that God gives repentance but how does God give repentance? The answer is found in Rom. 2:4, “Or despiseth thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance,” also Acts 17:30-31:

The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead

These two passages present the goodness of God as an incentive to repentance and also the fact of the judgment as a strong inducement to repentance. The goodness of God as realized in the many blessings which constantly surround us is a means drawing man to repentance. There is also the justice of God which shall be exercised at the judgment, which impels man to repentance. The judgment is one of God’s appointments (Heb. 9:27) and in view of the judgment he urges you to repent.


Baptism is included in the commission by our Lord. Matthew wrote,

All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:18-20).

On this point Mark wrote, “And he said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). The testimony of these witnesses rules out the possibility of anyone reasonably doubting that the Lord commanded baptism for all people in the world to whom the gospel is preached. This command like belief and repentance is hacked by all authority in heaven and on earth.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians several years after their conversion and reminded them that they had been saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Now if there is any doubt as to what is involved in salvation by grace through faith why not go to the book of Acts which gives the account of the activities of the apostles under the great commission. In Acts the account of the conversion of these people (their being saved by grace through faith) is given. This account is found in Acts 19:1-7:

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 ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, nay, we did not so much as hear whether 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 unto the people that they 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 spoke with tongues, and prophesied. And they were in all about twelve men.

Here are some people who had been immersed by John the Immerser. Yet their baptism was not valid at this time. The apostle inquired into what were ye baptized and we urge the reader to ponder the question—Into what were you baptized? The importance which this apostle of the Lord attached to baptism is seen in his conduct on this occasion. He did not inquire of them if they were satisfied with their baptism but rather taught them what baptism is, for those who are converted by the preaching of the gospel under the commission. John the baptist’s baptism is not valid and yet there are many today who have no more to claim for their baptism than did these people at Ephesus. What should one do who realizes that his baptism is no more valid than was the baptism of those at Ephesus? The answer to this is gained by observing what those people who were directed by an apostle of the Lord did. Notice what the apostle told them when he learned that they had been baptized “into John’s baptism.” “And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus.” When the people heard that they should believe on Jesus, “They were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” This situation at Ephesus was corrected by an apostle of the Lord, and the action of the people in response to the preaching done by this apostle is approved by the apostle. Now if you do the same thing will you not have the approval of the Lord? Writing to these people later the apostle by inspiration called this, salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8).

There is another thing connected with this case of conversion which needs to be noticed—writing to these same people the apostle affirms in Eph. 4:5 that there is one baptism. This statement to these people that there is one baptism very clearly shows that the one baptism, the baptism common to all, is the baptism of the great commission. About twelve people of this number could remember that this same apostle had taught them that the baptism of John was not valid under the gospel dispensation, and hence was not the “one baptism.” They would also remember that they had been taught to be baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. The baptism of the commission is the only baptism found in the New Testament which is authorized by the Lord Jesus. That this was not Holy Spirit baptism is evident from the fact that it was only after submitting to the baptism required of those believing on Jesus, that they received the manifestation of the Spirit of speaking in tongues and prophesying. The Holy Spirit only came on them in these manifestations when Paul laid his hands on them. Surely no one thinks that they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and then subsequent to that received these gifts by the laying on of the apostle’s hands.

But while we are on this matter of Holy Spirit baptism we should notice this fact: Holy Spirit baptism was administered by Jesus directly—it was not an action which he delegated to some other to perform for him. In proof of this is the language of John the baptist found in John 1:33-34:

And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and borne witness that this is the Son of God.

Christ delegated the apostles to baptize in water but never do we find him delegating power to baptize in the Holy Spirit to any man. Holy Spirit baptism was not designed for all who believed on the Lord Jesus, the baptism of the commission was—he that believes and is baptized is the language of the commission. Baptism in water for the remission of sins is the one baptism—it is the baptism which is common to all true believers. It is for all creatures in all the world who believe and repent—this very universally identifies it as the one baptism.

Following the trail of the apostles as they obeyed the commandment of the Lord to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature is accomplished by going through the book of Acts and learning the actions performed in this record of the acts of some of the apostles as they carried out the commission. The trail of the apostles begins in the second chapter of Acts, and in the first sermon preached under the commission we find this item: baptism. When the people cried out what shall we do? Peter told them to, “repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in,. the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins.” Thus we see that, in the very beginning of the preaching under the commission of Christ, baptism was required by the authority of Christ. The response of the people who heard this first sermon is seen in this language: “They then that received his word were baptized.” This shows that when one has heard the word and yet fails to be baptized, that one has not received the word of the apostles, for on that occasion, “they that received His word were baptized.” What about you? Have you received the word into your heart? Not if you have not been baptized.

   Send article as PDF   

Author: Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *