WHO IS BAPTISM FOR?
By Robert L. Goldsby
The following verses speak to this question. Examine them especially for inclusion or exclusion. Identify the context (who is the audience, ages, sex, etc.) and any other qualifiers that may be available. Remember, an argument from silence is no argument at all. We are looking for clear guidelines from the Scripture.
- Mark 16:16; Baptism and faith are associated together. Clearly baptism is for those who believe. Baptism, without faith, is not baptism at all but only simple water. It is faith which comprehends God's command and appropriates the benefits in baptism.
- Acts 8:12-15: When they believed they were baptized, both men and women.
- Acts 8:34-38 This is the account of the Ethiopian Eunuch.
NOTE: Many of the Greek manuscripts omit verse 37 and most scholars agree that it is a second century addition to the original text. We can't say for certain but it at least gives us a 2nd century witness that faith was expected before baptism.
- Acts 10:47-48 When they 'heard' & received the H.S. as the Apostles had, they were baptized.
Clearly, Peter saw evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in their life. They spoke in tongues and prophesied ("Holy Spirit fell on them as on us at the beginning"). This indicated it was appropriate to baptize them. It seems faith preceded and justified water baptism in the mind of Peter.
- Acts 19:4-5 Here we see Jews who had been baptized by John (baptism unto repentance) and now are baptized into Jesus.
Only those who believe (trust) Jesus. Salvation does not come apart from a personal faith in Jesus. All have been consigned to condemnation. There is only one Gospel: All those who trust Jesus for forgiveness of their sins and His righteousness before God will have eternal life. Only those who are in that condition should be baptized. It is the only example we have in Scripture.
- Acts 2:38-41; Speaking to a gathering of adults, Peter challenged them to repent and be baptized. Whether or not one can insist on this passage as a "formula" for adults preparing for baptism (i.e. they must go through an experience of repentance first), Peter clearly speaks in the connotation of believers, those who have faith. The call to repentance means nothing if it is not in the context of faith.
- Mark 16:16; Clearly the text maintains that both faith (believing) and baptism are in the experience of the saved. Apart from the other issues in this passage, we find that faith is expected in association with baptism.
- John 3:16; This familiar verse clearly indicates that believing is part of the condition for being saved. Since baptism and salvation are so closely associated, one expects that only those with faith may be baptized.
- Galatians 3:7; Warning the Galatians against returning to the law for their salvation, Paul reminds them that only those who have faith are of the children of Abraham. This is a Jewish way of saying that only by faith can you be part of the family of God.
- Ephesians 2:8-10; A key passage for all believers. Paul clarifies what saves us AND what does not save us. He points out that God's GRACE works in us to save us through faith. He goes on to say that all of this is without the deeds of the law or our own good works. (In verse 10 he points out that it is God's plan that we should do good works but clearly they have nothing to do with being saved, except as a by-product of faith). As stated with reference to John 3:16 above, since baptism and salvation are so closely associated in Scripture, one expects that only those with faith may be baptized since only by grace THROUGH FAITH are we saved.
The document was written by Robert L. Goldsby (7014 NE 137th Street, Vancouver, WA 98686) and is the sole property of the author. It may be used for personal and group Bible study but may not be used for any commercial or publishing purposes without the express written consent of the author.
Last Updated on: January 17, 1998