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Scripture Reading:  Acts 8:35-39


Part 1

Water Baptism:

Its Authority and Action



1.  Mk. 16:15-16 – Jesus taught the essential nature of baptism.  Yet, there is as much confusion & controversy over baptism as perhaps any other Bible subject.

2.  Such disagreement is not God’s fault; can know truth – 1 Cor. 14:33 (Jno. 8:32; Eph. 3:3-4).

3.  Recently the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention (Rev. Bobby Welch) said he would travel to all 50 states to push his goal of baptizing 1 million people a year.  (Skagit Valley Herald, C1, 14Aug04)

    a.  Question:  Why all the time & expense over something said to be unnecessary?

    b.  SBC:  Baptism is necessary for church membership & participation, but not for salvation:

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.”  (The Baptist Faith and Message, VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, emp. jrp)

    c.  If baptism is not necessary for salvation, then it is not necessary to:

      1)  Obey to be saved (cf. Matt. 7:21).

      2)  Show one’s faith in Christ to be saved (Jas. 2:17).

      3)  Demonstrate one’s faith in the final resurrection of the dead (Jno. 11:25-26).

      4)  To be a member of the Baptist church (cf. Acts 2:47; Eph. 4:4; 5:23).

      5)  Eat the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:26, 28-29).

4.  Here is the insurmountable problem of human wisdom when it rejects the word of God.  (Col. 2:8)

5.  In this series on water baptism we intend to “speak the oracles of God”1 Pet. 4:11.

  a.  Material is basic to many, yet we all need reminding – 2 Pet. 1:12-15

  b.  Material may be new to some of you:  Establish your faith – Col. 2:7-8 (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11).

6.  Preliminary considerations about water baptism:  The divine authority approving its practice, & definitions regarding the physical action of water baptism (how one is baptized).



  A.  The Authority of Jesus Christ – Matt. 28:18-19 (Col. 3:17).

    1.  28:19 – Disciples are made by His authority; In the way He designates.

    2.  “In the name of” – Into a relationship with (by His authority) – Gal. 3:27; 2 Cor. 5:17.

      a.  Not a “baptismal formula” to be verbalized to authenticate.

      b.  Recognition of the allegiance which is formed through baptism, & of the authority on which it is based.

        1)  Acts 19:2-5:  “Into what (then) were you baptized?”  (Only baptism based on Christ’s authority is acceptable to God.)

        2)  Acts 16:14-15:  Christ’s baptism makes one “faithful to the Lord” (16:15).

    3.  Baptism is NOT a “Church Ordinance” (the church did not ordain it, Christ did.).

  B.  The Authority of Christ in Baptism is applied through His WordActs 2:41.

    1.  Believing & receiving the word of the gospel grants the right (authority) to be baptized (Rom. 10:17).

    2.  Not through the person who does the baptizing 1 Cor. 1:13-17.

      a.  Christ was crucified for you.

      b.  You were baptized into His name.

      c.  Therefore, be named after Christ, not Paul or other men.

    3.  Not authorized by the church (not a “church ordinance”):

      a.  Not authorized or instituted by the church (by Christ) – cf. Acts 2:41 (47)

      b.  How could the church have authorized these when it didn’t exist until after the baptisms?

  C.  Baptism “in the Name of Christ” is Water Baptism (element).

    1.  Acts 2:38, 41 – This baptism is commanded.

    2.  Acts 8:12-17 – It is NOT Holy Spirit baptism.

    3.  Acts 10:47-48 – It IS water baptism.



  A.  The Physical Action of Baptism (what is it)?

      -Sprinkling?  Pouring?  Immersion?  Only one way, or any way?

    1.  The word:  Family of words from bapto – “To dip, dip in, immerse...Jno. 13:26,” (Thayer, 95):

      a.  baptizo:  “baptize” (80 times) – Acts 2:38.

      b.  baptisma:  “baptism” (22 times) – Eph. 4:5.

      c.  baptismos:  “baptisms/washings” (4 times) – Heb. 6:2.

      d.  baptistēs:  “a baptizer”, “Baptist” – (14 times) – cf. John, Matt. 3:1.

    2.  The lexicons:

      a.  baptizo:

        1)  “to baptize....was used among the Greeks to signi­fy the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another, etc.”  (Vine, One Vol. Ed., 50)

        2)  “prop. to dip repeatedly, to immerge, cleanse by dipping or submerging…” (Thayer, 94).

      b.  baptisma:

        1)  “baptism, consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip)” (Vine, One Vol. Ed., 50).

        2)  “…immersion, submersion” (Thayer, 94).

      c.  The testimony of the lexicographers is that baptism is immersion.

    3.  Contextual usage:

      a.  Matt. 3:16 – Jesus “went up straightway out of the water” (KJV).

      b.  Jno. 3:23“…there was much water there” (“were many waters there”, YLT) …because John was immersing people there.

      c.  Acts 8:38-39 – Becomes nonsense unless immersion occurred:  “And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him…they came up out of the water…”  (Immersion is being described:  not sprinkling or pouring.)

    4.  Baptism is a burial Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4-5.

      a.  Like Christ’s death, burial & resurrection:  In baptism there is a death (to sin, 6:2), a burial with Christ (6:4) & a resurrection (to newness of life, 6:4).

      b.  A burial requires a complete covering.

      c.  A burial in water has not occurred when water is sprinkled / poured on a person.

    5.  What about sprinkling?  Began as a human accommodation:

      a.  Allowed if scarcity of water (Didache – last 1st/early 2nd cent.).

      b.  Death bed baptism (clinical baptism) in 3rd cent. (Novatian in 251 AD).

      c.  Pope Stephen II (753 AD) okay in some cases (illness, cold, infants, hindrances); Still exceptional in the 9th cent.; by 13th cent. Thomas Aquinas viewed it as allowable; Council of Ravenna (1311 AD) declared it equal with immersion; John Calvin (16th cent.) viewed it with indifference (although Luther sought to restore it).  (History of the Christian Church, II:247-252, Schaff)

      d.  An invention & addition of men (Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Jno. 9).



1.  Water baptism is immersion, commanded by the authority of Christ (revealed in His word).

  a.  It is not a church ordinance.

  b.  It does not require a special formula or pronouncement to make it valid.

  c.  It does not require some special person to perform it in order for it to be valid.

2.  Rather than try to deny its authority & its scriptural action (immersion), comply with it to be saved from your sins by Jesus – Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:4-7; 1 Pet. 3:21.