One Baptism, But Which One Is It?

by Tad Lindley

The Bible tells us that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). And surely that was the case when Paul was writing Ephesians, but nearly 2,000 years later there is certainly more than one baptism out there. Some churches sprinkle, others pour water over people, and yet others dunk people under water. There is even a church that immerses infants in a tub of olive oil! One church makes a person wait a month and meet with the deacon board, another baptizes folks immediately after they have repented. Many baptize quoting Matthew 28:19, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, while others baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). I was sprinkled with water as an infant, and yet there are churches that will not baptize an individual until they are old enough to have repented of their sin. With so much variation out there in 2019, it begs the question, “If there was only one baptism 200 years ago, then which one was it?”

Why should we even care?

The Bible tells us that baptism is essential. Jesus said, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not will be damned (Mark 16:16). When he met with Nicodemus at night Jesus said, Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). When the Jews of Jerusalem asked Peter what they should do to be saved he said, Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). So important was baptism in the early church that Paul and Silas even baptized the Philippian jailer and his family in the middle of the night (Acts 16:25-34).

Sprinkling, pouring, or immersing?

The New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek word βαπτίζω which is transliterated baptidzo only and always means to immerse in fluid. There are different words in Greek for “sprinkle” and “pour”. Therefore any time we read the words “baptize”, “baptizing”, or “baptized” in an English translation, it is coming from that Greek root word that means to go completely under. Even though modern churches sprinkle people and describe that act as “baptism”, Jesus and the disciples would never have recognized it as baptism.

How old?

As I mentioned before, eyewitnesses tell me I was sprinkled with water as an infant at the Presbyterian church we attended. I have no reason to doubt that it happened, but I have no memory of it. In the Bible we don’t have a record of infants being baptized. Baptism was for people who had repented of their sins. Again let’s read Acts 2:38-41 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

From the beginning, the Bible shows that people were baptized when they were old enough to accept the message, believe in Jesus, and repent of their sins. A baby cannot do this. (Not to mention that infants typically have not started sinning yet).

Which name did they baptize in?

If the New Testament quit after the book of Matthew, then we would have to assume that the Biblical church baptized saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus was teaching his disciples about baptism and he used these very words. Peter was there, John was there, and many others. Now when they started baptizing ten days later in Acts 2, they baptized 3,000 people in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. When Jesus told them, “in the name”, those who lived with him for three years, those who heard every sermon, and ate every meal with him, John who witnessed his death on the cross, all understood that name to be Jesus. The name of the Father is Jesus (John 5:43), that the name of the Son is Jesus (Matthew 1:21), and that the name of the Holy Ghost is Jesus (John 14:26). Regardless of how churches are doing it today, in the Bible all baptisms that are recorded with a name attached, are done in the name of Jesus, not “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.

Don’t trust me, read the book

Here is a comprehensive list of where a name is given in association with baptism in the Bible:

Matthew 28:19 (see above), Luke 24:47 (in His name), Acts 2:38 (name of Jesus Christ), 8:16 (name of the Lord Jesus), 10:48 (name of the Lord), 19:5 (name of the Lord Jesus), 22:16 (the name of the Lord), Romans 6:3 (baptized into Christ), and Galatians 3:27 (baptized into Christ). If the book is right, baptism: 1. Is essential, 2. Is done by immersion in water, 3. Applies to people old enough to understand and repent, and 4. Was always done “in the name of Jesus”.

Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

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