Baptism according to Scripture


August 18, 2012

Dear _______,

I have read the pamphlets that you had sent – thank you for taking the time to send them.  I quite believe I have read each of them before.

I think that one of the primary reasons that there remains yet today difficulty with some as to the nature of baptism is due, at least partially, to a confusion arising from the history of baptism as shown in the Scriptures as it took place in the early Church.

By this I mean that, as the Church was being formed here on earth, of necessity many or most early adult Christians were generally being baptized as they received the Word of God.  The Ethiopian eunuch is a good example of this:  “Behold water; what hinders my being baptised?"

Thus, there was a conscious desire and need to be baptized according to divine edict, and it was, generally speaking, enacted at the point of belief and consciously entered into by, essentially, “adult” believers.

In understanding any Divine truths, the immediate need is to recognize and to take up principles as set out in the Scripture according to the Divine Mind.  In relation to the circumstances of baptism, it is helpful to take a step back, as it were, and to be reminded that scriptures indicate that, since the earliest times of God’s ways with man here on earth, He has been moving on the broadest possible scale that “all men might be saved”. 

This conveys to us God’s attitude in relation to guilty man.  It is always important to understand the desire - or, intent - of God as set out in the Bible, and then to take up the working out of any particular scriptural principles and responsibilities relative to that intent.  It is not that we are at liberty to bend or change Scripture – quite the opposite! – but, one of the predominant features of Christianity is to be that we are sons of light – we are to be intelligent in Divine matters and in understanding our relationship with Divine Persons, other Christians, and men.  We “have the mind of Christ.”

It is evident in Scripture that, when God approaches a man (the man being the responsible element), the entire household, speaking intelligently, is in view for salvation.  In the case of a single man, etc. we cannot exactly say that a single man has a household as we would regard it in relation to a man with a wife and children; however, whatever his circumstances, he has a house – i.e., the circumstances of his existence for which, morally, he is responsible (see Deut. 22:8) – and the principle of a household applies.

The OT bears ample testimony to God’s movements “householdly” commencing in Genesis 7 and onwards.  Many examples could be cited.  In God’s thoughts, “house” and “householdly” carry great import – leading, of course, as they do, onto the house of God “whose house are we”.  For the household of Israel, “all were baptized in the sea.”  There is absolutely no limitation to this at all – the word “all” only ever means “all”. 

When we come to the NT, in Luke 19 the Lord says, “This day salvation is come to this house.”  All in the household are included – who could say that this statement is only a partial application of salvation?  When we get to Acts 16:29 we see the principle exactly fulfilled with the Galatian jailer – “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed [them] from their stripes; and was baptised, he and all his straightway.”  One cannot interpolate to say that this “all” has limits – God’s Word says “all”.  It is simply begging the question to attempt to argue that when he “rejoiced with all his house” (the translator’s note says that the `all his house’ really means “householdly”) infants couldn’t possibly be included, and therefore infants were not included in the “all”.  It says “all” – there are no limits to the “all”.  The truth has to taken up from the word “all” and worked forward from there.  If the Holy Spirit intended to indicate that only “adults” were included, the language would have reflected that – the word “all” could not possibly have been used.

I hope to be excused if I say that nothing could be more plain.  In Scripture it is not adult baptism, it is not a repeated (i.e., subsequent) baptism, it is not infant baptism – it is, simply, household baptism.  It is telling that there is nowhere of which I am aware in Scripture an indication that one or more persons baptized underwent, for any reason, a second baptism (there was, of course, the baptism of John originally as a transitional baptism – a precursor, as it were, to the baptism of a fully introduced Christianity brought into view after the death and resurrection of the Lord).

Sprinkling, of course, – such as is used in the Catholic church – is not the scriptural idea in baptism; baptism is to be, rather, immersion.  JT, Sr. apparently makes allowance in his ministry if one who had been sprinkled [as an infant or youth] felt that the matter had not been properly met and subsequently desired full immersion; however, he notes that the principle of baptism had been applied even in the sprinkling and was sufficient.  I agree entirely with his statements on the matter.

I also agree that, as much on the basis of receiving the weak brother of Corinthians as of any other scripture, I wouldn’t hold a brother or sister unfit for fellowship were they unclear on baptism.  I must, however, also point out that the admonition in Scripture is to “be of one mind” – this brings into question why any particular one(s) are not agreed on “the truth as it is in Jesus.”

As to the pamphlet “Showers of Blessing #42” I agree with what is right and disagree with what is advanced that does not bear the full and proper scrutiny of Scripture.  Mr. Darby writes as to the reception of one to the Lord’s table who is not only “of some ecclesiastical system ….. [but] thinks scripture favors an ordained ministry” as being known to be godly and sound in faith.

I understand the dear brother’s sentiments and thoughts; however, such a principle hardly bears the full light of Scripture.  The words “godly” and “sound in faith” become, as taken in this setting, only relative; taken in this setting, we could potentially lower at any point the true nature of what should be constituted as “godly” and “sound in faith”.  Maybe there might be some circumstance in which such a person could be received; but, I am pressed to think of such.  Mr. Darby indicates that, in such an instance, the degree of light is being considered to be the title to communion, and refusing such a brother denies the unity of the body.  However, the unity of the body is maintained by fidelity to Christ, and an ordained, ecclesiastical system is unfaithful to the principles of scripture.  Any person in such a system bears responsibility for that leaven.  Additional ministry given of the Lord since the 1900’s, of course, has been used to help enlarge the saints’ understanding of the vitally important conditions governing right fellowship circumstances.

Something came up a bit ago, and I noticed it again recently, and I should like to ask your full thoughts on the matter – which is:  what do you understand from Scripture to be the proper ground on which the Israelite of OT times is saved?

Well, these are my thoughts on these matters – I hope they are sensible to you.  I trust your trip to see your mother-in-law has been pleasant.

With love in Christ,