Thoughts on Water Baptism

This series is ongoing… Originally posted on Gab, and I’m still in the process of fleshing out my thoughts on this topic.

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P1]

I’m currently thinking through and mapping out the doctrine of Infant Baptism (IB). This series will allow me to slowly flesh out my thoughts and to see if there’s any objection and counter-arguments. If there are, I’ll be able to refine my thoughts and to think more deeply about this confusing topic. Let me start off by saying that I approach this topic on IB exegetically. I have listened to many discussions / debates and it’s clear to me that the only way to make IB works is by imposing OT’s paradigm onto the NT, with some assumptions because nowhere in the NT does it say infant are baptized. Here’s the gist: Circumcision was the sign of the OT covenant and Infants were circumcised. Likewise, Baptism is the sign of the NT covenant and infants are to be baptized.

At first, this sounds logical and a reasonable argument, but unfortunately falls apart when you approach the NT’s texts exegetically. Take for example, Christ’s command (Matt 28:18-20) to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…” When you compare that to Luke 24:46-49 and Acts 14:21-23, it becomes clear that we are to preach the Gospel to all nations (Luke) which is the same as make disciples of all the nations (Matthew; Acts). The pattern Christ sets forth for us in the Great Commission is to baptize disciples (believers), those that have received the Gospel. In other words, those that “believed”, as clearly stated in Mark 16:15-16, “He who [believes] and is [baptized] will be saved; but he who [does not believe] will be condemned.” We learn here that water baptism is not only for believers, but that faith is important and it’s to be exercised. That’s the emphasis Christ is putting on the Gospel (John 3:16-18; Mk 1:14-15)! “…he who [does not believe] will be condemned.” I do not see how infants can be read into this, but many still do.

In this series, I will do my best to show you straight from Scriptures why water baptism is only for believers, those that have made a conscious choice to put their faith in Christ.

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P2]

Household and obscure passages are easily understood once you see that water baptism is for believers. Before we get to them, there are a few nuances we need to get out of the way first because on this topic, a lot of people come to the Scriptures with traditions and presupposition(s). Most people don’t take the time to wrestle through these nuances, and instead they just pick a verse that seems to support their theological system and go with it. [Firstborn] to a JW means “first created,” [household] means “infants” and [water in John 3] means “baptism” for a lot of people out there. Which are all [assumptions]. This is why I’m taking my time to choose my words carefully and to show you from Scriptures the obvious and plain teaching before we get to the not so clear passages. The pattern Jesus sets forth is very clear: Baptism is for disciples—those that have received the Gospel. This is the pattern we will find throughout the book of Acts. I’m not saying this because I feel it in my bosom, but because I have [carefully mapped it all out] and there is a consistent pattern, and I’m going to show you this pattern straight from Scriptures. Milton Vincent rightly observed,

“It’s interesting that the Bible only attributes the phrase ‘power of God’ in reference to the Gospel. Outside of heaven, the power of God in its highest density is found inside the gospel. This must be so, for the Bible twice describes the gospel as ‘the power of God’ (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18). Nothing else in all of Scripture is ever described in this way, except for the Person of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:24). Such a description indicates that the gospel is not only powerful, but that it is the ultimate entity in which God’s power resides and does its greatest work.”

Inquiring minds must ask, “Is water baptism ever described this way?” Or “is water baptism even part of this Gospel that is called the power of God?” If not, why not? Why is it that only Jesus Himself and the Gospel are described this way? Take Acts 4:12 for example, in describing Jesus, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And in describing the Gospel, Acts 11:14, “Peter, who will tell you [words] by which you and all your household will be [saved].” What is this [words by which] they will be saved? The Gospel. Is it any wonder that Mark, the shortest account of Christ’s life, begins with: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And when many sought Him for the wrong reasons, He said, “ ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may PREACH there also, because [for this purpose] I have come forth.’ And He was PREACHING in their synagogues throughout all Galilee” (Mk 1:35-39).

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And so, that will be our first focus.

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P3]

Mark begins with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and who Jesus is, “the Son of God.” And throughout Mark’s gospel demons tremble, “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us?” Yes, the Gospel destroys, and it is for this purpose that “the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John3 :8). “Let us go into the next towns, that I may PREACH there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” (Mk 1:35-39). The Gospel is about God’s Son: His Death, Burial and Resurrection (1 Cor 15:1-4), and what He came to do [for us] (Gal 2:20). J.C. Ryle has warned us with these words, “Since Satan cannot destroy the gospel, he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution.” Many Christians have moved far from the Gospel by their traditions that either substitute, subtract or add to it in one way or another.

In man-made religions/traditions, the Gospel alone is not enough to save, but something has to be added on top of, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. HEAR HIM!” (Matt 17:5). The Serpent was extremely subtle with Eve when he led her to disobey God (Gen 3:1), likewise, he is still very much active today in religions leading people away from the Gospel of His Son (Rom 1:9). We have been warned, “as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the [simplicity that is in Christ]” (2 Cor 11:3-4). If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled “to those who are perishing, [whose minds the god of this age has blinded], who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Cor 4:3-4). That’s Satan’s aim, to blind and confuse people when it comes to the Gospel.

Brothers and sisters, the Gospel is everything. The Gospel is what saves. Many are confused because traditions have taken over. Some have added circumcision, others baptism and even works to the Gospel of His grace. The Jews in John 8 were circumcised covenant children of Abraham (Ac 3:25), but Jesus says they’re children of the devil! They, like Simon the sorcerer (Ac 8:9-24), were in the kingdom of darkness, even with their circumcision and baptism! This is why, “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). A person is either in Adam or in Christ, either in the domain of darkness or the kingdom of His Son. There is no in-between. Only Christ through the Gospel received by faith can deliver a person from Satan: “I now send you [Paul], to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may [receive forgiveness of sins] and an inheritance among those who are sanctified [BY FAITH IN ME].” (Ac 26:14-18). Circumcision or Water can’t do this!

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P4]

In the previous post, I showed that one of Christ’s purposes in coming is to destroy the works of the Devil, “…to preach the gospel to the poor… to proclaim liberty to the captives… to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Lu 4:16-21). It is for this purpose that Christ came forth. It is also for this purpose that Paul was chosen, note carefully: “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen… I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God…” (Ac 26:12-18). What is it that can set the captives free? The Gospel. Very crucial that you get this, for Paul says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you… For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” (1 Cor 1:14-18). The point here is not that water isn’t important, but the Gospel is “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:1-4) and that Baptism has nothing to do with it. As we proclaim the Gospel, people that call on His Name will be saved (Rom 10:13-17)!

Paul could do what Christ sent him out to do, even while in chain (Phm 13) unable to baptize anyone. While in prison, he didn’t ask for prayer to be released, but “that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Eph 6:17-20). The Gospel alone is enough to save and set the captives free from the domain of darkness. It’s how deathbed conversion can happen, like the Thief on the Cross.

“We preach Christ crucified, and every sermon shakes the gates of hell.” (Spurgeon)

That, my friends, is why there are confusions in places where the Gospel is not clearly understood, and why there’s addition, subtraction and substitution. Scriptures pronounce a blessing on those that believe Jesus is the Son of God. And did you know that the Quran curses anyone who believes in such a thing? This is the heart of the matter (John 8:24). The Gospel that saves is Jesus: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mk 1:1). That’s why the Apostles went around preaching Christ and Him Crucified. And demon-inspired teachings seek to get your eyes off of Him by adding circumcision, baptism or even an additional mediator to the Gospel of God. They just can’t stand Him and His Gospel. In fact, the JW despises the very Cross He died on, even denying that He is the Eternal Son of God in their attempt to rewrite John 1:1, even denying His bodily resurrection. Which are all truths of the Gospel!

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P5]

In the previous post, we learned that Paul was chosen for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel. The Gospel (1 Cor 15:3) is “of first importance” (NIV, ESV, NASB, AMP) or “most important” (NLT, CSB), and to know the importance of it, one only need to read the book of Galatians (1:6-10, 2:1-5,14-16)! Paul had this to say to the Ephesian Elders before his departure to Jerusalem, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, [repentance toward God] and [faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ]… the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Ac 20:17-24)

If Baptism is that important for the washing away of sins, then that would be an appropriate time to mention it, but we see none (1 Cor 1:17-18) because salvation is “through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). It is the “repentance toward God” and “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” that washes away sins, or to put it another way: “wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Ac 22:16). Now, just in case you think I’m reading my presupposition(s) into the Scriptures, turn to Acts 11:13-18 and read carefully what Peter is saying. An “angel” told Cornelius to meet up with Peter, “who will tell you [words] by which you and all your household will be [saved].”

What is this “words” by which Cornelius and his household would be saved? The Gospel of course (Ac 10:42-43,15:7). And did you know that it was an “angel” who said that? If water is that important to the Message, the angel would have made it clear to Cornelius somehow. Instead, the Holy Spirit proved to them that water is not what saves. Go back to Chapter 10, and you’ll see that the Spirit fell upon [all those who heard the word] (Ac 10:44). What word? This word: “He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be [Judge of the living and the dead]. To Him all the prophets witness that, [through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins].” (Ac 10:42-43).

God is sovereign. Throughout the OT we learn that He gets to choose when to give the Spirit for a specific purpose as He sees fit. In Acts, we see that the gift of the Spirit could be given before [or] after water baptism. In the case of Cornelius, the reception of the Spirit upon faith further confirms the importance of the Gospel. There is a Message that saves, a Message that once believed the Spirit will come (John 7:39), and if you have the Spirit of Christ then you belong to Him (Rom 8:9-11). Christ and Him Crucified is the centrality here (John 16:14-15; Ac 26:22-23; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Php 1:12-18). Which is why the “angel of the Lord” and the Spirit directed Philip to the Ethiopian to show Christ from the scroll he was reading. The Gospel is “of first importance.” Whether proclaimed and taught both publicly and privately [house to house], the Gospel is “of first importance.”

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P6]

When it comes to the Person and Work of Christ, precision is everything. We must get it right, down to the tittle (John 8:24). The reason why I’m taking the time to make this clear is because when it comes to the topic of water baptism, many Christians believe in baptismal regeneration. Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matt 16:13) And there are many different and conflicting responses. This goes to show that Jesus and His Gospel are “of first importance” (cf. Mark 1:1) because “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty… if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” (1 Cor 15:14-19). As you can see, their baptism is irrelevant because if Christ is not who they believed Him to be, then no amount of water can save: “…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Who is Jesus? What did He come to accomplish? The “angel” told Cornelius that there’s a Message that saves. Let’s continue that thought here.

To Mary, the angel said, “…you will…bring forth a Son…JESUS…Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Lu 1:31,35). The Spirit revealed to Simeon that, “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon said, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Lu 2:25-32). “…call His name JESUS, for [He will save] His people from their sins.” (Matt 1:20-21). What did Simeon saw? It was this baby that the prince of darkness wanted to kill. What saves is Jesus, not circumcision, water or works. He said this of Himself, “The Spirit…is upon Me…to preach the gospel to the poor…heal the brokenhearted…proclaim liberty to the captives…to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lu 4:16-21). “And behold, two men talked with Him…Moses and Elijah, who…spoke of [His decease] which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Lu 9:28-31). Jesus said, “it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to [suffer] and to [rise] from the dead…, repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem…” (Lu 24:46-49).

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God… The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. [Repent], and [believe] in the gospel.” (Mk 1:1,14-15). Repent and Believe. Repentance and Faith. Two sides of the same coin.

[Repent] and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. [VS] He who [believes] and is baptized will be saved.

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P7]

Now we’re going to circle back to what I said in Part I, that Baptism is for [believers only]. This is the pattern that we will consistently see throughout the NT. But first, you need to be convinced that Repentance and Faith are basically two sides of the same coin, even though logically repentance comes first in the order of things. There is only one Name (Ac 4:12), and one Gospel (Gal 1:6-10). Not two, or three. Not a Gospel of Repentance and a Gospel of Faith, not one gospel to the Jews and another for the Gentiles. There is but one, “everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 14:6-7).

Repentance and Faith are distinct in the sense that head is not tail. Yet at the same time, they’re one and the same in the sense that both sides are on the same coin. The Scriptures often speaks of one when both are implied. For example, when Peter says, “Repent and be baptized…” (Ac 2:38), it’s the same as Paul when he says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus“ (Ac 16:31). In both instances, the hearers were convicted and wanted to be right with God. Peter, “Repent,” Paul, “Believe.” One Gospel.

This is why Jesus could say in Mark 1:14-15 , “[Repent], and [believe] the gospel” (Mk 1:14-15). Then later in the same gospel put an emphasis on faith without the mention of repentance, “He who [believes] and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not [believe] will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16). Likewise, Peter could put an emphasis on repentance without mentioning faith, “Repent and be baptized…” (Ac 2:38). In both instances (Jesus and Peter), water baptism is in view. Again, not two different gospels, but one. It is without a doubt that repentance and faith are basically two sides of the same coin: Paul to the Philippian jailer, “[Believe] on the Lord Jesus.” Paul to the Ephesian elders, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, REPENTANCE toward God and FAITH toward our Lord Jesus Christ… to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Ac 20:17-24).

Upon hearing the Gospel, we need to repent and believe it. Can an infant do this? We must press this question because according to Jesus water baptism is for believers, which you’ll find out in the next post.

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P8]

When it comes to Acts 2 in regard to water baptism, there are two things we’re up against: Baptismal Regeneration (V.38), and Infant Baptism (V.39). I didn’t start this series straight away with Acts 2 because there are a lot of hidden assumptions and traditions that people bring to the text. It takes time (Ac 18:4,11) to clear them (2 Cor 10:3-5) which is what I have been doing, so make sure you read the other 7 posts before preceding [if] you believe strongly in baptismal regeneration. Otherwise your biases and traditions (if not dealt with) can or might hinder you from seeing what I will be showing.

We’ll start with V.38, “baptized… [FOR] the forgiveness of your sins”

The word “for” is where the battle is at. The danger with word studies is that it often becomes the main focus, so much so that the bigger picture is not considered or discarded because it does not fit with our theological system or traditions. Those studying the Eternal Sonship of Christ have encountered something similar with the word “begotten.” The word “beget” can carry the idea of birth/conception or nature/kind. Those opposing the Eternal Sonship of Christ will insist that “beget” means birth/conception, even when the entirety of Scripture proves otherwise. We don’t deny that “beget” carries the idea of conception. What we’re saying is that “beget” [also] carries the idea of nature/kind, and so we must go with an interpretation of the word that is consistent with what the Scripture teaches as a whole. In God’s design, each creature begets offspring according to its kind (Gen 1), and this is the idea behind the word “begotten” that John is trying to convey in John 1:18. Both the Son and the Father are of the same kind/nature. Likewise, the word “for” in both Greek and English have several meanings, depending on the context. It can mean be baptized “to obtain” forgiveness of sins or be baptized “because of.” Example: “X is wanted [for] robbery,” not so X can commit a robbery, but [because] X has committed a robbery. I am not a Greek or language expert but that’s the gist of it.

Those believing in baptismal regeneration will of course insist that “for” here means to obtain, but this understanding of the word is inconsistent with what the Scripture teaches, which you will soon see. The Scripture says or teaches the same truth scattered throughout the 66 Books. Just in case you didn’t get it the first time, it says again in a different way elsewhere. And just in case you still don’t get it the second or third time, it will say again and again but each time differently, using metaphors and analogies to illustrate its truth. We are slow learners and God knows that. This principle is called the Analogy of Faith, Scripture interprets scripture. Or “It is also written” as I like to call it.

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P9]

If you have read Part 5 of this series carefully, you would know what it means to be baptized [for] the remission (or forgiveness) of sins. Before a person is baptized, s/he first receives the Message (Gospel) that saves (cf. Ac 11:14). In Part 5, I touched briefly on Acts 10, but didn’t go beyond V.43 because my focus was on the Gospel. But if you go beyond V.43, you will learn what Peter meant in Acts 2:38 when he said, “Repent, and be baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ [for] the remission of sins.” (Ac 2:38). In Part 7, I have shown that Repentance and Faith are two sides of the same coin. When we put Acts 2 and 10 together, we see that this truth is confirmed again:

“whosoever [believeth] in him shall receive remission of sins” (Ac 10:43) vs. “[repent]… remission of sins” (Ac 2:38). Now, just in case you think I’m twisting the Scriptures, go back to V.21 of Acts 2, and notice, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall [call on the name] of the Lord shall be [saved].” And just once more in case you think I’m reading my presupposition(s) into the text. Ananias to Paul: “…wash away your sins by calling on His name” (Ac 22:16 NASB 2020). Also see Part 4 of this series.

In Acts 10, Peter commanded all those who heard the word to be “baptized in the name of the Lord” (V.48). What for? For the remission of sins (V.43)! To obtain remission? No! Their faith already did that for them (V.43). Now they just needed to be baptized [for] it. This is exactly what Peter had in mind when he told his audience back in Chapter 2. After his audience heard the Gospel and got convicted by it, he told them, “Repent, and be baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ [for the remission of sins cf. V.21,41]…”

Our sins are blotted out when we repent and believe the Gospel (Mk 1:15; Ac 13:36-39, 26:18). Again, Peter said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Ac 3:19). Do you see the pattern and consistency here? I suggest you read Acts 3:11 all the way to 4:12, and see the proclamation of the Gospel for yourself and you will see that water baptism has nothing to do with “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Ac 3:19).

We’re not done yet. To be continued…

Infant_Baptism: You and Your Household [P10]

Our sins are blotted out when we repent and believe the Gospel (Mk 1:15; Ac 13:36-39, 26:18, 3:19). Repentance and Faith together constitute conversion (Ac 15:3). To put it simply: First comes conversion, then water baptism. In other words, first receive the Gospel, then water baptism. This goes back to what I said back in Part 1: The pattern Christ sets forth for us in the Great Commission is to baptize disciples (believers), those that have received the Gospel. In other words, those that “believed”, as clearly stated in Mark 16:16, “He who [believes] and is [baptized] will be saved; but he who [does not believe] will be condemned.”

And that is the consistent pattern we find in the book of Acts. As the Apostles proclaimed the Gospel, people that called on His Name were saved (Rom 10:13-17). Peter said so when he referenced Joel in 2:21, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And then Luke points out in V.41, “they that gladly [received his word] were baptized.” This is the finer details that are often left out by those teaching baptismal regeneration. “baptized [for]” (2:38) can not mean “to obtain forgiveness,” but because they have already received forgiveness when they believed/called on His Name, and water baptism is {supposed to be} a reflection of that. This is exactly what we see in Acts 8:12-13, “when they [believed] Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were [baptized]. Then Simon himself [believed] also: and when he was [baptized], he continued with Philip…” Doesn’t that line up with what Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized…”? Believing the Gospel (conversion) comes first, then Baptism.

Did you catch what I just said? “baptism is {supposed to be}” because water has no magical property. Simon the sorcerer also believed and was baptized. His conversion was false and got baptized for the wrong reason. He didn’t truly believe, and no amount of water could have cleansed him. Whoever the Son sets free is free indeed, and Simon wasn’t free, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for [thy heart is not right] in the sight of God. [Repent] therefore of this thy wickedness, …. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”

Interesting choice of words. Note that it’s Peter rebuking the sorcerer who was water baptized. Baptism is meant for someone who is saved, whose heart has been changed by the Gospel! Turns out that wasn’t the case for the sorcerer, and so he was commanded to “repent.” This is one more reason why “baptized [for]” can not mean “to obtain.” Rather, you are to obtain forgiveness by repentance and faith, and then you are to be baptized [for] it.

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