Objections to Baptism?
Baptism is perhaps the most debated
matter pertaining to salvation. We regret that there
are so many misunderstandings about baptism. Why are
there objections to baptism? To us, the scriptures are
clear on this subject. We believe in taking the whole
of scripture, not just selected passages, in understanding
God's will, especially the response He has instructed
us to give in accepting His free gift of salvation.
We whole-heartedly believe
that we are saved by the grace of God through accepting
Jesus as our Savior and recognizing Him as our Lord.
Is baptism involved in our acceptance of His grace?
We believe that's what the scriptures say.
be that some do not distinguish between our initial,
first response to the gospel and our ongoing, continual
response as Christians. Belief, confession, and repentance
are both initial responses to God's grace and ongoing
responses for all Christians. Baptism, however, is only
an initial response, being done to the believer when
they first come to Christ. All are necessary for salvation,
despite certain passages that mention only one or two
Whenever we see in scripture a reference
to baptism, we should ask, "Is this the same word
or meaning that Jesus had in mind in Matt. 20:19 when
he instructed his disciples to baptize those in all
nations?" And, if not, why not? And if not, then
what is the intended meaning?
Here we present several objections
to baptism as being essential to receive salvation,
and responses to them. (We invite your comments via
Baptism is a work, and we are not saved by works.
Baptism is NOT a work. The believer is passive,
not active, in baptism. Another person dips them under
water and lifts them back up. Furthermore, nowhere in
the New Testament is baptism called or described as
a "work" of any kind, yet Jesus himself characterized
belief as a work in John 6:28-29. Belief is not a meritorious
work (that is, to earn something), but a response to
God. The same is true of baptism. Both are works insofar
as they are "something done." Confession with
the mouth is a physical activity on the part of a believer
-- why then is this not regarded as a work, yet the
passive involvement of a believer in baptism often is?
Galatians 3. Paul goes to great lengths to explain that
they were saved by God's grace, not by the Law or works
of the Law. But then, in vss. 26-29 he affirms baptism.
If baptism was a work of righteousness, he would not
have affirmed the importance of immersion!
idea was Christian baptism in the first place? The water
baptism of the New Testament for the remission of sins
(along with repentance, belief, and confession) was
given a special meaning by God (Mk. 16:16, Acts 2:38,
Col. 2:9-15. I Pet. 3:21, etc.). No one can say that
baptism is a "work" of man, since it is by
God's design, "not of our own righteousness."
In baptism, God, does all the work, and man does nothing
but trust God, participating in the experience symbolizing
the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
OBJECTION #2: There are
several passages that clearly teach we are justified
by faith, so baptism is not essential.
How do you define "faith?" Is it limited to
intellectual belief? Emotional conviction? James says
such faiths are dead, and no one is justified by such
faiths alone. Indeed, intellectual belief and emotional
conviction must be included with other aspects, such
as belief, outward confession, initial and ongoing repentance,
baptism, and ongoing obedience. Our understanding of
the biblical definition of faith is inclusive of these
things. Study Hebrews 11 for examples of what faith
is. The faith of these people is not separate and apart
from their actions.
OBJECTION #3: People's
sins were forgiven without baptism by Jesus.
Yes, that is correct (see the penitent woman - Luke
7:37-50, the paralytic man - Matt. 9:2, and the tax
collector - Luke 18:13-14). Keep in mind that (1) Prior
to his death, Jesus and all others lived under the old
covenant (the new did not begin until after his death).
Their sins were in effect forgiven just as anyone else's
sins were forgiven in that day and time. Ultimately,
their sins were rolled forward in time to the cross
OBJECTION #4: The thief
on the cross was saved without baptism.
The thief on the cross was a Jew and died a Jew. being
forgiven under the terms of a different covenant. One
cannot be baptized
(cf. Rom. 6) when Jesus has not yet died. He died like
the patriarchs, except he bore witness to the fulfilling
of the promise not from far away (in time) but was
near his Messiah.
OBJECTION #5: There is
no record of the apostles being baptized.
Read Acts 9:18 and Acts 22:16 for the record of the
baptism of the apostle Paul. True, we do not have records
of the baptisms of the other apostles, but does this
mean they weren't? No. They may have been included in
Matt. 3:5. In Matt. 2, Jesus was baptized, and they
were to follow his example to be obedient. To suggest
that the apostles, who preached baptism, were not themselves
baptized, is not a sound argument. Why would Paul have
been baptized if the others were not?
Jesus said in the great commission that baptism was
not a condition in judgment (condemnation) (Mk. 16:16).
Response: While it is questioned whether Mark 16:9-20 was part
of Mark's original writing, it is in harmony with the
rest of the New Testament. Mark 16:16 is a strong argument
for the essential nature of baptism, but far from being
the only one. Jesus said "Whoever believes and
is baptized will be saved." Question: If someone
said, "Whoever believes in the tooth fairy and
jumps in my pool will get $100," what would one
have to do for the $100? Answer: Believe in the tooth
fairy and jump in the pool, and nothing less.
"But Jesus did not include
the failure to be baptized as a condition for condemnation."
That's because the logical statements
of our Lord do not require him to do so. Belief must
precede the response of repentance and baptism. Without
belief, baptism is meaningless (as it is with infant
For example, if someone said:
"If I fall in love with Jane
Doe and legally wed her, I will be married to her.
But if I do not fall in love with Jane Doe, I will
not be married to her."
Would this mean a wedding is not necessary
for a marriage? No. The same logic is present; the wedding
follows falling in love, and the wedding is still necessary
Or, follows these steps: "(1)
If you take my car keys and (2) start the engine, (3)you
can drive my car; but if you do not take my car keys
(step 1), you cannot drive my car (step 3)." Starting
the engine (step 2) requires the keys (step 1), and
is necessary to drive the car. Jesus gave a progressive
order in our response to God's grace: First, believe;
second, be baptized. If you don't get to the first step,
the second step is meaningless. To say the Jesus negated
baptism here is to overlook simple logic and common
OBJECTION #7: In Acts 2:38,
"for" (Greek "eis") could be interpreted
as "because of."
Yes, in the Greek, it could. But in no modern translation
do we find this rendering, despite the work of hundreds
of Greek scholars. We are left with "for",
and it reads "for the remission of your sins."
Baptism here is associated with repentance, not distinguished
from it. That is, Peter is including almost parenthetically
that baptism is integral to repentance (he expresses
this also in 1 Pet 3:21). "Repent" and "sins"
in the Greek are plural, and "baptized" is
singular. This grammatical construction in Greek could
"(All of you) Repent (and
let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus
Christ) for the forgiveness of your sins."
also that you cannot repent because your sins
have been forgiven, but you must repent, and be baptized
for (unto) the remission of your sins. Both repentance
and baptism are linked to the remission of sins (cf:
Acts 3:19 and 22:16). If baptism is not linked to the
forgiveness of your sins in this verse, then what is
it linked to? The question posed to Peter was, "Men
and brethren, what shall we do?" (v. 27) Being
"pierced to the heart", they wanted to know
what to do to be saved, and obviously were not concerned
with what they must do after they are saved. If baptism
is not essential, why would Peter have instructed it
in the first place when these people asked how they
OBJECTION #8: ...but Peter
did not mention baptism in Acts 3:19; he said, "Repent,
and turn to God..."
Nor did Peter say anywhere in Acts 2 "...turn to
God," yet they obviously did turn to God in Acts
2. The absence of the mention of baptism does not mean
it was not taught. As described above, baptism is associated
with repentance in Acts 2 and 2 Pet. 1, so it was likely
taught and done, though not specifically mentioned here.
Notice also that Peter did not
say in Acts 3:19 to believe in Jesus Christ or to confess
him as the Son of God. Are these unnecessary, too? Using
this as an argument against baptism, one must agree
that belief and confession are unnecessary, also.
importanly, however, is that Paul uses the exact same
language as Peter in Acts 26:20:
"I preached that they should
repent and turn to God...", but adds, "...and
prove their repentance by their deeds."
Were Paul and Peter preaching different
gospels? Of course not. Paul called for the affirmation
of repentance, but Peter (so it appears) did not. Again,
the absence of the mention of baptism in Acts 3 does
not mean it was not taught. Baptism is integral to repentance.
OBJECTION #9: Paul doesn't
preach baptism in his gospel presentations.
Read Acts 22, where Paul gives his testimony to his
conversion. Read Romans 6, where he is teaching the
Roman churches the significance of grace, justification
by faith, and the importance of baptism. Read Eph. 4,
Col. 2 - 3, Gal. 3:26-29, and I Cor. 12:13. Paul taught
baptism in these instances. The absence of the specific
mention of baptism (or repentance, confession, or belief
for that matter) at any time does not make it unnecessary.
These elements of faith are clearly substantiated elsewhere
in the New Testament, and the New Testament must be
taken as a whole.
in mind that most of Paul's writings were to people
who were already Christians, and he obviously did not
find it necessary to dwell on the subject of baptism
since they had already been baptized.
OBJECTION #10: In Acts
22:16, remission of sins is linked with "calling
on the name of the Lord," and not baptism.
First of all, the language "wash" is associated
with being cleaned, either by the blood of Christ or
by water. "Wash" is not associated with speaking.
"Wash your sins away" refers to baptism (cf.
1 Pet. 3:21).
no known translation has worded this passage similar
to this: "Get up, be baptized and wash away your
sins by calling on his name." If that is what the
Greek suggests, certainly, Greek scholars throughout
the ages would have translated it accordingly. In fact,
such a translation would not be out of harmony with
scripture (cf. Romans 10:9), so why was this not "translated
correctly?" Answer: it already is translated correctly:
baptism is "when" and "where" God
washes away our sins.
OBJECTION #11: Paul doesn't
mention baptism in I Cor. 15:1-4.
Response: Nor does he mention repentance here (as he did in Acts
26) or confession of Jesus as Lord (as he did in Romans
10). He does discuss baptism in other passages. Here,
he does refer to believers (Christians) as having "taken
your stand," calling them to "hold firm."
Since Paul is not recounting the gospel for the sake
of non-believers, he apparently did not see fit to recount
what was necessary as an initial response. Therefore,
his mention of belief is not a call to an initial belief
in Jesus Christ, but an ongoing belief. The lost have
not yet "taken their stand" and cannot "hold
firm" to anything outside of Christ for hope. The
bottom line is that this is not a gospel presentation
to the lost, but to the saved; a message Christians
need to hear over and over again for encouragement and
for strengthening our faith.
OBJECTION #12: But Paul
said he did not "come to baptize" (I Cor.
If Paul was intending for us to understand that baptism
was not essential, why does he list people he baptized
in the same passage? (Notice also Cornelius in Acts
10, Lydia in Acts 16, and the jailer in Acts 16).
What Paul is doing here is stating
that his primary purpose was to preach the gospel. The
Corinthians were dividing themselves, each faction aligning
themselves either with who had taught them, baptized
them, or with Jesus (v.12). Paul sought to unify them
in Christ, and show that WHOMEVER HAD BAPTIZED THEM
(not baptism itself) was not important in that regard.
He stated earlier "I thank God I didn't baptize
any of you...", not because baptism was wrong,
but because these people aligned themselves -- wrongly
-- with whomever had baptized them. Paul was mere thankful
that he didn't have that kind of following; not that
baptism was inappropriate.
what Paul says beforehand in vs. 13: "Was Paul
crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of
Paul?" The answer to these questions is no. But
how would this verse be stated in the positive? "Jesus
was crucified for you! You were baptized into the name
of Jesus." Paul's "negative" statement
establishes the basis of being a true follower of Jesus:
recognizing that Jesus died for your sins on the cross,
and being baptized in the name of Jesus. Paul is actually
demonstrating the necessity of baptism, and that it
is into Jesus' name, not into Paul's or any other name.
it was not unusual for preachers to have others do the
baptizing for them (ie. Jesus, John 4:2 and Peter, Acts
10:48). Thus the fact that Paul baptized few people
does not mean it was not done when he preached. On the
contrary: every example of baptism is an immediate event,
not something done at a "convenient time"
or special service.
passage shows that baptism is important, as he saw to
it that (1) he baptized some people, (2) he confirms
that the Corinthians had been baptized by others and
(3) that, if baptism was not necessary, he would have
called them away from engaging in the practice since
it became a source of division.
OBJECTION #13: But Cornelius
and his house were saved before being baptized in water
as the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 10).
We cannot determine when (or if) the "moment"
of salvation occurs. Obviously, God would not impart
his Holy Spirit on sinful, wicked people. The baptism
of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily the same as being
saved. No one today can baptize another with the Holy
Spirit. Apparently, those who were not yet saved were
capable of being vessels of the Holy Spirit. The passage
makes two things clear:
this was an unusual circumstance (which never occurred
again anywhere else in scripture), and water baptism
was administered in harmony with God's will.
It was unusual because God wanted
to demonstrate that the Gentiles were to receive salvation
as well as the Jews. The Holy Spirit was imparted so
that Peter and the others (having the tables turned
on them, so to speak) would be witnesses to a miracle
by the Holy Spirit that confirmed God's message to them.
Remember: the Holy Spirit of God also came upon a donkey
and the evil priest Balaam, but neither were saved.
But do notice what Peter said
near the end of this account in chapter 11:17 "So
if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed
in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I
could oppose God?" Peter could not deny baptism
(in water) to the Gentiles (10:47, 48). To do so (either
by refusal or by omission) would have been to "oppose
God." Notice that he mentions here that these people,
too, "believed in the Lord Jesus Christ,"
but it was imperative for Peter to offer them water
OBJECTION #14: "Baptism"
does not always mean water baptism.
There are instances where the Greek word can refer to
something other than the baptism unto the remission
of sins. Because "baptism" means to immerse
or dip beneath water, some interpret it in a figurative
sense -- not necessarily Holy Spirit baptism, but in
One preacher on the radio, for
example, once said that Paul, in Romans 6, meant "immersion"
like a student who is "immersed" in his studies.
Being "baptized into his death" then becomes
"being intellectually or emotionally focused on
his death." But in verse 4, Paul says we are "buried."
While many students today find themselves buried with
studies, the context does not allow for this approach.
The combination of immersion and burial affirms that
he speaks of water baptism.
Also, Paul compares baptism
with the death of Christ in verse 5. This preacher's
interpretation would mean that the death of Christ was
not physical, but that Jesus just thought real hard
Some argue 1 Peter 3:21 does
not refer to water baptism, since Peter says "not
the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of
a good conscience toward God." To some, he distinguishes
physical baptism from spiritual baptism. But if one
reads the context, (1) he is clearly talking about water,
comparing our water baptism to the waters of the flood,
and (2) the contrast he makes does not suggest spiritual
baptism. Peter is saying in verse 21 that our water
baptism is not for cleaning our bodies (as the flood
cleaned the earth of its evil), but it is where we make
a pledge to God out of a good conscience toward him.
The water of baptism does not wash away sin, but it
is symbolic of where we meet God to give him our lives,
just as Jesus gave us his life. Baptism is where we
re-enact symbolically what Jesus did on the cross and
in the grave.
To say that one can be baptized
in water and can be figuratively "baptized"
by their intellectual or emotional state CONTRADICTS
SCRIPTURE, specifically Ephesians 4:5, [There is...]
"...one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Apparently,
by the time the letter to the Ephesians was written,
Holy Spirit baptism had ceased, just as Paul prophesied
that it would (I Cor. 13:8-12), and only one form of
baptism was preached and thus practiced. The only form
of baptism that can be administered today in harmony
with biblical teachings is immersion in water.
As metnioned above, we need
first to let scripture interpret scripture. Whenever
we see in scripture a reference to baptism, we should
ask, "Is this the same word or meaning that Jesus
had in mind in Matt. 20:19 when he instructed his disciples
to baptize those in all nations?" And, if not,
why not? And if not, then what is the intended meaning?
Again, we must let the Bible
speak more for itself instead of trying to tell it what
to say. Many scriptures are compromised in order to
fit the doctrines of men. When will we unite and let
our personal will be "compromised" by the
authority of Jesus our Lord?
The two responses immediately below
are not based on scripture, and as each states, only
God knows. He alone is judge. They are based on the
premise that God will not require anything that is not
possible. In both examples, it was, at some point in
their lives, possible for them to be baptized, and the
choices that led them to their unfortunate circumstances
are their responsibility. So long as there is life and
there is water, one should respond to God through baptism
to be put into Christ, into His death, for the remission
of their sins.
#15: If someone decided to become a Christian,
and baptism is necessary, what would happen to them
if they died before they could be baptized?
Only God knows. It is possible that they would not
be deprived of eternal life. That being the case, baptism
would not be necessary in this kind of circumstance,
only because it is not possible. See I Peter 3:21.
Provided the person was on his or her way to the water,
waiting for a special service or more convenient time,
it would seem that, based on God's nature He would
for that. (One wonders, however, why would anyone delay
in being obedient and eagerly responding to God's
gift of forgiveness?)
In one sense, this is
similar to young infants and children: it is impossible
for them to be truly baptized because they cannot have
believe, repent, or confess. Yet infants and toddlers
who die young do indeed go to the Lord.Belief must
precede baptism (Mk. 16:16). Note also that, in the
when people are being converted, they are baptized
as possible. Again, these people were eager to respond
as well as instructed to do so immediately.
OBJECTION #16: What if
someone were in the desert or somewhere where water
was not readily available?
Response: Such as an Ethiopian travelling through the dessert
like the one mentioned in Acts 8:26-39?
God knows. If one knows to be baptized, they would
do well to find the next best thing to water.
Since baptism is a burial, they may offer to God
in light of their circumstances an alternative
burial (ie: being covered with sand, cloth, etc.).
God may accept this only because
water baptism is not possible at the time, but there
is no guarantee.
The scriptures are silent on
this, and this is mere speculation offered in an
attempt to answer an objection. Once the person finds sufficient
water, they should be formally baptized in accordance
with the scriptures. (Remember, more than 70% of the
earth's surface is water: Seek, and ye shall find.
ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD!!!)