Christian Baptism

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Listen from:
It is very important to see that Christian baptism is founded only on the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and His claims over man on earth by death and resurrection, not on His Ascension to the right hand of God from which, as Head of the Church, He sent down the Holy Spirit to form the Church (Acts 2:32,3332This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2:32‑33)). This puts it properly in its own place, as connected with Resurrection and the Twelve, and not with Ascension and Paul.
Christ had died, and had ended the history of the first man (1 Cor. 15:4747The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:47)) on the ground of his responsibility before God. His death proved the condition in which all men lay. “If one died for all then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:1414For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (2 Corinthians 5:14)). His responsibility now is on another ground, not only for his sins personally, but that of rejecting sovereign grace when totally and irrecoverably lost.
The commission was given by the Lord to the twelve on this ground before He had ascended to the right hand of God. It was “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things which I have enjoined you (Matt. 28:1919Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)).” Here I may remark that the command was “Go and... baptize.” It was the act of the baptizer not of the baptized. This precludes the thought of obedience altogether. There is no command in Scripture to be baptized. The words, doubtless, are used as in the case of the Jews at Pentecost by Peter (Acts 2) and in the case of Paul by Ananias (Acts 22:1616And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)). It was the act of Ananias and of Peter. The persons who were baptized bowed to the act of the baptizer as acting administratively under the Lord in the way He had appointed that they should be received. Were I to desire (person) A to do a certain thing to (person) B (say to admit him into my house), this is not telling B to do it. B bows to As act, as having my authority to do it: but the act is that of A, and never can be that of B. Of course grace is needed to make B willing to bow, but he accepts it as the way I had ordered that A should receive him. To introduce obedience into it is to make a Christian subject to ordinances, and so far deny the character of Christianity.
The meaning of Christian baptism is that it is to “death.” So many of you as were baptized to (εις) Christ, were baptized to (εις) His death (Rom. 6). We are buried with Him by baptism to death. Then also it is an outward change of state, as of the old world when it passed through the waters of the deluge (flood of Noah’s day) into a new order of things. Thus the person was held to be on the professed ground of Christ’s death and resurrection. The baptized person has put on Christ (Gal. 3:2727For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)) as the profession of His name. There is no thought of it being a witness of his having already put on Christ. If not true and real, by an inward change of heart, it was but entrance to external privilege; it was merely putting on the profession of His name. If this passage meant a real putting on of Christ-that is, getting life, — popery would be right which attaches the communication of life to baptism. And more — Simon Magus would have been a true Christian, which he was not, if baptism meant a real putting Him on, for he was baptized. The passage at length is, “As many of you as have been baptized to, or unto (εις) Christ, have put on Christ.” It does not say “as many,” &c., have witnessed that you have already “put on Christ,” but simply that you have put Him on in the act.
The baptized person is “Regenerate” by it. That is, he has passed out of an old state and into a new order of things. The word “Regeneration” in Scripture, as has been remarked, is never used for “new birth,” nor for being “born again,” the modern meaning which has, through custom, been attached to it. The word is only found twice in Scripture — in Matthew 19:2828And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28), with reference to the Millennium, and in Titus 3:55Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5), as to Baptism. In the former, the world will have passed out of its present state under Satan’s rule to another condition under the Lord, and Satan bound. (This is) An outward change — a new order of things. In the latter, the person has passed out of one state into another, through water, on to the ostensible and professed ground of Christ’s death and resurrection.
The words of Scripture for “born anew” or “born again” (γεννηθν ανῶεν, John 3:33Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3); and αναγενναῶ, 1 Peter 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23)) are quite different to that of “regeneration” (παλιγγενεσια) which is never used for “new birth” in the language of Scripture.