The Subjects of Baptism; House Still Till Judged

Acts 10:46‑48  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
I must repeat what I said to you, that I have not the most distant wish to persuade any one on the subject of baptism. I believe it is a rite established at the beginning; but I was not sent to baptize, nor was Paul. (1 Cor. 1:1717For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (1 Corinthians 1:17).)
It was not abrogated. The circumstances of my own baptism, though done bond fide, and in the main with right intentions, were not such as I should wish, but I do not think it can be repeated. And while Paul gets a special revelation as to the Lord's supper (1 Cor. 11:23-2623For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:23‑26)), though already long instituted and in use (he being the minister of the church and the teacher of the unity of the body), he is not sent to baptize, which was the introduction into the outer circle of public position as a Christian. What is special to brethren, so called (for the foundation of salvation, even if made clearer, must in itself be the same everywhere, where it is true), is the-presence of the Holy Ghost forming the unity of the body clown here, and gathering saints into this unity out of the great baptized mass. If any such have never been baptized, I apprehend they ought to be, as Quakers, grown-up Baptists’' children, etc.
What I see in baptism is admission into the professing body or house. It has nothing to do with the body of Christ; hence, if one had received the Holy Ghost, as Cornelius, he had to be professedly introduced. (Acts 10:46-4846For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. (Acts 10:46‑48).) God not only converts souls, giving eternal life, but has established a dwelling-place consequent on redemption, where His blessings are. So with Israel. He came and dwelt there. (Ego. xxix. 45, 46.) So "what advantage hath the Jew? Much every way." He had the law and the covenants and the promises, and even Christ, as concerning the flesh. Not that all were Israel which were of Israel, but these blessings were distinctively theirs (Rom. 9:1-61I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. 6Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: (Romans 9:1‑6)), not amongst the heathen. So now, the Holy Ghost and all other christian blessings are found within the christian calling—not amongst heathens, not amongst Jews, not amongst Mahometans. The gospel may be carried to them, but christian blessings are not among them as such; they are among Christians: the basis of the truth is there. The state of things may be awfully corrupted, and is so, but till God judges it (like Judaism) it remains the place where His blessings are found. Baptism is the formal admission into this—it is christening. The person is received outwardly into the habitation of God, as set up in this world. (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22); 1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15).)
It is the act of the baptizer, not of the baptized. The latter cannot do it for himself, he is outside, and cannot receive himself in. So it is written, "He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." (Acts 10:4848And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. (Acts 10:48).) Hence there is no trace of the one hundred and twenty being baptized at all. Where was the place they were to be received into? or who was to do it? They were made the place, and in this case the body too, by the descent of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:1-4.) It is not obedience; first, like the hundred and twenty, man could not obey; he cannot baptize himself: but more, Peter says, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" and commanded them to be baptized. It was a privilege conferred. Who could refuse to receive them, seeing God had put this seal upon them? So with the Ethiopian—"here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized." You are aware probably that the verse following—that is, Acts 8:3737And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts 8:37)—is not genuine, and has been foisted in, though long ago, by those who thought confession of faith needed. No such confession, or examination if it was with all the heart, was ever made in the apostolic times. The Lord did take care it should be pure at first—added such as should be saved (Acts 2:47), sealing them with the Holy Ghost. Nor is baptism the sign of what we have received. People are baptized to something, not because of their having it—to (not into) Christ's death, to Moses, to John's baptism, buried to death, to (it is the same word) the remission of sins. Hence it is always, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16), not because the sins have been: to Christ's death, not because they have died: "The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:2121The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 3:21).) Hence, when one entered believingly, he got the blessing, as far as forgiveness went, administratively here below, and was thereupon sealed by the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2) It is not a testimony to others (though it may turn to such) as the case of the Ethiopian shows, nor is it ever spoken of as such.
When I come to the history, it is very peculiar, as if God had meant to make us feel we were in the last days in a corrupt Christendom, not founding it. The only commission to baptize is to go and discipline the Gentiles (the command from Galilee with the remnant, not from the ascended Christ), baptizing them, etc. There was no command to baptize the Jews nor known believers. I do not doubt they were baptized, and accept it as an apostolic fact. But this commission was never carried out. In Gal. 2, Paul having been expressly called and sent to the Gentiles (ver. 7), "to whom now I send thee" (Acts 26:1717Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, (Acts 26:17)), the apostles at Jerusalem agree that he should take up this mission, and they go to the Jews, and so it was. They had stayed at Jerusalem when the assembly was scattered (Matt. 10:2323But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. (Matthew 10:23)), whether rightly I do not say, only God took care that unity should be preserved by Cornelius, and Acts 15
The subject of baptism is death, as Rom. 6 shows—that is, Christ's death and partially resurrection in Col. 2 perhaps, but other words are added there. The person enters into the christian circle (analogous to Israel) by it (see 1 Cor. 10), where the sacramental position is carefully distinguished from personal safety.
As regards children, my object is not to argue, but to show the nature of baptism. I believe that 1 Cor. 7:1414For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. (1 Corinthians 7:14) especially authorizes it, not to speak of Mark 10:1414But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:14). (Compare Matt. 18 and Eph. 6:11Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1).) The boundaries of the assembly of God and the world have been so broken down and both intermingled, that the fact of the Holy Ghost being in the assembly (not in the individual here), and Satan in the world, is eclipsed by the state of things; but it was not so at the beginning, and the word of God abides. The question as to children is not are they converted, but are they to be left in the devil's dominion, or brought where the Holy Ghost dwells, to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? But assuming it to be done bond fide, done according to the "one faith," I should leave every person to his own conscience. It is sometimes argued, Why not give them the Lord's supper too? The answer is simple, It is the sign of the unity of the body, and it is by one Spirit we are baptized into that. (1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13).) The Lord's supper gives the sign of that unity, as spoken of in Eph. 4:44There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4), as baptism of outward position in Eph. 4:55One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (Ephesians 4:5).
The root of the question as to baptism is, Is it the act of the baptized individually, or reception into the public assembly? On this point scripture leaves no doubt on my mind. And, is there (besides individual conversion) a place or system which God has set up on earth where He dwells, and where His blessings are placed? which He set up right at first, and has been utterly corrupted, but which has to be owned in its responsibility and character until God judges it—just as the Lord called the temple His Father's house, though it had been made a den of thieves. (Matt. 21:12, 1312And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:12‑13).)