Biblical Requirements for Baptism
The Lord is doing a work today of bringing and raising up concerned Christians, wanting to only know what the Lord wants to do in this world and in this life among His people and His churches. Many believe that the bible is the infallible word of GOD and stick by it in every situation.
When a visitor comes to an Independent church like Ambassador Baptist Church, they would usually visit for a few sessions and over time the Lord will deal with these people and GOD move them to be part and parcel of His body of Christ (the local church).
This article explains from the bible, why in some situations, some Christians having been baptized / immersed in other churches, are required to be rebaptised.
To understand this area of rebaptism, we need to establish if the baptism that the Christian has undergone is scriptural. If not, then the baptism is NOT biblical baptism and therefore cannot be accepted, i.e because the church in which the candidate was baptized in have no scriptural authority. The focus is on the institution not on the individual. (if I studied in a school and received a diploma but it is not recognized by the educational board, then the certificate is worthless, not matter how hard and how sincere the person might be)
As we explore this important area of church, baptism and membership, may we prayerfully consider the arguments and especially the Lord’s words on this important subject.
The Lord Jesus instituted the church in the New Testament when He was on earth. The bible is clear Matt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. As the Lord Jesus is the Head of the church, (Eph 5: 23), our instructions and commandments for life and service in the church proceeds from Him (Matt 4:4). Therefore with regards to the area of baptism, there are specific requirements
that are clear in the scriptures which we must take heed to in order for a candidate to be baptized:
There Must Be Faith In Christ Before An Individual Can Be Baptized
Ac 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Ac 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Ac 8:37 And 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.
Ac 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
The clearest example of this is the Ethiopian Eunuch who was reading the bible and was unsure of what it meant. After he understood the message of salvation, immediately his desire was to be baptized, for it is written: WHAT DOTH HINDER ME TO BE BAPTISED?
The response from our bro. Philip was clear: If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And so it is, salvation must precede baptism, and the individual need to profess Christ before he is ever allow to go through the waters of baptism. Firstly, the baptismal candidate must be able to demonstrate a clear profession of Christ and salvation. What are the implications of this requirement?
Infant Baptism Is Unscriptural. No one can support this notion with the bible. As babies or young infants do not possess the ability to understand salvation, and then to believe, it is therefore not feasible to bring the children to the baptismal pool.
There Must Be The Proper Method For Scriptural Baptism:
The word baptism comes from the word baptidzo which means to whelm, i.e. cover wholly with a fluid; in the New Testament only in a qualified or special sense, … to stain (as with dye):–dip. (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). Sprinkling of water for baptism is never mentioned in the Bible.
Consider the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:3 – 4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? / Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Paul talks about baptism as a burial with Christ, an identification with Christ’s death. Sprinkling does not portray that thought of burial, only by immersion.
Col 2:11 – 12 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: / Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
There Must Be Scriptural Authority For Baptism.
What Does Authority Mean?
Greek Strong’s Dictionary:
“from 1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, i.e. (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely, magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence:–authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.”
Webster’s Dictionary 1828:
“Legal power, or a right to command or to act; as the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children. Power; rule; sway.”
Therefore when the Lord Jesus says:
Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore…
He says: “ ALL LEGAL POWER, PRIVILEGE, DELEGATED INFLUENCE, FREEDOM, COMPETENCY, JURISDICTION, LIBERTY, RIGHT ..” HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME, BOTH IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH . AND BECAUSE OF THIS GIVEN LEGAL POWER, THEREFORE GO AND TEACH ALL NATIONS ….
It is important to understand that the institution, claiming to baptize must bear the power, legal right, and delegated influence, legal power to do so. Who therefore have this legal right to baptize?
Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Well, say one, many churches do have some the apostles’ doctrines, so why is it that the Baptists claim that they only have the authority to baptize? The key is not in the Baptist churches but in the word of the Lord:
Matthew 28:19 – 20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
The Lord Jesus was very particular to the apostles that they are teach ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER THE LORD JESUS HAS COMMANDED THEM. GOD goes further in 1 Timothy 1:3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
There are churches today which have some of the apostles’ doctrines and not others, there are some who teach the apostles’ doctrines and add their own. There are some who replace the apostles’ doctrines with the tradition and denominational practices.
Any church claiming New Testament church status must have the doctrines of the apostles as their foundation. What the apostles did not teach, we do not follow. What the Lord Jesus did not teach, we do not follow. We are taught to do only whatsoever the Lord Jesus has commanded us.
What if the believer themselves, who is from another church, (such as the Pentecostal, Brethren or other churches) who practice immersion and the candidate is saved, and are content that their baptism is scriptural, then do we accept that baptism?
Answer: It is important that the believer understands the nature of his or her salvation and baptism, but it is more important if the believer’s baptism satisfies the Lord Jesus’ requirements and His commandments. The requirements are not merely that the candidates are qualified but that the church in which the individual is baptized into and is wanting a transfer from is a scriptural New Testament church. The qualifications are close adherence to New Testament teaching. Below are some of characteristics that some people can use to identify a Biblical church:
What Are Some Of The Characteristics Of A New Testament Church ?
1. The bible as the final authority in all matters of life, faith and practice … (Isaiah 8:20, Matt 7:24 – 27,2 Tim 3:16 – 17)
2. Autonomy of the local church ( Ephesians 5:23)
3. Priesthood of the believer (Rev 1:5,6)
4. Two ordinances : Immersion and the Lord’s Supper – the only two ordinances
of the local church
5. Individual soul liberty ( Ro 14: 5)
6. Saved Church membership (Acts 2:38)
7. Separation of Church and state, and Ecclesiastical separation (i.e: separation from a church that are new evangelical in nature and practice) and personal separation (2 Cor 6:14 – 20 / Mark 12:17)
8. The two officers of the church. (pastor and deacons : only 1 Tim 3;1 – 14)
Additional indicators of NT church:
Based on Matt 28:19 – 20
Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
– Worldwide missions (Go ye therefore and teach all nations)
– Evangelism (Teach all nations – Mark 16:15 / Gal 1:6,7)
– Proper baptism (saved, immersed )
– Proper authorization ( in the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
– Teachings based on the literal –historical interpretation of the bible: the bible
says what it means and it means what it says
– Biblical practice and obedience (Teaching them to observe ALL THINGS
WHATSOEVER I have commanded you)
– Church spiritual kinship and continuity. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT
REASON WHY WE ONLY ACCEPT BAPTISM FROM CHRIST- AUTHORISED CHURCHES . The Lord Jesus promised that He will be with them until the end of the world. This guarantees an unbroken continuity of New Testament churches from the Jesus’ day until now. The reason for the rejection of the baptism from other denominations’ even though they may have been saved and immersed is because the churches did not originated since Christ’s earthly ministry and all can be traced to a human founder:
Roman Catholic – AD 313 – 400 AD Lutheran – 1530 AD
Church of England – 1531 AD
Presbyterian – AD 1541
Congregational – AD 1602
Quakers – AD 1668
Methodist – AD 1785
Church of Christ – AD 1812
Plymouth Brethren – AD 1827
Christian – AD 1832
Church of GOD – AD 1856
Pentecostal Holiness – AD 1907
Nazarene – AD 1908
Assemblies of GOD – AD 1914
Charismatics – AD 1960s
Question: I understand the question of authority now, but why does the church has to vote for me to be baptized?
Answer: Matt 16:18 – is instrumental in our understanding of this principle and the why we need to vote for an individual to be added to the assembly of God’s church.
Matt 16:15 – 18 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? / And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. / And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. / And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The Rock which the Lord Jesus mentioned was the confession that HE is the Messiah. Anyone who proclaims that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah and believes wholly in Him as the One true GOD, are candidates to join the local church.
Because the Lord Jesus says clearly: that it is upon THIS ROCK (the confession that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah) WILL I BUILD MY CHURCH. This is similar to the experience of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:31 – 39.
But how are we to know if an individual is saved, and have truly trusted the Lord Jesus, but more importantly, how are we to know as a church that the person joining the local church has a confession of faith that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and have fully trusted Him? Unless he / she is given an opportunity to share his testimony.
In order to practically obey this injunction, the need for an individual to share his testimony before the congregation is necessary. When the assembly into which the individual will be joining is satisfied as a whole that the individual has truly trusted Christ as Saviour and therefore is a fit candidate for church membership, they will then demonstrate their agreement by corporate prayer and this is followed by voting (Acts 1:22 – 26 , Matt 18: 18 – 20). The unanimity in agreement is a sign from heaven that God vetoes the individual and has appointed that individual to be part and parcel of the local church at Ambassador Baptist Church ( 1Cor 12:18)
Can The Baptist Churches Lose The Authority To Baptize?
As long as the church remains true to the word of GOD, she has the authority to do so. But when she departs from the faith and embraces questionable doctrines and man-made traditions, when it allows the worldly philosophies of thinking and operation to enter the church, and allow it it to influence and then to corrupt the church to the place that it refers the true faith in Christ and is an enemy of the gospel, then it loses its spiritual authority to baptize, and as a result ceases to a New Testament church according to the word of GOD. (Rev 2 – 3 – the letters to the 7 churches in Asia is a clear reminder from the Lord that a church CANNOT expect to continue unless they follow the Word of the Lord).
At Ambassador Baptist Church, we hold strictly to the doctrines of the Lord, in the word of God. It is our conviction, that a small compromise in His doctrines is high treason against the Lord Jesus Christ.
Matt 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
The Lord Jesus was clear that ALL scripture will be fulfilled. Not one will be left out.
Luke 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Heaven and Earth can be destroyed, but not one smallest part of God’s word should fail.
John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
The Scripture cannot be broken. Left to itself, the bible remains intact. It is only when man interferes with the word of God that it is diluted and compromised.
History Of The Need For Anabaptism – Rebaptism (Summarized)
When the early church was started (Acts 2:41), the people who trusted the Lord Jesus, was baptized by the Apostles. These apostles had apostolic authority given them from Heaven (Matt 28:18 – All power is given unto me in Heaven and in Earth, go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father , and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…)
The teaching of Scripture is clear on two counts: that the Lord Jesus started from a position of authority (v18) and now He delegates that authority to the apostles, and His church, to do the baptizing. This is reinforced by the point that
John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
There was a sending by God of John. Hence, there is the authority accorded to John, that even the Lord Jesus submitted to.
After the Lord Jesus left, the churches continued: spreading the gospel, getting people saved, and baptizing them , and they were added to the local church.
Over time false and wrong doctrines begin to creep into the churches, such as baptismal regeneration (the need for baptism to save), infant baptism , church clergy and laity.
Some churches begin to see the errors and wanted very much to remain true to the doctrines of the bible. They separated from churches which taught the wrong doctrine (AD 251), and then begin two lines of churches: churches that remain true to the word of GOD, and the other group of churches known as the irregular churches (which held to erroneous doctrines).
In AD 300s, when Constantine became the Emperor of the Roman Empire, he wanted the different groups of Christians to come together and therefore he invited all Christian groups to unite , to form a state religion. Believing the bible teaches separation of church and state (Matt 22:21), the churches that remain true to the word of GOD did not join in, but the other irregular churches participated in this entity. This formerly started what we know today as the Roman Catholic Church (AD 313). Catholic meaning the Universal church.
Over time, churches which refused to join this Catholic church begin to be persecuted . Over the centuries, from AD500 to AD 1500, commonly known as the Dark Ages, millions of Christians who remain true to the bible, were killed, sometimes massacred for their loyalty to the bible. Many Christians who refused to baptize their infants, were sometimes pushed off cliffs, packed in baskets and thrown into rivers to be drowned. It was a difficult time for those who remained true to the bible, but remained true they did.
The Catholic Church started the Inquisition to ensure that their power over the masses were tightened. It was during this time, that there were some men, in these Catholic Institutions, who were saved BY reading the bible. Martin Luther was a monk who was supposed to teach on the book of Romans saw the verse “ the Just shall live by faith”, he apparently believed in the Lord Jesus . He begin to see the errors of the Catholic church and sparked off the Reformation in the 1500 – 1600s.
Many of the persecuted churches, those who remained true to the bible, thanked the Lord for giving them an opportunity to once again practise their faith openly. However, these believers who remained true to the word of GOD, begin to see that the churches that were started from the Reformation movement had practices that came from the Roman Catholic church (The Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Anglicans and the Methodists). All of their founders had a history with the Roman Catholic church.
The Need for Rebaptism.
The reformation was the period of spiritual awakening on many sectors. The Gutenberg press, the first printing of books begin. And interestingly, the first book to be published was the bible. Soon, many people had the bible in their hands. Many people were also thirsty for truth and were tired of the tyranny of organized religion. Many wanted to go back to plain truth of Scripture.
Some that came from the Roman Catholic institutions and then on into the different denominations saw the errors of the catholic institutions brought into their denominations and left. When they saw the group of believers, who have remained true to the bible, and wanted to join them, these bible believers required these people to be baptized again because the churches in which they have come from had no biblical authority to baptize, having come out from the Roman Catholic churches, and though having some of the teachings, was not without clear erroneous teachings. This is in consistency with the doctrine of Ecclesiastical separation (Rev 18:4 / Romans 16:17) Since then, this group who required the rebaptism was called Anabaptists, meaning to baptize again. Over time, the name “ana” was dropped and the group is called Baptists.
Many of the mainline denomination started to persecute these Baptists because of their refusal again to infant baptized their children and many of them saw their children and parents alike persecuted to the point of death.
The reason why the Baptists baptize the Christians (again) was because of two reasons: the authority of the church and the need to keep the church pure from erroneous doctrines . Another possible reason is to ensure that the Christians coming into the Baptist church learn full submission to the biblical authority.
Coming to modern –day Singapore, there is the need follow this principle and practice, because of the preponderance of so-called churches who may believe the bible but would admit other principles and teachings that are not found in the word of GOD.
The bible is clear that we are not to add to or subtract from the teachings of the word of God. Rev 22: 18 – 19. As His church, we are to be in complete obedience to the word of GOD. We end with this admonition from
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
May God keep us in His will as His church.
Evangelist-Pastor Johnny Tan
Ambassador Baptist Church