A glance at some of the reasons usually advanced in support of
"believer's baptism".

A letter from N. Anderson.

I judge that it will be profitable for us to examine the advanced reasons of those who hold "believer's baptism" views. To do so we must adhere to what scripture says and not just to what we think it means.

That we need to have right thoughts of baptism and that we should give it the place that scripture gives it, is incumbent upon us; and I am sure that where the truth in relation to it is apprehended one is then free for the apprehension of those higher and heavenly things prepared for them that love God: things which lie, not in the sphere to which baptism by water gives entrance, but in that holy heavenly sphere to which baptism by the "One Spirit" gives entrance.

It is often said that believers should be baptised because it is the "Lord's command". There is no command of the Lord that "Christian people" should be baptised. I may be faced with Matt. 28:19, which is claimed as support for a "Lord's command". However, if you look it up you will see that this is a command given to the apostles to baptise and not a command given to Christians to be baptised. Then there is Acts 10:48, but a quiet meditation on this verse in its context will suffice to show that on account of the prevalent reluctance of the Jew to admit the Gentile to the blessing of God - a reluctance so often apparent in the New Testament that God Himself had given a special revelation to the apostle Peter to prepare him for opening the door of the Kingdom of Heaven to the Gentile - that the apostle Peter here commands those of the circumcision to baptise Cornelius and those with him.

It may be well to draw attention here to the expression "Believer's Baptism". That only scriptural terms should be used is important. We do learn from scripture that believers were baptised. "Believer's Baptism" is characteristic and confines the application of baptism to particular persons allowing no liberty of conscience such as the apostle Paul possessed when, as he says (1 Cor. 1:14-17 "I baptised... Crispus and Gaius ... also the household of Stephanus".) On the one hand, as in this definite scripture example, believers were baptised as on the other hand a household was baptised. If scriptural baptism were "believer's baptism" it would make no room for the baptism of households; hence the repeated attempts to prove - by supposition - that every member of a baptised household was a believer. This evinces an entire misapprehension of the truth of baptism as applied to households, whether made up of adults and infants, or adults only. Scripture, however, does provide for the baptising of believers and for the baptising of households, but the baptism is "One". As Ephesians 4 puts it, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism".

In the baptism of a believer, he or she accepts, and enters the door into, "the faith" - which is distinct from both Judaism and Paganism as to his or her position here on earth.

In the baptism of a household, the head of the house having taken new ground - Christian ground - by baptism, rather than leave his household on the old ground - Jewish or Gentile - brings them by baptism on to the same ground, as to their place on earth, which he himself now occupies.

That baptism was given of the Lord on earth and for earth is lost sight of by "believer's baptists".

If you look up Mark 16:16, you will notice it reads, "He that believes and is baptised shall be saved". This instead of being a command to be baptised is a statement of fact as to the result for those who believe and are baptised; they "shall be saved". It is significant too, that whilst "believer's baptists" teach that you should be saved and then baptised, the Lord here teaches that believing and being baptised you are then saved. There is salvation for the believer and salvation for the baptised - both totally distinct. The first being as to my soul's relation to God, connected with what is heavenly and eternal; the other connected with me in responsibility here upon earth under the government of God. There is salvation for heaven on the principle of faith and there is salvation for earth on the acceptance of baptism. Here I suggest, the Lord Jesus is speaking of the totality of one's place before God in grace and government. It is important too, to note, that when speaking of damnation which is eternal, He makes no mention of baptism - which has nothing to do with what is eternal - but says, "He that believes not shall be damned".

Another "proof text" in the "believer's baptists" system is Acts 8:37. It is now well-known and generally accepted that the verse is an interpolation. I understand that 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th century manuscripts of the Acts and other New Testament portions contain no such verse as this. It is evident that arguments based upon an interpolation are unwise and untenable, whatever indication of custom they convey. Custom in any case is an unreliable guide. We might draw upon it for evidence of "infant baptism" which is as wide of the truth as "believer's baptism". As to traditional teaching we need to heed the words of the Lord Jesus. "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" Mark 7:13. The revelation of God is recorded in the holy scriptures, let us stick to them and not the traditions of men.

Then it is sometimes averred that there is evidence that those baptised by the Lord's apostles were true believers. Mark the emphasis on the true. It is evident that there were untrue believers. So for instance John 2:23-25. Another case is in Acts 8, in the person of Simon Magus whose believing was of the same kind as those in John 2. In Acts 8:12, we read of some who "believed Philip preaching the things of the Kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ". Consequent on their believing "they were baptised, both men and women". But note how distinct Simon Magus is kept by the Holy Spirit, in this scripture, from those other believers. Of him it is written, "Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptised he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done". The apostle Peter later said of him in this same chapter, "thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter". With all this there is no declaration that his baptism was not valid which we might have expected if baptism is only valid when applied to certain persons.

I might also say here that baptists say that the baptism of the Spirit does not do away with the necessity for water baptism but is a reason for it. Granting the first part of this promise, is it not significant that the true believers in Acts 8, were baptised before they received the Holy Spirit? Philip preached unto them the things concerning the kingdom of God and they were brought out of their system of an intermixed corruption of Judaism and Paganism and into the kingdom on earth, by baptism, before they were incorporated into the assembly - the body of Christ - by the gift of the Holy Ghost. Simon Magus, carried along by the manifestation of the power of the Lord Jesus through His servant Philip, acknowledged Christ's authority by being baptised. By baptism he was dissociated, professedly, from the sphere which formerly exercised authority over him and brought under the authority - the Lordship of Christ. This was entirely irrespective of any work which may, or may not, have been going on in his soul.

A few words now as the mode of baptism. Without a doubt immersion does carry with it the significance of burial to our western minds, accustomed as they are to disposing of a deceased body by putting it under the ground. The proper thought of burial is to "put out sight" in the east they did this by putting the remains in a tomb, erected in some cases on the ground, not necessarily under the ground.

There is a case in scripture of people being baptised who were not immersed and also of people being immersed who were not 'baptised.' I refer to the passage of the Red Sea by the Israelites "they went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground", whilst their pursuers who "went in after them to the midst of the sea" were overthrown therein by the Lord and the "waters returned and covered them". Exodus 14:22-28.

Let us remember that scripture does not tell us how much water should be used. Romans 6 to which reference is often made does not speak of "the mode of baptism" but of the significance of baptism. The apostle Paul does not say anywhere that baptism is an external sign of an internal reality, as baptists everywhere teach. The word used in the Greek for baptise, according to Young, signifies "pouring out on" or "putting into" so there seems equal ground here for sprinkling or immersion. As to the mode, I, personally, would immerse. Another has said "I would immerse if I could got enough water. But if not, I would take as much water as I could get and pour it over the person being baptised". However, let us keep in mind that Romans 6 teaches the significance of baptism. A significance it has whenever, wherever, by whomsoever, and to whomsoever, it is applied. (More on this later.)

Baptists whilst making so much of baptism for believers only, generally say "of course baptism does not save". How does this stand in the light of the Lord's own words already referred to in Mark 16, "He that believes and is baptised shall be saved". Note also Acts 2:38, 40-41, "Save yourselves ... they that gladly received his word were baptised". See also 1 Peter 3:21 "The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us". So there is salvation by baptism!

Baptism is Christ's institution representing dying - in a figure, and is the appointed way for a Jew or a Gentile to get out of his native sphere of Judaism or Paganism and to enter into the faith - Christianity, that divine system, set up of God, on earth. The salvation for the Jew, by baptism, was to be brought out of his place over which the governmental judgment of God was hanging. The salvation is governmental and not eternal and heavenly as I have before said. When the testimony of Peter had been heard on the day of Pentecost, the hearers said. "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter's answer was, "Repent and be baptised everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord your God shall call". Notice this "... unto your children" and then, "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation". The outcome was that they that "gladly received his word were baptised".

1 Peter 2:21-23 is another scripture quoted as a reason for believers to be baptised. But this scripture has been wrenched from its context. There Christ's example is that he suffered persecution from wicked men without retaliation. Furthermore, there is no analogy between our being baptised and His. He, in wondrous condescension and grace, went into the waters of baptism to identify Himself with the repentant ones in Israel who confessed their sins in baptism. They, in their baptism at the hands of John Baptist, owned the sinful condition of Israel and their part in it all, thus were they distinguished from the unrepentant mass. They were still Israelites but now formed a remnant in Israel who, confessing their sins in baptism, looked for the consolation of Israel in the person of Jehovah's anointed - Jesus.

The Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah, coming in public testimony to Israel accepted baptism at John's hands, declaring the righteousness of such an act. Not that He had any sins to confess - far be the thought - but He thereby confirmed the Baptist's testimony as to Israel being ripe for judgment and set the seal of His approval upon those who had already, by baptism, cleared themselves from the guilt of the nation.

You will see I trust, that His being baptised was not intended as an example that we were expected to follow. I would also draw your attention to the fact that the apostle Paul clearly differentiated between John's baptism - which Lord graciously accepted – and our baptism, or Christian baptism, which is in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost and also, to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matt. 28:19 and Acts 19:1-5.

Again as to Acts 19:1-5, for it is sometimes used as a reason for any who were baptised in infancy being baptised again on having reached adult age and having trusted Christ. That the apostles baptised believers scripture definitely teaches, that they baptised households scripture just as definitely teaches. I agree that a believer who has never at any time been baptised ought to be baptised. But if a person has been baptised, be he old man, or young babe, that person is, by baptism, put in a position in which he was not before, and that, whether believing or no. If a person believes subsequent to being baptised - however long a period has elapsed - there is no need for his being re-baptised, for he would in effect, be denying the truth of baptism and be affirming that it is only valid when applied to certain persons.

Where is the question of babe or believer raised in Acts 19 as far as baptism is concerned? It is all a question of transfer from Jewish to Christian ground and that by baptism, albeit the baptised ones were believers but they never had received christian baptism before. They knew only the baptism of John which put them in the position of a people confessing their part in the sins of Israel and of looking for the coming of the Christ. But He had come, had died, had risen again, and had sent down the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father. Those disciples were not on christian ground at all for they knew not "whether there be any Holy Ghost". Having heard Paul's testimony "they were baptised in (or, to) the name of the Lord Jesus". Thus they entered the "one faith" where "one Lord" was acknowledged, by the divinely appointed way - the "one baptism".

Nowhere in scripture is it said that baptism is a sign of what is "true in the believer's inner experience" and that it "shows that sins have been washed away".

As to "showing that sins have been washed away" - note these scriptures:
Acts 2:38 "..repent and be baptised ... for the remission of sins".
Acts 22:16 "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord".

That baptism has a spiritual significance I have said before, but there is something that baptism does for the baptised, quite apart from its spiritual significance. Baptism did something for the apostle Paul before he learned its spiritual significance. His sins were all forgiven before God, eternally, never to be remembered any more when the Lord Jesus met him on the Damascus road, three days before his baptism. But it was in the act of his baptism that they were washed away from before men on the earth. Otherwise he would never have been recognised by those on earth as a christian - as distinct from Jew or Gentile. What baptism does for the baptised was clearly demonstrated in the case of Paul for, beyond all controversy, he, was there and then - for the first time - brought into a place in which he never was before. Let it be emphasised that this new place on earth was distinct from that of his eternal acceptance through the grace of God. That was secured for him on the principle of faith when he owned Jesus as Lord on the Damascus road. Faith brought him into eternal, spiritual, and heavenly blessing. Baptism gave him entrance into that new thing set up of God on earth - the sphere of the rule on earth, of the earth rejected, heaven accepted Jesus - the kingdom of heaven.

As in Paul's case, so in ours. As to the soul's standing before God our sins are forgiven on the principle of faith, through the blood of Jesus. All that has attached to our place on earth, whether in Judaism or Heathenism has been taken into account and professedly we are dissociated from it by baptism and just as positively associated, by that same act, with Christianity - the kingdom of heaven and the house of God.

Romans 6 teaches that baptism is unto (not into) Christ, and if to Him it is to His death, for baptism is a figure of death. You will remember that in Acts 8, where Philip was introduced to the eunuch, that the last expression which the Spirit of God gives us from Isaiah is, "... and His life is taken from the earth". As Jesus is preached to the Ethiopian from the scripture, his saying, "here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptised?" is just as though he were saying,- "I want to follow Him whose life was taken from the earth" and he did so, by dying - in a figure - in baptism.

So baptism does not witness externally to an internal reality. It is not that I am baptised because I am dead, but owning the death of Christ and all that which was involved in it in the judgment of God on the flesh. I accept death with Christ by baptism, as Paul says, "Know ye not that as many as were baptised unto Christ were baptised unto His death. Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death".

The baptized person is thereby, professedly identified with the death of Christ - whether aware of it or not - the apostle says, "Know ye not..?" He is bringing the truth of what was involved in taking christian ground before the christians at Rome.

As to baptism doing something for the baptised apart from the question of whether there is faith or not surely it is sufficient to know that the baptised peoples - the christened or christianised peoples, christendom - shall be judged from a different standard of light than the Heathen with only the voices of nature and conscience, or the Jew with his broken law. Christendom shall be judged according to the full revelation of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son, which is one distinctive feature of this favoured day, and according to the authority of the Lord Jesus whose claims it has spurned though having professedly owned them in baptism.

Allow me to quote another:
"Romans 6 says, "we are buried with Him by baptism unto death". Thus (we are learning from scripture) baptism is burial to death, not a figure that I have been buried, but "buried with Him by baptism". It does not say risen with Him by baptism but "buried ... by baptism unto death".
Col. 2 says the same, but inasmuch as the Holy Ghost is there setting forth the believer as dead and risen with Christ adds, in which (or in whom) also ye are risen with Him through faith of the operation of God, who raised Him up from among the dead. Romans does not look at believers as risen with Christ at all - so that to quote Romans 6 as is often done, as a proof that baptism is a symbol of being dead and risen with Christ, shows an entire misapprehension of the teaching and application of the chapter".

I most gladly confess that Christ died, was buried, rose again, that He lives still, and that His word is law to the believer, but I do not see that one scripture is adduced to prove that by "believer's baptism", as some baptists say, those facts are maintained and that the evidence of them is thereby accentuated. The witness to these facts is seen in believers walking here in the Spirit, who forms Christ in them as they are kept in communion with Him. However, let it again be repeated, that baptism introduces the baptised one into the sphere on earth where those things are professed and from whence the testimony of them goes forth.

I think I can safely say in view of the foregoing glance at some of the reasons usually advanced in support of believer's baptism views that I cannot accept them at all.

The continual assertion that baptism is so essential for believers only tends, however unintended, to confound baptism with our title to glory which we read exclusively in the precious blood of Christ. That there is a sphere on earth into which baptism is the appointed door of entrance seems to be unperceived by those who hold "believer's baptism" views. The failure to see this has led many into confusion on such scriptures as: Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:1, 20-22; also Rev. 3:14-18. The failure to see that there are those in the profession of christianity by baptism who like Simon Magus, "have neither part nor lot in the matter" for their hearts are not right with God, and that these are they who will meet with judgment when the Lord deals with the church in its Laodicean character has resulted in the anxiety that marks many true believers who are, by baptism, in the same sphere of profession on earth.

However, I find that in considering the truth of baptism in scripture, there is much to unlearn before one begins to learn, and I am sure that much that is put forth in support of "believer's baptism" views falls into the category of what has to be unlearned.

That this brief consideration may lead you to scripture for light on baptism is the earnest desire of,
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
Norman Anderson.