Monday, May 24, 2010


This week, in studying for my class on 1 Corinthians, I was impressed again with the importance placed on baptism in the New Testament. Paul writes in 1:12-13 – “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (NASU)

The name “Christian” itself means, “I belong to Christ.” The Corinthians were condemned for their divided allegiances. The litmus test Paul gives for their allegiance is three-fold:
  1. Is Christ divided? – Was He ever intended to be? They knew the answer. To ask the question was to answer it.
  2. Was Paul crucified for you? – Again to ask the question was to answer it. Paul was the one writing to them. It was Jesus who was crucified (Romans 5:6-9), and they fully well knew it.
  3. Were you baptized in the name of Paul? – This is the one that grabs my attention. Too many today will argue against the importance of baptism, or relegate it to optional status, all the while missing the obvious import placed upon it by Scripture.
One of my favorite authors, who is not a member of the church of Christ, is accustomed to saying that passages like Romans 6 are “dry passages.” In other words, though they speak of baptism, they are not talking about water baptism. What other kind of baptism could they be speaking of? Water baptism is the only baptism that is commanded (cf. Acts 10:47-48). It is not John’s baptism (cf. Acts 19:3-5). There are only two instances of “Holy Spirit baptism” recorded in scripture — one was promised (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4), and the other was under extenuating circumstances (Acts 10:44-45; 11:15-17).

To be fair, the individual referenced above, believes in baptism, even the essentiality of it, but only as a sign of what has already taken place. If baptism is but “an outward sign of an inward grace,” it is both a sign of what God has done (Colossians 2:12), and a sign of the submission of the sinner to His will. Calling baptism a sign does not negate its necessity. We are united with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection in baptism (Romans 6:4-6). A symbol? Perhaps — but, a symbol of a genuine reality that cannot be separated from the symbol, or placed before the symbol.

Scoffers often raise the objection, “What if an individual dies on the way to be baptized?” Listen, God is the judge of men’s hearts. But shouldn’t the opposite be examined as well? What if an individual claiming to belong to Christ dies all the while refusing to be baptized? All I can judge is what I know the Scriptures to teach. Jesus, Peter, Paul, and all other New Testament writers that deal with the subject command baptism. If I refuse, despite all claims to the contrary, I am living in rebellion to Christ. Johnny Ramsey used to say, “Isn’t it strange that the only sinless man to have ever lived said, ‘I must be baptized,’ while admitted sinners today refuse to be.’”

Yes, strange indeed!


  1. thanks john for this post. If you feel inspired to write again, could you include suggestions one might say to people they love and are close to who truly believe that they have be baptized by sprinkling? As I tried to discuss this issue and had some examples from scripture, they said they didn't want to hear it.

  2. Thanks Anna. I'll work on that soon.