By Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980)
CHAPTER 3 - BAPTISM FOR US IN THIS DISPENSATION; HAS NEVER BEEN DONE AWAY WITH
Sometimes when people do not want to keep some command of the Lord Jesus they say, "That was for the Jews," or "That was done away with at the closing of the apostolic age." So some people, having been accustomed to a form of baptism or a teaching about it which they could not reconcile to the Scriptures, think they can promote Christian unity by leaving off the command of Christ. Some preachers hope by leaving off baptism and letting down the bars they can attract to their churches people of all faiths. That was particularly true of a group of modernists who do not believe the Bible is authoritative and do not pretend to follow it, led by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick in Riverside Church, New York, and the late Dr. Shailer Mathews of the radical University of Chicago. Others call themselves fundamentalists, but hope to get away from the divisions of denominationalism by throwing away baptism. Naturally then, since they do not obey Christ's command, they try to defend themselves by quoting Scriptures. These usually teach that baptism was commanded for Jews only, or during a separate dispensation which lasted only during the age of the apostles.
That teaching, however kindly and sincere men may be who are guilty of it,
is not true to the Bible. It takes away from us, for all practical use, much
of the Bible, and in its effect joins with modernism and rebellion in getting
people to disregard the plain commands of Christ. I believe if you will, with
an open heart, study this chapter, along with the preceding one, and check the
Scriptures here given with your Bible, you will see that baptism is still
commanded for us, has never been done away with, and that to omit baptism is
still to disobey Christ. With the exception of a few false teachers who have
risen in recent years to accuse their brethren, cause divisions and teach
people to disobey the Bible's plain commands, the teachers and preachers and
theologians of all the centuries since Christ have agreed on this matter, that
baptism is for this age of grace. You will agree, too, that baptism is for
you, for all Christians in this age, I feel sure, if you will with a
teachable, humble heart, search the Scriptures with us here.
Study this Great Commission as given in Matthew 28:18-20:
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 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: 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."
This Commission was given on the authority of Jesus Christ over Heaven and earth. Then certainly it was not merely local. This Great Commission, including baptism, was commanded to ALL NATIONS. That included others besides Jews. Jesus closed the command with a promise. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," which shows that the command was not given merely to those apostles, but to other Christians lasting down to the end of the world. It is clear that Jesus spoke to these men, not as to Jews, but as to apostles responsible for setting up churches and giving the doctrines for this Christian dispensation. It is foolish to teach that this was for Jews only.
In Acts 2:38-39, Peter, speaking to the Jews at Pentecost, commanded them to repent and be baptized, telling them that they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. But in verse 39 he plainly taught them that the same promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who repented and were baptized is for all people everywhere. His words are:
"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call"
Baptism is for all that are afar off, as many as God calls.
Remember that the ministry to the Gentiles began immediately after Pentecost, and we have full detailed record of that in the New Testament. In fact, every book in the New Testament was written after the gospel was being preached regularly, far and wide, to the Gentiles. That particular ministry to the Gentiles was begun by Peter under direct command of God in the tenth chapter of Acts. The Lord especially taught and prepared Peter for that ministry and showed him that the ceremonial law concerning Gentiles was now done away and that what God had cleansed, he was not to call common as Jews had done heretofore. Peter went and preached to the house of Cornelius the gospel of salvation by faith (Acts 10:34-48). Peter began his sermon with the statement that in God's sight there is no difference between Jew and Gentile (vss. 34, 35). When Cornelius and his household were converted, Peter spoke to the six brethren who were with him, showing that these Gentiles should be baptized, just as the Jews were, since they had the same Holy Spirit. Then we are told:
"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." (vs. 48).
There is no difference there between Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles were
baptized as well as Jews, when they were saved.
Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles. That was true from the very first as you see from Acts 9:15 where at the conversion of Paul the Lord told Ananias, "For he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles." In Galatians 2:7 Paul says, "The gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter." Paul tells us that when he first came back to Jerusalem after his conversion the Lord told him in Acts 22:21:
"And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
But Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, everywhere preached and practiced baptism, of Gentiles as well as Jews! Either Paul or Silas, or both, baptized the jailer and his family, the same hour of the night, when they were converted at Philippi (Acts 16:33). Lydia was likewise baptized (Acts16:l5), and Crispus (Acts18:8). Paul taught the people everywhere he went to be baptized, and even in some cases baptized the converts himself, though he did not want people to think that it was any better to be baptized with his own hands than by anybody else.
Baptism was never the principal matter with Paul, as it ought not to be with any preacher. In I Corinthians 1:17 Paul said:
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel."
Some opponents of baptism try to prove by this Scripture that Paul did not believe in baptism. The very opposite is true, as you see when you read the entire passage, (I Corinthians 1:11-17):
11. "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Pau1? 14. I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15. Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17. For 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."
The church of Corinth had contentions among them as you see in verses 11 and 12. Some people boasted that they were following Paul, that Paul baptized them. Others favored Apollos. Others claimed to follow Peter. Paul replied that he baptized only a few of them with his own hands, and was glad that he did not baptize others, but had others do the baptizing, since people would make it a matter of contention. That is, evidently, the same reason that Jesus did not baptize anybody with His own hands but had His disciples baptize many, as you see in John 4:1,2. In verse 13 Paul reminds them that it was Christ who was crucified for them, and that they were baptized in the name of Christ, not in the name of Paul. Then Paul told these quarreling Christians that it was not his business to baptize somebody to be a follower of himself, but that he came to preach the gospel. Paul did not mean that God did not intend for him to baptize people, or to write letters to Christians, or to teach young preachers who went with him. He did all of these things and taught others to do them, but his mission was to preach the gospel and get people saved! John the Baptist "came for a witness, to bear witness of the LIGHT" (John 1:6-8). Yet John baptized, as God had commanded him to do. Jesus Himself "came into the world to save sinners" (I Timothy 1:15), but we are plainly told that through His disciples He baptized multitudes (John 3:23, and John 4:1). Jesus gave the commission to his disciples "to preach the gospel to every creature"; but, in the same command, He plainly told them to baptize the converts! Baptism does not save people and is not as important as getting people saved; but it is important enough that every Christian ought to receive it, because Jesus commanded it.
When you study the inspired statement of Paul, as quoted above in I Corinthians 1:11-17, you will see several clear facts concerning baptism :
In his letters to the Christians at Corinth, at Rome, at Colosse, at Ephesus, and to the churches of Galatia, Paul discussed baptism in every case, and the converts at those places were baptized. In fact, Paul went into detail to remind them again of the meaning of baptism in Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:3-5. It is foolish to pretend that baptism meant in those cases anything different from what it meant in the Great Commission, and in the teaching and example of Jesus Himself. Remember also that the word baptism in the Bible always means baptism with water unless the passage plainly teaches otherwise. The word baptism never refers to the baptism of the Holy Ghost in the Bible unless it says so. The literal meaning of baptism is with water, and that is true throughout the New Testament as you will immediately see when you look through the concordance and read every passage which mentions baptism. All these Gentiles, then, converted through Paul's ministry were taught baptism and were baptized with water. Paul referred freely to baptism when he wrote to them in Colossians 2:12, Romans 6:3-5, I Corinthians 1:13, Galations 3:27 and Ephesians 4:5.
Peter, also, in his epistles "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," who were converted, reminded them of their baptism and gives the meaning of baptism as "the answer of a good conscience toward God," and says that it is a figure of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read the following passage in I Peter 3:20, 21:
". . . the ark . . . wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The 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."
This passage clearly refers to water baptism, a figure of the resurrection
of Jesus, and was addressed to converts in many nations, and this was written
long after Pentecost. Honest people who believe the Bible must conclude that
baptism was for Gentiles as well as Jews, and that the command is given to
every Christian to the end of this age.
Some people quote Colossians 2:14 as a command against baptism. That verse says:
"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."
Because baptism and the Lord's Supper are commonly called "ordinances," then ignorant people say that these were done away with at the death of Christ. However, when you read that chapter, it becomes obvious that the ordinances mentioned are the Old Testament ceremonial laws which verse 17 says "are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ." The death of Christ on the cross certainly did not blot out His instruction about baptism, for the Great Commission, commanding the disciples to baptize, was given after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ! All the books of the New Testament, mentioning baptism scores of times, were written after the resurrection of Jesus! In fact, just two verses above Colossians 2:14, in verse 12, Paul has just stated that baptism was a picture of the new life which Christians, being free from the ceremonial law, had by faith in Christ.
Acts 28:28 where Paul said to the Jews in Rome, "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it," is sometimes used as an argument that after that time the order of things changed and that baptism was done away with. How foolish! In the first place, that Scripture says nothing about changing baptism, and in the second place, the same thing had happened a number of other times with Jews in other places. For instance in Acts 13:46, Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia. When these Jews rejected the gospel, as did the Jews at Rome in Acts 28:25-28, Paul said to them the same thing that he later said to the Jews at Rome: "But seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." In fact, when you compare Acts 28:25-28 with Matthew 13:10-17, you will see that Jesus said the same thing as Paul did, and quoted identically the same Old Testament Scripture about the Jews, even before His crucifixion! The Jews as a nation had rejected Christ before His crucifixion. When Paul carried the gospel to the various towns, the same thing happened everywhere he went. But he went on preaching the same gospel to Jews and Gentiles, and the converts were baptized just as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission.
It is clear to all who are willing to take God's Word for it that baptism
is for this generation the same as in Bible times and is commanded for
Gentiles the same as for Jews.
The ultra-dispensationalists, the followers of Dr. Bullinger of England and of lesser men in America, say that through the book of Acts until Acts 28:28 there was what they call "the Jewish church". Then they say that in Acts 28:28 Paul turned to the Gentiles and "the Gentile church" began, that "church truth" was revealed, and that at Acts 28:28 a new dispensation began. So, they say that, in this dispensation, baptism is out of order. That teaching is foolish, illogical and unscriptural. But lest some should be deceived by it we answer it briefly here.
I can show you that no new dispensation started in Acts 28:28. When you read the passage beginning with verse 17, you will see that when Paul got to Rome, he called the Jews together and out of the Scriptures he taught them concerning the Saviour. Verse 24 says, "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not." Then Paul quoted the words of Isaiah 6:9,10 to those that did not believe, and said in verse 28, "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."
Note that not a single hint is given of a new dispensation. Paul preached: some were saved and some were not. Those who were hardened in heart were specially warned. Then following his attempt to win Jews, Paul began to preach to the Gentiles. But that is an old story to anybody who has carefully read through the book of Acts, for that is exactly what Paul did everywhere he went! Look briefly, with me, at his record in Acts.
When Paul was first saved he preached in the synagogue at Damascus until "the Jews took counsel to kill him" (Acts 9:22-23).
In Antioch of Pisidia Paul and Barnabas went into the synagogue and Paul preached a great sermon (Acts 13:14-41). Then Gentiles wanted to hear the gospel, and some Jews and Gentiles were saved. But the mass of the Jews "were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming" (Acts 13:45). Then note what Paul and Barnabas did. Verses 46 and 47 say, "Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
Note that plain statement, "Lo, we turn to the Gentiles." Does that mean a new dispensation started in Acts 13:46? No, it does not. If it did mean that, then a new dispensation would start everywhere Paul preached! For always he preached first to the Jews, and later to the Gentiles when the Jews ceased to hear him.
In Acts 14 the same story is repeated; Paul and Barnabas first preached in the synagogue of the Jews, and then when "unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren." (vs. 2) Paul and Barnabas preached to Gentiles. In the nearby town of Lystra, Paul was worshipped by the Gentiles, and later stoned! Paul and Silas went into the synagogue at Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-5) and Berea (Acts 17:10-14), and in each of these places he first preached to the Jews and was hated and driven out by the Jews, and then he preached to anybody he could. That was Paul's regular plan. He did there "as his manner was" (Acts 17:2) always. "To the Jew first" in every community, then to Gentiles.
In Acts 18:1-11 we learn how Paul preached at Corinth. He was first in the synagogue, but when chased out of the synagogue, he began preaching to Gentiles, Acts 18:6 says, "And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." Note that plain statement, "From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." But Paul meant the Gentiles in that particular area; he did not mean to begin a new dispensation, neither here nor elsewhere. The succeeding verses tell how he stayed there a year and six months, in the home of Justus, and how many were saved and baptized (Acts 18:8).
Now compare three statements of Paul:
At Antioch of Pisidia - "Lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46).
At Corinth - "From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles" (Acts 18:6).
At Rome - "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it" (Acts 28:28).
These verses show that Paul, in every town into which he entered, followed the plan which he mentioned in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
And it was nothing new or unexpected that Paul should, everywhere he went, turn to the Gentiles, for the very day Paul was saved and called to be an apostle God promised to deliver him "from the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee" (Acts 26:17). And later when he tried to go back to Jerusalem to preach, God said to him sharply, "Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles" (Acts 22:21).
There is not a shadow of evidence that God meant any new dispensation to begin in Acts 28:28. Paul did not change his preaching nor his practice. And even the Scripture from Isaiah 6:9-10, which Paul quoted to the stubborn Jews at Rome (Acts 28:25-27), was exactly the same Scripture that Jesus quoted to the Pharisees in His day, as given in Matthew 13:14,15.
And yet on such a slender argument, without a single Scripture saying that a new dispensation was begun, some people, eager for a change, throw away baptism and some throw away even the Lord's Supper and even the Great Commission!
It is true that Paul preached to Gentiles, as he had been doing for some
time before Acts 28:28; but he preached to them the same gospel, and he
baptized them the same way Jesus commanded us to see that new converts were
baptized, as we go "into all the world and preach the gospel to every
creature" and continue "even unto the end of the world."
Short-sighted people who are not familiar with the context of Ephesians 4:5 which says, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," foolishly say that it does away with baptism in water. Now it will simplify your understanding of that verse if you will read the whole short passage, Ephesians 4:1-7:
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit. even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
Notice that Paul is beseeching the Christians at Ephesus to be lowly, meek, longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, trying to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." He is trying to get Christians to get along one with the other. And then he tells, them that all Christians have much in common.
Therefore they ought to have unity.
You will notice that there is no discussion in the passage about how many bodies there are, how many Holy Spirits, how many different hopes, how many different Lords, how many different faiths, how many different baptisms, or how many different Gods. THAT IS NOT WHAT GOD IS TALKING ABOUT! Actually there has always been only one of each of the seven blessed things that all Christians should have alike. Some people would have you think that there were once two baptisms but that now baptism with water is done away with and that there remains only baptism in the Holy Spirit.
But if you will read very carefully, I am sure this matter will be clear in your mind.
There is only one literal, physical baptism mentioned for New Testament Christians, that is, baptism in water. Usually it is simply called "baptism." We say "water baptism," but the Bible never does, because "baptism" always means baptism in water unless the Scripture expressly describes some other kind of baptism. The truth is that for three or four years before Pentecost, John the Baptist was baptizing thousands and thousands of new converts in Judea, and Jesus and his disciples baptized other thousands, and everybody knew the term baptism and used it about the immersion of a new convert in water after repentance. So baptism was simply the literal, physical act of immersing a new convert in water, picturing the coming death and burial of Christ.
Later the word baptism was used figuratively of several other things. For example Jesus, in Matthew 20:22, asked John and James, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Jesus referred to His sufferings, meaning that He would be immersed, covered, overwhelmed with sorrow and suffering. But note that that was a figurative, symbolical use of the word baptized, and that it was not a literal, physical baptism. Literal baptism is in water, the burial or immersion of a new convert, on profession of his faith.
Likewise in Acts 1:5 Jesus said, "For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." John baptized with water, that is, literally immersed litera1, physical people in water. But Jesus said, using that as a figure of speech, that at Pentecost the apostles should "be baptized with the Holy Ghost." In a figure of speech, He said that they would be immersed, covered, with the Holy Spirit. But actually the Holy Spirit is not physical, is not visible, and to say that one would be buried, immersed or baptized with Him is a figure of speech. Remember that that figure of speech was not often used about the Holy Spirit, and in Acts 2:4 when Pentecost came we are simply told that "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." It is permissible to use the term "baptized with the Holy Ghost," if we remember that it was not a physical immersion, and that that is simply a figurative use of a term that was well understood referring to baptism in water.
So Paul was inspired to use the same figure of speech in I Corinthians 12:13 when he said, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." In a figurative sense, when one is converted, he becomes a part of the mystical, unseen body of Christians who will be called out at the rapture and assembled in Heaven. So as a figure of speech, one may say that he is buried into that body, immersed in it, becoming a part of that body. The picture is the same used in I Peter 2:5 where Christians are said to be living stones, built into a wall, and the wall is a spiritual house for God. In that fanciful and beautiful figure of speech the word baptism or immersion is used. But actually, of course, that is not in a physical baptism. It is only in a figurative sense that a Christian is built into a wall and covered or buried in the wall of a house. It is all right to say that we are baptized into the body of Christ, if you realize that that is only a figure of speech and not a literal, physical immersion of the believer into anything.
So you see that real, actual, physical, literal baptism means the immersion of a believer's body in literal water, symbolizing the burial and resurrection of Christ and the believer's portion in the salvation so purchased by Christ.
So when Ephesians 4:5 says there is "one Lord, one faith and one baptism," it refers to water baptism. And of this literal, physical baptism, there never has been but one kind taught in the Scriptures.
Of course that does not mean that no one will ever be overwhelmed with suffering, as Jesus said in Matthew 20:22, "baptized" with suffering. But that is not a physical and literal baptism. Of course it does not mean that new converts no longer become a part of Christ's body, the church. But that is not a physical, literal baptism. Of course it does not mean that no Christian will ever any more be filled, covered, surrounded and overwhelmed with the power of the Holy Spirit as the disciples were at Pentecost. But that is only a figurative use of the word baptism.
God is simply saying that Christians have the same body, the same hope, the
same Spirit, the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, the same God and
Father and therefore they ought to be united. Ephesians 4:5 does not mean that
water baptism is done away. It certainly does not indicate any change. There
never was but one literal, physical baptism commanded for New Testament
Christians and that one is still commanded.
If baptism is not for us, then we have no part in much of the New Testament. We would have to lay aside Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, since all of them give examples of people being baptized on the authority of Jesus. All of them tell about the baptism of Jesus Himself as our example. If baptism is not for us, then the Sermon on the Mount is not for us, for it is given in the same books. If baptism is not for us, then the plan of salvation as given throughout the book of John is not for us. Those who despise this blessed command of Jesus, that Christians should be baptized, and who say it is not for us, would have to do away with the Acts of the Apostles, since that is a book of revivals and baptisms. Romans, Colossians, First Peter, Ephesians, and First Corinthians must all be laid aside as not for this generation if baptism is not for us, for in all of these, the divinely inspired writers taught and referred to baptism as a duty of Christians.
Baptism is connected with every great doctrine in the Bible. If baptism is not for us, then of course the Great Commission is not for us. Jesus commanded soul winning in the same Great Commission where He commanded baptism. The one was given as positively as the other. If it is not right for us to baptize the converts after we win them, it is not right to win them. The Lord Jesus put both commands in the same sentence (Matt. 28:19,20). So did the inspired Apostle Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was inspired to connect baptism with the death of Christ and with His bodily resurrection. If one is not for us, then the other is not for us. The command to baptize, or be baptized, is not repealed or taken back anywhere in the Bible. So if I lay it aside, I must lay aside all the promises of God in the New Testament in the same books.
You can see that that is a foolish and wicked scheme of the Devil to get people to disregard the Word of God. Any man who throws away part of the Bible is a kind of modernist and is not to be trusted. If one man has a right to disregard the command of Jesus about baptism, other men have a right to disregard the teaching of Jesus on any other matter. As for me, I will have a whole Bible, inspired of God, all of it authoritative and reliable, or I will have no Bible at all.
am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has
warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years.” —Billy SUNDAY
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