"Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, 'Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen...'" (Acts 13:16)
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The Who & When of Baptism

by Stephen R. Bradd

The conclusion in this series of three lessons explains who is a proper candidate for baptism and when such should take place

Today we will conclude our study on baptism. What have we learned from the Scriptures thus far regarding this important subject? We've seen that Bible baptism is immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of one's sins. We've also learned that sprinkling and pouring are not proper forms of Bible baptism, and the location in which a baptism takes place is unimportant, as long as there is sufficient water to immerse the individual. Additionally, we've seen that it is possible to be immersed incorrectly (e.g., one has not been properly baptized if he thinks his sins are already forgiven prior to his immersion). Bible baptism must be for the remission of one's sins. At this time, we have two final journalistic questions to ask and answer: who & when.

First, let's consider the question: WHEN SHOULD A BAPTISM TAKE PLACE?

Is there any particular time that is better than another for a baptism to take place? What does the Bible say? The Bible teaches time and time again that once a person believes in Christ and repents of his sinful ways he should be baptized immediately! There is no need to wait until the invitation on Sunday morning! There is no need to wait for a special time each month or year. As soon as a person believes and repents, that person should be Scripturally baptized. That is, he should be immersed in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of his sins, and he should do it as soon as possible! Why? Because life is uncertain! We do not know when we might die or when the Lord will come again. We need to be ready! We need to respond to the gospel as quickly as we can because of this fact.

Let me share a few Bible examples to prove this point to you. In Acts 2, three thousand people were baptized the very day they heard the gospel proclaimed. They believed and repented, and they were baptized that same day! They did not put it off! In Acts 8, Philip taught the eunuch, and, within a few hours at most, he baptized the man. The eunuch did not put it off! Likewise, Cornelius and his household reacted the same way in Acts 10. They did not put it off! Again, in Acts 16, Lydia and her household made the decision to be baptized shortly after being exposed to the truth (as did the Philippian jailor and his family). They did not put it off! Saul also was baptized immediately after he learned that such was necessary (Acts 22). He did not put if off!

Friends, there are many examples in the book of Acts of people being taught and baptized, and it appears that the sooner they were baptized the better! Of course, one should never rush into being baptized. Do not be baptized just because of pressure someone is putting on you. Do not be baptized just because other people are doing it. Instead, you should be baptized as soon as you meet the Bible conditions for baptism, and you should not put it off any longer. In other words, (1) once a person learns from the Bible that they are lost in sin and need forgiveness, and (2) when they come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and (3) when they are willing to turn their life over completely to the Lord and stop living a life of sin, then and only then should they be baptized! Once those three basic conditions can be met, a person should be baptized as soon as possible-especially since life is so uncertain.

And that brings us to the final question for our study on baptism: WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?

Some would say, "Everyone!", but that is not correct. Only those who meet the conditions for baptism should be baptized, and we've already seen what those conditions are. Since Bible baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, a person needs to realize he or she is a sinner. Can everyone do this? No! I'm referring specifically to babies and young children. We need to realize that babies do not need to be baptized because they have no sin! Matt. 18:1-4 establishes that point as well as Ezek. 18:20. Let's consider both of these passages briefly. First, Ezek. 18:20 - "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." Those who believe that babies are born in sin have difficulty with this verse because they believe that babies, in some mystical way, inherit the guilt of sin from their ancestors. Friends, the Bible could not be any plainer: the son shall not bear the guilt of the father! Thus, no matter how wicked the parents of a baby are, that child is born guiltless and without sin. Now, let's read Matt. 18:1-4 - "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Did you catch that? Jesus says that a person will not go to heaven unless they become like little children (i.e., in regards to their innocence and purity). Now think about this passage from the perspective of those who believe that babies are born in sin. They would have to conclude from this passage that Jesus is instructing His listeners to become like little sinners in order to enter His kingdom! I hope you can see how ridiculous that position is!

Babies and young children are pure and do not need baptism since they have no sins to wash away. It is only when a child becomes old enough to start understanding right from wrong and can understand they have committed wrongs that need to be forgiven, that they have a need for baptism. Is this what the religious world practices, though? No. Many denominations sprinkle and pour water over babies as a form of baptism. However, this is wrong on two accounts: (1) Sprinkling and pouring are not Bible baptism (immersion is) and (2) Can a baby believe in Christ and repent of his sins? No! First of all, a baby has no sins to be forgiven. Secondly, a baby most certainly cannot be taught to believe in Christ until he grows up a little bit (cf. Rom. 10:17)!

So, who should be baptized? Those who have a need for it, and those who believe in Christ and are willing to turn from sinful living and serve God with all their being. Basically, every adult needs to be baptized because eventually everyone does sin (Rom. 3:23 - "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"). Additionally, there is an age that children reach when growing up in which they too will need to be baptized. When do they reach this age? It is different for every child, depending upon how quickly they mature. It all depends upon when they start becoming accountable for that which is right and wrong. Some children could be ready as early as 9 or 10; however, most are not mature enough to make a life-long commitment to the Lord until their teenage years.

Now wait a minute, Stephen. Doesn't the Bible contain examples of entire families being baptized? Wouldn't that imply that babies were baptized in the early church? The answer to the first question is "yes," but the answer to the second question is "no." Acts 16:32,33 is an example of an entire household being taught the gospel message and then obeying it. However, it is illogical to conclude that there were infants immersed on this occasion. The text itself indicates that the words of life were spoken to all who were in the house. Would a baby be able to diligently listen to and comprehend spoken words? Of course not. Babies do not understand preaching and their mental faculties are not yet developed enough to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some have tried to make a case for infant baptism in Acts 16, but such is quite a stretch and, as we have shown, in direct conflict with what can be properly deduced about the matter elsewhere in God's word.

Well, that takes care of our second question. Let's try to tie everything together before we close this study on baptism. Bible baptism is immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Bible baptism must be preceded by faith and repentance. The place of baptism is unimportant. The time of a baptism is unimportant, but the sooner the better. Furthermore, only those who meet the conditions should be baptized.

I hope these three lessons have stimulated your thinking. If you have been Scripturally baptized, make sure that you really are living the life that God wants you to live! Being properly baptized will not help you one bit if you do not continue to live faithfully for God everyday (Rev. 2:10 - "...Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life"; Matt. 10:22 - "...he who endures to the end will be saved").

Perhaps while listening to this lesson today, you have come to realize that you have not been Biblically baptized. Perhaps you were sprinkled or poured upon as a baby. According to God's word, that's not good enough. Perhaps you were immersed, but at the time you thought that you were already saved. That's not good enough either. A person must be baptized to have their sins washed away, not because they think they are already saved. Perhaps you really do not know if your baptism was proper. What should you do? Friends, you should contact us immediately and let us help you make sure your life is right with God! This is a serious matter. Your soul's eternal home is at stake. If you have not been Biblically baptized, then you are still in your sins, and you are currently in a lost condition. Without Bible baptism, you will die and go to hell after the judgment. You will suffer forever because you did not obey the Lord! You did not obey the gospel! I know that sounds harsh, but that is what the Bible teaches (II Thess. 1:7-9), and it is my duty to preach God's word faithfully. It's my duty to deliver the truth to you because I love and care about your soul. That's what Audio Evangelism is all about. My intention is certainly not to offend anyone, though I know that some will be offended no matter what I say. I want nothing more than for you to obey the truth of God's word and live with Him in glory one day!

I hope and pray that you will believe the gospel and obey it before it is too late. If you know your baptism was not Bible baptism, please contact us and let us help you. The choice is yours. Please make the right choice. The Lord wants you to be His child. He wants you to be forgiven. Do you believe in Him and His Son? Will you commit yourself to living a life that He would have you to live? If so, then you need to be baptized. Do not wait another day, friend! Tomorrow may be too late! Do not procrastinate, and do not dawdle! Tomorrow may be too late! Do not put off what you know you need to do to get right with the Lord! Tomorrow may be too late! Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.

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