Few Thoughts on Baptism: No. 1

Acts 2:38  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
(“R. Τ. K.," Hammersmith.) Your question as to " baptism bringing a person into the house or profession of Christianity," requires more than a page in " Correspondence.” What we understand by " the great house” of 2 Tim. 2:2020But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. (2 Timothy 2:20), is baptized Christendom, in which are found vessels to honor, and some to dishonor. It will, no doubt, help us to trace the subject of baptism from the beginning.
Even the baptism of John should be examined, and it will be found helpful. i( He came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (See Luke 3:33And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; (Luke 3:3); Matt, iii.) " Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." Thus did God make straight the path, and prepare the way for the blessed Savior. The leaders of the people do not seem to have understood it. But it was really bringing the people to the very place where they entered the land fifteen hundred years before, and the most complete repentance and self-judgment that all was failure, confessing their sins and need of forgiveness. If Jordan was the figure of death in the days of Joshua, they had to be buried in death for the forgiveness of sins. All had to begin again, and somehow forgiveness had to be reached through death, of which the Jordan was the figure. John seems quite conscious that he cannot fully explain what he is doing (see his answer to the priests, John 1:1919And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? (John 1:19)). He was not the promised Christ, he only prepared the way. All the baptized disciples of John were simply prepared for another. They had repented, confessing their sins, and were buried in the river of death. But how were those sins to be forgiven? That other One appeared, He came to this sin-confessed multitude, and, to meet their need, went Himself into this river of death, striking figure of the death of the cross. Now hear the words of John to this prepared multitude: “Behold the Lamb of God, which beareth away the sin of the world." Thus the baptism, even of John, should have brought them eventually to the Lamb of God.
Then John must decrease. His work was done. A baptism unto the Lamb of God for forgiveness of sins. We do not read their sins were forgiven by baptism. If that had been the case, there would have been no need for the Lamb of God. The work of John was to prepare the way, to prove man's need of Him. Thus John made disciples, and thus were disciples made unto Jesus as Messiah. (See John 4:1, 21When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) (John 4:1‑2).)
Discipleship was evidently outward profession, the vine on earth. We must not confound this with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, of the members of the body to the Head now on high. (1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13).) As man, He was not then in heaven, but on earth, where many were made disciples by water baptism. (John 4:11When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (John 4:1).)
How far will all this help us as to Pentecost? What a change! We are now at Jerusalem, where fifty days before redemption had been accomplished. The Lamb of God had died, the propitiation for sin. God had raised Him from the dead. He had not only spoken perfect, everlasting peace to His disciples, but He had also commissioned them to begin at this very place, and announce repentance and remission of sins in His name, also among all nations. (See Luke 24:4747And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47).) Before doing this, however, they were to wait until they were endowed with power from on high. But now the promised Holy Ghost had descended from heaven. Every barrier being removed, now read the gospel announced by Peter. (Acts 2:22-4722Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39For 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. 40And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:22‑47).)
The order is reversed now. John had first preached the baptism of repentance. This prepared the way to direct those who repented to the Lamb of God—most important in its place. In this way they were led to the Lamb as the One through whom alone sins can be forgiven. Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, preaches, first, "Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ." He begins where John ends-the purpose and counsel of God, fulfilled in the death and crucifixion of Jesus. They with wicked hands had put Him to death. God had raised Him up both Lord and Christ. This announcement, by the Holy Ghost working in the heart, produced that godly sorrow which leadeth to the needed repentance; and, believing the words they heard from Peter, they said, " What shall we do?" The answer now is in perfect harmony with what John had partially announced: " Then"—that is, after they had heard and believed the wonderful tidings of Jesus exalted on high—" then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And mark, this declaration from God went far beyond merely themselves. “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call." Now did not that change of mind, produced by, or the result of, godly sorrow for what they had done as Jews, imply the full confession and judgment of themselves and their sins in what they had done? And, in like manner, though they might not as yet fully understand it, did not their baptism to the Lord Jesus imply the utter giving up of all on which they had formerly depended? They were thus, by repentance and baptism, directed to the name of Jesus Christ alone for the remission of sins.
We shall find, when we come to the explanation in the Epistles, it was separation, as by death, from all in which they had formerly stood. The effect of the exhortation which followed is summed up in these words, " Save yourselves from this untoward generation." By this act, then, as a figure, they were separated, and formed the first beginning of the community of believers. " They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added about three thousand souls." Outward profession then, by baptism, and the true assembly of God were identical in that day, for " the Lord added daily such as should be saved." Baptism, then, was plainly the giving up of Judaism, and looking only to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins; thus involving separation as by death.
It is remarkable that this is just how the Jew understands baptism to this day. The Jew may make a lip profession of Christianity, but can you trust him if he refuses to be baptized? Not the least. Let him be baptized; from that day he is a dead man to the Jews—yes, even to his father and mother. In a so-called christian country like England, we almost lose the original meaning of baptism.
Now, if we inquire further in the Acts, we shall not find the order of John introduced in one single instance. It is Jesus, or the words of this life, the apostles first preached everywhere. (Chap, v. 20-42.) We have to pass on from Pentecost to chapter viii. before we find much more as to baptism. Here, again, we find the " preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ;” and it was when they believed Philip that they were baptized, both men and women.
There is much for reflection in this chapter, and we desire to forget all theories in looking at it. It is evident there was no sacramental grace, or new birth, in it, for we find Simon, the sorcerer, was baptized, though still in the bond of iniquity. But the most striking thing is this—that baptism in water is totally distinct from the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Samaria had received the word of God, and that in the full separative profession of baptism. But it was not until after the apostles had sent Peter and John that they received the Holy Ghost. Thus, by baptism they had been brought into the house, or profession of Christianity, being baptized unto the name of Jesus Christ; some time before they were baptized by the Holy Ghost into the body of Christ. (See 1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13).) No two things could therefore be more distinct.
In the case of Philip and the eunuch, the same order is observed. He does not preach baptism to the eunuch, but, " Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus," that is, the Savior, as the One who bare our sins, &c, as foretold in Isa. 53 Acts 8:3737And 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. (Acts 8:37) is no doubt an interpolation, still, the truth is clear: he heard the word, believed, and then took his place as a professed Christian in baptism. " They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
(To be continued.)