Baptism in the Christian Life
August 28th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
BAPTISM IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-28-77 10:50 a.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in chapter 8, and we are now coming to the conclusion of that chapter. And the reading of the text is this; Acts, chapter 8, beginning at verse 34: “And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself or of some other man?” [Acts 8:34], reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, “All we like sheep have gone astray . . . the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all . . . He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before His shearers . . . so opened He not His mouth . . .” [Isaiah 53:6- 7].
Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or some other man?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And 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.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way—praise God, hallelujah, bless His name!—and he went on his way rejoicing.
There is a corollary here, a deduction that is very, very plain: “beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus [Acts 8:35]. And as they went on their way, seeing this water, the eunuch said, Look, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36]. Evidently, and clearly, and plainly, and reasonably, and rightly, when we deliver the gospel message, it carries with it the ordinance of baptism. You could not preach Jesus, and not preach that holy and initial ordinance. As the Gospels present the message of Christ, it begins with John the Baptist baptizing his converts in the Jordan River; had to have lots of water [John 3:23], so he was down there in the river, baptizing his converts, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins [Luke 3:3; Mark 1:4].
And in those days, Jesus walked sixty miles from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized of John, and there did He begin His anointed and messianic ministry [Matthew 3:13-17]. Then, following through the life of our Lord in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, the witness of the great Baptist to the Messiah of God:
There arose a disputation between the disciples of John and the [Jews] over baptism [John 3:25].
And they went to John concerning the confrontation.
And John said, He that has the bride is the bridegroom. And the friend of the bridegroom rejoices to hear his voice. . . .
He must increase, but I must decrease.
[John 3:29, 30]
Following through the story of our Lord, preaching Jesus, finally to the Great and last Commission, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth [Matthew 28:18]. Go ye therefore, and matheteuō—not only euaggelizō, but matheteuō, “make disciples”—of all of the people—like Bob George is doing—“baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” in the name of the triune God [Matthew 28:19]. We know Him the One great God, as our Father, and as our Savior, and as the Holy Spirit of comfort, and keeping within us:
Baptizing them in the name of the triune God,
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I will be with you to the end of the age.
When we faithfully follow that command, God has promised to be with us to the end of the age [Matthew 28:20]. So, as he preached unto him Jesus [Acts 8:35], he made a part of that gospel message—an inevitable part, a constituent part, an enwoven, an integral part—he made of it that ordinance of baptism. And while he was preaching Jesus, they came unto this certain water and the eunuch broke in and said, “Look, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:36]. And in keeping with the commandment of the Lord [Matthew 28:19], the ordinance was faithfully observed by this believing treasurer and statesman of Ethiopia [Acts 8:37-38]. So with the whole recounting of the Word of God, the ordinance is always followed by those who accept Christ as their Savior.
The New Testament knows no such thing as an unbaptized believer, it is nonexistent. There are ten instances in the Book of Acts, among all of the rest of the propagation of the gospel in that first Christian century, and there is no exception; there is no such thing as a believer not being baptized. In fact, that is the first thing that a believer has in his heart. “I have accepted the Lord. I want to be saved. I want to be baptized. I have been saved.” Like Psalm 119:60, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments.” And when one has accepted Christ as his Savior, immediately, immediately, he wants to be baptized, “Here is water, I want to be baptized. What hinders me from being baptized?” [Acts 8:36].
For all of the years of his ministry here, the editor of the Baptist Standard, Dr. David M. Gardiner, was a fellow elder in our dear church. He wrote an editorial on the fourteenth day of February in 1946. And then it was republished, this editorial by Dr. Gardiner, on November 11, 1964. May I read from it?
According to the records of the First Baptist Church of New York City, John Gano, who was the first pastor of the church, had served as chaplain through the war period. John Gano and General George Washington were close personal friends. And Gano was his chaplain, right by the side of George Washington through all of the Revolutionary period. When the war was over and the peace treaty had been signed, George Washington was with his troops in camp at Newburgh on the Hudson River. Chaplain Gano was preaching and expounding the truths of the gospel to the soldiers. General Washington was there and heard him. And though he was a member of the Anglican Church and had been sprinkled in infancy, Washington began to search the Scriptures and was convinced that he had never been baptized. He approached the chaplain, John Gano, and requested baptism, quote, “as taught and practiced in the Scriptures.” According to the records of the First Baptist Church of New York, General Washington was baptized in the Hudson River in the presence of forty-two witnesses.
Then the editorial continues:
The baptism was not beneath the dignity of this great general, who was not too proud to acknowledge his rightful Master. Among men he was an upstanding giant; before God, a kneeling child.
That is in the heart of every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. “I have been saved, I have been born again! [John 3:3, 7]. I have confessed my sins to God, and for Jesus’ sake He has forgiven me [Ephesians 4:32]. I want to be baptized.” Is it not in the Book? “As they went on their way, they came unto a certain water. And the eunuch said, Look, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36]. I want to be baptized! And in every believer’s heart will that arise, “I want to be baptized.”
We now come to a discussion from the Book of who is to be baptized. Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest” [Acts 8:37]. There is one and only one prerequisite, one condition to our being baptized, and that is that we purposely, and we volitionally, and choosedly, openly, unashamedly confess our faith in Jesus as the Son of God, our Savior. There is no other condition. But that condition, when it is met, is always followed by being baptized [Acts 8:36-38].
Now let us take it both ways. As in the New Testament there is no such thing as an unbaptized believer, now the other side of it: so in the New Testament there is no such thing as a baptized unbeliever; it is unknown to the Word and revelation of the Word of God. I spoke a moment ago of ten instances in the Book of Acts alone. And in each one of those ten instances of baptism, always carefully, and plainly, significantly, meaningfully, is it presented to us that these first believed; they confessed their faith in the Lord, and then they were baptized. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, the great Pentecostal response in Jerusalem: “and they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day God added to this company of saints three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41]. Here in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, there are three instances of that faith and baptism. In the Samaritan revival, they believed and they were baptized [Acts 8:12]. Simon the Magus believed and he was baptized [Acts 8:13]. And the third instance here in the Book of Acts, our text, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” And he said, “I believe.” And they went down into the water, and he was baptized [Acts 8:37-38].
Turn the page in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts: Saul of Tarsus is wonderfully converted, and immediately on his confession of faith he is baptized [Acts 9:18]. Turn the page into the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts: we have there the story of the Gentile Caesarean Pentecost with Cornelius, the Roman centurion. And upon their believing, Simon Peter asks, “Who can forbid water, that these should not be baptized the same as we?” [Acts 10:47-48]. Turn the page and we come to the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, and there are two baptisms. Lydia believes, this seller of purple from Thyatira—Lydia believes and she is baptized [Acts 16:14-15]. And in that same chapter, the Philippian jailer accepts the Lord as his Savior, and that night immediately he is baptized [Acts 16:30-33]. Turn the page: in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the great revival under Paul in Corinth, Crispus, the head of the synagogue, the ruler of the synagogue, is converted and he is baptized [Acts 18:8]. Turn the page in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, and those twelve mistaken disciples of John are taught the Word of the Lord perfectly, and they are immediately baptized [Acts 19:1-5]. There is no exception to that revelation of the Word of God. First you must be saved, you must confess your faith in the Lord Jesus, and then you are baptized upon that open, unashamed confession of faith [Acts 8:36-38].
Now when you invert that, when you turn that around, you do violence to the Word of God and to the great meaning and purpose of that heavenly and holy ordinance. Only in sacerdotalism, only in priestcraft, is that ever turned around contrary to the Word of God. And in some strange, magical persuasion, a baby, an unconscious baby, is sprinkled and they say the child is “baptized.” So astonished, amazed, overwhelmed at so strange a come-to-pass, we asked the officiating minister, “Why do you do this contrary to the Word of God, in violation of the whole meaning of the sacred ordinance? [Acts 8:36-38]. Why do you do this?” And he replies: “This is for the purpose of ridding the child of Adamic original sin. The child is born into the world in sin, original sin, the Adamic sin, the sin we have inherited from our forefathers. And these few drops of water sprinkled upon that unconscious infant clears the child from original, Adamic sin.”
What? What? When the Bible clearly and plainly avows such as 1 Corinthians 15:22, “As in Adam we all die”—all of us alike, sinners [Romans 3:23]—”as in Adam we all die, so in Christ we are all made alive.” All of us. No man shall ever die because of somebody else’s sin. He will not be judged because of the sin of his father and mother. He will not be judged or condemned because of the sin of his grandfather and grandmother. Nor will he be judged and condemned because of the sins of their fathers—clear on back to Adam. As in Adam we all die, all of us sinners. So in Christ, we are all made alive; the atoning blood of Christ has covered the sin of Adam, original sin [1 Corinthians 15:22].
All that remains for me is, I sin. And when I come to that age of accountability and I realize that I also have sin, I for myself must confess my sins and ask God for Jesus’ sake to forgive me and then I am forgiven [1 John 1:9]—not for my father and mother’s sin; not for the Adamic sin—but for my sin. When I come to that age that I realize, I too have sinned in God’s sight, I must ask God to forgive me and the blood of Jesus Christ avails to wash us clean and white [Psalm 51:7]. And there is no such thing as a baby dying and going to hell because of Adamic or original sin. “As in Adam, we all die, so in Christ, we all are made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:22]. His blood atones for all of the sin of the world [1 John 2:2]. It is just that, when I reach that age of knowing, I must ask God for me to forgive my sins. And when I do, He does. I am saved [Acts 16:31], and on that confession of faith, I am baptized according to the holy ordinance [Acts 8:36-38].
Now we come to the last; how was he baptized? I read it:
Then he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more:
and he went on his way—hallelujah!—rejoicing.
Now there is a word in that that is not translated, and this morning, you are going to translate it. And you will know how to translate it: “and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch: and he [Acts 8:38], “and then you have a Greek word b-a-p-t-i-z—the Greek is baptizō, but they refuse to translate it—the translation was made by the Anglican Church in 1611 and they did not do that. It was a great problem what to do with that word, so they anglicized it, b-a-p-t-i-z-o in Greek—they changed the ending to an “e”; b-a-p-t-i-z-e, baptize—and they did not translate it. Fine, we are going to let you translate it. I have taken out of Greek literature in that day, I have taken just a few instances out of the literature of the Greek people. So you translate it. We will just let you translate it.
First, Aristotle: quoting from Aristotle, he writes, quote, “The Phoenicians sailing beyond Hercules’ Pillars”—the Strait of Gibraltar—“came to a land uninhabited, whose coast was full of seaweeds and is not laid into the water at ebb. But when the tide comes in, it is wholly baptizō.” Just let you translate it. Heraclites, a disciple of Aristotle, wrote the Homeric legends. And he is moralizing here on the fable of Mars being taken by Vulcan and he says, quote, “Neptune is ingenuously supposed to deliver Mars from Vulcan, to signify that when a piece of iron is taken red hot out of a fire and baptizō in water, the heat is repelled and extinguished.” You translate it yourself. The Greek Septuagint, the Bible used by the apostles and disciples of the Lord in the first Christian centuries was the Greek Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Now, in the Greek Septuagint of course, there is the story of Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5 [2 Kings 5:1-14]. And Elisha the prophet tells Naaman to go down to the Jordan River and dip himself seven times and he will be healed [2 Kings 5:10]; Naaman is a leper, the captain of the host of the king of Assyria [2 Kings 5:1]. So 2 Kings 5:14, in the Greek Septuagint:
Then Naaman went down, and baptizō himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean, and he was clean.
He went down to the Jordan and baptizō himself seven times.
[2 Kings 5:14]
Now, Polybius, Polybius was a great historian, and describing a spear in one of his histories, he writes, quote, “Even if a spear falls into the sea, it is not lost, for it is compacted of oak and pine so that when the heavy part is baptizō by the weight, the rest is buoyed up and it is easily recovered.” Diodorus is a Roman historian writing in Greek. “The river,” quoting from Diodorus, “the river rushing down with the current increased in violence and baptizō many.” Then again, “Most of the wild animals surrounded by the stream perished being baptizō. But some escaping to the high ground were saved.” Strabo, Strabo was a contemporary of Jesus, a great historian and geographer. Describing the march of Alexander’s soldiers, passing between the great mountain climax and the sea, the land subject to overflow, he says, quote, “It happened that the whole day long, the march was made in water, the men being baptizō up to the waist.”
Now we come to Flavius Josephus, who was a contemporary of the apostles Paul and John. He wrote his famous histories; the Antiquities of the Jews and the Wars of the Jews; he wrote it in Greek. Now, in the Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus, a Jew—and he was a general in the army that rebelled against Rome in 66 and wrote all of that terrible war that ensued in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD; he was there and watched it all and wrote it all. That is there in these books written by Josephus. Now Josephus tells in minute detail the life of Herod the Great. Herod the Great, the one who slew the innocent babes at Bethlehem [Matthew 2:16], was one of the bloodiest tyrants, if not the bloodiest, who ever lived. He killed all of his own family, he murdered his wives, he murdered his sons, he murdered his households. He lived with his hands steeped in human blood.
Herod the Great had married Mariamne, a Maccabean princess—the last in the line of the Maccabees. And Mariamne, having a brother, bid Herod to appoint her brother high priest in the temple in Jerusalem. At that time, as you know, the high priesthood was a political pawn and whoever ruled the country appointed the high priest. So Mariamne, the beautiful Maccabean princess and the wife of Herod, begged, and begged, and begged Herod to appoint her brother high priest. And finally, the tyrant acquiesced and appointed Aristobulus the brother of Mariamne high priest.
When the day of Tabernacles came, the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, Aristobulus—who was then just seventeen years of age, tall and handsome and the last of the Maccabees—marched at the head of a Jewish procession of priests and devotees through the streets of Jerusalem. And when the Jewish people saw Aristobolus, tall, strong, beautifully dressed in the high priest robes, and miter, and ephod, and bells, and pomegranate, and the breastplate of the twelve jewels on his chest; when they saw him at the head of the procession, walking through the streets of Jerusalem, they fell into a tumult beyond description. Herod, hearing the noise, put his head out of the window in the palace and saw what was going on—that tall, handsome Maccabean at the head of the procession—and the people wild with joy and exaltation. And Herod said, “I must get rid of that boy. He is a threat to me on the throne.”
Here is the way he did it. He had built a Roman bath. You would call it a large swimming pool with all of the accouterments. He had built a beautiful Roman bath— and the ruins are there now, you can go look at them. He had built a beautiful, spacious Roman bath at the warm springs in Jericho. Calling his most confidentially trusted of his servants, he said, “I am going to gather my family together and we are going down to the Roman bath in Jericho. We are going out into the pool. And after we have been there a while, I am going to get out and dress and take my family and go to the winter palace in Jericho. And I want you to take this young fellow, Aristobulus, out into the middle of the pool, and I want you to play with him until you drown him.” It was all set. And Herod and his family, all went down to the Roman bath in Jericho, and the men all out there in the pool. And after a brief while, Herod dismissed himself, redressed, took Mariamne and the family and went to the winter palace. And Josephus says that the trusted servants of Herod took Aristobulus, the young high priest, out into the middle of the pool and baptizō him, baptizō him, baptizō him, until they drowned him. You want to translate it, “and they sprinkled him, and sprinkled him, and sprinkled him”? Would you like to translate it?
There is a great volume by Conant in which he has cited every instance in Greek literature where the word baptizō is used. And without exception, it is the plain and simple word of immersion. Those Greek poets had a beautiful way of saying things. I do not think there is any literature in the world that can turn a thing as beautifully, as felicitously, as the Greek poet can. Well, here is a little passage from Julian, a Greek poet, and he is describing what happens to a young fellow when he falls in love. You know, that all-overishness, outness, and that tickling on the inside of your butterfly’s tummy, you know, he is describing. Now listen to him as he describes it. This is his Greek poem:
As I once trimmed a garland
I found Cupid in the roses,
Holding him by the wings,
I baptizō him into wine
And took him and drank him
And now within my members
He tickles with his wings.
[“Ode to Cupid”; Julian]
He is in love. He has fallen in love. How do you know he is falling in love? Because every time that sweet little thing trips by, he has a funny feeling on the inside of his tummy. “And that is it,” says Julian. That’s Cupid down there whom he “baptized” in wine, and he drank him, and now he tickles with his wings.
Modern Greek is just the same, there is no such thing as other than baptism in the whole Greek world. The Greek Orthodox Church, all of it, wherever Greek was spoken, there they would baptize. For example, here is from a modern, Greek newspaper, “Righteousness forbids a man to baptizō his pen in the filth of flattery”; just an ordinary word, meaning to be buried and to be raised.
Have you been to Rome? There are four great basilicas in Rome, four of them; St. Peter’s in the Vatican City, St. John Lateran, St. Mary, and four, St. Paul. If you ever take time to visit that fourth basilica in Rome, St. Paul’s, on the inside of it is the most beautiful baptistery you will ever see in this world—the mosaic, the marble, the spaciousness—you can baptize one hundred and fifty people at the same time! It is a beautiful thing. It is a baptistery in St. Paul’s in Rome. Why? Because they all baptized, all of them, nobody did any other thing. Everybody baptized!
If you ever are in Florence, there’s the Duomo, that beautiful cathedral. There is the campanile, the bell tower, the doors; the bronze doors of which Michelangelo said were so beautiful they could be the doors to heaven. And always by the side, there is that beautiful and incomparable baptistry. Have you ever been to Pisa? There is the cathedral. There is the campanile leaning, the bell tower leaning. And just by the side is an incomparably beautiful baptistry. They all baptized, all of them baptized. It is only in the development of sacerdotalism—priestcraft, magic—that they ever turned aside from the great revealed Word of God.
This is an outward confession of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the passage you read, Romans 6, and one like it in Colossians 2, we are buried with our Lord in the likeness of His death and we are dead to the world. And we are raised with our Lord in the likeness of His resurrection. Alive to God, to walk in newness of life! [Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12]. That is the beautiful, incomparably precious meaning of the holy ordinance of baptism.
And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, Look, here is water. I want to be baptized.
And Philip said—just one requirement—If you believe with all your heart, you may. He answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. . .
Then they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he buried him in the likeness of the death of our Lord, and raised him in the likeness of the resurrection of our Lord.
And the eunuch went on his way rejoicing.
[Acts 8: 35-39]
That’s God! Spurgeon said, “If I did not believe it right to be a Baptist, I would do what I think was right, and I would join myself to that company that I thought was right.” Spurgeon was not reared in a Baptist home. His father and mother, his grandparents; no member of the family was ever a Baptist. But that greatest preacher, I think, outside of the pages of the Bible, when he was wonderfully, converted studied the Holy Book, and went to the pastor of the Baptist church at Alford and asked that he be baptized in the River Lauric.
That’s the way that a man feels in his soul when he gives his heart to Jesus, “Look, look, I’ve accepted the Lord as my Savior [Romans 10:8-13]. I have trusted Him in my heart [Ephesians 2:8]. Look, I want to be baptized, just as the Lord was baptized [Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22], just as all of those who first looked in faith to Him were baptized [Matthew 3:5-6], I want to be baptized.” And there’s never an exception. God is in that. When a man follows that holy and beautiful ordinance, there’s a fullness in his heart that abides forever, “I have done it exactly as God has commanded” [Matthew 28:19; Acts 10:48].
There’s not much I can do for God. He said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee [Psalm 50:12]. The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine [Psalm 50:10]. And the gold and silver are Mine” [Haggai 2:8].
There is not much I can do for God. But I can do some things, and that’s one. He asked that I be baptized [Matthew 28:19; Acts 10:48], and in obedience to the wish of God that pleases the Father, I can follow Him through the waters of the Jordan River [Matthew 3:13-17]. And God bless us as obediently, and humbly, following the footsteps of our Savior, leading down into the waters of beautiful, biblical baptism.
Now we are going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you to respond, “I have accepted the Lord as my Savior, and I want to be baptized [Acts 8:35-38], and here I come.” Or, “Pastor, we have all been baptized, and my whole family we are all coming today.” Or just you, as the Spirit of God shall lay the appeal upon your heart, would you answer with your life? Coming by baptism, coming by statement, coming by a letter, coming on a confession of faith, just answer when God calls; down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor. I am on the way.” May angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing our appeal.