By B. E. Echols
We shall now deal with another essential scriptural element of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is: “water baptism by immersion” administered in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There are three main points to consider in this chapter: (1) the essentiality, (2) mode, and (3) formula of water baptism. If the reader has an open heart and mind to accept the plain teachings of God’s holy Word concerning these fundamental points pertaining to water baptism, and has already thoroughly repented of his sins—he is a candidate for scriptural baptism as taught and administered by the apostles and their associated ministers—which you will find recorded in the “Acts of The Apostles.”
- The Essentiality of Water Baptism
Water baptism administered in the proper mode and formula is one of those “life and death messages” of the Bible and a “cardinal doctrine” of the Scriptures. For, “He that believeth (the gospel of Jesus Christ, when he hears it preached or taught) and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not (the gospel and does not obey it) shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Compare II Thessalonians 1:7-9 and II Peter 3:9.
Again we read in John 3:4-5, and 7 (Weymouth’s translation): “‘How is it possible,’ Nicodemus asked, ‘for a man to be born when he is old? Can he a second time enter his mother’s womb and be born?’ In very truth I tell you,’ replied Jesus, ‘that unless a man is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ . . . ‘Do not be astonished at my telling you (Nicodemus), You must all (no one left out) be born anew . . . of water and of the Spirit;'” for he who thus fails to enter God’s kingdom here on this earth, or during his lifetime, will never enter it in the world to come.
What did the man to whom Jesus gave “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19) say concerning the essentiality of water baptism? “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you.” Definitely, the apostle Peter understood and taught that every person should be properly (or scripturally) baptized in water. (See Acts 2:37-38 and 10:44-48.) There would have been no reason for Peter commanding the Gentiles, who assembled at the house of Cornelius, to be baptized after they had received the Holy Ghost had it not been essential to their salvation. Remember, Jesus put the same stress on being “born of water” as He did “of the Spirit.” They are both equally essential to one’s eternal salvation.
According to Paul’s testimony, concerning his own need of being baptized in water after he had been repenting with fasting and prayers for three days and nights, Ananias said to him: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16). We will explain more thoroughly when dealing with “the formula of water baptism” further in this chapter, one must be baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ in order to obtain remission of his sins. (See Acts 2:38 with Luke 24:46-47.) This point makes it essential for one to be scripturally baptized in water.
We have the instance where Paul and Silas baptized the Philippian jailer and all that were in his house, the same hour of the night they heard and believed the gospel message as it was preached to them: “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night . . . and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” without any further delay (Acts 16:32-33). Remember, this preaching and baptizing took place as the consequence of the jailer’s conviction concerning “what (he) must . . . do (and could not avoid, in order) to be saved.” This jailer was only concerned about knowing and doing those things that were essential to his present and future salvation.
Finally, the apostle Peter had this to say about the essentiality of water baptism, by way of comparison, according to Weymouth’s translation of I Peter 3:20-21, which reads as follows: “God’s longsuffering patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the Ark, in which a few persons—eight in number—were brought safely through the water (‘were saved by water’ King James’ translation), and, corresponding to that figure, baptism now saves you.” There are many other types and figures recorded in the Scriptures that show the importance of water baptism as pertaining to our spiritual welfare and eternal life. There is no natural life to be had by man, beast, fowl, fish, insect, vegetation, or anything else that lives unless they can obtain a sufficient amount of water. So why should we think it strange that God has so ordained it that water baptism is essential to our obtaining spiritual life?
- The Mode For Water Baptism
The Bible teaches us that there is only one way to be baptized. The teaching that a man can choose “the mode” he prefers and use “any formula” he likes has no biblical foundation. The apostle Paul declared in Ephesians 4:5 that there is “one Lord, one faith, (and) one baptism.” This agrees with Jeremiah’s prophecy of Jeremiah 32:39: “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.” Please read and compare Acts 2:3739, 41.
The word “baptize” comes from the Greek word baptizo, which means to immerse, plunge into, to dip, bury, or immerse. The original Greek word baptizo, and the English word as well, has no meaning that suggests sprinkling as a mode of baptism. Furthermore, we have no New Testament records where anyone used the “mode of sprinkling” for baptism—they are all to the contrary.
The apostle Peter commanded both Jews and Gentiles to “be baptized”—immersed (Acts 2:38 and 10:48). Ananias of Damascus likewise commanded Saul of Tarsus to “arise, and be baptized (immersed), and (to thus) wash away (his) sins.” How could one “wash away” his sins with a few drops of water, as used when sprinkling folk to baptize them? Paul explained the mode of baptism in this manner: “We are buried with him by baptism (immersion) into death” (Romans 6:4). So all these references set forth immersion as the scriptural mode for water baptism.
John the Baptist baptized his converts “in AEnon near to Salim, because there was much water there.” Much water is not needed when sprinkling a convert. A multitude of people could be sprinkled with a few cups of water. Jesus was baptized of John in Jordan (a river) and straightway came up and out of the water (Mark 1:9-10). John did not take Jesus out into the river Jordan in order to sprinkle Him.
In Acts 8:36-39 we have another record of a baptismal service where Philip the evangelist baptized (immersed) the Ethiopian eunuch. By closely observing every statement as you read this reference, you will notice that they both went down into the water, and afterwards came up out of it exactly as Jesus and John had done. There should be no argument as to the mode of baptism they used. It was immersion and nothing else. So we conclude that the mode for water baptism is immersion and not sprinkling.
III. The Bible Formula For Baptism
What is the correct and “scriptural formula” to be used when baptizing? Is it Matthew 28:19? The answer is no, for Matthew 28:19 is merely “a command” that informs us what to do and not what to say. Do I believe in baptizing according to Matthew 28:19? Most assuredly, I do! Oneness, Jesus Name Pentecostals as well as a few other ministers and churches baptize converts in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; they are the only people who baptize “in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The name of the Son is Jesus, which we all understand, but the names of Father and the Holy Ghost are not given. Since the “name” is singular, we can conclude that the common name to use is the name of Jesus.
Did not Jesus say, “I am come in my Father’s name” (John 5:43), and that the “Father” would send the Holy Ghost “in my name” in the name of Jesus (John 14:26)? The name of Jesus, in the Hebrew language, is Yehoshua, meaning “Jehovah—Saviour” or “Jehovah has become our salvation.” This is exactly what Isaiah prophesied concerning the Lord (Jehovah)—that He would be our only Savior. (See Isaiah 43:10-11 and 45:20-22.) So the name, Jesus, is the apparent name of Matthew 28:19 and the name referred to by all three of the titles—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (See Acts 7:59; II Corinthians 5:19; I Timothy 3:16 and I John 2:1 for Jesus being “the Father” or God.)
How many readers of this book have been baptized in the Son’s name, saying nothing of the other two titles of Matthew 28:19? This was not accomplished if Matthew 28:19 was used as a formula. The preacher only promised that he would baptize you in the Son’s name and immersed (or sprinkled) you without invoking any of God’s names upon you. He just repeated the “three titles” of Matthew 28:19 (“Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”) and let it go at that, for being baptized. You should take another look at Acts 2:37-41; 8:12-16; 10:42-48 and 19:1-5. These four references are the only accounts of water baptismal services recorded in “The Acts of The Apostles,” where the formula of baptism is given or the name used is stated. The title “Lord,” in Acts 10:48, is rendered as being “Jesus Christ” by Moffatt’s, Weymouth’s, Berkeley’s, Goodspeed’s, The Amplified New Testament, and the Revised Version’s translation; they all agree on it, as does Scofield in the marginal reference of his Bible.
Of all the names of God, the name of Jesus, or Yehoshua (Hebrew), is the only name of God that has salvation incorporated into it—right into its meaning. That is why the apostle Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other (name): for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Read Acts 4:7-12 with Matthew 1:21 and Colossians 3:17. Knowing these facts, the apostle Paul gave the following instructions to the church folk at Colosse: “And whatsoever (meaning anything and everything) ye do in word or deed (and both of these terms will apply to the act of baptizing), do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The name or title “Christ” could be added to the foregoing wording, “the Lord Jesus,” and still be scriptural (Acts 2:38 and 4:12). Do not get confused here, for “God hath made (Him) that same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). (See also Matthew 16:13, 16, 20.)
Dear souls, you probably know as well as I do that the Son’s name is Jesus. Then, why not ask some “Oneness apostolic preacher” to baptize you in His name—according to Acts 2:38? You will not find one instance in the Book of “The Acts of The Apostles” or in all the New Testament where any of the apostles or any other preachers baptized anyone using the titles “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” as listed in Matthew 28:19. So why hang on to such traditions of men and churches? Paul warned of the danger here, by saying: “Take heed lest there be anyone who leads you away as prisoners (from the plain teaching of God’s Word) by means of his (or their) philosophy and idle fancies, following human traditions and the world’s crude notions instead of following Christ” (and His instructions) Weymouth’s translation of Colossians 2:8.
The Question of Apostolic Authority
Are we safe in following the teachings and examples of the apostles, whom our Lord chose to propagate His gospel, in the matter of the mode and formula of water baptism—when baptizing or being baptized in water for the remission of sins? Most assuredly we are! (See Matthew 28:20; 16:18-19 with Romans 2:16.) One will never go wrong or be found in error being baptized as the apostles baptized their converts in the name of Jesus—with either or both titles (Lord or Christ) added. These apostles whom our Lord chose and ordained make up a principal part of the foundation of the New Testament church. Read Ephesians 2:19-22 and see for yourself. If we ignore what they taught and practiced, we will certainly build on a faulty and unscriptural foundation. If the man who was entrusted with “the keys of the kingdom” did not know what he was doing when he obeyed the command (not formula) of Matthew 28:19 and baptized those three thousand converts on the Day of Pentecost “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (See Acts 2:37-41), then what are we to go by—unless we accept the trinitarian method and baptize in the titles Father, Son and the Holy Ghost?
The Question of Remission of Sins
Did you know that the name of Jesus Christ is the only name given in heaven or earth that will remit your sins, save you, and give you eternal life? Quoting in part from Weymouth’s translation of Acts 4:11-12 we read:
“This Jesus is the stone treated with contempt by you, the builders, and in no other is salvation to be found; for, indeed, there is no second name under heaven . . . through which we are to be saved.” That being the case, we must be baptized in His name in order to be saved.
Precious hearts, again we affirm that the name of Jesus is the only name of God that has salvation and the remission of sins incorporated in it. (See Matthew 1:21 and Acts 2:38 with John 20:31.) You do not have to take my word for this, or merely the scriptural references just listed.
For further proof, read the following quotations from the Bible, and see for yourself.
“Thus it is written, and thus it behoved (or was necessary for) Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and (why all this?) that repentance and remission of sins should be preached (`must be preached’ — Weymouth’s and Berkeley’s translations) in his name (in the name of Jesus, if you please) among all nations” (Luke 24:46-47).
“Now when they had heard this (Peter’s sermon, as recorded in Acts 2:14-36), they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you (how?) in the name of Jesus Christ (what for?) for the remission of sins” (“of your sins”: Weymouth, Moffatt and Berkeley).
Are you still not convinced that remission of sins must come to you through the name of Jesus Christ? If so, we will quote some other scriptural references, as found in Moffatt’s translations of Acts 10:43 and 13:3738, as follows: “all the prophets testify to it that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) is to receive remission of sins (how?) through His name . . . But He whom God raised did not suffer decay. So you must understand (for there is no way around it), my brothers, that remission of sins is proclaimed to you through Him” (Jesus) or “through His name”—as stated in verse 43 of chapter 10 (Moffatt’s translation).
This brings us face to face again with the necessity of being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. For there is no other means or ceremony by which the name of Jesus can be permanently invoked upon us (Acts 15:14-17) for our deliverance from past sins or the “sins that are past” (Romans 3:23-25). We must be baptized in water, in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to take upon us His name and thereby receive remission of sins. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27), “have clothed yourselves with Christ” Weymouth’s and Berkeley’s translations.
Webster, in one of his definitions concerning water baptism, says, “To baptize means to name or give a name unto.” There is not a chance of invoking the name of Jesus Christ upon anyone when using Matthew 28:19 as written for a formula of baptism. Neither the name of Jesus nor the titles Christ and Lord are mentioned in Matthew 28:19. How any sane person or preacher could baptize anyone using Matthew 28:19 as an exact wording or formula for his baptismal ceremony, and then think or say he had baptized anyone in the Son’s name, is more than I can comprehend.
I have already mentioned in this chapter that eternal life was incorporated in the name of Jesus Christ. Here is what the apostle John had to say about that: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing (and of course, by obeying the instructions of His Word—Acts 5:32 and Isaiah 1:19) ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Please compare John 10:1; 14:6 with Acts 4:10-12.
Then, according to Isaiah 66:5, those who hate, cast out, and persecute the people who have been baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) will miss the rapture of the church and be put to open shame. I do not want to see this happen! Honestly and truly, how could any woman expect to be the wife of a man if she refused to be called by his name? (See Acts 15:13-17 with Romans 7:4.)
My brethren and church friends of all other denominations who have not been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I plead with you to give this matter of being baptized in the name of Him who bled and died for you some serious and prayerful consideration before you face God and eternity; before you cast aside the plain teaching of God’s Word upon such an important subject and doctrine—that has to do with your soul’s salvation and your eternal destiny.
As one writer has said, “We Oneness Pentecostals have been accused . . . of making a needless issue of the importance of the name of Jesus.” How could that be when “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12; 2:37-40 and 19:1-5)? I also believe, as this same writer does, that “in time to come this name (of Jesus) will be the deciding factor between truth and deception and that it is God’s legal name in the world today. Surely God does business in no other name.” That is why most everyone who prays for the sick anoints them with oil in the name of Jesus Christ, or the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the name in which all power in heaven and earth is invested or incorporated. (See Philippians 2:9-11 and Matthew 28:18 with John 14:13-14.)
The Trinity Dogma
It might help some of you to know what the Catholic folk say about their “Dogma of the Trinity” and the deity of Christ. Please read the following information prayerfully and consider it in the light of folk being baptized in the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in order to receive salvation.
Mr. Graham Greene, writing in Life Magazine of October 30, 1950—volume 29, No. 18, page 51—to defend “The Dogma of the Assumption of Mary,” had this to say: “Our opponents sometimes claim that no belief should be held dogmatically which is not explicitly stated in Scripture (the Bible). But the ‘Protestant Churches’ have themselves accepted such dogmas as ‘The Trinity’ for which there is no such precise (meaning exact, definite or positive) authority in the gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)—right where most all our Protestant friends and trinitarian Pentecostals obtain their formula (Matthew 28:19) for water baptism.
Then, Mr. Greene goes on to quote Newman as saying, “When once we have mastered the idea that Mary (the mother of Jesus) bore, suckled, and handled the eternal (right in her hands) in the form of a child, what limit is conceivable to the rush and flood of thoughts which such a (fact or) doctrine involves?”
Such statements as these give us and all our “trinitarian friends and brethren” something to seriously think and pray about concerning the correct scriptural formula for water baptism, and our teachings pertaining to the deity of Jesus Christ.
Since water baptism is essential unto salvation (Mark 16:15-16 with John 3:1-5) and must be administered in the name of Jesus Christ or the Lord Jesus (see Colossians 3:17 with Acts 2:37-38; 4:10-12 and 19:1-5)—and you may have been baptized in some name other than in the name of “Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38)—you might run into a little hindrance about being rebaptized, either in your own mind or by the opinion and statements of others. The apostle Paul did not hesitate to rebaptize some of John the Baptist’s converts “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5 and 1-7). So it matters not how many times one has been baptized; he still needs to be baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus—adding a title “Lord” (Acts 8:16 and 19:5) or “Christ” (Acts 2:38), or both (Acts 2:36 and 16:31). This is the only scriptural way to be baptized.
Check the scriptural references concerning water baptism and be convinced yourself before you are baptized, even in the name of Jesus. You will not find that the apostles or any of the early Christians were baptized any other way. Remember, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” were given unto the apostle Peter by the Lord Himself in person (Matthew 16:18-19) and that we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (See Ephesians 2:19-22 with Luke 24:36-37, 44-48.) So be sure that the name of Jesus is used in the formula of baptism when you are immersed or baptized—exactly as the apostles of Jesus Christ taught and practiced, as recorded in “The Acts of The Apostles.”
The above article, “Water Baptism” was written by B. E. Echols. The article was excerpted from Echol’s book Four Essentials Unto Salvation.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.