Where Does the Bible Command Baptism?
Baptism is a hot topic in the religious world today. There is much discussion and debate about whether baptism is something Christians have to do.
Everything in our lives should be done to please God. He is the blessed creator and giver of life; he is the one who planned for our salvation from the beginning of time. The Father, the Son and the Spirit alone are worthy of all praise and honor and glory. When we seek answers to the questions about baptism, we must be looking for God’s will. It doesn’t matter what other people have said, what we think, or what our family religious traditions may be. We want to please God, so we should be willing to do whatever God says, when God says, why God says and how God says. If we aren’t willing to do this, then we are not giving God the glory in all things.
The best place to start is with this question: “Has God ever said in the Bible that we have to be baptized?” If the Bible does not tell us somewhere that we must be baptized, then it is a tradition or commandment from men. That doesn’t necessarily mean it would be evil, but it would certainly not be necessary to please God. On the other hand, if the Bible says we must be baptized, then it is not an optional action. When God tells us to do something, God means it.
So, let’s open up our Bibles together and see what God has to say about Baptism. We are only interested in what the text says. We must focus on the words in the Scriptures because God has given us the “words of eternal life” (John 6.68). Our ideas and thoughts are great, but what really matters is what God says.
The Biblical Basis for Baptism
Did Jesus Ever Command Baptism?
Jesus told his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28.19-20). When he told them to go and make disciples, he also told them to baptize people. If we believe that the apostles were commanded to make disciples, then we must also believe that they were told to baptize people. Did Jesus really expect his disciples to go and preach the gospel? Certainly. Did Jesus expect the apostles to go and baptize people, too? Just as certainly. Jesus Christ commanded his apostles to teach and baptize people who believed the gospel.
In addition to the words in Matthew 28, Jesus also said that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16.16). Does this sound like Jesus thought baptism is necessary? Is surely does. Some people may object to this verse because it doesn’t talk about those who “aren’t baptized”. That will be covered when we look at common objections to baptism. The fact stands, however, that here in at least two places we have Jesus telling people that they need to be baptized. Even if we throw Mark 16 out the window, Matthew 28 rings loudly, clearly and truly. We must be baptized (at the very least) because Jesus has commanded it.
Did the Apostles Ever Command Baptism?
Since the apostles were messengers of Jesus to the entire world, we would expect them to teach and preach the same things Jesus did about the kingdom of God. We want to know if the apostles of Jesus Christ taught that baptism was something we have to do. So let’s read through the Bible and examine some of their words.
On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter preached what has been called the first gospel sermon (Acts 2.14-41). This isn’t the first time the kingdom of God was talked about in the New Testament, but it is the first time that the forgiveness of sins is preached in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter proved that Jesus was the promised Messiah by pointing out prophecies he fulfilled. When the crowd heard all these things, they were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. They cried out to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2.37).
It is very important to note that at this point the crowd had belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. They believed that God sent his son in human form, that they betrayed him and killed him a cross, and that he died and was raised from the dead on the third day. Many people would say, “Well, they have faith in Jesus as the Son of God, so they must be saved.” Is that what they thought? Did they believe that they were saved? If so, why did they ask Peter what they needed to do? They thought that there was still something missing.
If they were already saved, why didn’t Peter tell them that? They were terrified by the fact that they had killed God’s Son. Why doesn’t Peter inform them that they don’t have anything to worry about? Shouldn’t the conversation have gone something like this:
Audience: “Brothers, what must we do?”
Peter: “What do you mean?”
Audience: “We killed God’s son. What do we need to do to make ourselves right with God?”
Peter: “Well, if you believe then you’re saved already! You don’t have to do anything else.”
Audience: “Rejoice! We’ve received salvation!”
However, this is not what happens. Peter does not tell them that they were already saved; believing Jesus is the Messiah is not enough because at this point they were no better off than the Devil. Satan believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Why isn’t Satan saved? The Devil will not obey what Peter says in Acts 2.38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Even though he knows that Jesus is the Son of God, the Devil will never have faith because he will never put his knowledge about Jesus into action. Faith hears what God says, believes what God says, and does what God says.
When we look closely at the Acts 2:38, there are actually two things that Peter commanded. He told the audience that they had to repent and be baptized. Peter specifically commanded all the people who heard him on the day of Pentecost to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. This verse is a place in the Bible where baptism is undeniably commanded for those seeking salvation in Christ. If we argue that baptism isn’t commanded, we find ourselves fighting the word of God. The text says what the text says: “…be baptized every one of you…”
Another place where Peter specifically commanded baptism is Acts 10.48. Peter preached the gospel to a house full of Gentiles (non-Jewish people) and they came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. What does Peter tell them to do in Acts 10? “And [Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ ” (Acts 10.48). Notice that the text says “he commanded them to be baptized”.
Conclusion: Baptism is Commanded in the New Testament
When we read the text of the New Testament, it is very clear that baptism was commanded in the first century. Jesus himself commanded that people should be baptized. The apostles taught baptism and commanded people to be baptized. Under no circumstances could we argue that baptism is not commanded in the New Testament. If baptism is commanded, then all who are seeking to please God must be baptized.
We have looked briefly at the fact that baptism is commanded and is something that we must do. In the next post we are going to look at the purpose of baptism. What does the New Testament have to say about the reason we are baptized? Understanding why we are told to do something is an important part of our obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1.5).
For now, we must conclude that God expects us to be baptized. This may different from what you believe right now or what you have been taught as a child. We must make a critical choice; we must decide who we are going to listen to. Will we listen to God or to people? Do we think it will please God if we reject his commandments so we can obey people? Certainly not. We must decide to believe and obey whatever God tells us in the Scriptures no matter how different it is from what we believed before. If we have real faith, we will hear what God says, believe what God says and do what God says.
If you have never been baptized, you can use the contact form below to get more Biblical information about baptism, grace, faith, hope and salvation (if doesn’t come from the Bible, don’t believe it!). If you have been baptized already, hopefully the coming posts will help you understand better and confirm that decision. May God bless us all as we study his word together!