ALL ABOUT WATER BAPTISM
Herbert W. Armstrong
1954, 1972 edition
IS WATER baptism essential to salvation? What
about the "thief
on the cross"? Was he saved without it?
What is the proper form, or mode -- sprinkling,
Should babies and children be baptized?
Suppose you were baptized by a minister you have
confidence in. Should you be baptized over again?
Suppose you were baptized "in the name of the
Father, and the
Son, and the Holy Ghost [Spirit]." Should you be baptized again "in
the name of Jesus" only?
Should one be baptized IMMEDIATELY, or only "after
months' probation"? Must the ordinance be performed by an ordained
WE ARE saved by GRACE, and through FAITH -- make no mistake about
that; but -- there are conditions!
And millions are being deceived, misled into thinking
saved, when they are not!
People have been taught, falsely, that "Christ
Plan of Salvation on the Cross" -- when actually it was only begun
there. The popular denominations have taught, "Just BELIEVE -- that's
all there is to it; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are
that instant saved!"
That teaching is false! And because of deception
-- because the
TRUE GOSPEL of Jesus Christ has been all but blotted out, lo these
1900 years by the preaching of a false gospel about the Person of
Christ -- and often a false Christ at that -- millions today WORSHIP
CHRIST -- and all in vain! "In vain do they worship me," said Jesus,
"teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7: 6-9).
Man is mortal. Man has no immortality inherent
Christ Jesus, only, of all men who have lived, has immortality (I
Tim. 6:16). The penalty of sin is DEATH -- the second, or eternal,
death, from which there will be no resurrection. And ALL have
sinned and come under this sentence. Only GOD has eternal life
inherent in Himself (John 5:26) -- only GOD has eternal life to give.
And as the Father has life in -- inherent in -- Himself, so has He
given to the Son, Christ, to have immortal life inherent within
Himself. And through Christ, God gives it to us (I John 5:11-12) --
and whoever has not Christ has not eternal life. Eternal life is a
GIFT no man has until he receives it as GOD'S GIFT (Rom. 6:23).
The BLOOD of Christ does not finally save any
man. The death
of Christ merely paid the penalty of sin in our stead -- it wipes the
slate clean of past sins -- it saves us merely from the DEATH
PENALTY -- it removes that which separated us from God and reconciles
us to God.
But we are SAVED -- that is, given immortal life
-- by Christ's
LIFE, not by His death (Rom. 5:10). Christ is a living Saviour! He
is not dead -- He rose from the dead! We could never be saved by His
blood alone, if He had not risen from the dead (I Cor. 15:17-18).
We are mortal, without immortal life inherent
in us, under
penalty of eternal DEATH from sin -- unless saved. To be saved, we
must be born of God, who is a Spirit. We were born of human
parents, and therefore we are human -- flesh -- dust -- of the earth,
earthy (John 3:3, 6; Gen. 2:7; 3:19; I Cor. 15:47-49). To be born
of God, we must, first, now in this life, receive the impregnating
LIFE -- the Holy Spirit -- from God. We are then merely begotten,
spiritually -- comparing to an unborn human babe still in its
mother's womb -- not yet really BORN. We then become merely HEIRS of
the Kingdom -- not yet inheritors.
Becoming converted means being CHANGED. When one
Holy Spirit of God, his whole viewpoint, his outlook, his purposes,
goals, ways of thought -- everything -- becomes CHANGED! It is a
renewing of the MIND -- the Spirit of a sound mind. But he is as yet
merely begotten. And, as the unborn babe must be fed, through the
mother, and must develop and grow physically before it can be born,
so the converted human, now spiritually begotten, must be fed on
the spiritual food of GOD'S WORD, and must GROW SPIRITUALLY -- must
grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ as He reveals His
knowledge through His Word (II Peter 3:18). He must OVERCOME the
down-pull of his human nature and achieve self-discipline. He must
learn PATIENCE, must grow in LOVE, FAITH, and UNDERSTANDING. He
must do the WORKS of Christ; and, in this spiritual growth -- this
life of active service -- he must ENDURE persecutions and afflictions
and trials UNTO THE END.
It is only those who, during this Christian Spirit-begotten
life, have grown in knowledge and grace, have overcome, have
developed spiritually, done the works of Christ, and endured unto
the end, who shall finally be given IMMORTALITY -- finally changed
from mortal to IMMORTAL at the time of the second coming of Christ
(I Cor. 15:53-54).
So, being, as we say, converted -- receiving the
Holy Spirit of
God -- is merely the beginning! Then begins a lifetime of LIVING
under the GOVERNMENT OF GOD -- by God's laws which express His will,
instead of by self-will and desire.
A PERSON IS NOT EVEN BEGOTTEN OF GOD UNLESS HE
IS CHRIST'S (I
John 5:12). AND HE IS NOT CHRIST'S UNLESS HE HAS RECEIVED THE HOLY
SPIRIT (Rom. 8:9). One is not even converted -- spiritually begotten-
-not even STARTED on the way to final salvation, unless and until
he RECEIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM GOD! The question, then -- how to
make the first BEGINNING of becoming a Christian -- how to START on
the Christian life -- which leads to eternal life -- is how to thus be
CHANGED and receive God's Holy Spirit!
"What Shall We Do?"
Notice the very beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark
1:15). Jesus said, "REPENT ye, and BELIEVE the gospel." The very
first words He proclaimed, at the very beginning of His Gospel,
were to command the TWO CONDITIONS to becoming a Christian:
REPENTANCE, and FAITH. Those are the two things we must do!
Repentance is toward GOD. Faith is toward Christ. Repentance means
to quit sinning, and sin is the transgression of God's spiritual
LAW -- so repentance means to begin living according to God's
Commandments! And Jesus said "believe the GOSPEL." And the GOSPEL
is the Good News of the Kingdom of God -- which means GOVERNMENT of
God, and government means obedience to LAWS, in this case God's
laws, which express the will of God -- government by the WILL OF GOD,
no longer by human self-will!
After Jesus had completed His earthly ministry,
had paid the
penalty of your sins, had risen from the dead and ascended to
heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost.
Thousands were in Jerusalem for this festival. When the Spirit
of God came upon -- and into -- the disciples that morning, thousands
came in awe and wonder at the majestic spectacle. Peter then
preached the first inspired sermon of this Christian dispensation.
Thousands were convicted in their hearts. They realized their lost
condition. They realized Christ was indeed Messiah -- SAVIOUR!
"What shall we do?" they cried out to Peter and
"HOW SHALL WE BE SAVED?"
Peter was now inspired. The answer came straight
"REPENT"! shouted the inspired Peter in great
power, "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
SPIRIT"! (Acts 2:38.)
There are the conditions -- JUST TWO -- the same
as Jesus gave
them at the very beginning of His Gospel -- REPENT, and BELIEVE! For
one cannot be rightly baptized except he believe (Acts 8:37).
Baptism is an ordinance symbolizing FAITH in the death, burial, and
resurrection of Christ.
Once these conditions are complied with, God stands
a PROMISE to put within the repentant believer HIS SPIRIT -- which
means His LOVE, faith, understanding, gentleness and goodness,
power, etc. -- His attitude of mind -- the Spirit of a sound mind -- His
very LIFE -- the impregnation and begettal of eternal life, and the
very character of God! The HOLY SPIRIT in one CHANGES one!
"For the PROMISE is unto you, and to your children
... even as
many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39).
WATER BAPTISM, THEN, IS A REQUIRED PART OF THE
Jesus in all things set us an example, that we should follow His
steps. He was the example for Christian living for the individual,
and also the living example for His called ministers (I Peter
Jesus, though He had committed no sins to be remitted,
baptized, setting the example for us. You'll read of it in Matthew
3:13-17. In being baptized, Jesus was immersed in water (not
sprinkled or poured upon) because "Jesus, when he was baptized,
went up straightway out of the water." Immediately the Spirit of
God descended upon Him, in this case visibly, and a voice from
heaven said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
God help us, that by His help, power, and grace, we may be enabled
to live such overcoming lives that He may finally say the same of
of "In the Name of Jesus Christ"
Jesus also set the example for ministers. Did you know that Jesus
baptized more disciples than John the Baptist?
Listen: "After these things came Jesus and his
the land of Judaea;
and there he tarried with them, and
baptized .... When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had
heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples) ... " (John
3:22 and 4:1-2).
There is an important meaning here. Actually Jesus
did not do
the physical work of baptizing these people Himself -- He had His
disciples do it for Him! And what they did, by His authority and
command, is attributed to Him! So it was considered as if Jesus
Himself had baptized them.
Here is a most important truth. His disciples
baptizing IN HIS NAME -- that is, in His stead -- they did it for Him,
by His authority -- and that was considered just the same as if Jesus
had actually done it Himself! In fact, the Holy Spirit actually
inspired the direct statement that Jesus baptized more disciples
than John. When, at His direction, and by His authority, His chosen
disciples, chosen by Him, did it for Him, it is considered that
JESUS did the baptizing. He did it, in other words, by and through
To ask for anything in prayer, or to do or perform
IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, is to ask or do it BY HIS AUTHORITY.
It is to act for Him. To do it for Him, in His stead. It is acting
as if by power of attorney to act FOR Him. It implies He has
delegated that authority to us. And indeed He has! For we are
commanded to do all things IN THE NAME OF CHRIST!
Jesus Commanded Baptism
Keep in mind the clear picture of the true GOSPEL. The true Gospel
of Jesus Christ is the Message which GOD SENT to the world, and
Christ was the divine Messenger who brought and proclaimed it. It
was not primarily a Message about Himself, but about the Kingdom --
the GOVERNMENT -- of God. Jesus devoted three-and-a-half years to
teaching this Message to His twelve apostles.
After His resurrection, Jesus gave them the final
COMMISSION for this age, and in it He commanded baptism as an
obligatory ordinance for this Gospel dispensation:
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world,
THE GOSPEL" (the Message God sent and Christ proclaimed) "TO EVERY
CREATURE. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but
he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15-16). Note these
points: The GOSPEL to be preached was not the present-day message
ABOUT the Person of Christ, but the Message He brought and
preached -- the Good News of the GOVERNMENT of God. What is it
necessary to BELIEVE to be saved? That which is preached -- the
GOSPEL! When even the preachers today do away with God's LAW, and
therefore the government (Kingdom) of God -- for there can be no
government without law -- they deny that which must be believed to be
saved -- and their followers cannot be saved, but are deceived! And,
also, it is "he that is baptized" that shall be saved. It's part of
the divine Commission -- a required ordinance for salvation!
Notice Matthew's version of the Great Commission:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations ... "
disciples were to teach these nations that which Jesus had taught
them -- the Message God had sent Him to deliver and proclaim to the
world -- the Good News of the government of God -- a Message that has
not been preached for 1800 years or more! "... Baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded
you" (Matt. 28:19-20).
Here again, in the final Great Commission for
Gospel in this age, Christ commanded BAPTISM. And here He
specifically stated "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]."
In Name of Jesus Only
Since some today are being baptized over again "in the name of
Jesus ONLY" in order to eliminate the Father, and the Holy Spirit,
this should be considered here. The contention of these people is
that this passage in Matthew 28:19 is the only place in the Bible
where the names of the Father and the Holy Spirit are commanded.
They argue that a thing must be established "in the mouth of two or
more witnesses," and since they claim there is but this one witness
to this command, it must be rejected. All other passages mention
only the name of Jesus.
The explanation is that two or more witnesses
only in the case of HUMAN testimony -- where one accuses another.
That instruction does not apply to the divine Witness, as inspired
by the Holy Spirit, and to assume it does is surely close to
blasphemy against the Holy Spirit! On the contrary, "ALL scripture
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable ...." And, THE
SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE BROKEN! If you can break, disprove, reject, or
throw out this one scripture, you can reject all the rest!
In this passage, the word translated "in" should
translated "into." The meaning, then, is that repentant believers
are baptized INTO God the Father, and into Christ the Son, and into
the Holy Spirit. But the one who plunges the new believer under the
water performs the act IN THE NAME OF -- that is, by authority of,
JESUS CHRIST. Why? Because Jesus said "ALL POWER" -- and that
includes all authority -- "is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
He has ALL authority! Either we do it by His authority, or else we
are doing it without any authority.
The apostles understood this as a divine Commission and Command.
They carried it out. They always baptized repentant believers.
The first inspired sermon after the Holy Spirit
convert Peter and the apostles was mentioned above. Peter commanded
all to repent, and to be baptized.
And "they that gladly received his word were baptized:
same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls"
"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached
Christ unto them ... But when they believed Philip preaching the
things concerning THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and the name of Jesus Christ,
they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:5, 12).
Some, who do not believe in water baptism, may
baptism was not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. But later,
when the apostles sent Peter and John down to these people at
they, "when they were come down, prayed for them, that
they might receive the Holy Spirit: For as yet he was fallen upon
none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord
Jesus" (verses 15-16).
None of them had been as yet baptized with the
Holy Spirit --
yet they already were baptized. Since they had not been baptized
with the Holy Spirit, obviously they had been baptized in water.
Baptism Definitely Commanded
As Peter preached the first inspired sermon after the coming of the
Holy Spirit, and commanded baptism -- to the Jews in Jerusalem,
God sent Peter also to first preach the Gospel to the Gentiles ten
years later. It was at the house of a very devout Gentile,
Cornelius. But devout though he was, he did not understand -- did not
have saving KNOWLEDGE. He knew no better than to fall down at
Peter's feet and worship him, a mere man. God had sent Peter to
Peter preached to Cornelius' family, "The word
sent" -- the Message God sent by Jesus Christ as Messenger. And
"while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all
them which heard the word" (Acts 10:44). In verse 45 it is termed
"the gift of the Holy Spirit." The word "ALSO" indicates the same
"baptism" with the Holy Spirit as Peter and the apostles had
received. In Acts 11:15-17 it is plainly described as the SAME
"baptism" with the Holy Spirit the apostles had received. Now these
had received the "baptism" with the Spirit.
"Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid WATER,
should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well
as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the
Lord" (Acts 10:46-48).
Here is a definite inspired COMMAND to be baptized
Immersion, Sprinkling, or Pouring?
As in all other points of doctrine, the churches
today are in
utmost confusion -- some practicing pouring, some sprinkling, some
immersing. Some say it makes no difference. Those who sprinkle
usually apply it to children.
The word "baptize" is not an English word. It
is a Greek word.
The New Testament was written in the Greek language. In translating
it into English, the translators left this Greek word untranslated.
Literally, in the Greek, the word is "baptizo". The definition of
this word is "IMMERSE." It means to plunge into, put into, dip. It
does not mean "to sprinkle" or "to pour." The Greek word for
"sprinkle" is "rantidzo", and "to pour" is "cheo" in Greek. The
Holy Spirit did not inspire the use of these words, but baptizo,
meaning IMMERSE, PUT INTO.
Therefore sprinkling or pouring IS NOT BAPTIZING!
When one understands the meaning of the words
inspired, it is
silly to talk about "which form or mode of baptizing shall we use --
sprinkling, pouring, or immersing?" It is as ridiculous as to ask
which form of IMMERSING shall we use -- sprinkling, pouring, or
immersing? Or as to ask "which form or mode of skiing shall we use --
swimming, ice-skating, or skiing?" Swimming and ice-skating are
not skiing. Sprinkling and pouring are not baptizing.
John baptized around about Aenon near Jerusalem, "because
there was much water there" (John 3:23). He would have needed only
a cupful to sprinkle, or a pitcherful to pour -- but baptizing
required "MUCH WATER" in a river. Also this verse indicates John
baptized the subject with much water, not by pouring a cupful of
water on the subject.
Jesus set us an example -- there was no other
purpose in His
baptism -- and He was put down into the water, for He went up OUT OF
the water. Both Philip and the eunuch went down INTO the water
(Acts 8:38). There was no reason whatever for Philip to go actually
into the water, except for the reason there was no other way he
could plunge the eunuch INTO the river. They came up out of the
water (verse 39).
The Meaning of Baptism
Baptism is a BURIAL, and a RISING from a grave. Notice Colossians
2:12. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are RISEN with
him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him
from the dead." Neither sprinkling nor pouring is a burial, and one
rises up out of neither. They do not picture the symbolic meaning
of baptism, and therefore are meaningless.
When one is plunged INTO the water, he is in a
He would not live ten minutes unless brought up out of the water --
unless RISEN from this watery grave. Therefore a person immersed in
water is in a literal grave.
Notice further: "Know ye not, that so many of
us as were
baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore
we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ
was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we
also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted
together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the
likeness of his resurrection" (Rom.
There is the beautiful symbolism -- the real meaning
It pictures, in symbol, the death, burial, and
But it is a DUAL picture, as all things in God's
Plan are DUAL
in operation. It also pictures the crucifixion of the old self
(verses 6-7), or of the sinning life, the burial of this sinning
self, and the coming up out of this watery grave, symbolic of a
CHANGED person resurrected to a new, righteous, spiritual life in
Going down into the water pictures the DEATH of
Christ, and of
the old self.
Burial in the water pictures the BURIAL of Christ,
and of the
Coming up out of the water pictures Christ's RESURRECTION,
a spiritually resurrected person walking henceforth "in newness of
Water baptism is the ordinance ordained of Christ
by which we
express our FAITH in Christ as Saviour -- our ACCEPTANCE of His
death, burial, and resurrection for us, and our repentance of the
old life and burial of it, rising to new and higher life
henceforth. It is a beautiful ordinance, full of meaning!
Not Baptized Into a Denomination
Notice carefully, too -- we are "BAPTIZED INTO JESUS CHRIST" (verse
3, above), or, as Jesus expressed it in Matthew 28:19, into the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- NOT INTO SOME CHURCH ORGANIZATION OR
In many sectarian churches today the minister
will refuse to
baptize one except into his church -- his group or organization of
human beings. That is not proper baptism. We are to be baptized
into the DIVINE FAMILY -- the family of God. And it is to be done "in
the name" -- by the authority -- of Jesus Christ.
Baptism has degenerated in many churches into
a rite or
ceremony of entrance into the fellowship of that sectarian
organization -- nothing more than a rite by which one joins a lodge
or social club!
Note well these facts: One may "join" a lodge,
social club, or
organized group of MEN (and most churches today have degenerated
into social societies). But ONE CANNOT JOIN THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD!
You cannot GET in of your own accord! No, GOD MUST PUT YOU IN -- no
man can do it -- you cannot do it yourself!
How does one gain entrance into the true CHURCH?
SPIRIT are we all baptized into [PUT INTO] one body" -- the Body of
Christ, the true Church of God. "Baptize" means "PUT INTO." When we
receive the Holy Spirit of God to change us -- to make us as new
creatures in Christ -- it is the impregnation of eternal LIFE from
God. It is the very life-germ from God the FATHER. It is the Spirit
of sonship whereby we become HIS CHILDREN, and may call Him
"FATHER" (Rom. 8:14-15). The CHURCH OF GOD is the Household of God-
-composed of GOD'S CHILDREN. We do not become His children until
begotten of Him -- until we receive His Spirit -- His Nature -- His Life.
When we receive His Spirit, therefore, we are automatically PUT
INTO His family -- HIS CHURCH! Joining one of the social clubs called
churches does not put one into GOD'S Church!
Now water baptism is a required CONDITION to receiving
Holy Spirit. At Samaria, and again at Ephesus, they did not receive
the Holy Spirit until after they were baptized in water (Acts
8:14-17; 19:1-6). True, at Cornelius' house they did receive the
Holy Spirit, and thereby were baptized BY the Spirit into the
CHURCH before water baptism -- but Peter immediately commanded water
baptism. This was a rare exception to the rule.
BUT THERE IS NO PROMISE THAT ANYONE WILL RECEIVE
SPIRIT UNTIL BAPTIZED IN WATER -- even though God in His wisdom and
love may on rare occasions make an exception. The command is,
"Repent, and be baptized" -- and THEN "ye shall receive the gift of
the Holy Spirit."
The Thief on the Cross
Is baptism essential? How about the "thief on the cross"?
The answer is, GOD COMMANDS WATER BAPTISM. The
is not the thing that saves us. While it is commanded "for the
remission of sins," yet it is merely symbolic of that which remits
our sins -- the DEATH OF CHRIST. While also it pictures His
resurrection, by which we are finally SAVED, it is merely the
symbol, not the reality.
The true explanation is that the "thief on the
unable to be baptized. And since baptism is not the thing which
saves us from the death penalty, makes us righteous, or imparts
eternal life, he did not lose salvation because of circumstances
out of his control. God makes allowance for such cases.
But God commands water baptism; and for one WHO
IS ABLE to
either defy the command and refuse, or neglect, or even put off
obedience to this command until too late, certainly would be an act
of disobedience which would impose the PENALTY of sin, and cause
loss of salvation.
You need not worry about the thief on the cross
-- or one
utterly UNABLE to be baptized. You need be MUCH concerned, however
-- you who are able -- about obedience to the command. It is essential
to salvation inasmuch as God commands it, and noncompliance is
disobedience which would mean loss of salvation.
How Long Should We Wait?
This brings us to the question -- how soon must we be baptized?
One or two denominations insist it be put off
candidate has PROVED HIMSELF -- has proved he has the Holy Spirit and
is living a righteous spiritual life -- or has come to certain
spiritual KNOWLEDGE. One denomination will not baptize people until
they come to "see" and accept God's LAW, and many of this
denomination's doctrines, and usually there is a six-months'
Paul says God's Law "IS SPIRITUAL," and that the
(unconverted) mind is not subject to the Law and CANNOT be (Rom.
7:14 and 8:7). The order of God is: 1st) preach the Gospel, leading
to a conviction of sin in the hearts of those God calls, leading to
REPENTANCE and FAITH in Christ; 2nd) BAPTISM; and 3rd) they shall
receive the HOLY SPIRIT, which renews their minds, teaches them,
reveals spiritual truth. Since one cannot spiritually understand
God's spiritual Law or spiritual things UNTIL he receives the Holy
Spirit, and he must be baptized before he has a promise of the Holy
Spirit, he should be baptized first. EVERYONE knows he has sinned,
and lived contrary to God's will, though he may not have spiritual
understanding of God's will. God can grant repentance to a carnal
mind before the conversion of that mind. One does not need a
spiritual college education in Bible knowledge to repent and be
baptized into Christ. Jesus' order of events was, 1st) PREACH THE
GOSPEL, 2nd) BAPTIZE repentant believers, 3rd) TEACH THEM THE
COMMANDMENTS (Matt. 28:19-20).
Therefore, how long should baptism be put off?
The answer is, just as soon as one has been convicted
heart of his past sins and sinful life -- just as soon as one
realizes his own way of life has been WRONG, and becomes sick and
tired of it, and turns from his own ways and wants to find GOD'S
WAYS and live them, truly REPENTS of his past life of sins, and
BELIEVES in and ACCEPTS Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, and the
One whom he must obey henceforth, and WANTS TO TURN TO THE CHANGED,
DIFFERENT, NEW AND HAPPY LIFE OF FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS, and to
become a child of God -- then that person should be baptized
IMMEDIATELY if possible -- and if this is not possible, then AS SOON
as a true servant of God is available to perform the baptism.
Baptism Should Never Be Delayed
It might be neglected until too late! In every case recounted in
the New Testament, repentant believers were baptized IMMEDIATELY.
On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 were baptized THAT
Philip baptized the eunuch AT ONCE. God sent Ananias to baptize
Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, the apostle. Immediately on
meeting him, Ananias said: "And now WHY TARRIEST THOU? arise, and
be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the
Lord" (Acts 22:16). Paul baptized the Philippian jailer and those
in his house "the same hour of the night" -- and it was after
midnight (Acts 16:33). They did not even wait until daylight!
Should Children Be Baptized?
One cannot be baptized until after he has fully REPENTED. Only
those who BELIEVE, both the true GOSPEL (the Message Jesus
preached, which is the Kingdom, or Government of God) and on JESUS
CHRIST as personal Saviour, can be baptized (see Acts 2:38; 8:37;
Children have not reached that maturity where
they have the
self-discipline to truly repent, and believe. I am thinking of
instances in which children, 8 to 12 years old, were baptized by
others against my objections and protests, and without exception,
those children soon became more unruly, more disobedient, more
sinful, than before.
When some Samaritans repented at Philip's preaching,
were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12). Only the adults
were mature enough to be ready for baptism.
The average mind does not mature until about age
25 -- though
there are often exceptions. Some few mature and become sober and
serious in life outlook by 16, or on rare occasions, even younger.
An immature mind may experience an emotional feeling
temporary remorse, and this may be falsely construed as REPENTANCE
when it is only momentary, soon forgotten. It is like "puppy-love."
How many teenagers, 13 to 17, have a number of temporary emotional
experiences of feeling sure they are "in love." Of course they
themselves feel sure of it, and cannot be talked out of it. Usually
they grow out of it, but in rare cases, of course, they may really
"know their minds" -- though this is the rare exception, not the
rule. So with repentance and belief.
The child who is baptized may be ever so serious
about it at
the time. But when that child grows older, he or she undergoes an
entirely new experience in life -- comes under "teen-age" influences
which are quite different today than one or two generations ago --
must meet many temptations peculiar to energetic, dynamic,
restless, excitement-craving youth in the blooming flower of sex-
appeal. Experience shows not one in perhaps a hundred can be truly
"converted" prior to this age and REMAIN converted, and constantly
GROWING SPIRITUALLY, closer and closer to Christ and His Kingdom,
through these trying years.
There can be no set rule about the proper age
for baptism. It
is almost impossible to be ABSOLUTELY SURE about young people under
21 or 25 -- and especially under 18 -- and unless POSITIVELY SURE that
such a one has really repented of self-will, self-desire, and the
ways of this world, such a one should be encouraged to live
according to God's Word, but refrain from baptism until SURE. John
the Baptist insisted on candidates bringing forth "fruits meet for
repentance" -- or PROVING their repentance by THE FRUITS in their
Youngsters should let a few years of such fruits
repentance and permanent sincerity and earnestness. Adults should
be baptized IMMEDIATELY, or as soon as possible, on real repentance
In the case of some awaiting baptism among our
and readers, unable to find a man of God qualified to baptize them,
this very necessity forces them to wait until we can send them a
minister. Where NECESSITY prevents immediate baptism, in such
cases, or like the thief on the cross, God understands and makes
allowance. But avoid all unnecessary delay.
[The Worldwide Church of God has many ministers
United States and British Common-wealth of nations. Few should have
any real difficulty in locating a true servant of God.]
Must Baptism Be Administered Only by Ordained
Finally, who is authorized to administer baptism?
Must the repentant believer be baptized ONLY
by an ordained
minister? How much depends upon the goodness, or belief, or
spirituality of the man who performs the ordinance?
First, let us look to the example of Jesus; next,
instructions of Christ; and then, to the teaching and practice in
the early New Testament Church.
Was Jesus Himself an "ordained minister" -- that
and approved by one of the popular denominations around Him? No, He
was despised and rejected of them -- opposed, persecuted, belittled
as a non-conformist. And He baptized more disciples than John. Even
John was not recognized, ordained, or sponsored in any way by any
popular group or church. He was in their sight a rank outsider.
Actually, as pointed out earlier, Jesus Himself
one with His own physical hands -- His disciples did it for Him, by
His authority. And right there is the point which answers the whole
question. The one qualified to do the immersing must always perform
it IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST -- which means by His authority,
acting for Christ as His disciple.
The principle is that IT IS CHRIST WHO IS BAPTIZING
man who puts you under the water is merely performing this physical
act for Christ, in His stead. You are not to look to the human man,
further than to conscientiously try to go to one you honestly feel
is a man of God, called of Christ, and used of Him in the work of
His true Church. And if later he turns the wrong way, your
salvation does not depend on that man or any other mortal man, BUT
SOLELY UPON CHRIST! There is no cause to be baptized again by
Always there is the chance that you may be deceived
in the man
you believe qualified to act for Christ in the act of baptism. If
it depended upon this man, you would have to have divine powers of
reading minds and hearts to be sure. You might have to be immersed
fifty times before you could be absolutely sure of the man who did
it -- and even then you could be mistaken. Just be as careful as you
can, as God gives you to see, in the man who acts for Christ in
baptizing you -- and then DO NOT LOOK AT THE MAN -- LOOK AT CHRIST --
consider that it is CHRIST who is baptizing you, by and through a
human instrument. And even if the instrument turns out to be
imperfect, remember all humans are imperfect, and it was done for,
and in the name of the only One who ever was perfect. And since it
was in reality done BY CHRIST, it should never be done over by
Who Should Baptize?
Now back to the example of Christ. In His own earthly ministry, He
had this immersing performed for Him by His disciples. At that time
they were not even converted -- had not yet received the Holy Spirit-
-for the Holy Spirit was not yet given (John 7:39) because Jesus
had not yet ascended to heaven to send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7),
which first came to enter within and convert these disciples on the
day of Pentecost.
Peter was their leader, and even after this baptizing,
denied Jesus three times. If you had been baptized by Peter in
Christ's name, would you, on learning of his denial of Jesus, be
baptized over again?
These men, who baptized for Jesus when He was
with them in
person, were not ordained ministers -- were not recognized by any
popular church -- were merely STUDENTS of Jesus at the time, being
taught, not yet prepared to be sent out as His apostles and His
ministers. And the indications are they were young men, perhaps not
yet old enough to be made preachers or evangelists. They were not
perfect, not even converted (Luke 22:32).
Consider now Christ's teaching. Those who go forth
or preaching, His Gospel (most popular denominations preach a
different gospel) are the ones He commanded and commissioned to do
the baptizing (Matt. 28:19-20).
Consider the example of the inspired early Church.
not an apostle, or a regular minister, but merely a deacon
commissioned by the Church only to perform physical acts, such as
waiting on tables (Acts 6:2-5). Yet he went down to Samaria and
preached Christ and His Kingdom, and the people who believed were
baptized (Acts 8:5-6, 12). The text does not even state that Philip
did the baptizing -- he may have had some of his new converts do it.
If you study the New Testament on the point,
you will see it
does not appear to attach great importance as to which man puts the
believer under the water, since it is considered by the one
baptized that CHRIST does it. The Holy Spirit sent Philip later to
baptize the eunuch (Acts 8:26-39).
However, notice that the one performing the baptism
was a representative (though not necessarily an ordained minister)
of the true Church of God in every New Testament case. This was the
Church Jesus founded (Matthew 16:18).
Paul Baptized Few
Consider, finally, Paul's example and teaching.
The Corinthian Church was having a contention
as to which man
they would follow. At Corinth some wanted to follow Paul and start
a church with him at the head -- others wanted to follow Peter;
"Is Christ divided?" asked Paul of them (I Cor.
PAUL crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I
thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest
any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized
also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I
baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to
preach the gospel" (I Cor. 1: 13-17).
Notice, PAUL BAPTIZED VERY FEW. He had others
-- perhaps among
them a few lay members who were not ordained ministers at all -- do
it for Christ. He was the called minister by whom Christ carried
the Gospel to the Gentiles -- through whom CHRIST as head of the
Church ruled the churches which had been raised up by the preaching
of Paul and the young men he taught and sent out under his
direction. Paul did not consider it important or essential that he,
personally, baptize all those being converted under the ministry
God carried on through his supervision. "Christ sent me not to
baptize," he said. Paul had other ordained ministers and helpers do
the baptizing for him -- UNDER HIS DIRECTION.
Some, today, being converted under the ministry
carrying on through the supervision of Herbert W. Armstrong seem to
think it important that Herbert W. Armstrong baptize them. But, as
in the days of Paul, there is danger lest people get to looking too
much to the person or the human instrument God is using, INSTEAD OF
LOOKING TO CHRIST, THE HEAD OF THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD.
And so, as Paul did, we today sometimes have
and dedicated non-ordained men do the baptizing. It is done IN THE
NAME OF CHRIST -- it is really CHRIST doing it, through human
instrumentality. A man does it merely as a servant, or instrument
of Christ -- just as performing a service, never to his own credit or
glory or honor.
The Worldwide Church of God has dedicated, consecrated, converted,
ordained MINISTERS (and assistants) in all parts of the world --
available to call on you, visit in your home, answer your questions
about repentance and baptism, explain the Bible to you -- IF YOU
These men are all fully instructed and trained
ordinance of baptism. Of course, they will not urge you to be
baptized. God has made every human a free moral agent. God compels
each to make his own decisions, and the true God will never force
you to be converted.
However, if you of your own volition desire personal
about repentance and baptism, why not request a private appointment
with one of God's ministers? We may be able to have one call on you
quite soon. And let me suggest that you JOT DOWN on paper THE
QUESTIONS you are going to want to ask. I've learned, personally,
by more than 46 years' experience, that you'll forget them unless
Hundreds and hundreds -- yes, thousands upon thousands
being converted -- their lives changed -- by this Work of God, through
The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast, The PLAIN TRUTH magazine, the
Ambassador College Correspondence Course, and through the ministry
of the Worldwide Church of God.
Some, not realizing one of God's own called and
ministers could call and explain, answer questions, and even
baptize, have JOINED one of the churches of this world. You cannot
JOIN the true Church of God -- the Almighty God puts you in.
But if you have questions about fellowship, doctrines
practice, repentance and baptism -- or any questions about the Bible,
or the Christian life, write me. I cannot call and visit with you
personally any more (as I used to do and wish I still could), but
God has now given me many truly called and chosen men who CAN.
Weigh carefully the FACTS, according to your own
make your decision and take what steps GOD shows you.
And now you should read these booklets: "This
Is the Worldwide
Church of God", "Just What Is the Church?", "What Is a Real
Christian?" and "Just What Do You Mean -- the Unpardonable Sin?"
END OF PUBLICATION
SPECIAL NOTE BY DANIEL E. COHRAN:
As is evidenced by the “fruits” of God’s Church over the past 30 years, since the death
of Mr. Armstrong, the ministry of Jesus Christ has gone astray. This has been shown many times throughout this website and
is clearly based on the Word of God. Fortunately, as Mr. Armstrong stated in
the above booklet, it does NOT matter WHO does the baptizing or laying on of hands. Mr. Armstrong gave several examples in
the above booklet.
It is important to remember that it is JESUS CHRIST doing the baptizing, and that the man physically conducting
the ceremony is only a human instrument.
God does have a time order in His plan for salvation for all mankind. Some few are being called now,
and the vast majority at a later time. So HOW do you know if you are ready for baptism? First it has to do with "counting
the cost". (Luke 14:28) What that basically means is fully understanding that you want to commit yourself to the WAY of life
that God has revealed to you. You want to leave your old life (of sinning) behind! If
you have already been practicing this, then you are on the right track and probably understand it well. And it has to do with
fully understanding and believing what God has revealed through His apostles, including the end time apostle. This most definitely includes those truths and doctrines that Jesus Christ restored
through His end time apostle. If you do UNDERSTAND this clearly, and BELIEVE
it, well you are 99% there!
Next it simply has to do with repentance, which is the
main thing required before baptism. It means to turn the other way, or change directions from the way you were going.
And that does NOT mean you have to overcome and conquer all your sins BEFORE you can be baptized. That is impossible.
It simply means you have decided in your mind and heart to live a different WAY, the way of God. He does not expect us
to be fully righteous or have overcome all sin BEFORE being baptized. That is just not humanly possible. What He is
looking for is the right Attitude, Intent
and Motive (A.I.M.). But it is
our goal and desire to OVERCOME sin. Jesus Christ says to each era of His Church, that it is the OVERCOMERS who will be with
Him in His Kingdom. (Rev. chapters 2 & 3)
So if you BELIEVE and understand, and have repented, and have counted the cost, then all there is left
is YOUR part, which is to make the decision and take action on that decision. God is not going to rush you though, nor should
you rush yourself. However if you are ready, there is nothing that should prevent you from being baptized.
Sometimes, especially now days, it's not always easy to be baptized as soon as you want. Here is patience.
God knows your situation, and He will provide a way according to His will and time.
Even AFTER you are baptized you will find that you will still sin virtually every day. But you will
be more aware of it, and have the extra help needed to begin to overcome. Conversion is a lifelong process, as Mr. Armstrong
said. We ALL sin every day. God's Word says that if we say we have no sin, then we are liars and the TRUTH is not in us.(I
John 1:8). But the next verse also says if we confess our sins He
is quick to forgive us. So this is what we should do every day, even (especially) AFTER being baptized. To continually repent and strive to turn from sin and do what is right (right doing or righteousness).
And yet remember, salvation is not something we can "earn", it is a GIFT from God. Our Judgment only begins for us at baptism. But again, God
does not expect you or I to be perfect in all our ways at once. It's a life long process, as Mr. Armstrong stated in Mystery
of the Ages and other places. That gives us all hope. I know that if I had to be perfect right now, that I would fail miserably,
as would all of God's people. So it's a gradual process.
The point is, we who are baptized, and those who want to be baptized, have made a decision to live
a different WAY of life, God's WAY. But we are not perfect in it by any means. ONLY Christ was, therefore He set us an example
to live by.
So if you’re interested in being baptized into the Body of Jesus Christ, please contact me via
email or our toll free number. We can put you on the ‘right track’
for preparing for this life changing event. Your baptism day should be the most momentous and important day of your physical
life! Indeed it is the beginning of your true spiritual life in the Family of God!
Daniel E. Cohran
Below I have posted a general guideline for the Baptism Ceremony for any who are wondering what takes
place during the ceremony, and what to expect.
FOR BAPTISM CEREMONY
This section will not "prepare" you for baptism,
but will tell you what to expect once you've decided to be baptized. Please counsel prayerfully with the person who will be
baptizing you, and above all with Jesus Christ. Baptism is an adult-level, eternal decision about your relationship with the
Almighty God, your Father, and your Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ. It also binds you into a family relationship with all
the human children of God, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Think about baptism at least as seriously as you would
think about marriage.
Unless you have actually seen a baptism you may
have some worries about what is to happen. In fact, as practiced across the centuries by the Church of God, baptism is quite
a simple ceremony.
Remember above all that this is a joyous occasion. For many it is a very emotional time, as they realize they are about to embark on
a new life - life in Christ. When you come out of the waters of baptism you are spiritually clean, with all sin washed away
through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior. Surely something to rejoice over!
It should be pointed out that if you have any
kind of dread of being immersed in water you should explain this to the one baptizing you in advance of the appointment. Almost
always it's possible to work out any difficulties. This applies, too, if you are disabled.
Let's look at some of the practical aspects of
First, the leadership will try to find as pleasant
surroundings as possible - though some have been baptized in cold mountain streams or lakes, or crammed into a bathtub. You
can help by locating a suitable place if the man baptizing you isn't familiar with your locality.
But what should you wear? Our recommendation
is that you use neat "everyday" clothing - but freshly washed and pressed. For men, a shirt and trousers is adequate. And
for the ladies a swim suit under shorts or a under a simple loose dress which will still appear modest even when soaked through;
you might consider a swim-cap if needed. Footwear is usually unnecessary. Of course, you will need a towel and a change of
clothes after the baptism.
The practical aim of baptism is that you be totally
immersed in water - symbolic of the death and burial of "the old you". It means,
of course, that your head will - very briefly - be under water. The person baptizing will consult with you as the best method
for you. Usually this is from a standing or seated position with you holding your nose. Total immersion is achieved by gently
but quickly drawing you backwards and under the water, and out again speedily.
At some time immediately before your immersion
- usually while you are in the "pool" - you will be asked: What is your full name? Have you repented of your sins, and do
you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior? (Or similar wording). The man baptizing you will then say "[ Your Name] I
now baptize you into the Name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit, and I do this in the Name, and by the authority
of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins". He will then immerse you. This full immersion under water symbolizes the
burying of the "old man", and when you arise out of the water, ALL your sins will have been forgiven. You have now fulfilled
your part of the baptism ceremony (Acts 2:38), and God will now fulfill His part of this ceremony (same verse) by
placing His precious Holy Spirit within you.
An essential part of the baptism ceremony
is "the laying on of hands" (Acts 8:17) as the means of your receiving the awesome miracle of being begotten by
the Holy Spirit of God. Following your baptism, those appointed by the Church as leaders will lay hands upon your head - asking
God to place in you His Holy Spirit, and to endow you with the spiritual gifts He deems suitable for you.
If you have indeed truly repented, God will honor
His promise and instantly beget you with His Spirit - "which He has given to those who obey Him". You are now officially baptized
into the Body of Jesus Christ, and His Spirit is now IN you (Rom. 8:9). It is by this one Spirit we are baptized
into God's Family (I Cor. 12:13 & 27). See also Rom. 6:3 and Gal. 3:27.
So this in brief is the baptism ceremony.
The Holy Spirit will no longer merely be teaching
you "from the outside" but will be in your mind as Leader and Comforter and Helper, witnessing to your human spirit that you
are indeed Our Father's Son or Daughter.
We can by no means limit Jesus Christ as to what
gifts He places in His brethren in the Church. However, some groups almost "demand" that God gives the "gift of tongues" to
all, and are expectant of a variety of physical manifestations - falling over, vain repetitions of the Name of Jesus, tongue-speaking,
shaking, warm glows, etc. Sadly, they are often "rewarded" - but not from God - by a counterfeit gift of tongues and other
"signs" that are far from being "holy gifts". This is mentioned here to caution against an expectancy of similar physical
or false spiritual signs. It is the experience of the Church of God that spiritual gifts are indeed given to our brethren
- but not, in recent centuries, the true Biblical gift of tongues (languages).
Please feel free to invite any friends or relatives
or Church members to accompany you on this momentous occasion.
These notes are for your guidance, and you need
only remember those points about clothing, and a towel. The man baptizing you will discuss the other matters again with you
when you meet for the baptism ceremony.
If you have further questions on any
of the points mentioned here briefly, please be sure to email, call, or talk to the person who is counseling with you about