by C. Parker Thomas

Note: It has been a number of years since we have published anything devoted exclusively to the subject of baptism. Because of the great variety of teaching encountered in various religious circles concerning this important subject and because we often receive questions from people concerned about baptism, we here reprint the following article. The years have not dimmed the value and importance of the truths contained in this clear message. We invite you to read with an open heart and mind and to search the scriptures whether these things be so.

“And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” Acts. 19:3.

A few years ago, if anyone had told me that I would be believing and teaching this subject as it is set forth here, I would have told him that he was beside himself. Being a firm believer in salvation by grace through the shed blood of Christ, this truth has dawned upon me very slowly. Only after a careful and prayerful consideration of many scriptures have I been convinced that most of us have never really understood the true significance of baptism. For a long time I have believed that there was only one baptism but I must confess that I haven’t understood the true relationship of water and Spirit.

I personally believe this truth, as it is now being revealed, is vital to the restoration of the church. Beyond a doubt, the Lord has suffered the church in its subnormal condition to teach many things that are not according to true revelation. In grace he has met with and blessed us in this condition. But as light shines forth in these last days, we must walk in it if we are to be led out of this desolate wilderness that the church has been wandering in for almost two thousand years. Only those with the revelation of Canaan, who are sick and tired of this wilderness journey, will actually consider what I am about to set forth.

To simply say baptism is an outward expression of an inward work of grace is to grossly miss the true meaning of this great ordinance. To say that baptism is to be observed only because one is saved or converted is also very misleading. And to minimize it to the point of unimportance or do away with it altogether, as some have, is a sign of unbelief or spiritual rebellion concerning the word of God. I cannot find a single verse of scripture that even suggests that baptism is to be done away with as long as men are in need of repentance toward God and faith in Christ Jesus.

Our Lord Jesus Christ recognized and honored this divine ordinance by insisting that John the Baptist baptize him in the waters of Jordan. In turn the Father honored the obedience of the Son in submitting to baptism by saying “— This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 3:17.

It was not happenstance that the Spirit descended upon Christ as he came up out of the baptismal waters. This was a definite point of change in his life. Let’s remember he is our example and we should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21.

Though Christ had no personal need of repentance, he identified himself with and became one with his body, the church, and though he knew no sin, he became sin for us and thus submitted to baptism as an ordinary member of his many-membered body, the church. The head of an infant comes first with the body following. Christ, our head, the author, beginner, captain, mediator and forerunner came first. We are to follow.

It is evident from a casual study of the scripture in Acts 19:1-6 that the apostle Paul expected the Holy Spirit to be received at the time of water baptism. Discerning the lack of the Spirit in these converts of Apollos, who knew only the baptism of John, Paul goes back to their water baptism and asks the question, “— Unto what then were ye baptized?” The word “unto,” eis, also means into, and it is so translated in other versions of the Bible.

Though Apollos was a mighty preacher of the word, he did not understand the principle of baptism unto Christ. Acts 18:24-27. Therefore, he could not properly instruct these converts or baptize them in faith unto Christ. Let’s remember, “— faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom. 10:17. And, “according to your faith, be it unto you.” After explaining to these men that they were to believe on Christ and be baptized in his name, Paul baptized them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied as the Holy Spirit came upon them.

From a study of the conversion of the Apostle Paul in Acts 9:1-20 and 22:12-16, it is evident that Ananias likewise associated water baptism with remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Both of these scriptures must be taken together to get the complete picture.

From Acts 22:13, we learn that Ananias first opened his eyes and then commanded him to “arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord Jesus.” Verse 16. Though the filling of the Spirit is not mentioned here by Paul, we know that it took place at the time of his baptism for that is one of the specific purposes of Ananias being sent to minister to him. Acts 9:19. And it is evident that he was filled with the Holy Sprit in that he was a completely transformed man to the extent that he began to preach Christ boldly in the synagogues.

The fact that baptism was included and made an integral part of the gospel message in both accounts of the great commission to the church, Mark 16:16 and Matthew 28:19 should make us see it is of far more importance than most of us have realized. In Mark 16:16, Jesus actually said, “He that believeth, and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Certainly we understand that baptism without faith is meaningless. By the same token, he who has faith will recognize and gladly accept baptism as a part of the gospel.

After Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Certainly Peter’s first use of the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:19) on this pivotal and memorable day that ushered in the church age would contain the true pattern and set the divine precedent for the future. Acts 2:38 was God’s answer to those who “were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘men and brethren, what shall we do?’” But it was not only God’s answer and remedy to those in distress on the day of Pentecost; it encompassed all and looked down to the end of the church age “to as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

There was no uncertain sound in Peter’s reply to them as he said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Remission of sins and the promise of the Holy Ghost was upon no other condition than repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

This, without doubt, was the true pattern for the entire church age. Where the administrator and subject having been properly taught, have faith to claim the promise, they too will experience remission of sins and receive the Holy Spirit.

According to Eph. 4:5, there is one baptism. When we see that water is the means or act of faith ordained of God to accomplish this baptism which, in its essential nature, is Spirit, we no longer separate water and Spirit and think of them as two different baptisms.

Immersion in water is simply the carnal phase of the one baptism which has many spiritual aspects. Baptism into Christ, Gal. 3:27, baptism into his death, Rom. 6:3, baptism into the body of Christ, I Cor. 12:13, and baptism of the Spirit are merely different spiritual aspects of the one baptism. All of these are plainly called a baptism, therefore, they have to refer to the one baptism, otherwise God would be the author of confusion.

The only two instances where the biblical pattern doesn’t run true to form are Philip at Samaria, Acts 8, and Peter at the household of Cornelius, Acts 10. In the case of Cornelius who was a Gentile, the Lord overruled the reluctant unbelief of Peter, a Jew, in pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them while they heard the word of truth. Of course, this mightily convinced the astonished Jews who were loath to believe that God was granting repentance unto life to the Gentiles. Acts 10:44-45; 11:17-18. However, this did not nullify the command to baptize in water as Peter immediately asked the question, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Acts 10:47.

In the case of Philip at Samaria, it is logical to assume that there was a lack of preparation and subsequent faith on the part of the people or Philip.

When properly understood and administered, baptism in water becomes the act of faith whereby the seeking candidate is actually baptized into Christ and thus becomes a partaker of the divine nature (Holy Spirit). Though water is the element of carnal means used to precipitate faith in the word of God, it is the Holy Spirit which sanctifies, seals, and baptizes the subject into the body of Christ.

Let me repeat that God has met all sincere seeking hearts on various levels of faith and understanding in times past. But this is the true order for baptism which is being restored to the church. Those receiving this light must walk in it if they follow Christ.

Baptism not only affords the seeking sinner an act of obedience upon which to base his faith, but it is also one of the keys of the kingdom given to the church to open the door of salvation and blessing into Christ and His body. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” I Cor. 12:13. Yes, I, along with many of you who read this message, have always applied this verse of scripture to the work of the Spirit and completely divorced it from water baptism. But let’s remember, though water is used, it is the test of our faith in being obedient to the Words of God which are Spirit. Jesus, who commanded baptism, said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words (he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved) that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63.

Therefore baptism, if properly entered into, is definitely spiritual in its essential nature. Where faith and understanding are missing it becomes a lifeless dead form. The subject, indeed, goes down into the water a dry sinner and comes up a wet one. Instead of being baptized unto (into) Christ and his body they are baptized into such spirit and truth as well as error and delusion as the church or group has to offer. Of course, some who outwardly submit never are truly converted to anything.

Beyond a doubt, the subject, if a true convert of the group he joins, becomes a partaker of the spirit of that group. This is the reason staunch Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Holiness, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or even converts of Father Divine are convinced their group is right. In simple language, whatever light and life (Christian or Satanic) one has is what he ministers. MUST HAVE REVELATION This is why baptism, one of the keys of the kingdom, can only be ministered by those called and anointed of God with this revelation. When the Lord said, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” Matthew 16:19. He certainly had reference to some action, word, or deed of faith to be used by the church. The promise of the keys was to those that have the revelation that Jesus is “the Christ the Son of the living God.” Matt. 16:13-19. Of course, if we truly believe that he is “the Christ,” we will believe in baptism also as the means of grace to open the door into the kingdom.

The fact that this power and authority is given to the church cannot be denied by any honest student of the word of God. Jesus meant it when he said, “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: And whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” John 20:23. The same John that recorded our Lord’s words in John 3:16 gave us John 20:23. We have no right to believe one more than the other.

So we see that baptism is the principle means whereby the church, which is his body, might have a part in ministering life to those who come for salvation. The church, which is his body, is not just his representative in the earth. It is actually his body in which he by the Spirit lives and moves. When the body motivated and led of the Spirit acts, it is not man but Christ. Now, before someone has time to jump to a conclusion that I have become a victim of delusion, let me say that I fully realize that there are exalted spirits who have perverted this truth and think they in themselves are Christ. God forbid that I convey this idea.

Even as Jesus could do nothing of himself, John 5:19, 30; 8:28, neither can we. John 15:5. Only as we abide in him and he in us can we bring forth fruit. And this must be done in cooperation with his many-membered body, the church. No single member is complete or sufficient in himself. Even as the Son was the expression of the Father in the earth, so is the body the expression of Christ in the earth.

Even as men had to believe in and receive from the Son, so must they believe in and receive from his body, the church. “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” John 20:21. “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Matt. 10:40. The time may soon come as corporate life is restored to the body that men will have to come to the body to receive from God. This is God’s plan and purpose for the church, “Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph. 1:23.

Baptism into Christ and his body is not just a mystical experience that turns the convert loose to continue on his way and be a law unto himself. The practice of baptizing people (which is not baptism) to go their way and be a law unto themselves is an abomination to God.

In commanding the disciples to go teach and baptize, Jesus said they were to be taught “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:19-20. Those that gladly received Peter’s word and were baptized on the day of Pentecost “continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:41-42. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

The church which is Christ’s authority in the earth is the place where the individual submits and subjects himself to the rule of Christ in his body. This, of course, includes the ministry of leadership according as Christ sets it in the church. “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” I Thess. 5:12-13. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” I Cor. 12:28. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5.

I know this goes against the grain of those independent minded, rebellious spirits who will not be in subjection to anyone. Of course, they say they are in subjection to the Lord, and that he is leading and teaching them. This also applies to the fly-by-night evangelists, pastors, teachers, apostles and prophets. Much harm and division to the body of Christ has been caused by these free-lance ministers that flit from place to place preaching and teaching their pet theories and doctrines, receiving the offerings and then moving on to greener pastures, leaving the poor sheep confused, scattered and holding the bag, usually empty.

Being subject to the leadership and ministry of truly God-called men is also a bitter pill for these lawless ones who are supposedly subject to no one but a mystical Christ. To deny that the Lord has given some men a ministry of authority to lead and teach his people is to deny many scriptures that refer to such a ministry.

I Cor. 10:1-2 says, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” They were not only baptized unto Moses but they were also baptized unto that rod of authority the Lord gave him at the burning bush.

According to Ezek. 20:37, the Lord’s remnant is going to be brought under this rod of authority. Just as surely as God called Moses, Paul and Peter to ministries of leadership and authority to his people, he is, and must do again to lead his people out of this religious wilderness into spiritual Canaan.

This, of course, will in no way give such a ministry the right to lord it over the people of God. I Peter 5:3. And as truth and grace is restored to the body of Christ, such ministries will recognize, respect, and be subject themselves to Christ in his body. However when occasion demands, they will use the rod of authority given to them by Christ. I Cor. 4:8-21; Acts 5:1-11; 13:6-12; I Timothy 1:18-20; 5:20.

The rod of authority is given for edification and not destruction. But we must bear in mind that it has power to destroy as well as bless. Woe be unto the man that would assume such a ministry to take advantage of the Lord’s heritage. James 3:1; Mark 12:38-40. Believe me, I fear and tremble as I write this but it is God’s word.

Because of the perversion of this truth by the old mother harlot, her daughters have been taught to despise and reject authority. Jesus honored authority even in the scribes and Pharisees. Matt. 23:1-3.

Baptism ceases to be baptism apart from subjection to the authority of Christ as it is set in the body. It actually becomes a death, burial and resurrection by spiritual experience when the candidate surrenders his will, way and very life to become a member of Christ’s body. Romans 6:3-5.

This submission to Christ not only in heaven but to Christ here in his body is absolutely necessary if one is to experience resurrection life. Understanding this principle, the subject is actually giving up his life as he enters the baptismal waters to rise in newness of life and follow Christ. Not only is this a spiritual experience but the subject is legally and judicially forever dead in the eyes of God.

Christ’s death becomes our death. In becoming one with him and his body, his death, burial and resurrection become ours. In Christ we went to the cross, died there, were buried and, Hallelujah! rose again. Rom. 6:3-11; Col. 3:1. Baptism should never be undertaken apart from a local, visible body or at least with the avowed purpose and plan of becoming a member or starting such a church. The exception would be an evangelist or missionary who goes into an area where there is no local, visible body.

Some who have been taught to minimize baptism try to justify their stand because Jesus himself did not baptize, John 4:2, and because of Paul’s saying in I Cor. 1:17. But let’s not be so foolish as to reject such an overwhelming array of the truth because of two scriptures which I am convinced, when properly understood, do not in the least nullify this great ordinance.

Jesus did not baptize personally (though his disciples did) because he, the head of the church, left that job to members of his body. However, let’s not forget that he submitted to baptism and commanded his disciples to baptize.

I personally believe the greater anointing and ministry one has to the Body of Christ, the more they should devote their time to prayer and the ministry of the word. Acts 6:1-4. I believe Paul had such a ministry and where possible, he devoted his time to the word and prayer, letting others do the baptizing. Once again let’s remember Paul was baptized and insisted on baptizing the converts of Apollos over because they had not been baptized unto Christ.

Much emphasis is put upon the name and how it is to be used in the baptismal formula. I am afraid that many who stress this aspect of truth do not truly understand baptism. Though I definitely believe that whatsoever we do in word or deed ought to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Col. 3:17, I believe there is far more to doing things in his name than the use of the name as a formula. I’m sure the reader will agree that the name of Jesus has been used carelessly by many with very little results. Like the sons of Sceva, Acts 19:13-16, they have tried to use his name as a rabbit’s foot when they had no call nor right to do so. The use of his name must be by those who are called, anointed and sent by him. “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” In the name of Jesus or the Lord Jesus Christ means by the authority of Christ who indwells the one sent of him.

Many have missed God in this respect and are trying to wait on a ministry they have not been called to or anointed with. The ministry itself is an anointing. You do not make a place for it, the place is already made when you receive the mantle (office) or anointing. Herein lies one of the greatest sources of trouble and confusion to the body of Christ that I know of. All kinds of novice, demon-inspired, carnal, proud, self-seeking and exalted spirits have been allowed to prey upon the people of God. God help us and deliver us!

The sooner the church begins to try the spirits of those who come in among them and openly expose them when necessary, the better off we will be. I personally have had more trouble with those who aspire to preach than all the rest of the people put together.

Paul knew what he was talking about when he said, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For we have many members in one body and all members have not the same office.” Romans 12:3-4. All ministries should be duly recognized, approved of and confirmed by the body of Christ. And when the body begins to operate under the direction of the Holy Ghost, this will be done. Acts 13:1-3; I Tim. 4:14.

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, — and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” I Cor. 12:13. “But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” I Cor. 6:17. Through one operation, we are baptized into one body and made to drink into one Spirit. The life and power that is in the body becomes the life and power of the one that is baptized into the body.

Though there may not be any particular evidence or manifestation of the Spirit such as tongues, the one becoming a part of the body can expect gifts of the Spirit to begin to operate in his or her life as they begin to function as a member of the body. One brother testifies that since their assembly entered into this truth of baptism into Christ’s body, none of them have experienced the Holy Spirit baptism in the manner they were used to under the old Pentecostal teaching. However, the transforming power of the Spirit has been tremendous in the lives of the people. Wonderful manifestation of prophecy and other gifts have begun to operate in some who were before timid and reticent about these things. To exalt any particular manifestation as the evidence that one has received the Holy Spirit is wrong. (See note at end of article).

Although I realize this shatters many of our pet doctrines and traditions, I believe it is according to true Bible pattern for a New Testament church. We do not deny the reality of the many experiences we have had in times past. Call them what you may, salvation, justification, rest of faith, sanctification, baptism of Holy Spirit, latter rain, sealing or filling of the Spirit. God has met with and blessed us according to our faith.

These experiences given in grace to a church wandering in a wilderness of confusion and darkness have helped us in spite of our vanity, pride and narrow-minded interpretations. But they are not God’s best for us and have failed to bring us to the unity of the faith we so much desire. If the watchmen are to see eye to eye and lift up their voices together and sing when the Lord brings again Zion (Isaiah 52:8), there definitely has to be some changes made. The garments of harlot religion come off slowly.

No doubt, some will cry out in alarm and say that now we are teaching baptismal regeneration. They will say we no longer believe in the efficacy of the precious blood of Christ. But they are wrong. We still believe that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. We still believe salvation is by grace through faith, but let’s remember that faith must be exercised and this is the means that God has ordained whereby faith can be released. Obedience to the Word is what brings the blessings of God into our lives.

There was no virtue in the waters of Jordan that cleansed Naaman, the leper. Virtue came through obedience to the word of God through the prophet, Elisha, that said he must dip seven times in the river to be cleansed.

There was no virtue in the spittle and clay put on the eyes of the blind man. Healing virtue came in answer to his obedience to the word of the Lord when he went and washed in the pool of Siloam.

The word of the Lord to those who desire to be a part of his body, the church, is still “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:38-39. God bless you.

Note: If you desire more information on the question of “tongues” relative to the Holy Spirit, send for our booklet, “Tongues, My Testimony.”

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