What’s Wrong with Denominational Baptism?

Baptism is widely practiced in religion.  But is just any baptism the baptism “which now saves us” (1 Peter 3:21)?  Let’s consider characteristics of the baptism that saves.

Need the right action

The meaning of the Greek word that is translated “baptize” in the New Testament means immersion.  It is described as a burial:  “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  And it is a burial in water:  “So he commanded the chariot to stand still.  And both Philip and the eunuch went down in the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38).  Some religious groups sprinkle or pour water as their mode of baptism, but that is not the action of baptism.

Need the right subject

The right subject for baptism is one who believes the gospel, has repented of their sins, and has confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:10).  But some religious groups will sprinkle babies, calling it baptism.  They are not even the proper subjects for baptism, for babies can’t believe.  Jesus said that “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), not “he who is baptized shall be saved and can later believe.”  Belief must precede baptism.

Need the right authority

Baptism that saves is baptism that is taught by Jesus, according to His authority.  “Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19).  That is a baptism that is taught according to the pure gospel of Christ and not according to some human institution and its decrees about who should be baptized and why. 

Need the right purpose

The right purpose of baptism is spoken by Peter this way:  “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  When a religion teaches a person to be baptized as an outward sign of an inward grace because they have already had their sins remitted, that person is being baptized for the wrong purpose.  When a religion teaches a person that they are saved upon belief in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and then they should be baptized in order to be added to a denomination, then that person is being baptized for the wrong purpose.  And they are being baptized by the wrong authority because they are being baptized according to the wrong teaching.

Someone may ask:  You mean that if someone says he was saved through faith-alone or through a felt-experience and then was baptized to join his church, then he has not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Yes, that’s exactly right.  He has not yet obeyed the form of doctrine about baptism taught by Christ and His apostles.  The Scriptures teach us that there’s more to scriptural baptism than just water and immersion.  Baptism “in the name of Jesus” is not a formula of words spoken; it is baptism just as taught by Jesus and His apostles.

  • Larry Jones