1 Corinthians 1:13-17. “Is Christ divided? was 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: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
The church at Corinth was marked and marred by party spirit and this is why Paul wrote as he did here. It is not that he thought believer’s baptism was unimportant, but that he had purposely and legitimately refrained from baptizing any of the Corinthian converts, with the exception of those named, lest some should claim a superior standing over others by saying: “I was baptized in the name of Paul!” The apostle’s specific commission from the Lord was to preach the gospel, not to baptize converts. It is apparent that he generally left the baptizing of new converts to local brethren, an example that might well be followed in many instances both at home and abroad.
1 Corinthians 15:29. “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”
All that is explicit and implicit on the doctrine of the resurrection is disclosed in this great chapter, verse 29 serving as one of Paul’s closing arguments concerning this vital subject. There are two main views as to the meaning of this text: (1) that if there is no resurrection, then baptism is in vain, a ceremony only in the interests of those now spiritually dead and soon to be physically dead, or, and this is the most commonly accepted view, (2) that many believers were persecuted and martyred soon after conversion, but in spite of this, there were always new converts who boldly stepped forward to be baptized and thus fill up the ranks of those who had been put to death for the sake of Christ.
There is nothing in the history of the church to substantiate the idea that there was some sort of ceremony whereby believers were baptized on behalf of loved ones or friends who had died before they were able to be baptized.
1 Peter 3:21. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Correctly understood, this verse is not a proof-text in support of baptismal regeneration. Linking his thought with the previous context, Peter makes a typical comparison of Noah’s ark and the flood with water baptism. The ark is a type of Christ. As the flood fell upon the ark, so all the waves and billows of divine judgment against sin fell upon Christ when He died on the cross as our sinless substitute (1 Peter 2:22-24). By the very waves of wrath, judgment, and death, the ark was borne to a new world, and likewise all who were in it. Water baptism is the figure of death and resurrection, of identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in both. The believer’s sins have been forever put away, he is dead to sins (1 Peter 2:24). All has been buried out of sight and he has been raised up in Christ to a new life, to a new world, and to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Peter is careful to state the fact that water baptism does not put away the filth of the flesh, either literally or spiritually. Rather, it expresses “the answer,” or better translated, “the demand of a good conscience toward God.” The believer’s good conscience toward God is made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this, symbolized by his emergence from the waters of baptism. Briefly commenting on 1 Peter 3:21, W. Wilcox has said of the believer:
Baptized as one confessedly dead, he does not remain as one dead, with no consciousness of God, but, through the resurrection of our Lord, he enters into the risen life with a full consciousness of God, and whatever questionings and testings of the inner life there may be, he will ever remember that, as Christ died and rose, so he has died and risen again as symbolized in his baptism.1
Having considered something of the distinctions, Scriptural authority, subjects, meaning, mode, verbal formula, administration, abuses, and problem passages relative to believer’s baptism, the conclusion expressed by W.E. Vine is readily arrived at and confirmed: “An unbaptized believer is not contemplated in the New Testament. It could not be otherwise in view of the Lord’s command.”2
Are you a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, have you obeyed His command to be baptized?
The last glimpse we have of the Ethiopian eunuch after he was baptized is that “He went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). This indeed is the experience of those who, as true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, intelligently obey His command to be baptized.
Making an acrostic out of the word baptism, it may be said to signify:
Belief on Christ
Avowal of Christ
Possession by Christ
Testimony about Christ
Identification with Christ
Submission to Christ
Mercy through Christ
One of God’s saints of a past generation has anonymously written:
Is it Thy will that I should be
Buried, in symbol, Lord, with Thee;
Owning Thee by this solemn sign,
Telling the world that I am Thine?
Gladly I yield obedience now;
In all things to Thy will I’d bow;
I’ll follow where my Saviour led,
And humbly in His footsteps tread.
This emblematic, wat’ry grave
Shows forth His love — who came to save;
And as I enter it, I see
The price my Saviour paid for me.
Forth from Thy burial, Lord, I come,
For Thou halt triumphed o’er the tomb;
Thy resurrection life I share —
My portion is no longer here.
Oh, may I count myself to be
Dead to the sins that wounded Thee,
Dead to the pleasures of this earth,
Unworthy of my heav’nly birth.
Lord Jesus, when I gaze on Thee,
And all Thy radiant glory see,
That joy will far exceed the shame
I bear on earth for Thy loved name.
1 W. Wilcox, “The Resurrection of Christ,” The Faith: A Symposium, ed. Fredk. A. Tatford (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1952), p. 93.
2 Vine, op. cit., p. 72.