BAPTISM IN THE BOOK OF ACTS
Twenty-seven times the student of Acts finds the words “baptize,” “baptized,” and “baptism.” Over and over again, the diligent Bible student is impressed with what this book has to say about the subject of baptism.
First, we see the NECESSITY of baptism:
In the book of Acts, when men and women asked what they needed to do in order to be saved, baptism was always a part of the answer (Acts 2:38; 16:39). For example, on the day of Pentecost, the pricked people who heard Peter’s preaching were told to “...repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Did Peter tell these men and women to do something what wasn’t necessary to their salvation? Those who teach salvation by “faith only” have to say that he did. However, Peter’s language makes clear the essentiality of baptism. Notice that he told them to be baptized for the “remission” of their sins (Acts 2:38). Based upon Peter’s inspired statement, we would have to say that baptism is as essential to salvation as having one’s sins remitted.
To argue that baptism is unessential is to argue that having one’s sins remitted is unessential. Surely, no one would say that having one’s sins remitted is unessential. After all, Jesus shed His blood “...for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28). Was it necessary for Jesus to die? Most all men
would agree that the death of Jesus was essential to man’s salvation (Heb. 2:9). Yet, they reject the essentiality of baptism when the same language is used to describe it. Later, in the book of Acts, we find the word “must” connected with baptism on two different occasions. On the road to Demascus, Saul was told to arise and “wash away” his sins (Acts 22:16, cf. I Cor. 6:11). The Philippian jailor asked what he “must” do in order to be saved (Acts 16:30). Paul and Silas instructed him to be baptized (16:33).
Second, we see the URGENCY of baptism:
Those who learned the truth on the day of Pentecost were baptized on that same day (Luke 2:41). The apostles did not delay baptizing these men and women into Christ. They realized that until men and women were baptized, they were still in their sins (Acts 2:38). In the eighth chapter of Acts, the eunuch was baptized on his way home from worship. From the context, it is easy to see the urgency that the eunuch placed upon baptism. After all, when they came to water, he asked if anything was standing in the way of his being baptized (8:36). Based upon his confession, Philip commanded the chariot to stand still and baptized him into Christ (8:37-38). The eunuch did not wait until he got home to be baptized. He obeyed God immediately. In like manner, when the Philippian jailor and his family understood the precious plan of God, they were baptized the “...same hour of the night” (Acts 16:33). From the context, we know that their baptism took place in the early hours of the morning. They were not taught until after midnight (16:25). Why didn’t Paul and Silas wait until daybreak to baptize the jailor and his household? What does this tell us about the urgency of baptism?
Third, we see the AUTHORITY of baptism:
Throughout the book of Acts, baptism is done “in the name of Jesus Christ” (2:38; 8:12, 16; 10:48; 19:5) To do something in the name of Jesus is to do it by His authority. In giving the great commission to His disciples, Jesus connected baptism with His authority. He said, “All power (authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, (even) unto the end of the world. Amen” (Mt. 28:18-20, cf. Col. 3:17). Is it surprising that the apostles made this same connection between baptism and the authority of Christ throughout the book of Acts.
Any Bible student who studies the book of Acts must be impressed with what this great book says about baptism. Those who reject baptism as being essential to salvation, must of necessity, reject the book of Acts.
By Wade Webster, Jacksonville Church of Christ