Who is Qualified to Baptize Believers?

Category: Questions & Answers

Benjamin writes, and this is a good one, “Who is qualified to baptize believers? I moved to a new town. Led someone to Christ. And I baptized them in the local river. My pastor said that because I was not ordained, it was invalid. I’m pretty sure that the Great Commission says to make disciples of all nations and baptize them, so if I was wrong to baptize the new believer, I guess I was wrong to lead him to Christ and make disciples. Please help me and others with the clarification of baptism.”

His question is three-fold: Who is able to be baptize, one, the mode, two? And who is able to perform the baptism? What do you guys think? Well, let’s start with his first one.

Who is able to be baptized?
Christians. Believers. Can anybody prove that? Acts 2? Repent and be baptized. That’s the order right. Repent and be baptized. In Mark 16, the order is believe and be baptized. Repent and be baptized. And every single example in the Scriptures is an example of someone believing and being baptized. Acts 18:8 Many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed, and were baptized. Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Phillip as he preached good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Acts 2:41, “Those who received his Word…” First, they received the Word… “were baptized. And there were added that day about 3,000 souls.” Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” and then you baptize, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” That’s always the order in Scripture. Believe – be baptized. Repent, be baptized. Anybody that you find in Scripture being baptized, you have one of two scenarios: it either says that they believed and they were baptized, or it just tells you they were baptized, and the assumption is that they believed. Never are we told that an unbeliever was baptized. Never. Except possibly Simon, and yet it says he believed and was baptized. Now later, it turned out his profession wasn’t true, but we see that there was at least a nominal profession or a nominal belief first. But that’s always the order. Ok. So by example in the Scriptures, we have that command: the Great Commission in Matthew 28, we make disciples and baptize – that’s the order. By all the examples we’re given in Scripture, they believe and then they’re baptized.

What about mode?
You know what I mean by mode? In other words, should we immerse them? Should we just pour some water on them? Should we just throw a little holy water on their forehead? What’s the mode? (from the room: What does the word mean?) Folks, if you don’t know this already, let me just give you a little bit of history. About 200 years ago, William Carey and his cohorts, they went to India. They translated somewhere around 42 versions of the Scriptures; different languages they translated. In many of those, they translated the word “baptize.” In other words, they took the Greek: “baptizo” or its various forms and they translated it. You say so what? Well, listen, a faithful translation of that word is “immerse.” Guess what? Those folks that translated the King James Bible? They weren’t baptists, and so you know what they did? They didn’t translate the word. They knew what it meant. They transliterated it. You know what that means? They basically took the Greek word and Anglicized it without translating it. Carey and Marshman and Ward, they came along 200 years ago and they did all these 42 translations, and in many of them, they did translate the word. What is the word? Immerse. And it fits with the imagery. What is the symbolism of baptism? Colossians 2:12, “Having been buried with him in baptism.” The symbolism is burial. The symbolism is not carried out if I just splash a couple drops of water on your forehead, is it? You have the same truth in Romans 6:4. “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism.” Baptism symbolizes burial. And the only way that is accomplished is when somebody is immersed. And that’s what the word means. So we don’t have to go much further than that. No, it does not have to be immersion in water. The word is “immerse.” What we’re immersed in has to be declared. When Christ said He had a baptism to be baptized with, He was going to be baptized by the wrath of God. Immersed in the sufferings of the vengeance of the Almighty. So yes, we can be immersed in various substances, so we have to look at the context to see what it is we’re immersed into. Now here’s the last part of this question, who is able to perform the baptism? I think the guy has a great point, don’t you? Matthew 28? I mean if his pastor comes to him and says, you didn’t have authority to do that. He can say, well then, so I have authority to make disciples? Right? Because they both go together in the Great Commission. Oh, I’m likely to get in trouble for saying that. But let me tell you, who do we find baptizing? You see, a lot of times we can look at direct commands, sometimes we want to look at Scripture to draw principles out. And sometimes we want to look at the example of the early church. I can tell you this, Matthew 28, yes, it doesn’t seem to be specific. In fact, there is no commandment that specifically says a man has to be ordained to baptize. It’s not there. Anybody who wants to make a case for that, they’re making a case somehow from silence, or they’re trying to extract principles from Scripture, but they don’t have a direct commandment that says only ordained men, or only pastors, or only elders, or only apostles. There’s nothing like that. Now, the example of the early church.

Who do we find baptizing?
John the Baptist; Christ baptized, but He didn’t really baptize – His disciples did. But His disciples, the word disciples can be broad, but typically when it’s used it probably means the twelve, who were the apostles as well. Did Paul baptize? Yes, we find in 1 Corinthians he did. Now he was glorying in the fact that he didn’t baptize a whole lot, but he did baptize some. Who else baptized? Who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch? Phillip. Now what was Phillip? At best, he was probably a deacon. But he was ordained. We see that in Acts 6 that that took place. So, what you find is that typically the example was that it wasn’t just indiscriminately everybody. You do find it typically was the ordained men. It tended to be the men that had been called out by God for the ministry. That seems to be the example. But I’m not certain we can make a steadfast… I know there’s men that are adamant at this point, but I’m not certain that the Bible really gives us some definitive word on this. Men may speculate, but I think at best, that’s what we do – it’s speculation. So that’s as far as I can go with that. And I would say this, I would say look, if you’re a young man, and your pastor has strong convictions about this, you should submit to him in it, because he does have Biblical examples of it being ordained men. If he wants to go to the practice of the early church, you really are not going to find anybody other than God’s ordained men doing the baptisms. So by practice, they may have a point. And I would say it’s in your best interest to submit to your pastors on that point. If he’s got a strong conviction there, definitely submit to him in it.