Following the Lord in Baptism

by Pastor J. C. O'Hair

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.

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Quite frequently we hear some Christians urge another Christian to follow the Lord Jesus in baptism. Perhaps it is more important to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ by Divine baptism than to follow Him in the water baptism He received from John the Baptist. John the Baptist came baptizing with water that Christ might be made manifest to Israel. John 1:31. But two or three years later the Lord Jesus asked His apostles this question: “Are ye able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Matthew 20:22. The Lord Jesus was then speaking of His baptism into death which was to be accomplished on the cross, Concerning that baptism into death He said, “how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” Luke 12:50.

When the Lord Jesus was baptized with water, all Judea went out to be baptized of John. At that time the people of Israel were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether He were the Messiah or not. Luke 3:15. Israel had not been instructed to look for Christ as the Head of the Church, which is His Body, but for the King and the Kingdom of the heavens. Christ declared to Israel, “the time is fulfilled.” Mark 1:14 and 15. John’s water baptism had to do with the King and the Kingdom. It was after the King told His disciples that Israel would not have Him as King that He spoke of another baptism; His “death” baptism

If we are to follow the King in His kingdom baptism, we should likewise follow Him to the Jewish synagogue to worship on Saturday, as was His custom. Luke 4:16. We should take our gifts to the priest, after the law of Moses and leave our gifts at the altar. Matthew 8:4 and 5:24. We should likewise follow our Lord in observing the Passover, and the other Jewish feasts. Luke 22:8 and John 7:10. Does it not seem strange, that although we know circumcision was carried over into Acts, we can prove by Colossians 2:11 that circumcision was done away by Christ’s death and yet make no effort to prove by the next verse, Colossians 2:12, that water baptism has been done away? Remember that we do not follow our Lord in circumcision. Luke 2:21. Circumcision and baptism, with much of Israel’s law, was carried over into the Book of Acts, until Paul wrote Romans and declared the blessed truth of the believer’s identification with Christ in a baptism not made with hands:

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death . . . Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3 and 4.

What presumption and religious pride on the part of any man who thinks that he can baptize a fellow-man into the death of Jesus Christ, or so bury him by baptism into death that the baptized fellow-man can rise to walk in newness of life! The baptism of Romans 6:3 and 4 identifies the believing sinner with Christ in death, burial and resurrection, bringing the crucifixion of the old man; and it makes the baptized believer a new creature. If the baptism is water, the water is most assuredly meritorious and efficacious and is an important factor in the believer’s salvation and newness of life. If there is water in Romans 6:3 it is salvation by water. Apart from identification with the crucified, buried and resurrected Christ there is no salvation for any sinner. This identification can be accomplished only by baptism. Water or no water? Can water do the work? Then salvation is by God, by man and by water; therefore of grace and works. This is a plain contradiction of God’s Word. Therefore, man’s water baptism must be out of place.

Some well-meaning brethren answer: “no merit in the water, but . . .”There are many “buts”; but without Scriptural support. There is no mention of water baptism as a witness to the world, or as the outward symbol of an inward work. Some say they were baptized to indicate that their old man was put to death at Calvary and has been buried. But they will admit, or others will admit for them, that nothing will stir their old man like opposing their water baptism theories. They will also admit that water baptism in Acts 2:38 and Acts 8:5 to 13, and Acts 19:1 to 7, had an entirely different meaning. But they prefer not to discuss those verses, which prove that their theories are unscriptural. They are simply following the traditions of the elders, their denominational leaders who blundered and led them into the blunder.

Any spiritual student of the Word, who understands the message of grace, will admit that there is not one verse of Scripture instructing one member of the Body of Christ to baptize with water another person who is already a member of that Body. They will likewise admit that water baptism neither helps a believer to get into the Body of Christ, nor keeps him in that Body; but that this is accomplished by the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5. Who has the Scriptural right to demand for entrance into a church-organization water baptism, and call that organization the Bible Church that demands no such religious ordinance for membership in that Bible Church? It is more Scriptural to join the Campbellites or some other church that teaches water baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins.

Yes we should follow the Lord in baptism, if by that we mean that we should bow at the cross of Calvary, as poor hell-deserving, condemned, ungodly sinners and by faith appropriate that death. God will then take care of the baptizing, and by His grace enable us to know the Blessed Saviour in the fellowship of His suffering and in the power of His resurrection. God’s one baptism joins the believer to the eternal Christ in an eternal union. “There is one baptism.” Ephesians 4:5.

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.