To Be Or Not To Be Baptized

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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Judging from the present-day controversy about water baptism it would seem that it is not possible to write a simple message on the subject. Most assuredly it requires more than a superficial study of the Scriptures to produce a strong conviction in the matter, based upon an intelligent understanding of the different verses in the Bible relating to the subject, instead of a bitter prejudice produced by a misunderstanding of all these Scriptures. With most Christians baptism is a habit rather than an intelligent act of obedience given to members of the Body of Christ.

Among the most spiritual of God’s people, including the most competent and fruitful preachers and teachers, there is much difference of opinion as to what the Bible teaches concerning water baptism. But how many of them, or rather, how few of them, have opened the Book with unprejudiced minds and unafraid hearts to search diligently and honestly for the truth, willing to accept and propagate what they find even though it is contrary to all of the traditions of church fathers and church creeds! It is no coward’s nor compromiser’s task to proclaim a message that is not in agreement with Christendom’s creeds.

But can the honest searcher of the Word of God answer the question, “to be or not to be baptized?” If he decides to be, can he say, “I have decided to be, because of a certain chapter or verse in the Book which gives instructions to members of the Body of Christ?” Most certainly not.

There are living today more than 200 million persons who have been baptized with water. With the great majority of them it was a case of involuntary baptism. Of the number of those who were baptized in infancy and have reached the age to render a decision, more than fifty per cent of them have approved the motive, the religious belief and act of the parent, guardian, priest, or preacher responsible for the religious ceremony or church ordinance, although they are by no means agreed as to the spiritual benefits derived therefrom. Certainly with none of them was it a case of the answer of a good conscience toward God. I Peter 3:21. The answer was by proxy.

The mode, formula and meaning of infant baptism vary with different church creeds and programs. In some cases the child is immersed to comply with the example of I Corinthians 10:1 to 13. In some cases the made is pouring. In most cases infant baptism is by sprinkling. With the Roman Catholics the ceremony by the priest is with water that has been blessed and is a water ceremony to remove original sin. With other denominations sprinkling is the seal of the New Covenant, taking the place of circumcision which was the seal of the Old Covenant. In such cases it is required that the parents of the infant be professing Christians. In other denominations the sprinkling is the manner in which. the parents dedicate the child to the Lord. Many teach that the child presented by believing parents, by the act of baptism, then and there becomes a Christian and a member of the Church of Christ. I heard a preacher of one of the leading socalled Protestant denominations say, “most of our people become Christians by accident, being presented for baptism in infancy.”

It has been argued by many that the Greek word “baptizo” means “immerse”, but this can not be verified by the Holy Scriptures. The word, in noun form, is used in Hebrews 9:10, translated “washings”. Israel’s ceremonial washings were sprinklings, pourings, as well as dippings.

From four Scriptures the immersionists reason that Scriptural baptism must have been by immersion. Mark 1:9 and 10. John 3:23, Acts 8:38 and 39, Romans 6:4. In defense, or support, of infant baptism, the following Scriptures concerning the baptism of households are used: Acts 11:14 and 10:18; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:31 to 33; I Corinthians 1:16; I Corinthians 7:14; I Corinthians 10:2 and 11.

Those who refute the teaching and practice of household baptism, including infants, quote Mark 16:16, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Acts 8:12, “when they believed they were baptized, both men and women”. Acts 18:8, “many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized.”

One of the leading authorities on the subject of baptism, although he teaches infant baptism by sprinkling, acknowledges in his printed message on the subject, that he cannot prove this doctrine by any clear statement in the Bible. His claim is that the practice is taught by implication or inference.

Others who teach water baptism for believers in the Body of Christ with any other significance need not ridicule this theologian’s “implication” or “inference” doctrine; for they employ precisely the same method, regardless of their interpretation as to the formula, mode and meaning of their water ceremony. It is all by implication or inference. As we look into the different interpretations of evangelical Christians who teach and practice water baptism, we must conclude that if any one of them is the correct Scriptural interpretation, some of the others are unscriptural theories. If the watery grave is Scriptural, the sprinkling seal is absurd.

But remember, hundreds of thousands of real Christians have believed each and every one of the following interpretations:

1. The seal of the New Covenant as circumcision was of the Old Covenant.

2. Baptismal regeneration, or unto repentance for the remission of sins for the reception of the Holy Spirit.

3. An outward symbol of an inward work of grace.

4. A witness of the believer’s salvation to the world.

5. A door of entrance into the Church.

6. A watery burial to acknowledge identification with Christ in death, burial and resurrection.

Five out of the six interpretations must be supported by implication or inference and by the creeds and practices of certain denominations which were organized centuries after the death of the apostles of Christ. There is not one verse to prove that water baptism was received by the believer as a witness to the world that he had become a member of the Body of Christ.

The interpretation of water baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins, is supported by Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:3; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12 to 16; Acts 19:3 to 7. This baptism began with the ministry of John the Baptist: Hear his own words: John 1:31:


There was one baptism for God’s people while Christ was on earth. Christ’s baptism unto death took place on the cross. Luke 12:47 to 52. After the close of the Book of Acts, the statement in Ephesians 4:5, is “one baptism”. Baptism was not something new with Israel. Hebrews 9:10. But the baptism committed to John had a special significance. There were three baptisms in the “Acts” period, “water baptism”, “Holy Spirit baptism”, and “death baptism”. Acts 1:5; Acts 11:14 and 15; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Acts 19:2 to 7 and Romans 8:3.

When the twelve apostles were baptized, many months before Christ’s baptism unto death, before His resurrection, the Twelve knew not what the rising from the dead meant and knew nothing concerning Christ’s death baptism. Matthew 16:21 to 23; Mark 9:10; Luke 9:44 and 45; Luke 18:31 to 34; John 20:9. Therefore we observe that the Twelve were certainly not baptized with water as an indication or acknowledgment that they had been buried with Christ by baptism. And certainly not to indicate that they had joined the Church, which is His Body. That Church was not when they were baptized. The Twelve never received the second water baptism after Christ’s death baptism. Water baptism is called by different names “a kingdom ordinance,” “a church ordinance,” “New Testament baptism”, “kingdom baptism”, “Christian baptism”. But all of these names have been suggested by men: they are not found in the Bible.

All students of the Word of God are greed that the baptism of I Corinthians 12:13 is not water baptism.

I Corinthians 12:13:


“Baptized in One Spirit into One Body.” In Ephesians 4:4 to 6 there is mention of one Body, one Spirit, one Baptism. Jews and Greeks were not baptized in one Spirit into one Body at the time John Baptist was baptizing with water that Christ might be made manifest to Israel; at the time the Twelve were baptized with water. It is one thing for Israel to have water baptism to have their Messiah manifested to them: it is quite a different thing for Israelites and Gentiles to be united in One Body by Holy Spirit baptism. John’s water baptism was in connection with Christ’s proclamation of the kingdom to Israel. Therefore there is Scriptural authority for “kingdom baptism”. But “Christian baptism” is an indefinite, uncertain expression; an expression from the pen of theologians but not found in the Bible: Some differentiate between kingdom water baptism while Christ was on earth, and what they call Christian water baptism after the Spirit came from heaven. But they cannot Scripturally prove the two different water baptisms by the experience of Twelve. According to this discrimination the Twelve never received Christian baptism; only Israelitish kingdom baptism.

If John’s baptism was New Covenant baptism, and if there is anything to the law of first occurrence, what meaning had water baptism until the last occurrence of water baptism in Acts 19:2 to 7? We should not prove the meaning by the exception to the order set forth in Acts 10:34 to 48, the experience of Cornelius and his house; remembering that Cornelius was the first Gentile to come in with the Jews who required a sign.

There is no Scriptural authority for the two-fold designation of water baptism. “kingdom baptism”, and “Christian baptism”. This is theory and tradition.

Neither has a Christian Scriptural authority for changing the order of Mark 16:16, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”, to “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized”. If we are to hold on to water on the authority of that Scripture, let us observe the order. If we do, how can we reconcile that gospel with the gospel of Romans 3:24 and Ephesians 2:8 and 9? Water baptism has no place in the message of pure grace as it had in Mark 16:16. Christ sent Paul not to baptize. I Corinthians 1:17.

This leads us to this important declaration. No Scripture instructs one member of the Body of Ephesians to baptize with water another believer who is already a member of that Body. The one baptism of Ephesians 4:5, like the one baptism of Romans 6:3, produces a spiritual change in the sinner. By that one baptism the believing sinner is identified with Christ in death, burial and resurrection. As the result of that one baptism, the believer is seated in the heavenlies in Christ and blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. Forever is he a member of the Body of Christ. Water baptism today produces no spiritual change in any sinner or saint: Water baptism neither helps to save any sinner nor helps to keep him saved. All such messengers admit that water baptism has absolutely no efficacy to aid toward, or add to, the believer’s completeness in Christ or membership in His Body. Colossians 2:10. Water baptism is not required by God for membership in the true Church, which is the Body of Christ. Water baptism is not required for salvation or regeneration. Water baptism is not demanded as a condition for receiving the Holy Spirit. Then water baptism, according to Ephesians, and according to the admissions of present-day grace preachers, does not have the meaning that it had in Acts 2:38 and Acts 19:3 to 7 or in Acts 8:12 to 17.

What is its meaning? Can you give a Scriptural answer and not a human theory?, What men have been teaching and preaching will never satisfy the searching mind of the true Berean. Do not follow established creeds or the tradition of the elders. Church habits and Bible truth may differ. After you have prayed earnestly and searched the Scriptures, diligently and have been thereby convinced as to which of the more than one dozen interpretations, modes and signification’s practiced by orthodox Christians is demanded for members of the Body of Christ, obey the demand and then look for the man who is Scripturally qualified to baptize.

But remember; study diligently the Word of God before you answer to God, “to be or not to be baptized”. When you ask men, however spiritual they may be, as a rule they cannot give you any definite Scripture to prove that water baptism is compatible with the gospel of the grace of God. If they quote the so-called Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 and 20 and Mark 16:14 to 18, they must admit that the instructions there were given to apostles, who were not yet in the Body of Christ, apostles who will be on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28). These apostles were ministers to the circumcision with the gospel of the circumcision. Galatians 2:7 to 9. They were commissioned before the Body began historically. They were baptized many months before the Body began historically. Then the Twelve were not baptized with water as members of the church of Ephesians 1:19 to 22. The apostle to the Gentiles plainly declared, “Christ sent me not to baptize”. I Corinthians 1:17. As members of the Body of Christ from which Scriptures are we to get our instructions concerning water baptism and the gospel of the grace of God? There is not a single word instructing members of Christ’s Body to be baptized.

The great majority of Christians are practicing what their human leaders have taught them; what church creeds demand of them, and seem to think that they are in the will of God because they comply with a denominational demand instead of obeying the Scriptures rightly divided.

If a man or a group of men demand a religious ceremony as a door of entrance into any of their churches and the Lord does not demand that ceremony to become a member of His Church, what is your duty? Something may happen to your church membership here below if you obey the Head of the church in the heavenlies.

Be a Berean. Ask for chapter and verse. Do not do something because it has long been a religious habit.

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