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 Vol. 8, No. 9 

September 2006

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~

Image Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.

Who Can Administer Baptism?

By Louis Rushmore

Image who is allowed to perform a legitimate baptism? may an unsaved man or a saved or unsaved woman do so?

Granted, the baptism under consideration is immersion in water (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) or to be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). What does the Bible reveal regarding the administrator of this baptism, and is what the Bible reveals in this regard an article of Christian faith limiting administration of baptism to a select few?

First, I suggest that we apply the all too uncommon "common sense," logic or reason to the question posed. Many Christians immediately scoff at and set aside an appeal to common sense, logic or reason as inapplicable to a Bible matter, but I am afraid of unreasonable people, I think with good reason (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:15). If it were the case at some time historically (quite plausible) that in a given region, continent or the whole world that no true Christian were available to administer baptism, and that in order for baptism to be "legitimate" it had to be administered by a Christian, then no matter how much an agonizing soul desperately desired to be baptized, he could not be baptized; and Christianity would come to a screeching halt, never able to be resumed.

Further, if in order for a baptism to be "legitimate" it has to be administered by a true Christian, one who himself was baptized by a true Christian, no one (not omniscient whereby the true spiritual condition of another could be certainly known) could ever know or have any confidence that his or her baptism was "legitimate." Still further, a proposition that baptism is only legitimate when administered by a true Christian would require an unbroken link of true Christians from the birthday of the Lord's church at Jerusalem in Acts 2 to the present and through the future as long as days may come from the Lord. With little reflection and a firm belief in such a theory, not one person could have the least confidence in the legitimacy of his or her baptism.

Second, eleven apostles were commanded to baptize those to whom they had taught the Gospel (Matthew 28:19). Other than that reference, New Testament Scripture emphasizes not the baptizer but the baptized, including in the parallel reference of Mark 16:16. Obviously, the New Testament chronicles several individuals administering baptism to others, either directly (Acts 8:38) or by implication. However, the New Testament emphasis is on baptism and who is being baptized--not on whom is doing the baptism. "...Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38 emphasis added). "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized..." (Acts 2:41 emphasis added). "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized..." (Acts 8:12-13 emphasis added).

Baptism is more what the one being baptized does than what the administrator of baptism does. "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord..." (Acts 10:48 emphasis added). "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16 emphasis added).

Third, the single New Testament occasion where the legitimacy of anyone's baptism was questioned, the baptism rather than the administrator of the baptism was scrutinized. "And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism" (Acts 19:3). As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul essentially declared that the administrator of baptism is irrelevant.

Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name ["authority" (Biblesoft's)] 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." (1 Corinthians 1:13-17)

Paul's point was that his responsibility was to preach the Gospel, and it was the hearer's responsibility to be baptized, and that who baptized persons was immaterial to their salvation.

In conclusion, biblically, the legitimacy of one's baptism is not dependent upon the person physically assisting other persons being baptized. Period.

However, in my opinion, propriety respecting New Testament teaching, including the respective roles of men and women in the church, would have us opt for Christian men as administrators of baptism whenever feasible. Yet, it is foreseeable that a non-Christian could administer baptism (e.g., Thomas and Alexander Campbell with their wives were immersed by a Baptist preacher, Matthias Luce) or that a woman might assist one being baptized if necessary or one might immerse himself without the assistance of others if required. Positively, we have no authorization in the New Testament for creating a clergy caste and to its members alone relegating the administration of Christian baptism.Image

Works Cited

Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.

Personal Faith or
the System of Faith?

By Louis Rushmore

Ephesians can I distinguish "faith" from "the faith"? Thanks and God bless. Bro. Gabriel "Bhong" Policarpio

Ephesians 2:8 has the word "faith" in the Greek without the definite article, "the." Ephesians 3:17 and 6:16 have the definite article "the" preceding the word "faith" in the Greek. Occasions where the definite article "the" precedes the word "faith," it is generally conceded that "the faith" refers to the system of faith otherwise known as the Gospel or the New Testament. It is not, though, as easily discerned on occasions where the definite article "the" does not precede the word "faith" whether one's personal faith is meant or if the system of faith, the Gospel, is intended.

However, we may make too much of a distinction between personal faith that derives from the system of faith (the Gospel) and the system of faith itself. One's personal faith is not operable without reliance upon and issuing forth from the system of faith. Likewise, the system of faith profits a person not at all until from it springs one's personal faith because of it; the system of faith is not operable in our lives until it manifests itself in our personal faith.

Consider, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). If "faith" here refers to personal faith (and it may really refer to the system of faith), still personal faith is only operable in its relationship to the system of faith. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17); biblical faith is not a blind leap in the dark, but it is based on biblical evidence.

Consider also, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by [the] faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love" (Ephesians 3:17) and "Above all, taking the shield of [the] faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Ephesians 6:16). In both of these instances, the system of faith (Gospel) is inoperable until taken as one's own and manifested as personal faith.

Essentially, to speak of the one is to speak of the other. Second Corinthians 5:7 might be perplexing if we insist on making a clear distinction between one's personal faith and the system of faith: "For we walk by faith, not by sight." One's personal faith isn't anything unless it is the manifestation of the system of faith.Image

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