“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-5).
One thing should be clear from this text — just any baptism will not do. The Ephesians had been baptized, but they needed to be baptized again. They had been baptized unto John’s baptism — a baptism that was no longer in effect. It was not the baptism of the great commission. It was a baptism preparing the Jews for the coming of the Christ. By the time the Ephesians were baptized the Christ had come, died, was buried, and had risen from the dead. He had given the baptism of the great commission. The Ephesians needed to submit to that baptism — baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” One must be baptized to be saved (1 Pet. 3:21), but he needs to be sure that he is rightly baptized.
The Right Authority
The second baptism that the Ephesians received was “in the name of the Lord Jesus” or by His authority. “In the name of” suggests authority. If a policeman says, “I arrest you in the name of the law,” he is invoking the authority of the law. When Jesus gave the great commission he declared that he had all authority and commanded that people be baptized in order to saved (Matt. 28:18-28; Mark 16:15-16)
Bible baptism is not by church authority. No New Testament congregation ever voted on anyone before he could be baptized. It is not by preacher authority. No one is specially “ordained” to “administer baptism.” If one wants to be baptized in the middle of the night, he has the authority of Christ to do so. No church needs to assemble and vote on him. He does not have to find an “ordained minister” and ask if he can be baptized. One can be baptized anytime, by anyone and anywhere there is enough water to do it. He has all the authority that he needs in the word of God.
The Right Element
Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” is not baptism in the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8, after the Samaritans were baptized, Peter and John went down to lay hands on them to miraculously impart the Holy Spirit to them. In explaining why this was necessary, Luke writes “For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 8:16). They had been “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” but the Holy Spirit had not fallen on them. If baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus had been Holy Spirit baptism, then it could not have been said that “as yet he (Holy Spirit) was fallen upon one of them.” When one was baptized in the Holy Spirit, he fell on them (Acts 10:44; 11:15).
Baptism “in the name of the Lord” is water baptism. Notice the connection between “water” and being “baptized in the name of the Lord.” “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47-48).
The Right Purpose
The purpose or objective of “baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus” is “the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). It is to submit to the authority of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). It is not to please any person on earth. It is not to get into any denomination. There were no denominations in New Testament times. It is not to show that one has been saved, but in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). As result of being baptized, one is saved and added to the one body — the church (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13).
The Right Action
Not only is the right baptism in water, it is immersion in water. It is immersion by definition. It is a transliteration of the Greek, baptizo: “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (used of vessels sunk)” (Thayer). It is immersion by description. It is describe twice as being “buried” in baptism (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). It is immersion by demonstration. Two outstanding New Testament examples demonstrate that baptism is an immersion. Notice the Ethiopian eunuch’s baptism: “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:36-39). The fact that they both went down into the water indicates immersion rather than sprinkling or pouring. Also, “John also was baptizing in Aenon near to salem, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized” (John 3:23). It does not take “much water” to sprinkle or pour.
The Right Preparation
Baptism alone will not bring the remission of sins. It must be preceded by the right preparation. Before being baptized, one must be taught the word of God and have faith produced in his heart (Mark 16:15,16; Rom. 10:17). One must also repent of his sins (Acts 2:38) and confess his faith in Christ (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:10). After one has met these prerequisites he is prepared to be baptized. Babies and very young children are not prepared to be baptized. They have no sins of which to repent. They have no need for forgiveness. They are not capable of having faith produced by hearing the word of God. Hence, they have no need to be baptized.
What about your baptism? Is it like the one you read about in the New Testament? If not, you need to consider being baptized correctly.
Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.