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Does It Really Matter? (1)

Does it really matter whether or not believers in Christ are baptized?

We are, of course, referring to the physical immersion or burial in water of the believer and the emersion or raising up again to give effect to the spiritual significance of the physical acts.

Some persons contend that because they have had a spiritual baptism they see no need for an additional physical baptism. That all believers in Christ have had a spiritual baptism is clear in Scripture. "In one Spirit were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). But this is not the baptism to which Christ referred when He commanded His servants, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them (Matt. 28:19). In the house of Cornelius, Peter asked, "Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?" (Acts 10:47). Here we see the established experience and practice for this dispensation. Cornelius, having believed the gospel message and through faith in Christ having received remission of sins, received the Holy Spirit. He was baptized, in the Spirit, into the Body, the Church. Then followed baptism in water. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who baptizes in the Spirit. In water baptism fellow-disciples baptize.

But does it really matter whether or not we are baptized? In answering such a question we would ask, Matter for what? So far as our eternal salvation from divine judgement is concerned baptism in water does not contribute one iota in this, nor does it in any way make that salvation more secure. The forgiveness of sins is based on blood and not on water baptism. The eternal security of the believer rests exclusively on the work of Christ. Salvation is the gift of God and is not a reward for obedience.

May we therefore conclude that baptism is unimportant or optional? By no means! Christ said to His disciples, "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:18,19). If the sovereign Lord of the universe commanded His servants to baptize disciples there cannot be two minds as to whether or not baptism is optional. It is obligatory for those who would follow the Lord. And He said, "If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments". Believers in Christ who profess that they love Him must examine their hearts as to their response to the command to be baptized. Baptism does matter for those who love their Saviour.

The history of the early years of this dispensation, as found in the Acts, records that the servants of the Lord were faithful to the commission given to them. Those who believed their message about Christ were baptized and added together in churches of God to form the house of God. The churches of God by whom this magazine is published have recognized the mandatory character of baptism. There is not one unbaptized believer in any of the churches. Perhaps in this respect we are out of line with other groups of believers. But are we out of line with Scripture?