Baptism - Appendix 4

Other Points


Baptism is burial (Colossians 2:12). Christ's own burial was carried out by his lovers, not by his enemies (John 19:38-40). Thus baptism is to be carried out by the Lord's people. God always seeks to involve his people in what he is doing. Adam could not create, but he could name and God gave him that work (Genesis 2:18-20, 23; 3:20). This thought could be pursued through Scripture. In Exodus 14 it is clear that the children of Israel could not divide the sea, but they could go forward, hence God said: "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." (verse 15) We cannot expect God to do for us what we can do ourselves but, as we would for our own children, he will do for us things that are beyond our ability to do. Again, the disciples could not multiply the food supply as Christ did when he fed the five thousand, but they could distribute the food and Christ gave them that work (Matthew 14:19/20). Further, the disciples could not raise Lazarus but they could remove his graveclothes and Christ asked for that to be done (John 11:43/44).

Apart from the burial of Christ, it is normal for the burial of the Lord's people to be carried out by the saints. This started with Abraham who buried Sarah (Genesis 23:19). It was similarly so done in the case of the burial of Stephen (Acts 8:2).

Acts 8:37

This verse reads in the AV: "And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God". This verse is generally recognised as not being genuine. There is a note in Volume 2 of JNDarby's letters on page 48 which reads as follows: "Griesbach rejects it, and it is cancelled or rejected by Grotius, Mill, Wetstein, Pearce, Tittman, Knapp, Lachman, Tischendorf, and others; it is not found in the Vatican MS., nor in the ancient Syriac."

However, apart from the textual evidence the wording of the verse has inherent weaknesses in it. "If thou believest with all thy heart" has overtones of the law which says: "Thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart" (Deuteronomy 6:5). It is good if we do believe with all our heart, which would mean that we never, ever have any doubts, but I suspect many would say like the man in the Gospel of Mark: "I believe, help mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

Then we have the reply: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God". This is simply an orthodox statement. There is to my mind something dead about it. It is not as when Peter said: "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). It is easy enough to trot out orthodox statements, but often a statement coming from the heart is evidenced by the use of fresh language - see for instance John 1:49 & 6:69.

The importance of the verse lies in the fact that if it is accepted as genuine it is evidence that only those who are of an age when they can confess Christ should be baptised, that is, it lends support to what is called believers' baptism. However, if it is accepted that the passage is not genuine the apparent support that it gives to believers' baptism falls away. It can be argued that the passage shows that in the early days of the assembly's history it became usual to get a confession from those desiring to be baptised before baptising them. However, this cannot be relied on as proof that only adults were ever baptised.

February 2000