Who has the authority to baptize? (Tom Collier)


There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

The Apostle states with profound clarity that there is only one baptism.  Yet there are scores of so-called baptisms practiced in the denominational world today . . . and apparently in the Church of Christ as well.  How can “one” become so complicated, even in the Lord’s kingdom?

Recently a well-respected Church of Christ apologist wrote an article on baptism titled, ““Who can baptize another person?”.  He premised his argument with repeated guarantees that everything he presented would be Biblically based.[1]  Nothing would be used other than the Word of God to prove his points.

He balked on that.

In the article, he argues that it is not required that a Christian man perform the baptism—despite the fact that every baptism in the Bible is performed by a believing male Christian.  This becomes more contradictary by the fact that he acknowledges Christianity is understood and established not only through commandments, but just as much as by scriptural examples.

While giving assurance that he would use only Scripture as the foundation for his argument, he abandons the ancient text and proceeds to contend that anyone can perform a baptism legitimately.  He specifically cites women and non-Christians as those permitted to baptize others.  So whom does that leave out?  No one. According to this apologist’s reasoning, everyone can baptize.

To justify this, he uses  not Scripture, but the typical extreme examples of a soul desiring to be baptized but no minister or any Christian man is immediately available.  Let us contrast the apologist’s reasoning to the Scripture when there was a dire need to perform the Lord’s work but the person with the authority was not there, and let us see the judgment rendered by God in this case.

In 1 Samuel 13, Saul faced a massive Philistine offensive—tens of thousands of chariots, horseman, and soldiers “as numerous as the sand on the seashore.”  This had Saul and the people “trembling”.  Samuel was due to arrive in seven days and would perform the sacrifice but had not yet arrived.  Thus Saul did not wait for Samuel, but panicked and “forced himself” to do it.  When Samuel did arrive as appointed, Saul told him what he had done. Samuel’s reply was blunt.  “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee.”  And Saul’s kingship headed downhill from there.

And neither do we keep the commandment of the Lord when we forsake the multiple Scriptural examples of Christian men, exclusively, baptizing thousands.

By what authority, on what grounds, or with what Scripture do we proceed to assume that anyone else but a Christian man can baptize?  Neither the apologist, nor has any other minister provided any scriptural evidence that anyone but a Christian man has the authority to baptize.  The sole reason for their lack of evidence is because that authority, those grounds, that Scripture does not exist—not in God’s word.

The Apostle speaking in the book of Hebrews in the eighth chapter quotes Exodus 25:40 where God is speaking to Moses, saying, “See that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.”  What pattern of God is the apologist following allowing women and non-Christians to perform baptisms?  By what authority does he tell the entire brotherhood that they have the license to do this?

His appeals to the reader with dire straits examples are faithless because they silently neglect the role that God has in the matter of baptism.  If one plants, and another waters, and it is God that “giveth the increase”, then why does the apologist present his scenarios as if there is no God and we have no other choice but to “force” ourselves to do what we know is not in Scripture, and take “the increase” by our own hand?

David’s inspired words in Psalms 14:1-2 addresses this precisely:  “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ . . . The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.”

When did God stop looking down from Heaven upon the children of men to help those that want salvation?  Christ said the Heavenly Father is seeking such to worship Him today.  (John 4:23)

The “one baptism” is simple, easily understood, and above all—Scriptural.  Every example of baptism in the Scriptures was performed by a Christian man, and was a complete submersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the remission of sins.  Deviation from that example is a deviation from Christ.  As Paul wrote, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

In every century of Christianity’s existence, the one baptism was assaulted by numerous councils debating over false teachings and doctrines of men—even in the Lord’s Church.  And this fight shall continue until the day of Christ’s return.  But for now, we must be the generation of defenders of the “one baptism”—and keep it according to the pattern shown to us in God’s word.

1.  Butt, Kyle (2011), “Who can baptize another person?”, Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=766

 

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