Before Being Baptized, Must One Know that Baptism is “for the Remission of Sins”?

Brother Lipscomb, there has been much discussion concerning the person understanding baptism is for remission of sins. Suppose a Baptist seeks union with a church of Christ, what steps ought to be pursued toward him?


The person’s own conscience and consciousness under the teachings of the Bible must decide the question. For churches or other persons to decide the question of acceptable obedience to God is presumptuous. A service based on the judgment or requirements of others, persons or churches, is not acceptable to God. A baptism submitted to because some church or some other person thinks he ought to is not a whit better than infant baptism. Such a baptism is based upon the faith of another. Infant baptism rests on the faith of another, and is as good, as acceptable to God, as any baptism resting upon the faith of any other person than the one baptized. While this is true, it is proper and right to teach everyone just what the Scriptures teach on the subject of baptism —who should be baptized, its office in the plan of salvation, the motives that should lead to it, and the blessings to which it brings us. When this is done, the Christian has done all he can do, and it is then left to the consciousness of the person baptized as to whether he has been led by a scriptural motive, and, when thus instructed, as to whether he has the response of a good conscience toward God. If he has these when thus taught, then none can object.

In teaching the office of baptism and the blessings secured, it does violence to the word of God to select one out of a number of blessings to which baptism brings the person and say this one must have been understood and have led to baptism, while ignoring all others. We find that Christ was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, or to submit to God’s whole law for making persons righteous. This was to honor and obey God, the highest and most, acceptable motive. In the great commission under which the apostles were sent to preach they were commanded to baptize “them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” “Being baptized into Christ” is more frequently repeated than any other one end of baptism. Then on Pentecost they were commanded: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ tor the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here they are informed that repentance and baptism would bring them to the remission of sins, and then they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ananias told Saul: “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Romans 6:3-5 teaches that we are buried with him by baptism and that we arise to walk in newness of life. Galatians 3:26-27 teaches that we become sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ; “for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Colossians 2:11-12 tells us that in baptism we put off “the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ,” by being buried with Christ in baptism. 1 Peter 3:20 tells us eight souls were saved in the ark by water. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Now, these give a multiplicity of shades of blessings promised in baptism, indicating a variety of shades of motives to lead men to baptism, all embraced in the one great desire to honor God and do what he commands, and so enter into Christ. When this instruction is given of what the Holy Spirit teaches on baptism, all that can be done by others is done, and the man then must act on his consciousness as to whether he has been led by one or more of these scriptural ends of baptism to submit to it; and this decision of the person determines his duty in the premises. This is true of every person who has been baptized.

To single one motive or blessing and make the understanding of this the one necessary condition of remission, to the neglect of others, is on a par with selecting faith as the one condition of salvation, ignoring all others. Indeed, it is worse, because faith is the great leading principle of all obedience, and more fully embraces all the duties man owes to God, and obligates to all acts of obedience, than any other requirement of man. So if any one act alone justified, it would be faith. But to take one promise that involves what God obligates himself to do and make the understanding of it the sole condition of acceptable baptism, ignoring other ends and promises embodying man’s duty to God, is to do violence to the word of God and become a factionist. I repeat that a baptism submitted to because some preacher or church thinks you ought to be baptized is not a whit better than infant baptism performed because the parents think it right. To get everyone to have a faith of his own, and to act upon it, is the end to be sought.

David Lipscomb


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