Who Should be Baptized?

Today there is a lot of controversy about who is a “perfect” candidate for baptism. Unfortunately, many have chosen to respond to this question with their own opinions and have put aside the Word of God. In ignoring the Bible, some have turned their attention to what “scholars,” “synods,” “councils,” or “human traditions” say. But the honest seeker of truth should acknowledge the Bible as the final authority in religious matters. Who should be baptized?

Those who have sinned

James wrote that “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:17). Paul told the Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Everyone of accountable age sins, not only by doing wrong, but also by failing to do the good he knows he should do. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Peter told the Jews who had killed Jesus: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Baptism is directly connected to forgiveness; God washes away our sins when we are baptized (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Only those who understand what sin is, understand its consequences, realize their need for forgiveness from God, and are willing to repent, are true candidates for baptism.

Those who believe

Biblical baptism is connected to faith. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Acts 2:37 informs us that those Jews who had heard Peter and the other apostles, believed their preaching. Verse 41 reveals that “those who gladly received his word were baptized.” Acts 8:12 records that when those in Samaria “believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” Acts 18:8 tells us that “many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”

Those who were baptized during the apostolic age, believed. Nobody in the church, in all of New Testament history, was baptized because of someone else’s faith, much less “the faith of the church,” as Catholicism teaches. The Hebrews writer conclusively stated: “[H]e who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6, emp. added).

Those who repent

Only those who have the ability and desire to repent are candidates for baptism. John the baptizer urged the Pharisees to do the same as those who came to be baptized, i.e., “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Jesus also exhorted the people of His time to repent and obey the Gospel (Mark 1:15). Peter encouraged the Jews at Pentecost to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Paul told the Athenians that God commands “all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Peter also declared that God desires that “all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Repentance is not a six-month or year-long process before baptism. Instead, it is a change of mind and heart to avoid the wicked works of the past and follow Christ. In the New Testament, those who believed the Gospel committed themselves to this change and immediately were baptized. Only when Paul repented and stopped his persecution of the church of God, was he exhorted to be baptized (Acts 22:16). When the Jews who had sinned by crucifying Jesus heard Peter and repented, deciding to live for Jesus, they all were exhorted to be baptized (Acts 2:38-41). These, and many others (e.g., Acts 8:12-13; 10:47-48; 16:14-15,30-33), were baptized immediately following the time they believed and repented. Genuine repentance leads to obedience through baptism, without which God’s blessing of salvation from sin is unavailable (1 Peter 3:21).

Those who commit to live for Christ

Those who do not intend to change the sinful direction of their lives, and those who do not intend to keep God’s commandments, are not candidates for baptism. When Jesus commissioned His disciples to make more disciples by means of baptism, He added: “[T]eaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Luke reveals that continuing in the faith is essential for all those who have been baptized into Christ (Acts 2:42). And, in His message to the church in Smyrna, the resurrected Christ proclaimed: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

The biblical truths are simple: The Gospel of God should be preached (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15), heard (Romans 10:14,17), believed (Mark 1:15), and obeyed (Romans 10:16). All who have the ability to believe the Gospel and are conscious of their lost condition, separated from God, should be baptized.


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