“A reader writes with the inquiry which heads this articles. Thanks for your letter!
First, let’s take the baptism of Jesus as our standard. He is, after all, the pre-eminent Christian.
His baptism was by a man sent from God (John 1:6) to immerse in water (John 1:33). It required a proper candidate, and Jesus was certainly that; a child of God, who was ready to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15). The all-righteousness of God was already in Jesus before His baptism. On the other hand, John refused to baptize those who gave no evidence of new life (Luke 3:7-9). Imputed righteousness, brought by God’s action, is fulfilled (brought to its fruitful purpose) when we act in obedient accord with it.
It required a proper method: burial (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12). There is little disagreement among scholars as to the New Testament mode.
And it required a proper authority. Here is where even some Baptists raise an eyebrow, but consider:
1) Others, such as the Essenes, were immersing; Jesus went to a man sent from God.
2) Truth is the ultimate authority for religious activity. False doctrine invalidates the actions of those who proclaim it.
3) We are not to receive those who bring any other doctrine (II John 1:9-11)
4) Correct authority is necessary in any significant action – marriage, business, education, and so on. Why would it be less so in baptism and church membership.
In summary, scriptural baptism is the burial, in water, of a believer who is already in Christ, into the fellowship of a like-minded community called a church. Jesus’ baptism placed Him in the gathered fellowship of disciples assembling around John, and from that group He took the material to build the first church. Congregations like that one, with those doctrines, still assemble by His authority, and baptize in His name (authority) today, and will till He returns (Matt. 16:18, Eph. 3:21).
We trust this answer is helpful.” – R. Charles Blair
(R. Charles Blair is the pastor of the Poplar Grove Baptist Church in Hickman, Kentucky and the Director of Missions of the West Kentucky Baptist Association. He previously served as as vice-president of Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College in Mayfield, Kentucky. He has written several booklets, as well as numerous articles and tracts. The following article first appeared in The Herald, the weekly newsletter of Mid-Continent in the 1960’s. This short article is the perfect size to fit on the front of a weekly church bulletin.)