Audio Video Library
General Beliefs Site Search Time Line
E-Mail Us Web Links Home

Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

Baptism: The Purpose

By Elder J.H. Oliphant


In olden times the true gospel was set forth in types and shadows.  Abel’s sacrifice set forth in a figure our Savior; every animal that was slain under the direction of God, in its way, pointed the mind to the Lord Jesus on the cross.  The Paschal lamb pointed to the Redeemer as the great deliverer from sin.  I have no doubt but that Bunyan was right when he makes the temple, with all its services, a type of something better. 


                                    From the shadow to the substance


Hebrews 9:1-11.  In this place we learn from the apostle that all things connected with the temple were “a figure for the time then present in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience.”  “Which stood only in meats and drinks and divers washing and carnal rites,” etc.  “But Christ being a greater and more perfect tabernacle,” etc. 


In this place he calls our minds away from the shadow to the true Savior.  The Jews were prone to look to and depend on the shadow.  These shadows were very useful, if used aright by the Jews, for they carried the mind to the Lord Jesus; but when they were used unlawfully there were a curse to Israel, and instead of carrying the mind of the people to the only Savior of sinners, they served rather as a blind to hide the only hope of a sinner.  “But even unto this day when Moses is read the veil is upon their hearts,” and they “could not look steadfastly to the end of that which is abolished,”— II Corinthians 3:13 to last. 


The service of the law was not given as a part of the remedial system by which sinners are justified before God, but as a shadow of it.  In their bleeding victims they had a picture of Christ on the cross.  Their incense, ark, mercy-seat, and every part of their service was significant, but their own blindness, and proneness to legalize everything, led them to “rest in the law.”  “And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them,”—Romans 11:9-10


Their table of service which was instituted to point the mind to the Savior, had served them as a stumbling block; it had become a snare, a trap to their feet, so that their service became a curse to them.  Their natural tendency was to legalize the whole service and make a Savior of it, and thus shut their eyes to the only Savior. 


              They turned the symbol into a stumbling stone


The natural, unregenerate man will turn the very gospel of grace into one of works.  The ceremonial law was to the Jews a real gospel, but they made a legal trap and stumbling stone out of it, that denied the real need of that inward change which alone fits us for heaven.  And they contended for the law in such a way as to reject him to whom it was intended to direct them.


Circumcision was a type of the circumcision made without hands, and it distinguished them as the peculiar people of God as a nation, and in all this it tended to lead the mind to look for that inward circumcision which was performed without hands, and by which we are in heart separated from this world, and have the “body of our sins cut off.”  But the Jews were prone to regard this circumcision made by hands as sufficient, and thus trust in the shadow or pattern instead of the substance.  In Romans 3:1-10, the apostle labors to deliver the brethren from this snare or trap, and reminds them that Abraham’s justification before God was not secured by it. 


The Savior taught the Jews to search the scripture, “for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me.”  These poor depraved Jews believed that eternal life was in these ordinances, and carnal rites, but Jesus said, “They are they that testify of me;” “the great blessing of eternal life is in me; you will not find it in the ordinances of the law or the gospel either, it is in me.” 


                         They put circumcision in the place of Christ


This legal taint was found among the early Christians—

Acts 15:1.—There were certain persons who taught that “except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved.”  Thus seeking to bring the saints into bondage, and assigning a place for circumcision in the remedial system equal to that of Christ.


The Galatian brethren were troubled with the same thing.  Paul tells them, “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years,—Galatians 4:10. He then adds, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.”  This same legal bias was plainly observable among them, in which they were legalizing the gospel, and betraying a disposition to trust in part to the performance of ordinances. 


This is the natural tendency of men in all ages of the world.  The gospel is often explained as a bundle of contradictions, upon which life and immortality is suspended, thus making “a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block” out of the pure gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


In Romans 1:16, we read, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power (authority) of God unto salvation,” etc.; “for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.”  The gospel, then, reveals a righteousness which is suited to our need.  The tendency of man is to “go about to establish his own righteousness,” and in order to do it he generally legalizes gospel services, such as observing days, and years, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc., and when I see this tendency in men, I become afraid of them, as Paul was of the Galatians. 


                                            Campbell legalized baptism


The doctrine of transubstantiation among the Catholics has its foundation in this error.  The followers of Mr. Campbell have legalized baptism as certain teachers of old did circumcision, saying, except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved.  It is not a part of the remedial system by which men are justified before God.  The imputed righteousness of Christ is the ground upon which we are justified. 


We have shown in the previous chapter that baptism is the peculiar privilege of the believer.  We have shown that the believer is “born of God” “is passed from death unto life,” and that he “shall not come into condemnation.” The design of baptism is not to bring about a new birth, or save him from condemnation.  In a word, it is not a part of that system by which sinners are justified before God.  I know that many have labored hard to give it as much importance as those false teachers did circumcision.


                 Campbell put baptism in the place of circumcision


Mr. Campbell, in his work on baptism, page 255: “We must give to grace, to faith, to repentance, to baptism, to the purpose of God the Father, to the blood of Christ, to the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, to each of these, severally, its proper place and importance in redemption and salvation, and to all of them a concurrent efficacy in the rescue and delivery of man from sin, misery and ruin.” 


He here gives to baptism the same prominence that those false teachers did to circumcision, thus suspending all on its performance.  It is a link in his chain of salvation, which, if it is lacking, there is no salvation.  This is the result of that tendency in all nations and ages, to make a stumbling block of the ordinances of God.


I think I have shown that the believer alone is entitled to the ordinance of baptism, and I have also shown the believer to be in a saved state, “born of God,” etc.  Baptism is therefore not a part of the remedial system, but it is confined entirely to the family of God.  It should not be performed with a legal bias in mind; it becomes a curse instead of a blessing when it is attended to as a passport to heaven. 


                     By regeneration made one with Christ


In Romans 6:3-4, we have baptism as a burial; we are, Romans 6:3, baptized into Christ; as the wife is one, essentially, with her husband, we are, by regeneration, made one with Christ; he is our life and head, the fountain of all our hopes.  Romans 6:4, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death.”  From the fact that by regeneration we are one with him, we have, in the act of baptism, publicly owned him, whereby we have also solemnly pledged ourselves to walk in newness of life. 


                                               Raised to walk a new life


When Christ was raised from the dead, he was not simply restored to life, but was raised into a higher life.  So we are in this ordinance  raised to walk a new life, not after the manner of this world or our former lusts, but after the example of our Master; as we by natural death are separated from our worldly pursuits of life, so by regeneration we die to sin—see Romans 6:2.  And our burial in baptism is a showing to the world that we are dead to sin, and our raising from the water of baptism is with a view to live a new life.  


Persons who have been baptized should feel themselves solemnly bound, as if by an oath, to walk according to the commandments of God.  In Galatians 3:27, it is called putting on Christ, or acting in our outward life what has been wrought within; it is confessing him before men, or a public marriage to Christ wherein we bind ourselves to live for him who has died for us.  The marriage ceremony does not unite persons in heart, but it publicly and practically unites those who have been one in heart.  So baptism does not, in heart, unite men to Christ, but is the appointed manner in which we should acknowledge him.  It is like an oath of allegiance, which binds us as long as we live to obey him.  It is a picture that shows:


                                Symbolizes death to sin


1st.  Our death to sin.  We confess in it that we are dead to sin; in it we teach others the great necessity of dying to sin.  By a picture, when we stand at a grave, we see the dead buried; they are never, in civil countries buried until dead.  So we should not bury in baptism until there is a death to sin.  How beautiful to see one in deep humility confess himself dead to sin; and


2nd.  It is a picture of our being raised up by the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life.  The baptized should feel himself under the most binding obligations to live a holy life.  The true wife feels bound to pursue a course of life that will honor her husband, and it is greatly to her disgrace to betray a spirit of disobedience at any time in her future life; and so it is very wrong and disgraceful for a baptized person to practice sin as formerly. 


This obligation is as lasting as life.  We put on Christ to wear him through life and death.  Putting on Christ may include, as some think, the imitation of Christ in our lives, a seeking of the same temper that he had; the same course of life among our fellow creatures.  The disciples were known to have been with Christ by their conduct, and we, by carefully obeying him in all things, will be clothed with his spirit of love, forbearance, and tenderness, that would make us delightful companions for each other, and greatly prepare us to bear hardness, which we will, more or less, through life have opportunity to do.  How careful should we be in our lives to fill our solemn pledge to God, taken in baptism. 


                         Also symbolizes the resurrection


It is also emblematic of the great resurrection.  In I Corinthians 15:29, “Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?  Why are they then baptized for the dead?”  He shows that if there is no resurrection of the dead that our baptism was an unnecessary thing.  In this solemn service we are constantly teaching the resurrection of our bodies.  We shall by and by go down to the grave and be buried out of the sight of men, and this is shown by our burial in baptism.  But we will not forever remain in the grave.  The time will come when the grave shall be robbed of its spoil.  This will be a glorious and triumphant day to the dear saints who now go sorrowing here; and this great privilege of saints is shown in picture, by his being raised from the water.  


Oh! dear reader, have you a hope of being raised to life eternal?  If so, in this rite you may show forth that hope.  Whom do you love best, this vain world or the dear Redeemer?  If your heart is set on Christ, confess him.  Go to his people who are endeavoring to maintain his service, and tell them the “reason of the hope that is within you with meekness and fear,” and publicly put him on as your great exemplar. 


Bear in mind his people are a poor people in spirit; they feel and complain of their imperfections, but they love the great Redeemer and desire to manifest it to the world.  They are trying to maintain his ordinances pure in the world.  Their ministers are trying to maintain a pure gospel.  Are you concerned for these precious things?  If so, go to these people, ask for a place among them, never halting to inquire whether it will increase or lessen your popularity in the world.  Your time for this service may be very short, and we know it cannot be very long.  You do not want to meet the enemy, death, without having publicly owned him as your Master to love and obey. 


You may urge that your hope is not clear enough, that you are unworthy, etc., but all this does not satisfy you; your sense of unperformed duty remains.  You go away from the house of the Lord with a burdened mind on account of your neglect of duty.  If you would be freed from a heavy heart, and receive the Savior’s promised rest, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow the great Redeemer through the grave of baptism. 


You shall one day follow him through death, the grave and the resurrection.  Oh! blessed hope, that we shall all be raised immortal in the sweet   society of the great family of God, when we shall with joy sing; “O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?”  How ardent ought our love to be to him whose sweet employ it is to prepare us all for this bright destiny.  Let us devote the remainder of our lives to his service in sincerity and truth.


God Almighty grant that it may be our sweet privilege to meet in that blessed day, and be allowed to unite to all eternity in the praise of our dear Lord Jesus Christ.


Note:—In the translation of the New Testament, called, “The Living Oracles,” approved by A. Campbell, the 19th verse of the last chapter of Matthew (Matthew 28:19) reads, “Go, convert all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  The common version reads, “baptizing them in the name,” etc. Mr. Campbell so renders this as to teach that men are baptized into Christ.  We have ever understood this verse to teach that the disciples were to perform that right by his authority; “In his name,” as agents do business in the name of another, so we perform this rite as the appointed servants of God.  It is true, that if the word rendered into must mean into, we would have to yield this point and agree that baptism is a part of the remedial system.  The Greek word rendered into here is Eis.  But these translators do not always render it into, which leaves room to suspicion that they were biased in favor of baptismal regeneration, and that it was their theology, and not their scholarship, that led them to make this translation. 


In Matthew 10:41-42, the common version reads, “He that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man;” and again, “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple,” etc.  The word in in these places is from Eis, and Mr. Campbell does not render them into.  Also, Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” etc.  Here the word, in is from Eis.  Mr. Campbell gives it the same reading, “Wherever two or three are assembled in my name, etc.  Now, why, unless it be to favor his peculiar views of baptism, should he render the word in in this passage and into in Matthew 28:19.


By comparing this translation with the Greek concordance, we find that great pains were taken to render this Greek word Eis as into wherever it would favor Campbell’s notion of the design of baptism, but in a great number, and I believe, a majority of cases, he has rendered it by some other word plainly showing that his legal notion of baptism, decided him to render the word into wherever it would help to support his pet notion of baptism.