In this paper, I will be reviewing a sermon I watched on www.intouch.org called “Baptism, Option or Obligation”. I will be using the outline provided by this site to make my comments from. Dr. Charles Stanley preached this sermon and he made some good points, but he also missed the mark and contradicted himself several times. I will point out both the good and the bad throughout this review. Let’s begin with his introductory statement.
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Baptism: Option or Obligation?
The Bible leaves us no option to pick and choose from among its commands. Baptism, for example, is not simply a possibility for us to accept or reject. It is a spiritual obligation for every believer, and an awesome privilege as well. In the act of baptism, a believer makes a public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a message to the world that from now on we intend to follow Christ.
After the time of Pentecost, a Christian named Philip had a
conversation with a man from
I agree wholeheartedly with Charles first statement that we cannot pick and choose which commands we decided to obey, but as you will see this is exactly what Charles does within this lesson. If you watch the sermon you will hear Charles talking about the importance of baptism. As indicated above, he says, “it is a spiritual obligation for every believer”. In his sermon, he takes it a step further and states that it is a sin or a rebellion against God not to be baptized. He recognizes the fact that God’s commands must be obeyed but then he contradicts himself later on by saying that baptism will not keep you out of heaven. Now he tries to explain this away by saying that rebelling against God gives the devil a toe hold into your life and that if you rebel in this command of baptism, then you will most likely rebel in other commands. In this he suggesting that we can still make it to heaven even if we rebel against parts of God’s Word. Based on his logic we could live in adultery as a Christian but it won’t keep us from going to heaven. We can repeat this statement with any other sin that we can think of and we would still have to say that it wouldn’t keep us from going to heaven. Do you see how Charles has contradicted himself and how illogical he is being? He is picking and choosing which of God’s commands can be broken and still get you into heaven.
We haven’t started looking at the purpose of baptism, but the fact that it is a command means if we rebel or ignore it, it will certainly keep us out of heaven just as rebelling against the command of don’t commit adultery will. Every time you read where God’s people rebelled against Him you find that He was not pleased with them and many times He punished them for their rebellion. Notice what John says on this matter in,
2 John 1:9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
You cannot misunderstand this verse as it clearly teaches that we must abide in the teaching of Christ or we do not have God. If we don’t abide in Christ’s teaching on baptism or on adultery then we cannot have God which means we will not make it to heaven. It’s as simple as that.
Another interesting point that Charles makes is that baptism is some sort of public confession of faith. He then gives the example of the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Where in the Bible does it say that baptism is public confession of one’s faith? It doesn’t. In the example that he uses, how can this be a public confession of his faith when they are out in the middle of nowhere on the side of road with just Philip and the Eunuch? How would anyone know about this public proclamation since it was done in private? They could not. This idea of baptism being a public confession of your faith is foreign to the Word of God. Now these scriptures do prove that a person must first believe before they are baptized and it’s interesting to note the Eunuch did not rejoice until after he was baptized. The same thing happened with the Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:34). The reason why, is because they knew that once they were baptized they were now free from their sins and had become a child of God. We will look more at this topic later on for now lets examine Charles first point below:
1 Who should be baptized?
Some might assume that anyone who wants to be a church member should be baptized. This is the wrong answer, however. According to the Scriptures, only those who believe in Jesus Christ should be baptized. We need to be careful with the word “belief,” however. When we say that we believe in Christ, we are stating more than mental affirmation of His existence. The Bible’s idea of “believe” involves action. If we believe in Jesus, we do something about it: we confess, repent, and live in a new way. Philip told his Ethiopian friend that baptism was available if the man believed with all his heart. (Acts 8:37) In Acts 16:31-34, Paul and Silas baptized a whole household after the family began to believe in Christ. Only an individual capable of placing his or her faith in Christ is eligible before God to be baptized.
I agree with Charles completely here. Only those who are mental capable of choosing to believe, repent, and confess are capable of being baptized for the right reason. I especially like how he points out that the word “belief” is an action word which means we must have an obedient faith to accept God’s saving Grace. As the writer of Hebrews says,
Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
Without an obedient faith we will face the punishment of God in hell (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
2 What is the proper method of baptism?
Christians throughout the world recognize three methods of baptism. The first of these involves the pouring of water, generally over the head of the new believer. The second involves sprinkling the water. The final version of baptism is full immersion into the water. Our word for baptism comes from the Greek word which was used to describe such things as ships sinking. The Greek words for “pour” and “sprinkle” are never used in the New Testament in reference to baptism. We baptize by immersion simply because that procedure fulfills the most precise understanding of the command of Jesus in the Bible.
I couldn’t agree more with Charles statement here. The only proper method for baptism is immersion. Pouring and sprinkling are foreign to the Word of God. Before I leave this point, I have to point out that Charles contradicts this statement when you listen to his sermon. Toward the end of his sermon he tries to convince his audience that baptism isn’t that bad and that no one should be scared of it. He then begins to talk about an older lady who was terrified of the water and how she was shaking as she stepped into the baptistery. He then talked about how he was afraid she was going to have a stroke or take him down with her so he just walked her through the baptistery only getting the lower part of her wet. He then proceeded to say that God’s grace immersed the rest of her. Once again, we see that Charles has no problem bending the rules when he sees fit.
3 What is the meaning of baptism?
Baptism is symbolic. The procedure of momentarily being immersed and being lifted, presents a simple picture of the actions of Jesus Himself. He was killed, buried, and resurrected from death. When we trust Him as our Savior, we die to the old life, and raise to walk in newness of life. Baptism shows how the “old” has been buried, and how the new has risen from the depths. It also suggests that one day we will rise from death itself, to live eternally in heaven.
I agree that baptism is symbolic of Jesus death, burial and resurrection but there is more going on than just a simple picture of Jesus actions. First notice carefully what Paul says about this in:
Colossians 2:11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
You see, there is nothing magically about the water itself it all about our faith in the working of God. By our obedient faith we have believed, confessed and repented. Now by that same faith we should be ready to obey God’s command to be baptized. By our faith in working of God we can know that we are being buried with Christ and then raised alive with him in our baptism. Notice Paul makes it clear that our sins are being forgiven at the point of baptism and not before. This is further clarified by Paul in:
Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
A person would have to try really hard not to see the clarity of what Paul saying here. This is beautiful description of what baptism is all about. Please notice the if statements that Paul makes. Verse 5 teaches us IF we have been united with Christ in the likeness of His death THEN we will be in the likeness of His resurrection. When are we united with Christ in the likeness of his death? At the point of baptism. Verse 6 states very clearly that at the point of baptism is when we were crucified with Jesus and our old body of sin was done away with. Verse 7 states that when we die we have been freed from our sin. Where do we die symbolic? Again, at the point of baptism. Verse 8 adds another if statement. IF we died with Christ THEN we shall also live with him. Surely we can see from these passages that baptism is symbolic if Jesus death, burial and resurrection but is also the point at which our sins are removed by our faith in the working of God. So, baptism is the difference between remaining in your sins or being freed from them.
4 What is the proper time for baptism?
At Pentecost, when three thousand people were saved after Peter’s sermon, there was immediate baptism for these new believers. Philip’s Ethiopian friend was baptized without delay as well. We see from many accounts in Scripture that the time for baptism is immediately after conversion. When we procrastinate in following this command, we break the commitment we have made to follow Christ. Why was Jesus baptized? He asked John to baptize Him as a way of identifying with sinful humanity. We seek baptism because we are following Him in obedience, and that obedience should never be delayed.
I agree baptism should never be put off because without it a person is lost. That is the only logical reason why you see the urgency to baptize those who believe. The Ethiopian wanted to be baptized in that water on the side of the road because he understood that he had to be baptized to be saved. As soon as Peter saw that Cornelius household was accepted by in God in Act 10 the first thing he commanded was for them to be baptized. In Acts 16 the jailer and his family were baptized in the middle of the night. A person should never put off baptism.
Now Charles asks an addition question of why was Jesus baptized. He then proceeds to say that Jesus did it to identify himself with sinful humanity. I am at a loss to where Charles came up with this idea because it certainly isn’t found in the Word of God. There are least two reasons Jesus was baptized. First, it was to show that He was the Son of God, which is why John was baptizing with water (John 1:31). When he baptized Jesus the Holy Spirit descended on Him and the Father spoke from heaven for all to hear proving Jesus’ deity. Second, Jesus obeyed this command of baptism because it was the Father’s will and He was fulfilling all righteousness (Mt. 3:15).
5 Who can baptize?
In the New Testament, it was the disciples who baptized new believers. (John 4:1-2) Philip baptized the Ethiopian, and Peter and his fellow apostles baptized thousands of converts at Pentecost. John 4 mentions that Jesus Himself did not baptize. We also know that in the New Testament church, pastors baptized new believers. The pattern from Scripture, then, is that this Christian practice is the duty of the pastor. Is it possible for anyone other than a minister of the Gospel to perform a baptism? The answer is that yes, in certain instances, a godly, Bible-believing person can perform baptism. The wisest policy, however, is for Baptism to be the work of the pastor.
I am not sure where Charles gets his idea that pastors were the ones who did the baptizing because a careful study will show that evangelist, apostles, and Christian men did the baptizing and in many cases it simple states that the person was baptized without naming who assisted them. Now a Pastor/Elder can certainly assist in a baptism but they are not the exclusive pattern in the NT. We need to keep in mind the person that is baptizing someone is simple there to aid them down into the water and to bring them back up again. Now based on Biblical example the best choice would be for a male Christian to be the aid. However, any Christian could serve this task as the situation demands. The most important thing is that the person being baptized understands that they are being baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of their sins. That is where the emphasis should be because even if the holiest Pastor alive baptized someone it would be meaningless if the person being baptized didn’t understand why they were being baptized.
6 What is the relationship of baptism to salvation?
The Word of God does not teach that baptism is a requirement for salvation, nor that the act itself saves us. The clear and consistent teaching of Scripture is that we are saved through the grace of God when we believe in Christ and place our trust in Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9) The thief on the cross beside Jesus was saved without baptism. Salvation precedes baptism and never depends upon it. Baptism is the obedient response to our salvation by Christ. Acts 2:37-38, John 3:1-6, and Mark 16:12-16 are often used to argue for a salvation that comes through baptism, but the context of these passages shows that this is not true.
Please remember at the beginning of Charles lesson he made it clear that we cannot pick and choose from God’s commands. Yet, that is exactly what he is doing here. He says that baptism doesn’t save and is not a requirement of salvation. But, notice what Peter says,
1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us -- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
It doesn’t get any clearly than this. Baptism is part of salvation and Peter says that it saves us. I don’t know about you, but I will take Peter’s word over Charles’ word every single time. Next he goes to Eph. 2:8-9 and then says we are saved by grace and belief by trusting in God. Notice he leaves out repentance, confessing, and baptism. Now I will agree that we are saved by Grace, but you will not find where it says that we are grace by grace alone or by faith alone. Instead, what you find is that Grace is God’s part and an obedient faith is our part and that is how we accept the Grace of God. Even Charles stated that faith is not simply believing but requires action on our part. This obedient faith includes repenting, confessing and being baptized.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
A great example of what I
am talking about can be found in the story of Joshua and
Now I don’t mean to be
harsh but using the thief on the cross is one the most ridicules arguments that
can be made to try and prove that baptism is not necessary for salvation and
this is why. First of all, the thief could not be baptized into Christ for the
remission of his sins because the command had not been given yet. While Jesus
was still living, the new covenant nor the NT church existed yet (Heb.
9:16-17). So, the thief was under the Law of Moses at the time. Besides this,
Jesus had the power to forgive someone of their sins while He was alive on this
earth (Mat. 9:6). Therefore the thief wouldn’t have to be baptized. The thief
on the Cross cannot be used as example for us today because he died under the
Old Law and we are under the new Law of Christ (Col. 2:14;
Now Charles becomes very vague in his last statement about those verses that he says people try to use to prove that baptism is necessary. As you can see, he claims the context doesn’t show that it’s necessary. In his sermon he doesn’t offer much more than he does here. It interesting that he gets into the Greek and the importance of words in other parts of his lesson, but when it comes to these verses he doesn’t even come close to dealing with them. Please note the verses below.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
When he reads these he simply says that it looks like that baptism is necessary. He even states that in the 1st century baptism was essential so that people would know that they were Christians since there were so many religious groups. Of course he wasn’t saying that it was necessary for salvation but only necessary to identify yourself as a Christian and that is basically all he said. Now he said that in context these verses are not talking about baptism being part of salvation. First of all if this is true then logically he would also have to say the belief and repentance are not part of salvation either if the context of these verses are not about salvation. However, I believe that even a 3rd grader could read the context of the verses and see plainly that salvation is under discussion and I believe they could also easily understand what these verses are saying. Acts 2:38 and Mark 16:16 make it clear that belief, repentance, and baptism are necessary for salvation and that baptism is for the remission of sins. If I told you that you must stand up and come shake my hand to receive $100 dollars you would have no problem understanding that both standing and shaking my hand were necessary to obtain the money. Well, the same thing is true with these verses. They show that belief, repentance, AND baptism are necessary to be saved. Now notice the next passage.
John 3:5 Jesus
answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and
the Spirit, he cannot enter the
Once again Charles doesn’t deal with this passage. Instead,
he just makes some vague statement about how the spirit must convict us to be
saved and he never says anything about the word “water” in this passage. This
is a serious verse because if one is not born of water and the spirit they
cannot enter the
I want to show you one more reason of why baptism is part of salvation.
Please notice the following things that are found IN Christ; 2 Tim 2:1 Grace, 2 Tim 2:10 Salvation, Eph. 1:3 Every spiritual blessing, Eph. 1:7 Forgiveness of sin. We can clearly see that a person must be IN Christ to be saved and to have access to all these things I have just listed. The simple question becomes, how does a person get INTO Christ? Paul answers this question for us in two different places as seen below:
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
You can search you Bible high and low and this is ONLY way that is given on how a person gets INTO Christ. This shows without a doubt the necessity of baptism. There are many more examples I could give to show the necessity of baptism but these examples should be enough for anyone who is searching for the truth with honest heart.
7 Why should we be baptized?
The first reason we should be baptized is that Jesus commanded us to do so. Second, He was baptized Himself. Jesus loved us enough to identify with us. Why would any believer not want to follow Him into the baptismal waters? Third, baptism is a picture of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Fourth, it is also a picture of our experience in salvation—that of dying to the old, sinful self and rising to walk in the new life of the Holy Spirit. Fifth, baptism identifies us with the body of Christ. A church celebrates together the baptism of a member. Finally, baptism declares our faith in a future bodily resurrection. For all these reasons, Christian baptism is a joy, a privilege, and a pleasure for the children of God.
After everything I have written in this letter the answer to this question is very simple. We should want to be baptized if we love God and we want to accept His gift of Grace. Without submitting ourselves to His command of being baptized we will never have the forgiveness of our sins and we will never be added to His church (Acts 2:47) which Jesus will save (Eph 5:23).
Conclusion: Isn’t it wonderful to know that our God left us with no serious doubts about how to live? He gave us His Word to guide us into every right and wise action, and He did so because He loves us and knows what is best for us. The Lord Jesus Christ commands us to follow Him, because He knows that this is our only hope. He commands us to repent, believe on His name, and be saved. Then, immediately upon becoming His children and heirs to His kingdom, we are commanded to follow Him into the waters of baptism. As we enter those waters, we experience the joy and freshness of what He has done for us. We live out a beautiful picture of the saving work of Christ, and we live out that picture for the whole world to see.
I hope this review of this sermon has been helpful and has shown that Charles made some good points but at the same time made some bad ones and contradicted himself over and over again. I hope it has also shown you how illogical he was at times and how he really didn’t deal with certain issues. I really wish his sermon would have stayed true to his opening statement. “The Bible leaves us no option to pick and choose from among its commands.” I hope you will examine all the verses and points I have made on the plan of salvation. I feel confident that if you will look at these things I have pointed out with an open mind and a sincere heart you will see that a person must believe, repent, confess AND be baptized for the remission of their sins before they can be saved. Then after becoming a child of we must then live faithful lives until the day we die (Rev. 2:10).