Almost everyone professing to be a Christian knows that Jesus died in our place, taking the penalty for our sins upon Himself. However, never (so far as I know) has anyone ever claimed that Jesus was baptized vicariously for all. On the very surface of it, this notion seems ridiculous. His vicarious death on the cross is understandable: no fellow human being who had sinned could take our place. Only Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, could pay our penalty because He was not under condemnation. In other words, He did what we could not do (for ourselves or anyone else).
But why would anyone need to be baptized vicariously for another? We are all capable of being baptized for ourselves. Why would we need a stand-in? Of course, the New Testament does not teach this doctrine, but it was Clark’s 8th point, and we published it in last week’s article. Our correspondence appeared to be done at that point, which is the reason the information was shared. No reply had been given to my original e-mail explanation during the ensuing discussion, which was accurately reported. However, no sooner was the article ready to be published than Clark reestablished contact and began to discuss point #8. He claimed that the Scriptures taught that Jesus was baptized vicariously for all of us, and I asked him what Scripture taught that idea. Below are the pertinent portions of that exchange.
Why did John object to baptizing Jesus? (Matt. 3:13-15). John recognized Jesus’ sinlessness! Whereas others came “confessing their sins,” Jesus had none to confess! Historical sources say that He confessed the sins of all the world. Since He did not need this baptism for Himself, it must have been vicarious, i.e., taken for others. Since He fulfilled “all righteousness” in this Old Testament type, persons attempting to repeat it cannot add any merit to their souls, nor enhance their standing before God. So, we believe that Jesus was there in the Jordan River vicariously baptized for us, quite similarly as He died on the cross for us. We need to see that whatsoever Jesus did vicariously, we should not follow nor attempt to duplicate. To do so would appear, not as devotion, but to indicate a lack of belief in His fulfillment of types and ordinances. That which Jesus did exemplary we must follow, e.g., His loving all people, His being compassionate, His seeking first the kingdom of God, His loving the Father, and telling others the plan of salvation.
It seems that some of the disciples, who had at first been followers of John the Baptist, continued the custom—at least for a time. The apostle Paul baptized a few people but in his testimony, he expresses thanks that he discontinued the custom (1 Cor. 1:17). The fact that there is no advocacy of water baptism in the later writings of the New Testament, as the epistles of Peter, John or James, and likewise in the epistle to the Hebrews, is a significant evidence that water baptism was either discontinued or regarded as unimportant.
Since this kind of writing is generally higher than that of Clark, it may be that he copied it from some book, although he did not cite a source or present any documentation. He later claimed to have sent something by a certain author, and this may be it, but if so, he left it unidentified. Although taken as a whole, it might convince someone not well-versed in the Scriptures, no doubt the reader has already begun to see several errors in it—statements that contradict the Scriptures. Below is my response.
Your first three sentences are right on target. But then you leave the Scriptures for interpretation and “historical sources,” whatever those are. I asked you for a Bible verse, and you provide unnamed historical sources. All of this time you have been accusing me of following (non-existent) creeds and what my “denomination” teaches, but look who is dealing with the Scriptures and who has departed from them.
Now, I don’t have anything against interpretation—provided it is 1) reasonable, and 2) harmonious with what the Bible teaches in other passages. Your explanation is neither.
First, why would Jesus be baptized for all men when all men had already gone out to John to be baptized (Mark 1:5)?
Second, if Jesus was baptized for all men, why would He then baptize others (John 3:26; 4:1-2)? Did He not know He had already been baptized vicariously for them?
Third, why would Peter command people on the Day of Pentecost (after he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit) to be baptized in water, which 3,000 who gladly received his word did (Acts 2:37-41)? He had been with Jesus for three years. Did he not know that Jesus was already baptized vicariously for those people on Pentecost?
Fourth, why did Philip baptize the eunuch in water (Acts 8:36-39)? Was he unaware of what “historical sources” taught?
Fifth, why is Peter still telling (years later) those who have received the Holy Spirit to be baptized in water (Acts 10:47)?
These facts are what the Scriptures teach. What you presented is a theory with no Scriptural support that clearly contradicts all of these other passages. You have previously ignored these verses that have been called to your attention time and again. Why don’t you just admit that you dismiss what the Bible teaches when it disagrees with your interpretations? That is what you have consistently done.
Paul did not discontinue baptism; you’re ignoring the entire context of 1 Corinthians 1, which I called attention to previously. He himself was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). Paul also wrote to the Colossians (probably 5 years after 1 Corinthians) that they had been buried with Jesus in baptism (Col. 2:12). Furthermore, right after Paul left Corinth, he baptized in water 12 men (Acts 19:1-7).
So the choice for you is: Are you going to continue to hold to man-made theories and interpretations or the facts presented in the Scriptures?
His reply was short and inadequate.
It is easy to see why Peter continued with John’s baptism in Acts 2. It was for the same reason that Peter wanted men to be circumcised. It wasn’t until later in Acts 11:16 where we see Peter realizing his growth spiritually when he states “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” After this time, Peter never once mentions anything about water baptism in his writings….
If you want to continue with Old Testament Jewish ceremonial washings so be it. I’d rather just walk in the Light and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me….
His comments are woefully inadequate, as I pointed out to him. Each number below is keyed to those points above (first, second, etc.).
If you think you are walking in the light, you are greatly and fatally mistaken. You gather things from Scriptures that are not there, twist them, and somehow soothe your mind, which has some sort of irrational aversion to water. Let’s consider your reply.
1. You made no comment.
2. Your reply was that Jesus did not Himself baptize anyone personally, which I have said from the beginning of our correspondence, citing John 4:2. But because He authorized and commanded people to be baptized, the Bible says that John’s disciples said, “Behold, He is baptizing” (John 4:26) and Jesus “made and baptized more disciples than John” (John 4:1). About these verses you were silent. You will never convince anyone that you are paying the least little bit of attention to the Holy Spirit when you cannot understand a simple statement which the Holy Spirit makes twice. It is not a lie to say that Jesus baptized people—the Holy Spirit recorded those words for us. You simply refuse to comprehend them because they don’t match your aquaphobic tendencies.
3. Your response was that Peter was undergoing a growth process. Really? He had just been baptized by the Holy Spirit and was preaching by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but he mistakenly taught water baptism while under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Is that your position? This conjecture would have the Holy Spirit going through a growth process, also. Your doctrine denigrates and insults God, but that is how far you will go.
4. You failed to comment.
5. It is a good thing you don’t claim to be a Bible scholar. Even a mere tyro would realize that Acts 11 is a recounting of what happened in Acts 10, where Peter said: “Can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” I am not reading anything into the Scriptures; the problem is that you are not reading the Scriptures, period, except to try to justify a doctrine that you will not let go of.
Furthermore, you missed the significance of Colossians 2:11-12 altogether. Try reading a verse for what it actually says, for a change. Baptism in water IS our circumcision. Paul is answering the false teaching that Christians must be circumcised in the flesh. He writes:
“In Him [Christ] you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands [What is this circumcision, Paul?], by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ [How are the sins of the flesh put off and what is the circumcision of Christ, Paul?], buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (cf. Rom. 6:3-7).
Baptism is God’s operation; it is Christ’s circumcision—only it is not a piece of flesh that is removed, instead it is all the sins we have committed that are removed. Baptism is not a Jewish ceremony; it takes the place of a Jewish ceremony. Neither is it a rite or a symbol. This is the occasion when God washes our sins away with the blood of Christ (Rev. 1:5).
I will pray that your eyes are opened to the truth.
Would Clark finally answer some of these points? No, he claimed he already had! Then he added that “Jesus was a Jew and as such followed the various Jewish ceremonies of His time, such as going to Temple, being circumcised, water baptized, etc. I am not a Jew and do not have to partake of these Jewish ceremonies.” Of course, this is subterfuge; it not only ignored everything that was said; it lumps baptism in with circumcision, ignoring the very point made which was that baptism replaced circumcision (Col. 2:11-12). After more exchanges, I tried to get him to respond to the discussion instead of running away from it.
Here are the facts. And these have nothing to do with the non-existent “creed” you keep referring to which you have yet to produce.
1. You cannot admit that what John did, in baptizing people, was part of his work to prepare people for Jesus (Mark 1:1-5).
2. You cannot admit that John’s baptism was from heaven (Matt. 21:25).
3. You cannot admit that Jesus taught and baptized people as part of this new, spiritual covenant (John 4:1).
4. You cannot admit that Philip and Peter baptized people in water long after the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred on Pentecost (Acts 8:36-39; 10:47).
5. You must expunge Mark 16:16 from the Bible, even though you cannot explain how it was quoted 200 years before those “best manuscripts.”
Here, let me save you the trouble of a thoughtful reply. “Uh, eisegesis. Uh, you’re just following a creed. Uh, you just say what your denomination does.” There, you can thank me later for responding for you.
All five of these statements were ignored. After several more exchanges, I gave him a simple choice which represented our two different views. Which of the following is true?
a. John got his baptism from an old Jewish tradition.
b. God authorized John to baptize people in water.
After seven more useless exchanges, he finally answered: “A & B are both correct as the Bible clearly states.” Obviously, Clark is not rational. We had drifted away from the original subject of this correspondence, which is pretty much the style of argumentation he uses. His modus operandi seems to be: “If you get in trouble on one subject, shift to another one.”
Jesus was not baptized vicariously for anyone else. That responsibility belongs to each one of us. Jesus vicariously endured our punishment on the cross. How do we accept the salvation that He offers? We must have our own faith. Jesus trusted the Father, but He did not vicarious believe for all of us. Everyone must individually repent (Luke 13:3). Jesus could not do that for us (since He had no sins). Each person must make the good confession that Jesus is the Son of God, as Timothy (1 Tim. 6:12) and the eunuch did (Acts 8:37). Jesus made the good confession before Pilate, also, but He did not do it for us (1 Tim. 6:13). Then we must be baptized to wash our sins away (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Jesus was baptized but not in our stead.
Having been baptized on the Day of Pentecost with the Holy Spirit, and being an inspired apostle, Peter would not have required men to be baptized if Jesus had already been baptized for them. This was the beginning of the kingdom; the new message was taking effect. Baptism had not been done away at the cross—or any other time, for that matter. As long as the world stands, the blood of Christ will continue to wash away the sins of the one who believes, repents, and is baptized in water (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5).
No matter what strange doctrines man invents, the Bible has an answer for it. Truth will always be under assault, but the Word of God is sufficient to ward off any attacks. All people need to do is know the Word and become skilled in using it to defend itself.