Our Baptist History
An ordinance immediately instituted by Christ (Matthew_28:19, Matthew_28:20), and designed to be observed in the church, like that of the Supper, "till he come." The words "baptize" and "baptism" are simply Greek words transferred into English. It means to dip a thing into an element or liquid. In the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is used of the ablutions and baptisms required by the Mosaic Law. These were effected by immersion, and the same word, "washings" (Hebrews_9:10, 9:13, 9:19, 9:21) or "baptisms," designates them all. Moreover, all of the instances of baptism recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts_2:38-41; 8:26-39; 9:17, 9:18; 22:12-16; 10:44-48; 6:32-34) suggests the idea that it was by dipping the person baptized, i.e. by immersion.
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two symbolical ordinances of the New Testament. The Supper represents the work of Christ, and Baptism the work of the Spirit. As in the Supper a small amount of bread and wine used in this ordinance exhibits in symbol the great work of Christ, so in Baptism the work of the Holy Spirit is fully seen in the water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The apostles of our Lord were baptized with the Holy Ghost (Matthew_3:11) by his coming upon them (Acts_1:8). The fire also with which they were baptized sat upon them. The extraordinary event of Pentecost was explained by Peter as a fulfillment of the ancient promise that the Spirit would be poured out in the last days (Acts_2:17). He uses also with the same reference the expression shed forth as descriptive of the baptism of the Spirit (Acts_2:33). In the Pentecostal baptism "the apostles were not dipped into the Spirit, nor plunged into the Spirit; but the Spirit was shed forth, poured out, fell on them (Acts_11:15), came upon them, sat on them."
The subjects of baptism. This raises questions of greater importance than those relating to its mode.
The controversy here is not about "believers' baptism," for that is common to all parties. Believers were baptized in apostolic times, and they have been baptized in all time by all the branches of the church. It is altogether a misrepresentation to allege, as is sometimes done by Baptists, that their doctrine is "believers' baptism," Every instance of adult baptism, or of "believers' baptism," recorded in the New Testament (Acts_2:41; Acts_8:37; Acts_9:17, Acts_9:18; Acts_10:47; Acts_16:15; Acts_19:5, etc.) is just such as would be dealt with in precisely the same way by all branches of the Protestant Church, a profession of faith or of their being "believers" would be required from every one of them before baptism. The point in dispute is not the baptism of believers, but whether the infant children of believers, i.e., of members of the church, ought to be baptized.
Baptism of Christ
Christ had to be formally inaugurated into the public discharge of his offices. For this purpose he came to John, who was the representative of the law and the prophets, that by him he might be introduced into his offices, and thus be publicly recognized as the Messiah of whose coming the prophecies and types had for many ages borne witness.
John refused at first to confer his baptism on Christ, for he understood not what he had to do with the "baptism of repentance." But Christ said, "'suffer it to be so now,' NOW as suited to my state of humiliation, my state as a substitute in the room of sinners." His reception of baptism was not necessary on his own account. It was a voluntary act, the same as his act of becoming incarnate. Yet if the work he had engaged to accomplish was to be completed, then it became him to take on him the likeness of a sinner, and to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew_3:15).
The official duty of Christ and the sinless person of Christ are to be distinguished. It was in his official capacity that he submitted to baptism. In coming to John our Lord virtually said, "Though sinless, and without any personal taint, yet in my public or official capacity as the Sent One of God, I stand in the room of many, and bring with me the sin of the world, for which I am the propitiation." Christ was not made under the law on his own account. It was as surety of his people, a position which he spontaneously assumed. The administration of the rite of baptism was also a symbol of the baptism of suffering before him in this official capacity (Luke_12:50). In thus presenting himself he in effect dedicated or consecrated himself to the work of fulfilling all righteousness.
Was not Christian baptism, nor was that which was practiced by the disciples previous to our Lord's crucifixion. Till then the New Testament economy did not exist. John's baptism bound its subjects to repentance, and not to the faith of Christ. It was not administered in the name of the Trinity, and those whom John baptized were re-baptized by Paul (Acts_18:24; Acts_19:7).