Is a denominational baptism a scriptural baptism? Even if a person is fully submerged in the water during a denominational baptism, does that really mean that a person is fully cleansed of sins and is now a member of the church of Christ?
A person who is baptized into Christ is baptized into the body of Christ. Galatians 3:27 states, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The body of Christ is the church of Christ, and every member of the church makes up the whole body of Christ. “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:20-23).
All denominations, which were not created by Christ, cannot be part of the body of Christ. The word “denomination” means “to give a name to, to designate.” Denominations of all sorts profess a connection to Jesus Christ, when in actuality; they are not following Jesus, but rather their own man-made traditions. Therefore, in order to be baptized into Christ, one must be baptized into the body of Christ, which is, the church of Christ, not a denominational church.
Ephesians 4:4-6 state, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” We see clearly, here that the body is one. Since Ephesians 1 teaches that the body is the church, and Ephesians 4 teaches that there is only one body, then there is just one church. I type these words, not out of hatred for anyone in denominations, but out of love for all.
Denominational churches are not scriptural because they were created by man and not by Christ. Everything we do must be authorized for us in the New Testament for by it we shall be judged, in accordance with John 12:48. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). We must go by the New Testament when determining what is and is not authorized today, as the Old Law has been nailed to the Cross (Colossians 2:14). Of course, the Old Testament is given to us to provide good examples of those who were faithful that we can follow, and to give us examples of those who were not faithful so that we can learn from their unrighteousness to not be like them (I Corinthians 10:11, Romans 15:4). We are bound to the New Testament as the book whereby we find the instructions to go by in order to win a home in Heaven. Anything that is done inside or outside of a church building which is not authorized by the New Testament and thus not authorized by God is wrong in His eyes. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” from Colossians 3:17 means by “the authority of,” as found here. All that we think, say, and do must be authorized by God in the New Testament.
Clearly, a church that teaches doctrine that is not found in the Bible is not the church that Christ began. The church of Christ is the one church that is authorized by the Bible, and this is the body of Christ that a person must be baptized into in order to be saved. Other religious institutions add to and take from the Bible, but the church of Christ does only that which is authorized by God today. We are able to back up our teachings and actions by book, chapter, and verse from the Bible. We do not appeal to man-made traditions or to creed books. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).
So, is a baptism that occurs within a denomination authorized by God? As stated before, a denomination of any kind is not the church of Christ, therefore it is not authorized by God. Baptism into Christ is for the remission of sins. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” “Remission” as found in Acts 2:38 means “forgiveness.” It is not uncommon to hear some say that baptism is not for the forgiveness of sins, but rather merely an outward expression of an inward faith. Baptism, however, is for the forgiveness of sins as we see in Acts 2:38. I Peter 3:21-22 say, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” Baptism saves. Salvation does not come before baptism. The Scriptures teach baptism does also now save us. Upon baptism, a person is a Christian and is in a saved state. A Christian must remain faithful to make Heaven his or her home (Revelation 2:10).
What if the person being baptized into a denomination believes that he or she is being baptized for the remission of sins? Those who were baptized by John the Baptist were baptized not into a denomination, but they were actually baptized for the remission of sins. Mark 1:4 states, “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” John’s baptism was not the one baptism of Ephesians 4:4 in the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of sins to cause one to be added to the Lord’s church as Scriptural baptism is today (Acts 2:41, 47).
Therefore, the men, numbering about twelve, who had been baptized with John’s baptism, whom Paul found in Ephesus, were instructed by God speaking through Paul to be immersed in the one baptism, which is in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and which results in people being added to the church by the Lord Himself (Acts 19). The baptism performed by John the Baptist was binding for a time, but when Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28, He was commanding the one baptism of today. Paul recognizes John’s baptism as no longer binding. John’s baptism was at one time binding, yet these men were in need of being baptized into Christ, because John’s baptism had ceased from being binding. Denominational baptism, however, has never been binding and is not binding today. Obviously, those who have received denominational baptism are very clearly in need of being baptized into Christ, which means into His Body, which is the church.
Therefore a true baptism has these requirements that must be met:
1. A person who is a candidate for a true baptism must first hear the Word of God. A person who has not been exposed to the Bible’s teachings is not eligible for baptism because they have not been taught the Word of God. It is through hearing the Word of God that a person gains faith. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
2. A person who wants to be baptized must have faith that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 16:16). This excludes those who are infants or unaccountable and those who do not have understanding that Jesus is the Son of God.
3. A person who wants a true baptism must repent before going through the baptism. A person who is a candidate for baptism must understand that he or she has sin in his or her life that will keep him or her out of Heaven. Candidates for baptism must also understand that upon baptism, they will be forgiven of past sins. It is not the water that is holy and able to erase all of our past sins, but it is the element used by God to do this work. Christ’s blood is what cleanses us of our sins in baptism. It is within this water, where the spiritual blood of Christ is found, that a person’s pasts sins are cleansed. Some other verses as references here include Matthew 26:28, Revelation 7:14, and Acts 22:16. Baptism does not remove the possibility of a person committing sin in the future that will keep that person out of Heaven (Acts 2:38, Romans 3:23). Once a person is baptized, the person becomes a Christian, and when a Christian sins, a Christian is not to be baptized again for sins, but rather repent of sins, confess sins, and through prayer receive forgiveness (Acts 8:22, I John 1:9).
4. A person who has heard the Word of God and believes that Jesus is the Christ must then confess that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. If a person does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but merely a “good” or merely a “perfect” man or a just “prophet,” then he or she is not ready to be baptized into Christ. Jesus is Good and Perfect in all ways. He is the Greatest of all Prophets. He also is the Son of God, and this must be confessed. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).
5. A person who wants a true baptism must be fully immersed into the water. This excludes any form of baptism that does not totally submerge a person under the water. We are to be buried in a watery grave and be raised up with Christ as a new person (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). Baptism of any other kind is unauthorized by God. Sprinkling and pouring water are not Scriptural baptisms.
6. A person who is a candidate for a true baptism must understand the purposes of baptism. True baptism has purposes that include cleansing a person of his or her past sins, and being added into the church of Christ, or body of Christ. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). If a person is not taught and is not of an understanding prior to the baptism that he or she is (1.) being baptized for the remission of sins, and (2.) he or she is being baptized into the church of Christ, then that person is not ready for a true baptism. A person must understand both of these things prior to being baptized.
By looking at these points, one can determine that a denominational baptism is unauthorized by God. A person is in need of not only being aware that baptism is for the remission of sins, but also that baptism is to enter into Christ, which means His Body, which is the church of Christ. People who understand that they are being baptized into the church of Christ will assemble regularly for worship in a congregation of the church of Christ, and they will consider themselves members of the church of Christ.
If you, or someone you know has had a denominational baptism, I would encourage anyone who is in this situation to be baptized into Christ, which is His body, the church of Christ (Galatians 3:27). I know that there are some that use the term “re-baptism” to refer to a person, who was not scripturally baptized the first time, being later immersed in the water once again. A true or scriptural baptism occurs only once in a person’s life, and thus a person who has been unscripturally baptized, but who chooses to have a true baptism, is baptized for the first time, rather than “re-baptized” (John 3:3-6). I hope that this article has helped to shed light into your heart on the subject of baptism and what type of baptism is authorized by God.