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The Philippian Jailer and His Household

Acts 8:37 • Putting On Christ • Wycherley Critique

Believer's Baptism, Household Baptism, & Infant Baptism

Galatians 3:27:
  • "For ye, as many as have been baptised unto Christ, have put on Christ."  (Darby translation).
  • "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."  (KJV).

Recently, while replying to an email, I had opportunity to review several of John Nelson Darby's letters concerning Christian baptism1.  Several themes in these letters merit careful consideration:  (1) that baptism is not the act of him that is baptised, (2) that there is no command to be baptised, and (3) that baptism is the appointed way that a person is received into the church or formally admitted into the house of God.

  1. JND writes, "Baptism, moreover, is the act of him that baptises, not of him that is baptised2".  However, the apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:27 that persons who are baptised "have put on Christ".  In context, we read in verses 26-27, "ye are all God's sons by faith in Christ Jesus.  For ye, as many as have been baptised unto Christ, have put on Christ."  The "ye" in verse 27 evidently comprises those who are God's sons by faith in Christ Jesus and have been baptised.  Putting on Christ is evidently the act of God's sons who are baptised.
  2. JND writes, "Hence there is no command to be baptised, but to go and baptise;3".  He also writes, "I admit there is no commandment to baptise infants, nor is there to baptise believers, and there is no commandment to be baptised at all4."  However, concerning those in Cornelius' house who were "hearing the word" and upon whom "the Holy Spirit fell", we read that Peter "commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:44-48).  Here in verse 48, there is clearly a command "to be baptised".  Consider also Acts 2:38-41, where Peter says, "Repent, and be baptised", and "Those then who had accepted his word were baptised".
  3. JND writes concerning baptism, "He is received by it; he bows to it as the appointed way of his reception by the church5."  He also writes, "What I see in baptism is admission into the professing body or house.  ...  Baptism is the formal admission into this — it is christening.  The person is received outwardly into the habitation of God, as set up in this world6".  However, Frederick Edward Raven differs from JND on this doctrine.  In this conversation7, we read:

    • F.E.R. - "Baptism brings people into the precincts of the house, 'the court which is without' (Revelation 11)".  [The cited verse, Revelation 11:2, reads in full, "And the court which is without the temple cast out, and measure it not; because it has been given up to the nations, and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty-two months."] ...
    • Question: - "Are not all baptised people in the house?"
    • F.E.R. - "Infants are not in the house.  By baptism they are brought into the precincts of the house where the Spirit dwells."
    • Question: - "I have always understood that baptism brought you into the house.  Has it not always been taught in that way?"
    • F.E.R. - "It appears to me that Christ is the Builder of the house.  No one could be in the house without the Spirit, for it is a spiritual house."

    Here, FER states that baptism brings a person into a place that is immediately described as being "cast out".  It is surely not good to be brought into such a place!  However, he rightly says that "Infants [who are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit] are not in the house".  FER's teaching that baptism brings people into the "precincts of the house, 'the court that is without'" does not agree with JND's teaching about baptism admitting a person into the house, or habitation, of God.

    I believe that water baptism neither admits a person into the house of God nor brings a person into the precincts of the house.  Persons who believe on Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and who receive the Holy Spirit, "as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).  We are "fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the corner-stone, in whom all the building fitted together increases to a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:22).  In Acts 10:44-48, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all those who were hearing the word, before they were baptised.  They had received the Holy Spirit and were thus living stones in the household of God before they were baptised.

Many Christians consider the doctrine of, and practices related to, baptism to be controversial, in part because the teachings of Scripture have been intertwined over the centuries with traditional teachings of men and various denominational creeds.  For example, in The Large Catechism, Martin Luther wrote, "But, in the first place, we take up baptism, by which we are first received into the Christian Church".  And the Westminster Confession of Faith states that "Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament ... for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church".

All of us, including persons such as Martin Luther and John Darby, tend to hold onto what we were taught when we were growing up, and it is surely humbling to consider 1 Corinthians 8:2:  "If any one think he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know it".  It is good to be like the Bereans, "who were more noble than those in Thessalonica, receiving the word with all readiness of mind, daily searching the scriptures if these things were so."  (Acts 17:11).

Stephen Hesterman
Barnegat, New Jersey
April 18, 2015

Scripture passages related to Galatians 3:27:

  • "Are you ignorant that we, as many as have been baptised unto Christ Jesus, have been baptised unto his death?  We have been buried therefore with him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life."  Romans 6:3-4.  (Darby translation).
    "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?"  Romans 6:3.  (KJV).
  • "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not take forethought for the flesh to fulfil its lusts."  Romans 13:14.  (Darby translation).
    "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."  Romans 13:14.  (KJV).
Literal translations8 of Galatians 3:27 and Romans 6:3 from the Greek Textus Receptus:
  • "For as many as were baptized into Christ, you put on Christ."  Galatians 3:27.
  • "Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?"  Romans 6:3.
Footnotes:
  1. John Nelson Darby, Letters of J.N.D., volume 2, 1868-1879 (Kingston-on-Thames: Stow Hill Bible and Tract Depot), 276-294.  (The footnote on page 276 indicates that the dates of these letters are unknown).
  2. Ibid, 281.
  3. Ibid, 281.
  4. Ibid, 280.
  5. Ibid, 292.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Frederick Edward Raven, Ministry by F. E. Raven, New Series, volume 14 (Kingston-on-Thames: Stow Hill Bible and Tract Depot), 232-233.
  8. Jay P. Green, Sr., Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Third Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 583, 485.

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