This is a continuation of “Kyle’s Questions.” There were several questions submitted and so I have given Kyle his very own category. To get a complete listing of the answer to all the questions click the category link.
Question #2: Does A Person Have To Be Baptized By A Preacher Or Elder Of The Church Of Christ In Order To Be Saved?
In answer to the first part, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that a person has to be baptized by an elder, or anyone else of a particular office, in order to be saved. Questions like these show one of two things. Either the questioner has been sorely misinformed about the biblical teaching on the matter; or, they are being purposefully deceitful and misleading about the church of Christ. I have never taught, nor have I ever heard another gospel preacher (i.e. faithful preacher of the church of Christ) teach that a person must be baptized by an elder in order to be saved. I am not an elder and I have baptized many people. The premise of the question is false as it implies that this is something taught in the church of Christ. I can say with all assurance that it is not taught in faithful congregations of the church of Christ. If the questioner has encountered this teaching from those claiming to preach the doctrine of Christ then the person he heard it from was in error. It simply is not true!
The second question is, likewise, false. I have never taught, nor have I ever heard another faithful gospel preacher teach, that they were a necessary instrument in a person’s being scripturally baptized.
However, it can most definitely be said that a person must hear the word of God before they can be scripturally baptized. Insofar as that goes, it can be said the preacher is an important element in a person’s coming to the knowledge of the truth. The Bible says frequently that preaching is the means by which God calls people to salvation. Notice the following passages:
So, as much as in me,
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God,
Over and over again, in Scripture, we see both example and explicit statement to the fact that a person must hear the word of God, believe what it teaches, repent of their sins, confess that they believe Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized to have their sins washed away. In the first century, before the completion of the written word, the only way for a person to hear the word of God was by the mouth of a preacher. The preacher was able to preach the truth of God’s word either by the possession of spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8-11) or by having been taught it by an inspired teacher (2 Tim. 2:2). Today, however, we have the peaching of the apostles and teachers of the New Testament in written form. A person my learn the truth of salvation from their study of the written word and be scripturally baptized by someone that doesn’t even believe in God, without effecting their salvation whatsoever.
If the person doing the baptizing matters at all then before a person could be scripturally baptized he would have to not only be sure he knew what he was doing but also that the one doing the baptizing was faithful to God. If that were true then anyone who was baptized by one who was later found to be unfaithful would need to be re-baptized to make sure their baptism was correct. Such a thing simply is not taught in the Bible!
If the person being baptized has learned the truth of God’s word (Rom. 10:17), they believe what the word of God teaches about Christ and his kingdom (Acts 8:12), they have repented of their sins (Acts 2:38), they have confessed their belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:10), and they are being baptized to have their sins washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3, 4), then they are being scripturally baptized regardless of what the person doing the baptizing believes.
Think about this, if the spiritual condition of the one doing the baptizing matters at all to the one being baptized then that would mean a person would not only have to know the spiritual condition of the person baptizing them but they would also have to know the condition of the one who baptized that person, and the condition of the one who had baptized the person that baptized the person that baptized them, and so forth, all the way back down the line. If at any point in the descent down the line of baptizers there was one unfaithful person then everyone stemming from that baptism would not have been Scripturally baptized. This kind of “faithful descent” simply is not Scriptural doctrine.
In response to the final, misguided, point of the “question,” the preacher, or elder, or joe on the corner, is not the one performing a “saving act” on the person being baptized. It is Jesus Christ who is taking away the person’s sins as a result of that person’s faithful submission to the will of God. Peter was the one who told those on Pentecost in Acts 2 to “repent and be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). But, when 3,000 of them obeyed the word of God in being baptized (Acts 2:41), it was Jesus Christ who added them to his church (Acts 2:47), not Peter. When Ananias told Saul to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16), when he obeyed the command, it was Jesus who washed away Saul’s sins in his own blood (Rev. 1:5), not Ananias. When I baptized someone I am not performing “a saving act upon them.” They are obeying the will of God in order to be saved by him, not me! The preacher, elder, or faithful member of the Lord’s church, typically has the great privilege and honor of taking part in a person’s baptism by virtue of their usually being the one that has taught the person, and helped them come to the knowledge of the truth by which they are saved (1 Tim. 2:4).
Again, a question like this comes from one who has either been deceived about what the Bible teaches or who is trying to reject clear Bible teaching by projecting error on others that they do not teach. I pray it is the former and that the questioner will come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.