Final Thoughts on Matthew 28:19
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, NKJV
There are three great Scriptural truths regarding baptism that we can learn from this passage.
First, the proper candidate for baptism is a Believer. In our text it is “disciples” who are to be baptized. The word “disciple” literally refers to a “pupil” of Christ; someone who has received Jesus Christ as personal Savior and is following Him. The scripture is clear on this matter that only Believers are to be baptized. In Acts 8:12, those who believed Phillip’s gospel message were baptized. In Acts 8:35-39, Phillip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch after he had heard and believed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Acts 16:14-15, Lydia was baptized only after she had heard the gospel and believed. In Acts 16:30-33, the Philippian jailer and his household were baptized only after they had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and been saved. The claims by those who practice infant baptism that there must have been infants or small children in the jailer’s household that were baptized is without substantiation. Clearly all of those who were baptized believed (vs. 31-32).
There is no scriptural warrant for infant baptism anywhere in the Bible. In fact, infant baptism did not come into practice in the church until late in the 2nd century with the emergence of the heresy of baptismal regeneration. There are some churches that do not teach baptismal regeneration but do baptize infants claiming that baptism is the New Testament replacement for circumcision, but this view is without scriptural support. If baptism had replaced circumcision then the Jerusalem Council would have been completely unnecessary. In response to the question of whether or not Gentile Believers needed to be circumcised, the answer would have simply been, “Of course not; circumcision was replaced by baptism.”
Circumcision is the outward sign of an elect national people—Israel. Baptism is the outward sign of an elect spiritual people—the Church. In one sense, as a Church we do baptize infants, but we baptize spiritual infants, not physical infants. Baptism is a picture of the spiritual regeneration of the Believer and a means of identifying oneself publicly with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:12).
Second, baptism is a command for Believers. In our text, Jesus uses the Greek imperative mood (a command). Baptism is not just a suggestion for Believers. In Acts 10:48, as Peter is addressing the church, “he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Why would Peter command baptism? He commanded it because Jesus commanded baptism.
Third, the correct mode of baptism is immersion. The word “baptize” comes from the Greek word “baptizo”, which literally means to “immerse or submerge.” Some churches sprinkle or pour, but this is not really baptism. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was commonly used in Jesus’ day), the meaning of “baptizo” can be clearly seen. In Leviticus 4:6, when the priest offered the sin offering, God commanded him to dip (Greek: baptizo) his finger in the blood and sprinkle (Greek: rantizo) some of the blood 7 times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary. Baptizo was translated “dip” because the finger was plunged completely beneath the blood, whereas rantizo was translated “sprinkle.” Those who practice sprinkling are “rantizing” not “baptizing.” Even though the Greek Orthodox Church (unscripturally) practices infant baptism, they immerse their infants because they understand the meaning of the Greek word “baptizo.” Furthermore, when Jesus was baptized, He came up out of the water (Mat. 3:16, Mk. 1:10). The only reason for Him to be down in the water is because He was immersed. Likewise, in Acts 8:38-39, Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch went down into the water and then came up out of the water; an act that would be needed only if the eunuch were immersed. Finally in John 3:23, we read that “John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim because there was much water there.” Sprinkling or pouring does not require a large amount of water; immersion does.