Who Should Be Baptized?

Christendom is divided over the issue of who should be baptized. The basic decision is between immersing infants or believers. A good starting place for examining the evidence of the New Testament is the Great Commission, where Christian baptism is first mentioned.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

Note the phrase, “baptizing them.” We want to know who are “them”. The word, “them,” is a pronoun. If you remember back to your grammar lessons in school, you will recall a pronoun takes the place of a noun. A pronoun refers back to a noun within the context. So what is the referent for the word, “them.” Clearly, it is those who are made disciples.

What then is a disciple? The standard Greek lexicon gives this statement for disciple—“ pupil, with implication of being an adherent of the teacher.”1 A disciple then is someone who has heard the gospel, believed in it, and wants to be a follower of Jesus. That is the only kind of people that Jesus has authorized us to baptize. The Great Commission answers the question who should be baptized, and the answer is a disciple. If Jesus has all authority, as the commission clearly states, who can authorize anything else?

As we look at the rest of the New Testament, we find confirming evidence.

  • Mark 16:15-16 – “whoever believes”
  • Acts 2:38 – one who repents
  • Acts 2:41 – those who received the word
  • Acts 8:12 – men and women who believed

The New Testament clearly comes down on the side of believers’ baptism. Have you been immersed as the New Testament teaches?

1Bauer, Danker, Arndt, & Gingrich. A Greek English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, page 609.

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