Must One Be Baptized by an Elder?

by Bryant Evans on August 21, 2008

One of the more interesting claims asserted by our denominational friend is the idea that the churches of Christ teach a  man must be baptized by an elder or preacher of the churches of Christ in order to be truly saved. He puts the question this way (emphasis his):

If a “Church of Christ” elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will? Do I need Jesus AND a Campebllite [sic] “preacher” in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Cor. 12:13) of salvation – the “Church of Christ” preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?

Our friend is sorely confused.

Having been a member of the church of Christ for over 30 years I have never heard such a claim made. Each congregation of the church of Christ is autonomous from every other congregation. There is no central governing body which makes statements of doctrine. It is possible that somewhere there is a person who teaches some aberrant belief not generally held by the church elsewhere. However this one is new to me.

The Bible does teach the necessity or essential nature of baptism and we will discuss it soon, but the Bible sets forth no requirement as to the qualifications of the person who baptizes another.

One does not need anyone in addition to Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man as mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:5, on this we both agree.

Baptism is an act of obedience reflecting upon the heart of the penitent believer. The idea that an honest, obedient man could be lost because another man wasn’t qualified to baptize him is foolish. Such a thought would shift the focus from the believer to the preacher and that simply is not taught in Scripture.

Peter and the twelve baptized 3,000 people on the day the church began (Acts 2:47). Peter is later described as an elder (1 Peter 5:1) but such a position within the church was evidently not established immediately. Philip was baptizing many in Samaria (Acts 8:12) although he was not an elder but a deacon (Acts 6:5).

A penitent believer may be baptized by anyone. The key is the understanding with which one approaches baptism and the heart which appropriately humbles itself before God.

Salvation comes from God as a mighty act of grace through faith (Acts 4:16; Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8). It is accompanied by a demand for faithful obedience (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17) on the part of the believer, but it is not contingent on the position or title of the person who assists in the baptism itself.

Let us continue to study the Bible apart from baseless arguments which are not held by most in the churches of Christ.

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