“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (Acts 10:47)
Reading this passage that I have read many times before sort of startled me as I thought, “I don’t recall anyone ever addressing the idea that water can be forbidden.” It is certainly inferred that someone or some group in the past had “forbidden water,” therefore Peter gave his companions an opportunity to do so in this case. At any rate let us reason some on this idea.
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS TEXT
Jews from every nation under heaven came together to witness the result of the Holy Spirit filling the Apostles (Acts 2). Peter declared to them the Gospel of Christ ending with the commandments that were to be obeyed to obtain the remission of sins. Nothing short of tremendous was the result. “They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41). Later Philip arriving in the city of Samaria preached Christ unto them which also had encouraging results, as “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12). But the Gentiles as yet were without Christ. Accepting them would require quite a bit more persuasion, which was accomplished by a series of miracles. God selected an impeccable character among the Gentiles to enjoy salvation first among them. Cornelius of Caesarea was the man (Acts 10:1-2). The man had a vision at three o’clock in the afternoon in which an angel appeared to him with instruction to send for Peter who would tell him words describing what he ought to do (V 3, 6, 22). Why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius what he should do? Because the treasure had been placed in “earthen vessels” (men of inspiration), not heavenly beings, (II Cor. 4:7). Three men were sent to Joppa as instructed by the angel to seek out Peter. In the mean time, the next day Peter at noon went upon the housetop to pray. Falling into a trance God showed him something contrary to everything he believed and practiced—unclean animals which he was commanded to eat—Peter refused. Three times this was done. While doubting what the meaning was, the men searching for him arrived and Peter was instructed to go down and go with them “doubting nothing” (V. 11-20), Arriving finally, at Cornelius’ house Peter and those Jews who accompanied him must have been astonished when Cornelius rehearsed the things which had taken place. Peter then understood the meaning of his vision—the unclean Gentiles were to have the Gospel preached to them. As he preached the Holy Ghost “fell on them that heard the word,” in the same manner as had taken place on Pentecost (without the “laying on of hands” of an Apostle V 34-46). Then came the declaration of our text “can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” The Jews with Peter would have objected previously but now held their peace “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (V 47-48). Baptism “in the name of (by the authority of), the Lord” was “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
CAN ANY MAN FORBID WATER (BAPTISM) TO ANYONE TODAY?
There are those in our day that will say (or at least practice), that one cannot forbid baptism anytime at any place for anyone. However, as one of the smallest of disciples in the world I believe there are numerous occasions when forbidding baptism is incumbent upon all of us even if popular opinion or numerous brethren or sisters stand in opposition to such a refusal. Let us look at some of these cases.
- Water must be refused when one does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. When Jesus authorized the Apostles to baptize He commissioned them to “preach the gospel to all the world” enabling the people that heard to “believe and be baptized” to be “saved” from their past sins (Mk. 16:15-16). Writing to the Corinthians Paul defined the Gospel as the death of Christ for our sins, the fact that He was buried and His resurrection from the dead (I Cor. 15:3-4). So, if one does not believe those facts he cannot be baptized. There are multitudes that openly declare that Jesus was a good man, a moralist, wonderful teacher and leader of men, but He did not arise from the dead and does not now sit at God’s right hand in Heaven. Many of these appeal for a form of baptism to be a part of some church. Water must be refused them. Travelling through the country Paul came to Ephesus where he encountered certain disciples. Wishing to “lay hands upon them” so that they could do greater things in the Lord’s Cause, he inquired if they had received the Holy Ghost. They had not heard of such a Person. Paul immediately knew something was amiss with their baptism. The baptism authorized by Christ is to be done “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mt. 28:19). (Acts 19:1-5). To make a long story short, they were not subjects of baptism unless they believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and any former baptism (as in this case,) was unacceptable. There are preachers that proclaim and others that believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are not separate but manifestation of one Being. In effect there is no Father as He has no Son, or there is no Son because He has no Father. The Father is the Son, or, the Son is His Father. Water must be forbidden them. Belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is necessary to be baptized (Acts 8:37). In the same way infant baptism is contrary to the scripture. At the time of infant baptism they are christened or given a Christian name. This indicates they are saved from what is called “original sin.” Such a thing imposed on an infant without their will and consent is false from top to bottom. Baptism by itself is not sufficient to take away sins; it must be preceded by faith or belief. Therefore, a baby cannot be baptized by the authority of Christ because he does not and cannot believe the gospel. Water must be refused. Although a departure from the point being made, it needs to be said, if a person contends that they have been saved or that one must be saved prior to baptism water must be refused. Baptism is “for the remission of sins,” or to “wash away sins.’ (Acts 2:38, 22:16). It is true that Jesus was sinless before He was baptized. Because of that John refused to baptize Him suggesting that he should be baptized at Jesus hand. The Lord however, said, “suffer it to be so now.” (Mt. 3:13-17). Suffer means to let pass or permit. We “suffer” the exception to the rule. Jesus was unlike others; He was the exception to the rule. Jesus never sinned or was not lost. We sin and being lost are saved when we are baptized, as Peter wrote, “baptism doth also now save us”(I Pet. 3:21).
2. Water must be refused when a person does not repent of his sins. Jesus said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mt. 9:13). A failure to repent means one will perish, “except ye repent ye shall all…perish.” (Lk. 13:3 & 5). In the account penned by Luke of the great commission the Lord demanded “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:27). Peter operating under this commission for the first time demanded that his hearers “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). When a person repents he changes his mind and amends his deeds and actions. When Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh the king commanded the people “let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hand.” We are then informed, “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way.” (Jonah 3:8 & 10). Jesus commenting on this said, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold a greater than Jonas is here.” (Mt. 12:41). J. W. McGarvey wrote, “Repentance, then, fully defined is a change of will caused by sorrow for sin, and leading to a reformation of life.” (Comm. On Acts page 61). Now, when one is born again he becomes a citizen in the kingdom of God. But those practicing iniquity or failing to put their sins away are not permitted admission into the kingdom. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. A couple of observations regarding this passage. First the word “do” (as in they which “do such things”), means, “to practice,” not that they are doing them every moment but it is their practice. A man may practice medicine but you might visit him on the golf course from time to time. A man may practice “drunkenness” but that does not mean he is drunk every minute yet he does practice it, that is his manner of living. If that be true of drunkenness or any of the other things mentioned in the passage such a person cannot—simply CANNOT enter the kingdom of God, therefore, water is to be forbidden. I am aware that there are preachers and other brethren who do baptize a person and contend that no amendment is to be made in their life. All that is necessary is that they believe in Christ, make the good confession, submit to baptism and then try to live the Christian life from that point with no change in their former practice. To such preachers and brethren there will be a day of reckoning. It is imperative that those desiring baptism to enter the kingdom cease from sin. Many brethren fail to realize all sin is not the same. The effects of some sins may be short, somewhat easily repented of, while others are harder to turn from and forgiveness therefore more difficult to achieve. For example: a man may be hammering on something when he hits his finger and immediately says something that is not right. He can repent of that sin determining to never do it again. At baptism for the alien or with confession and prayer for the Christian, forgiveness comes and the matter is ended. On the other hand, a man may steal the possessions of another, repent of it submit to baptism as an alien sinner (or confess it and ask forgiveness as a Christian) and forgiveness is believed to be obtained, yet the possession is not returned to the rightful owner but is retained by the thief. Every day of the retention is a day of sinfulness toward the victim and toward God. As one scholar declared. “I cannot believe a man has repented of stealing my horse when he continues to ride it.” Look again at the list of sinful acts in Galatians five nineteen through twenty-one. If a person, guilty of any one of these things continues to do that thing without interruption—has he repented? Methinks when that happens baptism is not efficacious in such matters. Not only so, but the brother who preaches that doctrine allowing a person to continue to practice sin will stand in the same judgment. Baptism does not transpose sin into goodness. Sin must be stopped if we are to become servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:16-18).
There is something else that needs saying just here. A practice in some areas is to baptize children eight, nine and ten years of age. A brother boasted of a child of nine years occupying the pulpit in his home congregation. I wonder if a youth of such years commits sin who is to do the disciplining? Shall it to be done by the parents or by the congregation? I have forbidden water in some cases when a child presents himself for baptism (well rehearsed as to what baptism is for), to the condemnation of my brethren. Usually when the situation arise during a series of Gospel Meetings I am involved in, my tracks are not cold until some noble (?) teacher or preacher goes ahead with the immersion. If a child must be awakened to eat the Lord’s Supper or cautioned about running in the church building they are too young. A child must be old enough to recognize what sin is and to repent of it. The church is not a club looking for members. Apella the Jew may believe the practice to be scriptural, but please deliver me from such.
THINK ON THESE THINGS
It is a difficult decision to refuse baptism to anyone. However, not less precarious is it to baptize someone granting them the belief that they are safe in their condition or situation when that is not the case. Baptism is necessary to obtain remission of sins, but one is not saved from his past sins by baptism alone! As suggested in the beginning of this paper this is a subject neglected.
My purpose is to arouse your thought process. If you can help me with the subject it will much appreciated.
Barney Owens 1702
We may view happiness in others,
But the cause of happiness may not be so obvious