Who Baptized You?

by David Padfield

Over the years I have heard many Christians describe the events surrounding their baptism. Some report with great joy how they had to "break the ice" at the local creek in order to be immersed. Others have been heard to boast about who actually baptized them, as if having a "big name" preacher actually made any difference to your eternal salvation.

Thousands of sincere individuals travel to Israel every year to be baptized in the Jordan River. "All through the ages, people have felt a compulsion to travel to the land of the Bible. Most individuals make the trek because they naturally associate the land with the events recorded in the Bible. But throughout history, the motivation of many has been a sense of gaining merit with God. Even in the twentieth century, professing Christians travel halfway around the world to be 'rebaptized' in the Jordan River, assuming that somehow this water has a greater capacity for cleansing from sins than any other." (Robertson, Understanding the Land of the Bible, p. 137).

There is an outlet for the Jordan River just south of the Sea of Galilee near the small village of Yardenit. Here you will find a picturesque stretch of the Jordan lined by huge eucalyptus trees towering over the greenish water. "The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (Matthew 3) is traditionally identified with the southern reaches of the Jordan River, near Jericho but since that section of the river became the international border between Israel and Jordan in 1949, Christian pilgrims have sought out accessible spots near the Sea of Galilee for their devotions. At Yardenit, there is safe access to the river, where groups of white-robed pilgrims are often immersed in the Jordan, with prayers, hymns, and expressions of joy." (Caroline Haberfeld, Fodor's Israel, p. 269).

Does it really make any difference where you were baptized or who baptized you? The saints at Corinth apparently thought that the one who baptized them was a matter of great significance. Paul thanked God that he had personally only baptized a few of the Corinthians, "lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name" (1 Cor. 1:15). Christ had not sent Paul to personally baptize anyone, "but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect" (1 Cor. 1:17).

Many people have been surprised to learn that the New Testament does not list any qualifications for the one doing the baptizing. I have been asked, "Would it be Scriptural for an atheist to baptize you?" Whether you like it or not, the answer is yes -- your salvation is in no way dependent upon the character or "qualifications" of the one doing the baptizing.

In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded all men to be baptized (Mark 16:16), even though He Himself did not personally baptize anyone. "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)" (John 4:1-2). It is a principle of law that one may act through an agent. That which is done by one's authority through an agent is as much his act as if he himself did it. Therefore, every person who has been Scripturally baptized has been baptized by the Lord (through human agency).