“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).


1) Voltaire and the Quaker (on the subject of baptism) (Tom Edwards)


Voltaire and the Quaker

(on the subject of baptism)

Tom Edwards

In wanting to learn more about the Quakers, Voltaire once went to a prominent member of that group who lived not far from London, England, to inquire as to his particular beliefs and practices.  After having a meal together, which had begun and ended with prayer, Voltaire first asked, “My dear sir, were you ever baptized?”  To which the Quaker replied, “I never was nor any of my brethren.” That seemed to have astonished Voltaire who then bluntly responded by saying, “…you are not Christians, then.”  The Quaker, in a friendly and soft tone, then strove to justify his position by pointing out that “…Christ indeed was baptized by John, but He Himself never baptized anyone. We are the disciples of Christ, not of John” (Harvard Classics, volume 34, page 66).

Another argument the Quaker presented was that though he and his group did not condemn anyone for being baptized, yet “…those who profess a religion of so holy, so spiritual a nature as that of Christ, ought to abstain to the utmost of their power from the Jewish ceremonies” (ibid.).

Is that, however, what baptism is for today — a Jewish ceremony?  Is it just something pertaining to the Old Law and not the gospel of Christ?

While eliminating water baptism, the Quaker spoke of being baptized by the Spirit for the “ablution of the soul,” and quoted John the Baptist, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after Me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptized you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” [Matt. 3:11].

In addition, the Quaker also pointed out that the apostle Paul states that “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel” [1 Cor. 1:17], and to which the Quaker also added, “…that Paul never baptized but two persons with water, and that very much against his inclinations” (H.C. Vol. 34, p. 67).

Though Voltaire’s time was from 1694 to 1778, yet similar comments have been made in our day with regard to that of some of the Quaker’s, although not to justify the non-observance as the Quaker, but to assert baptism’s irrelevance toward salvation.

Let us, therefore, further consider the Quaker’s arguments, not as merely to refute his particular belief, but to better bring to the attention of all people, or any religious group, what God’s word really is saying on this subject.

First of all, what about the Quaker’s argument that though Jesus was baptized by John, yet the Lord baptized no one; and that “we are the disciples of Christ, not of John”?

Though Jesus did not directly do the baptizing, can we not infer from the fact that “His disciples were” (John 4:1,2) that the Lord was fully approving of their doing so — and just as much as if He were the One actually doing it?  God has often carried out needful tasks through His people.  Would not this baptism be the same as John’s?  For there was a need for those  Jews, at that time, to realize and repent of their sins and to look toward the soon coming Messiah and believe in Him (Acts 19:4).  Those who rejected John’s baptism were also guilty of having “rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (Luke 7:29).  Would that be something that Jesus would want to see people do?  So regardless of whether Jesus personally baptized anyone or not, it does not eliminate the need for it.

Let us also point out, however, that the baptism being performed prior to the Lord’s death was not regarded as the same which He commanded to be administered after His death.  But what is the difference?  They both are for the forgiveness of sins (Mk. 1:4: Acts 2:38); they both use water as the element (Jn. 3:23; Acts 8:36-38); and they both do it by immersion — which is implied in the “much water” (Jn. 3:23), and it being shown as a burial (Rom. 6:4).  Of course, the Greek word itself, “baptisma,” in either case, means “immersion, submersion” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions) — and not sprinkling nor pouring.  But would it not be that what makes the difference is in realizing the full purpose for it?  For Paul shows that it is by baptism that we “…have been baptized into His [Jesus’] death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3,4) — and we are “raised up with Him [from the baptism] through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).  How, therefore, could this baptism have been done prior to Christ’s death?

Going along with this, consider those twelve whom Paul met in Ephesus that did not know about this baptism that Jesus commanded, but only that of John’s.  In finding that out, Paul taught them more thoroughly; and “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:4).

It, therefore, does make a difference in being baptized for the right reason.  Children playing in a pond could dunk each other under water, for instance; but that in itself would not make it a Bible baptism.

So we also see in this that the baptism Jesus commanded to be carried out after His death was not part of a “Jewish ceremony” that is no longer to be observed.  For it pertains to the gospel and is for all people of every nation, and as long as time shall last.  Peter actually indicated this while inspired, though he probably didn’t fully realize the meaning, when he said, “…’Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…’” (Acts 2:38,39).  The “all who are far off” includes the Gentiles whom were later to be preached to.

Another argument the Quaker made pertains to the Lord’s promise to “baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” and which is seen in contrast with John being inferior and baptizing with water (Matt. 3:11). When looking at the context, the “Holy Ghost” and “fire” do not pertain to the same baptism.  For the “fire” indicates the punishment of hell.  As the previous verse states, “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (v. 10).  And verse 12 brings out that “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  So the “fire” is symbolizing hell.  W.E. Vine defines the Greek word for “fire” in Matthew 3:11 as pertaining to “…the fire of Divine judgment upon the rejectors of Christ, Mat 3:11 (where a distinction is to be made between the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the ‘fire’ of Divine retribution….”

In all the New Testament there are only two cases of individuals being baptized in the Holy Spirit, which pertain to the apostles on the day the church was established (Acts 1:26-2:16) and that unique case at the house of Cornelius, which was God’s way of showing that He had “granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).  For it was now about 10 years after the church had been established, and Cornelius and his household were going to become the first Gentile converts.  God even had to prepare Peter for this by giving him the vision of the sheet being lowered with various animals — clean and unclean under the Old Law — but now the Lord was pointing out that what was once unclean was no longer to be considered that way (Acts 10:9-16), which also symbolized how the Jews’ attitude was now to be toward the Gentiles, of whom they could not even lawfully associate with or visit under the Law of Moses (Acts 10:28); and which, apparently, was still part of their Jewish customs.  So what happened at Cornelius’ house with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a sign to Peter and to the six Jews he took with him, and to the others who later heard of it, that the way of salvation was just as available to the Gentile as to the Jew.

The Bible speaks of different baptisms.  As we have seen, (1) John’s baptism (Jn. 3:23), (2) the baptism Jesus instructed for the Gospel Age (Mark 16:16; Matt. 28:19), and (3) a baptism of the Holy Spirit (as we considered above).  But now hear Ephesians 4:5 in which Paul says that there is just “one baptism.”  Which baptism would that be?   The Ephesian letter was written about A.D. 62 or 63.  A couple years later, in 64 or 65, Peter declares, “…baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).  So here it is: the one baptism that is to continue is water baptism — and it saves!  For though the water does not literally wash away sins, yet through it (and when one has complied with the other requirements of believing in Christ, repenting of sin, and confessing faith in Christ), one then makes his “appeal to God for a good conscience,” as Paul also did through that same act of baptism (Acts 22:16).

Consider also that people were never commanded to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to be saved, but the penitent believer is commanded to be baptized in water in order to be forgiven and become a Christian (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Of course, we are to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) by letting “…the word of Christ richly dwell within…” (Col. 3:16), but that is not the same as being baptized in the Holy Spirit by Christ.

Lastly, the Quaker pointed out that the apostle Paul was not sent by Christ to baptize, but to preach; and that Paul only baptized two people and did so reluctantly.  Well, if Paul was not to baptize, did he not then sin by doing so?  Or is there some particular reason why Paul stresses the importance of preaching over baptism to these Corinthians?  For what good would baptism be, if people do not first obtain the proper understanding and response through the preaching?  And that is exactly what the Corinthians needed, who were already divided among themselves and with different groups of them saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12).  Paul, therefore, had to rebuke them of that. He then also went on to say, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other” (vv. 13-16, emphasis mine).  So Paul clearly shows why he did not baptize any other. These individuals had such a wrong inclination toward separating into cliques that Paul did not want to make matters worse by personally baptizing and having those wrongly claiming to have been baptized in his name — instead of the Lord’s (v. 15).  But let it also be pointed out that all who had become Christians at Corinth had first been baptized (Acts 18:8). And Paul teaches the need for it in various passages: Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:26,27; Colossians 2:12; and Titus 3:5 (compare with John 3:3-5).

Though not every conversion example in the book of Acts specifically states all of what was necessary to become a Christian, such as hearing God’s word, believing in Christ, repenting, and acknowledging faith in Christ, yet they all include the baptism!  Why, therefore, do so many people today leave it out?  It also must be included.  For it is very much a part of God’s plan of salvation for our time.

Though we might not know of all of what to make of the purpose of Voltaire’s inquiry, for he often made attacks against the Bible and spoke with tongue in cheek, yet we should all accept the truthfulness and sincerity of the Gospel that shows us the way of salvation.  For regardless of what men would ever say about God, our chief concern should always be in that which God is saying to us!  If we truly listen to His voice, through His written word, we will not be led astray, but led, rather, toward that glorious place of heaven above and find the path to there a much better journey to take.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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