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The Bible clearly teaches us the proper purpose of baptism: baptism is for the remission of sins, so sins can be washed away by the blood of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:16; Rom. 6:3,4). The Bible also clearly teaches who should be baptized: to be baptized one should be old enough to understand God's will and accept for himself the responsibility to believe and repent, making a commitment to serve God faithfully (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15,16). The Bible is likewise clear about the action involved in baptism: baptism is a burial or immersion in water (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12; Acts 8:37-39). (To study any of these topics in more detail, please go to our Bible Instruction web site at /instruct/.)
But what about the person who does the baptizing? Some churches require that a person have some special qualifications before they can perform a baptism. What does the Bible say about who may or may not baptize another person?
Occasionally the Bible tells us that people were baptized by the Christians who taught them the truth (Acts 8:35-39). But in most cases we are not even told who actually did the baptizing (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 9:18; 10:48; 16:33; 18:8). We are simply told that the people were baptized. The important thing was obeying God in baptism, not who performed the act.
In at least two passages we are expressly told that the man who did the teaching was not the one who did the baptizing. See John 4:1,2. Note especially 1 Corinthians 1:14-17, where Paul says clearly that he generally did not do the actually baptizing, even for the people whom he taught. He did the teaching, but others did the baptizing. He taught that baptism is necessary (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27), but it did not matter who actually performed the rite. At times Paul was glad he did not actually do the baptizing, otherwise people might think he was trying to exalt himself.
I conclude, based on these passages, that the man who actually does the baptizing does not need any particular qualifications. It does matter, however, that he do it Scripturally (for the right reason, in the right way, saying only Scriptural things, etc.).
This conclusion is helpful because, if the man doing the baptism needed some particular qualifications in order for baptism to be valid, then we would likewise need to be sure that he in turn had been baptized by one who had the proper qualifications. In this way we would need to somehow trace the qualifications of people who did the baptizing back through history to make sure they all had the proper qualifications. If anyone in the chain was not properly qualified to do a baptism, but they did it anyway, then the person they baptized would not be saved. Then anyone that person baptized would not be saved, etc. So we would need to know that the person who baptized us was baptized by someone who had the proper qualifications, etc., back through history. This would seem to make it almost impossible to know if our baptism was valid. Such a tracing of qualifications is unnecessary, however, because the validity of the baptism depends on what is done, not on the character or spiritual standing of the man who does the baptism.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 7/3/2006
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.