What Constitutes Valid Baptism?
By J. B. Moody
      J. B. Moody (1838-1931) was pastor of the First Baptist Churches of Pewee Valley, LaGrange, Elk Creek, Harrods Creek, Paducah, Bagdad, and Owenton, KY as well as Hot Springs, AR, San Antonio, TX, and Tampa, FL.

      "Keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you," was Paul's solemn charge to the church of God at Corinth. In proof that the term "ordinances" included what we here claim, the apostle proceeds to blame the church for an abuse of the Lord's Supper. What he received from the Lord he delivered to the church, and the church was blameworthy for her unfaithfulness in keeping the sacred trust How the ordinances were delivered and how they are to be kept must be learned from the Scriptures. Hence, whatever is necessary to their scriptural observance is necessary to their validity. In this light I am to discuss baptism. With a few simple statements I will open the subject, and at once come to the points I have chosen to argue.

      1st. It is agreed among Baptists that immersion in water is essential to valid baptism. The proofs of the correctness of this position are so abundant that a time of them would exceed the limits of this paper. It was the meaning of the word Christ used, hence it is what He commanded,, and it is also what the apostles and early churches practiced. The correctness of this position is here assumed, and from it the following conclusions are drawn:

(a). When Baptists attempt to administer baptism in any other way they surrender the position that immersion is essential to valid baptism.
(b). When Baptists receive a baptism otherwise administered, they surrender the position assumed.
(c). When Baptists concede that baptism may be otherwise administered, they surrender immersion as essential to valid baptism.
      2nd. Baptists believe that the subject of baptism must be a believer in Christ, and that saving faith includes repentance. The immersion of an infant or unbelieving adult is not valid baptism.

     The proofs of the correctness of this position are abundant, and Baptists are so well agreed upon it that this position will be also assumed, and the following conclusions are deduced:

(a). When Baptists knowingly administer baptism to other persons than saved believers, they surrender the Scriptural subject of baptism.
(b). When Baptists knowingly receive such baptisms they surrender the position assumed.
(c). When Baptists concede that baptism may be administered to other subjects, they surrender the position that a saved believer is the Scriptural and essential subject of valid baptism, I briefly mention these two points upon which we are so well agreed, as stepping stones to two others that require a more careful presentation.
      3rd. Baptists believe that the immersion of one saved by faith is for certain purposes. When Christ said: "He that believeth not is condemned, but he that believeth is not condemned,' he was talking about the faith necessary to baptism, for he was addressing an unbaptized man. When he said: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death into life," he was talking of the faith that is prerequisite to baptism, for he was talking to unbelievers.

     Hence we conclude from these Scriptures that the candidate for baptism must possess a faith that secures salvation, everlasting life, remission of sins, and justification.

     But if a candidate for baptism professes a faith that confessedly does not save the soul, or secure remission and justification, and he rushes to baptism to have these mighty defects in his faith supplied, saying that "baptism now saves us" and "washes away sins;" that baptism is in order to remission of sins; then said candidate, from our standpoint, is in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity, and his baptism cannot be recognized by us as valid baptism.

     To prove that we are right, let us examine such a candidate in the light of Scripture. "Whosoever believes on the Son of God is not condemned," "shall not perish," but "has everlasting life," and "shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death into life." Now, "whosoever" takes in all of that class, and if such a candidate says that he believes in the Son of God, but is yet in his sins and under condemnation; that he has not passed from death into life, then his faith must have its defects measured by the value of these fruits. Hence, the infinite value of the fruits must mark the infinite defects of his faith, and faith, infinitely defective, falls infinitely short of what is essential to valid baptism.

     Those who claim that baptism is in order to salvation, or the new birth, deny these fruits of faith, and confess that these Scripture texts were not fulfilled in their candidate's faith, and we deny that baptism secures them, hence we cannot consistently recognize their baptism as valid.

      4th. It is essential that baptism be scripturally administered. It is not the duty of any man or any organization to administer baptism. If the ordinances were delivered to the church, then her authority is essential to their valid administration. Otherwise she could not keep them as delivered. At first only John the Baptist was authorized to baptize, and all must go to him. He had not been baptized, but he desired to be. This exception was necessary, as baptism, like other things, must have a beginning. After this the Apostles baptized under the direction of Christ, and when He left the earth He committed all the interests of His earthly kingdom to His executive bodies, the churches. Doctrines, discipline, ordinances and missions were entrusted to the churches, and the churches were congregational and composed of baptized believers. Such churches had the promise of divine providence to the end of the age. One who believes in the immersion of believers for the purpose of showing his fellowship in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and who believes also in congregational church government, does wrong in going to a pedobaptist, who claims the commission to sprinkle infants, and who usurps the prerogatives of the churches, and teaches for doctrines the commandments of men. He should have gone to those of like faith with himself. So inconsistent is this that Baptists should protest against it, and require the wrong to be corrected. If one wants a baby sprinkled he must not come to me, knowing my disbelief in the rite. So if one wants immersion he should not go to one who refuses and abuses it. God works in a man both to will and to do, but never against his will. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and if a candidate is required to know anything about the ordinance, he is required to know better than that. If the authority to administer is extended to those who refuse and abuse it, then there is no restriction under the sun. When Baptists receive such an immersion they endorse the flagrant inconsistency, and virtually say that a man who does not receive it, and who does not believe it, may scripturally administer it. From such inconsistency may the good Lord deliver us.

     Hence the immersion in water of a believing penitent, for the purpose of declaring his interest in the finished work of Christ, administered by the authority of a church of Christ, with which the candidate wishes to unite in the faith, fellowship and labor of the gospel -this, not less, "Constitutes Valid Baptism."


[Republished by the J. H. Spencer Historical Society. Scanned by Jim Duvall]

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