Who has Authority to Baptize?


H. A. Ironside

Who has Authority to Baptize?

The question of authority is one that troubles many, and one that certain religious bodies makes much of:

(a) As to this I submit the following: Any brother possessing the ability to preach or teach is under responsibility to the Head of the Body (Col.1:18) to use the gift conferred upon him by the Spirit (1 Pet.4:10,11; Rom.12:4-8).

(b) Any brother who ministers the word to the unsaved is responsible to see to the baptism of those who receive it (Matt.28:19,20).

(c) Ordination to preach or teach or administer the ordinances is unknown in Scripture. We do read of ordination to "serve tables" (Acts 6:1-6), and of the laying on of hands in the case of Barnabas and Saul (who had, however, been recognized teachers and preachers for some years previously) in Acts 13:1-3, as also ordination of elders to act as overseers (bishops) where it was a question of local rule simply, and not necessarily of public ministry at all (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-10; 1 Tim.3:2-7). We read, too, of a gift in Timothy which was given him by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (1 Tim.4:14), but nowhere, we repeat, do we read of human ordination to fit or authorize a man to teach, preach, evangelize, baptize or administer the ordinance of the Lord's supper. (I mention several helpful books on this end other church subjects: "Lectures on the Church of God," W.Kelly. ''God's Call to His people," E.S.Lyman)

Quite the contrary, we are told that in the case of gifts it is the Spirit who divides to "every man severally as He will" (see 1 Cor.12:4-11), proving conclusively that even in Timothy's case the gift was not imparted by the presbytery; but to their expression of fellowship by "the laying on of hands" the Spirit of God added the gift mentioned.

As to administering ordinances, in the case of the Lord's Supper, a presiding minister is unknown in Scripture (see 1 Cor.11:20-29); and we have the cases of Philip* and Ananias as proof that no special ordination was required to baptize. The former baptized those who received the gospel in Samaria as well as the Ethiopian treasurer of Queen Candace (Acts 8:5-13, 36-39); the latter, who does not seem even to have been a preacher at all, is sent by God to baptize Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:10-18).

(* I write this remembering Philip's ordination to serve tables, previously mentioned. That, in no sense, made him a public minister. Acts 6 carefully distinguishes it from the ministry of those preaching the Word.)

I devote a few words to another question that troubles many; namely,