Who Can Baptize?

Who Can Baptize?

I enjoy reading John Calvin on baptism. The other day I read something that has stuck in the back of my head, so I thought I’d share it and see what you think. Here is Calvin’s comments on who should administer the sacrament of baptism.

It is here also pertinent to observe, that it is improper for private individuals to take upon themselves the administration of baptism; for it, as well as the dispensation of the Supper, is part of the ministerial office. For Christ did not give command to any men or women whatever to baptise, but to those whom he had appointed apostles. And when, in the administration of the Supper, he ordered his disciples to do what they had seen him do (he having done the part of a legitimate dispenser), he doubtless meant that in this they should imitate his example.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997). Institutes IV, xv, 20

I feel like it has become more common these days for churches to allow believers to baptize other believers, for example fathers baptizing their children. Personally, I like the idea of “protecting” the sacraments so that they don’t become “common.” But, I also wonder if this is an area that falls into the “priesthood of all believers.”

So, what do you think? Can any believer baptize? What scriptural support do you see for/against?

Photo Credit: Jeremy Nelson

11 Comments

  1. I do not like the term sacrament because a sacrament is something done by someone in order to gain salvation. I would rather use the term ordinance. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s table are given to the church and they do not belong to individuals (pastors, etc). I baptized my mother after her profession of faith but it required church action to do so since I was no longer a member of that particular church. Calvin’s position is weak because we no longer have Apostles…

    Reply
    • Hey Terry,

      Thanks for the comment. Not sure where you’re pulling that definition of sacrament. I checked out the wikipedia entry, just to see if that was a common association with the word, but doesn’t appear to be.

      As for the Apostle thought, that’s a good point. Calvin would, to solidify his argument a bit, have to make the tie between the apostles and the ministers of the church. Perhaps he could make that tie via Paul’s (apostle) instructions to set in elders for the oversight of the church. Though, after saying that, he might make that argument or tie elsewhere in Institutes.

      Reply
  2. Hey man, you got some mad copy and paste skills. I think this falls more on the priesthood of all believers side of things. I think the important thing is that it is administered bythe church. As long as it is under the authority of the church I think it is fine. I don’t see in scripture how it is limited to an elder/pastor. I do think it is a rite of the church to administer and maybe is a bit loose in thinking we can function outside the authority of the church these days. For me that is what is at play. For instance when you baptized your children you baptized them but it was still under and through the church. It didn’t feel like it was your thing but more symbolic of the fact that you are your childrens pastor.

    (typed on iPhone so if it doesn’t make sense I blame that)

    Ps I liked the tickle article too.

    Reply
  3. As long as it is done in Jesus name per the bible is seems to me Jesus deems it expectable. To say otherwise is to say Jesus doesn’t know our intentions, faith is paramount, baptism is a step in faith. It’s all about Jesus not institutions never loose sight of this!
    God bless
    John

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  4. If we believe that the command given by Jesus at the end of Matthew (aka The Great Commission) was to be carried out by everyone in the Church, then we have to believe that the ordinance of baptism can be administered by anyone who is a disciple of Jesus.
    “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    If we believe it was only the duty of the 11 to whom He was speaking, we can stop sending missionaries, stop talking to our neighbors and stop baptizing people altogether in every church in the world, whether done by the ordained or not.

    Reply
    • Good point Pedro.

      Reply
  5. Ananias baptized Paul in Acts 9, and over 3000 were baptized by just 12 men in about 8 hours if only the apostles did the baptizing in Acts 2 (that is about 6 per minute). Priesthood of all believers gets my vote :)

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  6. We are all called as ministers( a royal priesthood ). My look upon this issue is any believer before the witness of two or more witnesses can baptize. The church as an institution has no right to restrict this from anyone and if there are two or three gathered in Jesus name He is there and that is what matters is it not. At Pentecost before the church was (the church) the Holy spirit was poured out and those who believed and received were baptized about three thousand. Do you really believe that only the apostles did the baptizing?

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  7. Hi, I’m sorting through this very issue right now. The articles of faith of a missions agency I would like to sign on to specifically state that baptism (and the Lord’s Supper) is something that must take place under the authority of the local church. My concern is this: Why do we get baptized? We identify ourselves with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. If a new believer wanted me to baptize him/her and I did not gain the local church’s permission to do so, should I not still baptize him/her? If I don’t, doesn’t that communicate that I essentially can’t recognize him/her as a brother/sister in Christ (one who has identified themselves with Christ) at that moment? It would seem that the meaning of baptism and the lack of clear scriptural proof of baptism only taking place under “local church authority” would indicate that any believer can baptize.

    Reply
  8. Yes, we are called into a holy priesthood as disciples. Was Philip one of Jesus 12 disciples and was the Etheopian he baptized in a church, no. The Etheopian was on a road side with perhaps no witnesses, not in a church, but alone. So, was Philip an ordained Minister? or was he a disciple like you and I? So, can we as believers baptize our children?

    Reply
  9. A friend of mine had a good point — we tend to understand the Great Commission as applying to all believers, and the commandment to baptize is part and parcel of the Great Commission. Why we have come to treat the baptismal portion of it separately doesn’t make sense to me. We should do our best to understand what the Bible says, but we must also be consistent in our interpretation. Either all believers are to follow the Great Commission or only pastors.

    Reply

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