Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Were the apostles baptized?

Were the apostles baptized? This is a question which starts a flood of speculations and assertions often with little or no support from the scriptures. Of course, for some Christians the difficulty about this question is compounded by the different and diverse use of the term baptism. There is the 1) baptism of John the baptist for repentance, 2) the baptism which Jesus commanded for forgiveness of sins, 3) the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and 4) the baptism by fire. [1] The latter two of these four were experienced by the apostles and they are related in the scriptures. These were the baptism with the Holy Spirit and baptism by fire, or the cup of suffering, just as Jesus told them they would indeed drink. It is the former two of these four baptisms which the scriptures relate partially. These are the baptism of John for repentance and the baptism commanded by Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. A good distinction between these two baptisms was made by the apostle Paul in Acts 19. Like many questions for which Christians seek answers there is no better understanding to be gained than to look to Jesus and learn the lesson from him. What are the lessons and implications for believers with respect to their own baptism?

Jesus and the baptism of repentance
When John was baptizing on the Jordan River he was prophesying about one who was coming after John and who was greater than John. The last thing John could have imagined was for that one who was coming and who was greater than John to come to him to be _ baptized? Here was the of whom John testified was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and he came to be baptized by John for repentance. Let’s not speculate. There was neither sin nor anything in Jesus about which he needed to repent. Jesus himself made it clear, perhaps mostly to set at ease a bewildered John, that Jesus would not exempt himself from fulfilling all righteousness. Hence, Jesus submitted to the baptism of John.

the disciples and the baptism of repentance
There were likely at least two men with John at the time of the baptism of Jesus who left John and followed Jesus. The gospel according to John relates that one of the two men was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. The other man is not identified and it is not particularly significant that we know his identity. What is significant is that since these men were disciples of John that they, like Jesus, had submitted to the baptism of John for repentance.

There are a total of five men who are mentioned in John chapter one who were among the first of the twelve disciples whom Jesus called to follow him. A reasonable question to ask is did the disciples, other than the first two who left John to follow Jesus, submit to the baptism of John? There were some disciples, such as Matthew, whom Jesus called some time after his baptism by John. If they had not submitted to the baptism of John at the time Jesus called them there are two factors which could reasonably have influenced them to go and submit to the baptism of John for repentance. The first two disciples could well, and rightly, have probed them concerning their response to the baptism of John. Certainly, they could point to themselves as having submitted to John’s baptism. Then, there was the testimony about them being witnesses to Jesus himself submitting to the baptism of John. So, it seems quite plausible that all the disciples who followed Jesus and whom he would later designate as apostles submitted, like Jesus, to the baptism of John.

the apostles’ submission to baptism for forgiveness of sins
After his resurrection from the dead Jesus commanded his disciples to go into the world and preach the gospel of salvation. An integral part of that gospel message was that they were to baptize those who believe for the remission of sins. This was markedly different from the baptism of John for two reasons. The baptism which Jesus commanded for the forgiveness of sins of those who believe was nonetheless not without the repentance of the believer. Furthermore, unlike John’s baptism for repentance of the Jews the baptism of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins was for Jew and Gentile alike.

In order to fulfill the purpose of this article let’s pose the question: Did Jesus submit to baptism for the forgiveness of sins? No. The reason is that just as Jesus had submitted to the baptism of John to fulfill all righteousness he had now, after his resurrection, fulfilled all righteousness and it was for this reason that he could now go to the Father. The same question is now posed concerning the apostles. Were the apostles baptized for the forgiveness of sins?

Saul (Paul) was baptized for the remission of sins
First, there is nothing in the scriptures, with the exception of Saul who became the apostle Paul, which testify of any of the other apostles being baptized for the remission of sins. Some may be quick to run with that in support of their dismissal and refusal to submit to baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Such would be an unfortunate and very poor understanding of the scriptures concerning the baptism of Jesus and the baptism of the apostles.

Second, there is the example of what Jesus did by submitting to the baptism of John for repentance. It is an example of obedience which it is reasonable to expect from the first two disciples who left John to follow Jesus. If the disciples’ rabbi had submitted to the baptism of John they would likely have imitated their teacher.

the apostles were likely baptized for the remission of sins
So, what does this suggest about the apostles submitting to the commandment of Jesus for them to preach and baptize those who believe for the forgiveness of sins? It does not seem plausible and in harmony with the earlier experience of the disciples and the experience of Jesus which they witnessed with respect to baptism of John for them to exempt themselves or refuse to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The Pharisees could not have rebuffed the question which Jesus put to them as to whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from men. They could never charge Jesus as not having obeyed the baptism of John. The disciples, as apostles of Jesus, could not preach a message which they themselves had not obeyed. Certainly, the apostle Paul both in his own experience (Acts 9) and in his teaching (“do you not know that as of us who have been baptized”) was familiar with commandment and obedience of Jesus for believers to be baptized for the remission of their sins. Paul likened to obedience of the Christians in Rome with his own obedience to that form of teaching to which he and they were committed. Therefore, it is plausible and likely that the apostles, although the scriptures do not attest it, submitted to the commandment of Jesus for all who believe to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.


To be sure, baptisms are matters of elementary doctrine as was indicated by the writer of Hebrews. The saints in Christ to whom he wrote ought to have been beyond such elementary matters, but the truth is that they were still immature. Today, there is still much immaturity concerning baptism that some saints being unable to understand these different baptisms, let alone a single one of them, simply dismiss them all as irrelevant. God, they said, looks at the heart. This is true. However, it is a mistaken assumption to think that God is delighted by what he sees in our hearts. How, to borrow from the psalmist, how shall the young secure their? When their heart is formed by the commandment of the Lord God as Moses said to Israel in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6) and their obedience to the same.


  1. St. Clement of Alexandria (late second century), in a list book of which we only find fragmental quotations in later writings, testifies that they were baptized.

    "Yes, truly, the apostles were baptised, as Clement the Stromatist relates in the fifth book of the Hypotyposes. For, in explaining the apostolic statement, I thank God that I baptised none of you, he says, Christ is said to have baptised Peter alone, and Peter Andrew, and Andrew John, and they James and the rest"

    Been reading a few things here on your blog and I do like it, keep it up!

    1. I appreciate your comment, John.

      Two things come to mind about this testimony from Clement the Stromatist. First, I wonder to which baptism Clement alludes. The more likely baptism is the baptism of John for repentance, but it doesn’t make sense for the reason that Andrew is the only one who is named as one of John’s disciples who left John to follow Jesus. Andrew would likely have received John’s baptism for repentance. Second, even a baptism for forgiveness of sins would have been after the resurrection of Jesus and would be an anachronism.

      There is one other thing that came to mind as I read your comment. I wondered if maybe some of the disciples, like Matthew, whom Jesus called a little later would have gone back to John to be baptized. However, this, I now understand, would be unnecessary as the disciples of Jesus were carrying on the same baptism of John for repentance. They could well have baptized Matthew.

      This would also speak to the unimportant question as to who baptized the apostles. Clement appears to be among those who, conveniently, places Jesus in the position of fulfilling that need. However, the condition for baptism is not on the one baptizing, but the one being baptizing. Again, thank you for your comment, brother.

    2. According to Clement's testimony, If it is accurate or truthful, Christ himself baptised Peter, who then baptized Andrew, then John and James and the rest.
      Andrew being John's disciple, he was probably baptized by John already -- meaning that if he was also baptized by Peter, he did receive baptism for the remission of sins, just as the Baptist's disciple's in Acts were rebaptized by Paul. We read nowhere of Jesus actually administering baptism himself, and if he truly did baptize Peter, I can't imagine he was only giving him the baptism of John, and not the baptism of Himself.

      Thank you for your warm welcome, and may the Peace of Christ be with you.

    3. i am inclined to understand it this way: according to Christ's own statement, one must be born of water and Spirit, but this Spirit did not descend until the Day of Pentecost. I take it Christ baptized Peter, etc, meaning they had been born of water, and the descent of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost would have then supplied to their own souls what was missing. Just as those whom Philip baptized still needed the gift of the Spirit from the Apostles, though they had received Jesus' baptism, whereas John's disciples needed baptism from the Apostles, having neither water nor Spirit for the remission of sins.

    4. I appreciate your comments and I commend you for your willingness and ability to articulate your point quite well beyond a citation of a single verse or one-liner responses. I am familiar with, if I have understood your comment correctly, the separation of water and spirit, but I will leave that for now. If I understood you correctly that water is in reference to the baptism of John and spirit as in the day of the outpouring of the spirit on Pentecost? However two things come to mind: one, water and spirit were both at play in Peter’s response to the question, “Brethren, what must we do?” Second, Jesus spoke candidly to the disciples concerning the promise of the Holy Spirit who was to come soon. Yet, here is something that is often overlooked by the saints in Christ. Jesus asserts well before the coming and outpouring of the Spirit that the Spirit is WITH them and that the Spirit will be IN them. (John 14:17) The present and future tenses are evident.

      So, Pentecost as much as it marked the beginning of the apostles receiving the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit the day of Pentecost did not mark the descent of the Spirit to supply any that was missing. Rather, the outpouring was similar to the manifestation of the Spirit in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father at the baptism of Jesus. It was the declaration of heaven that Jesus was the Beloved Son as much as it was a declaration of the Holy Spirit that the apostles were the anointed servants of God.