Are there qualifications to meet for a person who is baptizing a new believer?
When it comes to Christian baptism, most of the focus is usually on the qualifications of the person who is being baptized rather than on the “baptizer.” Although the Scriptures do not address the question directly, there are certainly some practical conditions to consider.
Apart from a general reference to the Lord’s disciples baptizing (Joh 4:2), references to specific baptizers are few. We have John the Baptist and his baptism of repentance. Philip the evangelist baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Act 8:26ff.), while Paul mentioned that he had baptized only a few – Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas. In view of Paul’s assertion, Silas likely baptized the Philippian jailer and those of his household (16:25ff.), but nothing is definitely stated.
Obviously, in the context of a local assembly, the one who baptizes needs to be marked by a good Christian testimony and moral integrity. He must be respected by the believers and have their complete confidence as he performs this vital function in the life of a believer desiring to be baptized.
Ideally, he should be acquainted with the believer and be familiar with their salvation story. This is especially important in new or pioneer work when the one baptized is probably a convert of the baptizer himself. The onus in this situation is on the baptizer to have spiritual discernment regarding the reality of their conversion, along with the timing of the baptism itself. This is illustrated in Luke 3, which gives a very interesting and in-depth portrayal of John the Baptist’s ministry. Multitudes from all strata of society were coming to be baptized, but John refused to be wowed by the numbers, as he was well aware of the spiritual unfitness of many. His words were scathing as he called them a “generation of vipers” and boldly declared that spiritual repentance “within” was mandatory before baptism “without” would have any meaning. The act of baptism would NOT in itself bring a spiritual change.
I personally recall some individuals in a new work who, upon professing to be saved, were convinced that their lack of lifestyle changes would be solved by baptism – a “watery burial.” Despite a number of visits with them and attempts to explain the meaning and purpose of baptism, they refused to be convinced and finally stormed off to another individual who was willing to baptize them. This need for discernment is also seen in Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. The clarity of the man’s confession and his desire to be identified with his Lord resulted in an immediate baptism that caused both of them to rejoice in the wilderness.
Of course there is the practical consideration that a baptizer should be able to handle the physical act itself. A strong voice and a joyful countenance are also great assets.
Although a baptism takes only a few minutes, it sometimes establishes an endearing and enduring link between the baptizer and the obedient believer. How wonderful it is when brethren are not only willing to baptize individuals but are also committed to mentoring these same believers in their walk of faith and obedience.