The Hyles Church Manual

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

(Chapter 18 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)

18. The Baptismal Service

“Who baptized Jesus?” asked a beginner department Sunday school teacher. After a few moments of deliberation little Johnny raised his hand and answered, “John the Baptist did.”

“That’s right, “ replied the teacher. “Now another question: Who baptized John the Baptist?” This was a real stumper. Finally, after much deliberation, little Johnny’s hand went up again. “All right, Johnny, who did baptize John the Baptist?”

“Brother Hyles did,” replied the boy.

This took place in a little country church in east Texas in 1949. I was the pastor of the little country church. The teacher was one of our fine teachers, and Johnny was one of our beginner boys. Johnny said a great deal about his pastor in that little statement. He was saying, “My pastor must have baptized almost everybody because he baptizes so much.” He was also saying, “My pastor puts a great stress on baptism and even John the Baptist would have been pleased to have Brother Hyles baptize him.”

Johnny was right in one respect. Brother Hyles does place a big emphasis on baptism. To be sure, baptism is not necessary to salvation, but it is necessary to obedience. There are several reasons why it is important. The first is, baptism pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We should tell the world immediately upon salvation that we believe in these basic truths.

Then, baptism also pictures what has happened to us at salvation. It is somewhat like an X-ray. An X-ray reveals internal conditions to the human eye; baptism reveals salvation to the human eye. One says to the world, “Look, let me show you outwardly what happened to me inwardly. As I go down into the water, I am showing you that I have buried the old life; and as I rise from the water, I am showing you that I have risen to walk in the newness of life. I am a new creature and I want you to see it.”

Then, baptism also identifies us with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

Baptism is one of the few things that we can do exactly as Jesus did. Oh, yes, we are to strive to be like Him. We are to follow His example. The first and best way for a Christian to do this is by obeying His command of baptism. Jesus places a great deal of emphasis on baptism. This is shown so vividly by His inclusion of this ordinance in the Great Commission. Had it not been important to Him, He would not have included it in what we commonly call “The Great Commission.”

In March of 1965 I went on a tour of Bible lands. It was my privilege to baptize four people in the Jordan River. We walked out into the Jordan River just where the Sea of Galilee flows into the Jordan. With the Sea of Galilee in the background and the Promised Land framing the scene, I, like John the Baptist, baptized in the Jordan. As the five of us walked into the river, a group of nineteen believers sang:

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
O who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

What a thrill it was to baptize in the Jordan River!

It is, however, my privilege to enjoy that same thrill Sunday after Sunday, as newborn babes in Christ follow the command of the Saviour in believers’ baptism. It is my desire in the next few pages to help pastors and churches around the world increase their number of converts and the number of baptisms. May God use these remarks to fulfill that purpose.

1. Baptize both Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and baptize the converts immediately upon salvation. We should make it easy for people to be baptized. It is a step of obedience. It is the first step of obedience after salvation. Many churches could double their baptisms simply by baptizing on Sunday morning as well as Sunday evening, by having the baptistery filled at all times. and by having necessary preparation for such services.

This is not foreign to New Testament practice. In fact, in the New Testament, baptism immediately followed salvation. Acts 2:41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Notice the words “the same day.” Hence, on Pentecost the converts were baptized immediately.

Now turn to Acts 2:47. “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Notice that the converts were being added to the church daily. since the converts were being baptized before being added to the church, this would lead us to believe that they continued baptizing converts immediately upon salvation.

In Acts 8:37 and 38 we read, “ And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart; thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” Now here was a man whom Philip had never seen. He was of another race and another country. He was just traveling through, yet he was baptized immediately.

Now turn to Acts 9:17 and 18. “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” The Apostle Paul likewise was baptized soon after his salvation.

We also found the same thing in Acts 10:47 and 48. “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” In the house of Cornelius Peter had preached. Many had been saved. Then they were ready for a baptismal service.

In Acts 16:14 and 15 we read. “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” Here again we have a convert. Here is a lady that perhaps Paul had never seen before, yet she was saved and immediately baptized. In this same chapter we have a similar story. Look at Acts 16:33. “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” Note the words “the same hour.”

Believing that our church should follow the New Testament pattern, the First Baptist Church of Hammond has practiced this for a number of years.

2. Have a baptistery. It is absolutely amazing how many churches have no baptisteries. It is even more amazing to find Baptist churches without baptisteries. Because the word Baptist new names baptizers, it is unbelievable to find that many churches will have pews, chairs, choirs, pulpits, etc., but no baptistery. It seems to me that the first thing a Baptist church would want to have would be a baptistery. Not only should a church have a baptistery, but it should be filled at every service for immediate use.

3. Clothing. In many cases people are asked to bring an exchange of clothing with them to the baptismal services. This, of course, means that the convert cannot be baptized in the same service when he is saved. It is far more convenient for the church to provide baptismal robes or smocks for the new converts to wear. This is a worthy project for the ladies’ group in the church such as the W. M. S. We have found it wise to have all sizes and keep a generous supply available. We also keep an ample supply of underclothing for the converts.

4. Scores of towels are kept available for the converts to use. This means that the convert has to bring nothing with him for baptism. he may be baptized on the “same day,” as was the case in the book of Acts.

5. We have found it wise to keep a generous supply of hair dryers available (especially for the ladies). These are especially useful for preventing the converts from catching colds, etc., in the wintertime and in colder climates.

6. We provide plastic caps for the ladies with which to cover their hair if they prefer not to get their hair wet.

7. Both men’s and women’s dressing rooms must be provided for the preparation for baptism. In these rooms are kept the aforementioned supplies such as hair dryers, smocks, towels, etc. It is also wise to have restroom facilities adjacent to these dressing rooms. Inside the dressing rooms there are little stalls about the size of a telephone booth where people dress for baptism. It is best to have the dressing rooms on either side of the baptistery with a door leading from each into the water. These rooms should be attractive, well lighted and clean.

8. Helpers are needed. There are many people involved in making an immediate baptismal service possible. First, there are the folks who work at the altar talking to the new converts and explaining to them that they can be baptized immediately. These workers also point them to the door leading to the stairs and to the baptismal room. Just inside the door there is another worker who is waiting for converts pointing to the stairs leading to the baptistery. Then at the top of the stairs there is another worker to show which is the ladies’ room and which is the men’s. Then there are three to five ladies who work in the ladies’ dressing room and three to five men who work in the men’s dressing room passing out towels, smocks, etc. In general, they simply help the converts in their preparation for baptism. Then there is another worker at the top of the steps leading down into the baptistery who explains to the convert how to be baptized before he enters the water.

There are two other men helping me in the water. While I am baptizing a man, one of my helpers in the water is getting a lady down into the water. While the male convert is leaving the baptistery, the lady convert is entering. While she is being baptized, by other helper is preparing another convert and helping him down into the water. After the lady leaves, a man comes, then a lady, then a man, etc. This enables us to baptize four or five converts a minute without any appearance of rushing and without taking less time with each person in the actual experience of baptism. We will baptize an average of twenty-five to thirty each Sunday morning, and the entire baptismal service takes only about ten minutes.

9. The baptismal service should be an impressive one. It should be done smoothly and gracefully. People should get the idea that it is not a hard thing to get baptized. Often people do not want to get baptized because they are afraid of the water. Many times this fear is created, or at least enhanced, by a pastor not taking the proper care in the actual administering of the ordinance. If it is done in a crude jerky way, it may strike fear into the hearts of people, especially little ones who will not want to get baptized because they are afraid of the ordeal.

The pastor stands facing the people and points the convert facing to his left in front of him. He then moves a little to the right of the convert so the congregation can see him. It has been my policy for years to raise my right hand in the air and put my left hand on the elbow of the person being baptized. Then I say,

“In obedience to the command of our Lord and Master, and upon a public profession of your faith in Him, I baptize you, by brother (or sister), in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Keeping my left hand on his elbow (the arms of the convert are now folded) and putting my right hand on the back of his neck, I lower him carefully into the water until everything is under the water but his face. I then pause very briefly to let him know that I am about to put his face under the water. Then I take a handkerchief, which has been in my left hand, and move my left hand from his elbow, place the handkerchief over his face. When he comes up out of the water I immediately place my left hand on his elbow again and raise him to the upright position.

Often I am asked why I do not allow the convert to hold on to my arm or wrist as I lower him under the water in order to give the convert more assurance. This is because I believe baptism is a picture of salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith and not by holding on, hence, I do not like for the convert to hold on to the preacher. It is a small point, to be sure, but I feel that salvation is not perfectly pictured if the convert is holding on to the pastor. I would certainly not make an issue of this point, however.

10. Include the subject of baptism in a sermon almost every Sunday. Just one sentence could be said about baptism each Lord’s Day. In other words, the general atmosphere of the church should be that for a Christian not to be baptized is a sin and that to be obedient a new convert must be baptized. The people should get the idea that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. However, they should be made to feel that it is a very important step, and that when they get saved. God wants them to be baptized. This certainly does not deviate from the scriptural practice and the example as set forth in the Book of Acts.

Now look at Matthew 28:19 and 20. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Notice if you would please, the imperatives in these verses: Go, teach, baptize and teach. you will notice the simple command of Christ is that we go and tell people how to be saved., baptize them after they are saved, and teach them to do what God commanded us to do. Since God’s command to us was go, get people saved and get them baptized, then we are to teach others to go, get people saved and get them baptized. Notice the divine order: Go, teach all nations, baptize and then train them to be soul winners. This is God’s plan.

It is sad that many churches make it difficult to get baptized. Take this same logic and use it about other things that a new Christian should do. Should we let a new Christian wait awhile before he tithes? Should we make it hard for him to tithe? Should we make it hard for a new Christian to quit drinking and smoking? Should we advise him to go back to the bar for awhile until he is sure he is saved? Or should we make it easy for him to quit his sins and start tithing? The sad thing is that many of us do not look upon baptism as being an act of obedience on the part of the believer. So in many cases we actually hinder him form being obedient in baptism.

Let us carry out the Great Commission to its fullest, remembering that people are lost without Christ and need to be saved, and they, too, need to be baptized and trained to go back and bring others to the Saviour.

Let’s increase our converts and our baptisms.


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