Can only an ordained minister baptize?

Every Christian church celebrates baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Some also observe other sacraments, but baptism and communion are familiar to any who have been a part of a Christian church. Most churches also have ordained clergy administrate the two ordinances. Some churches teach that only ordained members of the clergy allowed to officiate baptism and communion.

The New Testament is silent about who is permitted to baptize or administer the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul even said he was glad he only baptized a handful of people in Corinth. The rest of those baptized in Corinth were baptized by unnamed individuals. The Bible teaches how the ordinances are to observed and the motives necessary for those participating, but it does not address who should give the ordinances. The one receiving the ordinance must receive it rightly, recognizing it as a testimony of God’s grace. While the New Testament says much about the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper it does not give any requirements for who can officiate those ordinances. The one administering an ordinance ought to be a believer and should have the right attitude and motives. Those officiating the ordinances should recognize and reflect their proper importance.

This does not mean anyone can baptize anyone they want in the family pool. A dad may desire to baptize his newly saved child, but baptism is a public event. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the local church. They are not private events to be observed in isolation. They are public testimonies of the grace of God proclaimed to the church and the unsaved world. None can simply administer the ordinance in their home or to themselves. The dad may be permitted to baptize his child at the church, or the church may come to the family’s house to for a baptismal service, but the performance of the ordinances should be under the leadership of the church and with the gathered assembly of believers.

Some may wonder about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. Only Philip and the eunuch are mentioned, so does that mean it was a private ceremony involving only those two? The account of Acts 8 makes clear the eunuch was not traveling alone. He was sitting in his chariot reading while they traveled and he ordered the chariot to be stopped. Obviously someone else was driving the chariot. We don’t know how many people were there, but others were present. The baptism of the eunuch was a public confession of his faith.

The use of the ordinances should be solemn and serious. None should allow personal convenience or personal preference to determine their use. These things are commands of God and the Word of God must guide the Christian’s obedience in them. As public testimonies given to the church, the ordinances should be performed in public under the authority of a local church.