Who Can Baptize? Anyone? Any believer? Any baptized believer? A church? Anybody a congregation chooses to authorize? Any ordained minister? The apostles?
We have discussed this on an e-mail list I'm on. Also a disagreement over a policy of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention about who is authorized to baptize has brought the question to the forefront in Baptist blogging communities. If one Convention of Baptists cooperating together and supporting the same program cannot agree on who can baptize, how much more so among all the different groups of Baptists?
Who can baptize? How can we know who can baptize? The Bible must decide the question. Surely the apostolic understanding of Jesus' command must inform us on who can baptize. When they undertook to obey the command of Jesus Christ, how did they perform it? Who baptized? Let us look at the command and the examples, and consider the precepts (teaching) in the Bible concerning baptism to see whether they shed light on the subject.
COMMAND (often referred to as the Great Commission)
Baptism is a command of God to be performed (Matt. 28:18-20) and to be submitted to (e.g. Acts 2:38; 10:48). The command to baptize is found in Matthew 28:18-20 (compare also Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-49; and Acts 1:8). The order of the command is make disciples, baptize, and teach. The fact that baptism is commanded to be performed suggests that those commanded, and no others, are the proper administrators of baptism.
Within the immediate context, most accept that Jesus was speaking to and commanding the apostles. For example, John Gill (commenting on Matt. 28:18) wrote, "…the following words were only spoken to the apostles." Most would probably agree that only the apostles were present when Jesus gave this commission (e.g.: v. 16 - "Then the eleven disciples went..."), though some in harmonizing the gospels may dispute this. If Jesus was speaking to the apostles, it is possible to understand the command in the following ways -- to the apostles as apostles; to the apostles as church representatives; to the apostles as preachers; to the apostles as individual believers. It is possible that He could also speak to them as members of the human race, but I suppose most would not think of that as applicable to this discussion.
If I have examined the Scriptures correctly and thoroughly, there are about ten examples of baptisms after Jesus gave the above-mentioned command to the apostles. Certainly this is not all the New Testament era baptisms, but I believe this exhausts the descriptive accounts in the book of Acts. In some cases, the account specifies the administrator. In others, the administrator is easily surmised, while in other cases, the administrator may be assumed, but cannot be definitely identified. Here are the accounts in chronological order:  Acts 2:41;  Acts 8:12;  Acts 8:13;  Acts 8:36-38;  Acts 9:5,9,18; (cf. Acts 22:16)  Acts 10:44-48;  Acts 16:14,15;  Acts 16:31-33;  Acts 18:8 (cf. I Corinthians 1:14-16);  Acts 19:1-7. Baptism is also mentioned in Acts 1:5, 22; 10:37; 11:16; 13:24 -- all in reference to John’s baptism.
The baptisms recorded in Acts may be reasonably, though not indisputably, categorized in the following manner:
Samaritans -- Philip baptized believing Samaritans (Acts 8:12)
Simon the sorcerer -- Philip baptized Simon (Acts 8:13)
Eunuch of Ethiopia -- Philip baptized the eunuch (Acts 8:36-38)
Saul/Paul -- Ananias baptized Paul (Acts 9:5,9,18)
The Corinthians -- some were baptized by Paul (Acts 18:8), though most were not (cf. I Corinthians 1:14-16)
Twelve Ephesians -- Paul baptized twelve men in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7)
Cornelius' gathering -- Peter commanded them to be baptized and probably performed it, though the text is not specific (Acts 10:44-48)
Lydia -- heard the truth and was baptized, presumably by Paul, but Luke, Silas or Timothy probably can’t be ruled out (Acts 16:14,15)
Philippian jailer -- evidently Paul or Silas baptized the jailer and his household (Acts 16:31-33)
The day of Pentecost -- the Apostles are the generally assumed administrators, though the text does not specifically say (Acts 2:41)
The Corinthians -- Paul did not baptize all of them (I Corinthians 1:14-16); plausible candidates include Silas, Timothy, Apollos and Peter.
Those who have a different point of view could argue against some of these as I have assigned them. The eunuch and several named in Corinth are indisputable as to the administrators. The baptisms in Samaria by Philip should be an objective conclusion, since no one else is mentioned with him. Ananias baptizing Paul seems reasonable. Most others cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and some people hold that the 'rebaptisms' of Acts 19 are not actual baptisms at all. All references emphasize the candidate -- "be baptized", in the passive voice -- except two, which emphasizes the administrator in the active voice (Acts 8:38 & I Cor. 1:14, 16).
The known cases show that the command was not given to the apostles exclusively, because not all administrators were apostles. The examples that are certain or somewhat certain point to church officers, ministers or apostles as the administrators of baptism. They do not show that all believers indiscriminately were performing baptisms. Those who hold that anyone can baptize might argue that the unknown cases leave room for their position. But there is only silence and no support. The Biblical emphasis is on the candidate, not the administrator. This does not mean that the administrator does not matter.
Is there anything in the teaching, nature or meaning of baptism that requires an authorized administrator? These passages in the epistles address the subject: Romans 6:3-4; I Corinthians 1:14-17; 10:2; 12:13; 15:29; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12; Hebrews 6:2; and I Peter 3:21. I see no strong argument from the nature or meaning of baptism concerning the administrator. We, having put on Christ, are baptized into His death and raised to walk in newness of life. One precept that might be related is identity. Baptism identifies us with Christ in His baptism and testifies that we are following Christ. If we are identifying as followers of Christ, we would not want to be identified in baptism by someone who is not a follower of Christ. A second precept that might apply is gospel order. The gospel order is -- received the word, baptized, added to the church, continuing in doctrine and fellowship, and breaking of bread (Acts 2:41,42). If we consider this as a matter of continuous replication, it could be important that the administrator is within this continuum. Thirdly, we might consider the "one baptism". If there is only one baptism, should the administrator have that one baptism? Even if one admits the above conclusions (e.g., some believe the "one baptism" is spiritual rather than water baptism), at most they suggest an administrator who is a baptized believer. Many would point to Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 1 ("Christ sent me not to baptize", etc.) as portraying the administrator of baptism as insignificant. But nothing in the precepts would contradict limiting authorized administrators to persons acting in a ministerial capacity.
Can anyone baptize? NO. The command clearly WAS NOT given to unbelievers. So immediately we know the lowest common denominator for an administrator -- a believer, a follower of the way. The following we can safely assert: those who baptized in early New Testament times were believers who had been baptized and were part of Jesus' gathered church. All known cases were persons acting in a sort of ministerial capacity -- apostle, evangelist (or deacon), and one directly commissioned to baptize (Ananias, possibly an elder at Damascus). Command and example favor this as the normative practice of the church.