For centuries, water baptism has been a highly controversial subject within the Church. Christians have been divided about the mode of baptism… should it be by immersion, sprinkling or pouring? They have also been divided over the subjects of baptism… should only believers be baptized, or should entire households of believers, including infants, be baptized?
Usually, those who hold that baptism is only for believers contend that the proper mode is immersion (or, to be precise, dipping). Those who contend for sprinkling or pouring generally argue that entire households should be baptized, which may include unconverted children or even babies.
Because these issues have so polarized the church, Christians often do not consider these two issues (the mode vs. the recipients) separately. Instead, the two are usually viewed as a package… one either believes in believer baptism by immersion, or else one believes in household baptism by sprinkling.
Another issue is the purpose of baptism. Campbellites have long insisted that baptism is required for salvation. Many Baptists treat water baptism as the basis for church membership. Presbyterians generally regard water baptism as a covenantal sign and seal, which identifies an individual as part of a covenant family, and part of the "covenant community" (i.e. the visible church).
Finally, there are some dear brothers who hold that baptism was intended for a different age and should not be practiced at all in the present day church.
It is with the deepest respect
for each brother who holds
his respective view on this volatile subject that I humbly submit this
brief treatise. I pray that our blessed, sovereign Lord will bring His
beloved Church to a unity of understanding and conviction on this
Because baptism has been such a divisive issue, it is very tempting to avoid the discussion altogether, reasoning that it is, after all, not as important an issue as the Gospel, the person of God, the necessity of holy living, and a dozen other doctrines. If we cannot agree on this matter, perhaps we should simply sweep it under the carpet where it won't incite divisions among the saints.
Others reason that truth is more important than unity among the saints of God, and that this issue has been decided long ago, to the satisfaction of whoever will receive it. Such people are willing to live their Christian life in a greater or lesser degree of separation and exclusion from their Christian brothers who have a differing conviction on this matter. They are determined to carry on the proper working of the church, and to let their wayward brothers return to the fold in God's good time.
How do we respond to such sentiments?
While we fully acknowledge that all doctrines are not of equal importance, we do not therefore conclude that the doctrine of water baptism is un-important. There are two considerations that make it of considerable importance.
First, Baptism was commanded by our Lord, and it is therefore irrational that any who would claim to be in submission to Christ's authority are unconcerned about obeying His commands.
Second, Confusion over baptism has divided Christ's church, and such division is scandalous, given that our Lord repeatedly commanded us to "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34; 15:12, 17).
Christ's church is to be distinguished by her obedience to Him, and this means, of course, that we must be people who obey His commands to us. If He is our Lord—if this is our confession, namely that "Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3)—then it is an empty confession, and we are hypocrites, if we have no interest in obeying His commands.
But here is the problem: Our Lord has given us these two commands: (1) to baptize, and (2) to love one another, and it seems that we are unable to obey the first without transgressing the second. When we insist upon a particular mode of baptism, and reject (i.e. from church membership, or from eldership) any who will not submit to this mode, baptism becomes a wall of division, separating the church of our Lord into two factions, thereby nullifying the command that we should "love one another". Conversely, when we minimize baptism, and make it an optional thing, in order to maintain unity among the brothers, we end up violating the command to baptize. What are we to do?
It is not that the two commands are actually in opposition to one another. The problem is not inherent in Christ's commands, but in our own ignorance and confusion over the who, how and why of baptism. The New Testament church was fully able to honor both of these commands, since there was no misunderstanding in their day as to who was to be baptized or how it was to be performed. The primitive church had the guidance of the apostles, and the fresh example of our Lord and of John the Baptist on which to model their practice and teaching.
The confusion over baptism crept in over the centuries, partly through unscriptural human traditions and practices being added to the church's doctrine, and partly through the backlash of suspicion that arose regarding the unscriptural nature of her traditions and practices. The Protestant Reformation represents the great climax of several centuries of growing concern and opposition about the various unscriptural practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The leading Reformers—Luther, Calvin, Knox and others—restored many of the Biblical teachings of the Christian faith, and discarded many of the unscriptural traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
But did they go far enough? Baptists would applaud Luther and Calvin for reclaiming the truths concerning justification, depravity, redemption, and a host of other important issues, but would assert that they failed to eliminate the unscriptural tradition of infant baptism by sprinkling. Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed brothers, on the other hand, would assert that this doctrine, like the Trinity and the Virgin Birth, was a Biblical doctrine that the Lord had preserved through the ages, and that the Reformers had rightly retained this Biblical practice.
Which side is right? More importantly, how do we decide which view is right? Does it even matter?
Rather than (1) sweeping baptism under the rug to avoid controversy, or (2) cloistering ourselves in a community of believers whose basis for fellowship is their common view of baptism, I suggest a third course of action, and contend that it is the only course of action that honors both of Christ's commands: Namely, we need to seriously examine (or re-examine) the doctrine of baptism. We need to engage in dialogue on this doctrine with brothers who hold an opposing view, in a spirit of humility and with a desire to make an end of the age-old hostilities that have heretofore plagued all efforts to arrive at a consensus.
If our Lord's command to baptize
is important (and it
is!), and if our Lord's command to love the brethren is important (and
it is!), then we cannot be satisfied until we have done all that we can
to try to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and controversy.
In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said…
Matthew 3:11 – I indeed baptize you with water to repentance:Please observe that there are 4 substantives (i.e. nouns or pronouns) involved in baptism. We will make use of this fact shortly.
(dative or "instrumental" case)
Baptists assert that the meaning of "baptize" is "to immerse". There is much truth in what they say, but they misunderstand two things…
First, immersion is not the same thing as dipping. Baptists practice dipping, and dipping involves two acts…
This is no minor point for, in Baptist thinking, emergence from the water has as much significance as submersion into the water, being understood by them to represent Christ's resurrection from the dead and our rising with Him to spiritual life.
Second, John's baptism was "into repentance", not "into water". (See the table above). John's baptism was (instrumentally) "with (or in or by) water" but it was "to (into or unto) repentance." Repentance is the object into which John baptized his followers… they were immersed into repentance. The idea is that they had entered into repentance with no thought of ever leaving that condition. If baptize included the thought of "taking out", then John's followers would have been immersed into repentance, only to be taken out of that condition, which would surely violate the intent of both John's message and his baptism.
Of course, the baptism itself did not cause their repentance, nor did it actually seal their repentance. Rather, it served as a symbol and reminder of the permanent change which God, the Holy Spirit, had already wrought in their hearts through regeneration. It was a public declaration of this changed heart, and of their intention to live a changed life.
When speaking of water baptism, the Greek Scriptures are consistent in using the dative case (signifying instrumentality) when referring to water, and the preposition eiV (eis = into or unto) with the accusative case (signifying the object or substance of the baptism) when referring to the person or thing into which we are baptized… i.e. into Christ, into His death, into His name, into repentance and into the forgiveness of sins. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 12:13 uses en (en) with the dative case to refer to the "one Spirit" by whom we are (instrumentally) baptized, and eiV (eis) with the accusative case to identify the object or target of that baptism… namely, the Church, the "one body" (i.e. the Body of Christ).
Matthew 28:19 – Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:How blessed it is to be joined to Christ, His name, His death and His body! And… how unthinkable it would be to be separated from Him! Yet that is what would be signified if baptism meant to immerse and then to subsequently remove. When the Bible speaks of baptism "into Christ," it teaches us that we are His forever… that His elect are eternally secure in Him.
Acts 2:38 –Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ into the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19:5 – When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Romans 6:3-4 – Don't you know, that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
1 Corinthians 12:13 – For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and have all been made to drink one Spirit.
Galatians 3:27 – For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
We see then that dipping is not at all the same thing as immersion, and that it denies the very thing that Biblical baptism is intended to affirm.
To baptize someone "into water" would be to unite him with the water, and thus to drown him. Baptizw (baptizo) is sometimes used this way in classical Greek writings. But the Greek words baptizw (baptizo), baptisma (baptisma), baptismos (baptismos) and baptisths (baptistes) never carry the meaning "to dip".
The Greek has another word that means "to dip"… baptw (bapto). This word occurs in five verses of the New Testament…
Matthew 26:23 – And He answered, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.In all these cases, the meaning "to dip" is clearly suggested by the context, although the verse from Revelation probably means "dyed or stained with blood" rather than "dipped in blood". Yet, of the 80 New Testament occurrences of baptizw (baptizo), the 22 occurrences of baptisma (baptisma), the 4 occurrences of baptismos (baptismos), and the 14 occurrences of baptisths (baptistes), dipping is never implied by the context. Rather, the meaning "immerse into" (i.e. into a new and lasting relationship) is the clear meaning. Likewise, "join to", "unite with" or "identify with" fits most of the passages and often clarifies the meaning. In some cases, "wash" or "washing" is the clear meaning.
Mark 14:20 – And He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl.
Luke 16:24 – "And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'
John 13:26 – Jesus then answered, "That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him." So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
Revelation 19:13 – He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore, and teach all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Go therefore, and teach all nations, joining them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:38 ... be immersed ... into the forgiveness of your sins; ... be joined ... to the forgiveness of your sins Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus. When they heard this, they were joined to the name of the Lord Jesus. Romans 6:3-4 Don't you know, that as many of us as were immersed into Jesus Christ were immersed into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by immersion into death: that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Don't you know, that as many of us as were joined to Jesus Christ were joined to his death? Therefore we are buried with him by union with death: that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit were we all immersed into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and have all been made to drink one Spirit. For by one Spirit were we all joined to one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and have all been made to drink one Spirit. Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been immersed into Christ have put on Christ. For as many of you as have been joined to Christ have put on Christ.
It is important to understand that the Greek word baptizw (baptizo), like the English word immerse, indicates a changed condition of the person or thing that has been immersed, but it does not imply a specific mode nor identify a particular action which brings the object into that new condition. Ancient Greek manuscripts use baptizw (baptizo) to speak of a variety of actions that result in the immersed condition of the object. It is used of ships sinking, either because they were pierced, or by being overloaded with cargo. In other places, baptizw (baptizo) speaks of a coastal marsh being flooded with water by the rising of the tide. Another uses baptizw (baptizo) to speak of a spear being thrown down into the water. Others speak of soldiers wading into and marching waist-deep or chest-deep through the water. Elijah is said to have "baptized" the altar when he instructed the Israelites to pour water on it. Various other examples can be given as well.
Please notice that there is no uniform action that causes the immersion. Coastal immersion caused by the rising of the tide is far different from a ship being overloaded with cargo, and that is far different from throwing a spear into the water or from an army wading into the water. Each case, however, resulted in the immersed condition of the object, and this is the common thread in the meaning of baptizw (baptizo).
The word baptizw (baptizo)
also used to speak of other kinds of condition besides immersion in
There are many and diverse examples of this in the ancient Greek
by grief, or anger, or drunkenness,
or taxes, or debts,
etc. In each case, the instrument
of baptism represents a controlling influence over
the person who
was said to be "baptized". Therefore, when John says
you with water into repentance", he is using the word baptizw
in a very common, natural way, to say that repentance
is the substance
which the people were immersed, and that the water
in some sense
instrumental in bringing them into this new
What John does not say is that he immersed the
people "into water".
 When speaking of water in connection with baptism, the Greek scriptures always use the dative (instrumental) case. Sometimes, the preposition en (en = in, by or with) is used as well, and sometimes the preposition is omitted. Both constructions are a common way in ancient Greek to designate instrumentality.Matthew 3:11 - As for me, I baptize you with water [dative + en] for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire [dative + en]. The immersionist is not as consistent as he supposes himself to be in his use of terms. He supposes that, because baptizw (baptizo) means immerse, this somehow supports his mode of baptism. The problem is that immersion is only half of immersionist baptism. The other half—removal from the water—is totally foreign to both the English word immerse as well as to the Greek word baptizw (baptizo). Removal is, in fact, a revoking or undoing of immersion.
Mark 1:8 - I baptized you with water [dative alone]; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit [dative + en].
Luke 3:16 - John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water[dative alone]; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire [dative + en].
John 1:26 - John answered them saying, "I baptize in water [dative + en], but among you stands One whom you do not know.
John 1:31 - I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water [dative + en].
John 1:33 - I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water [dative + en] said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit [dative + en].'
Acts 1:5 - for John baptized with water [dative alone], but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit [dative + en] not many days from now.
Acts 11:16 - And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water [dative alone], but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit [dative + en].'
To remove the person from the water is to un-immerse him. If baptize is truly synonymous with immerse, then it is legitimate to restate the last sentence this way: To remove the person from the water is to un-baptize him.
The fallacy in immersionist theology is the belief that, in Biblical baptism, water is the substance into which we are to be immersed (instead, water is the instrument by which we are baptized). Biblical baptism signifies immersion into Christ, with the result that we remain immersed in Christ forever. In Biblical baptism, there can be no removal without destroying the relationship established by the immersion.
 The distinctions between the usage and meaning of baptizw (baptizo) and baptw (bapto) in ancient Greek literature have been amply demonstrated by James W. Dale in his exhaustive 5-volume study of baptism contained in the books: Classic Baptism, Judaic Baptism, Johannic Baptism, and Christic Baptism and Patristic Baptism (the latter book contains two volumes). We are very grateful that these books have been recently reprinted by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, and are readily available from the booksellers. It should be noted that Dale was well aware of the works of such Baptist authors as J. L. Dagg, T. J. Conant, Alexander Carson, F. A. Cox, R. Fuller, C. Stovel, Prof. Ripley, M. P. Jewett, Abraham Booth, Dr. Gale, and an acquaintance of Roger Wiliams known only by his initials "A. R.". Dale's incisive analysis of the claims of these Baptist writers is of great value in its own right, but his greatest contribution is the philological insight and meticulous thoroughness with which he pursues his study of the Greek words. Moreover, Dale writes in a very gracious and engaging style, making his books very enjoyable reading!
Scripture is clear that John did not administer ritual baptism until he had witnessed clear evidence that real baptism had taken place.
Matthew 3:7-8 - But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;John rejected those Jews who came to him for baptism whose lives did not manifest the grace of repentance. This demonstrates the sense in which John's baptism immersed people into repentance. Ritual baptism did not bring people into an actual state of repentance. Rather, it acknowledged and officially ratified the state of repentance which they already possessed, manifesting that they were recipients of that real baptism which is performed by the Spirit of God when He sovereignly regenerates an individual, immersing him into Christ, and thus also into Christ's death, into repentance, into the forgiveness of sins, etc. (John 3:8).
There is an interesting parallel to this in the Mosaic regulations concerning the cleansing of the leper.
Leviticus 14:1-8 - Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper, then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. The priest shall also give orders to slay the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water. As for the live bird, he shall take it together with the cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slain over the running water. He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field. The one to be cleansed shall then wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe in water and be clean. Now afterward, he may enter the camp..."Although the various ceremonies stipulated are certainly different from John's baptism, the one thing that is common is that the priest was first to examine the leper, and, if he found that the leper had been healed, then the priest was to see that the ceremonies prescribed were carried out. The parallels between sin and leprosy are clear enough—the leper was regarded to be "unclean", his disease was infectious, he was banished from the camp of the people, and there was no known cure for leprosy this side of heaven.
However, God in mercy did sometimes heal lepers, and once a leper had been healed, he was not automatically received back into the camp of the Israelites, but was first required to be examined by the priest who, if satisfied that the healing had occurred, would then begin the process of ritual cleansing stipulated by Leviticus. Once this process was complete, the leper was to be received back into the camp of the Israelites.
The ceremonies were done, not as some sort of magic ritual to bring about healing for the leprosy, but as an official priestly recognition that the divine miracle of healing had indeed occurred. Likewise, John's baptism was an official priestly recognition that the divine miracle of regeneration had indeed occurred, signalling to all parties concerned that the individual was to be received into the camp of those who had truly repented of their sins.
Thus, while real baptism brought about actual repentance, ritual baptism brought about formal, public admission into the company of those who had repented of their sins. To put it in terms of "immersion", we would say: "Real baptism immerses you into repentance, while ritual baptism immerses you into the company of repentant sinners."
This last statement comes dangerously close to speaking of water baptism as "the door to the church". However, we must qualify this statement carefully lest we encourage the divisive errors that abound with respect to water baptism.
What water baptism was intended to be: Water baptism was intended as an official recognition by the church that a given person was a genuine believer who had truly experienced the grace of God. It was the church's earthly confirmation that the individual was a true believer, and that he was to be received as such by all the people of God.Once a person has been publicly acknowledged by a church to be a genuine believer, the purpose of baptism has been served, regardless of the mode of baptism he received, or even whether he was baptized with water. To require that the individual be baptized or re-baptized long after he has already been freely accepted as a brother in Christ is to treat him as an outsider.
What water baptism was not intended to be: Water baptism was never meant to create a privileged class of believers, as if to say that the saints of God are divided into the two categories of "baptized" and "unbaptized". Water baptism was never meant merely to admit a believer to a particular denomination, nor to a particular local church. Water baptism was never intended to "brand" a Christian with the stigma of having received a particular mode of baptism, that he might be discriminated against by those brothers who disapprove of the mode he had received.
We flatly reject the "baptismal regeneration" theories of the Campbellites (e.g. "Church of Christ") and the Roman Catholic Church. John clearly looked for the fruit of salvation prior to baptizing an individual. This is the clear meaning of Acts 2:38 as well, as evidenced by comparing it with John's statement in Matthew 3:11 ...
Acts 2:38 - Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ..."What is crucial to understand in these two passages is that the word "for" in both cases translates the Greek word eiV (eis), designating the condition into which the people were immersed by baptism. Just as John baptized people "into repentance", so also Peter baptized people "into the forgiveness of [their] sins". Repentance and forgiveness are fully parallel in these two passages. What John says about baptism into repentance, Peter says the very same thing about baptism into forgiveness.
Matthew 3:11 - "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance ...
Matthew 3:11 - ... I baptize you ... into (eiV, eis) repentanceYet, as we have seen, John made sure that the individual had already repented of his sins before he would baptize him. John's baptism did not bring about an person's repentance, but only acknowledged it. Parallelism demands that forgiveness of sins plays the same role in Acts 2:38. When Peter baptized an individual, it was not with the belief that baptism would bring about forgiveness. Rather, it was Peter's acknowledgment that the individual had already been forgiven by God.
Acts 2:28 - ... be baptized ... into (eiV, eis) the forgiveness of your sins
How did Peter know that the person had already received forgiveness? ... The same way John knew to baptize an individual—he could see the fruit of repentance in their lives. Repentance is a grace of salvation, given sovereignly by God, and it produces godly behavior.
Acts 5:31 - He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
2 Timothy 2:25 - with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
Certain aspects of godly behavior may not be immediately obvious, but there are certain fruits of repentance that are always present when an individual is truly saved—a sense of guilt and condemnation, sorrow for sin, fear of God's judgment, a plea for God's mercy, a conviction that the death of Christ is fully adequate to forgive and cleanse, a love of true righteousness, respect for God's Word, a new delight in God, and a love for God's people.
Where one or more of these fruits is missing, as in the case of the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to John for baptism, the person is unsaved and baptism should be denied to him. It is certain that Peter, like John, would have refused baptism to an individual who did not evidence the grace of salvation.
One question still remains, however. Scripture often describes the coming of the Holy Spirit upon an individual after that person had been baptized. Indeed, in his sermon on Pentecost, Peter promised that his hearers would receive the Holy Spirit after they repented and were baptized for the remission of their sins. How, therefore, can we say that the Holy Spirit came upon them before they were baptized with water?
Acts 2:38 - Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ..."The answer to this question lies in the fact that the Holy Spirit has many ministries. He inspired the Old Testament prophets, He convicts sinners of their sins, He regenerates believers, He illumines us to the meaning of Scripture, He was the active force behind the various miracles of the Bible, and He distributes special gifts to Christians which they are to use to build up the church.
When He was poured out upon people on and after the day of Pentecost, He empowered them with supernatural gifts. The tongues, prophecy and healing have been well publicized, but we should observe that He also often gave to the saints extraordinary gifts of courage in witness and of sacrificial love toward the brethren. Moreover, the apostle Paul makes it clear that He gave different gifts to different believers, and that not all of the gifts He gave were overtly miraculous sign gifts.
This extraordinary empowerment sometimes apparently accompanied regeneration (as in Acts 10:44-45, where certain God-fearing Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit while Peter was still giving them the gospel, and before they were baptized). In most cases, however, it appears that this empowerment was given some time after they had believed and were baptized.
Acts 8:14-16 - Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.The Pentecostal affusion was an outpouring of the same kind of power as in regeneration, but in a remarkably greater degree. When the Holy Spirit regenerates us, He causes us to understand something of our own wretchedness and sin, to comprehend something of the glorious majesty and holiness of God, and the precious grace of salvation. He causes us to trust solely in Christ's perfect life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection for our justifying righteousness. He gives us the willingness to confess Christ before others, and the desire to live a godly life.
Acts 19:2 - he said to them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye had believed? And they said to him, We did not even hear if the Holy Spirit was come. (J. N. Darby's New Translation)
When the Holy Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost, He brought these same graces to a greater degree, giving them greater boldness to confess Christ, greater wisdom to proclaim the gospel accurately, and a greater concern for God's glory and for the welfare of His people. All these things were present to a small degree when they were first regenerated. However, Pentecost magnified these graces to a white-hot pitch. It was like a sudden burst of sanctification.
Thus, Pentecost represents the Spirit's sanctifying ministry in both its inception (regeneration) as well as in extraordinary periods of revival and empowerment. Pentecost shows us that genuine Christian devotion, faith, love and courage come from the hand of God, and not through human will or merit. It is God who molds our will by the Spirit's activity of supercharging our love for Him by revealing His splendor and glory to us.
There is no problem, therefore, in affirming that the Holy
upon the believer both before and after he is baptized with
Indeed, the Holy Spirit comes upon believers to a greater or lesser
at various times in our Christian lives. What Peter was
to his hearers was that, if they truly repented of their sins (a grace
which comes only through the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit)
and received water baptism, then the Holy Spirit would also come upon
with even greater power—the kind that enabled the disciples to "turn
the world upside-down" with their evangelistic courage and
their selfless love for the brothers.
Ancient Greek has a different word—baptw (bapto)—that perfectly describes the immersionist mode of baptism, yet this word is never used in Scripture to speak of Christian baptism. Baptistic works on the meaning of baptizw (baptizo) have often been very careless, arbitrarily confusing the words baptizw (baptizo) and baptw (bapto). Others continue to treat the words as interchangeable, even after acknowledging the distinctions between the words. Moreover, treatises promoting the immersionist view universally ignore the Scriptural fact that the "substance" into which we are said to be baptized is not water, but Christ, repentance, the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins, Christ's death, and the "one body".
To give a complete list of all the extra-biblical occurrences of baptizw (baptizo) would be a tedious exercise for both the writer and the reader. If you wish to examine a more extensive list, I would highly recommend James W. Dale's 5-volume set. For the present discussion, I offer the following representative list:
|to flood with water||They say that the Phoenicians inhabiting the region called Gadira, sailing beyond the Pillars of Hercules, with an easterly wind, four days, reach to certain desert places full of rush and seaweed; which when it is ebb tide are not mersed; but when it is full tide are flooded.||Aristotle, Wonderful Reports.
(Classic Baptism, p. 236).
|to wade through water||Alexander falling upon the stormy season, and trusting, commonly, to fortune, pressed on before the flood went out, and through the entire day the army marched mersed up to the waist.||Strabo, xiv, 3, 9.
(Classic Baptism, p. 248).
|buried in a marsh||And dying they filled the lake with dead bodies; so that to the present many barbaric arrows, and helmets, and pieces of iron breastplates and swords, mersed in the marshes, are found.||Plutarch, Sylla, xxi.
(Classic Baptism, p. 247).
|baptism by throwing down into water||To one throwing down a javelin, from above, into the channel, the force of the water resists so much that it is hardly mersed.||Strabo, xii, 2, 4.
(Classic Baptism, p. 252).
|baptism (sinking) by overloading a ship||Shall I not ridicule one mersing his ship by much freight, then blaming the sea for sinking it full.||Hippocrates, iii, 809.
(Classic Baptism, p. 256).
|to sink into water||The vessels which were in the Tiber, and anchored at the city and at its mouth, were mersed.||Dion Cassius, Roman History,
(Classic Baptism, p. 256).
|to drown||One saved in the voyage, whom it were better to merse.||Themistius, Orat., iv.
(Classic Baptism, p. 268).
|baptism (sinking) by piercing a ship||Pierced and mersed by a hostile vessel.||Polybius, Hist., xvi, 6, 2.
(Classic Baptism, p. 277).
|baptized by evils||What crime have we committed, so great, as in a few days, to be mersed by such a multitude of evils?||Achilles Tatius, Leucippe
and Clit., iii, 10.
(Classic Baptism, p. 287).
|baptized with taxes||On account of the abundant revenue from these sources, they do not merse the people with taxes.||Diodorus Siculus, i, 73.
(Classic Baptism, p. 291).
|baptized into sleep by wine||Thebe exhorted to the murder, and having mersed and put to sleep Alexander, by much wine, she dismisses the guards of the bedchamber under pretext of using the bath, and called the brothers to the work.||Conon; Narrat., L.
(Classic Baptism, p. 320).
|baptizing the altar by pouring water on it||But why do you believe that the Elias to come will baptize, when he did not, in the time of Ahab, baptize the victim upon the wood of the altar, which needed cleansing, at the appearing of the Lord by fire? For he commands the priests to do this.||Origen, iv, 241.
(Judaic Baptism, p. 328-329).
Consider carefully each of these uses of baptizw (baptizo). Can any of them honestly be interpreted as a literal dipping? Some readers may be inclined to suspect that I have carefully selected my passages to avoid those that represent baptism as a dipping. However, this is not true—the passages listed above are quite typical and representative of how the word baptizw (baptizo) is used in ancient Greek writings. A literal dipping is seldom if ever implied in any ancient Greek documents.
Immersionist expositors go to great lengths to explain how a pouring, for example, is actually a dipping—suggesting that the baptized article is "under the water" while the water is being poured, and "emerges from the water" when the pouring stops, and that this consideration makes it, in some sense, a dipping. If that were true, then the immersionist should have no problem accepting baptism by pouring, since, by his own admission, pouring fits his idea of what is meant by "dipping".
When examining the usage of baptizw (baptizo) in ancient Greek literature, we find that baptizw (baptizo) does not imply any particular mode at all. As we have observed, ancient "baptism" was accomplished by a great diversity of modes: the rising of the tide, the sinking of ships, the drowning of people, throwing a spear into water, pouring water on an altar, armies wading waist-deep through water, etc. The consistent theme here is of becoming engulfed with water, but the particular mode or action that produces this condition is varied and arbitrary and is not implied by the word baptizw (baptizo).
To say that "dipping" is the consistent meaning of the word baptizw (baptizo) requires redefining "dip" to mean any of the above actions: "the tide rising", "a ship sinking", "a person drowning", "a spear thrown", "water poured", "armies wading", etc. It should be obvious that, if any and all of these actions is a legitimate translation for "dip", then it is pointless to speak of "dip" as though it represents a specific action.
Immersionism displays a disturbing inconsistency when dealing with the Greek evidence: On the one hand, it takes a very creative imagination to try to force all these diverse meanings into the word "dip". However, an immersionist apologist will not tolerate any such diversity of meaning when he applies the meaning "to dip" to the New Testament passages that describe Christian baptism.
In other words, he employs a double standard: When seeking to glean the meaning of baptizw (baptizo) from Greek literature, "dip" is given the widest latitude to encompass such diverse acts as flooding, wading, throwing, sinking, pouring, etc. However, when seeking to apply the meaning of baptizw (baptizo) to the New Testament passages on Christian baptism, the immersionist will tolerate no such diversity of meaning, but will insist that baptizw (baptizo) must refer to a literal dipping, where the person is momentarily plunged totally under the water, and is immediately removed from the water.
Such inconsistency might be excusable if the immersionist could demonstrate that literal dipping is the usual meaning of baptizw (baptizo), and that these other uses are in some sense figurative dippings. However, baptizw (baptizo) is seldom if ever used in ancient Greek writings to refer to a literal dipping. Until the immersionist establishes that a literal dipping is the usual, most common use of baptizw (baptizo), he is not entitled to engage in fanciful explanations to turn pouring, sinking or flooding into dipping.
There are several instances in classical Greek writings where baptizw (baptizo) is used to speak of being "baptized" into drunkenness or sleep by means of drinking wine. Here again, the mode is not dipping, and it should be noted that wine is not the element into which the person is baptized, but is rather the instrument by which he is baptized into a condition of intoxication. This "baptism" continues for as long as the person remains in this condition, but when sobriety returns, he is no longer "baptized". Likewise, when something is "baptized" into water, it remains "baptized" only so long as it is in the water—once removed from the water, it is no longer "baptized".
New Testament baptism is one that endures. At conversion, when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, He baptizes us into Christ, and this divine work is echoed in the earthly ritual of water baptism. The baptism that the Spirit performs puts us into Christ and leaves us in Christ, so that we not only "have been" baptized into Christ, but remain baptized into Him. We have been immersed into Christ—not momentarily, as though a few drops of Christ might cling to us as coffee clings to a donut—but abidingly, as a ship that has sunk in the ocean remains engulfed in the ocean.
It is instructive to note that none of the salient features of immersionist baptism is demanded by the Greek word...
If the Holy Spirit had meant to describe baptism as a dipping, He would have used the word baptw (bapto) rather than baptizw (baptizo) to express the act, and He would have said that the baptism was "into the water" (eiV to udwr - eis to hudor, as in Matthew 17:15), rather than "by means of water" (en udati - en hudati, as in Matthew 3:11).
 .J. W. Dale writes:... I know not of one case [i.e. of baptizw in ancient Greek literature] where a living man is simply put into the water, and withdrawn from it, by the party putting him in. To dip, requires that the one dipping should withdraw the object dipped. If I dip a man, I both put him in and take him out; but if I plunge a man, or souse a man, or immerse a man, though I do not intend to drown him, yet it is not implied that I withdraw him from the water; I may leave him to shift for himself. The withdrawing is necessary to a dipping; but the withdrawing would not necessarily convert a baptism into a dipping, although I know of no such feature in any classic baptism.James W. Dale, Classic Baptism (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1989, reprint of Boston: Draper & Halliday, 1867 ), pp. 97-98.
Dr. Conant seeks to sustain the ritual dipping of a man into water, and his instant withdrawal, by the usage of the Greek word. It cannot be done. It cannot be done; not simply because of the brief continuance under the water, but because it is, and is intended to be, nothing more nor less than a dipping.
If I put into, and withdraw promptly from water a bag of gold, I dip it; but if it slips from my hand and it sinks, although I may recover it within as brief a span of time as in the other case, it is not a case of dipping. Any object may sink, and remain in this condition for the briefest duration; still, sink is not converted into dip. Although, therefore, Dr. Conant may find a very few cases in which the baptism was for a limited period, he can find no case in which a baptism can be converted into a dipping; therefore, he can find no case of the use of this Greek word by which the ritual practice of dipping a man into water, as a baptism, can be justified.
But it is said that "if a man is not taken out of the water he will be drowned, and that was never intended by Christian baptism."
But why was the man put into the water? "Why, to be baptized." Well, baptize will put a man into water, but it never did and never will take him out. This Dr. Conant admits; but, he adds, as the man is not intended to be drowned, he must be taken out of the hands of baptize, which otherwise would drown him. In other words, the Holy Spirit has employed a word which requires, absolutely, disciples to be put under water without making any provision for their withdrawal; and Dr. Conant has to find some way to remedy the defect, on the ground of an inference that they are not to be drowned! And all this when baptw would have done just what Dr. Conant thinks necessary to volunteer to do, namely, to put in momentarily and withdraw; which word the Holy Spirit never once uses. ...
All Greek writers refuse to interchange baptizw and baptw; the Holy Spirit persistently refuses to employ baptw, or to interchange it, in a single instance, with baptizw in speaking of Christian baptism; is it becoming in those who are "very jealous for the Holy Spirit" to substitute another word for that which the Holy Spirit teacheth? Or, retaining the form of the word, to supplant it by using the meaning of a rejected word? But this is done by those who substitute baptw for baptizw; or, who give to the latter word the meaning of the former.
 Dale gives some examples in his book Classic Baptism, pp. 283-284, where the word "de-baptizing" (or "de-mersing", Greek: katabaptizw =katabaptizo) occurs. Sources include Achilles Tatius, Alciphron and Alexander Aphrodisias. "If I purpose to see all the rivers, my life will be de-mersed, not seeing Glycera." Alciphron. "Why do many, made drunk with wine, die? Because the quantity of the wine de-merses the physical and the vital power and warmth." Alexander Aphrodisias.
 Dale writes: "Prof. Dagg gives as the uniform translation of baptw , to dip. He does not give this word as the translation of baptizw in a single instance. Why is this? It was not of accident; for he tells us that it was of design. It was not because he regarded the different words employed as of the same value; for he expressly tells us that they were of widely different value. It was not because it was a matter of indifference to the system which he advocates; for the Baptist system lives or dies as dip does or does not represent baptizw. Why, then, such translation? The only answer that can be given is—Prof. Dagg thus confesses that 'the sentiment' that dip expounds baptizw, must, in the face of Greek usage, be utterly abandoned; while in the face of Baptist 'practice' claimed to be founded on baptizw, it must, imperatively, be retained." Classic Baptism, pp. 51-52.
 This use of baptizw (baptizo)—i.e. the "baptism" with wine into intoxication—agrees well with certain New Testament passages that speak of the relation of the Holy Spirit to the child of God. Scripture draws a striking parallel between being "drunk with wine" and being "filled with the Spirit", since both have a profound effect upon a person's mind and behavior—one for evil, the other for good...Ephesians 5:18 - And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,The "act" by which wine "baptizes" an individual into intoxication or sleep is by drinking the wine. In the same way, Scripture says that we have been made "to drink of one Spirit", and that this baptizes us into one body.1 Corinthians 12:13 - For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.Note also that the act of drinking entails pouring the drink into the body. In the same way, Scripture repeatedly says that God has poured His Spirit on and into us...Acts 2:17-18 -Every use of baptizw (baptizo) in ancient Greek supports the thesis that water baptism represents a lasting immersion into Christ and into the blessings of salvation purchased by His blood at Calvary. However, the "baptism by wine into intoxication" seems to be especially instructive, since it demonstrates how an act of pouring a liquid immerses a person, not into the liquid itself, but into an altogether different state or condition. Even without the explicit Biblical parallels between wine and the Spirit, this would be an illuminating example of the use of baptizw (baptizo). The Biblical references to pouring and drinking with respect to the Spirit, its association of drinking with baptism (1 Cor 12:13), and the parallel between the effects of the Spirit and wine (Eph 5:18), confirm the appropriateness of identifying this use of baptizw (baptizo) with Biblical baptism.
'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says,
'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND;
AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY,
AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS,
AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;
EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN,
I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT
And they shall prophesy.
Acts 2:33 - "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
Acts 10:45 - All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
Romans 5:5 - and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Titus 3:5-6 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
There are a few examples in ancient Greek literature where the word baptizw (baptizo) is used to describe an immersion of short duration.
At first blush, this may seem to support the Immersionist's claim that baptism can mean "to dip". Such examples probably explain why lexicons often give "to dip" as a meaning of baptizw (baptizo), and also explains Calvin's oft-quoted statement in the Institutes:
Whether the person baptized is to be wholly immersed, and that whether once or thrice, or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water, is not of the least consequence: churches should be at liberty to adopt either according to the diversity of climates, although it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church.
— John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 15, Section 19.
For example, Josephus describes a game played by young men while bathing in which they would seek to hold another's head under the water as if to drown him.
"Continually pressing down and IMMERSING (BAPTIZING) him while swimming, as if in sport, they did not desist till they had entirely suffocated him."It should be noted that the "baptism" here is strictly an immersion into the water. It was understood that the immersed person would, on his own, emerge from the water once his head was released (although in this instance, their purpose was actually to drown him). Even when the participants did not have murderous intent, baptizw (baptizo) would put the youth's head in the water, but would not take it out. If he came back up, it was by his own strength and initiative, and not because of his "baptism". This, then, is no justification of Immersionist "baptism", whereby the one who puts a person in the water also lifts him out.
— Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book XV, Chapter 3,3.
This is no small matter, because Immersionists place such great significance on the act of emerging from the water—supposing it to represent our resurrection with Christ. Immersionist "baptism" would not be complete until the individual is lifted out of the water. Yet, emergence from the water is totally foreign to the meaning of baptizw (baptizo) as it is used in ancient Greek literature. Certainly, people or objects often emerged from the water after being immersed (baptized), but this does not make the emergence a feature or ingredient in the baptism itself. How can un-immersion be a feature of immersion? No one denies that un-immersion is often a consequent act, following immersion, but to say that immersion entails un-immersion is a contradictory abuse of language.
If the Immersionist desires a Greek verb that encompasses the two acts of putting in and taking out, there is one readily available—namely, baptw (bapto). The only problem is that baptw (bapto) is never used in Scripture in connection with Christian baptism, even though the word occurs some six times in the New Testament in non-baptism contexts where it is uniformly translated "dip".
Another example relevant to our study involves a certain traditional practice of the Jews known as "self-baptism". This was a form of ritual cleansing whereby a Jewish person would wade into a pool and then bend his knees enough so that his head was totally covered by the water. It is easy to see from this where Immersionists may have acquired their notion about putting a person "entirely under" the water.
But the questions that need to be asked with regard to such "baptisms" are:
Obviously, the baptism practiced by John the Baptist was not self-baptism, for it is said that he baptized the people—he did not merely direct them to baptize themselves. It is certain that the Jews did not regard their self-baptisms to represent burial and resurrection with Christ, nor is it likely that they intended the outpouring of the Spirit, either. These Jewish self-baptisms involved immersing the individual in an upright position, although I know of no view of Christian baptism that advocates immersion in an upright position. Thus, the Jewish self-baptisms are different from Christian baptism in many ways. We cannot assume that they reveal to us anything definitive about how Christian baptism is to be performed.
To determine the allowable range of meanings for baptizw (baptizo), we need to examine the entire corpus of literary evidence rather than fixating upon a particular Jewish tradition. We are in danger of following Jewish myths if we place too much reliance upon these self-baptisms as a pattern for Christian baptism.
Once again, we need to remember that, whereas these Jewish
into water, the same cannot be said of Biblical
Scripture never, never, never says that we are
water", but rather "by means of water" and
"into Christ", "into forgiveness",
"into the name of the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit", "into Christ's death",
The question of whether baptizw (baptizo)
ever mean "to dip" quickly becomes a moot point once
that we are never said in Scripture to be immersed into water.
The mode of baptism is important insofar as it is intended to depict a spiritual truth. If the mode is incorrect, baptism will not accurately portray the intended spiritual truth, and thus will not serve its intended purpose. A second reason why the mode is important is simply that we want to be obedient to Christ, to do what He commanded the way He intended it to be done. It is not enough merely to call a thing "baptism". Obedience requires that we do the actual thing we were commanded to do, and not merely that we give the name "baptism" to something else and do that instead.
That there is a correct Biblical mode for baptism cannot be denied. All I am saying is that the mode cannot be inferred from the meaning of the word baptizw (baptizo) alone. What then are we to do? Are we left as orphans with no basis by which to determine the mode? What criterion is left?
I submit that the mode is clearly spelled out in the
to the satisfaction of all who are not wedded to the idea that baptizw
(baptizo) implies mode.
Water and the Spirit.
When the prophet Ezekiel foretold the New Testament blessings of cleansing from sin, impartation of a new heart, and the indwelling of the Spirit, he prefaced these blessings with a statement about the application of water upon those who would be the recipients of these New Covenant blessings...
Ezekiel 36:25-27Notice that Ezekiel identifies the application of "clean water" with spiritual cleansing from sin. Significantly, this precisely describes the symbolism of John’s baptism, as he preached "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins"…
25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Mark 1:4 - John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.Before proceeding, I would pose the following questions…
Luke 3:3 - And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;
Acts 13:24 - after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
The Testimony of John the Baptist.
Just as Ezekiel described the connection between the water ordinance and the operation of the Spirit, so also John compared his practice of water baptism to the baptism Jesus was someday to perform when He would "pour forth" the Spirit upon the people of God.
Matthew 3:11 - As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.Notice the parallel John draws between his own ministry of water baptism and our Lord’s ministry of baptizing with the Spirit…
Acts 2:16-17 - but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;Immersionists try to evade the force of Acts 2:17 by saying that Christ poured forth the Spirit in sufficient measure to totally immerse the believers.
But this explanation does not alter the fact that this baptism was accomplished by pouring rather than by dipping. John likened his own practice of water baptism with our Lord’s outpouring of the Spirit. The most natural way to understand John’s statement is that John administered water in a manner similar to the way our Lord administered the Spirit, and that John’s mode of baptism was intended to illustrate our Lord’s outpouring of the Spirit upon His people. It would be most incongruous to say that a baptism performed by dipping in any way illustrates a baptism accomplished by pouring out the Spirit, no matter how great the measure of the Spirit. Pouring is still pouring and dipping is still dipping. If the primary act in each of the two baptisms is not similar to that of the other, then the symbolism fails to illustrate the divine truth involved, and John’s statement of comparison is rendered meaningless.
Note that Acts 2:16-17 is not the only passage that speaks of Spirit baptism as pouring. Pouring describes the baptism of the Spirit in numerous New Testament passages (Acts 2:17-18; 2:33; 10:45; Romans 5:5 and Titus 3:5-6).
Moreover, the parallel drawn between John's baptism with water and our Lord's baptism with the Spirit is repeated in all four of the Gospel records, thereby underscoring the divine intent and scriptural significance of this symbolism...
Matthew: ... I baptize you with water for repentance, but ... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Mt 3:11)The Testimony of our Lord and His Disciples.
Mark: I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8)
Luke: ... I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, ... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16)
John: ... He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' (John 1:33)
Acts 1:5 - for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.And Peter remembered this saying of the Lord when the Spirit fell upon the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius...
Acts 11:16 - And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'Thus, this is a persistent theme in the New Testament—a parallel recognized by John when he prophesied of the Pentecostal outpouring, confirmed by our Lord when He departed from the disciples, and remembered by Peter when he witnessed the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Gentiles.
The repetition and consistency of this theme in the New Testament justifies us in saying that the Scriptural symbolism of water baptism is not burial and resurrection with Christ, but rather the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the people of God, resulting in their cleansing from sin, repentance, identification with Christ and their inclusion into "the body of Christ" (i.e. Christ's church - see 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18, 24).
There are only two passages of Scripture that mention "burial" with respect to baptism (i.e. Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12), and neither of them mentions water. In contrast, there are six passages that specifically mention water and identify water baptism with Spirit baptism (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16). Moreover, one of these six passages (Acts 11:16), tells us that our Lord repeatedly taught His disciples that John's baptism paralleled Spirit baptism, revealing this to be a central theme of our Lord's teaching.
Nor is there anything in the two "burial" passages which says or suggests that baptism is to be a "picture" of burial and resurrection. The "likeness of His death" and "likeness of His resurrection", spoken of in Romans 6:5, answers to our conversion, not our ritual baptism—for it is our walking "in newness of life" (vs. 4) that answers to the "likeness of His resurrection". Water baptism cannot produce the result that we walk in newness of life, but the Spirit's activity in regeneration produces this very fruit, and this is clearly the "baptism" in view in this passage.
There is therefore no compelling reason to suppose that the
passages have water baptism in mind, whereas there can be no doubt at
that it is intended in the six Spirit baptism passages. We
conclude that the intended symbolism of water baptism is the outpouring
of the Spirit of God upon the individual, and not the individual's
and resurrection with Christ.
The Testimony of Hebrews.
The parallel between water baptism and Spirit baptism is brought out in yet another New Testament passage…
Hebrews 10:22 - let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.Pay particular attention to the parallel drawn between the sprinkling of the heart and the washing of the body…
The writer of Hebrews testifies to the fact that the word "baptism" (Greek: baptisma - baptisma) can denote a sprinkling ordinance.
In Hebrews 9:8-10, he writes, concerning the Mosaic ceremonial law...
8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing,In the original Greek text, the phrase "various washings" is diaforoiV baptismoiV (diaphorois baptismois), which literally means "various kinds of baptisms".
9 which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience,
10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.
Note two significant facts asserted by this statement of Scripture:
The second fact is significant because, even if some Old Testament ordinance could be identified as a dipping, we would like to know how there could be different kinds of dippings. To dip into water is a pretty narrowly-defined concept, without much latitude for a variety of ways to do it. However, Hebrews 9:10 says that the Law had various kinds of baptisms.
So what is meant by these "various kinds" of baptism? Are there varieties of sprinkling? Yes, there are—the Old Testament law describes sprinklings of various liquids:
Does this conclusion seem shocking or surprising? Imagine how much more shocking John's baptism would have seemed to the Scribes and Pharisees if he had introduced a novel form of baptism which was not authorized by Moses! These hyper-critical hypocrites were incessantly trying to find a flaw in our Lord's ministry that they could use to accuse and condemn Him. If John's baptism had been unprecedented, they would have seized upon the opportunity to condemn John as a fraud.
However, the challenge they issued to John was not concerning the mode of his baptism, but rather why it was he who was baptizing, if he was neither Elijah, nor the prophet Moses spoke of, nor the Messiah...
John 1:25 - They asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"Their question to John was not "What are you doing?", but "Why are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ...?" Clearly, they understood what baptism was, and clearly also, they fully expected Christ or Elijah to baptize. Why would they expect this? —The answer is clear: Because it was prophesied in Holy Scripture that God would baptize the nation in the Messianic age when He gave them His Spirit and forgave them their sins...
Ezekiel 36:25-26 - Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.This brings us back to the prophecy that began this section of our discussion—and it is the only possible explanation why the Jews who questioned John would have expected Christ or Elijah to come baptizing. But note again that the prophesied mode was sprinkling, not dipping.
The purpose of this section has been to demonstrate a consistent thread of Biblical teaching on the mode of water baptism. Unlike those who advocate dipping, we did not appeal to extra-Biblical sources to prove that the mode is sprinkling. We did not appeal to the practice of the early church, as though the traditions of men are of any authority to our faith and practice. We had no need to appeal to ancient sources in an attempt to force upon the Greek words a particular mode of baptism in order to prove our case. Scripture alone speaks quite clearly and authoritatively if we will but listen.
It is noteworthy
that water and
appear together in passages of both the Old and New
the Old Testament, they occur in a significant prophecy concerning the
Messianic era, when God was to impart forgiveness
to His chosen people. The sprinkling of "clean
was to accompany these New Covenant blessings. John's
comparing his own ministry of water baptism to our Lord's ministry of
cannot be dismissed as a mere curiosity, much less as a serendipitous
Rather, the ministry of John very evidently answers to Ezekiel's
that God would "sprinkle clean water upon you", just
as our Lord's
ministry of Pentecostal affusion of the Spirit very evidently fulfills
Ezekiel's promise that "I will give you a new heart and put a
 Jay E. Adams writes:
"The author has frequently spoken with many immersionist friends who always assume that he adheres to affusion (or aspersion) merely as a consequence of tradition, supposing this to be a remnant of superstition which the Reformation failed to lop off. Nearly all expect me to defend my views on the basis of history, or the extra-biblical usage of the word baptizo. When I declare that this is all entirely wrong, and that my convictions and arguments are grounded solely upon biblical exegesis, they are usually astounded. ... The outcome of the debate hangs entirely upon the teaching of the Scriptures, and nothing more. It has been both interesting and most instructive to notice that in discussing the question biblically, immersionists seem unprepared for this sort of discussion as though they never expected anyone to argue for sprinkling from the Scriptures. After much discussion, it is my studied conclusion that immersion is propagated as a biblical mode more by repetition and assertion than from conviction stemming from careful Bible study.
Jay E. Adams, The Meaning and Mode of Baptism (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1975), footnote on p. 5.
 It appears, in fact, that our Lord had said this on various occasions, as evidenced by Peter's statement that "He used to say..." (NAS95), which indicates that it was a common saying that the Lord frequently taught His disciples. In the Greek, the verb is in the imperfect tense, which speaks of an action which regularly or ordinarily occurred in time past, or an action that recurred at successive intervals in past time. (See Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, section 176.)
 According to Strong (Greek #1313), diaphoros means "1) different, varying in kind; 2) excellent, surpassing".
Exhibit A. The Holy Spirit's mighty act on Pentecost of empowering the disciples was called by Jesus a "baptism". Yet, when Peter preached, explaining what had happened, he quoted the prophecy of Joel 2:28 to explain that God had "poured out" His Spirit. Surely, this outpouring is more similar to sprinkling than to dipping. (The difference between sprinkling and pouring has only to do with the quantity of water used.)
Acts 1:5 – For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.Exhibit B. Just as the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism (Matthew 3:16), so also He descended upon the disciples, being "poured out" upon them, appearing as flames upon their heads.
Acts 2:16-17 – But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Matthew 3:16 – As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.Exhibit C. When John the Baptist began his ministry, the Jews asked him why he was baptizing, but they never questioned his mode of baptism. This would seem to indicate that there was nothing new or novel about his mode of baptism, but that it was similar (if not identical) to water rituals with which they were already familiar… ordinances found in the Mosaic Law.
Acts 2:1-4 – When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
John 1:24-25 – Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"Please observe that the Pharisees expected Christ or Elijah to baptize when they came. There is no reason why they should have expected this unless it was prophesied in Scripture. There is only one prophetic passage I know of which would suggest water baptism…
Ezekiel 36:25 – "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.The passage continues, promising them a new heart and a new spirit… things which were fulfilled on Pentecost…
Ezekiel 36:26-27 – "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.If John's baptism fulfilled Ezekiel's prophecy, then John must have baptized by sprinkling.
Exhibit D. That John's baptism was similar to the Mosaic washings is confirmed by a question which the Jews addressed to John…
John 3:25 – Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came to John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan, to whom you bore testimony, behold, the same baptizes and all men come to him.The Greek word here translated "purifying" is kaqarismou, which, according to Strong's Concordance (Greek #2512), means…
The Mosaic Law had numerous sprinkling ordinances… of blood, oil and water (Exodus 24:6, 8; 29:16, 20, 21; Leviticus 1:5, 11; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:6, 17; 5:9; 7:2, 14; 8:11, 19, 24, 30; 9:12, 18; 14:7, 16, 27, 51; 16:14, 15, 19; 17:6; Numbers 8:7; 18:17; 19:4, 13, 18-21). It also had numerous ceremonial washings; but none of them is ever identified as an immersion (Exodus 19:10, 14; 29:4, 17; 30:18-21; 40:12, 30-32; Leviticus 1:9, 13; 6:27; 8:6, 21; 9:14; 11:25, 28, 40; 13:6, 34, 54, 55, 56, 58; 14:8, 9).
Exhibit E. It has been suggested by at least one commentator that baptizw (baptizo) is a contraction of two Greek words… baptw (bapto), to dip and rantizw (rhantizo), to sprinkle or cleanseby sprinkling. This sequence of "dip and sprinkle" occurs 5 times in the Pentateuch and reveals to us how these sprinkling ordinances were to be performed…
Leviticus 4:6 – and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil of the sanctuary.Exhibit F. The Greek word baptisma (baptisma) is used in Hebrews 9:10, to speak of the ritual washings of the Mosaic Law, and, aside from the "dipping" of a finger or of hyssop prior to sprinkling, there were no dippings recorded in the Mosaic Law (much less a diversity of dippings!)...
Leviticus 4:17 – and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil.
Leviticus 14:16 – the priest shall then dip his right-hand finger into the oil that is in his left palm, and with his finger sprinkle some of the oil seven times before the LORD.
Leviticus 14:51 – "Then he shall take the cedar wood and the hyssop and the scarlet string, with the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird as well as in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times.
Numbers 19:18 – 'A clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there, and on the one who touched the bone or the one slain or the one dying naturally or the grave.
Hebrews 9:8-10 – The Holy Spirit thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet revealed, while the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and various washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.Exhibit G. The same word baptisma (baptisma) is used also of the traditional baptisms of the Jews in Mark 7:3-4, where it is translated "washing"…
Mark 7:3-4 – For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands often, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there are, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, and of brass vessels, and tables.These traditional baptisms were typically not immersions. Moreover, it is extremely unlikely that the Jews immersed their tables (or mats) before eating each meal.
Exhibit H. Many commentators have pointed out the difficulty of dipping 3,000 persons on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
Indeed, many of the baptisms of Scripture seem to have been performed spontaneously. The Ethiopian eunuch was traveling with Philip and spontaneously noticed some water and asked to be baptized (Acts 8:36). The Philippian jailer was apparently baptized with his family at his own home (Acts 16:33-34). This is all the more significant considering that it was done in the middle of night, which might have been a dangerous time to wade out into a river or ocean far enough to perform a dipping. Cornelius was apparently baptized in his own home (Acts 10:47-48).
Of course, there were no bathtubs or swimming pools in private homes in those days. It is unlikely that anyone had a vessel of water sitting in their home which would be large enough to dip a person into it. They would have had to leave the house and find a stream or other body of water deep enough for dipping. Yet, Scripture is silent about their ever departing to find a suitable place to perform a dipping.
On the other hand, sprinkling can be done quite easily, with a minimal amount of preparation or materials. A person hiking through the desert could sprinkle a companion with a small amount of water from his canteen. It would be considerably more trouble to find a suitable place to dip that companion. Scripture never intimates that water baptism ever required such an investment of time and resources, nor that such an investment was expected. In some places and cultures of the world, it may be quite difficult to find a suitable place to perform a dipping, but nearly any location would have drinking water in sufficient amounts to accommodate a sprinkling.
 For example, Jay Adams cites Wilbur A. Christy, A Modern Shibboleth, pp. 71-73 ...
"... apparently to establish the possibility of immersion in this instance considerable mathematical calculation has been indulged in to prove that such observance could have taken place within the specified time alloted by the Record and an allotment of so much time and so many minutes to each has been made lest the service overlap the time employed. This all seems to verge on the ridiculous, when we consider that whatever the possibilities may have been, the probabilities, nay, the actual certainty, is, that no such event as is thus supposed, ever occurred. It is supposed, in the interest of the immersion theory that his ceremony took place at, or in, the pool of Solomon, as the only practical place both on account of its immediate location and the necessary quantity of water required, as in this case the river Jordan, a favorite location with the advocates of immersion, was too far away to be available. In regard to this pool it may be said that the water was brought by an aqueduct from a very considerable distance, some say from Mount Libanus and was carefully guarded as one of the principal sources of supply for the wants of the inhabitants, who resorted thither to fill their vessels for home use, and for drinking and that no such use of it as that of a mob of three thousand rushing down to and through it would have been tolerated by the Jews. Especially would this have been the case, when done by a sect that was already in ill favor with the Jewish leaders who were very jealous of their prerogatives, and only too ready from the first to use all possible forms of repression, and were almost ready even now to begin a persecution against these 'Fanatics' which did really follow soon after. Further, this would have taken place under the direct observation and surveillance of a body of Roman soldiers quartered in the Tower of Antonia directly overlooking this section of the city whose business it was to repress any disturbance, or suspicious assemblies among the people, always more or less turbulent, and who would certainly have taken note of any such preceeding as this. It is in violent contradiction to all the probabilities in the case to imagine any such transaction as is here assumed."
Jay E. Adams, The Meaning and Mode of Baptism (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1975), pp. 46-47.
Argument 1. John baptized at Aenon because there was "much water" there. This supposedly proves that the mode was dipping, because sprinkling would not require "much water."
John 3:23 – John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized—According to Vincent (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914), Vol. II, p. 104), Aenon means "springs" and "much water" is literally "many waters" or "many springs of waters." Water baptism represented cleansing from sin (Acts 22:16), and it was fitting that clean water (Ezekiel 36:25) be used for the baptism. By using flowing water from a spring or river, John ensured that the water would be clean. Scripture nowhere intimates that the depth of the water is at issue.
Jay Adams offers the following insights...
(Jay E. Adams, The Meaning and Mode of Baptism, (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philippsburg, NJ) p.13.)
Aenon, being the plural of fountain, or spring, probably took its name from the many springs or fountains there. And this agrees with the Greek hudata polla; many waters, many springs or fountains, instead of much water in one body.Christy writes,
Unfortunately for those who are accustomed to find here proof of immersion, these springs trickling through marshy meadow land on their way to the Jordan, as they do to this day, offer little or no facilities for immersion.To think that John would leave the Jordan river (the largest source of water supply in Palestine) for any other area in order to find more water is, upon reflection, unthinkable. ...
Argument 2. John baptized "in the Jordan." He wouldn't need to get in the river just to sprinkle his converts. If John baptized by sprinkling, why would he even need a river?
Matthew 3:6 – and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.The Greek word translated "in" is en, which can variously be translated "in", "with", "by" or "at", depending upon the case of the object and the context in which it is found. Certainly, "baptized at the Jordan River" is a reasonable and legitimate translation of the phrase, designating location.
Mark 1:5 – And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
Mark 1:9 – In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Dana and Mantey (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, (Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1957), §112), write, concerning en…
Resultant meanings: (1) with the locative case; in, on, at, within, among. Mt. 2:5, en Bhqleem, in Bethlehem; Acts 1:17, en umin,among us. With the locative case it is used mostly with words of place, but it also occurs with words of time (cf. Acts 1:15).Since the Jordan River is a place, and the locative (i.e. dative) case is used, then "at" is an appropriate translation of the word en. One could also perhaps argue for the instrumental case: "baptized with the Jordan River", i.e. with water drawn from the river. This would also fit the use of the case of the noun and the preposition used. Either way, the reference to the Jordan affords no evidence for immersionism.
Mark 1:9 would appear to be an exception, however, for this is the sole passage which would, on the surface, seem to support the Immersionist position, since eiV is used here with Jordan in the accusative case. Mark himself is inconsistent in this, for, in verse 5, he uses en with Jordan in the dative case.
However, this seeming inconsistency disappears upon closer examination of the passage. Mark's statement contains two verbs, and the phrase "into (unto) the Jordan" describes the location to which Jesus "came", and at which John baptized Him.
It is important to understand that the significance of the preposition eiV (eis - into or unto) depends on the verb with which it appears. When used with baptizw (baptizo - baptize), it refers to the substance or condition that the person enters into by baptism. When used with ercomai (erchomai - come), it refers to the place to which the person comes. With verbs of movement, such as "come", "go", "arrive", etc., the phrase "unto the Jordan", or even "unto the water" would not require entering the water, but only going to the place where the water was.
Mark 1:9 is parallel to Matthew 3:13 ...
Matthew 3:13 - Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him.Both passages describe the "coming" or "arrival" of Jesus from Galilee "unto"or "at" the Jordan, the location of the baptism. Obviously, if "unto the Jordan" designates our Lord's destination, then it does not also necessarily describe the medium into which He was baptized. The statement by Mark tells us where the baptism occurred, but not how it was performed. This particular passage is consistent with either immersion, sprinkling or pouring as a mode.
In the New Testament, "Jordan" normally (I would claim universally) designates locality rather than a substance. The following passages are representative...
Matthew 3:5 - Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan;As for baptizing in a river… while it is true that so much water is not needed for sprinkling, nevertheless it would serve the purpose for sprinkling. There is no reason why an aspersionist would avoid a river, just because it contains more water than is needed. We should remember that the purity of the water was considered important… still or stagnant water was not acceptable. Running water was considered ceremonially clean (Leviticus 14:5-6; 50-52; 15:13), and so the water of the Jordan River would be used for its ceremonial purity.
Matthew 3:6 - and they were being baptized by him in (at) the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.
Matthew 4:15 - "THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES—
Luke 4:1 - Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness
John 1:28 - These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Moreover, it appears that John was baptizing many people and did not have an assistant to fetch water for him. By standing in or beside the river, John had a ready supply of water, and did not have to interrupt his minsitry by frequent trips to the water source.
This underscores the difference between John's ministry and that of the apostles. John stayed for long periods in one place to perform his baptism, and this may appear to some to justify immersionism, since immersionism requires a sufficiently deep body or vessel of water, which would limit one's mobility. But the apostles baptized as well, and their obvious mobility demonstrates that the mode of baptism does not depend upon finding a sufficiently deep body of water.
Argument 3. The Ethiopian eunuch went down "into the water" and came up "out of the water."
Acts 8:38-39 – And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.Those who base their understanding of baptism upon Acts 8:38-39 have a problem… for both Philip and the eunuch went "down into the water" and both "came up out of the water." Did Philip need to get baptized with the eunuch? What proves too much proves nothing.
Matthew 3:16 – After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,
The phrase "into the water" does not modify "baptized", but "went". The statement "they both went down into [unto] the water" means only that they went down the bank of the stream unto the water. Water, of course, is found in low places, and so one must "go down" to get to it. Once the baptism was complete, the two men came up away from the water, signifying that, to depart from the water, they needed to climb up the bank of the stream.
Even if we were to grant that they both stood in the water, it still wouldn't prove whether Philip dipped or sprinkled the eunuch. There is no evidence that they got more than their feet wet, nor that the water at that place was even deep enough to perform an immersion.
In a such a dry country, it is unlikely that the travelers would have come upon a creek which was deep enough to dip the eunuch; but if it had any water at all, sprinkling would not have been a problem.
Matthew 3:16 likewise does not imply that Jesus was under the water, since the "coming up" may refer simply to His climbing up the bank of the Jordan River, from having stood in or near the water.
Argument 4. We have, through baptism, been "buried with Christ" and "raised with Christ."
Romans 6:4 – Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.The Baptist takes these passages to mean that water baptism is a picture of the believer being buried with Christ by going down into the water, and raised with Christ by coming up out of the water. However, nothing is said in either of these passages about water baptism being a picture of anything, nor of going down into water, nor of coming up out of water.
Colossians 2:12 – having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
In fact, water is not mentioned at all in these two passages, and it is therefore questionable whether water baptism is even in view. These passages do not speak of what is merely symbolized by water baptism, but of what is accomplished by baptism… that is, by the inward work which the outward act celebrates. Both passages, in speaking of our being raised with Christ, declare things which the water ritual does not and cannot accomplish. In Romans 6:4, the result of our being raised with Christ is that we might walk in newness of life. Who would dare claim that water baptism can empower us to walk in newness of life?
Likewise, Colossians 2:12 says that we were raised up with Him through faith in the working of God. The MKJV translates it: "through the faith of the working of God." Most likely, this is speaking of God's faithfulness and power, and thus of regeneration. But even if it refers to our faith, this is still wrought by God, and in neither case is baptism instrumental in bringing about the stated result. Water baptism can neither regenerate us nor give us faith.
Both passages are saying that, because we have actually (by the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration) been immersed into Christ (which is to say united with Christ), we are therefore partakers of His death and resurrection. When He died at Calvary, we died with Him—in a positional sense, so that God's just wrath against us was poured out upon Him instead. Likewise, when He was raised from the dead, we were raised with Him—His resurrection displayed the fact that He had fully paid the penalty for our sins, and that the Father was fully satisfied with the payment made. But our union with Christ goes even beyond the positional to the practical, being made practical in our lives by the regenerating, sanctifying ministry of the Holy Spirit, who grants to us repentance and faith, causing us to turn away from sin and to seek to live for God's glory.
The burial spoken of here is, positionally, our burial with Christ in His tomb. But, practically, it refers to the Holy Spirit's work of mortifying our flesh. The resurrection implied in these passages is not some emergence from a "watery grave," but the new life of faith and righteousness, which is here compared to our Lord's resurrection from the dead.
So it is not baptism itself which is a picture of burial and resurrection. Rather, it is the changed life which accompanies baptism that resembles Christ's death, burial and resurrection. The statements employed in these passages do not speak of mere pictures or illustrations, but of the mighty work of God justifying and regenerating us.
Since these passages make no claim that water baptism is a picture of death and resurrection, we cannot infer from them a particular mode of baptism. Sprinkling fits the passages every bit as well as dipping does.
It should be noted that, while the Baptist can produce two passages in which baptism is spoken of as a burial, there are, in contrast, no less than six passages that clearly link John's practice of water baptism with our Lord's work of baptizing with the Holy Spirit...
Matthew 3:11 - As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.Notice also that water is explicitly mentioned in each of these passages, whereas it is not mentioned at all in the two immersionist passages. This underscores the point that the "burial" passages are not speaking of water baptism at all, but of our union with Christ, and that it is the outpouring of the Spirit that is symbolized in true Biblical baptism.
Mark 1:8 - I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:16 - John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
John 1:33 - I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'
Acts 1:5 - for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
Acts 11:16 - And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
Is baptism intended for believers only, or is it for the household of the believer as well? Is baptism under the New Covenant analogous to circumcision under the Old Covenant? In the Old Testament, a newborn son was to be circumcised when he was eight days old (Genesis 17:12). Does this justify the baptism of babies today?
Several points should be noted…
1. The earthly promises to Abraham were to his physical offspring, and circumcision pertained to the heirs of these promises. Thus, circumcision of the physical offspring was appropriate. Salvation, on the other hand, is promised to Abraham's spiritual offspring… those who evidence the faith of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9). Baptism celebrates this spiritual relationship, and it is the new birth, not the fleshly birth, that is to be acknowledged by baptism. Baptism is thus appropriate for spiritual newborns, just as circumcision was appropriate for newborns according to the flesh.
2. Baptism and circumcision continued concurrently in the New Testament. The Jerusalem council concluded in Acts 15:19-21 that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised. That the issue was raised at all implies that the Jewish believers were continuing to circumcise their children. This is confirmed in Acts 21:20-22, where the Jewish believers expressed their concern about Paul, for they had received reports that he was teaching the Jews of the dispersion "not to circumcise their children." We know that baptism was practiced throughout the book of Acts, yet it is clear that circumcision was also being practiced by the Jewish Christians at least as late as Acts 21. Moreover, Paul did nothing in Acts 21 to dissuade them from this practice. It is thus clear that baptism was not regarded by the early Christians to have taken the place of circumcision.
3. When Paul argues against the practice of circumcision, he does not give paedobaptist arguments, saying that circumcision is fulfilled in baptism. Rather, he asserts that circumcision is fulfilled in the new heart (Galatians 5:1-6; 6:15; Colossians 2:11).
4. Every baptism in Scripture that identifies the recipients was a baptism of believers only. The few passages that say that "households" were baptized never specifically state that any infant children or unbelievers were baptized.
Acts 16:15 – And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.Notice that Acts 18:8 says that Crispus "believed in the Lord with all his household." Thus, this particular household baptism was, in fact, a baptism of believers only.
Acts 16:33 – And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
Acts 18:8 – Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.
1Corinthians 1:16 – Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
Likewise, Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer:
Acts 16:31 – … "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."Assuredly, they did not mean that the jailer's household would be saved on the basis of the jailer's faith alone. Rather, the promise that those who believe in the Lord Jesus will be saved was given, not only to the jailer, but to all the members of his household. Likewise, when verse 33 says that his household was baptized, we are to understand that they were not baptized on the basis of the jailer's faith, but in recognition that each one who was baptized had believed and was saved. Thus, this "household baptism" was also a baptism of believers only.
The other two passages (Acts 16:15 and 1 Corinthians 1:16) do not say whether all the members of the household believed or not. However, the precedent set by Acts 16:33 and 18:8, and the practice of the apostles elsewhere in the book of Acts of baptizing those who believe, as well as their message (e.g. Acts 2:38 – "Repent and be baptized"), consistently teach that believers only were baptized. Those who would argue otherwise need better proof than the four "household baptism" passages and an imagined parallelism between baptism and circumcision.
5. It is commonly argued that some of these households that were baptized "surely contained babies or small children." Perhaps they did, but without explicit Scripture saying so, it is a very feeble foundation upon which to base a doctrine.
Suppose we apply this reasoning to Acts 18:8 which says that Crispus "believed in the Lord with all his household." Shall we assume that Crispus' infant children believed in the Lord? If Crispus did have infant children, then it is understood from other clear passages and from sound logic that the expression "all his household" refers only to the eligible members of the household, which would exclude infant children, when asserting that they believed in the Lord.
In the same manner, there is no reason to suppose that the mere use of the term household in the other passages above proves that the infant members of the households were baptized. To say that an entire household was baptized would not necessarily imply that the infants were baptized, if it is understood that only believers are appropriate candidates for baptism.
If this is true, then these passages of Scripture assert something most wonderful… namely, that God sovereignly willed that all the members of these households should believe and be saved. This is much more to be desired than simply to have spouses, children and servants accepted into the "covenant community" from which they may in later years fall away, having never been actually regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
6. The baptism of females violates the alleged symmetry between baptism and circumcision, since only males were circumcised in Scripture. It is arbitrary and inconsistent to appeal to circumcision as a justification for baptizing infants, and then to reject circumcision's requirement that it be applied only to male infants.
7. If the baptism of the children of believers is supposed to constitute these children as members of the church, then why is it that the communion table is denied to them? If the bread and the wine of communion is supposed to replace the Passover meal, then why is it denied to the children of the church? Did not the Jewish children participate in the Passover meal? When it comes to the ordinance of communion, the paedobaptist reasons like an advocate of believer's baptism. Why this inconsistency between his practice of communion and his practice of baptism?
The paedobaptist commonly regards baptism (like circumcision) as the initial ordinance that symbolically places us under God's covenant, and regards communion (like Passover) as the preserving ordinance that serves as a periodic reminder of God's perpetual covenant mercies to us. To deny the preserving ordinance to those who have received the initial ordinance is to divide the covenant. I believe this confusion is due, in part at least, to a failure to fully acknowledge the profound distinctions between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant was a national covenant with the people of Israel, made with those who were physically born into the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The New Covenant is a covenant of spiritual salvation, that belongs to those who have been born from above by God's Holy Spirit. It is because of this contrast between the covenants that communion is denied to our unsaved children. If, in baptism, we would likewise acknowledge the spiritual, salvific nature of the New Covenant, then we would baptize only those who have been born again.
8. Circumcision left a lasting physical mark, so that one would know himself to be circumcised many years later, regardless of whether he could remember becoming circumcised. Water baptism, on the other hand, leaves at most only a memory. One who was baptized in infancy has no memory of the event. He must trust external evidences, such as the word of his parents or other witnesses, and perhaps a written record, recorded in a family Bible, or at church, as evidence that he was baptized. Unless he can remember being baptized, he carries no first-hand evidence of having been ritually baptized.
Scripturally, the lasting imprint of water baptism is to be the changed life, wrought by the Holy Spirit. Campbellites are mistaken in supposing that water baptism brings about this changed life, but it is nevertheless true that water baptism ought to occur very soon after one's conversion, celebrating this great work of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, baptism leaves a lasting spiritual mark on the believer.
But when baptism is applied to unbelieving
members and infants, there is no corresponding mark that accompanies
baptized individual. If baptism is to follow the example of
there ought to be lasting evidence, and the baptism of believers
fits this pattern far better than paedobaptism does.
In Scripture, a person was baptized immediately upon making a credible, public confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism is thus intended to be a symbol or memorial of one's conversion, and serves as a public recognition and confirmation by other Christians that they now regard this individual as a fellow brother in Christ.
Water baptism is a picture of cleansing.It celebrates in a physical way the twofold cleansing of salvation: (1) the removal of our guilt by the blood of Christ, and (2) the cleansing of the heart by the Holy Spirit.
First of all, therefore, water baptism symbolizes cleansing from sin.
Acts 22:16 – "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name."Thus, to be baptized is to make a public confession of guilt and sin…
Acts 2:38 – Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 3:6 – and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.This is why John the Baptist was reluctant to baptize Jesus, who was sinless…
Matthew 3:13-15 – Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him.By submitting to baptism, Jesus confessed to having sin and guilt… not His own sin, but the imputed guilt of His elect people, for whom He would die.
This also explains why the Pharisees who refused baptism were regarded as unsaved…
Luke 7:29-30 – When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.They refused to be baptized because baptism represents a confession of sin and a need for cleansing, but they were self-righteous and did not consider themselves to be sinners who needed a Savior.
The presence of
the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, water baptism represents the Holy Spirit's coming upon the individual. Consider what happened at Jesus' baptism,
Matthew 3:16-17 – After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."Likewise, consider that, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers at Pentecost, it fulfilled John's prediction that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit…
Acts 1:4-5 – Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."So water baptism serves as a symbol of the Holy Spirit's coming upon and within an individual to empower Him to love, trust and serve God.
Thirdly, water baptism serves to identify us with Jesus Christ. The word "baptize" is used this way with respect to the Israelites and Moses…
1 Corinthians 10:1-2 – For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;It was the Egyptians, not the Israelites, who were immersed into the sea. The Israelites were baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and the sea. Recall that the cloud stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians, separating the two…
Exodus 14:19-20 – The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.Likewise, the sea forever separated the Israelites from the Egyptians after the Israelites passed safely through the sea and the Egyptians who tried to follow them were drowned when the water returned and covered the Egyptians.
Thus, a key thought in this use of "baptize" is that there is no turning back. Once joined to Moses in this way, the Israelites were committed, and could not return the way they came. In some cultures, water baptism serves as a social identification with Christ… once a person has been baptized, he is ostracized by his unsaved family, former friends and just about everyone else.
Baptism celebrates our coming to Christ, and, if our faith is genuinely wrought by God, we can never fall away and be lost. Thus, baptism symbolizes not only our commitment to Christ, but also His to us. Truly, we have been joined to Him by the faith which issues forth from the Holy Spirit within us, and water baptism celebrates this spiritual reality.
with the people of God.
Just as we individually are baptized unto Christ, so we, by being united to Christ, are united to one another. Water baptism is done by a believer in Jesus Christ to a new believer in Jesus Christ. It is an act of recognition and acceptance, outwardly echoing the inward work which has already been done by the Holy Spirit.
It is the Spirit's work which makes us members of Christ's body, the church…
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 – For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.Likewise, water baptism is the church's way of acknowledging this work of the Spirit.
We should be careful not to confuse this use of baptism with the practice of certain Baptists who deny church membership to unbaptized believers. Scripture never teaches that church membership should be granted or denied on the basis of water baptism. Nor does Scripture teach us to distinguish unbaptized believers from baptized believers and to treat unbaptized believers as spiritual lepers. Scripture never teaches that we are baptized into a local church. Baptism is unto Christ, and not unto a particular local church.
Once a believer has been baptized unto Christ, he or she should never be baptized again. To be rebaptized is to deny the validity of the first baptism, which in turn is to deny the reality of our salvation (since that is what baptism represents). Once an individual has been baptized unto Christ, then any subsequent baptism is unto something else, and that is idolatry!
There is a
correct Scriptural mode (i.e
sprinkling, not dipping) for baptism. But this does not mean that it is
right to require a believer to be rebaptized
the mode, or even the understanding of the original baptism was
Baptists do a disservice to Christ, for example, when they require a
to be rebaptized just because he was baptized in a Campbellite church.
According to Scripture, an individual was to be baptized immediately after having confessed faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:36; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15, 33) and this appears to be the universal pattern in the book of Acts. Except for one of the men who was crucified with Jesus (Acts 23:39-43), we have no Biblical example of a believer who was not baptized. Yet, through the centuries, due mainly to the confusion surrounding baptism, there have been many believers who were either not baptized at all, or were baptized as infants, or else received an incorrect form of baptism when they believed.
In any case, they were not properly baptized on the occasion of their confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. How are we to think of such brothers in Christ? Must they be baptized or rebaptized after having known and served the Lord for many years?
Many Baptist churches will not accept a believer as a church member if he has not been baptized a particular way. This implies that such a believer is a second-class believer. He is treated as though he is incomplete, and that water baptism would make him complete. Yet, Scripture declares that we are already complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10). It seems idolatrous to imply that the water ritual can make us complete in some sense that the work of our Lord left us incomplete.
Often, this view of baptism is motivated by the idea that, since our Lord commanded us to be baptized, a believer is disobedient if he does not submit to water baptism. This, indeed, would be true if, the person, when he had first heard the gospel and was told to "believe and be baptized," replied "I believe, but I refuse to be baptized" (Luke 7:30). In such a case, we should seriously question the authenticity of his faith. In Scripture, the command to be baptized is always coupled with the command to believe and repent.
But what if the individual was told to believe and repent, but was not also at that time told that he must be baptized? Suppose he did exhibit true faith and repentance and that many years elapsed before someone confronted him, saying "You need to be baptized… Christ commanded it!" Does our Lord's command to be baptized make any sense apart from the command to repent and believe? Is there any purpose to a water baptism that is separated by many years from one's conversion?
I maintain that water baptism, when separated by a significant amount of time (say, more than a few days) from a believer's initial profession of faith, is quite meaningless and useless. Water baptism is to be an outward symbol of the inward change wrought by the Holy Spirit. It is to be acted out in the same time frame in which that inward change occurs. It serves as a reminder to the individual baptized, and as a declaration to any onlookers, that the inward change has occurred. It is, in effect, a reinforcement of the verbal confession itself.
When we insist that a believer be baptized years after his conversion, on the ground that "Christ commanded it," we make water baptism a legal ordinance. This is little different from the Judaizers' insistence that, to be perfect, a Christian needed to be circumcised (Acts 15:5; Galatians 2:3-5; 5:1-12).
To require a believer to be baptized is to require either (1) that he be in full doctrinal agreement on the subject of water baptism, or else (2) that he violate his own convictions on the matter.
When we make this requirement at the "front door" of the church, we have, in effect, a one-plank doctrinal confession barring from membership any who do not fully subscribe to this particular doctrine. In doing this, we make our view of baptism a fundamental doctrine, on par with the attributes of God, the inspiration of the Bible, or the substitutionary, redemptive work of Christ. We are, in essence, treating as unbelievers those who are not in full agreement with us on baptism.
It is remarkable that Calvinistic Baptists will often allow total Arminians into their churches (sometimes even into positions of teaching or leadership!), but will exclude from membership brothers who agree on every point of doctrine except the mode of baptism. This surely reveals a misguided zeal for a ritual ordinance.
submit to the Holy Spirit's testimony?
When there is abundant evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in an individual's life over many years, we should accept the Holy Spirit's testimony over and above any legalistic ritual requirement. Notice that the apostles themselves, having grown up with the belief that salvation belonged to Jews alone, yielded these beliefs when faced with clear evidence that the Holy Spirit had brought salvation to Gentiles also…
Acts 10:44-47 – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"So we in like manner should not use baptism as a barrier to exclude believers who show the manifest work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives. To do so is to strive against God!
Acts 11:15-18 – "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' "Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."
Paul's view of
It is clear that the apostle Paul did not have such a high view of water baptism, for he did not keep careful records of who he baptized, and was even willing to say that he was thankful he had baptized so few of the Corinthian saints, since they were making baptism a cause for division among the brethren.
1 Corinthians 1:13-17 – Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.Intended for unity, not division.
Ephesians 4:2-6 – with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.It would seem that many Baptists regard Christ's command to be baptized as more important than His command to love the brothers (John 13:34) and to preserve the unity of His body. I would never advocate unity with those who reject the inspiration of Scripture or the blood atonement of Christ. But it would seem that great harm is done by accepting Arminians who are willing to be dipped while rejecting Calvinists who cannot, in good conscience, agree that dipping is taught in Scripture.
When we exclude a brother from fellowship because we find fault with his baptism, do we not fall under the condemnation of Paul's statement concerning how we should act toward the weaker brother?
Romans 14:4 – Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.Much mischief has been done over the years by an unbridled zeal for a particular view of baptism. Perhaps no single factor has been more responsible for splintering Christ's church over the past 300 years. The Christian is to be known more for his love and acceptance of other true believers than for his faithfulness to a particular view of water baptism!
If an unbaptized believer wishes
to be baptized
years after his profession of faith, then there is nothing wrong with
him. However, it is a serious breach of Christian liberty to force
baptism upon a brother in Christ, or to treat him as a second-class
just because he has not been baptized, or because we do not approve of
some aspect of the baptism he received.
There are some who believe that water baptism is no longer valid for the present Church age. They make a distinction between people who were saved prior to Paul's ministry, and those who have been saved since Paul began his ministry. The former are understood to have an inheritance in Christ's eternal earthly kingdom, whereas the present-day Church is understood to have a separate and distinct heavenly inheritance.
The main problem with such a view is that it is not based upon a clear statement of Scripture which says that there are two bodies of believers with two distinct hopes. Rather, when Paul explains the phenomenon of present-day Gentile salvation, he describes it as Gentiles being grafted into the "cultivated olive tree," by which he means Israel (Romans 11:13-24). Similarly, he addresses Gentile believers as having been at one time "separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12). But now, says the apostle, we who were once "far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." So then, the most natural way to understand the present-day church is to view it as Gentiles brought into the fold of spiritual Israel.
This should not be understood as meaning that ethnic Israel has no future, for God has given eternal promises to them that they will inherit the land of Canaan (Genesis 13:14-17; 17:7-8; etc.). But we need to recognize that these promises belong only to those who are Jews in both the ethnic and spiritual sense. Saved Gentiles are "Jews" in the spiritual sense only, and consequently are not partakers of the promise of the land. However, it is evident that Gentiles will inherit other lands in the eternal kingdom, and will be blessed with great wealth and privilege (Revelation 21:24-26; Isaiah 60:9-14). Saved Jews and saved Gentiles will live together in Christ's eternal kingdom, but, just as today, each will have their respective homelands.
These topics are developed in greater detail in my treatise on The Kingdom of God.
The "no-baptism" view hinges on the belief that the present-day church began with the ministry of the apostle Paul, and that he was given a different commission from that of the twelve apostles… one which did not include water baptism.
The principal arguments given for this view include the following…
Argument 1. Ephesians 4:5 says that there is but one baptism for the present age, and so it must be the Holy Spirit's regenerating work in our hearts and lives which 1 Corinthians 12:13 calls a "baptism."
This argument stands only so long as "ritual baptism" (i.e. water baptism) and "real baptism" (i.e. regeneration and identification with Christ) are thought of as separate and disjoint baptisms. However, like many other doctrines of Scripture, there is good reason to view them as a unit.
The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that, although God exists as three persons, yet these three persons are the one God. We know that Jesus Christ has two natures… that He is genuinely human and also genuinely Deity… yet, He is just one person. Christ's church has both visible and invisible aspects, yet it is but one church. So it is with baptism… the outward form of ritual baptism is but a visible symbol of the inward work performed by the Spirit. To say that there is but one baptism does not mean that we must reject either the spiritual or the ritual aspects of baptism, since they ought to be viewed as a harmonious unit.
This does not, of course, require that we view them as occurring simultaneously, nor that we view ritual baptism as a prerequisite for real baptism. The error of baptismal regeneration has been taught by the Roman Catholic Church, by Campbellites, and by others, but it fails to recognize the proper connection between real and ritual baptism. Ritual baptism is nothing more than a human acknowledgment of the evident work of God in an individual's heart and life. An individual can be saved without ritual baptism, whereas real baptism, wrought by God in the heart of an individual, results in salvation.
Argument 2. In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul declares "… Christ did not send me to baptize…". This proves that he was not laboring under Peter's commission, since Christ explicitly told Peter: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19).
This argument often sounds quite convincing to those who accept the idea that God began the present dispensation with the apostle Paul. Sometimes, the argument is made even stronger by asserting that, in the Greek, Paul states: "Christ sent me not to baptize…" as if "not baptizing" was explicit in Christ's commission to Paul. If this conclusion is true, then it seems that Paul disobeyed the commission he had been given, since he does name certain ones he baptized (vss. 14, 16), and since Acts records several baptisms performed by Paul (Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8).
This objection is always answered by saying that God revealed His plan for the church gradually to Paul, a little at a time, and that Paul practiced baptism in his early ministry because it belonged to the economy under which he was saved and from which he emerged. However, Paul received his commission when he first trusted in Christ and again early in his ministry (Acts 9:15-16; 22:14-21). There is no record anywhere of a commission to Paul where he was explicitly told not to baptize, nor any where he was told that baptism was to be phased out.
Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 1:17 is part of a larger context in which he rebukes the Corinthians for their sectarian spirit and their abuse of baptism (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Paul's purpose in this passage is to assert a proper sense of priorities… water baptism is not as important as unity among the brothers. Paul's great purpose was to preach Christ to the lost, and not merely to soak believers with the waters of baptism. That is how he could say "…Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…." This is mild hyperbole to assert the surpassing greatness of the gospel, and the relative insignificance of the water ritual.
We should recall that God is more concerned with loving obedience than with the mere observance of outward ritual…
1 Samuel 15:22 – Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.Baptism was meant to be a blessing and a help to Christians, but when it is used to divide Christ's church it becomes an instrument of wickedness. It is only when we regain our sense of priorities—making salvation and Christian maturity our primary goals in Christian ministry, and seeking unity and toleration among true believers—that baptism is restored to its proper role of comforting and edifying the saints.
Psalm 51:16-17 – For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Argument 3. In Galatians 2:9, Peter, James and John agreed to go only to the circumcision, even though our Lord had previously commissioned them to "…make disciples of all the nations…." This demonstrates that their commission (along with the water baptism it commanded) has been temporarily set aside for the duration of the present "church age" (and will be reinstated after the rapture of the church).
The fallacy with this argument is the assumption that the "Great Commission" given to the eleven in Matthew 28:19 and elsewhere was an individual commission rather than a corporate commission. If this commission was intended merely for the original apostles, then they certainly abandoned their commission by agreeing to minister only to the circumcision.
On the other hand, if their commission applies to the entire church of which they were foundational (Ephesians 2:20), then it is not necessary that the Gentile evangelism mandated by the commission be carried out by the original apostles themselves, for Christ's church has many members with a diversity of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11-12).
Indeed, they seemed to have recognized that God raised up Paul for this very purpose (Galatians 2:9), and Paul refers to himself, not as the apostle of some new church which was to be separate from that of the twelve, but as "a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles" (Romans 15:8) and "a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" (1 Timothy 2:7).
What differences are evident between the ministries and teaching of Paul and the twelve is best explained by the fact that Paul ministered primarily to Gentiles and that the Gentiles were not expected to try and keep the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1,5,8-11,19-20). On the other hand it was considered proper that the Jewish believers, at least for a time, should keep these ordinances (Acts 21:20-21). It is surely significant that Paul himself, when visiting the Jerusalem church, was very careful to observe the Jewish ceremonial law (Acts 21:23-26). This would seem to underscore the unity and consistency of what Paul and Peter believed and taught.
Argument 4. In the first chapter of Galatians, Paul uses the expression "not…, nor…, but…" three times (vss. 1,11-12,16-17) to emphasize that his apostleship, message and training did not come from the twelve but from Christ Himself. In this way Paul separates himself from the twelve to assert that God had raised him up uniquely to start a new church, whose members have a glorious inheritance in the highest heavens and where there is no advantage to being either Jew or Gentile.
What Paul emphasizes in these verses is that he received his apostleship, his gospel message and his gospel training directly from Christ, and not indirectly through the twelve. While Paul, in one place, speaks of himself as the least of the apostles…
1 Corinthians 15:9 – For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.Yet, in another place, he speaks of himself as having the same stature as the most eminent apostles…
2 Corinthians 11:5 – For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.Because of Paul's unique position as the apostle of the Gentiles, and as their advocate for Christian liberty in Christ (Acts 15:2; Galatians 2:11), it was important that he should be able to claim equal prominence with the twelve. This he could not do if he received his apostleship, message or training from them. Gentile freedom from Moses was such a radical concept that it needed to be communicated directly by Christ, and not filtered through the original apostles who ministered over the circumcision church at Jerusalem, which maintained many of the Jewish customs.
Paul was the perfect vessel for this task, for he had received excellent rabbinical training from Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), yet had been shown the poverty of all his Jewish privileges when the Lord Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6; Philippians 3:4-8). He therefore had all the preparation needed to argue the finer points of Scripture and Jewish law with the most learned Jews, but he also recognized that his Judaistic zeal had led him away from the Messiah rather than to Him. He could therefore relate well to the Gentiles, for Paul knew himself to be as great a sinner as any Gentile, having persecuted the church (1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:12-13), and he knew well the grace of our Lord, in saving the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
Argument 5. Hebrews 9:10 says that baptisms belonged to the Jewish Law, and other passages teach that the present-day church is no longer under the Jewish ceremonial law (e.g. Galatians 5:2-4; Acts 15:5, 28-29).
It is true that the Mosaic Law had many baptisms. However, the baptism administered by John the Baptist and by our Lord's disciples, while similar in mode and meaning to the Mosaic baptisms, is nevertheless a New Covenant ordinance. This is brought out in Ezekiel's statement of the New Covenant…
Ezekiel 36:25-27 – "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.If we would recognize John's water baptism and our Lord's Spirit baptism as the fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy, it would solve many of the problems raised concerning the mode and purpose of water baptism (see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 2:38; 10:47; 11:16).
Argument 6. The New Testament speaks of two "Spirit baptisms," which are differentiated by (1) the Baptizer, and (2) the "substance" of the baptism. The baptism of Pentecost was performed by the Lord Jesus, and baptized believers into the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13, however, describes a baptism performed by the Holy Spirit, which baptizes us into the body of Christ. This demonstrates that believers today are not heirs of the baptism of Pentecost (with its accompanying water baptism), but of a spiritual baptism that identifies us with the Lord Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection, and makes us members of the present-day church, the "Body of Christ".
This argument is perhaps the weakest of all, since it disregards the underlying grammar of the original Greek. Scripture nowhere says that believers are baptized "into the Holy Spirit". Whenever Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit with regard to baptism, it always uses the dative case, signifying instrumentality. This fact is just as true of 1 Corinthians 12:13 as it is of the various passages which speak of the Spirit-baptism of Pentecost...
1 Corinthians 12:13 - For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.It is commonly assumed, because 1 Corinthians 12:13 is in the passive voice, that the phrase "by one Spirit" denotes the person who performs the action of the verb. Indeed, in the English Bibles, this sounds very plausible. However, when the Greek language designates a personal agent performing the action, it always uses the genitive case, with either the preposition `upo (hupo) or the preposition dia (dia). It is only when the agent is impersonal that the instrumental (dative) case is used (with or without the preposition en=en).
When it is argued that the Holy Spirit is the Baptizer in 1 Corinthians 12:13, it is always the divine person of the Holy Spirit who is meant. However, because pneuma (pneuma=Spirit) is in the instrumental case in 1 Corinthians 12:13, this claim is proven false. If "Spirit" is the baptizer in 1 Corinthians 12:13, then the grammar demands that "Spirit" is not a person. The correct interpretation of the verse is that "Spirit" here, as in Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5 and elsewhere, is the instrument of the baptism, and thus, the Baptizer is the same person as in these other passages—namely, the Lord Jesus Himself.
Mark 1:8 - I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.Dana and Mantey (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, §157) discuss the use of the passive voice, and how the Greek designates the agent who performs the action of the verb...
The Passive Voice
157. The passive voice is that use of the verb which denotes the subject as receiving the action. Its variations in use are determined by the medium through which the subject receives the action. Upon this basis we may construct the following analysis.
(1) The Passive With Direct Agent. When the original agent which produces the action signified in the passive verb is expressed, the regular construction is `upo with the ablative.
kathgoreitai upo twn Ioudaiwn.
He was accused by the Jews. Ac. 22:30.
See also: Mt. 10:22; Rom. 3:21.
Personal may also, though rarely, be expressed by the instrumental case (cf. Lk. 23:15). "Yet this use in Greek is by no means so general that we can assume that it can be substituted indifferently in any case and every case for upo with the Genitive" (Bt. 187). It is only where the personal idea is remote and instrumentality is prominent; as above (Luke 23:15), it is an act of guilt which is contemplated rather than a personal achievement. For use in his Greek composition the student had best adopt the regular construction, upo with the ablative.
(2) The Passive With Intermediate Agent. When the agent is the medium through which the original cause has effected the action expressed by the passive verb, the regular construction is dia with the genitive.
panta oi autou egento.
All things were made through him. Jn. 1:3.
Here God the Father is thought of as the original cause of creation, and the logoV as the intermediate agent. See also: Mt. 1:22; Gal. 3:18.
(3) The Passive With Impersonal Agent. If the agent through which the action of the passive verb is performed is impersonal, it is ordinarily expressed by the instrumental case, independently or with en.
cariti este seswsmenoi.
By grace ye are saved. Eph. 2:8.
See also: Mt. 3:12; Ac. 12:2.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973), Vol. 6, Chap. XI, pp. 139-140.
… A dipping is a momentary contact involving two actions, the putting in and the taking out, while immersing implies but one action, that of putting in. In the strict and proper use of the words, regardless of the all but universal careless way in which they are employed, ritual baptism is never an immersion, which immersion would result in death by drowning. What has commonly been termed an immersion is better described by baptw in the primary meaning of that word. No physical intusposition certainly is in view when the Scriptures speak of a baptism unto repentance (Matt. 3:11), a baptism unto the remission of sins (Mark 1:4), a baptism unto the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19), Christ's own being baptized by drinking the cup of suffering (Matt. 20:23; Luke 12:50), a baptism of Israel unto Moses (1 Cor. 10:2), a baptism wrought by the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit in the believer's heart, that is, the baptism of a believer into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). These baptisms, let it be repeated, represent no physical intusposition and must be classed as belonging to the secondary use of baptizw. Not one could be properly classed as a use of baptw, either in its primary or secondary meaning. They could not be merely a dipping into an element for they all present the estate as permanent. When a believer is by the Spirit baptized into Christ, the thing most to be desired is that he shall never be taken out again. To be baptized unto repentance is to be brought under the influence of repentance—not for a moment, but abidingly; to be baptized unto the name of the triune God is to come under the power of God—not for a moment, but abidingly; to be baptized unto Moses as Israel was by the agency of the cloud and the sea was to be brought under the leadership of Moses, which leadership had not been accorded him before—not for a moment, but abidingly; to be baptized unto Christ's death and resurrection is to become so identified with Him in that death and resurrection that all their values are secured—not for a moment, but eternally. Christ's suffering of anguish was not a momentary dipping down into suffering. That baptism which results from the advent of the Spirit into the heart with His heavenly influences is not for a moment, but endures forever. To be baptized into Christ's Body is to come under the power and Headship of Christ; it is to be joined unto the Lord, to be identified with him, to partake of what He is and what He has done—not for a moment, but unalterably.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973), Vol. 7, pp. 42-43.
In concluding this discussion of ritual baptism it may be stated that all who claim the right of private judgment in the matter of the mode of their baptism should accord the same right to others. There should be latitude enough in any assembly of believers for these variations. The sin—if such there be—of administering this ordinance in an unscriptural way could never compare with the greater sin of exclusion, separation, and the breaking of the outward manifestations of the unity of the Spirit. That believers remain in the unbroken bonds of fellowship and affection is, according to the New Testament, far more important than is the mode of ritual baptism. The world is to be impressed with the love of Christians one for the other (cf. John 13:34-35; 17:21-23). It is needless to point out that separations and contentions over a mode of baptism have little value in the eyes of the unsaved.
John R. W. Stott, Baptism & Fullness (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), pp. 40-41.
Let me enlarge on my point in this way. In every kind of baptism (of water, blood, fire, Spirit, etc.) there are four parts. To begin with, there are the subject and the object, namely the baptizer and the baptized. Thirdly, there is the element with or in (en) which, and fourthly, there is the purpose for (eis) which, the baptism takes place. Take, as an example, the crossing of the Red Sea, which the apostle Paul describes as a kind of baptism (1 Cor. 10:1, 2). Presumably, God himself was the baptizer. Certainly, the escaping Israelites were the baptized. The element in which the baptism was administered was water or spray from the cloud and sea, while its purpose is indicated in the expression 'baptized into Moses', that is, into relationship with him as their God-appointed leader.
In John's baptism, John the Baptist was the subject, while the objects were the people of 'Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan' (Mt. 3:5). The baptism took place in (en) the waters of the River Jordan and was for or unto (eis) repentance (Mt. 3:11) and therefore the remission of sins (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3).
Christian baptism is similar. The minister baptizes the professing believer with or in (en) water. And the baptism is into (eis) the one name of the Trinity (Mt. 28:19), or more precisely into the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 8:16; 19:5), that is, into Christ crucified and risen (Rom. 6:3, 4).
It will be seen from these examples that in every kind of baptism there are not only a subject and an object, but also both an en and an eis, that is, both an element with or in which, and a purpose for which, the baptism is administered. The baptism of the Spirit is no exception. If we put the seven references to this baptism together, we learn that Jesus Christ is the baptizer, as John the Baptist clearly foretold. According to 1 Corinthians 12:13 the baptized are 'we all'. The Holy Spirit is himself the 'element' with, or in (en), which the baptism takes place (if one may so describe the Third Person of the Trinity; the analogy between baptism with water and baptism with the Spirit seems to make it legitimate). And the purpose of this baptism is incorporation 'into (eis) one body', namely the body of Christ, the church.
Charles F. Baker, A Dispensational Theology (Grand Rapids: Grace Bible College Publications, 1972), p. 547.
The inconsistency of equating dipping with immersing should be pointed out. The primary meaning of bapto is to dip and dip means not only to submerge an object in a liquid, but to immediately remove the object. Immerse, on the other hand, means to submerge an object with no thought whatsoever of removing it. The primary idea of baptizo is this latter idea, and it should be evident to baptize a person into water in the primary sense of the word would be to drown the person, and, in fact, that is exactly the frequent usage of the word in classical Greek. Baptism for the so-called Immersionist is really a two-fold work, a burying of the old man and a raising of the new man. To call himself an immersionist is only half the story. He should be called an immerse-emersionist. Nowhere in the Greek can a usage be found where baptizo contains the idea of emersion. It should be evident, therefore, that the Baptist practices dipping: he does not practice immersion. This distinction becomes most important when considering Spirit baptism into Christ. If the Baptist is correct in his claim that baptizo involves a complete submersion and a complete withdrawal, what shall we say of our baptism into Christ? It should be evident that once a person is baptized into Christ he is brought into a permanent relationship from which he will never be removed. Therefore baptism cannot mean a dipping or a putting in and a taking out.
Owen Chadwick, The Reformation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), p. 207.
The English Baptists, like their counterparts in Europe, baptized by the traditional method of affusion. But both on the Continent and in England isolated ministers taught and practised baptism by immersion. Some of the Mennonites in the Netherlands adopted immersion in the early seventeenth century, and in 1641 the English Particular Baptists (as those of a Calvinistic theology came to be known) formally adopted the rite of immersion. It was thenceforward to become characteristic of the Baptist movement. ...
Earl E. Cairnes, Christianity Through the Centuries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), p. 367.
... Because of persecution the Gainsborough group also migrated to Amsterdam in 1606 or 1607 under the leadership of John Smyth (ca. 1570-1612). There they came under the influence of the Mennonites. In 1608 or 1609 Smyth baptized himself, Thomas Helwys and other members of his flock by pouring. Part of his congregation became Mennonites after a long period of negotiation for inclusion in that body.
Thomas Helwys, John Murton and their followers returned to England about 1612 and organized the first English Baptist Church. This group practiced baptism by affusion and held to Arminian doctrines with which they had become familiar during the Arminian dispute in Holland. Because of this they were known as General Baptists. Thus the first English Baptist Church emerged from the Separatist Congregationalist group.
The stronger group of Calvinistic or Particular Baptists originated in a schism from Henry Jacob's congregation in London in 1633. They held to the baptism of believers by immersion and a Calvinistic theology that emphasized a limited atonement. It was this congregation, first led by John Spilsbury, that became the main influence in the English Baptist movement. The antecedents of the American Baptist movement are to be found in this group. ...