What is Scriptural Baptism?
Answered from the Bible
confirmed by scholars who belong to denominations that practice sprinkling.
Maurice A Meredith
1230 Orlando Drive, Coolidge, Arizona 85228
Prepared for the internet by
CHURCH OF CHRIST - BELFAST - NORTHERN IRELAND - BT4 1AQ
WHAT IS SCRIPTURAL BAPTISM?
Maurice A. Merideth
I. THINGS WHICH MUST PRECEDE BAPTISM
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved." (Mark 16. 15-I6).
"How shall they hear without a preacher?'' (Romans 10:14).
"Belief cometh of hearing." (Romans 10:17)
``Hear the word of the Gospel and believe.'' (Acts 15:7).
"He that cometh to God must believe that he is." (Heb. 11:6).
"When they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised.'' (Acts 8:12).
"Except ye repent ye shall all in like manner perish." (Luke 13:3
"Repent ye, and be baptised every one of you" ( Acts 2:38).
"If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt he saved" (Romans 10:9).
"Thou . . . didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses." (I Tim. 6:10)
II. THINGS WHICH OCCUR IN NEW TESTAMENT BAPTISM
A. Arise when praying.
"Arise, and be baptized." (Acts 22:16).
B. Went out of the house.
"And was baptized, he and all his, immediately. And he brought them up into his house" (Acts 16:33).
C. Went to the water.
"They came to a certain water." (Acts 8:36).
D. Much water.
"There was much water there: and they came, and were baptized." (John 3:23).
E. Went into the water.
"Jesus . . . was baptized of John in the Jordan." (Mark 1:9).
"Both went down into the water." (Acts 8:38).
"We were buried therefore with him in baptism" (Romans 6:4).
"Buried with him in baptism" (Col. 2:12).
"Planted together in the likeness of his death" (Romans 6:5).
"Ye were also raised with him." (Col. 2:12).
"Raised to walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4).
I. The body is washed.
"Having our body washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22).
"The washing of water" (Eph. 5:26).
J. Like a birth.
"Born of water" (John 3:5).
"The washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5).
K. Came up out o the water.
"They came up out of the water" (Acts 8:39).
"Coming up out of the water" (Mark 1:10).
III. WHAT THE GREAT REFORMERS SAID.
Martin Luther: ``The name baptism is Greek; in Latin it can be rendered immersion, when we immerse anything in water, that it may be all covered with water. And although that custom has now grown out of use . . . yet they ought to be entirely immersed, and immediately drawn out, For this the etymology of the name seems to demand" (Opera, tom I, p. 72).
Ulrich Zwingle: "When ye were immersed into the water of baptism, ye were ingrafted into the death of Christ; that is the immersion of your body into water was a sign that ye ought to be ingrafted into Christ (Annotations on Romans 6:3).
John Calvin: "The very word baptize, however, signifies to immerse; and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church" (Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol. II. p. 491).
John Wesley: "Buried with him," alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion" (Notes on Romans 6:4.)
IV. THE BEST COMMENTATORS
H. A. W. Meyer (a Lutheran, who is called the ``Greatest of Modern Exegetes''): ` In this case except they bathe themselves is not to be understood of washing the hands but of immersion, which the word in the Classic Greek and in the New Testament everywhere denotes, to take a bath." (Commentary on Mark 7:4).
J. P. Lange a (Lutheran, and the editor of one of the largest and most scholarly commentaries in existence ): "Buried in death, an oxymoron, according to which burial precedes and death follows, as is illustrated in the immersion into the bath of baptism" (Commentary on Romans 6.4).
Wm. Sanday (an Episcopalian who was the leading scholar of Oxford University, being Lady Margaret professor of Divinity; he was also Canon of Christ Church, and chaplain to the King), makes the following observation in his classic commentary: "Baptism has a double function. (I) It brings the Christian into personal contact with Christ, (2) It expresses symbolically a series of acts corresponding to the redeeming acts of Christ.
Immersion = Death
Submersion = Burial ( (ratification of Death.)
Emergence = Resurrection."
"That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment's pause while they swept overhead was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection" (pp. 153, 163; International Critical Commentary).
Conybeare and Howson (Episcopalians) say: ``This passage (Rom 6:4) cannot be understood unless it be borne in mind that the primitive baptism was by immersion." "It must be a subject of regret that the general discontinuance of this original form of baptism (though perhaps necessary in our northern climates ) has rendered obscure to popular apprehension some very important passages of Scripture" (Life and Epistles of Paul; vol II, p. 169; vol. I p. 439).
J. B. Lightfoot (Episcopalian): "Baptism is the grave of the old man, and the birth of the new. As he sinks beneath the baptismal waters, the believer buries there all his corrupt affections and past sins; as he emerges thence, he rises regenerate, quickened to new hopes and a new life" (Commentary on Col. 2:12).
Adam Clarke (Methodist and co-worker of John Wesley): "It is probable that the Apostle here alludes to the mode of administering baptism by immersion, the whole body being put under water" (Commentary on Romans 6:4.)
A. S. Peake, another great British Methodist scholar, writes in "The Expositor's Greek Testament", on Col. 2:12: `The rite of baptism in which the person baptized was first buried beneath the water, and then raised from it, typified to Paul the burial and resurrection of the believer with Christ."
G. C. Findlay is one of the foremost Methodist scholars. In explaining how the Israelites were baptized unto Moses (I Cor. 10:2), he says; "The cloud shading and guiding them from above and the sea making a path for them through its midst and drowning their enemies behind them. were glorious signs to our fathers of God's salvation; together they formed a washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) inaugurating the national covenant life, as it trod the miraculous path between upper and nether waves; Israel was born unto its divine estate." (Expositor's Greek Testament).
Marvin R. Vincent (Presbyterian) in his "Word Studies in the New Testament", says of Romans 6:4: "There is probably an allusion to the immersion of baptism." On Col. 2:12: "The burial and the raising are both typified in baptism."
Karl Barth (Swiss Reformed) is probably one of the most respected religious thinkers of our day. In his "Commentary on Romans", he makes this comment: "Are ye ignorant that we were baptized into his death? To those who are not ignorant the sign of baptism speaks of death. To be baptised means to be immersed, to be sunk in a foreign element, to be covered by a tide of purification. The man who emerges from the water is not the same man who entered it. One man dies and another is born. The baptised person is to be identified with the man who died." (p. 193).
G. Campbell Morgan (Congregationalist): "the first thing I have to say is that there is no question at all that in those (New Testament) days meant immersion. That is not open to question." "It may be said that form matters nothing, that it may be that of sprinkling water upon the person or, in the fashion of the Greek Church, of pouring water upon the person, or that of immersion. If we think we are wiser than the first Christians, I do not object. I affirm, unhesitatingly, that the original word means immersion. I affirm that in order to point out that the symbol that Jesus commanded was a symbol suggesting death into life. In the whelming beneath the waters we have the symbol of death. In the emergence from the waters we have the symbol of life beyond the death, resurrection, life. I say again, whether the form can be changed I will not discuss, I have no quarrel with those who think it may, but I do affirm that, for myself, I prefer to abide by the primitive rite in the old and simple form. Seeing that the Lord did leave with us who bear His name only two simple rites or ceremonies - that of His table and that of baptism - I prefer to follow His command according to the earliest method, even though others may feel justified in changing the form.". (Sermon on Matt. 28:L9 - 20, "The True Order of Missionary Work.")
Philip Schaff (Presbyterian, and president of the American Standard Revision committee) makes this statement on Romans 6:4, in Lange's great "Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical Commentary": "All commentators of note (except Stuart and Hodge) expressly admit or take it for granted that in this verse . . . the ancient prevailing mode of baptism by immersion and emersion is implied, as giving additional force to the idea of the going down of the old and the rising up of the new man" (Commentary on Romans, p 202).
V. DEFINED BY THE BIBLE DICTIONARIES.
Schaff-Herzog's Encyclopedia gives both sides of the argument, but even in J. W. Dale's attempt to defend the paedo-baptist, he admits too much, for in the very beginning, he gives "To dip" as being the primary definition, and "to dye" as secondary. His failure is apparent when he can find nothing in the term that even intimates sprinkling.
Blunt (Episcopalian) in his Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology has this to say on the subject: "The word baptism signifies generally washing . . . it means dipping or bathing . . . as by immersion or washing and not by mere affusion or sprinkling a few drops of water. The primitive mode of baptizing was by immersion, as we learn from the clear testimony of Holy Scripture and of the fathers. That immersion was the ordinary of baptizing in the primitive church is unquestionable. The Eastern Church has never ceased to protest against the mode of baptism of the Latin Church" (pp. 74, 75).
Smith's Bible Dictionary has a lengthy article by Frederick Meyrick (Episcopalian), who says: " `To baptize' was used as synonymous with `to overwhelm;' and accordingly in after-times martyrdom was called a baptism of blood." "Baptism properly and literally means immersion." "The language of the New Testament and of the primitive fathers sufficiently points to immersion as the common mode of baptism." (Unabridged American edition, vol. I. p.237).
Hasting's Bible Dictionary is the one used mostly by scholars today. In it, Dr. Alfred Plummer (Episcopalian), internationally known Bible scholar, says of baptism: "The mode of using it was commonly immersion. The symbolism of the ordinance required this. It was an act of purification; and hence the need of water. A death to sin was expressed by a plunge beneath the water, and a rising again to a life of righteousness by the return of light and air; and hence the appropriateness of immersion." (Vol. I. P.243).
In Hasting's Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, the leading scholar of Scotland and Presbyterianism, Prof. Marcus Dods has this to say of baptism: "The normal mode was by immersion of the whole body may be inferred from the meaning of baptizo, which is the intensive or frequentative form of bapto, `I dip,' and denotes to immerse or submerge. In Polybius, iii. 72, it is used of soldiers wading through a flooded river, `immersed' to their breast . . . The point is that `dip' or immerse' is the primary, `wash' the secondary meaning of bapto and baptizo. The same inference may be drawn from the law laid down regarding the baptism of proselytes: `As soon as he has grown whole of the wound of circumcision, they bring him to baptism, and being placed in the water, they again instruct him in some weightier and in some lighter commands of the Law. Which being heard, he plunges himself and comes up, and behold, he is an Israelite in all things.' (See Lightfoot, l.c). To use Pauline language, his old man is dead and buried in the water, and he rises from this cleansing grave a new man. The full significance of the rite would have been lost had immersion not been practised. Again, it was required in proselyte baptism that every person baptised must dip his whole body now stripped and made naked, at one dipping. And wheresoever in the Law washing of the body or garments is mentioned, it means nothing else than the washing of the whole body.' That immersion was the mode of baptism adopted by John is the natural conclusion from his choosing the neighbourhood of the Jordan as the scene of his labours; and from the statement of John 3:23 that he was baptising in Aenon `because there was much water there." (Vol. I, p. 169)
In Hasting's Dictionary of the Apostolic Church. Bishop A. J. Maclean (Episcopalian) observes: it seems more than probable that the word baptizo to the first disciples, when used of baptism, conveyed the idea of immersion, both because it would be difficult otherwise to explain the metaphor of baptismal burial and resurrection (Romans 6:4, Col. 2:12), and because the Jewish practice in proselyte baptism was to undress the candidate completely, and to immerse him so that every part of his body was touched by the water. (Vol. 1. P. 13l). It might be well to add that no less than eight times in this article on baptism the writer speaks of it and defines it to be immersion. Of infant baptism, the bishop says, "There is no historical account in the New Testament of an infant being baptized" (p.136). In the same dictionary we find Prof. Robert A. Falconer (Episcopalian), president of the University of Toronto, who states: "The sacrament of baptism is, according to Titus 3:5-7, the outward act whereby the Divine salvation is consummated. In this bath of regeneration the world beheld the Church cleansed from its old life of heathenism, and thereafter endued with the quickening Holy Spirit." (ibid, Vol. II, p.589.)
In Hastings greatest work, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, the eminent scholar, Prof. J. V. Bartlett (Episcopalian) says, "Immersion seems to have been the practice of the Apostolic age, in continuity with Jewish proselyte baptism; and it is implied in Paul's language, especially in his figure of baptism as spiritual burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5, Col. 2:12)." (Vol. II, p.378). In speaking of baptism in the early church in the same work, Kirsopp Lake, professor of church history in Harvard University, says: "In Romans 6:3ff the immersion in and the rising out of the water are regarded as a union with the death and resurrection of Christ." (ibid., p.381). As a continuation of the study of baptism in this outstanding encyclopedia, Prof. H. G. Wood (Episcopalian) makes this observation of its history: "Perhaps the only important change in the form of baptism was the general substitution in the West of sprinkling for immersion." (ibid., p.399).
A Theological Word Book of the Bible, is a recent publication, drawn along the lines of a Bible Dictionary. In it, Dr. R. R. Williams (Episcopalian) defines baptize in this manner: "Baptizein, to dip, plunge under water, sink, or swamp." (P.27).
VI. HISTORY SPEAKS ON THE SUBJECT
Bingham's "Antiquities", though written in 1722, is still one of the greatest not only in Episcopalian quarters but by Catholic and Protestant alike. He says: "The ancients thought that immersion, or burying under water, did more likely represent the death and burial and resurrection of Christ as well as our own death unto sin and rising again onto righteousness." (Antiquities, xi, 11).
Foakes-Jackson (Episcopalian) says: baptism was almost invariably by immersion." (Church History, p. 576).
A. P. Stanley, Dean of Westminster, was a scholar of few peers. He describes Apostolic baptism in these words: Baptism was not only a bath but a plunge - an entire submersion in deep water, a leap into the rolling sea or the rushing river, where for a moment the waves close over the bather's head, and he emerges as from a momentary grave. . . . Those who where baptised were plunged, submerged, immersed into the water . . . Baptism by sprinkling was rejected by the whole ancient church except in the case of death-beds or extreme necessity) as no baptism at all'' (Christian Institutions, pp. 9, 21, 22).
Wm. Wall (Episcopalian)) wrote a "History of Infant Baptism" for which the clergy of the lower house, assembled in convocation, passed a vote, "that the thanks of this house be given to Mr. Wall for the learned and excellent book he hath lately written concerning infant baptism.'' In speaking of baptism in the Apostolic church, Mr. Wall says: "Their general and ordinary way was to baptize by immersion, or dipping the person . . . into the water. This is so plain and clear by an infinite number of passages, that, as one cannot but pity the weak endeavours of such Paedo-baptists as would maintain the negative of it; so also we ought to disown and show a dislike of the profane scoffs which some people give to the English anti-paedobaptists merely for their use of dipping . . . it was in all probability the way by which our blessed Saviour, and for certain was the most usual and ordinary way by which the ancient Christians did receive their baptism.'' ( Vol 1, pp. 570, 571.)
Fisher, professor of Church History at Yale says (Beginnings of Christianity): ``Baptism it is now generally admitted among scholars, was commonly by immersion" (p.565). In his "Church History": "the ordinary mode of baptism was by immersion" (p. 41. He also gives many authorities for this statement in a footnote.)
Coleman (Presbyterian) defining the Greek term in his work "Ancient Christianity'' says: "the primary signification of the original is to dip, plunge, immerse; the obvious import of the noun is immersion." (p. 373).
Bennett's "Christian Archaeology'' carries the statement in the publisher's announcement that the theology is "in harmony with the doctrinal standards of the Methodist Episcopal Church." But on page 396, we read "The customary mode was used by the apostles in baptism of the first converts. This was ordinarily by dipping or immersion. This is indicated by not only the general significance of the words used in describing the rite, but the earliest testimony of the documents which have been preserved, gives preference to this mode."
De Pressense (French-Presbyterian) describes the act of baptism in the days of Justin Martyr to be, "immersion and the benediction in the name of the Father, Son. and Spirit, seem to have been the sole rites of baptism at this period. It still retained its primitive character" (Early Days of Christianity, vol. 4, p.24).
Salomon Reinach (French-Modernist) in "Orpheus-A History of Religions." Says: "Baptism is the simulacrum of drowning, after which the baptized person is born to a new life" (p. 42). And again, "The Greek practising total immersion. like the Primitive Church" (p.306).
VII. AN INDICTMENT AGAINST SPRINKLING.
(Based on Sixteen True Charges)
1. All admit that the word "baptize is a Greek word that has never been translated from the original language. It has only been Anglicised.
2. There is no translation, no matter by who made, in which it is ever rendered `sprinkle." "pour" nor any of their equivalents.
3. No scholar maintains that "baptizo" should ever be translated "sprinkle." or "pour."
4. No lexicon of the Greek language defines it to mean "sprinkle." or "pour."
5. There is not a single trace of sprinkling nor pouring for baptism in anything written in the first two Centuries; neither in the Bible nor any other work.
6. There is not a more clearly established fact in history than that immersion was invariably practiced as the initiatory rite during the first two centuries of Christianity.
7. There are no more clearly established facts in all history than that after sprinkling came into use in cases of weakness and sickness, it was not regarded as regular baptism. The subjects were not permitted to hold any office in the church.
8. The change from immersion to sprinkling is admitted by all authorities.
9. Immersion was invariably practiced by all Christians, except in the cases of weakness or illness already alluded to, for the first thirteen centuries.
10. Luther, Calvin, and Wesley admit that immersion was the original practice. The Roman and Greek churches agree to the same.
11. The Greek church, which has always spoken the Greek language from its origin, has always immersed.
12. It makes sense to read "immerse" for baptize" in every instance where it occurs. It does not make sense in many instances to read `sprinkle'' or ``pour.'' Try it.
13. The figurative allusions to baptism. such as "buried in baptism" "born of water," "planted together in the likeness of his death." are admitted by all candid authorities to refer to the original rite of immersion. If sprinkling or pouring was practised these phrases have little or no meaning.
14. Changes from the appointments of God are seldom, if ever, from the easier to the more difficult, but are invariably the more unpleasant to that which is easy and convenient.
15. It is a notorious matter of fact, that but few, if any, who have ever been immersed on a confession of their faith in Christ, ever doubt the validity of their baptism. Those who have been sprinkled frequently doubt the validity of their baptism, nor can they find peace until they are immersed. In fact this has been the experience of thousands.
16. Persons in their last and most solemn moments, and in the immediate expectation of death, have frequently been known to distrust the validity of sprinkling or pouring; but the person is yet unknown who has ever distrusted the validity of immersion, even in such a grave hour.
VIlI. THE PURPOSE OF BAPTISM.
A. Remission of Sins.
"Be baptized, every one of you . . . for the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38).
"Be baptized, and wash away thy sins." (Acts 22:16).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).
"The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us'' (I Pet. 3:21).
C. Results in the New Birth.
"Born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5).
"The washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5)
"Raised to walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:5).
D. Followed by Gift of the Holy Spirit.
"And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38. See 5:32, Gal. 4:6).
E. Into Christ.
"Baptised into Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3).
"Baptised into Christ" (Gal. 3:27).
F. Into the One Body (or church).
"For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body" (I Cor. 12:13.).
"The church. which is his body" (Eph. 1:22).
G. Produces a Good Conscience.
"The answer of a good conscience toward God." (I Pet. 3:21).
H. To Fulfil Righteousness.
"Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15).
I. Clothed in Christ and His Righteousness.
"Did put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).
Maurice A Meredith
1230 Orlando Drive, Coolidge, Arizona 85228
Prepared for the internet by
CHURCH OF CHRIST - BELFAST - NORTHERN IRELAND - BT4 1AQ