Baptism is a positive command. On the authority, subject, action and design, the Scripture is plain. Read and be convinced.
We do not believe baptism is any more important than faith, repentance, or good works. Neither do we believe there is any virtue in the water. But we believe baptism is an act of obedience commanded by Christ in order to receive salvation.
AUTHORITY FOR BAPTISM
Christ walked about sixty miles to be baptized in Jordan. When He went up straightway out of the water, the Spirit fell upon Him and God said: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well - pleased" (Matthew 3:13-17). Christ commanded the apostles to baptize (Matthew 28:18-20). All through the Acts of the Apostles it is shown that wherever men came to Christ they were always baptized (Acts 2:38; 8:12-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15-33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16). Read Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3-5; I Peter 3:21; Colossians 2:12.
SUBJECTS OF BAPTISM
All believers are subjects for baptism. Christ said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). No person is commanded to be baptized unless he is capable of being taught. We are not aware of any account in the Bible of infants ever being baptized. If any person knows of such a passage he is courteously invited to call our attention to it. Study carefully again the conversions recorded in Acts, as given above, and you will see that the person baptized was always capable of receiving gospel truths.
The nature of baptism makes it impossible for it to apply to infants, inasmuch as it is declared in I Peter 3:21 to be the "appeal to God for a good conscience" and the infant has no conscience in the transaction of infant baptism.
Infant baptism was not introduced until over one hundred years after the death of the last apostle. Therefore it is without Scriptural authority.
THE ACTION OF BAPTISM
The meaning of the word should determine this. The Greeks had, and still have, a word for immerse, one for sprinkle and one for pour. Baptizo means to dip or immerse; rantizo means to sprinkle, and cheo means to pour. This is now the meaning of these words in Greek, and was also the meaning when Christ was on earth. Now, if Christ had desired the disciples to go forth and sprinkle, He would have used the word that meant sprinkle; if He had desired them to pour, He would have used cheo, which meant to pour; if He had commanded them to use water, regardless of any special action, He would have used the word hudraino; but He wanted them to practice immersion, therefore He used the word baptizo.
Paul said in Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12 that we are buried with Christ by baptism. Can it be possible that Paul was mistaken in this matter? If baptize means to sprinkle, you can insert the word "sprinkle" in place of "baptize" wherever it is used in the Scriptures, and it will in every case have to make good sense. Try it on Colossians 2:12. It will not work here, because there is no sense in the expression, "buried with Christ in sprinkling." So, as it fails to work in even one case, it must be dropped.
If baptize means to immerse, then we can insert the word "immerse" wherever we find "baptize" and it will not spoil the meaning but make complete sense. Try it on every passage of Scripture in the New Testament relating to baptism and you will find it works everywhere; there is not a single exception.
Let us see what baptism requires and represents in the New Testament. We will then see what immersion and sprinkling require and represent. If we learn that either one requires and represents the same as baptism does, then that must be the meaning of baptize. Be sure to read the following references in this connection:
Water - Acts 8:36; Acts 10:47
Much water - John 3:23
Going to the water - Acts 8:38; Mark 1:9
Going down into the water - Acts 8:38
Coming up out of the water - Acts 8:39; Matthew 3:16
Form of birth - John 3:5
Form of resurrection - Romans 6:4-5
Form of burial - Colossians 2:12
Form of planting (covered completely) - Romans 6:5
Washing of the body - Hebrews 10:22
Water - YES
Much water - YES
Going to the water - YES
Going down into the water - YES
Coming up out of the water - YES
Form of birth - YES
Form of resurrection - YES
Form of burial - YES
Form of planting (covered completely) - YES
Washing of the body - YES
SPRINKLING OR REQUIRES
Water - YES
Much water - NO
Going to the water - NO
Going down into the water - NO
Coming up out of the water - NO
Form of birth - NO
Form of resurrection - NO
Form of burial - NO
Form of planting (covered completely) - NO
Washing of the body - NO
COMMENTATORS AND TRANSLATORS
- John Calvin (Presbyterian): "The word 'baptize' signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the primitive church."
- Luther (Lutheran): "'Baptism' is a Greek word, and may be translated 'immerse'. I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether dipped."
- John Wesley (Methodist): "'Buried with him by baptism' - alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion."
- Wall (Episcopalian): "Immersion was in all probability the way in which our blessed Saviour, and for certain, the way by which the ancient Christians received their baptism."
- Brenner (Catholic): "For thirteen hundred years was baptism an immersion of the person under water."
- Macknight (Presbyterian): "In baptism, the baptized person is buried under the water." "Christ submitted to be baptized; that is, to be buried under water."
- Whitfield (Methodist): "It is certain that the word of our text - Romans 6:4 - alludes to the manner of baptizing by immersion."
- Stoudza (a native Greek): "The verb 'baptize' has only one meaning. It signifies to plunge. Baptism and immersion are identical. To say baptism by sprinkling is as if one would say immersion by sprinkling."
- Jeremiah (Greek patriot): "The ancients did not sprinkle the candidate, but immersed him."
- Paul (a Christian): "We are buried with Him by baptism."
- Kitto's Encyclopedia: "The whole person was immersed in water."
- Encyclopedia Americana: "Baptism, that is, dipping or immersion."
- Brande's Encyclopedia: "Baptism was originally administered by immersion."
- Smith's Dictionary: "Baptism means immersion."
- Liddell and Scott: "Baptizo, to dip in or under water."
- Robinson (Presbyterian): "To immerse, to sink."
- Dr. Anthon: "The primary meaning of the word is to dip or immerse. Sprinkling and pouring are out of the question."
- Bagster: "To dip or immerse."
- Greenfield: "To immerse, submerge, sink."
Some ask, "When, where and by whom was the change made from immersion to sprinkling?" The Edinbergh Encyclopedia, in its article on baptism gives the following:
"The first law for sprinkling was obtained in the following
manner: Pope Stephen II, being driven from home by
Adophus, King of the Lombards, in A.D. 753, fled to
Pepin, who a short time before had usurped the crown of
France. Whilst he remained there, the monks of Cressy,
in Brittany, consulted him whether, in case of necessity,
baptism poured on the head of the infant would be lawful.
Stephen replied that it would. But, though the truth of the
fact be allowed (which, however, some Catholics deny),
yet pouring or sprinkling was admitted only in cases of
necessity. It was not till the year 1311 that the legislature,
in council held at Ravenna, declared immersion or sprinkling
to be indifferent. In Scotland, however, sprinkling was never
practiced in ordinary cases till after the Reformation (about
the middle of the sixteenth century). From Scotland it made
its way into England in the reign of Elizabeth, but was not
authorized in the Established Church."
It will be noticed that the change was not made by Christ or the apostles, but it was made by the pope of the Catholic Church.
THE DESIGN OF BAPTISM
Introductory. "Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).
A Test of Obedience. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). This results from obedience.
For the Forgiveness of Sins. "And Peter said to them, 'Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Symbolical. (1) Of the burial and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-5); (2) A birth - "born of the water and the Spirit" (John 3:5).