Baptism

 

Some people say that baptism, since it is an ordinance, has been done away with according to Colossians 2:13-14. Is this true?
No. The verses in Colossians are plainly talking about the law of Moses, “the handwriting” having reference to Deuteronomy 31:9, 24. It is quite plain that Quakers, and all who reject baptism, do so against the plain testimony of scripture. Jesus commanded it, and the apostles taught and practiced it. See Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38 & 41; 8:12 & 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15 & 33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16.

What does the word baptism mean?

The word baptism is not an English word, but a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma. The verb form is baptizo. Therefore, to understand the definition, we must appeal to the Greek. William G. Schell, in his book, The Ordinances of the New Testament, lists the testimony of some of the foremost Greek lexicographers and theologians on the definition of baptism. We quote some of them here:

SCAPULA, a learned foreign lexicographer of the sixteenth century says, “Bapto and Baptizo–to dip, to immerse; also to wash, to dye, because these are done by immersion.”
SCHLEUSNER, a learned and distinguished German lexicographer, says, “These words, bapto and baptizo, signify, 1. To immerse, to dip in water; 2. To wash or cleanse by water, because for the most part, a thing must be dipped into water that it may be washed.”
PARKHURST says, “Baptizo first and primarily means to dip, to immerse, to plunge in water.”
DONNEGAN defines baptizo to mean “to immerse, to submerge, to saturate.”
LUTHER. “The term baptism is a Greek word. It may be rendered a dipping, as when we dip something in water, that it may be entirely covered” (as quoted by Winebrenner).
“Luther acknowledging baptism to be immersion, says, ‘So Paul explains it (Rom. 6)…On this account, I could wish that such as are baptized should be completely immersed into water according to the meaning of the word and signification of the ordinance, as also without doubt it was instituted by Christ.’”–Bible Baptisma, by McDonald.
BEZA, Calvin’s successor. “Christ commanded us to be baptized, by which word, it is certain, immersion is signified. To be baptized in water signifies no other than to be immersed in water” (as quoted by Winebrenner).
PROF. STUART, of Andover Theological Seminary. “Bapto and baptizo mean to dip, plunge, or immerse into any liquid. All lexicographers and critics of any note are agreed in this” (as quoted by Winebrenner).
AUGUSTI, Vol. V, p. 5. “The word baptism, according to etymology and usage, signifies to immerse, submerge, etc., and the choice of the expression betrays an age in which the latter custom of sprinkling had not been introduced.”
BRETSCHNEIDER, in his Theology of 1828, Vol. II, pp. 673, 681. “An entire immersion belongs to the nature of baptism.” “This is the meaning of the word.”
SCHOLZ, on Matt. 3:6. “Baptism consists of the immersion of the whole body in water.” DR. CHALMERS on the sixth chapter of Romans. “The original meaning of the word baptism is immersion.”
WILSON, Emphatic Diaglott–“Bapto occurs three times [in the New Testament], Luke 16:24; John 13:26; Rev. 19:13, and is always translated dip in the common version. Baptizo occurs seventy-nine times. Of these, seventy-seven times it is not translated at all, but transferred; and twice, viz., Mark 7:4, Luke 11:38, it is translated wash, without regard to the manner in which it was done. All lexicographers translate it by the word immerse, dip, or plunge; not one by sprinkle or pour. No translator has ever ventured to render these words by sprinkle or pour in any version.”

It can be plainly seen, then, that the word baptism in all cases means immersion. Therefore, to baptize is to immerse.

What is the purpose of baptism?

Scriptural baptism serves as a figure to show forth the work of regeneration in the soul–“…the answer of a good conscience toward God…” (I Pet. 3:21). It is used as a symbol to testify to the believer’s death to sin and resurrection to righteousness. See Rom. 6:3-5 and Col. 2:12. In other places it represents a washing away of sin (Acts 22:16) and a putting on of Christ (Gal. 3:27).

But is not baptism a saving ordinance?

It is not. Some people have thought so because of a mistaken interpretation of I Pet. 3:21 and Acts 22:16. But Peter plainly represents baptism as a figure, or symbol of regeneration. And the command of Ananias to Paul places emphasis on “calling on the name of the Lord,” or repentance. It is clear by reading Paul’s epistles, that he did not believe baptism effected salvation.
Jesus Himself, when commanding the disciples to baptize, precluded this with the condition of believing. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16. Philip the evangelist understood the necessity of saving faith before administering baptism. “…And the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest…” Acts 8: 36, 37. Peter also laid down a stipulation before administering baptism: “…Repent, and be baptized…” Acts 2:38.
It is the work of faith in Christ that saves the soul, not an outward ordinance. See Rom. 10:9-11; Eph. 2:8, 9; II Tim. 3:15; Heb. 10:39; I John 5:1.

I thought sprinkling or pouring were also valid forms of baptism. Is this not the case?

It is not. The words sprinkle and pour do not correctly define the Greek word baptisma. Also, only immersion can answer to both the circumstances in which baptism was administered in the scriptures, and the structure of the grammar used to describe it. The scriptures nowhere teach that the water was brought to the one being baptized. Candidates for baptism were always taken to the water. If sprinkling or pouring was synonymous with baptism, we could simply substitute either word in place of the word baptism. But doing so gives us awkward and silly translations: “Therefore, we are buried with him by sprinkling into death…” (Rom. 6:4), etc.
Another case in point: Baptism is a symbol of a burial. The dead are not sprinkled nor poured over the head with dirt. They are fully covered by it. Sprinkling and pouring fail to apply to the symbolical idea or purpose of baptism.

Is trine-immersion also unscriptural?

It is. In What the Bible Teaches, F. G. Smith provides a concise view of this subject:
“From the formula given by Jesus–‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matt. 28:19)–some have inferred that a threefold action is necessary; one immersion in the name of the Father, one in the name of the Son, and one in the name of the Holy Ghost. But in the Acts of the apostles this threefold formula is never employed. The people were simply baptized ‘in the name of Jesus Christ,’ or ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 8:16; 19:5), which shows that the apostles did not believe that it was necessary to perform a triple action. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one; therefore one action is sufficient.
Furthermore, the object and design of baptism precludes the idea of repetition. It is the outward sign of an inward work; it represents our salvation from sin. Now, this salvation is represented as the work of God (II Tim. 1:8, 9), as the work of Christ (Matt. 1:21), and as the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5); yet, it is a single act, and therefore can be appropriately represented only by a single immersion; and this single immersion is in the threefold name just as truly as the single conversion is the work of the one, triune God. If we were converted three times, once by each person of the Godhead, then trine-immersion in three separate names would properly represent it. So also the symbolic reference baptism bears to the burial and resurrection of Christ necessitates the single action. Christ was buried once and raised once; and we are ‘buried with him [once] in baptism, wherein also ye are risen [once] with him.’ Yea, we arise to ‘walk in newness of life.’ ”
Let us also understand that to do something in the name of the Lord, is not meaning words that you say, but rather, acting in the authority of God in what you are doing.

What about infant baptism?

It is nowhere taught in the Bible, nor can it be inferred from any scriptural instance of baptism. In fact, given the answers to the previous questions, it is plain that baptism is reserved for believers only. Infants who have not reached a point of understanding and accountability, and who consequently cannot truly repent and believe, cannot be scripturally baptized. Nor need they be, for in their innocence they are not properly conscious of sin.

Is my baptism scripturally valid?

“There is…one baptism.” Eph. 4:4-5. A baptism is only valid if administered according to the scriptures, to a candidate that has been truly saved from sin. Since sprinkling and pouring are not equivalent to baptism, trine-immersion is not a proper representation of the figure of baptism, and infant baptism is not biblical, it follows that they are all invalid modes of baptism. Those who have received such administrations are therefore not scripturally baptized. Single im-mersion alone represents true baptism.

I have received an unscriptural baptism. Should I be rebaptized?

You should. Baptism, as noted earlier, is a command of Jesus and also a testimony to the world of your salvation. But if one has not met the conditions of baptism (repentance and saving faith in Christ which delivers from all sin), even though he has been baptized by a single immersion, he should also be rebaptized. Obviously, if you have not met the conditions, you cannot fulfill the symbol.

I was taught that rebaptism is blaspheming the Holy Ghost or committing the unpardonable sin. Can you help me?

This teaching usually comes from groups who teach that baptism admits one into “the church.” When a child comes of age, they can “join the church,” and baptism is the symbol they employ in so doing. In order to dissuade their members from ever fully renouncing their sect, they teach their people that being rebaptized into another faith constitutes the unpardonable sin. Well, an invalid baptism may admit you into the church of men, but only salvation admits you into God’s church. See Acts 2:47.
There is no indication that baptism is connected with blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Upholders of such a doctrine cannot produce one scriptural evidence to support it. It is therefore, like any other extra-biblical teaching, to be disregarded in favor of the Word of God.
When a soul receives the light on true baptism, he is obligated to walk in that light, regardless of what sect teachers say. Those who have received scriptural baptism can attest to the wonderful peace and joy they received by obeying the Word of God in this respect.

—By Daniel Eichelberger

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Filed in: Articles • Monday, November 17th, 2008

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