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Baptism In Theology And Practice

A Study About Water Baptism

C R Lord College Notes - 1976 -1980
Teen Challenge Institute
​​​ Class Notes


l. History

 A. What John preached, that he also symbolized by a rite which, though not in itself, yet in its application was wholly new.  Hitherto, the law had it that those who contracted Levitical defilement were to immerse before offering sacrifice... the immersion being, as it were, the acknowledgement and symbolic removal of moral defilement, corresponding to that of Levitical uncleanness.  From The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah By Reverend Alfred Edersheim, © 1912, page 243


     B. Edersheim, vol. 2, pp 745-747 -- Baptism of proselytes into the Jewish religion - "That baptism was absolutely necessary to make a proselyte is so frequently stated as not to be disputed."  (page 745)  

      "The baptism was to be performed in the presence of three witnesses, ordinarily Sanhedrists, but in case of necessity others might act.  The person to be baptized, having cut his hair and nails, undressed completely, made fresh profession of his faith before what were designated 'the fathers of the baptism,' and then immersed completely, so that every part of the body was touched by the water.  Baptism was not to be administered at night, nor on a Sabbath or feast day.  Women were attended by those of their own sex, the rabbis standing at the door outside.  In general, statements of a proselyte about his baptism required attestation by witnesses."


     C. Josephus Antiquities, Book xviii, 5.2 - Concerning John the Baptist - "But to some of the Jews it appeared, that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and indeed, as a 

righteous punishment on account of what had been done to John, who was surnamed the Baptist.  For Herod ordered him to be killed, a good man, and who commanded the Jews to exercise

virtue, both as to righteousness toward one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism.  For that the baptizing would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not for the putting away (remission) of some sins, but for the purification of the body, after that the soul had been previously cleansed by righteousness." 


     D. NOTE:  "Nowhere in Rabbinic writings do we find any hint of the baptism of the Messiah, nor of a descent upon him of the Spirit in the form of a dove."  Edersheim, Vol. 1 pg. 285


     E. Testimony of the early church fathers - 

          1) St. Basil - AD 330 - "How can we be placed in a condition of likeness to his death?  By being buried with him in Baptism.  How are we to go down with him into the grave?  By imitating the burial of Christ by baptism, for the bodies of the baptized are in a sense buried in water."

          2) St. Ambrose - AD 378 - "Thou saidst, I do believe and was immersed -- that is, thou wast buried."

          3) St. Chrysostom - AD 398 - "We, as in a sepulchre, immersing our heads in water, the old man is buried, and sinking down, the whole body is concealed at once; then as we emerge the new man arises."


      F. Further Testimony In History

          1) John Calvin - "The very word baptism means to immerse.  It is certain that immersion was the practice of the early church."

          2) Marin Luther - "Baptism is a Greek word and may be translated immersion.  I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether immersed in water."

          3) John Wesley - "Buried with him by baptism alluding to the ancient method of immersion."


II. Varied stances on the Method (mode) of Baptism

     A. 1983 Edition, Creed, Rituals and Discipline, Evangelical Congregational Church, copyright 1978 - page 13 - "The sacrament of baptism is the formal application of water to an infant, or to an adult believer in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as a visible sign and seal that he person so consecrated stands in a holy covenant relation to God and his people."  No method specified...  

          1) The covenant relationship is based on Mark 10:13-16 in the discipline (concerning the baptism of infants).


     B. Questions On Doctrine, copyright 1957, pg 12 #5, (Seventh Day Adventist Publication) - "That baptism is an ordinance of the Christian church and should follow repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  By its observance, faith is shown in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  That the proper form of baptism is by immersion.  Rom. 6:1-6; Acts 16:30-33


     C. Excerpts from The Religious Bodies Of America by F. B. Meyer, DD  copyright 1956

          1) Lutherans (pg. 148) - "Lutheranism teaches that baptism is one of God's means by which he brings the blessings won by Christ, not only to the soul but to the body as well.  Baptism benefits the entire person; in particular, it assures the total man not only that his soul shall live forever, but that in the resurrection of the body the Holy Spirit will complete his work of sanctifying the entire person." 

 

          2) Reformed (pg. 200) - "The sacraments are viewed as signs and badges whereby men outwardly indicate that they are, through faith, the recipients of God's grace.  Baptism is merely the profession that God has already acted."


           3) Baptists (pg. 266) - "But they do maintain that baptism is only a symbolic act, which signifies that through Christ the believer is now in vital connection with the Father, and that he has accepted Christ's commandments as the law of his life.  Obviously, say the baptists, and infant is incapable of such profession.  To baptize and infant and then to pledge him without his will and consent to assume the obligations symbolized in baptism is contrary to the principle of the soul's inherent sovereign right to determine for itself whether or not to accept the supreme Lordship of Christ."  


          4) Unitarian Pentecostals (pg. 339) - NOTE: This group is better known as the Jesus only or Oneness church. -- They baptize in the name of Jesus only on the basis of their premise that Christ is all and that the names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are names of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (The favorite scripture test for this theory is Acts 2:38)


          5) Evangelical United Brethren (pg. 343) - "Infant baptism is not universally practiced, and if a person baptized in infancy earnestly desires re-baptism, this may be granted him.  Baptism is a sign whereby Christians obligate themselves to perform all Christian duties, and a symbol of the washing that has taken place inwardly."


          6) Salvation Army (pg. 346) - "Baptism and the Lord's Supper are placed on a par with the abrogated Jewish ceremonies, are said to be unnecessary for salvation or the development of spiritual life and evidently not intended to be perpetually observed."


          7) Moravians (pg. 357) - "Infant baptism is not regarded as the sacrament of initiation, but merely as a public testimony that the child is to be reared in the nurture of the Lord."  No mention of adults.


           8) Plymouth Brethren (pg. 389) - "They accept only the believer's baptism or adult baptism by immersion, because they hold that baptism is the symbol of the identification of the believer with Christ in his burial and resurrection."  


          9) Mennonite (pg. 397) - "In accord with its strong mystical trends Mennonite theology views the sacraments merely as symbols.  Baptism usually performed by affusion, is said to be a sign of the spiritual birth, an incorporation into the visible church.  Mennonites consider the baptism only as an evidence that we have established a covenant with Christ, an action which requires  conscious reflection, therefore the Mennonites reject infant baptism and demand the re-baptism of adults who have received infant baptism.  NOTE: Affusion means a pouring on or into, a sprinkling as in baptism.  


         10) Universalists (pg. 513) - Most Universalists regard baptism and the Lord's Supper as sacred symbols.


     D. Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible by Myer Pearlman © 1937 This is the Assemblies of God Doctrinal Handbook 

          1) The ordinances of the church - pp. 353-355

               a) "The word baptize used in the formula means literally to dip or immerse."

               b) "All who sincerely repent of their sins and exercise a living faith in the Lord Jesus are eligible for baptism."  

               c) "Since infants have no sins to repent of and cannot exercise faith they are logically excluded from water baptism."

               d) "Water baptism in itself has no saving power."


     E. True Facts About the Church of Christ - pamphlet printed by the Church of Christ

               1) "You should know that in baptism...

                     Sins are washed away - Acts 22:16

                     You are saved from sins - 1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16

                     You have remission of sins - Acts 2:38

                     You get into the church - Acts 2:37 -47

               2) You should know that baptism requires:

                     Water - Acts 10:47

                     Much Water - John 3:23

                     A Birth - John 3:5

                     A Burial - Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12


     F. The Cults And Roman Catholics On Baptism

          1) The Faith of Millions by Rev. John A. O'Brien, Ph.D. © 1963 pp,153-159 Roman Catholic

               a) "Baptism washes away the stain of original sin, and also any actual sins that may be present, and make the person a child of God and an heir of Heaven."  pg. 153

               b) "It is the sacrament which makes a person a Christian and gives him a right to the supernatural Kingdom of Heaven, to which he has no title by the mere fact of his natural birth.  Baptism therefore is a spiritual rebirth or regeneration of the soul."  pg. 154

              c) "Baptism is the sacrament whereby an individual is reborn in Christ, and becomes a child of God and an heir of Heaven."  pg. 158


          2) Jehovah's Witnesses, Make Sure Of All Things © 1953

              a) "complete submergence, immersion,dipping, into water, into death with Christ, with holy spirit, into the greater Noah in a new system of things, into his body, into destruction as by fire.  Christian water baptism is an outward symbol, as a testimony before witnesses, of the baptized ones complete, unreserved and unconditional dedication and agreement to do the will of Jehovah God, the Universal Sovereign, through Christ Jesus his king.  It means his past course is buried (as by immersion in water) and he comes up from the water to do only God's will and walk in newness of life thereafter."  pg. 27

          b. NOTE: On page 27 of this book the witnesses reject sprinkling and on page 32 of this book they reject infant baptism.


          3) Mormonism, Articles of the Faith, by James Talmadge © 1960

               a) Nature of Baptism - "Baptism is the gateway leading into the fold of Christ, the portal of the church, the established rite of naturalization in the Kingdom of God."  pg. 20

               b) "The special purpose of baptism is to afford admission to the church of Christ with remission of sins."  pg. 122

               c) ".........by baptism in water comes regeneration from sin."  pg. 123

               d) "By revelation the Lord has designated eight years as the age at which children may be properly baptized into the church."  pg. 125

               e) Infant baptism is forbidden in the Book of Mormon - See Moroni 8:11-25


 G. Some Theological Views On Baptism

     1) Systematic Theology - Augustus Strong © 1974

         a) "Christian baptism is the immersion of the believer in water, in token of his previous entrance into the communion of Christ's death and resurrection - or - in other words, in token of his regeneration through union with Christ."  pg. 931

        b) ..every passage where the word occurs in the New Testament either requires or allows the meaning immerse.  pg. 934

        c) "The proper subjects of baptism are those only who give credible evidence that they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit - or, in other words, have entered by faith into the communion of Christ's death and resurrection."  pg. 945

       d) "Infant baptism is without warrant either express or implied in the scriptures.  There is no express command that infants should be baptized.  There is no clear example of the baptism of infants.  The passages held to imply infant baptism contain, when fairly interpreted, no reference to such a practice."  pg. 951


     2) A Dictionary Of the Bible by William Smith © 1867

          a) The language of the New Testament and the primitive fathers sufficiently points to immersion as the common mode of baptism.  pg. 97

          b) Smith later notes that the very sick and dying were baptized by sprinkling.  He also presents both views concerning the baptism of infants but doesn't express his preference.


     3) The Cyclopedia Of Biblical Literature by John Kitto  © 1852  Volume One

          a) "Infant baptism was established neither by Christ nor the apostles."  pg. 287

          b) "In all places where we find the necessity of baptism notified, either in a dogmatic or  historical point of view, it is evident that it was only meant for those who were capable of comprehending the word preached, and of being converted to Christ by an act of their own will."

          c) Later in his writing Kitto acknowledges the existence of the policy of infant baptism for the consecration of the child and the obligation of those who will superintend his growth, and says that he feels it should be retained since it already exists and isn't totally contrary to Christian Baptism.  This declaration is made on page 288.  The preceding one is found on page 287.


III. A Word Study

     A. Baptism - Greek word is baptisma - bap' - tis - mah meaning baptism and is interpreted correctly baptism in every New Testament passage in which it is used.  

     B. Baptize (d) - Greek word is baptidzo - bap' tid zo meaning to make whelmed; fully wet.  Used only in the New Testament of ceremonial ablution (washing) especially technically of Christian baptism in every New Testament reference to these words. 


My own personal belief on baptism is very simple.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross he said; "It is finished."  Finished means that nothing can be added to what Jesus did on Calvary.  If one single action is necessary for our salvation apart from faith in the finished work of Christ, then it

follows that the blood sacrificed for our sins through the cross was not enough to save us and Jesus needed our help to finish the job therefore partly securing our own salvation.  If we could in any way secure our own salvation then Jesus' death wasn't really needed after all.


A CLOSING THOUGHT -- WHO BAPTIZED JOHN THE BAPTIST?


C. R. Lord © 1979