Baptists are often criticized for being so insistent on the proper method of administering Baptism. Many people declare that it is not the method but the spirit of the ordinance that pleases God. Some go so far as to say that it is not a question of what the Bible teaches, but rather, what method have the church leaders approved. Because Baptists are considered narrow and bigoted in their dogmatism they should be ready to give a reason for their stand. We present herewith six reasons for insistence upon immersion as the only proper method of scriptural Baptism.
First: We Believe That To Be Strong A Church Should Have Definite Doctrinal Standards.
The weakness of the present day professing Church is due in large measure to the fact that practically all doctrinal standards have been abandoned.
A generation or two ago every Denomination was contending for definite dogmas of faith. The denominational leaders, the ministry and the rank and file of the members were ready to intelligently champion the tenets of their movement. Those were the days of great religious controversy, it is true, but they were also the days of great spiritual power—mighty conviction for sin was visited upon sinners, there were outstanding cases of conversion; believers were strong and churches virile.
Today doctrinal controversy is taboo; doctrinal sermons are considered boresome; religious tolerance, so-called, is worshipped as a fetish, while few among either leaders or laity know what they believe. The great mass of professed Believers gad after the world while an impotent Church becomes the laughing stock of that same world.
Baptists still believe that teaching and preaching doctrine makes for spiritual strength and vigor. This belief is emphatically vindicated by the fact that the churches which take a definite stand on doctrinal issues are alive and doing real business for the Lord. Look around you and observe where the crowds are going, in about 99 cases out of 100 you will find that it is to the church called "narrow and intolerant" by the unbelieving, loose-living Religionist. People expect the Church to stand for something and are challenged by such a stand. More important still, God expects it and can only bless such (Rev. 3:8-11).
When this writer was pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Ithaca, N. Y., there was a splendid Christian brother attending our services. He desired to unite with the Church. However, he had for years been in a Denomination which allows personal liberty in choosing the method of baptism. We insisted that he must be immersed in order to become a member of the local church. He demurred for some time and finally said, rather indignantly. "I don’t think your church does right in insisting on immersion for membership." I replied, "Mr. King, why do you like to come to our church?" "Because it is different than other churches, there is more evidence of spiritual power here," was his answer. "Do you know why that is?" "Well, you stand for some thing," he admitted. "And yet," I said, "you would like to have us remove one of the standards that, according to your own testimony, makes our church one of power and blessing." He saw the point but preferred to refuse baptism while he continued to enjoy the ministry of a church made strong by its insistence on doctrinal standards.
If there were no other reasons for us to continue our insistence on immersion as the proper form of baptism than this, surely in our lax, careless, indifferent day this one would be sufficient.
Second: We Believe In The Verbal Inspiration Of The Scriptures.
That is, we believe that the Holy Spirit of God gave to the men who wrote the Bible the very words that they should use in that writing (1 Cor. 2:13).
The words "baptize" and "baptism" in the English New Testament are from forms of the Greek verb "baptizo." This word was chosen by the Holy Spirit as the one best suited to express and describe the ordinance. The meaning of the Greek word is, according to Liddell and Scott, Greek-English, Lexicon, "to put beneath," or "to dip under." Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament has this to say about it, "An immersion in water performed as a sign of the removal of sin." Strong’s Concordance translates it, "to make overwhelmed." "The Greek language has had a continuous history, and baptizo is used today in Greece for baptism. As is well-known not only in Greece, but all over Russia, wherever the Greek church prevails, immersion is the unbroken and universal practice. The Greeks may surely be credited with knowledge of the meaning of their own language." International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Professor E. A. Sophocles, himself a Greek, in his ‘Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods," wrote, "There is no evidence that Luke and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meaning. not recognized by the Greeks."
The Greek word was not translated by the translators of our English Authorized Version of the Scriptures but merely Anglesized. This has allowed for much confusion. It is interesting to note, however, that Webster’s New International Dictionary, after it gives what might be termed a definition according to religious use of the word "baptize", has this: "To submerge in, or to overflow, cover, or affect with, something after the manner of baptism with water."
Matthew 28:19, in the light of the above, should be translated, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations submerging them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," and Acts 2:41, "Then they that gladly received his word were submerged." (Read the entire third chapter of Matthew substituting "submerge" for "baptize").
Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake in His choice of the word? If He did not, and surely none would accuse Him of error, then what right have church leaders, or any one else, to substitute a different word or give a perverted meaning to this one? Who will dare to say, "Holy Spirit, you were too narrow in your selection of ‘baptizo,’ it really does not matter how his ordinance is administered"?
We believe that the Holy Spirit was governed by Divine exactness when He used this word. We desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit so we must insist on Believers being "dipped under" when they are taken "into" the water (Acts 3 :38).
Third: We Believe That The Early Church Fathers, Who Lived Near The Apostolic Times, Are Worthy of Our Following.
Mosheim, Lutheran Church Historian, tells us, "The sacrament of baptism was administered in this (the first) century . . . by the immersion of the whole body in the baptismal font." In the "Didache," which Dr. Schaff says "comes, of all the sub-apostolic writings, nearest to the New Testament in its style and vocabulary," is found this passage, "Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught all these things, baptize ye into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, in living water. And if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. John Calvin wrote, "Among the ancients they immersed the whole body in water, and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the early church." Martin Luther is quoted as saying, "Baptism is a Greek word and in Latin it may be rendered "mersio," immersion,—and though among the greater part of us this practice has fallen into disuse, nevertheless they that are baptized ought to be entirely immersed." John Wesley said, "Buried with Him" alluding to the ancient method or practice of baptizing by immersion."
It is a well-known and well-accredited fact that many of the early churches were, for the purpose of convenience in baptism, built near the Mediterranean, the Jordan or some other stream, and that outdoor baptisteries have been discovered near the site of many an ancient church building. Baptists are proud to be followers of these early Christians.
Fourth: We Believe That Immersion Presents The Message of The Ordinance.
The Christian life begins with a definite experience in the heart and life of the individual Believer, variously represented in Scripture as, "the new birth," "a new creation" "passing out of death into life," "transplanting from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son," "a death and a resurrection," etc.
Now just as the "Life" itself begins with a definite inner experience God has ordained that the outward expressions and relationships of that "Life" should begin with a definite act. He has also decreed that that "act" should symbolize the "inner experience." This experience, a death to the old life and a resurrection to the new, baptism is meant to picture (Rom. 6:4). No other method than immersion does so picture it.
Moreover the Believer’s assurance of salvation rests upon his faith in his own personal identity with a Substitute who bore for him the penalty of violated law—a substitutionary Saviour, dying, buried, and rising again (Rom. 4:24, 25).
Baptism by immersion most beautifully portrays this method of salvation, every candidate that is baptized by that act tells all who witness, "I am placing my faith in a Saviour who went down into death for me, as I go down into this water; Who was buried and rose again in my behalf even as I am buried in this water and raised up to live for Him."
We insist on immersion as a testimony to the Believer’s experience of death to the old life of sin and resurrection to a new life,—an experience based upon the vicarious death and resurrection of Christ.
The Lord Jesus said to John (Matthew 3:15) speaking of His own baptism, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus (in like manner as baptism) it becometh us (the Trinity of heaven) to fulfil all righteousness" (i.e. the righteousness fulfilled, or completed, in the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). Here our Lord plainly states the symbolism of baptism.
Fifth: We Desire To Be Loyal To The Great Head Of The Church— The LOrd Jesus.
Our Lord commanded baptism (Matthew 28:16-20).
In a nation, a disobedient citizen is called an "outlaw"; in a family a disobedient child is called an "ingrate"; what shall the citizen of heaven, the child of God, the member of the Church, who stubbornly refuses to obey, be called? "Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least of these commandments, and teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven." "Why callest thou me ‘Lord’. ‘Lord’, and do not these things which I command you?" "To obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams."
Sixth: We Accept The Plain Statements Of The Scriptures.
Consider the following: "And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins" (Matthew 3:6). The candidate had to be old enough to know he was a sinner and to confess it. "I indeed baptize you with water," (Matthew 3:11). "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water" (Matthew 3:16).
"Go ye", all Christians; "disciple", before baptism; "all nations", universal; "baptizing them in (literally "into") the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." "Unto the end of the world" [literally "age"] (Matthew 28:19, 20).
"John did baptize in the wilderness, . . . And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, Confessing their sins," (Mark 1 :5, 6). "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came ... and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water . . ." (Mark 1:9, 10).
"John did baptize in the wilderness, . . . And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, Confessing their sins," (Mark 1:5, 6). "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came .... and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water . . . " (Mark 1:9, 10).
"John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water" (Luke 3 :16).
"John answered them saying, I baptize you with water" (John 1:26).
"And John was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there" (John 3:23).
"And they that gladly received his word were baptized," people old enough to understand and "receive" the word preached (Acts 2:41).
"But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also, and when he was baptized (Acts 8:12, 13).
"See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water . . ." (Acts 8:36-39).
Gentiles as well as Jews baptized.
Cornelius, a captain of the Italian regiment:
"Then answered Peter, Can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:46-48).
Roman jailor: "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." The whole household heard the word preached. "And he . . . was baptized, he and all his, straightway . . . believing in God with all his house." The whole family heard, believed, and were baptized (Acts 16 :32-34).
These are the reasons we present for our firm stand on this matter and standing here we find ourselves in company with history, logic, Scripture and Deity. What better company could one want? "Wherefore compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside" every argument of expediency and tradition of men and be obedient unto the heavenly vision. Have YOU obeyed your Lord unto baptism?
Baptist Ministries ©