Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
"As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?'" (Acts 8:36) One of my faithful readers submitted a question concerning Christian Baptism. If you ask three different ministers you might get three different answers. Some argue baptism takes place by sprinkling or pouring water over a person’s head. Others say baptism must be by immersion. Some practice infant baptism while others insist one should only be baptized following their profession of faith. It seems everyone has an opinion. For this reason, we cannot appeal to history, tradition or church authority. If we are to do what is pleasing to God we must be faithful to the Word of God. Martin Luther (who practiced infant baptism) had this in mind when he said, "The church needs to rid itself of all false glories that torture Scripture by inserting personal conceits into the Scripture which lend it to their own sense. Scripture, Scripture, Scripture for me constrain, press, and compel me with God’s Word." I think that’s good advice for us all. Although water baptism has no saving merit I believe it is crucially important that we get it right. I believe this, not because I want to be divisive, but because I want to honor the Word of God and the God of the Word! But it seems to be today that the climate is such that one simply is not allowed to disagree with anyone without being considered as divisive and unloving and unkind. This is sad but is a risk I take in order to be faithful to my great God and Savior—Jesus Christ!
Let me say upfront that baptism by sprinkling or pouring is human in origin. There is simply no scriptural support for either practice. It appears these practices arose around A.D. 250. However, I should also add there is nowhere in the New Testament that explicitly commands or prohibits either practice. But the absence of a command or prohibition is not sufficient grounds for its practice, the reason being God’s Word clearly instructs us on Christian baptism. The word "baptism" in the New Testament is a transliteration of the Greek word "baptizo" (βαπτίζω), which very plainly means, "to dip, to immerse, to submerge." It was used to describe a ship that was sunk. I doubt pouring or sprinkling water onto a ship would result in its being sunk. Furthermore, forms of the word "baptizo" appear in various extra-biblical Greek writings where it consistently carries with it the idea of immersion. Another thing to note is that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the New Testament to use the word "baptizo" when referring to baptism. God does not have a speech impediment. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit had sprinkling or pouring in mind, there are Greek words He would have chosen to communicate such. Those who practice sprinkling and pouring have their "proof texts." However, none of the verses they site actually prove that sprinkling or pouring is a form of baptism. The baptism Jesus commands and the apostles and early church practiced is precisely what is indicated by the Greek word "baptizo": immersion! The book of Acts contains multiple accounts of baptism, and in every instance, the person being baptized was immersed. A thorough study of the New Testament reveals several important facts about the proper mode for Christian Baptism. John 3:23 tells us that baptism involved "much water." Acts 8:36 tells us "they came to some water." Verse 38 tells us, "They both went down into the water." Verse 39 says, "They came up out of the water." Colossians 2:12 declares, "Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith," indicating baptism is a picture of our identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. How in the world could sprinkling or pouring ever picture this? Every time I baptize someone, I will say (in addition to the Matthew 28:19 formula), "Buried with Christ in baptism; raised to walk in newness of life." Furthermore, in the first century church, baptism by immersion was obedience and obedience was the fruit of repentance. One’s first act of obedience following conversion was baptism by immersion. The new believer would stand before a watching world and declare their identification with Christ—His death, burial and resurrection—knowing that such identification might very well result in their martyrdom.
There are so many people who say, "Oh well. There are so many views of baptism. I don't want to make an issue out of it." Well, it is certainly not something over which we should divide. But it is important. It is important because we want to honor Christ and the Word of God. We want to be obedient to Christ’s command. The only way we can do that is through baptism by immersion according to the formula Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. Anything less is disobedience and disobedience is sin. James 4:17 says, "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." In spite of the biblical command, in spite of the New Testament mandate and clarity on the issue of Christian baptism, there is still wide-spread disobedience. All I can do is lay this on your conscience from the Lord Himself and trust that you'll do what is right. "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
Click on the image to learn more
Striving to glorify God by becoming more like Jesus.
Copyright 2022. All rights reserved.