Friday, January 18, 2008

Baptism Part 1

The argument over baptism contains just two parts:

  • The mode of baptism—There are two ways to baptize: immersion or sprinkling (though the argument is not immersion vs. sprinkling). There are people who believe in immersion exclusively and those who believe it can be done either way.
  • The recipients of baptism—Again, there are two sides, those for believer’s baptism (adults only, which I’ll refer to in this series as baptists) and paedobaptists, those who believe in infant baptism. Paedobaptists do not exclusively baptize infants. I, and all reformed believers that I am aware of, are not against dunking an adult who has never been baptized.

Up front, I have to say I spent most of my Christian life in a baptist church. Now, I am reformed and believe in paedobaptism. If you are a paedobaptist and disagree with something I write in this series, please bring it to my attention. I am open to the possibility that I may err. This is new ground for me, and I hope to tackle this subject with as much humility and grace as the Lord will give me. I am aware of many baptists who read this blog, and was even prompted by one to do this series, so if anyone feels I am not being fair or gracious, please bring that to my attention, also.

I would like to begin with a quote from John Murray about how we derive our doctrine and beliefs:

"Traditional sentiment can never be pleaded as the proper ground for any element of the worship of the church of God. Divine institution is the only warrant."
Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Journal Volume 13, 13:105 (Westminster Theological Seminary, 1950; 2003).

We must be careful to draw all of our beliefs and practices from scripture and not impose our traditions and pet doctrines onto what we read. We all do this at times. I occasionally do it, sometimes even knowingly. I will attempt to be fair and honest with the texts in this series; let's see where that takes us.

One of the baptist arguments I hear often is that Jesus went down into and came up out of the water, indicating that he was immersed. I will not engage this argument, because John's baptism and Jesus' baptism are two different things, just as John's ministry differed from Jesus' ministry:

3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, Ac 19:3-5 (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

John's ministry was preparatory and transitional, and so was his baptism. Therefore, we cannot derive from John's baptism what must be practiced today in our baptisms.

We also see many other baptisms in scripture. During Jesus' ministry we see his disciples baptizing (John 3:22, 26; 4:1, 2), John's baptism previously mentioned, baptism into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2), baptizing into Paul (1 Cor. 1:13), and finally Matt 28:

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,"
New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, Mt 28:19 (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

So, what we see is important in these verses is the difference in the meaning, not the mode or method, of baptism. What is clear is that baptism must be done in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the command Jesus gave to the apostles; he did not say, “Immerse them, and do not sprinkle them.” Be sure to notice whom Jesus gives this command to, as it will be important later in our discussion.

My goal in this series will be to find the lowest common denominator at the end of each post. I think I have achieved that in this post, because the only conclusion I have drawn, baptists and paedobaptists will agree with.

  1. Baptism is to be done in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


Anonymous said...

Off to a promising start. Although I've read the passage many times over the years, and heard of the pedobaptist claim that John's and Jesus' baptisms are distinct (as opposed to the claims of some Baptists, if not all), I'd never put the two together to prove the distinction.

As some of us say down here (at least my dad and me): "Ya' dun good, Bubba!"

Hopeful Spirit said...

Have you heard about The Seventh Day weekly blog carnival at On the Horizon?

You can submit a post on ANY topic! (Keep it clean, ok?) THIS WOULD BE A GREAT SUBMISSION! It's a great way to reach a new audience for your site! The Carnival is also an excellent resource for discovering new sites and making new blogging friends.

The Carnival takes place every Seventh Day (Sunday) and posts may be submitted through Saturday for the next day's edition.
I invite you to submit your best work (1 post per blog per week) from the prior week on ANY topic using the submission form.

Want to help spread the word? You can put the Blog Carnival widget or The Seventh Day button on your site! (Email me for the graphic file.)

Questions? Drop me an e-mail: Or use the Contact Form at On the Horizon!

Thanks and hope to see one of your posts included on The Seventh Day!

Timothy said...

Don't know if your familiar with it, but the Didache, which was considered canon by many Christian churches until 325 AD, says:

"And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before."
[The Didache,]

You also may be interested in Cyril of Jerusalem's description of an early Christian baptism by immersion:

God bless...

Hopeful Spirit said...

I'm glad you decided to participate in The Seventh Day! Hope you will participate again in the future. I look forward to reading your entire series on this subject. I have a few opinions, but am reserving comment until I see what else you write. I will be reading with an open mind. :-)

Gattina said...

The only thing I think about baptizing is that it should be done when somebody is old enough to understand what he or she is doing and not a baby who doesn't know anything and gets babtizised because the parents where Christians.
I am here for the 7th day.