T.P. Simmons


(Return to Contents)



Baptism is perhaps the most controverted subject in the Bible. For centuries it has been a theological battleground, and on it many noble soldiers of the cross have fought, bled, and died. Perhaps more martyr-blood has been shed over baptism than over any other thing. Controversy has raged mainly around four aspects of baptism. Our discussion, therefore, will deal with these four aspects.




Does it make any difference who the administrator of baptism is? Some say that it does not. They reason that baptism is an act of obedience on the part of the one being baptized, and that the administrator is of no moment. But can those that take this position imagine that it would have been the same in the eyes of God if the people in the days of John the Baptist had received baptism from some Pharisee or Sadducee instead of receiving it from John? God bad a divinely appointed administrator in that day, and our Lord walked a great distance to receive baptism at his hands. If God had a divinely appointed administrator in that day, is it not likely that He has one today? We believe He does. Let us note:




In proof of this we offer the following Scriptures:


(1)  Matt. 28:18-20.


In the above place, as is well known, we have Matthew's report of the last commission of Christ, commonly called the great commission.


To whom was Christ speaking when He uttered His last commission? The promise which is attached to it shows that He was not speaking to the apostles as individuals. He promised His presence to the end of the age. Certainly He did not think that the apostles would live that long. Then He must have addressed them in some official or corporate capacity. Did He address them as an apostolic teaching body that was to be perpetuated? We hardly think so, since nothing is said about the perpetuation of the apostolic office. To be a member of the original twelve, it was necessary that one should have companied with the others from baptism of John and must have been a witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21, 22). Paul was an apostle in a slightly broader sense, in that he had a personal commission from Christ, who appeared to him and commissioned him on the Damascus road. In a still broader sense others are called apostles. But not a hint is given of the perpetuity of the office down to the end of the age. Neither is there a hint that the office could be transmitted from one to another.


We believe Christ spoke to the apostles as constituting the church. This we believe because-


A. The Church is the Body of Christ.


It is thus represented too often to make it necessary to mention any Scripture reference. Since the head always performs its work through the body, we believe Christ committed His work to His body.


B. The Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.


Cf. 1 Cor. 3:16. In this Scripture Paul was not speaking of the human body of the believer, which is elsewhere called the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). He was plainly speaking of the church. This chapter deals with church building.


Since the church is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is here to direct the work of Christ, it appears that it is through the church that He will do His work, and hence that it was to the church that Christ gave the great commission.


C. The Church is the Pillar and Ground of the Truth.


Cf. 1 Tim. 3:15. The whole of the truth is compassed in the great commission. Since the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the commission must have been entrusted to it. 


(2) 1 Cor. 12:13.


This Scripture reads: "In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body." Some hold that this passage refers to baptism in the Holy Spirit, but there is no scriptural ground for such a notion. There is no hint in Scripture that each believer receives Spirit baptism either in or after regeneration. This is an assumption pure and simple.


This passage means that being in or under the power of the Holy Spirit we were all brought by the Lord to baptism, and thus were made members of His body, the local church. Thus baptism is the ceremonial door into the church.


This being true, and it also being true that the church is a democratic body, it follows that it has charge of its own door; Or, in other words, the church has the authority to receive members. This is implied in the exclusion of the sinful and the reception of them again if and when they repent (1 Cor. 5:1-7; 2 Cor. 2:6-8). And it is also implied in Paul's injunction to the church at Rome, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye" (Rom. 14:1). Thus baptism is a church ordinance.




Of course the church as a whole cannot baptize. It must perform the ordinance through those whom it authorizes, just as Jesus baptized through the apostles (John 4:1, 2).


It is on this basis that sound Baptist churches reject the immersion administered by groups which they cannot consistently recognize as New Testament churches. The name Baptist, is derived, as we have seen, from Anabaptist; and this name was applied to various groups because they rejected the immersion administered by false churches. The acceptance of alien immersion threatens the very existence of true churches. It puts them on a par with man-made organizations. This leads toward open communion, unionism and exchange of letters. And all of these lead toward destruction.




What are the qualifications, if any, that must be possessed by the subject before baptism can be administered properly? The position of some is that the only qualification demanded of adults is "a desire to flee from the wrath to come and to be saved from their sins" (Wesley).* Others teach that a mere intellectual belief in the deity of Jesus Christ qualifies one for baptism, holding also that baptism has saving efficacy. For a discussion of the Scriptures that are relied on to teach that gospel faith is a mere intellectual belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God see chapter on Repentance and Faith. It is held also by some that the infant children of believers may properly receive baptism.


But what saith the Scriptures? The Scriptures are clear and unmistakable in their teaching that-




Saving faith is trust in and reliance on Jesus Christ as one's personal and all-sufficient Saviour. For further discussion of this see chapter referred to above.


(1) There is no indication in the Scripture that any person was ever baptized without faith.


A. Where the details are given the faith of the subject is clearly indicated.


For instances of this, see Acts 2:41; 8:12, 37; 18:8; 19:4. Two of these passages (Acts 8:37 and 19:4) are sufficient to show that the connection of faith with baptism in these passages is neither incidental nor accidental. In Acts 8:37 we have the virtual declaration of Philip that the eunuch could not be baptized except he believed. And in Acts 19:4 it is plain that Paul baptized the twelve men at Ephesus because they had not properly understood John's preaching of faith in the coming Messiah (that preaching having been imperfectly transmitted to them by Apollos, perhaps), and hence had not believed; thus making their prior baptism invalid.


B. In other passages where the details are not made explicit the faith of the subjects is implied.




*"What the Adult Applicant for Church Membership Should Know" (Tate), published by the Board of Managers of Tract and Evangelistic Literature, Methodist Episcopal Church, South.



See Matt. 3:1, 2, 6; Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 4:1; Acts 9:17, 13; 10:47; 16:30-33. John preached repentance and demanded fruits meet for repentance of those he baptized. And repentance and faith are synchronous, inseparable graces. In the great commission Jesus coupled faith with baptism (Mark 16:16) and put the making of disciples before the baptizing of them (Matt. 28: 19). The Revised Version rightly translates this passage to read, "Make disciples of all nations," instead of "Teach all nation"; for the word translated "teaching" in the next verse is different from the word in the nineteenth verse that is translated "teaching" in the common version. That disciples are not to be made by baptism is evident from John 4:1, which indicates that both John and Jesus "made and baptized disciples." Disciples in New Testament times were first made and then baptized. And Mark's version of the great commission shows that disciples were made through the preaching of the gospel and the believing of it. The alleged baptism of unaccountable infants in the case of household baptisms will be cared for when we come to deal with infant baptism.


(2) The symbolism of the ordinance demands faith upon the part of the subject.


The symbolism of baptism is clearly set forth in Rom. 6:2-5; Col. 2:12. It signifies our death to sin and resurrection to walk in newness of life. Such an experience can come only through faith. The passage from Colossians informs us that it comes "through faith in the working of God."*




If the faith demanded as a prerequisite of baptism is saving faith, then only saved people are to be baptized. That this faith is saving faith is made evident by the fact that salvation is conditioned on faith and the believer is said to possess eternal life. See Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8-10; John 5:24. We are not to baptize people in order to save them, nor because they want to be saved, but only because they are already saved. The symbolism of the




*These passages manifestly refer to water baptism. And such an understanding of them cannot be consistently objected to by those, such as Methodists, who say that baptism is "a sign of regeneration, or the new birth." See "The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1930," p. 24.



ordinance further proves this. When one is baptized without having died to sin through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, which is the only way that one can die to sin, he professes a falsehood to the world.




Infant baptism is left without any authority or ground in the Scripture. Faith as a prerequisite of baptism is indicated, implied, or demanded by every passage of Scripture that touches the question. Barring the alleged baptism of infants in household baptisms, which we shall dispose of presently, there is not in the Scripture the least semblance of a hint that infants were ever baptized. It has been strikingly said that the passages that are used by the advocates of infant baptism fall into three classes. One class mention baptism, but do not mention infants. Another class mention infants, but do not mention baptism. And a third class mention neither infants nor baptism.


Some pedobaptists, under the weight of evidence against them, have gravitated to the position of regarding the baptism of infants as little more than a dedication of them to the Lord just as we dedicate buildings. W. A. Swift, in a series of articles in The Methodist Herald (now extinct), of Jackson, Tenn., on "Why Methodists Baptize by Pouring and Baptize Babies" thus argues. He says: "Why dedicate a church building to God? Why dedicate a ship, a stone monument, or anything else? Are not children of more value than stones and buildings?" And he relates the account of a service in a Baptist church in Chicago in which two mothers dedicated their children to God as Hannah did Samuel, but without the use of water, and he adds: "What does it hurt to use water?" Such an argument surrenders the idea that baptism is "a sign of regeneration, or the new birth." Yet Methodists still so declare.*


And in the face of the foregoing scriptural facts most pedobaptist scholars will not attempt to maintain that infant baptism was an apostolic institution. This we shall see in noting-


(1) The testimony of pedobaptist scholars on infant baptism.




*"The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Church, South" (1930), P. 4.





"It cannot be proved by the sacred Scriptures that infant baptism was instituted by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the apostles."




"It is nowhere expressed in apostolic writings that they baptized children."




"There is altogether wanting any conclusive proof-passage for the baptism of children, in the age of the apostles, nor can any necessity for it be deduced from the nature of baptism."




"There is no trace of infant baptism in the New Testament."




"It is an article of our faith (Methodist Episcopal), that the baptism of young children (infants) is in any wise to be retained in the church, as most agreeable to the institution of Christ. But yet, with all our searching, we have been unable to find in the New Testament a single express declaration or word in favor of infant baptism" (Southern Review, Vol. 14). And this same writer says: "Hundreds of learned pedobaptists have come to the same conclusion, especially since the New Testament has been subjected to a closer, more conscientious, and more candid exegesis than was formerly practiced by controversialists."


H. A. W. MEYER, Th. D. (called "the prince of exegetes").-


"The baptism of the children, of which no trace is found in the New Testament, is not to be held as an apostolic ordinance . . ."




"Baptism, at first, was administered only to adults, as men were accustomed to conceive of baptism and faith as strictly connected. There does not appear any reason for deriving infant baptism from an apostolic institution; and the recognition of it, which followed somewhat later, as an apostolic tradition, serves to confirm this hypothesis" (Church History).




"The recipients of baptism seem originally to have been persons of mature life. The command, 'Go, teach all nations, and baptize them,' and the two conditions, 'Repent and be baptized,' and 'He that believeth and is baptized,' indicate adults" (The Episcopal Church, It's Faith and Order, p. 51).




"Whether infants were baptized in the apostolic age, we have no means of determining" (History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age, p. 54').


ROBERT RAINY, in treating the period A. D. 98-180-


"Baptism presupposed some Christian instruction, and was preceded by fasting. It signified the forgiveness of past sins, and was a visible point of departure of the new life under Christian influences and with the inspiration of Christian purposes and aims" (Ancient Catholic Church, p. 75).


HARNACK, in dealing with the post-apostolic period-


"There is no sure trace of infant-baptism in the epoch; personal faith is a necessary condition" (History of Dogma, Vol. 1, p. 20).




"We have good evidence that infant-baptism is no direct institution either of the Lord Himself or of His apostles. There is no trace of it in the New Testament" (Early Church History to 313, Vol. 1, p. 250).


Space forbids that we continue. These quotations show the majority position of pedobaptist scholars.


But, notwithstanding, in the face of a that has been said, there are some who make a determined effort to prove the apostles practiced infant baptism. Hence we notice-


(2) Arguments for Infant Baptism Answered,


A. The boldest attempt that has been made to justify infant baptism is by seeking to prove that the child is saved. "The babe and the converted person are both in a state answering to regeneration. If one is entitled to baptism, so is the other. If it is necessary to baptize a converted adult, then for the same reason it is necessary to baptize an infant . . . We can never be sure that the adult is saved when we baptize him, but concerning the children there is no possibility of mistake."* And the ceremony used by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in administering "baptism" to infants, reads in part as follows: "Dearly beloved, forasmuch as all men, though fallen in Adam, are born into this world in Christ the Redeemer, heirs of life eternal and subjects of the saving grace of the Holy Spirit, etc."


There are two passages that are used to prove that infants are saved. One of them is mentioned by the Methodist discipline quoted above just following the words quoted. This passage is found in Matt. 19:14; Mark 10: 14; and Luke 18:16. In it, in speaking of children, Jesus said: "Of such is the kingdom of God," or "to such belongeth the kingdom of God." The following quotations show the truth of this passage:


"'Such' certainly means childlike persons, and apparently does not mean children at all. So the Memphitic, 'for persons of this sort, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' And the Peshito takes great pains, 'for those who are like them, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' All the Greek commentators explain it as meaning the childlike, none of them mentioning children as included, and several expressly stating the contrary. Nor does any Greek commentator, so far as we can find, mention infant baptism in connection with this passage, though they all practiced that rite" (Broadus, on Matthew).


"Not little children, but men of childlike disposition" (Meyer).


"Of that reference to infant baptism which it is so common to seek in this narrative, there is clearly not the slightest trace to be found. The Saviour sets the children




*Methodism, by Ethalmore V. Cox, published by the Board of Managers of Christian Literature, Methodist Episcopal Church, South.


The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1930.




before the apostles as symbols of spiritual regeneration, and of the simple childlike feeling therein imparted" (Olshausen).


But, regardless of the meaning of this passage, it does not authorize infant baptism. The purpose of the bringing of children to Him is stated explicitly, and the objection of the disciples shows clearly that this was even unusual. So the passage is dead against infant baptism, no matter what interpretation is put upon the words "of such is the kingdom of God."


The other passage used to probe that infants are saved is 1 Cor. 7:14-"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean but now are they holy."


But, first of all, it needs to be noted that this passage proves too much for pedobaptists according to their use of it. If it proves that children of a union between a believer and unbeliever are entitled to baptism by virtue of their connection with the believing parent, then the unbelieving parent is also entitled to it, without further qualifications; for the same holiness that is imparted to the children of such a union is imparted to the unbelieving member.


The holiness mentioned in this passage is clearly not moral holiness, but only an outward sanctification making the association in the home lawful for the saved member. "The pertinence of Paul's argument may be more obvious, if it is borne in mind that a Judaising influence was already working powerfully in the church. It is, therefore, probable that these Christians who had come under this influence, and who had unbelieving husbands or wives, were in fear of ritual contamination by conjugal intercourse with the unbelievers. This, however, Paul declares to be a groundless fear; for, as every kind of food is hallowed by prayer (1 Tim. 4:5), so that a Christian may receive it without ritual contamination, every lawful associate or companion in life is hallowed to the Christian" (Alvah Hovey).


And this passage really proves the falsity of the contention that infants are saved. If infants are saved, then all are holy; and Paul's argument would be inapposite.


Furthermore this idea of infant salvation denies the universal necessity of regeneration. When correctly translated, the words of Jesus to Nicodemus about the new birth are not, "Except a man," etc., as though they apply to adults only; but they are, "Except one," etc. Roman Catholics use this passage to prove that infants must be born again to be saved, and thus, because they wrongfully believe that baptism is necessary to regeneration, find ground for infant baptism. If they were right in their view of baptism, then they would be wholly right in their whole view of this passage. This passage does teach that all, not excepting infants, must be born again in order to be saved. When infants that die receive regeneration is not revealed in the Bible. But it is plain that they are not born saved, and it is plain that they must be regenerated to be saved. Our opinion is that regeneration in dying infants takes place the moment of the separation of the soul from the body. We have dealt at length with the salvation of those dying in infancy in the chapter on Human Responsibility.


B. There is likewise no scriptural warrant whatsoever for the assertion that baptism came in the room of circumcision. Not a hint of such a thing appears anywhere in the New Testament, not even in the discussion at the conference over circumcision in Jerusalem. In fact, this conference clearly proved that circumcision did not give way to baptism; otherwise the question at issue could have been settled promptly by simply saying that the Gentiles were not to be required to be circumcised because baptism had taken the place of circumcision. A pedobaptist would have been sure to propose that solution if he had been there. And that, by the way, is proof that there were no pedobaptists there. Jewish believers continued to practice both circumcision and baptism without a hint from the apostles to the contrary.


C. The next argument for infant baptism that we shall take up is based on Acts 2:39. It has been stated thus: "Peter, addressing a multitude of Jews on the day of Pentecost, said (Acts 2-39): 'For the promise is unto you and to your children.' Can you comprehend this statement? These Jews had been taught to receive children and give them the token of the Abrahamic covenant. There is no doubt with us about children being baptized on the day of Pentecost."


But this statement very tactfully omits the last part of the passage quoted, according to the usual tactics of pedobaptists.


This last part explains the passage; and, if properly considered, will show that any children baptized on Pentecost, or at any other time in the New Testament age, were only such as were called of the Lord. This necessitates their being old enough to receive the gospel and act upon it. The part of the passage we refer to reads: "Even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him." We shall be happy to baptize all the children that the Lord our God calls, but not more; for we have no ground for baptizing those whose baptism God has not authorized.


D. The next and last argument for infant baptism that we shall notice is based upon the household baptisms mentioned in the New Testament.


(a) Such an argument assumes two things for which there is no proof: (1) That there were infants in these households. (2) That these infants were baptized, and that in direct opposition to everything revealed in the Bible about the meaning of baptism and the qualifications of the recipients of it.


From Knapp's Theology (Knapp was a pedobaptist) we read: "It may be objected against those passages where the baptism of the whole families is mentioned, viz., Acts 10:42-48; 16:15-33; 1 Cor. 1:16, that it is doubtful whether there were any infants in those families, and if there were, whether they were then baptized."


(b) An inspection of the five household baptisms recorded in the New Testament leaves no proof whatsoever of infant baptism, but rather, in most cases, it furnishes conclusive proof to the contrary.


Cornelius is said to have been "a devout man, and on that feared God with all his house" (Acts 10:2). And we read that "the Holy Spirit fell on them that heard the word" (Acts 10:44), which thing was evidenced by their speaking in tongues (v. 46).  If there were any infants in the family of Cornelius, they were not included when his house was mentioned in its relation to God, and hence would not be baptized. And again, if any infants were baptized on this occasion, then they also received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.


The strong probability is that Lydia was not a married woman. She was a merchant woman, and at the time of her conversion was far from her home in Thyatira. Even if she had been a married woman, the fact that she was in business would make it unlikely that she had infant children. Her household, no doubt, consisted of servants and employees, as in the case of "Caesar's household" (Phil. 4:22). This expression cannot refer to or include any of Nero's children, for certainly none of them were members of the church at Rome.


When Paul said to the jailor at Philippi: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house," his words mean that the other members of the jailor's family were to be saved by their personal faith, and certainly not by the jailor's faith; for if so, then adults in the family were to be saved without personal faith. And it is said that the jailor "rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God." All of this shows that there were either no infants in the jailor's family or else they were not taken into consideration in the things that went on that night.


Nothing is given of the details of the conversion of the household of Stephanas. Paul tells us that he and his household were among the few he baptized at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:16). But three or four years later Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and spoke of the household of Stephanas as having, "set themselves to minister unto the saints" (1 Cor. 16: 15). It is unlikely that this would have been said if the household that was baptized a few years previous had included infants.


In the case of Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, it is distinctly said that "he believed in God with all his house." No infants here.


So this is the case of the household baptisms that pedobaptists depend so much upon. Not a scintilla of evidence that there were infants in any of these households, and far less that they would have received baptism if there had been.


We shall not waste time answering the attempts of pedobaptists to justify infant baptism by arguments other than those drawn from Scripture. These studies are prepared for those who believe in following Christ and the apostles, and no argument can induce such a countenance that which is subversive of their practices; and this is certainly true of infant baptism.




What is the purpose or design of baptism? Is it in order to salvation, as some maintain? Or is it, as others contend, for the purpose of manifesting salvation, showing forth the believer's death to sin and his resurrection to righteousness?  We take the position that the latter is true.  In consideration of this position we take-




All passages that condition salvation on repentance and faith alone show that baptism has no saving efficacy.  Cf. John 3:16, 18; 5:24; Luke 13:3; Acts 16:31; Rom. 4:5; Rom. 4:5; Eph. 2:8.  If baptism is essential to salvation, why was it left out of these passages which propose to point out the way of life to lost men?  It is true that all of them do not mention both repentance and faith, but the reason for this is that either repentance or faith is implied in the other.  But this is no true of baptism.


1 John 1:7 and all similar passages, by showing that the blood of Jesus cleanses from sin, forbid the belief that baptism has cleansing power.


Passages that show that baptism is not a part of the gospel, in the light of Rom. 1:16, forbid the view that baptism is essential to salvation.  In 1 Cor. 15:1-5 Paul gives a very full account of the content of the gospel, and baptism is not mentioned.  Then, in 1 Cor. 1:14-16, he thanks God that he baptized only a few of the Corinthians (can one imagine a Campbellite preacher's doing this?); and follows with a clear distinction between baptism and the gospel, saying: "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." Moreover, in 1 Cor. 4:15, he said to the Corinthians: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."




There are other passages which some take as teaching that baptism does have saving efficacy. We have already seen that such a meaning is foreign to the Scripture as a whole, but we shall examine these passages so that we may see fully that they are not out of harmony with other Scripture.


(1) Mark 16:16-"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."


If this Scripture were taken alone, it would seem to teach that salvation is conditioned on both faith and baptism. But this cannot be true in the light of other plain Scripture. In the light of Scripture as a whole, and this is the only sound method of interpreting any passage, this passage can mean no more than that he who believes and proves the genuineness of his faith by being baptized will be saved. We need to remember that one may believe in vain (1 Cor. 15:2). One may have a mere intellectual faith, which is a dead faith (Jas. 2:20). This is the kind of faith alluded to in Matt. 13:20. Note also the force of the latter part of this passage. It says not: "He that is not baptized shall be damned," but "He that believeth not," etc. Thus we see that it is faith that saves. Baptism and other acts of obedience only prove the genuineness of our faith.


(2) John 3:5-"Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."


Many take "born of water" to refer to baptism, and they take this passage to teach that the new birth is accomplished in baptism.  But in the light of the Scripture as a whole we cannot understand this passage to teach baptismal regeneration. Others have understood "born of water" to refer to the natural birth. They think of Jesus saying: "Except a man be born of the flesh and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." But it was needless for Jesus to say that a man could not enter into the kingdom of God without being born of the flesh. Nobody would suppose otherwise. And it seems manifest that the passage refers to but one birth. It does not say: "Except a man be born of water and also of the Spirit:: etc. We understand water here to be a symbol of the word. In behalf of this interpretation we urge the following considerations:


A.  Regeneration is a washing.  Titus 3:5.


B. Regeneration is through the Word.  Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23


C. The Word is likened to water in its cleansing power.  Eph. 5:25, 26.


Now when these facts are all put together we think there is nothing simpler than that "born of water" means "born of the Word." Thus we have in John 3:5 an allusion to both the agent (the Spirit) and the instrument (the Word) in the new birth.


(3) Acts 2:38-"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesse Christ for the remission of sin, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."


In considering this passage let us note.


A. The question asked in the preceding verse is not the restricted: "What must I do to be saved?" of Acts 16:30, but the broad- "What shall we do?" Hence it is not strange that we have here a broader answer than in Acts 16:31.


B. Repentance is placed before baptism; and when one has repented he is already saved; and hence cannot be baptized in order to be saved. Repentance is a complete change of mind based on a new disposition that has been implanted by the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith are inseparable and simultaneous, as shown by the fact that sometimes one and sometimes the other is mentioned alone as the means of salvation. And when one has believed he is already a child of God. See 1 John 5:1.


C. The passage does not say: "Be baptized for or unto the receiving of the remission of sin," and he who affirms that this is the meaning must shoulder the burden of proof.


D. The meaning of the passage, as interpreted in the light of the common tenor of Bible teaching is: "Be baptized for or unto the acknowledging, symbolizing or showing forth of the remission of sins"


It makes no difference whether we follow the common version and read "for" or the revision and read "unto," the meaning is the same; and the New Testament affords striking illustration of the meaning.


If "for" be taken as the correct English translation of the Greek preposition "eis," then we turn to Luke 5:12-14 for an illustration. Here a man already cleansed of leprosy is commanded: "Show thyself to the priest, and offer FOR thy cleansing as Moses commanded for a testimony unto them." The man was to offer sacrifices FOR a cleansing he had received already. In like manner we are baptized FOR the remission of sins already received. The understood antecedent of "them" is the people in general. So baptism is a testimony on our part to all that behold it that we are saved.


If "unto" be regarded as the proper translation, then we have two excellent illustrations of the meaning. The first one is found in Matt. 3:11, where John speaks of his baptism as "unto repentance." This cannot mean that John baptized people in order that they might repent. Baptism has nothing in it that can produce repentance. On the other hand, John represented repentance as a condition of baptism, and with him most men agree. The meaning is that John baptized unto the acknowledgment of repentance. See 1 Cor. 10:2, as treated presently, as other illustration of "unto" with regard to baptism. In studying Acts 2:38 it is well also to keep in mind that Peter spoke these words to Jews, who were steeped in the language of symbolism.


(4) Acts 20:16-"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name."


The washing spoken of in this passage is figurative. It is the blood that actually cleanses (1 John   1:7). Water cannot wash away sin. And, as we have noticed, Peter says this is not the purpose of baptism.


(5) Rom. 6:3-"Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ we were baptized into his death."


The Greek for "into" (eis) is the same word that is translated "unto" in 1 Cor. 10:2. Baptism puts us into the same relationship to Jesus that the crossing of the Red Sea put the Israelites in with reference to Moses. By this means the Israelites were manifested to be the followers of Moses. Baptism manifests us to be followers of Jesus.


(6) Gal. 3:27-"As many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ."


This passage explains the foregoing one. Baptism is a putting on of Christ. It is a public declaration of our discipleship. It is assuming before the world the obligation to live for Christ.


(7) Titus 3:5-"Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."


The "washing of regeneration" is the moral cleansing of the soul by the Word of God in regeneration (Eph. 5:26; Jam. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23).


(8) 1 Pet. 3.20, 21-". . . the ark . . . wherein, few that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh . . ."


This passage is truly a boomerang in the hands of those who believe that baptism has something to do with accomplishing salvation. Because it says that baptism saves us, these people hasten to invoke this passage; but it says too much to be of any real service to them. The passage truly says that baptism saves, but it tells just how and in what sense it saves, viz.,


A. Not by "the putting away of the filth of the flesh." Only those who are more interested in their own ideas than they are in the truth will take the absurd position that Peter alluded to the  physical body in using "sarx" (flesh). All others will see that such an affirmation was needless, and will understand the reference to be the carnal nature; and thus they will see that the passage says plainly that baptism does not literally take away sin.


B. But only in the same sense that the water at the flood saved the occupants of the ark. Wherefore note: (a) The water of the flood did not save the occupants of the ark by putting them in the ark. They went in before the water came. If any waited, hoping that the water would put them in the ark, they perished. In the same manner baptism does not actually put us in Christ. (b) The water did not save the occupants of the ark by making them any safer after it came than they were before it came. (e) The water saved the occupants of the ark in only a declarative or demonstrative sense. By lifting the ark and carrying it on its bosom, the water manifested that God's favor rested on those inside the ark. Baptism likewise manifests and declares our salvation.




Here it is our purpose to inquire whether baptism can be scripturally administered by any mode other than immersion. We maintain that it cannot, and we offer the following proofs:




The author has read quite extensively in the field of controversy over the meaning of this Greek word in the New Testament. But here it is possible, because of limits of space and time, to give only a resume of the evidence in support of the position taken.


(1) The Testimony Of Lexicons


We cannot here begin to list the testimony of all the lexicons, but shall give that of the three outstanding. These three are: Liddell and Scott's, for classical Greek; Sophocles', for the Roman and Byzantine periods; and Thayer's for New Testament Greek.


A. Liddell and Scott:


 "To dip in or under water; Lat. immergere."


B. Sophocles:


"To dip, to immerse, to sink ... There is no evidence that Luke and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks."


C. Thayer:


"In the New Testament it is used particularly of the rite of sacred ablution, first instituted by John the Baptist, afterwards by Christ's command received by Christians and adjusted to contents and nature of their religion... viz., an immersion in water, performed as a sign of the removal of sin, and administered to those who, impelled by a desire for salvation, sought admission to the benefits of the Messiah's kingdom."


(2) The Present Practice Of The Greeks.


 Greek Christians immerse for baptism, and De Stourdza, the greatest modern Greek theologian, wrote that "baptizo signifies literally and always 'to plunge.'" He also added:


"Baptism and immersion are therefore identical, and to say 'baptism by aspersion' is as if one should say 'immersion by aspersion' or any other absurdity of the same nature.  The Greek church maintains that the Latin church, instead of a 'baptismos,' practice a mere 'rantismos' (sprinkling),- instead of a baptism, a mere sprinkling."


(3) The Testimonies of Encyclopedias.


We have not space to quote the encyclopedias, but shall merely mention the name of those which speak either of the meaning of the Greek word of the original nature of the ordinance or both, and which give the meaning of the word as "immersion" or speak of the original mode of the ordinance as such, or both.


They are: Encyclopedia Americana, Metropolitan Encyclopedia, Penny Cyclopedia, Chamber's Encyclopedia, National Cyclopedia, Ree's Cyclopedia, Brand's Cyclopedia, Encyclopedia Ecclesiastica.*




*Quotations on baptism from all these may be found in "Before the Footlights" (Iams), beginning on page 112.



(4) The Testimony of Pedobaptist Scholars and Leaders.


A. Luther:


"Baptism is a Greek word, and may be translated immersion, as when we immerse something in water that it may be wholly covered; and, although it is almost wholly abolished (for they do not dip the whole children, but only pour a little water on them), they ought, nevertheless, to be wholly immersed, and then immediately drawn out, for that the etymology of the word seems to demand."


B. Calvin:


"The very word baptize, however, signifies to immerse; and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church"-from comment on Acts 8:38.


C. Zwingli:


"Into His death. When ye were immersed (intingere-mini) into the water of Baptism, ye were engrafted into the death of Christ."--Anno. on Rom. 6:3.


D. Meyer:


"Immersion, which the word in classic Greek, and in the New Testament, everywhere means" (Comment on Mark 7:4).


E. Lightfoot: "That the baptism of John was by plunging the body (after the same manner as the washing of unclean persons and the baptism of proselytes-was) seems to appear from these things which are related of him; namely, that he baptized in Jordan, that he baptized in Enon, because there was much water there," etc.


F. James Macknight, noted Scottish Presbyterian author and leader:


"Jesus submitted to be baptized- that is, buried under water by John, and to be raised out of it again, as an emphasis of his future death and resurrection." Note on Rom. 6:4, 5.


G. Whitfield:


"It is certain that in the words of our text (Rom. 6:4), there is an allusion to the manner of baptism by immersion."


H. Augusti:


"The word 'baptism' according to etymology and usage, signifies to immerse, submerge," etc.


I. Lange:


"And were baptized, immersed, in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Immersion was the symbol of repentance." (Comment on Matt. 3:6).


J. Geo. Campbell: "The word baptism, both in sacred authors and in classical, signifies to dip, to plunge, to immerse."


K. Chalmers:


"The original meaning of the word baptism is immersion."


L. Schaff :


"Immersion, and not sprinkling, was unquestionably the original form (of baptism). This is shown by the very meaning of the Greek word baptidzo, baptisma, and the analogy of the baptism of John, which was performed in the Jordan . . ."(Hist. of the Apos. Ch., p. 568).


These quotations could be multiplied.




The Scripture alludes to baptism as a burial (Rom. 5:4; Col. 2:12). A burial requires Immersion. The objection that these passages do not allude to water baptism, but to Spirit baptism or to conversion in a figurative sense, is groundless, and gives clear evidence of having been born of prejudice rather than of a fair and impartial consideration of the passages. As long as pedobaptists refer to baptism as a "sign of regeneration" as we have remarked, they cannot, in consistency with themselves, eliminate from these passages an allusion to the symbolic meaning of baptism. Nor will they ever find this meaning in pouring and sprinkling. The only sensible way to interpret language is to take it as having its usual sense, unless another sense is indicated or demanded. This rule requires that baptism mean water baptism, except where some other kind of baptism is specified or in some way demanded. Neither is true in the case of the passages under consideration. The retort that if these passages refer to water baptism, they teach baptismal regeneration is groundless in the light of the fact that they manifestly speak of baptism as to what it symbolizes and not as to what it actually accomplishes.




(1) John baptized in the river Jordan.


Mark 1:5. The most natural meaning of this, and the one we must take, unless good reasons can be adduced to the contrary, is that the rite was administered in the river as we understand such an expression; and not merely in the vicinity of the river. V. 8 confirms this when, according to the better translation, it says, "I baptize you in water."


"This is not negatived by the use of the dative of instrument, as in Luke 3:16, Acts 1: 5; 1: 16. Clark well says: "The Greek view could equally well contemplate the enveloping element, locally, as that in which, or, instrumentally, as that with which, the dipping was effected. And while it is awkward for us to speak of immersing a thing with water, it is simply a matter of familiarity, of idiom; and we need only take a synonymous verb, 'to whelm,' and it is perfectly natural for us to speak of 'whelming with water'" (Comment on Luke 3:1). Conant, moreover, points out that the use of the instrumental dative is for the purpose of distinguishing "the element used for immersion in one case from that employed in another"; and adds: "The simple dative occurs, in the New Testament, only where the material or element used for immersing is to be thus distinguished. In all these cases, the distinction is between the element of water and the Holy Spirit . . . ; and as the latter could less properly be conceived as the mere instrument of an act, it is in every such case construed with the local preposition in . . . This is the only explanation of the use of both the simple dative, and the dative with the preposition in the same connection and relation" (The Meaning and Use of Baptizein, p. 100).


And the argument that the Jordan, at the place where John is supposed to have baptized, is too shallow or too swift to allow immersion in it has been proved false time and time again by those who have visited it.


(2) At another time John baptized in Enon, "because there was much water there." John 3:23. Sprinklers and pourers try to make out that the water was needed for other purposes than baptism, as at a Methodist camp meeting. But Hovey ably replies:


"This passage virtually affirms that baptism could not be conveniently administered without a considerable body of water. The plea that water was needed for other purposes than baptizing is set aside by the language of the sacred writer. For the reason why John was baptizing there (not why he was preaching there), was because there was much water in the place" (Comment on John 3:23).


Literally "much water" is, in the Greek, "many waters." But it is held by eminent Bible scholars to mean "much water," and is so rendered by the revisers, most of whom were pedobaptists. The reason why this expression here is held to really amount to "much water," is supplied by C. R. Condor (Tent Work in Palestine, I., p. 91 sq.). He tells that at the almost certain cite of Enon "head springs are found in an open valley, surrounded by desolate and shapeless hills. The water gushes out over a stony bed, and flows rapidly down in a fine stream surrounded by bushes of oleander. The supply is perennial, and a continual succession of little springs occurs along the bed of the valley, so that the current becomes the principal western affluent of Jordan, south of the Vale of Jezreel. The valley is open in most parts of its course, and we find the two requisites for the scene of baptism of a huge multitude--an open space, and abundance of water." Enon means "springs," and three miles south of the valley described above is found a village called Salem. The "many waters" are the "head springs" and the "continual succession of little springs." And these "many waters" unite in a sizable stream, thus making "much water."


3. Philip took the eunuch "into the water" to baptize him.


Acts 8:38, 39. The Greek preposition for "into" is eis. It can mean "unto." But, as Hackett points out, here it cannot mean "unto the water," as though they went only to the edge of it;  but must mean "into the water," because it is used in contrast with "out of the water"-ek tou hudatos, in the next verse. And Plumtre remarks: "The Greek preposition (i. e. eis) might mean simply 'unto the water,' but the universality of immersion in the practice of the early church supports the English version" (Ellicott's New Test. Commentary).


It is hardly necessary to remark that it would be unnatural for the candidate to be taken into the water in order to be sprinkled or poured upon.


(Return to Contents)