The World's Redemption


Chapter 24 - Baptism, Its Mode And Meaning

There has been very much written on the subject of baptism, perhaps more in an endeavor to evade the force of New Testament teachings than in support of them. The very fact that so much skill has been employed on the negative side of the question is a strong proof of the truth of the affirmative side. One glancing over the New Testament statements, implications and inferences on the subject cannot but be impressed with the boldness, not to say the presumption, of that undertaking which seeks to make the sprinkling of water in the face of a babe or an adult answer the purpose of baptism; nor is it any less surprising that there should be an effort to treat the subject as one of indifference,--as a doctrine which is not a vital part of the plan of salvation.

The carnal mind is responsible for these evils. It reasons with itself, asking, "What difference can it make as to the quantity of water; or whether one is sprinkled with a few drops, or immersed in a quantity sufficient for that purpose?" In others the same carnal mind asks, "What virtue can there be in water to save one from sin and death? Why should salvation be made dependent upon the use of water at all? It is the blood of Christ that saves; and surely one can receive the benefit of the precious blood of Christ without going to a pond or a river. Suppose one should be where there is no pond or river? Why, if you say baptism is a saving ordinance, then you make out that salvation is in a pond or in a river or in a bath tub," etc., etc.

Reasoning (?) thus the carnal mind can easily satisfy itself, because when the wish is father to the thought, "the way may seem right unto a man," while "the end thereof is the way of death;" and it is quite as easy for the same fleshly mind to carry the same argument to the matter of belief (which many do) and to the efficacy of the blood of Christ. Leave God and His revealed plan of salvation, with all its requirements, out of the question, and the natural man, the man of mere sight without scripturally-produced faith, can assume premises from which to reason and reason, to his own conceited satisfaction, yet ignorant all the time of the fact that he is sowing to the wind only to reap the whirlwind, and knowing not that God has declared that "Your thoughts are not my thoughts; neither are your ways my ways." The "wisdom" of the natural man is foolishness with God, and "the world by [its own] wisdom knew not God." The really wise man, he who desires to know and do the right and to obtain salvation, will seek to know what God hath spoken and required; then he will find that he is not required to obey blindly; but he will see why it is so, and the real fitness of God's requirements will be manifest to him and command his admiration and true devotion.

The word "baptism" has been very troublesome to those "scholars" whose denominational theory has substituted sprinkling for baptism. It has proven to be a most unfortunate word for them. What a vast amount of trouble they would have been spared had the inspired writers used a word to suit their theory, or even some vague, indefinite word that would have left the matter so obscure as to allow of the "learned" quieting the consciences of the "unlearned." The earnest among the "unlearned," knowing that sprinkling is not baptizing, will ask the pulpit questions, awkward questions, to which the creed of the pulpit will not admit of satisfactory answers. To make even the shadow of a show the meaning of the word must be evaded and a little sermon must be preached about the unreasonableness of attaching importance to the quantity of water, or even to water at all. The "learned" are compelled to take this course to save the reputation of their "scholarship," for which many of them have more respect than they have for the clear and unmistakable declarations of God's word. This may seem a bold assertion, but since so many are trying to make believe that sprinkling will do, and yet none of them have ever dared to translate the Greek word (bapto) by the word sprinkle or pour, what other conclusion can we come to? If the original word finds its meaning in the act of sprinkling, why not translate it by the word sprinkle? For many years the declaration of the author of the Emphatic Diaglott has been before the world, and no one that we have ever heard of has challenged it. In his Alphabetical Appendix, he gives the following:

BAPTIZE, bapto, baptizo. Bapto occurs 3 times, Luke 16: 24; John 13: 26; Rev. 19: 13, and is always translated dip in the common version. Baptizo occurs 79 times; of these, 77 times it is not translated at all, but transferred; and twice, viz. Mark 7: 4; Luke 11: 38, it is translated wash, without regard to the manner in which it was done. All lexicographers translate it by the word immerse, dip or plunge, not one by sprinkle or pour. No translator has ever ventured to render these words by sprinkle or pour in any version. In the Septuagint version we have pour, dip and sprinkle occurring in Lev. 14: 15, 16--"He shall pour the oil, he shall dip his finger in it, and he shall sprinkle the oil." Here we have cheo, to pour; raino, to sprinkle, and bapto, to dip.

BAPTISM, baptisma, baptismos. These words are never translated sprinkling or pouring in any version. Baptisma occurs 29 times, and baptismos 4 times.

Here we have the whole matter, so far as the meaning of the original words is concerned, reduced to a small compass, and no room is left for dispute; and now how do we find baptism presented in the New Testament? It confronts us everywhere, in plain language and by implication and inference; it is either the principal subject of discourse or introduced incidentally. Prominently, forcibly, essentially it stands out in the entire book. John the Baptist came to prepare a people for the Lord by preaching "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." "Then went out unto him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan; and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." A greater than John, even Jesus himself, came and demanded baptism at the hands of John; and when John remonstrated, Jesus said, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." The Father expressed his pleasure at this by causing the Holy Spirit to descend upon him and by saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

Then Jesus himself preached baptism, and it is said that "Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John" (John 4: 1). This continued till Jesus exemplified the meaning of baptism by his death, burial and resurrection. After his resurrection and just before his ascension Jesus gave his commission to his apostles: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned"--Mark 16: 15, 16. Here are the only authoritative terms of salvation, which show that baptism is as essential as belief; and that belief is as essential as baptism--no salvation by one without the other, no salvation without both.

By this command and by this authority the apostles went forth upon their mission. About eight days after the departure of their Lord they began their work, when, according to their Lord's promise, the Holy Spirit came upon them when assembled on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit was to "guide them into all truth;" and it equipped them with authority from heaven, and endowed with the Holy Spirit they proceeded to preach the gospel, resulting in a conviction which caused the people to cry out, "What shall we do?" the answer to which, true to the Lord's commission, was, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for (or unto) the remission of your sins"--Acts 2: 38, 39. What followed? Was there any quibbling about whether sprinkling would do, or whether belief without baptism or baptism without belief, or whether baptism and belief could be dispensed with? No, no. "Then they that gladly received the word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls"--verse 41. So we may follow the course of the apostles and disciples throughout their entire ministry until the New Testament is left in our hands with the doctrine of baptism taught, proved and practiced as one of the vital principles of essential truth.

No man could preach Christ without preaching baptism. In Acts 8: 5 we have the simple words, "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them." Then in verse 12 we read, "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." Why were they baptized, if the preaching of baptism was not a part of the work of "preaching Christ?"

Why was not Cornelius a saved man, seeing he was devout and God-fearing, and alms-giving and a praying man? See Acts 10:1, 2. That he was not is evident from the fact that he was commanded to send to Joppa for Peter, "who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved"--Chap. 11: 14. The words of the gospel were preached by Peter, and upon a belief of those words "he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord"--chap. 10: 48. It is needless to continue. Everywhere we go we find the doctrine of baptism wherever in the New Testament we find the gospel preached and obeyed. We may summarize the subject as follows:

BAPTISM IS ONE OF THE CONDITIONS OF SALVATION

Mark 16: 15, 16--And he (Jesus) said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Acts 2: 38--Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins.

Acts 10: 47, 48--Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, seeing that they have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

John 3: 5--Jesus answered, Verily I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

ALL BELIEVERS OF THE GOSPEL WERE BAPTIZED

Acts 2: 41--Then they that gladly received his (Peter's) words were baptized.

Acts 18: 8--And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.

Acts 8: 12--And when they believed Philip * * * they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 8: 38--Philip baptized the eunuch.

Acts 16: 15--Lydia was baptized and her household.

Acts 16: 33--The keeper of the prison was baptized, he and all his straightway.

Acts 19: 5--When they (twelve men at Ephesus) heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

BAPTISM IS FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS

Acts 2: 38--Be baptized for the remission of your sins.

Acts 22: 16--Be baptized and wash away thy sins.

I. Pet. 3: 21--Baptism doth also now save us--by the answer of a good conscience.

II. Pet. 1: 9--Purged from his old sins.

Eph. 5: 26--The washing of water by the word.

BAPTISM INTO CHRIST REQUIRES WATER

Acts 8: 36--See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Acts 10: 47--Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized?

John 3: 23--John was baptizing in AEnon near to Salim, because there was much water there.

BAPTISM IN WATER IS A BEING BURIED OR IMMERSED THEREIN

Rom. 6: 3-5--We are buried with him by baptism into death * * * planted together in the likeness of his death.

Col. 2: 12--Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him.

John 3: 5--Born of (Greek, out of) water.

In other cases where the word baptism is used, it is with the idea of complete covering over with the thing or element it is related to.

Proof: Acts 1: 5; 2: 2--Baptized with the Holy Spirit * * * it filled all the house where they were sitting.

I. Cor. 10: 2--Israel baptized in the cloud and in the sea.

Luke 12: 50--Christ's baptism of suffering: it overwhelmed him.

The matter may be the more easily discerned by keeping in mind that a saving relationship to Christ is expressed in the New Testament by the phrase "in Christ." He is the "name of the Lord" which is a "strong tower, into which the righteous runneth and is safe"--Prov. 18: 10. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name," etc.--Acts 4: 12. "In whom we have redemption through his blood"--Eph. 1: 7. "But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ"--Eph. 2: 13. "If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature"--II. Cor. 5: 17. Now there is only one way by which a believer can come into this relation, and that one way is made most clear and unmistakable by the Scriptures. Writing to the Galatians the Apostle Paul says, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus"--Chap. 3: 26. No one is a child of God who is not "in Christ Jesus," and it is by means of the one faith that such a relationship is effected. The one faith is dead without the one baptism (Jas. 2: 20). The conditions are, "He that believeth and is baptized." Now let the same apostle settle how the faith inducts one "into Christ:" "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ * * * and if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise"--Gal. 3: 27-29. The matter stands thus then: No salvation out of Christ; no way unto Christ but by belief of the gospel and baptism.

No one will waste time speculating about the doctrine of baptism who understands the plan of salvation. There is a fitness which impresses one with its consistency, its beauty, yet its divine philosophy, which so satisfies the humble mind as to reduce the speculations of those who oppose baptism or pervert its meaning to an absurdity undeserving of a moment's consideration. An understanding of the mode and meaning of baptism comes as a natural sequence to an understanding of "Jesus Christ and him crucified." Let the seeker after saving truth come to see the true gospel, and it will be unnecessary to impress upon his mind the necessity of baptism. He, like the eunuch, will cry out, "Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" In order to see the consistency and beauty of baptism, and that acceptable obedience to it is not by ignorantly submitting to it as an arbitrary command, it will be well to take a wider view than we have hitherto taken. Let us therefore retrace our steps and then come down through other channels of thought.

At first sight the subject of baptism seems to be abruptly introduced in the New Testament. The first we read of it is in Matt. 3: 5. 6--"Then went out to him (John) Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins." There is no introduction to this, no explanation of the reason for John baptizing the people; yet, as the record is, the people seemed to accept of it without questioning why, or finding fault with it as an innovation. No doubt many things were said and done that are not recorded; and the required explanations were given; but in a sense baptism was not a new thing to Israel. The Apostle Paul says that the first tabernacle was "a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices," and in which there were "meats and drinks and divers washings (baptisms) and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation"--Heb. 9: 8-19.

The fearful disease of leprosy is a symbol of the death which we are all under. Under the law of Moses, a leper when cleansed must "bathe himself in water;" so with one who touched a running issue of the flesh; and with those who accidentally or otherwise touched a dead body. There were washings for physical cleanliness and for legal and spiritual cleanness. The latter was represented by the former, the spiritual by the natural; as one who had become physically unclean was unfit to mingle in society until he was bathed, washed or baptized; so one who had become offensive to the law was unfit to enter the camp till his legal defilement was washed away by bathing in water.

Israel had to be baptized as a means of consecration to the Lord; and so did Aaron and his sons upon their consecration to the priesthood. The "divers washings," therefore, were the means of a change from a legal or moral uncleanness to a state of cleanness in the eyes of God's law. All this arose from the fact that sin was in the world. A "dead body" is always an evidence that sin is in the world, and therefore the reason of its uncleanness and the legal defilement of any one who came in contact with it. In this case the "bathings," "washings" or baptism was associated with death, as a requirement arising from the fact of death. One being bathed in water to cleanse himself from defilement incurred by touching a corpse was one who was baptized for (because of) the dead--a death whose origin was in the sin of our first parents. The entire Adamic body is a dead body in the eyes of the law; and on this account every individual part of that body is defiled by contact with death. In various ways God has always kept the uncleanness of this death state before the eyes of his people and of those who would become his people. Primarily therefore the "divers washings" or baptisms, of the law had their origin in the law of sin and death in Eden. The law of Moses reached one hand back to the sin and fall of Eden; and it stretched the other hand down to Jesus on the cross. The "divers washings" made necessary by sin and death as a means of legal cleansing and of consecration to the Lord were preparatory to and typical of the baptism that would come in the time of and as a means to "the reformation." Hence the reason for its seemingly abrupt introduction by John and of the people accepting it as a matter of course, though it assumed a somewhat different form, and partaking more of a spiritual aspect additional to the hitherto legal aspect under the law. What is salvation but a cleansing from the defilement of sin. And, pray, where did sin and consequent defilement begin? One cannot for a moment think about the means of cleansing God has provided, whether in the word, the water or the blood, without mentally going back to the origin of the world's evil and its consequent uncleanness in the sight of God. And when this divinely philosophical view is taken, the mode of baptism will readily be understood in the clear light of its design. Study its design, and the fitness of its form or mode will be thereby discerned without wading through the long philological disquisitions of those who have harped upon the words bapto and baptizo in a multitude of words to no profit. The reader's mind is already prepared for this. Let him ask, What is our trouble? Answer, Sin has brought a sentence of death and return to dust upon us. What do we need in view of this? We need resurrection. How has that been made possible? By our Lord and Saviour dying the death required and going down into the grave as the sentence demanded, and then with the "key" of a holy life opening the door and triumphantly coming out. What can we do to participate in the benefits of his triumph? Die with him, be buried with him, be raised with him. But how can we do that? "Obey from the heart that form of doctrine" (Rom. 6:17) analogous to his death, burial and resurrection, and you will thereby be regarded by the law of the Spirit of life as having died with him, been crucified with him, risen with him, and the uncleanness of sin will be washed away and your consecration to the Lord and to a new legal, mental and moral life will be complete pending a physical completeness at the coming of Christ. This understood, the mode of baptism, if it were possible for it to have more than one mode, and its necessity is settled and the words of the apostle come with all their truthful, consistent and logical force, "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life"--Rom. 6: 2-4. "And we are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcized with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses"--Col. 2: 10-13. Who would ever dream of baptism consisting of sprinkling water in one's face in view of this? Is there any room left for a shadow of doubt as to the mode and meaning of baptism here?

Now these truths lead up to the baptism of Jesus. Why was he baptized? Some are satisfied with the simple answer that it was because God required it. This answer is correct, of course, and it is good enough so far as it goes; but we must remember that God always has a good reason for his requirements; and he invites us to "Come and let us reason together." "He that hath an ear, let him hear." "Blessed is he that heareth," etc. The reason why the offerings of Israel became offensive to God was because of a lack of intelligent faith, and a failure to discern their typical meaning. Slavish, or ignorant, obedience is not what God is well pleased with when he has condescended to give the reasons why he requires obedience. It is evident that Jesus understood his baptism in a deeper sense than a mere act of obedience to an arbitrary command. He regarded it as a "form of doctrine" which signified the "fulfilling of all righteousness," whereby alone there would be deliverance from death and the grave. And here we are face to face again with evidence of Christ's relation to the law of sin and death. If he was part of the same flesh of the fallen race, then, Mosaically speaking, he had touched a dead body and must needs be cleansed by baptism in water.

But how would baptism "fulfill all righteousness?" What is "all righteousness?" What is "God's righteousness," which some, "going about to establish their own righteousness, forsook?" Is it not evident that the phrase stands for a system, like the words "Truth," "Gospel," and "Faith?" The "righteousness of God" represents God's plan upon which is predicated salvation. If the "all righteousness," or "God's righteousness" had never been fulfilled and really exemplified in actual life under trial and temptation, His plan of salvation would have failed. Jesus was the one and the only one who could exemplify "God's righteousness," or "all righteousness." Now all that Jesus did is focused, as it were, in his death, so that when we read of being saved by the death of Christ, all that leads up to his death as an acceptable sacrifice is implied, involved in, and represented by his death. In this sense, then, we may say that "God's righteousness" and "all righteousness," or God's right ways of saving men, was fulfilled in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; and thereby salvation became possible.

But if "all righteousness" was fulfilled thus, by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. how could Jesus apply the phrase "all righteousness" to baptism, as he did when he said to John, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness?" The answer is that baptism is a "form of doctrine" analogous to and symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; and it is a provisional death, burial and resurrection which reaches forward to the real and permanent one and partakes for the time being of part of its virtue or efficacy, sufficiently to justify one or put one so in unison with God as to be regarded as clean in his sight to the extent of allowing a oneness, legally, mentally and morally, pending the absolute cleansing which will take place when the "vile body is changed and made like unto his glorious body." Therefore, as soon as Jesus emerged from the water, the voice of God declared, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." And this was part of that work described by the Apostle Paul in the words, "Great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh (Christ), justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory"--I. Tim. 3: 16.

Jesus having "fulfilled all righteousness," typified by the law, for instance, after the type of Aaron when he was bathed as a means of preparing him for the priesthood--he was consecrated to the Lord as a priest in behalf of his brethren. And since Aaron's sons had also to pass through the water of consecration, we must do the same, in order that we may have access to the throne of grace, to offer our "bodies living sacrifices, holy (having been provisionally cleansed or spiritually washed) and acceptable unto God, which is our religious service." Christ has become our righteousness, by means of having "fulfilled all righteousness;" but he is not ours, he is not a garment, a "tower," a "name," a "tabernacle," a "temple," to us until we have put him on as a garment, entered into him by doing our part in "fulfilling all righteousness" after the example he has given us. Of baptism therefore we may also say, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness," and if we do not perform all of our part we shall not be consecrated to the Lord, we shall be "without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world"--Eph. 2:12. But if we have been baptized into Christ's death, we are in Christ, and the words will apply to us: "But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ"--verse 13. But the blood will not touch us without the word and the water; for the three meet in testimony of our becoming children of God. Hence we read, "There are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one," not separately. The Spirit (through the word) reveals to us the virtue of the blood of Christ and it teaches us how we may receive of its virtue. It therefore leads us into the water of consecration, where we come within the scope of the cleansing blood and thus, "If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature." Noah and his family were saved by going into the ark. "The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us"--I. Pet. 3: 21. The "figure" is, that out of the ark, no salvation; in the ark, there is salvation, Christ is our ark. How can we enter? "Eight souls were saved by water;" so by the waters of baptism we may enter the ark and thus "baptism doth also now save us," not the washing away of the filth of the flesh; but "the answering of a good conscience towards God." Let us not, therefore, deceive ourselves. We cannot have a "good conscience" without complying with the conditions God has given us. Let us become quickened into a new life by a symbolic death, burial and resurrection; and then it will be ours, if faithful to the end of our probationary life, to be quickened in life eternal; "for if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that thenceforth we should not serve sin; for he who died has been freed from sin"--Rom. 6: 6-7.