The Truth About Water Baptism
It is important to know that the meaning of baptism has remained the same over the centuries. To purify is the description of the effect of baptism; it is not the definition of the word baptism itself. Paul speaks of immersion in his letter to the Romans, Romans 6:3-5. He defines purification for us as he speaks of walking in the newness of life... after we are baptized.
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
These scriptures clearly support baptism by immersion under water as being buried with Christ by baptism, being planted with Him in the likeness of His death. Colossians 2:12 also refers to this:
12 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.
This operation of faith is completed by water baptism in Jesus' name. One believes and confesses that Jesus is Lord by taking on His name through baptism, proving his/her faith and obedience to the commandment of God. Many have misunderstood the above passage to mean spiritual baptism. First, let me state that we do believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues. However, the Bible does not teach that one must speak in tongues to be saved. Jesus, out example, was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, but where in the scriptures does it say that he spoke in tongues? It does not. Water baptism is a commandment. The Holy Ghost is a gift.
Now, let us discuss spiritual baptism. In every instance in the scriptures where people asked what they must do to be saved, they were commanded to be baptized in water. Search the scriptures for yourself. You will not be able to find one occasion where a single person was saved without obeying the word of God. A good example of this is the account of Cornelius in the tenth chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. It would be advisable to have a Bible with you so you can read this chapter yourself due to the fact that it is a long chapter. You will find that Cornelius was a devout man, and one that feared God with all of his house. He gave alms to the poor and always prayed to God. We find as we read that Cornelius had a vision from God in which he was told by an angel to send for a man by the name of Peter, who would tell him what he should do. In Acts 10:44-48we find Peter preaching in Cornelius' house:
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
We see here that "the Holy Ghost fell upon all them which heard the word" of God, even the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is an extra portion of the Spirit of God in a person's life. Some would call this the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and it is, yet Peter still commanded them to be baptized in water in the name of the Lord.
We can believe all we want to but, without keeping the commandments of God, believing is to no avail. To believe is to obey and to obey is to do what Jesus tells us in His word. How can a person say they love God when they do not the things He has told us to do? In St. John 14:15, we read:
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
The Bible teaches us plainly that faith without works is dead. This is found in James 2:26:
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
By obeying the commandment of water baptism, we apply the blood of Christ to our lives without which we would have no remission of sins. Without remission of sins we would have no chance of salvation, because none of us are good enough to be saved. Therefore, it is by the grace of God that we are saved for He shed His blood for us. In Hebrews 9:22, we read:
22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
This is a spiritual process, the renewing of a person in mind and heart by this new birth that comes through Christ. One can see now however, according to the scriptures, that this new birth does not take place without water baptism. Jesus spoke of this Himself in St. John 3:3-5. Note here the meaning of the word "water." He is talking about H2O. Some people would like to think that the word water in this verse means the Spirit. If that was the case, then you would have to change Jesus' words in verse 5 to "Except a man be born of the Spirit and of the Spirit..." How can a man be born of the Spirit and of the Spirit? There is only one Spirit to be born of, and that is God's.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he
is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
It is plain to see here that we must be born again. Without the rebirth in Christ Jesus by water baptism, we cannot even be a Christian. To be Christian is to be Christ-like and to follow in His footsteps. We must put on Christ as stated in Galatians 3:27 by Apostle Paul.
Salvation must be complete according to the word of God. Jesus Christ has already completed it, but it is up to us to apply the Spirit, the water, and the blood to our lives. The Spirit, which is the Holy Ghost, is to lead and guide us into all truth, the water is the water of baptism, and the blood, which is applied to our lives through water baptism in His name, remits our sins. If a person is lacking one or more of these elements in their life, their salvation is incomplete. We must do it God's way. Let us read I John 5:8:
8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Another controversy in religion today is that of infant baptism. Nowhere in the scriptures do we find where the baptism of infants, whether by sprinkling or any other means, was ever practiced by the early church. First of all, infants are not at an age at which they can comprehend or have faith, yet faith or belief is an essential requirement for baptism, as we read in Mark 16:16:
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
We find in Deuteronomy 1:39 that, even in those days, God did not hold the evil of the Hebrew people, when they refused to believe the Lord in the crossing of the Jordan to take the promised land, against their children. They had no knowledge between good and evil.
39 Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
Infant baptism did not begin as a Christian ordinance or belief, but as a pagan rite long before the first Christian was ever baptized in the New Testament. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9' Edition (Volume III, Pg. 349)
The Pagan rite was much older than the introduction of Christianity, and was connected with the savage custom of exposing infants who were not to be brought up. The newly-born infant was presented to the father, who was to decide whether the child was to be reared or not; if he decided to rear it, then water was poured over the child and the father gave it a name; if it was to be exposed, then the ceremony was not gone through. The point to be observed is that, if the child was exposed by anyone after the ceremony had been gone through, it was a case of murder, whereas it was not thought a crime if the child was made away with before water had been poured over it and it had been named. The analogy lies in the use of water, the bestowal of the name, and the entrance into civil life through the rite.
Pagan worship had a great deal of influence on Christianity. Certain theologians and philosophers confused this particular pagan rite, along with others, and mixed them with true Christianity. This is where trinity originated from: the changing of the mode of baptism, and the many sacraments of the Catholic Church as well as other denominations.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11"' Edition (Volume III, Pg. 366)
Trine immersion then, as to the origin of which Basil confesses his ignorance, must be older than either of the rival explanations. These are clearly actiological, and invented to explain an existing custom, which the church had adopted from its pagan medium. For pagan illustrations were normally threefold:
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9`h Edition (Volume III, Pg. 349-350)
Baptism was thought to be necessary to salvation, and all who were unbaptized were unsaved. In this way Augustine, while recognizing the spiritual nature of the sacrament, held views about the importance of the rite which were as strong as those of any Greek theologian who had mingled confusedly in his mind Christian doctrines and the maxims of pagan philosophy about the creative power of the element of water. Of course such a doctrine of the importance of the baptism with water had to be modified to some extent. There were cases of Christian martyrs who had never been baptized, and yet had confessed Christ and died to confess Him: for their sakes the ideal of a baptism of blood was brought forward; they were baptized not with water, but in their own blood. And the same
desire to widen the circle of the baptized led the way to the recognition of the baptism of heretics, laymen, and nurses. It was the Augustine doctrine of baptism which was developed by the Schoolmen, and which now is the substance of modern Roman Catholic teaching.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9" Edition (Volume III, Pg. 351)
It could easily be shown that a great deal of this complex ceremony took its origin from the introduction of pagan ceremonies into the Christian worship.
We find that this was also purposely done to draw the pagans into the church, accomplished, unfortunately, at the cost of embracing cult ideals, shrines of the pagans and the martyring of untold numbers of people.
The New Catholic Encyclopaedia (Volume II, Pg. 54)
In the pagan world. In the ancient world the waters of the Ganges in India, Euphrates in Babylonia, and the Nile in Egypt were used for sacred baths; the sacred bath was known also in the Hellenistic mystery cults. And in the Attis and Mithra cults sacred initiation included a blood bath.
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15' Edition (Volume 4, Pg. 541) Pagans were normally devoted to local shrines of particular gods. The church tried to meet this psychological need by establishing shrines of martyrs. The Martyr cult, a matter of private devotion from 150 until 250 AD, became so popular after the Decian persecution that official control was required. Invocation of Mary as "mother of God" is first attested in a 3rd century papyrus. At Rome the shrines of Peter and Paul, where Constantine built basilicas, attracted many pilgrims. The holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem; however, were preeminent. Preachers might warn that pilgrimage did not necessarily bring one nearer to God and that one must not worship the martyrs being venerated, but at the popular level such exhortations seemed sophisticated. The bones of martyrs and holy men were so treasured that a traffic in bogus relics was created. By 400, particular saints were being invoked for particular needs (one for health, another for fertility, travel, prediction, or the detection of perjury.) When the barbarian leader Alaric's Goths sacked Rome (410), citizens asked why Peter and Paul had failed to protect their city.
Pagan critics said that the old gods, true givers of success and miracles, were offended by neglect. To meet such criticisms the churches found it necessary to provide similar assurances of success, miraculous cures, and patron saints. By the 6`h century, wonder working shrines, cloths that had touched holy relics, and pictures (icons) were invested with numinous (spiritual) power. Because of theanti-elitist ideology of the Christian tradition, even highly educated figures such as Augustine and Pope Gregory the Great (died 604) were sympathetic to this popular movement, it became a means of winning the barbarian tribesmen.
History, then, bears out the fact that there were years of compromise, misleading compromise of which infant baptism was only one of many changes whose purpose it was to bring more people, supposedly converted from pagan beliefs and practices, into the church. There is no scriptural backing for infant baptism, original sin, or the Trinitarian dogmas. We see further proof in the scriptures of faith and baptism in water by total submersion in the book of the Acts of the Apostles 8:37-39:
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 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.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
Philip asked the eunuch if he believed with all his heart and when the eunuch replied with his confession of faith, Philip baptized him. It is also important to note that they both went down into water, and then came up out of the water. This by no means supports sprinkling, seeing there was no need for both of them to go down into the water for one to be sprinkled. Add to that the fact that all the other scriptures point to immersion. The New Catholic Encyclopaedia records this fact:
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, (Volume II, Pg. 56, 57)
It is evident that baptism in the early church was by immersion. This is implicit in terminology and context: "Let us draw near... having... the body washed with clean water" (Hebrews 10:22), and the account of the Ethiopian chamberlain, who, to be baptized, "went down into the water" and "came up out of the water" (Acts 8:38-39) Saint Paul sees in baptism a burial with Christ and a rising with Him (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12).
Non-Biblical practices are still observed in many denominations even today: infant baptism, baptism by sprinkling and the Trinitarian theory which we have discussed thus far and found to be based (not in the Biblical sense) largely on the pagan rites. Even idolatry through the martyring of adults and infants is evident, having been practiced supposing that they could be saved by death and the sprinkling of their own blood in place of water baptism. Such a practice is definitely pagan and is plainly admitted to have no scriptural support.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition (Volume III, Pg. 365)
In the Montanist churches women baptized, and of this there are traces in the earliest church and in the Caucasus. Thus St. Thekla baptized herself in her own blood, and St. Nino, the female evangelist of Georgia, baptized King Mirian (see "Life of Nino," Studia Biblica, 1903). In cases of imminent death a layman or a woman could baptize, and in the case of newborn children it is often necessary.
The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Volume 1, A-O. Pg. 1733)
Martyrdom 1856 Froude 11". Eng. (1858) II. ix. 374 He had spent his time in encouraging Catholics to persevere to martyrdom for their faith.
Ancient baptistries are also found to be proof of baptism by submersion. The early Christians Baptized wherever they could just as John baptized in the Jordan River. Later, of course, baptistries were built in rooms and churches.
The New Catholic Encyclopaedia (Volume II, Pg. 74)
While the early Christians baptized by immersion in rivers, fountains, and the sea (Justin, I Apol. 61.3; Tertullian, De Bapt. 4), by the 3rd century they used a pool or bath in a special room in the house of worship as is indicated by the square basin buttressed with two columns discovered at the foot of the chapel room in the Christian house at *Dura-Europe (c. 232)
The Catholic church used many such rooms as well (i.e., Roman baths and pools for instance.) You can see in this next reference to the church at the Lateran, by the description of its construction, that baptism by submersion was the practice there. It also gives reference to similar structures built in the 4tn 5`n and 6`h centuries. However, because of the prevailing practice of infant baptism, large baptismal basins were gradually replaced by fonts. Fonts are similar to bird baths or small fountains, so baptism by immersion would be impossible to perform. In other words, immersion was replaced by infusion or pouring. This occurred about the 10`n century, and has continued on through the ages to the present.
The New Catholic Encyclopaedia (Volume II, Pg. 75)
Later, ornamented baptistries were modeled on the central rooms of the Roman baths with a cupola roof and frequently a baldachino over the pool. Some were separate buildings close to the episcopal residence or church as at the *Lateran; others were attached directly to the apse or a part of the church. Many were surrounded or preceded by a portico and frequently there were alcoves or rooms for the outer ceremonies such as the exorcism and anointings as well as confirmation (performed in the consignatorium) formed by columns on which drapes could be supported, particularly for undressing and to protect the nudity of the one being baptized from
the audience. Steps on which the one baptizing stood led down into the pool itself.
We teach baptism in Jesus' name by submersion in water, as do the scriptures, essential to salvation. However, concerning infants, we find no scriptural evidence to support the theory that unbaptized or unsprinkled infants are not saved. The word of God does not condemn innocent children to hell, nor can we find anywhere in the New Testament where any infants were baptized. How can a child, when faith and belief are essential, be baptized when it cannot believe or have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? A person is held accountable to God when he or she comes to his or her age of understanding, when he or she is able to acknowledge the difference between good and evil.
The theory of "original sin" is not scriptural. However, there is one scripture, outside of its original context, many theologians and philosophers try to use to support this philosophy, and that is Psalm 51:5:
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
In this psalm David is speaking of repentance, which begins when one first acknowledges one's sin. As we read in the 3rd verse of the same chapter:
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
David spoke of being "shapen in iniquity" because he knew that the world was sinful and that he was born into this sinful place. In "sin," he wrote, "did my mother conceive me," because sin was in the world long before David, or for that matter, even before his mother was born. We are all born into a sinful world, but since the beginning of time, man has always had a choice in the matter. God commanded that the first man Adam and the first woman Eve could eat of every tree in the garden except one. When they disobeyed God, sin entered into the world. The tree they ate of was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What knowledge does an infant have? They ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the tree of inheritance. Sin cannot be inherited, nor is it original at birth. To be accountable for sin, one must commit sin.
This is why Jesus came, died on a tree and then rose again the third day... to save us from sin. Scripture teaches us that He is the second Adam, the Lord from heaven (I Corinthians 15:45-47) come to bring us new life. For if anyone be in Christ Jesus, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new as we that are Christians look for new bodies and a new world to come that knows no sin (for therein dwells righteousness). But, we must go through Jesus Christ, for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God according to Romans 3:23.
So, we see that if we know the difference between good and evil, then we are without excuse. Nevertheless, let us not condemn the guiltless for, as we read in Ezekiel 18:20, it is the soul that sinneth that will die.
20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
We also read in Revelation 22:12, that every soul shall receive a reward for the works that it does on this earth. How can a small infant have works? They are innocent and belong to God. No soul belongs to the devil; God created the soul, not the devil. To God the soul will return, and God will judge every soul righteously according to its works.
12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
We again read of judgment in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, II Corinthians 5:10. This scripture shows that everyone will receive according to the deeds done in his/her own body. Note here that we will receive according to the things we do, whether good or bad; what good or bad can an infant do?
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Baptism is for the remission of sins. In the light of these scriptures, it is foolish to think that we would have to baptize infants for the remission of their sins. A person has no sin, even as a newly born infant, until he/she grows into his/her age of accountability, which will vary from person to person according to a person's state of mentality or physiological development. Why else would Jesus say in Mark 10:14:
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
We must remember; however, that we cannot keep ourselves ignorant of God or His word He has left for us. No one will be able to stand before God and say they did not know because they had never been to church or read the Bible. God is not limited to a building or a book, but, as we read in Titus 2:11-12, the salvation God gives has appeared to all men:
11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
What condemns a person to the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels? The answer is sin, as we read in Romans 6:23:
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What saves us from this condemnation? Remission of sins, which we receive by obeying the Lord and His will for our lives according to the scriptures until the end. Jesus, just before He was carried away into heaven, told us in Luke 24:46-47:
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Christ wanted us to know, to understand why He came in the flesh, suffered and rose from the dead the third day - that we might have remission of sins through His name. Again the key here is the fact that the people had to repent. Without repenting and believing in the heart, baptism is in vain. In Acts 2:38, we read about the first baptism that took place in the city of Jerusalem after Jesus had given the promise of the Holy Ghost and the great commission (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47).
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The word of God is easy to understand and live by if one does not confuse it with philosophy and the traditions of man. Let us turn to Colossians 2:8:
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
People often confuse the word of God with foolish and unlearned questions like, "What about the thief on the cross; he wasn't baptized, and yet he went to paradise?" First of all, Jesus had the power to forgiven sins here on earth. Secondly, the great commission of baptism, as recorded in Matthew 28:19, was not yet given. The great commission was not given by Christ until after his death, burial and resurrection. Let me ask you; how could the thief be buried with Him in the likeness of His death by baptism (stated in Romans 6:3-5) if He had not yet died, been buried, and resurrected? Water baptism, because it was not yet commanded and because Christ had not yet died and resurrected, was not required of the thief. However, as we read in I Peter 3:21, baptism also saves us, not just by getting wet, but in the answer of a good conscience toward God, knowing that we are doing that which He has commanded us in His word.
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Faith and obedience are the key factors here. Our faith and our works go together: more than just hearing the word of God, we must be a doer of the word of God as Jesus Himself stated in His sermon on the mount. What would have happened to Noah and his household if he would have believed God yet failed to build the ark according to the pattern God had showed him?
Another good example of faith and works is the story of Naaman, the captain of the host of the king of Syria. Naaman had leprosy and, at the suggestion of his wife's Israelite maid, he went to see Elisha, the man of God in the land at that time, about his leprosy. Elisha told Naaman to go and dip himself seven times in the Jordan River, after which he would be cured of his leprosy according to the word of God. Let us read about this in II Kings 5:14:
14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
What would have happened to Naaman if he would not have dipped himself in the Jordan River seven times as the man of God had said? The answer is very simple, he would not have been healed. It was not by Naaman's own works that he was cleansed, but it was his faith and obedience together that brought his healing. He believed God's word and obeyed it.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.