Which Baptism is Baptism?
by Tony Warren
Many legitimate questions have been raised by Christians regarding "what the proper mode of baptism is, and what it actually does." There are basically three modes of water baptism used in Christianity today. They are immersion, affusion or pouring, and sprinkling. Sprinkling is sometimes called aspersion. The church is somewhat divided on the question of which method is correct, but my affirmation is that they all are acceptable forms of water baptism because all are tokens of cleansing done in the name of the Lord. However, these questions should certainly be addressed by faithful theologians. Especially since there are several churches teaching that water baptism is a "required" sacrament for salvation. However, any such requirement in order to gain (or maintain) one's salvation would qualify as a gospel predicated upon our works. This is an unbiblical if not heretical position. Baptism in water has no power of its own, because there is no efficacy in H20, which is mere physical water. Rather, water baptism is a token of the spiritual baptism (cleansing) that the Holy Ghost performs. This is the real power of regeneration among Christians. The outward token that we apply in the sacrament of water baptism is simply to "signify" this inward occurrence. Indeed it is very much like the ceremonial ablutions instituted in the old testament were outward signs of the cleansing of God. Or as circumcision was an outward sign of a Covenant (promissory) relationship with God based upon His cutting off sin. It didn't mean that everyone participating in this practice were actually made righteous, but that they had received the sign or token of the Lord's righteous people.
As circumcision was the Old Covenant sign God wanted His people to apply to illustrate something infinitely more important than the physical cutting off of flesh, so water baptism is a sign applied to illustrate something infinitely more important than physical washing of the flesh. In each instance the ceremonial act itself was not saving faith, it was the 'sign' of saving faith. Romans chapter four touches on this principle as it speaks of Abraham declaring that righteousness was not imputed to him by circumcision because he was already righteous by saving faith even before the circumcision. But his circumcision was the 'sign' of that faith.
So while we might read passages in the Old Covenant that appear to indicate hat they were required to be circumcised in order to have the righteousness of faith, we see clearly that this was really never the case. The rite concerning circumcision was just a "sign" of the real occurrence of casting off of the flesh. In this exact same way, water baptism is a sacrament that Christians receive as a token of the real occurrence of cleansing, which is baptism by the Spirit. We must be baptized in the Holy Spirit in order to be saved, not H²0. Without this true baptismal cleansing of God, we would still be unwashed and deep in trespass and sin no matter how many rites of water ablutions we practiced. No pun intended, but the truth about Baptism should not be "watered" down. While water baptism is a precept of God (as circumcision was), baptism in the Spirit is the only unqualified requirement for salvation.
- "..and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised:..."
This we should know inherently because water is a compound or mixture that cannot save. It can make you wet, it can wash physical filth from the flesh, and it can be a sacrament and signification that a Christian is under the Covenant of God. But what it cannot do is save. In the Old Covenant times, the blood of sacrificed lambs did nothing for the children of Israel to wash away sin (Hebrews 10:4), and yet was a precept or commandment of God. In the same way as baptism today, it was a sign of the blood of Jesus (The Lamb of God) that would come and truly wash away the sins of Israel. The Old Covenant sacrificing of a lamb is something that the children of Israel did as a shadow looking forward to the true lamb that would actually cleanse Israel from sin. Likewise, water baptism is something that God commands us to do as a token of the true washing by the Spirit by which we are cleansed. There is a very big difference between a command of God to do something, and a requirement "in order to be" saved. Not all Christians understand this. I recently received a letter from a Christian stating:
" I believe when it says in the scriptures that we are to be Baptized in water, that it is a commandment, and if one does not follow it, then they do not follow what God has told us, Hence they are lost...."
He is right about what God tells us and that we should do it, but his logic is flawed on his concluding point. Because we are also commanded that in, "whatever we do, do all to the Glory of God." So when we do something that is not to the Glory of God, are we all therefore lost? Of course not, but we would be if that logic followed through. We are commanded to sin not, so when we have a moment of a sinful thought, does that mean that we are all therefore lost? We are commanded to go to church, so if we have neglected going to church this week, then are we all therefore lost? Of course you see my point here. And neither are we 'necessarily' lost if we were not baptized. We're not saved by works. This is a command like any other command of God, which of course should be obeyed, but it is most certainly not a requirement that one must obey or else they are unsaved. There is a subtle and yet distinct difference, which is illustrated in our understanding of true Sovereignty and Grace of God.
In answer to his letter, I gave this person the example of the thief on the cross who was not baptized and yet was saved by Christ--to which he retorted:
"..this was on the Old Testament side of the cross, and though he was saved by the grace of the Lord, we today are to follow the ordinances that have been set forth, and if we do not, then we are lost!"
This would indicate that salvation by Grace alone has somehow changed, but has it? We are to follow the ordinances of God today, and they were to follow the ordinances of God before the cross as well. But they weren't saved by following it then anymore than we are today. The salvation program of Grace has not changed because God has not changed (Hebrews 13:8) and is still the he author and the finisher of His servants faith. For this theory to be true, either the salvation program of God has changed, or there is one salvation program for this thief, and another entirely different program with different rules for everyone else. The truth is that the thief, as well as all other old covenant saints, were saved the exact same way that we are today. By Grace, through faith. They of course were looking forward to the finished work of Christ through ablutions and sacrifices, and we look backward at the finished work of Christ in communions and baptisms.
Their obeying the command to make animal sacrifices of blood couldn't save them anymore than our obeying the command to be baptized in water will save us. We were and are all saved the exact same way, which is by grace through faith. No one today is being made whole by someone's work of sprinkling, dipping, dunking, or splashing water upon them. The salvation program was the same for the thief on the cross as it is for us. By the total sovereignty of God to bestow His unmerited grace upon us.
- "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins."
If I can make an (admittedly imperfect) analogy, it's very much like when we get married and we exchange wedding rings. Those rings in truth really don't mean anything with regards to us 'actually' being married. Yet we desire to have them as a sign or token of our marriage covenant. In other words, we are married 'with or without' the rings, but we have them because they are a sign or token of our joining in a sacred marriage bond before God. In the same way, when you are saved, you have been redeemed with or without being baptized with water. But water baptism is a sign or token of the true covenant bond relationship. As circumcision illustrated the righteousness of the covenant bond, so baptism illustrates the righteousness of the covenant bond. God tells us to apply that sign just as He told the Israelites to apply the sign of circumcision. Even our plain reasoning should tell us that if baptism in water was required to be saved, then anyone who didn't have the opportunity to become baptized in water, could never have been redeemed (what a horrible thought). ..else it's not really a requirement. Because we can't have it both ways.
Another error is that some church groups take great pains in pointing out that the word Baptize [baptizo] means to dip. But in actuality, the word doesn't really mean dip, though it is taken from a root word [bapto] that means to whelm, which is by implication dipping. But [baptizo] means to wash (despite what your dictionary commentary might say). The word is used in the sense of whelming or putting water on something to wash it, as illustrated in the extended word [baptismos]. For example:
- "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
- "And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner."
The words translated "wash" and "washed" in those passages is [baptizo], which is the exact same word translated baptize. It was translated wash there because that is precisely what it means. To place water on something in order to get rid of uncleanness. When used in the Christian Baptismal sense, the word signifies the Spiritual cleansing or ablution of the Spirit. That is to say, not the removing of the filth of flesh that water can do, but the washing away of sins that only spiritual ablution can do. It is a sacrament signifying a Spiritual cleansing. As such, it is not the dipping of our sins away, but the "washing" or cleansing us from sin. Should we read the Luke 11:38 passage this way:
- "And when they come from the Market, except they Wash , they eat not."
"And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first dipped before dinner?"
Of course that would not convey the correct understanding because what is being said in these verses is that they washed. They whelmed their hands with water (washed) before eating dinner. Obviously the word should be (and was) accurately translated as washed. Of all the common translations, not one of them ever translated this word here as dip or dipped. And the reason is obvious, it clearly means to wash. The Bible is its own interpreter and its own dictionary, and so by comparing scripture with scripture we can easily discover how God wants words defined. Again, we see the word [baptizo] and [baptismos] used respectively this way in mark chapter 7:
I'm sure no one is going to speak saying, I'm going into the kitchen to dip [baptizo] my hands or I'm going into the kitchen to dip [baptismos] the cups and and pots. People do not talk that way, and neither did the people of this time. They spoke of washing their hands and washing their beds or tables. They spoke of washing their cups and pots. That is why the word is translated correctly as washing. They could not honestly translate it as anything else because that's what the word delineates. [baptizo] is a word derived from a word meaning to whelm, and means to wash. Only those are predisposed to believing otherwise because of their church tradition would argue that this a bad translation by all popular versions of the Bible.
- "And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the Washing of cups, and pots brazen vessels and of tables."
Would divers or different dippings work there? Not at all because the meaning of this word [baptismos] here is used here to illustrate ceremonial washing or ablutions. A sacrament that is a ceremonial cleansing, which was a SIGN of the Spiritual washing that God would ultimately do for them. The defining of this word to mean washing is made abundantly clear in other verses as well:
- "Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers Washings.."
By rule of precedence, context, comparison and common sense, this word baptized [baptizo] used here means to be cleansed in the washing away our sins, not by dipping away our sins. Again, as we just read in Hebrews 9:10 of divers or various baptisms [baptismos], these were the washings that were part of the Old Testament sacraments or ceremonies. This baptism most certainly is not entailing dippings. And as we read down a few verses to 21, God makes that abundantly clear.
- "And why tarriest thou? arise and be Baptized and Wash away thy sins..."
- "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:"
- "For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,">/li>
These diverse baptisms (different washings) of the old testament do not in any way mean dippings. It signified a "cleansing" in ceremonial washing, all of which ultimately pointed to Christ. In these cases, this ceremonial cleansing was definitely sprinkling. This blood sprinkled is the shadow or picture of the death, burial, and resurrection with Christ by whose blood we are Spiritually made clean. This cleansing in Christ's death has nothing whatsoever to do with immersion, it has to do only with the "washing" away of our sins in his blood. They weren't immersed in blood because immersion is not the point. Did the Israelites immerse the Altar or whatever they sprinkled the blood on to signify cleansing? Not at all, and these cleansings is what the sacrament of these diverse baptisms or ablutions signified. The baptism [baptismos] in which the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, was a sign of sanctification for the purifying of the flesh. The New Covenant is the confirming of the old Covenant by Christ, who came not to do away with the law, but to fulfill or complete it. Old Covenant ablution becomes New Covenant Baptism. Old Covenant Sacrifice becomes New Covenant Communion. Old Covenant Sabbath becomes New Covenant Day of Rest. Old Covenant Israel becomes New Covenant Israel. These were all everlasting laws, and continue only in Christ Jesus. Likewise, Old Covenant baptisms refers to our being 'cleansed' ceremonially, not to us being dipped ceremonially.
- "Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
- And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission."
Would we use the word to say we are 'dipped' with the Holy Spirit? No, that would be improper because God washes or cleanses us with the Holy Spirit, not dips or immerses us. This baptism in the Holy Spirit of God has everything to do with the cleansing of regeneration. It's about making us clean spiritually, not about a church tradition of dipping or immersion. That is not to say that immersion cannot be a perfectly acceptable way to baptize, it is to say that it is not the 'only' or 'most Biblical' way to baptize. Unfortunately, this position is so often postulated by some Christians.
The fact is, water is not spiritually salvific. When we consider if water can wash away sins, the answer is a resounding, no. Thus how could the amount of water used in a ceremonial sacrament be a qualifier when it is simply a token of the true? In God's eyes, whether one is washed by sprinkling, washing in a cup of water, a tub, a river or a ocean is not the point. The washing of H²0 is not the point, the washing of the Holy Spirit of God is. In Hebrews 9:21-22, and all throughout the Bible this is clearly illustrated.
- "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word."
This cleansing water by the word is the birth water of the Spirit, the only water than can sanctify and cleanse so that we might enter the Kingdom of God. Literal water does not cleanse that one may enter the Kingdom, nor does it sanctify, but the washing of the Spiritual water is something far superior than physical water. The water we are born of is not H²0, but the pure water that comes from the new birth, whereby we are regenerated clean from the stain of sin. And truth be known, when we carefully study scripture, we most often see this symbolism of spiritual cleansing in sprinkling, not in immersion. For example:
- "..except a man be born OF WATER and of The Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God."
This word "washed" is [louo], but it speaks of the very same baptism of the Holy Spirit that cleanses our desperately wicked hearts. That water spoken of there is not physical water upon our body, but pure spiritual water, the waters of the cleansing of the Holy Spirit. This can only come through the blood of Christ Jesus. We read even when Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch whom he "baptized," the passage of scripture that he was reading from was Isaiah chapter 53, which is introduced by the end of chapter 52:
- "Let us draw near with a true heart in assurance of faith, having our hearts Sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies Washed with pure water."
This prophesies' of the baptizing of all nations in the New Covenant dispensation, and God says He sprinkled. Did the Prophet speak of Himself or some other? The Disciple Philip says that he spoke of Christ. This is the context of the passages the Ethiopian eunuch would have been reading. That Christ would cleanse many nations (including his Ethiopia), and this is surely what Philip was speaking of when he asked him if he understood what he read, and then expounded unto him, beginning at Christ the Saviour.
- "So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider."
Surely after philip explained to him the cleansing of many nations by sprinkling, which the Prophet Isaiah spoke of was of was Christ, the eunuch wanted to be baptized.
- "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?"
Some theologians say that this proves immersion because it says that the eunuch went down into the water, but this is presupposition. For it doesn't say the eunuch went down into the water, it 'clearly' says that they stopped the chariot, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water. If this meant immersion, then they both were immersed. And God meticulously inspired this language so there would be no mistake. They simply stepped out of the chariot--both stepped down into the water, and Then it says philip baptized the eunuch. The going down into the water has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual baptism, which occurs after they go down into the water. Likewise, when they came out.
- "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."
You see, both went down into the water, THEN the eunuch was baptized, and THEN they "both" came up out of the water. So contrary to some who view this as evidence, the going down into the water was not the baptism. Indeed we should expect that because of the context of Isaiah that the eunuch was reading, they went down into the water, and then Philip sprinkled or poured water on the eunuch, and then they both came up out of the water. The sprinkling recorded in Isaiah is God's word of baptismal cleansing or washing, which prophesied of this baptism of many outside of Israel. If we compare Scripture with Scripture, we see how the Bible deals with the sign of baptismal cleansing throughout scripture.
- "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."
- "And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean."
Note God again says that He will sprinkle clean water upon us and we shall be clean from all our sins. Clearly God says sprinkle, not dip or immerse. Because of church tradition, some would retort that this is wrong, and cling to the idea that only immersion is the proper mode of Baptism. God forbid, for true baptism or washing is of God and not by our denominational presuppositions. These scriptures should preclude anyone from claiming that immersion is the only mode of baptism. In Illustrating spiritual baptism, God uses sprinkling. Thus I believe that sprinkling is a perfectly acceptable and biblically defensible way of baptizing, based upon my study of the pertinent scriptures. Water baptism that is efficacious and important is not H²0, but spiritual waters. When God says, repent (Acts 2:38) and be baptized and you will be saved, this repentance is unto salvation, but Baptism in literal water is not. How do we know? Because Ephesians carefully tells us there is one baptism:
- "Then will I Sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be Clean: from all your filthiness, and from your idols, will I cleanse you.
- A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh."
Those are God's words and so they are faithful and true. Nevertheless, it is clear that we saw in Acts 1:5 the mention of two baptisms. John Baptized in water, and spoke of one coming who will baptize in the holy spirit. This is important because we just read God's word specifically declare that there is only one baptism. How can this be? Well, it can be because the only true Baptism is Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the baptism in water is merely a token of that one Baptism. It's just like there is only one sacrifice, which is Christ Jesus. Yet the Israelites offered sacrifices that pointed to the one true Sacrifice, and we offer the sacrifice of ourselves in Christ as holy and acceptable to God. Because of His mercy, that one true sacrifice covers all our works that are wrought in Him.
- "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.."
As in the one sacrifice, so in the one Baptism. What that clearly means is that any other Baptism (physical water) is merely a sign or token of this one real Baptism. Anyone who denies that might as well call God's word a lie, because He says there is only one--meaning only one that is efficacious to cleanse us from sin.
- "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
John baptized with water as a sign, but the "One Baptism" that the sign pointed to was this baptism in the Holy Spirit he prophesied Christ would bring. There is no contradiction of these Baptisms. Because the only real Baptism (Cleansing/Washing) is the Baptism of the Spirit, and all water Baptisms are simply a token of that one Baptism. We could say the same thing about circumcision. There was one circumcision, and that was the circumcision of the Heart. The circumcision r cutting away of the flesh was merely a token of that one true spiritual circumcision.
- "And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."
There we see confirmed the one circumcision of salvation. The physical cutting off of the flesh was merely a token of this one Spiritual circumcision in cutting off of the flesh in rebirth without that fleshly or carnal nature. Anyone not of this one true circumcision, the circumcision made without hands, God declares as being truly 'uncircumcised' to Him. That is even if he had been circumcised in the flesh, to God he is as uncircumcised and spiritually a heathen separated from the covenant of God. That it is not about physical circumcision, but Spiritual is the principle that we see at work here.
- "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:"
Likewise, there is one Lamb of God that is slain for our sins. Therefore those literal lambs that were slain in the Old Testament were simply tokens of the One true Lamb of God that would be slain and :"truly" take away sin. Can you imagine those of the Old Testament congregation arguing over if the blood used from the lamb slain should be two cups or three? But that is exactly what some of the church today contend about with this issue. It's ridiculous for the church to argue over how much, or literally the amount of water used to signify baptismal cleansing. What is Biblically commanded in baptism is water as a token, and that's all. Any other added requirements are meaningless. So why is the church today so concerned whether it should be a splash of water, a pool of water, or a river of water? My opinion is that it is because of their church traditions. But while they are busy pointing, they are in truth (and ironically) missing the whole point of water Baptism.
Moreover, those who even insist that baptism in water is synonymous with baptism in the Spirit are treading on dangerous ground. It is easily proven by scripture that this belief is Biblically indefensible.
So here we see that although these people had been Baptized in water, they still were yet saved because they didn't yet have the Holy Ghost spiritually cleanse them. And God plainly tells us, He that doesn't have the Holy Spirit is none of His (Romans 8:9). Proof positive that water Baptism does not mean one has been Baptized in the Holy Spirit whereby he has been redeemed or saved. Baptism in water and the Holy Spirit can happen at the same time, or it can happen at different times. Because the water is merely a token. While anyone can set a date and time to be Baptized in water, no one can set a date for Baptizing in the Spirit but God. So then honestly, rationally and logically, how could water Baptism mean one is saved or not saved? Are we in control of our time of salvation or is God in control? We can set a date to have the sign of water put on us, but the Baptism that saves us is of the Spirit and could happen before water Baptism, or after or even not at all. That is basically what 1st Peter chapter three is illustrating. Water can cleanse our flesh of physical filth, but it cannot bring real salvation.
- "Who when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might RECEIVE the Holy Ghost.
- for as yet He was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
1st Peter 3:21
Again, we are clearly told that Baptism does save us, but "NOT" the Baptism in water wherein you can put away the filth of the flesh (washing), but Baptism of the Spirit that is provided us by the redemption secured in the death and resurrection of Christ. Water Baptism is a figure, a sign, or a token of something infinitely more important. Water is the figure of the acknowledgement of a good conscience toward God. A token that we are made clean of our carnal nature. It is our new birth where we are born of water and baptized in this Spirit. And that work was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Christ, not by any man does of applying literal water.
- "The like FIGURE whereunto even Baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away of filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
We are regenerated by the cleansing of the Holy Spirit of God. That word translated regeneration means a spiritual nativity or a spiritual rebirth. We gladly put on the sign of water Baptism to signify the true washing that came when Christ reigns in our lives. John the Baptist baptized with the Baptism of repentance with physical water, but after the cross, Jesus made it so we were Baptized by a infinitely more permanent solution to the uncleanness of the flesh.
- "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His Mercy He Saved us, by the wasking of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
Would John say, "I dip you with water but Jesus shall dip you with the Holy spirit and Fire?" No, because the word translated Baptize there [baptizo] does not mean dip, it means to wash or cleanse. Dip makes no sense in context. This is the "REAL" Baptism or cleansing that will take place with the coming of Christ. It's by the Holy Spirit, and it's by fire because we have gone through the 'refiner's fire' in His propitiation on our behalf. Not dipped in it, but we are cleansed in it. This is the "One Baptism" that only the Lord can provide.
- "John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall BAPTIZE you with the Holy Ghost and with Fire:"
The One Baptism that sprinkling, pouring or immersion merely represents. So knowing all these things, we know that the 'amount' of water, the position of the body or the mode of application has no bearing upon the token. Christians saying that you must be immersed in water to be legitimately baptized are claiming more than scripture will allow. They're adding church tradition to the word. One scripture that is often used in a attempt to prove Baptism must be done by immersion is Romans chapter 6:
- "Then remembered I the Word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with WATER; but ye shall be baptized with the HOLY GHOST."
At first glance this appears to support the view, however the sense is that we are buried with him by being baptized through His death. In other words, the work of Christ is finished and thereby we are washed clean by the Spirit into that completed work. i.e., our Spiritual regeneration is by the washing of Baptism, which is the result of His dying with our sins, and afterward being raised up without them. It is "not" saying that by our water baptism we are buried with Him into His death. That would makes no sense at all since Baptism doesn't kill, bury or raise us, rather it is the token of the "result" of His death, burial and resurrection. In other words, "water Baptism" publicly illustrates that we are the election, having been made part of His death, burial and resurrection through redemption from sin. Not by signifying our burial in water, but our washing by the Spirit through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. This can be better seen in Colossians:
- "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 up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
- 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 henceforth we should not serve sin."
The Baptism "wherein" you are risen with Him through Faith of the operation of God. This is not water Baptism, but the Baptism of the Spirit by which we are raised up in the finished work of Christ. This is the action whereby we, being dead in trespass and sin, were resurrected unto new life. It has nothing to do with Water Baptism except physical Baptism is a token of "this" work wherein we are cleansed. It is not really speaking of the quantity or depth of water, but the role, impetus, objective or purpose of this water--which is cleansing by Christ's death and resurrection. Not any actual burying in water. In the insistence by some that, "to be buried like Christ in death, you should be totally immersed," they are making a commentary, not declaring a biblical precept. Baptism is a synonym for cleansing or washing. Water Baptism is a 'token' or sign of the washing clean of the Holy Spirit, not a token of our immersion in the ground like He was. Water cleanses, it does not bury. It's a picture not of the immersion in dirt, but of the cleansing which was done inside us by Christ. If God had wanted Baptism to be a sign of burial, He would have had us bathe in dirt. On the contrary, baptism is a symbol of washing or cleansing, which is why it is done in water and also symbolized by fire. A refiners fire cleanses, and water cleanses, a tomb or burial does not take away filth. Christ did that by the efficacy of His death for us, not His burial. Even in the only instance in scripture that speaks of dipping in this manner (2nd kings 5:14), it is clearly to illustrate using water to wash and be clean, not to bury.
- "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;"
2nd Kings 5:13
And this is God's representation of baptism, not of being buried, but of being cleansed in water wherein the amount is insignificant. Indeed no one would deny that it is true that Baptism is brought about by the death of Christ, but that is not the picture water represents. e.g., wine in communion is a picture of the blood of Christ cleansing us, but it's not a picture of burial. A dove is a picture of the Spirit upon us, but it's not a picture of a coffin. Bread is a picture of the body of Christ, but it's not a picture of us eating a tomb. Yet they are all related, and surely one could say that the communion bread represents the death and burial of Christ. But that is NOT the picture put forth by using the symbol of 'bread.' Rather, it's a representation of the Spiritual food of life that we will live by. A portrait of the word of God. Neither is using water a symbol of burying anyone, it's a symbol of what we use to wash clean with. When Colossians says we are 'buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God,' it merely means that it is by His death and resurrection laden with our sins, that we receive the cleansing of the Spirit. i.e., He died for us, and the efficacy in the cleansing of the Spirit is by His work on the cross. Water is not being equated with dirt or burial, cleansing is being equated to be by Christ's death and resurrection.
- "And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"
To believe that immersion is the only way to Baptize is nonsense, but immersion is fine if that's the way we want to symbolize cleansing. I see nothing inherently wrong with that (2nd kings 5:14), even though I believe sprinkling is the more biblically connected to Baptismal cleansing of Scripture. I'm not condemning immersion, but declaring that it is incorrect for Christians to think that this is the only right way to baptize. Especially with all the scriptures illustrating sprinkling as a token of cleansing. And this I believe is really the position the church should take. The Westminster confession of faith, states:
Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person. -XXVIII:III.
Not that I take such papers as Scripture (it is not), but I do think this one line sums it up perfectly. Either mode is a legitimate baptism, but they rightly see that scriptures most often use cleansing by pouring or sprinkling water. They understand that the amount of water is not the issue. When we think about this coherently, what those who insist upon immersion are doing is putting the efficacy on the amount of water used "as if" there is some magic God formula in being covered with literal water. That would be like me saying in order for a communion service to be legitimate, the bread wafer must be baked 3 days and nights because Christ was in the earth 3 days and nights. That's not sound biblical exegesis. Or if I said it must be class AAA bread used in communion only, because my church thinks it's a better quality to represent Christ. Or if I said that the wine must be the finest we can get, because Jesus was the finest, perfect individual to ever live, etc. etc. Those kinds of man made rules or ordinances miss the mark. We don't have to be buried in water to signify being clean, or to receive the efficacy of being buried and resurrected with Christ. That is a man made requirement, but it is not what is God's command.
Let me give you another Biblical example. Remember when Jesus was washing the feet of His Disciples and how brother Peter thought our Lord shouldn't be washing their feet?
Jesus is equating the washing of feet with water, with the true washing of salvation. He's saying if He doesn't wash your feet, you're not a part of Me (You're not saved). Peter responds as the Immersionists today would, insisting to be washed all over "as if" this was the real cleansing in view, when it was just the sign. Christ didn't need to wash Peter's whole body with water because this washing was merely a token of His real cleansing. And that "little" washing of his feet was sufficient because it was only a sign. Christ goes on to say that they were clean with this washing of merely the feet, but not all were clean. In other words, He knew that Judas was still unsaved and thus still unclean. He was the one 'Not Clean' even though he was one of them who had their feet washed with water. i.e., there was no efficacy in the literal water or the amount of water. Jesus says if He washes just their feet, they are nonetheless clean all over. ... so how can that be? Think about it! It can be only because there is no efficacy in that amount of water washing. They are not actually washed clean by that water, but by the Holy Spirit. Therefore they are they clean all over. No burial in water necessary. That is why only the feet needed be washed and not immersing their whole body as Peter assumed. Because the amount of water isn't the point.
- "Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.
- Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord NOT MY FEET ONLY, but also my hands and my head!
- Jesus saith to him, He that is Washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and yea are all clean, but not all."
That should be a lesson to all of us on the principle of the sacrament of Baptism or Cleansing by water. Jesus gives us the commission saying as He washed our feet, so we are to go forth and wash others feet. As He saved us, we go forth with the gospel to save others. The great commission to evangelize the world and baptize them into Christ. And when we wash or baptize with water, we need not cover their whole body, for the efficacy is NOT in the water or in the amount of water, but of the Spirit. Judas could have been washed all over from head to toe and from dusk to dawn, and he still would have remained unclean. Because it's not in the mode of applying the water or the amount of water but of God who shows mercy. Likewise, a child of God could simply have his little pinky washed, and he would be clean all over.
In conclusion, sprinkling can be a legitimate baptism, as can pouring, dipping, dunking, splashing, washing or immersion. To be buried with Him in baptism, 'does not' mean we must be immersed in water, but that He took us with Him to death, through the refiner's fire and we were resurrected with Him clean from sin. It's signifying that we had our sins laid upon him, they were buried with Him, and we were raised up in His Resurrection unto a new birth. While there is nothing wrong with that way of putting the sign of baptism on believers, it is certainly not called for in scripture, nor does it invalidate sprinkling or pouring. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems Christians tend to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I think that the principle of Romans 14:15 applies here. If our Brother eats meat, let him eat meat. If he doesn't eat meat, fine, let him not eat meat. Neither eating meat, nor not eating meat is a sin. By the same token, neither NOT baptizing by immersion, nor NOT baptizing by sprinkling is a sin. Either way can glorify God. Let each do their baptism to the Glory of God in faith. For whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. If you want to be baptized by immersion, be baptized by immersion. If by Sprinkling, be baptized by Sprinkling, remembering that it is but a token of what Christ has done. The efficacy is not in the ceremony, it's in working of the Spirit within us. Judge not thy Brother in his mode of Baptism.
And "May the Lord give us all the wisdom to discern the truth of His most holy Word".
Peace,Feel free to duplicate, display or distribute this publication to anyone who would like a copy, as long as the above copyright notice remains intact and there are no changes made to the article. This publication can be distributed only in it's original form, unedited, and without cost.
Copyright 1994 Tony Warren
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