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Definitions of Doctrine
by C. D. Cole
Volume III- THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
CHAPTER 6-The Doctrine of Baptism
1. The Subject: Only a believer (born again).
2. The Mode: Only by immersion.
3. The Design: Only to symbolize the burial and resurrection of Christ.
4. The Authority: Only a church of Jesus Christ.
1. THE PROPER SUBJECT
Baptism is only for believers, and believers are saved or justified. “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13:39); “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,” (Acts 16:31); “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” (John 3:36); “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 5:1), “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9). This excludes unregenerate adults and all infants. A Jesuit Theologian, S. J. Hunter, said: “It is impossible for infant baptism to be discussed directly between a Catholic and a Baptist. They have no common ground. The Baptist urges that the scriptures everywhere teach faith as a prerequisite to baptism. The Catholic defends his practice as to infants by the authority of the Church, which the Baptist refuse to accept.” (Outline of Dogmatic Theology Vol. 3, page 222.)
1. To baptize any but believers is to accept Catholic authority rather than Scriptural authority. The Scriptures nowhere command baptism for any but believers. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” (Matt. 28:19); “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls,” (Acts 2:41); “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,” (Acts 8:12); “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized,” (Acts 18:8); “Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus,” (Acts 19:4).
3. To baptize infants or unregenerate adults is to merge the church and the world. It is filling the church with the world. Infants have no personal responsibility and are not lost and need no so-called saving rite of baptism.
4. To baptize any but the saved is to deny that the church should be composed of only lovers of God and of Christ. Think of having enemies of Christ in the church which is His body, and the custodian of His truth. And nobody loves God except the born again believers. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God,” (1 John 4:7); “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him,” (1 John 5:1). In these two verses the perfect tense should read—“has been born of God.” Love and faith are results of the new birth from God.
Baptism is to be by immersion only.
1. From the meaning of the word baptize. Greek scholars are in agreement that the word means to dip, immerse.
2. From the “Church Fathers.” Cyril 315-386 A. D. Bishop of Jerusalem: “For as he who sinks down in the waters and is immersed (baptized)....” Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, 370 A. D. “Imitating the burial of Christ by the immersion (baptism)....” Gregory, Bishop of Constantinople, 380 A.D.: “Let us, therefore, be buried with Christ by the immersion (baptism) that we may also rise with Him....”
3. From the admissions of those who do not now immerse. D. Dollinger, a Roman Catholic historian: “At first Christian baptism commonly took place in the Jordan; of course, as the church spread more widely, in private houses also. Like that of St. John, it was by immersion of the whole person, which is the only meaning of the New Testament word. A mere pouring or sprinkling was never thought of.” (The First age of Christianity and the Church, page 324-325). Mr. Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, in his comment on Romans 6:4,5 admits that the reference is to immersion as the primitive mode of baptism. The Catholic Encyclopedia: “The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion.... In the Latin Church immersion seems to have prevailed until the twelfth century. After that time it was found in some places even as late as the 16th century..” (See The Catholic Encyclopedia, in 15th vol., edited by Charles G. Herberan, Ph.D., LL, D., pages 261, 262). Prof. Marcus Dods Edenburgh explained baptism as “a rite wherein by immersion of water the participant symbolizes and signalizes his transition from an impure to a pure life, his death to a past he abandons, and his birth to a future he desires.”
4. From the practice of the early church. The first instance of baptism by any other mode than immersion was about the middle of the third century. A man named Novatian was ill and was baptized by having water poured around him. The first public (official) authority for sprinkling was given about 811 A.D. by Pope Steven II. Some of the French clergy informed the pope that there were some too sick and some too small to be immersed and asked for permission to sprinkle them. The pope replied, “If such were cases of necessity, and if sprinkling were performed in the Name of the Trinity, it should be valid.” At the Council of Ravenna in 1311, the Roman Church decreed: “Baptism is to be administered by triune aspersion (sprinkling, CDC) or immersion.” The Westminster (Presbyterian) Assembly met in 1643 to compose a Confession of Faith. Baptism was hotly discussed; 24 voted to retain immersion; 25 voted for sprinkling or pouring.
5. From the New Testament metaphor by which baptism is represented. It is called a burial and a resurrection. “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,” (Rom. 6:4); “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,” (Col. 2:12).
On this point there are two views of baptism: The sacramental and the symbolic. The sacramental makes baptism a saving sacrament; it is to confer grace. The symbolic declares that grace has already been conferred. One makes baptism essential to regeneration and remission of sins; the other makes it a symbol or figure of what saves, even the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
W. M. Nevins says, “The design in Baptist Churches is not in order to obtain the remission of sins. It is not a means of grace. It is not in order to obtain regeneration. It has nothing to do with our salvation. It is a picture showing forth the gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and signifies that the one baptized is dead to the old life of sin and risen to a new life in Christ.”
The author states his view of baptism as a symbol in a somewhat different way to most of his brethren. To him it is not a symbol of regeneration but of justification. It symbolizes the believer’s death to the guilt and penalty of sin; and the Bible word that denotes this judicial death is justification rather than regeneration. Romans 6:7 says, “For he that is dead is freed (justified) from sin.” This is judicial death and not death in the experimental sense. Regeneration is not the Bible word used to denote death to sin. Regeneration does kill the sinner to the love of sin, but not to the experience of sin. Regeneration is the putting of the divine nature within, but it does not remove the old nature. The new birth makes one more sensitive to sin; it does not kill him to the sense of sin.
Who is to authorize the believer’s baptism? This question reverts back to the question to whom or to what was the commission given? It was given to something, an institution that would be perpetuated until the end of the age. It was spoken to the apostles, not as individuals but as representatives of the church. And so the church is to make disciples, baptize disciples, and teach disciples what God has commanded to be observed or practiced. The believer must be received by the church; he unites with and his baptism must be authorized by the same church.
Only a church of Christ—a Scriptural church can execute the commission to baptize. And so every group of Christians must prove itself to be a Scripturally constituted church before it can Scripturally execute Christ’s command.
Until the time of the reformation beginning with Luther, there were widely scattered churches, each a little democracy in contrast to the Roman hierarchy with a human head. These scattered churches were called Anabaptists because they insisted on baptizing all who came to them from the Roman hierarchy. The name Anabaptists was applied to them because they were charged with rebaptizing those who came to them from Rome. They rejected the name and claimed that those they baptized had never been baptized. The early conflict was not over the mode of baptism because the Roman Catholic hierarchy immersed for several centuries. The issue was over the authority to baptize. None but a Scriptural Church has authority to baptize, for the command to baptize was given to the church that would be in existence from the days of Christ to the end of the age. The strongest argument that Baptist Churches represent the institution to whom the commission was given is the witness or testimony of those who are not Baptists.
Mosheim, the Lutheran historian writes: “The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion, is hid in the remote depths of antiquity, and is, consequently, extremely difficult to be ascertained.” The Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge has his to say: “The Baptist’s, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mednonnites, were the original Waldenses, and have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin.” On this account, the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the apostle’s, and which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all the ages.”
THE DIDACHE: An ancient Christian document, referred to as the “Teaching of the twelve Apostles, “written in Greek and dealing with the organization, belief, and worship in the early church. Its date is probably between 120 and 150 A.D. and is thought to have originated in Egypt or Syria. It was found in 1873 in an 11th century manuscript in the Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre in Istanbul.
1. A description of the Two Ways, one of life, the other death, in the form of rules for Christian conduct.
The Didache; Here for the first time pouring (Greek-ekcneo) is used for baptism (baptizo). We give the translation by Philip Schaff, a Presbyterian: “Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught all these things, baptize ye into (eis) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, in living water, and if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm (water). But if thou hast neither, pour water thrice upon the head in (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Analysis: This is actually saying, baptize (immerse) in any kind of water; living, cold or warm, but if this is impossible because lack of sufficient water, then ekcheo (pour) water three times upon the head in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. It is actually saying if you can’t baptize in water then pour water on the head. Here we have the first error in baptism which was in the design resulting in a change in mode. Because it was thought that water had power to regenerate it had to be applied in some way to the individual. It is not known who wrote this ancient document. Baptizo is the Greek word for baptism and is never used for anything but immersion. Ekcheo is never used for baptism.
3. The church is a body of baptized believers, equal in rank and privilege, administering its own affairs under the headship of Christ.
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