Chapter 5: The Ordinances of the Church
I. THE ORDINANCE OF BAPTISM.
The meaning of the words baptizo and baptisma according to lexicons.
The meaning of the words according to Non-Baptist Scholars.
The Meaning Of The Words According To The Ancient Writers.
The Meaning Of The Words According To Ancient Versions.
The Testimony Of The Baptisteries.
The Testimony Of The Greek Church.
II. THE ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
now come to consider the ordinances of the New Testament church, and the biblical command for "decency and order" (1 Cor. 14:40), is especially applicable to this realm. This great need for decency and orderliness may easily be seen when we consider that the right use of these is so important to the scriptural status of the church. In the case of baptism, the church only retains its scriptural identity so long as it rightly practices the ordinance. Baptism is the life blood of true church identity.
There has been a sad lack of both decency and order in the ordinances as practiced by most professing Christian in these last days, and even many Baptists have begun to let slip these grand truths. The ordinances have been confused, misused, abused, and refused until "Babel" is a more fitting word than orderliness.
Because of the place of importance in our Christian testimony, and in our church identity that these occupy, and because of the almost universal tendency to corrupt these, it is of the greatest importance that we have scriptural convictions concerning these ordinances of the Lord’s House. From the earliest times the ordinances have been corrupted. Indeed, the corruption of baptism was one of the earliest departures from New Testament truth. In every instance the corruption was brought in through ignorance of God’s word. Here, then, is the secret of soundness: a thorough and practical knowledge of the Word of God.
It should be borne in mind that, since the ordinances set forth in most forceful symbolism, all the saving truths of the gospel, so long as they are duly administered, the faith of the church will be preserved in its purity, but that a corruption of the saving doctrines follow immediately upon a perversion of the ordinances. Let these be perverted in their design, and the more extensive the missionary operations of the churches, the greater the injury resulting to both Christianity and the world. The first and most important work of the churches is to guard the purity of the ordinances, that a pure faith and a pure practice may be conserved.—J. R. Graves, The Seven Dispensations, p. 292.
Faith resting on truth experienced, is saving faith. John 17:3; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Timothy 2:4. All else is mere intellectual assent, James 2:18, 19, or traditional belief, Matthew 15:3-6. The symbolism of baptism therefore is a safeguard of the saving experience of the truth, John 17:5-8. If modified or changed in this aspect of its symbolism, then either it becomes a meaningless form or the heresy of baptismal regeneration is taught. For this reason the controversy respecting baptism is irrepressible. It involves what is fundamental to the New Testament church. As the original intention of this ordinance has been departed from, doctrine has been distorted, spiritual development arrested, and ultimately "the form of godliness" has destroyed all spiritual life.—W. H. H. Marsh, The New Testament Church, p. 182.
Someone may ask "What is an ordinance?" Augustine termed the ordinances of the church "visible signs of invisible grace." Unhappily, however, he also believed that they actually conveyed grace. The word "ordinance" is derived from Latin and signifies simply "that which is ordered or commanded." In Christian usage, it refers to a divinely instituted rite which conveys truth through its symbolism.
This term is used to describe the two institutions, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which Christ left to the churches to be observed until He returns. How we observe them determines whether they are scriptural ordinances, or whether they are mere rituals and "traditions of men." In many instances, the ordinances have been so colored and modified by man as to no longer conform to the Biblical command and example. When this happens they cease to be the ordinances, "that which is commanded," and become henceforth only empty human inventions which do nothing, say nothing, and are nothing. Dr. Mosheim has well said:
There is no institution so pure and excellent which the corruption and folly of man will not in time alter for the worse, and load with additions foreign to its nature and original design: Such, in a particular manner, was the fate of Christianity.—Ecclesiastical History, Cent. 2, Part II, Ch. 4, para. 1, p. 66.
These ordinances have come to be called "sacraments" in Protestant and Catholic churches, and, while they are holy and consecrated rites, as the Latin word sacramentum means, yet in too many cases the meaning has been changed so as to ascribe to them actual intrinsic grace to save.
As defined in the Westminster Confession, a sacrament is an outward act instituted by God to be a "sign and seal of the covenant of grace," and "to represent Christ and his benefits" to believers. While under ordinary circumstances of the highest importance, it is not absolutely essential to salvation. Still less does the partaking of it by a person without faith confer any guarantee of his receiving its benefits.—W. A. Brown, Outline of Christian Theology, p. 405.
While many of the scholars who assisted in the framing of the Westminister Confession of Faith believed in salvation through personal faith in the atoning death of Christ, this Confession was nonetheless framed in such a way as to leave room for belief in the efficacy of baptism for the salvation of infants, and so, in sacramental grace.
The belief in sacramental grace came about early in Christian times, originating in the practice of unregenerate men forming their theology by human reasoning, and then seeking for scriptural substantiation for their view. This is always the case when unregenerate man takes upon himself to formulate creeds for himself. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
It is clear to any open-minded student of early Christian writings that very few of the so-called Church Fathers believed in salvation solely by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ. Most of them believed in adding a certain amount of good works for salvation, joining the church for salvation, being baptized for salvation, partaking of the Supper for salvation, or some other such heresy. All of which reproaches the efficacy of Christ’s work, and its acceptance of the Father.
Because of this disregard for the scriptural pattern of these ordinances, man, in many cases, has corrupted them as to their purpose, their participants, their pattern or the procedure to be followed. It always results in confusion and disorder when the directions are ignored, no matter in what realm it may be.
Never has the Lord given a commandment concerning anything, without, at the same time, giving specific directions as to the way He wanted it carried out. It is a recognized maxim that no hopelessly obscure law has any binding force, nor can a person be held accountable for disobeying it. This finds scriptural justification in Romans 4:15 ff; 5:13 ff. In both of these is shown that man is accountable for nothing except what God has given in His Word. Though something seems to be reasonable, yet it is no one’s duty if it is not set forth in the Ward of God.
The Scriptures teach very clearly what God’s will is in these ordinances, and we have but to open the Book and look therein with a mind unbiased, but open to the leading of the Author of the Book, to know the truth of these things. The Word is given to reveal, not to conceal, God’s will (Deut. 29:29), and neither the traditions of the "Fathers" nor the authority of any group of men are needed to reveal these things to us.
In studying the New Testament account of the church, we find, besides moral duties, certain acts commanded by its Founder, significant of certain truths enjoined on the members of the church. Such acts are called ordinances.
An ordinance is an outward institution, appointed by Christ, by positive precept, to be observed by all his people to the end of the age, commemorating an essential gospel fact and declaring an essential gospel truth. Of these there are two, Baptism and the Communion-the initiation and consummation of the Christian life. These ordinances are the gospel in symbol: they commemorate, declare, and typically embody the whole Christian system (1 Cor. 15:1-5).
They are the true symbols of Christianity, divinely appointed and all-sufficient.
These are positive institutions: positive institutions differ from moral duties. (a) In their nature. Moral duties are intrinsically holy-they are commanded because they are right; positive institutions are right because they are commanded. They are not only of no obligation in themselves, but if they were not enjoined, their performance as religious acts would be wrong.
(b) In the method of ascertaining their existence. Moral duties are deduced from principles; positive institutions require a precept.
(c) In their extent. The former are binding on all moral beings; the latter on particular persons.
(d) In their duration. The former are of eternal obligation; the latter are temporary.
The moral exists always before the positive; the positive in consequence of the moral, and by means of it. Positive institutions are the fittest tests of obedience. Obedience to them springs from no conception of inherent fitness, but from submission to the will of the lawgiver. The infancy of a race or an individual must learn its first lesson here.
The greatest calamities have been incurred in consequence of disobedience to positive commandments; the greatest blessings have come in consequence of obedience to positive ordinances.—H. G. Weston, The Constitution and Polity of the New Testament Church, pp. 27-28, in E. H. Johnson’s Outline of Systematic Theology.
There is also a matter of the number of the ordinances. As far as current usage is concerned, the number varies with the different denominations from none (Society of Friends and Salvation Army), to seven (Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches).
Scriptural Baptists down through the ages have ever held that there are two, and only two, ordinances which were committed to the churches, and that the practice of these is obligatory upon the churches. These two are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the former is necessary to the scriptural constitution .of a church. These were not developed over the centuries, nor did the Apostles or the early Christians institute them. They were given by the Lord Himself. J. M. Pendleton remarks about these:
He is the only Institutor of ordinances. Apostles had no discretion in the matter. They could only teach the baptized disciples "to observe all things" commanded by Christ. His will was to them, as to his followers now, the supreme law. It was optional with him to institute many ordinances or few. It was his pleasure to appoint only two, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These appointments of Christ are church ordinances in the sense that they pertain to his churches-not to the world; and are committed to the care of his churches, whom he holds responsible for their preservation in their original purity and integrity.—Church Manual, p. 63.
There are those today who practice foot-washing as a third ordinance, and take, as their authority for it, John 13;14: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet."
However, to practice such as an ordinance on the strength of one Scripture, and that one not clearly setting forth the institution of a church ordinance, is something which is little short of folly. Again we say, what is binding upon believers, is clearly set forth as such in the Scriptures. Foot-washing was a common thing in the East in the First Century, being an act of hospitality and courtesy to guests. Because most travel was by foot over dusty roads, the washing of the feet at the end of the journey was a necessary thing, and common courtesy demanded that facilities be provided for this. Failure to provide these facilities for a guest was considered both rude and disrespectful to the guest. The washing, when performed by other than the traveler himself, was generally done by a servant of the house where the traveler lodged. And for the host himself to do this was considered an act of great humility, and showed great respect for the traveler, for this was the duty of a servant.
Luke 7:36-44 shows that foot-washing was in common practice before that which is recorded in John 13. No one would claim this as a church ordinance, yet it teaches the same thing as that in John 13, namely humility and the love of one person for another. Simon the Pharisee manifested his lack of love for the Lord in that he did not provide facilities so that the Lord could wash His own feet, much less did he wash them for Him. Different was the attitude of the woman, who manifested her love and humility by her actions (vv. 44-59).
The admonition in John 13:14 was given to a bunch of proud, bickering Baptists who had forgotten what humility was (Luke 22:24). For each one considered himself above the menial task of washing the others’ feet. They had just a short time before argued about who should be accounted the greatest. It remained, therefore, for the Lord to take the place of a servant and to set the example of humble service for them. He gave no ordinance. He gave them "an example." An example of what? Of humble service! Of self-denying service! Of Christ-like service! Let us all take note of this example.
His words to them on this occasion (Luke 22:25-27; John 13:12-17), show that it was no ritual which they were to do, but rather it was an attitude which was to characterize their lives as His disciples. It was to be an attitude of love, humility and selfless service. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another" (John 13:35).
We should notice that, while foot-washing was a common practice in the First Century, it was not associated with religious service in any way, and after the mention of it in John 13, it is not again mentioned in the New Testament except in 1 Timothy 5:10. Here, as may be clearly seen, it is not a church ordinance, but rather an act of courtesy and love by one individual to another individual.
Are we then to conclude that an ordinance (if so be that foot-washing is such) would be so lightly dealt with and so seldom mentioned in the New Testament? It seems incongruous to think that an inspired apostle would deal so lightly with one of Christ’s commands if He meant for us to literally observe the washing of feet as an ordinance.
If, on the other hand, this was meant only to be an example of humble service towards others, as it assuredly was, then we have, in the apostles’ words, the same thing set forth elsewhere. "Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. 4:9-10). "For, brethren, we have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Gal. 5:13-14). "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another" (Rom. 12:10).
These Scriptures, as well as others which could be given, set forth the same principle as that found in John 13, namely, the responsibility of the Christian to be humble, showing love for others as the Lord did, by taking the place of a servant. "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:6-7).
Should the occasion ever arise when a saint needed his feet washed as they often did in the First Century, it would be perfectly in order for another to do this, but there is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that this was done regularly as a church ordinance.
Looking at the ordinances from a negative standpoint, it should be pointed out that neither of these are: (1) Efficacious of life. This becomes obvious when we consider that the things that are said of both of them are symbolic and cannot be interpreted literally. A symbol can never have any saving value. As a friend and fellow-pastor, Dale Atkinson, has said, "Life cannot come from works; life can only come from a Person." (2) Christian ordinances alone. That is, they are not to be administered by individual Christians as such. See Matthew 28:19-20 where the command to baptize the Gospel converts is given to the church. See also Acts 2:47 where each new convert was added to the church (cf. v. 41). That the Lord’s Supper was committed to the church (Matt. 26:26-29), is obvious from the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:18: "When ye come together in the church..." (3) Matters of individual discretion. Both are enjoined upon believers for testimonies, and no Christian has the privilege of observing or dispensing with these at will. With these introductory remarks and negative considerations of the ordinances behind us, we may embark upon a positive consideration of this subject.
I. THE ORDINANCE OF BAPTISM.
The first of these two ordinances to come before us is that which stands first in the life of the child of God. It pictures the death to sin and the resurrection to newness of life just as the Lord’s Supper symbolizes the sustenance of the new life. The ordinance of baptism is set before us in Romans 6 as being the picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, our own death to the former way of life, our burial in the likeness of Christ’s death, and our resurrection to walk in newness of life. It is also our confession of our discipleship, and of our faith in the coming physical resurrection of the just in the likeness of Christ’s bodily resurrection. J. B. Gambrell observes the following on this ordinance.
Baptism is both a separating and a unifying ordinance. Symbolically it separates from the old life and commits the baptized to the new life in Christ. Therefore, we are said to put on Christ by baptism. As a common uniform unifies an army, because the uniform is a symbol of obedience and service in the one army and under one flag, so does baptism separate from the old life symbolically and bring together those who are enlisted in Christ’s army. It is, therefore, a striking teaching ordinance. If the modern Christian world, accepting the light of the truth symbolized by baptism, would come to the practice of this holy ordinance in the place assigned it by Christ and in the meaning put into it by Him who instituted it, the unity of Christendom would be almost accomplished. Structurally, baptism occupies the key position in the whole line of the outward defenses of spiritual religion. A right understanding and use of baptism will dispose of a whole brood of divisive questions.—Baptists And Their Business, pp. 64-65.
Baptism has been subjected to abuses from time immemorial, and will continue to be until such time as our Lord returns. There has come a falling away from this grand theme in recent times by many of those who formerly stood for it. The vast difference between the Baptist position on baptism and that which is occupied by Catholicism and much of Protestantism is expressed by J. R. Graves, who says:
This is the doctrine that distinguishes us as Baptists from other denominations. We put the blood in every case before the water. We do not teach that baptism is essential to salvation, but that salvation is essential to baptism.—quoted in W. M. Nevins, Alien Baptism and the Baptists, p. 16.
Most of professing Christendom baptizes sinners and thinks thereby to make saints of them. Baptists only baptize those who claim to already be Christians, and therefore baptize, not in order to save them, but because they are already saved according to their testimony.
Baptism may be briefly defined as the immersion of a believer in water by the authority of a local church as a testimony in symbol. As such, it embodies four essential qualifications: viz., (1) A scriptural subject—a born again person; one who has trusted in Christ to save him. (2) A scriptural mode—immersion in water. (3) A scriptural purpose—to picture Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for our pardon and justification, our own death to sin and resurrection to a new way of life, and to confess our discipleship. (4) A scriptural administrator—a local New Testament church.
It is of tremendous importance, and we must ever bear in mind that if any one of the four elements is wanting we have defective baptism, and not scriptural baptism. Just as God said to Moses about the tabernacle, "Be sure that thou make all things according to the pattern shown to thee in the mount," so He says to us, "Keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you." If you alter them, you disobey God, you destroy the truth, you bring about confusion and division in the Christian world where there ought to be unity and peace.—W. M. Nevins, Alien Baptism and the Baptists, p. 14.
It shall now be our purpose to take each of these qualifications and examine them individually and minutely for our learning and edification. First, there is the need for A Scriptural Subject.
A scriptural subject for baptism is one who has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His finished work of redemption, and who depends upon this and this alone for the redemption of his soul. This may be proven in several ways, as R. B. C. Howell says:
In religion, or in any of its ordinances, we admit of no authority but the Bible. Who, according to this standard, are we to regard as entitled to receive baptism? I answer, believers, and believers only. Of this fact we are assured by the law of baptism, by the teaching of the apostles on the subject, by the practice they pursued in its administrations, by the objects had in view in receiving the rite, and by the actions performed by the baptized.—Terms of Communion at the Lord’s Table, p. 132.
However, this belief of which we have spoken is not a mere head belief. Judas had such a head belief in the Messiah, yet he "went to his own place." Perhaps we need to make a distinction between belief and trust. Belief, while having the meaning of trust also, is too often confounded with mere mental persuasion, but trust is generally associated with both mental and emotional persuasion. We may illustrate it this way: a man may look upon a chair and believe that it will support his weight, but he trusts the chair only when he believes in its strength enough to commit his weight wholly to it. Only one who has so trusted the finished work of Christ is a fit candidate for baptism. This aspect is borne out by the command to "make disciples’ and only then to "baptize" them (Matt: 28:19). Some would endeavor to make this mean "disciple by baptizing them," but the text will not bear this meaning, as even the renowned Richard Baxter, himself a pedobaptist, declares:
As for those that say they are discipled by baptizing, and not before baptizing, they speak not the sense of the text, nor that which is true or rational. Else why should one be baptized more than another? This is not like some occasional historical mention of baptism, but is the very command of Christ, and purposely expresseth their several works in their several places and order. The first task is, by teaching, to make disciples—which Mark calls believers. The second work is to baptize them. The third work is to teach them all other things which are afterwards to be learned in the school of Christ. To contemn [scorn—DWH] this order is to renounce all rules of order; for where can we expect to find it if not here? My conscience is fully satisfied from this text, that it is one kind of faith, even saving, that must go before baptism, and the profession whereof the minister must expect.—Rights To The Sacraments, pp. 91, 149, 150. (Quoted by Howell, Terms of Communion, p. 134.)
The Lord designated baptism a work of righteousness at His own baptism (Matt. 3:15), and comparison of this with Titus 3:5, teaches that baptism does not effect salvation, since it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us..." Advocates of baptismal regeneration seek to make baptism a work for righteousness, instead of a work of righteousness. The works of the unregenerate can never avail anything for righteousness because they are totally corrupt (Isa. 64:6).
The teaching of baptismal salvation almost invariably leads to the practice of pedobaptism, one of the most damnable practices ever foisted upon a gullible and unsuspecting Christianity. How dreadful to perform some rite upon unconscious babies, then tell them when they come to years that they were saved by that rite and have no further need to worry. Countless millions have gone out into a Christless eternity with that false hope. What punishment is sufficient for those who so deceive others? In 1852, R. B. C. Howell wrote one of the most complete and most sweeping indictments of the evils of infant baptism ever written. It was reprinted in 1988, and ought to be read by everyone so that he can see the evil of this system. Dr. Howell says:
I now submit the inquiry whether such a profession of faith, and devotion to Christ, as baptism expresses, must not necessarily be a voluntary and intelligent act, on the part of the baptized? To me no fact appears more certain. To those who are incapable of such voluntary and intelligent action, baptism can never be administered. Infants cannot profess their faith, even if they had any to profess. They cannot devote themselves to Christ. By the very nature of the ordinance therefore, since they are incapable of compliance with its demands, they cannot be baptized. Any baptism which is unreasonable and inconsistent, because it does not embrace the design, nor express the sense of the ordinance, is unlawful, and therefore prohibited. Infant baptism is unreasonable and inconsistent, because it does not embrace the design, nor express the sense of the ordinance. It is therefore unlawful. It is prohibited.—The Evils of Infant Baptism, p. 35:
The question naturally arises as to the source of infant baptism. Basically it had its start in the ignorance and superstition of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Centuries, times which also saw the beginnings of the Roman apostasy, the corruption of the original form of church government, and all of the heresies concerning the person and work of Christ. The professing Christian world became numbers-conscious in the early ages after the Apostolic age, and soon brought a multitude of unregenerate persons into the churches, even as many numbers-crazy "evangelists" (?) of our present day are doing. Only about two generations are necessary under such circumstances to corrupt whole churches, and leave them in the complete control of unspiritual and unregenerate persons. Such persons are easy prey for the delusions of Satan, whose chief aim is to corrupt churches by corrupting their teachers and preachers.
As soon as the church leaders began to teach that baptism had something to do with salvation, the next logical question was how soon then can children be baptized so as to get them saved. From this point, it was but a short step to begin baptizing infants. Nevertheless, this innovation was steadfastly resisted by some for many years before it became the common custom. Tertullian resisted it in the Second Century, and laid down the rule that baptism was legitimate for minors (not infants) provided they asked for it, or, in other words, if they had attained the age of reason and understood the need for salvation, and the portent of baptism. Here is the key to a proper observance of this ordinance: the understanding of the meaning and purpose the ordinance according to Scripture. It is symbolic only.
Baptism is not the type of something yet to be; nor is it the means of creating what is. For in the gospel dispensation there are no typical ordinances foreshadowing something to come, and the believer’s regeneration is presumed to have been wrought out before he received his baptism. It therefore symbolizes everything subjective and objective in regeneration. It symbolizes a state—death to sin and newness of life in Christ."—W. H. H. Marsh, The New Testament Church, p. 164.
Many base the practice of infant baptism upon the theory that the ordinance was the antitype of circumcision, and since circumcision was administered to infants as well as adults, so should baptism be. But this is to confuse a national civil rite with an individual spiritual one. E. G. Robinson comments on this:
Circumcision is not a type of baptism; 1. It is purely a gratuitous assumption that it is so. There is not a word in Scripture to authorize it: 2. Circumcision was a national, a theocratic, and not a personal, religious rite; 3. If circumcision be a type, why did Paul circumcise Timothy? Why did he not explain, on an occasion so naturally calling for it, that circumcision was replaced by baptism?—quoted in A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 955.
Most people forget that while the Lord commanded the circumcision of infants in the Old Testament, He no where even intimates that infants are to be baptized. The reader is further referred to the discussion of circumcision in chapter two (p. 44 ff.)
In support of what Dr. Robinson has stated, and in proof of the fact that infant baptism finds no countenance in the Scriptures whatsoever, we quote the following Pedobaptist scholars who admit as much. Dr. Hagenbach, Reformed Church: "The passages from Scripture which are thought to intimate that infant baptism had come into use in the primitive church, are doubtful and prove nothing."—History of Doctrines, Vol. I, p. 193. Professor Stuart, of Andover Theological Seminary, Congregationalist: "There are no commands, or plain and certain examples, in the New Testament, relative to infant baptism" (Quoted in J. M. Cramp, Baptist History, p. 17). Dr. Woods, Congregationalist; "We have no express precept or example for infant baptism in all our holy writings" (Quoted in Cramp, ibid). Professor Lange (No denominational affiliation): "All attempts to make out infant baptism from the New Testament fail. It is totally opposed to the spirit of the apostolic age, and the fundamental principles of the New Testament."—On Infant Baptism, p. 101 (Quoted in Howell, Terms of Communion, p. 138). Schleimacher says: "All traces of infant baptism which one will find in the New Testament, must first be put into it."—Christian Theology, p. 556 (Cited by Howell, ibid). Professor Limborch, Arminian: "No instance can be produced from which it may be indisputably inferred that any child was baptized by the apostles."—Comm. Sys. Div., Book 5, chap. 22 (Cited by Howell, ibid., p. 140). Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran Church: "It cannot be proved by the sacred Scriptures, that infant baptism was instituted by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the apostles."—In A. R.’s Vanity of Infant Baptism, Part II, p. 8. (Cited by Abraham Booth, Pedobaptism Examined, Vol. I, pp. 303-304.)
William Wall, Episcopalian: "Among all the Persons that are recorded as baptized by the Apostles, there is no express mention of any infant."—History of Infant Baptism, introduction, p. 1. Gesenius, the great Hebrew lexicologist, "being informed, in conversation, that the Baptists of America reject infant baptism, and baptize only adults, on profession of faith, replied, ‘That is perfectly right; that is according to the Bible.’"—Christian Review, Vol. III, p. 201 (Cited by I. T. Hinton, History of Baptism, p. 235). Bishop Burnet, Episcopalian: "There is no express precept, or rule, given in the New Testament for baptism of infants."—Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, Art. 27 (Cited in Booth, ibid., p. 303). Vitringa: "That some in the ancient church long ago doubted, and that others now doubt, whether infants ought to be baptized, proceeds principally, I think, from hence: it is not related as a fact, in the Gospels, and in the Acts of the primitive church, that infants were baptized by Christ, or by the apostles."—Observat. Sac., Book II, c. 6, para. 2 (Cited by Booth, ibid., p. 304). The Magdeburg Centuriators, Lutheran: "Examples prove that adults, both Jews and Gentiles, were baptized. Concerning the baptism of infants, there are indeed no examples of which we read."—Cent. 1, Book ii, c. vi, p. 381 (Cited by Booth, ibid., p. 305).
Erasmus: "Paul does not seem in Romans 6:4, to treat about infants...It was not yet the custom for infants to be baptized."—Annotations on Romans (Cited by Booth, ibid). John Calvin, founder of the Presbyterian church: "From this sacrament, as from all others, we gain nothing unless so far as we receive it in faith."—Institutes, Book iv, chap. 15, para. 15. Dr. Goodwin: "Baptism supposeth regeneration sure in itself first. Sacraments are never administered for to begin or work grace; you suppose children to believe before you baptize them. Read all the Acts, still it is said, They believed and were baptized."—Works, Vol. I, part 1, p. 200 (Cited by Booth, ibid. 344). Thomas Lawton, Quaker: "See the author of rhantism, that is, sprinkling; not Christ, nor the apostles, but Cyprian; not in the days of Christ, but some two hundred and thirty years after. "—Baptismalogia, p. 75 (Cited by Booth, p. 373).
This last cited authority, being a Quaker, which denomination does not practice a literal baptism in any form, can certainly not be accused of a bias toward any form of the ordinance, but must be construed as an impartial witness. At the same time, all of the foregoing authorities are non-Baptists, and since their witness is against their own practice, they cannot be accused of perverting the witness of history to fit their own beliefs. We give one more authority on this subject—a man of such monumental stature as a church historian as to stand head and shoulders above almost all other historians. We speak of Neander, who says:
Originally baptism was administered to adults; nor is the general spread of Infant baptism at a later period any proof to the contrary; for even after Infant baptism had been set forth as an Apostolic Institution, its introduction into the general practice of the Church was but slow. Had it rested on Apostolic authority, there would have been a difficulty in explaining its late approval, and that even in the third century, it was opposed by at least one eminent Father of the Church. Paul’s language, in 1 Corinthians 7:14, is also against its Apostolic origin, where he aims at proving that a Christian woman need not fear living in wedlock with a heathen, since the unbeliever would be sanctified by the believing wife; as a proof of this he adds, otherwise the children of Christians would be unclean, but now are they hagia,, therefore, the children of Christian Parents are called holy, on account of the influence of Christian fellowship. Had Infant baptism been practiced at that time, the argument would have had no force; for they would have been hagia by means of their baptism. Infant baptism, therefore, cannot be regarded as an Apostolic Institution.—History of Dogma, Vol. I, pp. 229-230.
Nor are these the only witnesses against infant baptism being scriptural. The number could be multiplied. Neither is it claimed for a moment that the foregoing scholars were against infant baptism. On the contrary, most of them practiced it, but their language is inconsistent with their practice. They felt compelled by the Scriptures to acknowledge that it is not found in the Word of God, yet they were unwilling to bring their practice into alignment with the Scriptures.
Some of these authors imagine that Pedobaptism is lawful, though it be not commanded. But here they seem to forget that baptism is a positive rite, and that when practiced it is an act of divine worship. A precept therefore, or an example, must be necessary to warrant the performance of it; and consequently to authorize its administration to any description of persons whatsoever.—Abraham Booth, Pedobaptism Examined, Vol. I, p. 346.
He goes on to allude to the weight of authority of those whom he has himself referred to, and some of whom we have quoted above. He says:
That most of these were well versed in the ancient monuments of the Christian church, few of my readers acquainted with their characters will deny; and being Paedobaptists, they were under no influence, from their avowed hypothesis, to make such declarations as these before us. Consequently, we must consider these learned men, as led by plain historical evidence, and by a commendable regard for truth, to express their views of the case in this remarkable manner. Now such concessions, from writers whose literary abilities cannot be questioned, and who are entirely free from suspicion of intending to sink the reputation of Paedobaptism, afford a strong presumption in our favor, so far as ecclesiastical antiquity is concerned in the dispute...But whether our opposers be hoary with learned age, or bloom with precipitate youth, it must, I think, be confessed, that these authorities have sufficient force to acquit us from the charge of ignorance, and of partiality to a favorite opinion, because we maintain, That the first two centuries knew either nothing at all, or very little, of infant baptism.—Pedobaptism Examined, Vol. I, p. 373.
Since we have seen the great concessions of many of the pedobaptists themselves in this matter, we may be allowed to ask Why then do they continue to practice what they have acknowledged to be unscriptural? The answer is, That it was an inheritance from the Mother Harlot herself. The Catholic church had long taught the damnable doctrine of baptismal regeneration, and it was only natural that her daughters retained the same, for it was taught in most of the "Standards" of the day. The people were attached to it, for it required no humbling of the carnal nature, but only the observance of a ritual. At the same time, the practice of infant baptism guaranteed the increase of communicants in the churches, for every child born to a church member naturally became a church member also. One thing is certain; infant baptism is firmly entrenched in all state churches, and in most Protestant denominations, and will probably never be eradicated until the Lord’s return. Indeed, this perverted ordinance is necessary to the perpetuation of all state churches.
Were only those who repent, believe in Christ, and live holy lives, admitted into the church, then indeed would it be as Christ designed, pure, elevated, sanctified, but it never could be national, and particularly would it very seldom contain the kings and princes, and great men of the earth. These can find their way into the church by no other medium than infant baptism. But they must be in the church in order to make it a national church. Infant baptism is essential to the union of church and state.—R. B. C. Howell, The Evils Of Infant Baptism, p.
But though most of Protestantism regularly practices what is not found in Scripture, but bases it upon human reasoning, it cannot agree an why they practice this ritual. If infant baptism were an institution divine, it seems hardly likely that there would be the confusion existent that there is as to why it should be performed, and upon whom it should be performed, but it is an evident truth that there is a great deal of confusion on this subject.
It is a remarkable fact, that although all the Pedobaptist churches concur in baptizing their children, yet no two of them can, agree as to the reasons why they do so, or what children they shall baptize. These facts explain the whole mystery how the admissions we have quoted could be made, and yet their authors believe in infant baptism, and practice the ceremony. Great men are not always great in every thing.—R. H. C. Howell, Terms of Communion, p. 146.
He further details the many different bases of this rite, and how that they mutually contradict one another as to the reason for it, and those upon whom it is practiced.
Wall, Hammond, and others of that school, claim that Jewish proselyte baptism is its broad and ample foundation. Owen, Jennings, and many more repudiate Jewish proselyte baptism, and predicate it upon circumcision as taught in the Abrahamic covenant. Beza, Doddridge, and their associates, teach that children are holy, and are therefore to be baptized. Wesley, and his disciples, teach that they are unholy, and must be baptized to cleanse them from their defilements. Burder, Dwight, and their class, permit no other infants to be baptized but those of christian parents, all of whom they contend, are born in the church, and are therefore entitled to its ordinances. Baxter, Henry, and those of similar faith, baptize infants to bring them into the covenant and church of the Redeemer. The evangelical divines of the Church of England, and of the Episcopal Church of America, tell us that "the doctrine of infant baptism is deduced by analogical reasoning, from statements of scripture applying more expressly, to the case of adult baptism." But those of the opposite character teach that baptism gives to the infant the regeneration of the Holy Ghost, and must therefore be administered. Many others receive and practice it, because, as they say, "It is in consonance with the general spirit of religion!" Each of these theories shows all others to be wholly destitute of scriptural support. Among the several classes of religionists now indicated, are to be found very many men of the most extensive learning and research. Why are they all thus in hopeless conflict on the subject? The moment one brings forward his scriptural proofs of infant baptism, all the others clearly show them to be utterly false. Could this be the case were the ordinance anywhere enjoined or authorized? Every unprejudiced mind must see that, taken together, the arguments of all classes of Pedobaptists, destroy one another throughout. Like the builders at Babel, no two of them speak the same tongue, although every one protests that he utters the language of the Bible!—R. B. C. Howell, The Evils Of Infant Baptism, pp. 19-20.
J. R. Graves likewise shows how inconsistent and even contradictory these different reasons are one to another when he lists no less than sixteen reasons for the practice of infant baptism.
Among the many reasons for baptizing an infant I notice the following: (1) It is to wash away original sin, as Wesley and the Methodist Episcopal Church teach...(2) It is their right by the Abrahamic Covenant. (3) They have a right of their own faith super-induced. (4) On the faith of their parents. (5) On the faith of their sureties or sponsors. (6) That the Church can give them the right. (7) On apostolic tradition. (8) On the inferred authority of the Scriptures. (9) On the silence of the Scriptures. (10) Because infants of believing parents are born pure or holy, and, therefore, entitled to it. (11) Because they are born members of the Church, and, therefore, entitled to it. (12) Because baptism is a sacrament, a divinely appointed means of grace, and should be withheld from none, young or old (M. E. Church). (13) Because it is a seal of the covenant of grace, out of which no one can be saved. (14) It produces for the child, though unconscious, the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, and creates it a member of Christ, an heir of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. (15) Because, without it, there is no certain promise to any to enter heaven. (16) Because, as Neander teaches, though the Scriptures do not enforce it, and are, indeed, silent about it, yet it is in accordance with the spirit of Christianity.—John’s Baptism, pp. 186-187.
The practice of infant baptism is attended by a host of evils. A whole Pandora’s box of evils was let loose upon the world when this practice was first begun. To this devil’s doctrine may be traced also that of an unregenerate church membership, the union of church and state, sacerdotal assumptions, and others, but perhaps the worse evil of all is the breakdown of the demarcation between the church and the world. Dr. Howell says:
The admission of infants to baptism destroys one of the main designs had in view in the institution of baptism. All denominations and all ages agree in regarding baptism as constituting a principal part of the visible line which distinguishes the church from the world. No one can be recognized as a member of any church who is not baptized; and, on the other hand, all, both infants and adults, who have been baptized, are considered, in some sort, members of the church. Infant baptism, however, as far as it prevails, destroys this distinction, and, by confounding them together, ruins the church, without benefiting the world. We will imagine, for illustration, that from this moment, Pedobaptist principles are fully adopted and practiced by all people, upon the face of the whole earth. Every child, as soon as born, would be initiated into the church, and, as a consequence, in one generation, every man, woman, and child in the whole world, would be in the church. As baptism in infancy renders no one, in any respect, more moral or religious than he would have been without it, or increases in any case the likelihood of conversion, the church would exhibit, with perhaps a few holy men, as at present, a horde of infidels, drunkards, murderers, thieves, and robbers, all church members!—Terms of Communion, pp. 147148.
We are now prepared to inquire into the effect produced upon the character of the church by infant baptism. It sets aside all the laws of membership enacted by Christ for her preservation and glory; it proceeds upon others of its own creation, and substitution; it brings into the body, not the spiritual and pure only, but also all classes of men; and it thus impresses upon it such a character as effectually destroys its claims to be regarded as the true visible church of Christ. It is thenceforth necessarily carnal and unholy. It is not the church of Christ…What is now the condition of things? The church is the world; and the world is the church! They are identical! If the world is not the church—and we know that it is not—then there is no visible church of God upon earth! Its visibility is destroyed; and is destroyed by infant baptism. What do we now see? The spirituality of the church is gone! The purity of the church is gone! The visibility of the church is gone! The church itself is gone! It is despoiled. of those peculiar qualities which are essential to the church of Christ.—R. B. C. Howell, The Evils of Infant Baptism, pp. 135, 138.
It is also an established fact that where baptismal regeneration has obtained, it has almost always mated with the civil sword and instigated persecution of all dissenters. These two are wedded, and no man shall part them. It was but natural that the sword should be borrowed in order to enforce this rite, since many believed that faith was of no consequence, and if one could but be brought to the baptismal waters only, he would be saved, his own attitudes and desires notwithstanding. Chrysostom, the Catholic theologian of the Fourth Century expressed the ignorance and superstition of many when he said:
Although a man should be foul with every vice, the blackest that can be named; yet should he fall into the baptismal pool, he ascends from the divine waters purer than the beams of the noon...As a spark thrown into the ocean is instantly extinguished, so is sin, be what it may, extinguished when the man is thrown into the laver of regeneration.—Quoted by Thomas Armitage, History of the Baptists, pp. 211-212.
The practice of infant baptism is founded by some upon the theory that the baptism of Jewish proselytes and their families was in current vogue at the time of John the Baptist, and hence was merely adopted by him. Pedobaptists further state that since it was the common thing for infants to be baptized with their parents, there was no need for a definite example or command to be given by John, the Lord Jesus, or the apostles. Hence, say they, the silence of the New Testament upon the subject of infant baptism.
Dr. John Gill, who is acknowledged as one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of his own, or any other age, has ably met and slain this Goliath, for he shows that the baptism of Jewish proselytes is nowhere referred to: (1) In the Old Testament. (2) In the Apocryphal writings. (3) In the New Testament. (4) In Philo (Jewish historian, circa B. C. 10-50 A. D.). (5) In Josephus (Jewish historian, A. D. 37-100). (6) In the Targums or Chaldee paraphrases. (7) In the Jews’ Misnah, or Book of Traditions. (8) Nor in any of the writings of the Christian Fathers of the first three or four centuries. He adds:
Now since it appears there is no mention made of any such rite or custom of admitting Jewish proselytes by baptism, or dipping, to the Jewish religion, in any writings and records before the times of John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles, nor in any age after them, for the first three or four hundred years; or, however, before the writing of the Talmuds; it may be safely concluded there was no such custom which had obtained in that interval of time.—Body of Divinity, p. 1009.
Nor was Gill alone in denying that proselyte baptism existed this early. Owens, Jennings, and others of their pedobaptist brethren also denied its existence this early. But pedobaptists have not been willing to give up this, their "strongest proof" (?) of the practice of infant baptism in apostolic times, and some, either ignorantly or willfully, have quoted Jewish writings of later times concerning the baptism of proselytes, and have passed it off as proof that this was the practice of the First Century. The average person has no idea to what age the different Jewish writings pertain, and so, might accept a modern writer’s word and think it was written before the Christian era. Others do not know that even ancient writings often have modern glosses and comments appended to them. For instance, the Babylonian Talmud, quoting Exodus 2:5, has a gloss which says that Pharaoh’s daughter came down "to dip on account of proselytism," but the average person does not realize that this gloss was not appended until the twelfth century of the Christian era. Many pedobaptists make bold statements to the fact of the baptism of Jewish proselytes, but they offer no proof, nor can they, for it does not exist. The first instance of Jewish proselyte baptism is found in the Jerusalem Talmud which was written some time in the Fifth Century.
Infant baptism is founded upon the supposition that it has been practiced from the very beginning of the Christian era, and even before, yet in no writings is Jewish proselyte baptism certainly mentioned before about the Fifth Century. Even in church history, there is no indication of the baptism of infants before about the last of the Second Century. And even by the middle of the Fifth Century, so universal (?) was this custom, that its advocates were constrained to invoke the civil sword in order to foist it upon the masses.
The first passage to be met with which is supposed to teach that infants were baptized is in the writings of Irenaeus. He says in his book Against Heresies, 1.2, c. 39:
Therefore as he was a Master, he had also the Age of a Master. Not disdaining nor going in a way above human Nature; nor breaking in his own Person the Law which he had set for Mankind: but sanctifying every several Age by the Likeness that he has to him. For he came to save all persons by himself: All, I mean, who by him are regenerated unto God: Infants, and Little-ones, and Children, and youths, and Elder Persons.—Quoted by William Wall, History of Infant Baptism, Part I, Chap. 3, p. 37.
It is held by some that the word regenerated here means baptized, and inasmuch as infants are expressly included in this, it is said to prove that infants were baptized in the latter part of the Second Century. This is to put on an ancient word a more modern meaning: That the word regenerated does not, and cannot, mean baptized in the passage in Irenaeus is abundantly proven by Barnas Sears, one time President of Newton Theological Seminary when it was a sound Baptist institution. He observes:
In the light of this investigation of Irenaeus’ general views of "regeneration," let us come to the interpretation of the passage which is said to support infant baptism.
1. The phrase, "regenerated through Christ unto God," if it mean the general "recovery of man through Christ’s incarnation and redemption," has numerous parallels in the writings of Irenaeus; if it means "baptized through Christ unto God," has no parallel—absolutely none.
2. The phrase, "baptism through Christ unto God," is an incongruous idea, nowhere to be found in the Scriptures, in the writings of Irenaeus, or in any other Father, or writer, ancient or modern.
3. "Regeneration," standing alone, without any such words as "baptism" or "bath" prefixed, and governing it in the genitive, never means baptism in Irenaeus.
4. That Christ sanctified infants, by becoming an infant himself, has several parallels in Irenaeus: "He became an infant, to aid our weak apprehension,"—"he became an infant with us (sunenepiazen) on this account," IV, 38, 1 and 2. "He went into Egypt, sanctifying infants that were there." It would be absurd to suppose, that the infant Jesus baptized the Egyptian infants.
5. That by passing through the several stages of human life, from infancy to old age, he sanctified human nature in these various ages, by his own incarnation and example, is an idea often repeated by Irenaeus, and by modern writers, too, as Sartorius. But if this be limited to baptism, or to the baptized. It will contradict what he elsewhere says.
6. The general character of his redemption and regeneration, as expressed in this passage, according to our interpretation, is a favorite idea with our author; a similar sentiment in regard to baptism is not to be found in his writings.
7. The connection of the latter part of the sentence with the former, as explaining or amplifying the idea, is weakened if not destroyed by the other interpretation.—Quoted in I. T. Hinton, History of Baptism, pp. 242-243.
To all these things, we add one additional proof that this did not deal with baptism. John 4:1-2 tells us expressly that Jesus did not baptize, so that even if Irenaeus had had reference to baptism, which he did not, the Scripture would have invalidated his statement and proven him wrong.
Dr. William Wall produced what was doubtless the best defense of infant baptism ever written. His work continues to be a standard work to this day after almost three hundred years, yet this is the first instance that he can produce which even seems to favor infant baptism. Abraham Booth well says:
Yet, while we insist that this is far from being an express testimony, or indeed any testimony at all in favor of infant baptism; we may venture to conclude, that it is the first passage in ecclesiastical antiquity, which Dr. Wall considered as having any appearance of being directly to his purpose, and the very best he could find to support his hypothesis. But if it had been a divine appointment, and customary in the church from the apostolic age, is it not strange, is it not quite unaccountable, that such ambiguous words as those of Irenaeus should be considered by our opponents, as the most explicit of any on record, in proof that Pedobaptism was practiced so early as the year one hundred and eighty?—Pedobaptism Examined, Vol. I, p. 377.
We ask when did infant baptism first appear of which there is definite proof? The answer is, In the Third Century. Of the seven so-called "Fathers" of this century, only two speak of this matter, and of one of these, it is questionable whether the sentiments expressed were his or those of his translators who interpolated much of his material.
The first of these men is Origin, whose works were voluminous, but which often contained the wildest of fancies, and many things borrowed from the Greek philosophers which he read extensively. It was Origin who popularized the allegorical method of interpreting the Scriptures, a method by which they could be made to mean almost anything the carnal fancy of man might dream up. His works have been much altered, and this is especially true of the Latin versions of his works which were extensively interpolated by Ruffinus and Jerome. Whether the sentiments concerning infant baptism were his or those of his translators makes little, if any difference, in the present discussion. In either case the origin of this rite is almost two hundred years too late to be apostolic.
Cyprian was the second of these two men, and to him goes the dubious distinction of perhaps doing more to corrupt the original constitution of the churches than any other man. He was the foremost advocate of episcopacy, he taught that there was no salvation outside of the catholic church, that salvation was to be had by baptism, and other such damnable heresies. Such a person would be a natural candidate to advocate the theory of infant baptism. We do not mean to imply that these two men were the first to conceive of, practice, and advocate infant baptism, for they probably were not, but inasmuch as it is first to be found in their writings, it is hardly likely that it had been around for any great length of time.
Upon tradition this is founded, and upon tradition it stands or falls, for it is not to be found in the Scriptures. This silence of the New Testament is the greatest proof of its being nothing more than an ingenious human invention. Most of the foremost pedobaptist scholars are constrained to admit that it is not to be found in the Scriptures, nor, for that matter, in any writings before the latter part of the Second Century or the middle of the Third. Nevertheless, there are those who endeavor to substantiate this practice by reference in the New Testament. It shall be our purpose to consider these, but ere we do we observe, with Alexander Carson, the shameless twistings of Scripture by Pedobaptists. He says that:
It is a most vexatious thing, that, in the dispute about infant baptism, the greatest part of the arguments brought to support it, have no concern with baptism at all. Is it not evident, on the very face of the business, that infant baptism is not in the Scriptures, when its advocates are obliged to shelter it under such subterfuges? Had they real evidence, they have talents to exhibit it. Had they only one sound argument, they would not degrade their understanding by resting on arguments that have no reference to the subject.—Baptism, Its Mode and Its Subjects, p. 206.
Barring the alleged baptism of infants in household baptisms, which we shall dispose of presently, there is not in the Scripture the least semblance of a hint that infants were ever baptized. It has been strikingly said that the passages that are used by advocates of infant baptism fall into three classes. One class mentions baptism, but do not mention infants. Another class mentions infants, but do not mention baptism. And a third class mentions neither infants nor baptism.—T. P. Simmons, Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine, p. 348.
Matthew 19:14 is often cited as a command to baptize children, but we must notice that: (1) Jesus commanded that the little children should be "suffered" or allowed to come unto Him. It was to be purely voluntary, not compulsory. (2) Inasmuch as He used the words "suffer" and "forbid not," He is manifestly dealing with those of the age of choice and reason. Unconscious babies are not under discussion. (3) The whole passage deals, not with baptism, but with a voluntary acceptance of the Lord and His kingdom. Infant baptizers, on the contrary, seek to force unconscious babies into God’s Kingdom. It is true that Luke records that they brought infants (Greek brephe), but this was expressly done to receive Jesus’ blessing, not for baptism (Luke 18:15-17). However, in all three parallel accounts (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16 and Luke 18:15-17), the Lord uses "little children" (Greek paidia)—a young child). (4) Jesus never baptized (John 4:1-2). His disciples were the ones who always did the baptizing, yet, if these objected to children being brought even for the Lord’s blessings, what must they have done had children been brought for baptism? Thus, no amount of conniving can make this a proof-text for infant baptism. A pre-text, perhaps, but not a proof-text.
Acts 2:39 is another passage which is seized upon and made to do service in this matter. Since the command to be baptized is given in V38, and the apostles says that the "promise is unto you, and to your children," then it must mean that children are to baptized. But the reasoning of the pedobaptist is faulty here. (1) The term here employed (Greek teknon) is a general term having no reference to tenderness of age, for Paul often called adult converts his "sons" (Greek teknon) (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Philemon. 10). (2) In the passage above, the reference is to the descendents of those who heard the message of Peter even though they had not then even been born. (3) There is a definite limitation upon the application of this: "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Now no infant is capable of receiving either a general or an effectual call from the Lord. (4) The word "infant" (Greek brephe) is never used here, and the difference between it, and the term used is wide enough to refute any idea of infant baptism.
Some pedobaptists have thought that the mention of household baptisms were to their purpose, but such is not the case as we shall see. In the New Testament we read of the baptism of three households: that of Lydia (Acts 16:15); that of the Philippian Jailor (Acts 16:33); and that of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16): However, it may be justly inferred that the household of Crispus was also baptized inasmuch as they are said to have believed (Acts 18:8). Pedobaptists say that there must have been infants in some of these households, and so, infant baptism must be Scriptural. But this is to exalt conjecture and supposition to the level of fact. This writer, during his years in the ministry, while pastoring three different churches, has had occasion to baptize several households, not one of which had infants in them. And indeed most families in any community do not have infants in them. I. T. Hinton observes:
It is very remarkable that, to remove all excuse for finding so lamentable an error in the baptism of households, the sacred writers should in each instance, (although apparently accidentally, yet doubtless under the direction of Divine wisdom), have furnished the most satisfactory proof that there were no infants in the families alluded to.—History of Baptism, p. 105.
In the case of Lydia, nothing is given which would indicate that she was even married, while there are several things that would militate against there being infants in her household. (1) She was a business woman, "a seller of purple." (2) She was over two hundred and fifty miles from her home, a considerable distance in those days. (3) When the missionaries found Lydia by the river, there were no men present (Acts, 16:13), which seems to point to the fact stated above, viz., that she evidently was not even married. (4) After their release from prison, the missionaries returned to Lydia’s house and comforted the "brethren" there, a term which is never used of infants or children, but always of believers.
In the case of the Philippian jailor, it is quite as obvious that no infants were in his household, for it is expressly said, "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house" (Acts 16:32-34). Is this not clear enough for anyone that in this household were none but those who were capable of, and actually did believe? Of this passage, Henry E. Robins observes:
Here is first, instruction; then, faith; afterward baptism: household instruction, household faith, household baptism. The limits of my discourse forbid me quote all the abundant proof which appear as we turn from page to page of this part of the sacred history.—In the chapter by him in The Madison Avenue Lectures, p. 141.
Paul also declares that he baptized the household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16), but before he closes the epistle in which this was written, he incidentally denies that there were infants within the number of Stephanas’ household when he says, "they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints" (1 Cor. 16:15). This is not predicable of infants, nor even of children, for that matter.
All the suppositions in the world do not amount to one single solid fact. The fact is, that the New Testament gives incidental proof that of the households which were baptized, not one contained any except those who were both capable of, and actually did, believe the word before they were baptized. Alexander Carson says:
The baptism of households was just as common a thing as the faith of households, and nothing more so. That the baptism of a household was a matter of course on the faith of the head of it, without the faith of the family, there is not the slightest appearance. We are indeed, informed of the baptism of Lydia’s house, without being informed of their faith. But that they had faith, the commission leaves no doubt. The narrative tells us that the house of Crispus believed, but it does not tell us that they were baptized, Acts 18:8. We know, however, that they were baptized, because the commission enjoins it. In like manner, when we are told that Lydia’s house were baptized, we know that they believed, because the commission warrants the baptism of none but believers.—Baptism, Its Mode And Its Subjects, pp. 182-183.
Some pedobaptists have fancied that they have found support for their practice in the Greek words oikia and oikos, both of which are translated "house" or "household." It is held by some that the former denotes the servants of the household and that the latter denotes the children. Howell says of this:
The difference between the families called oikos, and those called oikia, is by the friends of infant baptism, plead upon the allegation that oikos literally denotes the dwelling place of the master or the father of the house, and that oikia denotes the house, cabin or kitchen in which the servants or slaves reside. In their figurative application they contend that the same differences exists; oikos signifying the children, and oikia the servants. In view of this explanation, we remark, that the house of the jailor is called (Acts 16:31) oikos; in the very next verse it is called (32) oikia; and again in the second verse from this (34) oikos. In the first instance quoted, it appears evidently to refer to the family; "thou shalt be saved," and thy house (oikia). The second instance refers to the house literally considered, "they spake the word of the Lord to all that were in the house," (oikia). The last instance refers to the house literally considered, "he led them into his house," (oikos). Subject the words to whatever fanciful, literal, or figurative meaning you choose, and as it begun, so it will end in fancy, and cannot therefore affect the point at issue.
In the case quoted, the truth does, and ever must stand demonstrated, that the same house is called indifferently both oikos and oikia. Assume as correct, however, the pedobaptist criticism, and our authorized version in the place quoted, ought to be so rendered as to have something like the following reading: Paul and Silas went into the jailor’s house and preached the gospel to him, and to his infant children; the servants (who it seems lived, not in a cabin or kitchen, but with the master) believed; he did not, however, baptize the believing servants, but proceeded to baptize the jailor’s infants; his oikos, as separate from his oikia! Ridiculous as this must appear to you, my brethren, it is but the beginning of the chaos which this criticism would produce.—Sermons On Baptism, pp. 39, 40. (Quoted by I. T. Hinton, History Of Baptism, pp. 107, 108.
The religious world, in retaining infant baptism, has chosen a rag of Romanism, and all of the suppositions, inferences, human reasonings, etc. in the world will never make it a scriptural practice. The very fact that men must resort to such means to find a support for this practice is confession enough that it has no scriptural basis. The religious world needs to return to the Bible as its sole, but sufficient rule of faith and practice, but all too many accept the authority of some creed, or the traditions of men, for their rule of faith and practice. This is how Protestantism got infant baptism. It was in the "Standards," the creeds, the traditions of Rome, and Protestantism accepted it without question. Little wonder then that such unscriptural practices creep in. Obsta principis—"resist beginnings."
That a scriptural subject for baptism is a saved person, and not a lost person, is obvious from many Scriptures. The Great Commission commands that the church first "make disciples" (the first "teach" in Matthew 28:19-20 is not the usual verb so translated, but is the verb form of the noun translated "disciple"), and only then baptize them. These are the church’s marching orders, and we dare not do otherwise. The testimony of all the prophets is that "through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). It is not "whosoever is baptized," but whosoever believeth." And again, "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (by doing the good works commanded by the Law)" (Acts 13:39). "And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). Notice that both Jew and Gentile are saved in the same way. Purification of the heart comes, not from an ablution of the body, but by a changed attitude of the heart.
That salvation is by faith, and not by baptism is clear from many other Scriptures; e.g., "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace" (Luke 7:50). "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). "God hath set (Christ) forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past" (Rom. 3:25). "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). "For by grace are ye saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8). And the number could be multiplied greatly, for each passage which relates to salvation speaks of it as of grace, and never of works. "And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace" (Rom. 11:6).
Most lost people cannot understand how salvation could be so simple and free as this, but this is because "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," 1 Cor. 2:14. And, as Paul says, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ...should shine unto them" (2 Cor. 4:3).
Before passing on, we will examine some of the passages which are sometimes thought to teach baptismal regeneration. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Only a very superficial consideration of this verse could find baptismal regeneration here. If baptism were equally necessary to salvation as faith, then the negligent would be equally damned for his neglect of baptism as for unbelief. But it is the unbelieving, and not the unbaptized, that shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8). We may illustrate this verse in the following way. A person might say, "He that gets on such and so train and sits down, shall go to Denver." But it is understood that sitting down is not necessary to go to Denver, but only that the person get on the right train. It is also recognized that the person will sit down after entraining as a general rule even though it is not necessary. The person who believes is saved totally apart from baptism, but most generally he will want to confess his discipleship and follow his Lord in baptism.
"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" (John 3:5). It is necessary to a correct interpretation of any passage of Scripture that it be: (1) In harmony with its context. Generally the context explains the text. (2) In harmony with all the rest of the Scriptures.
That the water mentioned here is not baptism is plain from the context, for the Lord four times speaks of salvation being by faith (vv. 15, 16, 18, 36). It is certain to the most candid that the Lord would not declare in one breath, the necessity of baptism to salvation, and in the next breath four times deny it by saying "he that believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life."
What is meant by "water" in this passage? There are several views of this, none of which require belief in salvation by baptism. (1) There are those who translate this, "Except a man be born of water, even of the Spirit…" making water to be symbolic of the Holy Spirit, hence, having a parallelism in this passage. It is to be granted that water is sometimes used symbolically of the Holy Spirit, as in John 7:38-39. It is also true that rarely the Greek conjunction kai is translated "even." Nevertheless, we believe that to make one part of this phrase symbolically represent the clear statement of the next part is to involve an absurdity, and is to strain the Scriptures. If water symbolizes the Spirit as we are expressly told that it does in John 7:38-39, then this passage would mean "Except a man be born of the Spirit and of the Spirit..."
(2) Another interpretation of this makes the water to represent the Word of God, and Ephesians 5:26 is quoted as a parallel passage. But this does not seem to be the point, for in John 3:5 the water is the element of the birth, while in Ephesians 5:26 the water is the instrument of cleansing. It is literally the "washing of water in the word." However, neither of the foregoing interpretations harmonize with the whole context here in John. There is yet another explanation which both harmonizes with the rest of the Scriptures, and is in agreement with the general theme of Jesus’ speech to Nicodemus.
(3) That the water refers to the physical birth as contrasted with the spiritual. The following reasons are given for this view. (a) Two births are under discussion throughout this whole passage. Every verse from verse 3 through verse 7 speaks directly of, or else implies, the two births. "Born again" (v. 3). The Greek adverb anothen, when used of place, means "from above." When used of time means "again," or "anew." It is clear from Nicodemus’ response in verse 4 that it was used of time. "Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" The coordinate conjunction in verse 5 speaks of two births. Verse 6 speaks of two different births, and is actually an explanation of verse 5. The same Greek adverb as used in verse 3 appears again in verse 7. If verse 5 does not speak of the two different births, it is the sole exception in this discourse, but if it also speaks of the births, one physical and one spiritual, then it is clearly explained by the context, and perfectly harmonizes with the rest of the verses. (b) Anatomically, a baby is "born out of (Greek ex) water," since there is the rupture of the water sac accompanying the birth, as any doctor will tell you. (c) Salvation is only for those who have been born physically, i.e., for humans only. The angels desire to look into the things of salvation, but cannot, for it does not pertain to them (1 Pet. 1:12). There is no hope of redemption for an angel if he sins (2 Pet. 2:4). Without a physical birth, a man would not be a candidate for the spiritual birth. (d) The Lord clearly distinguishes between the things of the flesh and the things of the Spirit. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (v. 6). This verse explains verse 5. (e) The whole purpose of this discourse was to show this proud Jew that his physical birth as Abraham’s seed would not avail to get him into heaven. He must be born again. It would take a spiritual birth to save him.
In the Scriptures, salvation is referred to as a birth, while baptism is pictorial of death, Rom. 6:4. How then can the water in John 3:5 have reference to baptism? It is clear, then, both from the negative and from the positive standpoints, that John 3:5 has no reference to baptism.
We may group under one heading, those passages alleged by some to teach that there is a "baptism for the remission of sins." Several of these are Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; and Acts 2:38, the last of which we quote in part: "Then said Peter unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..."
As already stated, a doctrine, in order to be scriptural, must harmonize with all of the rest of the Bible. Contradictions are an evidence that something has been wrongly perceived or interpreted. Such is the case before us. We have already seen that salvation is declared to be by faith alone. Hence, though the construction of this passage, and others, might seem to otherwise bear the theory of baptismal regeneration, yet because it will not harmonize with other passages, it cannot be true. The advocates of baptismal regeneration hold that the word "for" here means "in order to" and nothing else. Honesty compels us to admit that the word sometimes has this meaning, but it also often means "on the basis of," or "because of." The context must determine it. The word appears in Matthew 12:41 of the preaching of Jonah, yet no one would be foolish enough to advocate that the men of Nineveh "repented in order to the preaching of Jonah." It is obvious to all that they repented "because of the preaching of Jonah."
So, in Acts 2:38, one is to be baptized because of the remission of sins-because they have already been put away not in order to put them away. In the former case, the remission of sins is all of grace; in the latter it would be all of the works of man, something the Scriptures emphatically deny throughout. There must be repentance and faith before one can be saved; a changed attitude, not a soaking in water. "Whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins," Acts 10:43. This being the universal message of all God’s prophets, those who preach a different message must be recognized as manifestly false prophets.
Again, there is a break in thought, an actual division in the verse between the command to repent and the command to be baptized, which is not evident in the English version. This is marked by the change from the plural "Repent ye" to the singular, "every one," and from the second person to the third. It is noteworthy also that the command to repent is plural and the promise of remission of sins plural, while the command to be baptized is singular. Does this not separate remission of sins from baptism? It is also certain from Acts 10:47 that the gift of the Holy Spirit does not come because of baptism (it would not be a gift if some human work were necessary to procure it) but because of repentance and faith (divine graces wrought in the individual), and none but saved people receive the Holy Spirit.
Much the same thing could be said concerning Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3, and other such passages. Men too often ignore or overlook the dividing word "repentance," and in so doing, they take out a very important link in the chain, thereby giving a distorted view of the whole matter. Baptism is to be administered because one has repented. Remission of sins comes about because of repentance.
Titus 3:5 is sometimes cited as a proof-text of baptismal regeneration, but baptism is not referred to in this passage. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done," denies that baptism could be a part of this, for baptism is a work of righteousness as our Lord declares in Matthew 3:15: Every "washing" in the Scriptures is not a literal washing in water. In the new birth (regeneration) there is a spiritual washing of the soul in the blood of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:5). This is the washing of Titus 3:5—the washing of the new birth, which Scripture never associates with baptism. Baptism, being an outward thing, never touches the real source of sin, which is the soul.
1 Peter 3:20-21, while referring to baptism in water, pointedly states that it does not put away the filth of the flesh—the unanimous claim for it among the advocates of baptismal regeneration—and declares it to be the antitype of the physical preservation of Noah and his family. No type or symbol has any saving value in regard to the soul. This points up the danger of a truly saved person willfully neglecting the duty of following his Lord in baptism. However, the "like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us" clearly shows the salvation here spoken of to be the same kind of deliverance that Noah and his family experienced, namely, physical deliverance from death. The danger in the saved person neglecting baptism is to his physical life, not to his spiritual life, being cut off. The phrase "saved by water" (v. 20), is better rendered "brought safely through water." The word so rendered is not the usual word for "save," but is diasozo, which appears eight times in the New Testament, and always has to do with physical deliverance. See Matthew 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43, 44; 28:1, 4; 1 Peter 3:20. This usage is in harmony with the whole subject of the passage, which centers in the physical preservation from destruction of Noah and his family which was typical of baptism. That Noah was not saved spiritually by this act of entering the Ark is evident from the Scripture testimony of his character beforehand, for "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God" (Gen. 6:9), long before He entered into the Ark.
One other passage demands our attention, and that is Acts 22:16, which, if it stood alone on the subject could be construed to teach salvation by baptism. But again, its meaning must harmonize with the rest of Scripture to be the right interpretation. On three occasions the conversion experience of Paul is recorded in Acts (9:1 ff; 22:1 ff; 26:12 ff), yet in none of these does he mention baptism except as an act of testimony which happened three days after he was saved (9:9 ff). Paul was inspired to say that, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:13), and the passage now under consideration declares that he had already called upon the name of the Lord, and hence was already saved. Acts 22:16 in the inspired original literally says "And now why do you delay? Arise, have thyself baptized and thy sins washed away, having called upon His name." If Romans 10:13 is true, then Saul was saved when he believingly called upon the Lord in Acts 22:8-10, and not three days later when he was baptized. The act of baptism was no more than the symbolic washing away of the sins which had already been actually washed away. We have no reason to understand this of a literal washing away of sins in the baptismal waters, which would be a flagrant contradiction of many other Scriptures. Baptism is symbolic only, which is why Peter called it a "figure." Baptismal regeneration is not of God. It is the devil’s own doctrine to deceive people into trusting their own abilities and acts more than the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Many thereby make baptism an idol.
We come next to consider the second requirement for Scriptural baptism, which relates to The Mode of Baptism, which is immersion in water. E. T. Hiscox has the following to say about the word that was chosen to express this act. Of the numerous Greek words that could possibly have been used, only one, and that one very specific in meaning, was chosen.
Our Lord in commanding baptism, evidently used such words as conveyed His meaning in no doubtful terms...The Greek language is rich in terms to express all positive ideas, and all varying shades of thought. Why was this one word, and no other, selected to describe an ordinance of great significancy, intended to be observed by all believers, to the end of the world? Baptizo is found eighty times in the New Testament, and is a derivative from bapto. In nearly all it is used to designate this ordinance—and no other word is ever used for that purpose. Baptisma, a baptism, an immersion, is found twenty-two times, and baptismos, the act of baptizing, or immersing, four times, both formed from baptizo...
Bapto is found three times in the New Testament, and also means to dip, but is never used to describe baptism. Why not? Because it has other meanings, as well as that of dipping; and with this word the nature of the ordinance might be misunderstood.
Louo is found six times, and means to wash; to wash the whole body; to bathe. If baptism means to wash, as some hold, here was just the word to express it. But this word is never applied to the ordinance; because washing is not baptism, and baptism is not washing.
Nipto is found seventeen times, and means also to wash, to wash the extremities, as the face, hands, or feet, as distinguished from bathing the entire body. But this word is never used to express baptism. Why not, if a little water applied to the face may be baptism, as some teach?
Breko is found seven times, and means to wet, to moisten, to rain upon, but is never used to designate the rite of baptism; therefore to touch or moisten the forehead with wet fingers is not baptism, though frequently declared to be such.
Rantizo is found four times, and means to sprinkle. If baptism could have been performed by sprinkling, as is at present widely believed, this would have been the word above all others to describe the ordinance. But this word is in no case so used; simply because sprinkling is not baptism.
Keo is found many times in its various combinations, and means to pour, but is never used to designate baptism. But if baptism may be performed by pouring
water on a candidate, why was not this word sometimes used to indicate the act?
Katharizo is found thirty times, and means to purify, but is never used to signify the act of baptizing. If the ordinance means to purify, as some claim, this word would have expressed it much better than the one used.
We again ask, why did the sacred writers, from all the words in the Greek language, select only and always that one which strictly means to dip or immerse, to express the act by which the sacred ordinance which Christ had commanded, and which His disciples administered, should be performed? The only consistent answer is, because baptism means immersion, and nothing else-and nothing but immersion is baptism.—New Directory For Baptist Churches, pp. 395-398.
That immersion alone is the baptismal act may be shown by the following considerations: 1. Greek lexicons give immerse, dip, or plunge, as the primary and ordinary meaning of baptizo...The fact that baptize is an anglicized, and not a translated, word makes an appeal to Greek lexicons necessary in ascertaining its meaning...2. Distinguished Pedobaptist theologians concede that baptize means to immerse...3. The classical usage of baptizo establishes the position that immersion is the baptismal act...4. The symbolic import of baptism furnishes a conclusive argument in favor of immersion...Baptism is therefore a symbolic proclamation of two of the three prominent facts of the gospel the burial and resurrection of Christ.—J. M. Pendleton, Church Manual, pp. 63-75; Christian Doctrine, pp. 342-349.
It is indeed paradoxical that almost every trustworthy Bible scholar, church historian, and student of the Greek language, unites in the testimony that all baptisms recorded in the Bible. and those for several centuries after the canon of the Bible was closed, were by immersion of the whole body in water. Indeed, this is the very meaning of the word in the Greek Testament.
That the primitive meaning of baptizo is to immerse or dip, is conceded by all the advocates of sprinkling of any pretension to philosophical knowledge; and the fact that all lexicographers, ancient and modern, concur in this opinion, precludes discussion. The ordinary, or general meaning, throughout the Greek classics has been established by Gale, Stennett, Gill, Booth, Carson, Ripley, Judd, and others beyond the possibility of successful dispute.—I. T. Hinton, History of Baptism, p. 18.
Dr. T. J. Conant, late Baptist Greek authority, after examining every instance of the use of the Greek word baptizo in every Greek work extant at the time, found that
The word BAPTIZEIN, during the whole existence of the Greek as a spoken language, had a perfectly defined and unvarying import. In its literal use it means, as has been shown, to put entirely into or under a liquid, or other penetrable substance, generally water, so that the object was wholly covered by the enclosing element. By analogy, it expressed the coming into a new state of life or experience, in which one was as it were enclosed and swallowed up, so that, temporarily or permanently, he belonged wholly to it.—Baptizein, Sect. IX, pp. 158-159.
In proof that immersion is the original mode of the ordinance, and that it is the only meaning that can be rightly applied to the Greek word today, the following things are presented.
The meaning of the words baptizo and baptisma according to lexicons.
1. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: "To dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge...to cleanse by dipping or submerging.
2. Liddell and Scott Abridged Greek lexicon: "To dip repeatedly, dip under...II. To baptize. Hence Baptisma...that which is dipped." (This is the standard work on classical Greek).
3. Harper’s Analytical Greek Lexicon: "To dip, immerse. Baptisma—immersion; baptism, ordinance of baptism.
4. Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (Covering the period from B. C. 146 to A. D. 1000): "To dip, to immerse, to sink...There is no evidence that Luke and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks."
5. T. S. Green’s Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament: "To dip, immerse; to cleanse or purify by washing; to administer the rite of baptism."
6. Trommius’ Concordantiae Graecae: "To baptize; to immerse, to dip."
7. Stephanus, Thesaur. Graec. Ling. (Ed. Of 1572): "To plunge, or immerse. To plunge; that is, to plunge under, or overwhelm in water."
8. Cremer, Lexicon of New Testament Greek: "Immersion or submersion for a religious purpose."
9. Shoettgenius’ Lex. In Nov. Test. (Ed. Of 1765): "Baptizo, from Bapto: properly, to plunge, to immerse."
10. Robinson’s Greek Lexicon of the New Testament: "To immerse, to sink."
11. Schleusner’s Lexicon (Ed. Of 1808): "Those who were to be baptized were anciently immersed." "To immerse and dip in, to immerse into water."
12. Bretschneider’s New Testament Lexicon: (Ed. Of 1829): "In the New Testament, used only for a sacred submersion."
13. Buttman’s Greek Grammar, p. 88 (Ed. Of 1829): "To immerse."
14. Parkhurst’s Lexicon: "to dip, immerse, or plunge in water. To baptize, to immerse in or wash with water. Figuratively, to be baptized, immersed, or plunged in a flood, or sea, as it were, of grievous afflictions and sufferings."
15. Conversation’s Lexicon, Art. Taufe: "In the age of the apostles baptism was very simple. They and their successors dipped their candidates into a river or tank filled with water."
16. Pape’s Greek-German Dictionary (Ed. Of 1880): "To dip in, dip under."
17. Alstedius’ Theological Lexicon, cap. 12, p. 221: "Baptizein, to baptize, signifies only to immerse; not to wash, except by consequence."
18. Leigh’s Critia Sacra. On Baptismos (1646): "Signifies immersion in water; from the very etymology, it would appear what had been originally the custom of administering baptism."
19. Hoffman’s Universal Lexicon (1898): "The Jews, apostles, and primitive churches used immersion."
20: A. Symson’s Lexicon of the New Testament (1658): "To dip or plunge into water."
21. P. Minert’s Lexicon of the New Testament (1728): "Baptisma, properly and from its origin, denotes, a washing which is performed by immersion."
22. Donnegan’s Greek Lexicon: "To immerse, to submerge:"
23. Heideggerus, Corpus Theolog. Christ., loc. 25, para. 21: "The words Baptisma and Baptismos, baptism (from Baptein, to plunge, to immerse), properly signify immersion."
24. Hedericus’ Lexicon (1778): "To plunge, to immerse, to overwhelm in water; to wash away, to wash."
25. Scapula (1652): "To dip, or immerse; as we immerse anything for the purpose of dyeing, or cleansing in water. Also to dip, to plunge, to overwhelm in water."
26. Suicerus, Thesaurus Eccles: "Wood and clothes are said to be Baptesthai, baptized, when they are dipped; because they are quite immersed in the dyeing fat [vat], that they may imbibe the color. Baptizo, to baptize, hath properly the same signification."
27. B. Faber, Thesau. Erudit. Scholast. (1717): Baptism, is immersion.
28. Stockius (1735): "Generally, and in virtue of its etymology, it signifies immersion, or dipping into. Particularly and properly, it denotes the immersion or dipping of a thing into water, that it may be cleansed or washed."
29. Schrevelius (1685): "To baptize, to plunge, to wash."
30. Schwarzius, Comment. Crit. Et Philog. Ling. Grace: "To plunge, to overwhelm, to dip into. To wash, by plunging." "Sometimes to sprinkle, to besprinkle, to pour upon." This is the only lexicographer that this writer has ever found who gave sprinkle or pour as the occasional meaning of this word, and the authorities which he cites are not to the point, but rather prove the reverse. Like him, many want modern usage to shape the ancient meaning. See Abraham Booth, Pedobaptism Examined, Vol. I, p. 58, for the full quotation of the authorities cited.
31. Constantinus, (1592): "The act of dyeing, that is, of plunging."
32. Pasor, (1735): "To baptize; immerse, to wash."
33. Prof. Rost, German-Greek Lexicon (1829): "The primary signification of baptiso is plunge, submerge or immerse."
34. Larcher-Hedrich, Greek Lexicon (1816): "To immerse."
35. J. Alberti, Glossarium Graecum (1735): "Baptize, immerse."
36. Kaltschundt’s Lexicon (1839): "To dip, immerse."
37. William Veitch, On Greek Verbs (1848): Baptizo. To dip."
38. Stocku Calvis (1725): "Baptisma originally designated immersion in water to make clean."
39. Greenfield: "To immerse, immerge, submerge, sink."
40. Wright: "To dip, immerse, plunge, baptize, overwhelm."
41. Suidas’ Lexicon (circa 10th Century): "To immerse, to immerge, to dip, to dip in."
42. DeStourdza (A native Greek, who should know the meaning of a Greek word if anyone does): "Baptizo signifies literally and always ‘to plunge.’ Baptism and immersion are therefore identical, and to say ‘baptism by aspersion’ is as if one should say ‘immersion by aspersion,’ or any other absurdity of the same nature." (Quoted in A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 937).
43. Dunbar, Greek-English Lexicon (1840): "To dip, immerse, submerge, plunge, sink."
44. Morel: "To immerse, to immerge, to overwhelm in water."
45. Robertson, Thesaurus Grace: "To baptize, to immerse, to wash."
46. The same testimony is borne by the lexicons of Grove, Bass, Ewing, Lainy, Jones, and more recently by Arndt and Gingrich, George R. Berry, W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, and others, for all scholarship worthy of the name is fully agreed in this meaning. Dr. George Campbell, Presbyterian, declared:
I have heard a disputant, in defiance of etymology and use, maintain that the word rendered in the New Testament, baptize, means more properly to sprinkle than to plunge, and in defiance of all antiquity that the former was the earliest, and for many centuries the most general practice of baptizing. One who argues in this manner never fails, with person of knowledge, to betray the cause he would defend.—Lectures on Systematic Theology, p. 480, Quoted by W. B. Boggs, The Baptists, p. 78 (Emphasis mine—DWH).
A few years ago, John T. Christian wrote the leading Greek scholars of England and America and asked them if there was an authoritative Greek-English lexicon which gave as the meaning of baptizo the words sprinkle or pour. The following are some of the answers he received (These are quoted in W. M. Nevins’ Alien Baptism and the Baptists, pp. 17 et equ.):
47. Prof. H. W. Humphreys, Vanderbilt Univ. "There is no standard Greek-English lexicon that gives sprinkle, or pour as one of the meanings of the Greek word baptizo."
48. Prof. W. S. Tyler, Amherst College: "I do not know of any good lexicon which gives sprinkling as a rendering of baptizo."
49. Prov. Dodge, University of Michigan: "There is no standard Greek-English lexicon that gives either sprinkle or pour as one of the meanings of the Greek word baptizo."
50. Prof. Flagg, Cotnell University: "I know no lexicon which gives the meaning you speak of for baptizo."
51. Prof. H. Kynaston, University of Durham, England: "The word baptizo means to dip, or sink into water, not sprinkle. I know of no lexicon which gives sprinkle for baptize."
52. Prof. G. C. Warr, King’s College, England: "Certainly the classical meaning of baptizo is to dip, not sprinkle or pour."
53. Prof. John Stracham, Owens College, England: "I never, to my knowledge, met with the word in the literal sense of sprinkle, and I doubt if it has any such meaning."
54. Prof. G. E. Mamdin, University of London, England: "I do not know of any Greek-English lexicon which gives the meaning to sprinkle, or pour. If any should do so, I should say it makes a mistake."
55. Prof. R. C. Jebb, University Cambridge, England: "I do not know whether there is any authoritative Greek-English lexicon which makes the word mean sprinkle or pour. I can only say that such a meaning never belongs to the word in classical Greek."
56. Prof. Goodwin of Harvard University also adds the weight of his testimony when he says:
The classical meaning of baptizo, which seldom occurs, and of the more common bapto, is dip (literally or metaphorically), and I never heard of its having any other meaning anywhere. Certainly I never saw a lexicon which gives either sprinkle or pour, as meaning of either. I must be allowed to ask why I am so often asked this question, which seems to me to have but one perfectly plain answer.—Quoted in A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p: 933.
The reader has before him the lexical proof concerning the meaning of the Greek word baptizo, and it is all one-sided. However, there is further proof also, for we note:
The meaning of the words according to Non-Baptist Scholars.
1. Bellarmine (Roman Catholic), Disputations, Vol. III, p. 279: "Ordinarily baptism is performed by immersion, and that to represent the burial of Christ."
2. Dollinger (Old Catholic), The Church and the Churches: "Baptists are, however, from the Protestant point of view, unassailable, since for their demand of baptism by submersion they have the clear Bible text."
3. Maldonatus (Catholic), Commentary on the Gospels. On Luke 12:50: "Whence it is, that also martyrdom is called a baptism; a metaphor, as I think, taken from those who are submerged in the sea, to put them to death. For in Greek, to be baptized is the same as to be submerged."
4. Est (Catholic), Commentary on the Epistles. On Rom. 6:3: "For immersion represents to us Christ’s burial; and so also his death. For the tomb is a symbol of death, since none but the dead are buried. Moreover, the emersion, which follows the immersion, has a resemblance to a resurrection. We are therefore, in baptism, conformed not only to the death of Christ, as he has said, but also to his burial and resurrection."
5. Arnoldi (Catholic), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. On 3:6: "BAPTIZEIN, to immerse, to submerge...It was, as being an entire submersion under the water,—since washings were already a confession of impurity and a symbol of purification,—the confession of entire impurity and a symbol of entire purification."
6. Bishop Bossuet (French Catholic): "To baptize signifies to plunge, as is granted by all the world." (Quoted by A. Booth, Pedobaptism Examined, Vol. I, p. 48).
7. R. Wetham (Catholic), Annotations on the New Testament. On Matthew 3:6: "The word baptism signifies a washing, particularly when it is done by immersion, or by dipping, or plunging a thing under water, which was formerly the ordinary way of administering the sacrament of baptism."
8. Calmet (Catholic), Biblical Dictionary: "The Jews dipped themselves entirely under the water, and this is the most simple notion of the word baptize."
9. Martin Luther (Founder of the Lutheran church). On the Sacrament of Baptism: "First, the name baptism is Greek; in Latin" it can be rendered immersion, when we immerse any thing into water, that it may be all covered with water. And although that custom has now grown out of use with most persons (nor do they wholly submerge children, but only pour on a little water), yet they ought to be entirely immersed, and immediately drawn out. For this the etymology of the name seems to demand."
10. Adolf Harnack (Lutheran). In the Independent, Feb. 19, 1885: "1. Baptizein undoubtedly signifies immersion (eintauchen). 2. No proof can be found that it signified anything else in the New Testament and in the most ancient Christian literature. 3. There is no passage in the New Testament which suggests the supposition that any New Testament author attached to the word baptizein any other sense than immerse or submerge."
11. J. J. Van Oosterzee (Dutch Lutheran). Practical Theology, p. 419: "History teaches that baptism at a very early period degenerated from the primitive simplicity. It was originally administered by immersion."
12. Witsius (Dutch Lutheran). Oecon. Foed. IV, ch. 16: "It cannot be denied that the original signification of the word baptizo is to plunge-to dip."
13. Augustus Neander (Lutheran). Church History, I, p. 310: "In respect to the form of baptism, it was in conformity with the original institution and the original import of the symbol, performed by immersion."
14. Bleek (German Lutheran): "Baptizo is the prevalent expression for baptism as it originally took place by immersion under water." (Quoted by J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 212.)
15. J. L. Mosheim (Lutheran). Ecclesiastical History, Book I, Cent. 1, part II, ch. 4, para. VIII: "The sacrament of baptism was administered in this century, without the public assemblies, in places appointed and prepared for that purpose, and was performed by the immersion of the whole body in the baptismal font."
16. J. P. Lange (Lutheran). On Infant Baptism, p. 81: "Baptism in the apostolic age was a proper baptism—the immersion of the body in water."
17. Augusti (Lutheran). Vol. V, p. 5: "The word baptism, according to etymology and usage, signifies to immerse, submerge, etc; and the choice of the expression betrays an age in which the latter custom of sprinkling had not been introduced."
18. Bretschneider (Lutheran). Theology, Vol. II, pp. 673, 681 (1828): "An entire immersion belongs to the nature of baptism."
19. J. A. Bengel (Lutheran). Comment on Rom. 6:4: "Many waters: also the rite of immersion is required."
20. H. A. W. Meyer (Lutheran). Critical Commentary on the New Testament. On Mark 7:4: "Moreover, ean mee baptisontai is not to be understood of washing the hands (Lightfoot, Wetstein), but of immersion, which the word in classic Greek, and in the New Testament, everywhere means."
21. Herman Venema (Lutheran): Eccl. Hist., Ch. 1, sec. 138: "It is without controversy, that baptism in the primitive Church was administered by immersion into water, and not by sprinkling."
22. Fritzsche (Lutheran). Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Vol. I, p. 120: "Moreover Causaubon well suggested, that DUNDIN means to be submerged with the design that you may perish, EPIPOLAZEIN to float on the surface of the water; BAPTIZESTHAI to immerse yourself wholly, for another end than that you may perish. But that, in accordance with the nature of the word BAPTIZESTHAI, baptism was then performed not by sprinkling upon but by submerging, is proven especially by Romans 6:4."
23. Olshausen (Lutheran). Comment on Matthew 18:1-15: "Particularly Paul (Rom. 6:4) treats of baptism in the twofold reference of that ordinance to immersion and emersion, as symbolizing the death and resurrection of Christ."
24. Guericke (Lutheran). Church History, Vol. I, p. 100: "Baptism was originally administered by immersion."
25. Salmasius (French Lutheran). Apud Witsium, Oecon. Fced. Book IV, ch. 16: "The clinic only, because they were confined to their beds, were baptized in a manner of which they were capable: not in the entire laver, as those who plunge the head under the water; but the whole body had water poured upon it. Thus Novatus, when sick, received baptism; being perikutheis, besprinkled, not baptistheis, baptized."
26. Rosenmuller (German Lutheran). Scholia, Matthew 3:6: "To baptize is to immerse, or dip, the body, or part of the body which is to be baptized, going under the water."
27. Tholuck (German Lutheran): Comment on Romans 6:4. "For the explanation of this figurative description of the baptismal rite, it is necessary to call attention to the well-known circumstance that, in the early days of the Church, persons, when baptized, were first plunged below and then raised above the water." (Quoted in J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 212).
28. William Wall (Episcopalian). History of Infant Baptism, Part II, ch. 2, p. 462: "Their [the primitive Christians] general and ordinary way was to baptize by immersion, or dipping the person, whether it were an infant or grown man or woman, into the water. This is so plain and clear by an infinite number of passages, that as one cannot but pity the weak endeavors of such pedobaptists as would maintain the negative of it; so also we ought to disown and show a dislike of the profane scoffs which some people give to the English anti-pedobaptists, merely for their use of dipping." This is a remarkably candid concession for him to make in rebuking his own people and agreeing with the Baptists—the anti-pedobaptists.
29. Conybeare And Howson (Episcopalians). Life and Epistles of Paul. On Romans 6:3-4: "This passage cannot be understood unless it be borne in mind that the primitive baptism was by immersion."
30. Joseph Bingham (Episcopalian). Antiquities of the Christian Church, Book XI, ch. 11, sect. 1: "The Ancients thought that Immersion or burying under Water did more lively represent the Death and Burial, and Resurrection of Christ, as well as our own Death unto Sin, and Rising again to Righteousness...For which Reason they observed the way of baptizing all Persons naked and divested, by a total Immersion under Water, except in some particular cases of great Exigency, wherein they allowed of Sprinkling, as in the case of Clinic Baptism, or where there was scarcity of Water." Bingham was one of the great Antiquarians of all time.
31. Cave (Episcopalian). Primitive Christianity, Part I, ch. 10, p. 320: "The party to be baptized was wholly immersed, or put under the water...As in immersion there are, in a manner, three several acts—the putting the person into the water, his abiding there for a little time, and his rising up again—so by these were represented Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; and in conformity thereunto our dying unto sin, the destruction of its power, and our resurrection to a new course of life."
32. Dean Stanley (Episcopalian). Syria and Palestine, Ch. 7, p. 306-307: "He came baptizing, that is, signifying to those who came to him, as he plunged them under the rapid torrent, the forgiveness and forsaking of their sins."
33. J. Lingard (Episcopalian). History and Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, Vol. I, p. 317: "The regular manner of administering it was by immersion, the time the two eves of Easter and Pentecost, the place a baptistery, a small building contiguous to the church."
34. Bishop Ellicott (Episcopalian). "There seems to be no reason to doubt that both here and in Rom. 6:6, there is an allusion to the immersion and emersion in baptism." (Quoted in J. R. Graves’ John’s Baptism, p. 218.)
35. J. B. Lightfoot (Episcopalian). On Matthew 3:6: "That the baptism of John was the immersion of the body, in which manner both the ablutions of unclean persons and the baptism of proselytes was performed, seems evident from those things which are related of it; namely, that he baptized in the Jordan, and in Enon, because there was much water; and that Christ, being baptized, went up out of the water."
36. Daniel Whitby (Episcopalian). Annotations on Romans 6:4: "And this immersion being religiously observed by all Christians for thirteen centuries, and approved by our church."
37. Jeremy Taylor (Episcopalian). The rule of Conscience, Book III, Ch. 4, Rule 15, 13: "’Straightway Jesus went up out of the water (saith the Gospel); He came up, therefore he went down. Behold an immersion, not an aspersion.’ And the ancient churches, following this of the Gospel, did not, in their baptism, sprinkle with their hands, but immerged the catechumen or the infant...All which are a perfect conviction, that the custom of the ancient churches was not sprinkling, but immersion in pursuance of the sense of the word in the commandment and example of our blessed Saviour."
38. H. H. Milman (Episcopalian). History of Christianity, III, p. 317: "The baptism was usually by immersion; the stripping off the clothes was emblematic of ‘putting off of the old man.’"
39. Bishop Burnet (Episcopalian). Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles: "The danger of dipping in cold climates may be a very good reason for changing the form of baptism to sprinkling."
40. Bishop Towerson (Episcopalian). Of The Sacrament of Baptism, Part 3, p. 53: "Now, what the command of Christ was in this particular, cannot well be doubted of by those who shall consider the words of Christ (Matt. 28:19), concerning it, and the practice of those times, whether in the baptism of John, or of our Savior. For the words of Christ are, that they should baptize, or dip those whom they made disciples to him (for so, no doubt, the word Baptizein properly signifies)."
41. Bishop William Sherlock (Episcopalian). "Baptism, or an immersion into water, according to the ancient rite of administering it, is a figure of our burial with Christ, and of our conformity to His death." (Quoted in E. T. Hiscox, New Directory for Baptist Churches, p. 404.)
42. Samuel Clarke (Episcopalian). Exposition of Church Catechism, p. 294: "In the primitive times the manner of baptizing was by immersion or dipping the whole body into water."
43. Bloomfield (Episcopalian). Recens. Synop. On Romans 6:4: "Here is a plain allusion to the ancient custom of baptizing by immersion and I agree with Koppe and Rosenmuller, that there is reason to regret it should ever have been abandoned in most Christian churches, especially as it has so evident a reference to the mystic sense of baptism."
44. Prof. Browne (Episcopalian), in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Art. Bap. Sup: "The language of the New Testament and of the primitive Fathers sufficiently point to immersion as the common mode of baptism."
45. G. A. Jacob (Episcopalian). Eccl. Polity of the New Testament, p. 258: "It only remains to be observed that baptism, in the primitive Church, was evidently administered by immersion of the body in water—a mode which added to the significancy of the rite, and gave a peculiar force to some of the allusions to it."
46. Abp. Tillotson (Episcopalian). Works, Vol. I, p. 179: "Anciently those who were baptized were immersed, and buried in the water, to represent their death to sin; and then did rise up out of the water to signify their entrance upon a new life. And to these customs the Apostle alludes."
47. Benson (Episcopalian). Comment on Romans 6:4: "Buried with Him by baptism-alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion."
48. Bishop Fell (Episcopalian). Note on Romans 6:4: "The primitive fashion of immersion under the water, representing our death, and elevation again out of it, our resurrection or regeneration."
49. Sir John Floyer (Episcopalian). History of Cold Bathing, pp. 15, 61: "The church of Rome hath drawn short compendiums of both sacraments; in the eucharist, they use only the wafer; and instead of immersion, they introduced aspersion...I have given now what testimony I could find in our English authors, to prove the practice of immersion from the time the Britons and Saxons were baptized till King James’ days; when the people grew peevish with all ancient ceremonies, and through the love of novelty, and the niceness of parents, and the pretense of modesty, they laid aside immersion."
50. W. F. Hook (Episcopalian). Church Directory (1854): "In performing the ceremony of baptism the usual custom was to immerse and dip the whole body."
51. J. H. Blunt (Episcopalian). Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology (1870): "The primitive mode of baptizing was by immersion, as we learn from the clear testimony of holy scriptures of the fathers."
52. Wilson (Episcopalian). Christian Dictionary, Art. Baptism: "To baptize, to dip one into water, to plunge one into water."
53. A. R. Fausset (Episcopalian). Critical and Experimental Commentary, on Colossians 2:12: "Baptism is the burial of the old carnal life, to which immersion symbolically corresponds: in warm climates, where immersion is safe, it is the mode most accordant with the significance of the ordinance."
54. John Calvin (Founder of the Presbyterian Church). Institutes of the Christian Religion, B. IV, ch. 15, on Baptism, 19: "The word baptize itself signifies immerse, and it is certain that the rite of immersion was observed by the ancient church."
55. Philip Schaff (American Presbyterian). History of the Apostolic Church, p. 570: "Respecting the form of baptism, therefore (quite otherwise with the much more important difference respecting the subject of baptism, or infant baptism), the impartial historian is compelled by exegesis and history, ‘substantially to yield the point to the Baptists, as is done, in fact (perhaps somewhat too decidedly, and without true regard to the arguments just stated for the other practice), by most German scholars."
56. J. Cunningham (Scotch Presbyterian). Growth of the Church, P. 173: "Baptism means immersion and it was immersion. The Hebrews immersed their proselytes; the Essenes took their daily baths; John plunged his penitents into the Jordan; Peter dipped his crowd of converts into one of the great pools which were to be found in Jerusalem. Unless it had been so, Paul’s analogical argument about our being buried with Christ in Baptism would have had no meaning. Nothing could have been simpler than baptism in its first form."
57. MacKnight (Scotch Presbyterian): "He submitted to be baptized—that is, to be buried under the water by John, and to be raised out of it again, as an emblem of His future death and resurrection." (Quoted in J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 216.)
58. Chalmers (Scotch Presbyterian): "The original meaning of the word baptism is immersion and we doubt not that the prevalent style of the administration in the apostles’ days was by an actual submerging of the whole body under water." (Quoted in J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 216.)
59. George Campbell (Scotch Presbyterian). Translation of the Four Gospels, Note on Matt. 4:11: "The word Baptizein, both in sacred writers and classical, signifies to dip, to plunge, to immerse; and was rendered by Tertullian, the oldest of the Latin fathers, tingere, the term used for dying cloth, which was by immersion. It is always construed suitably to this meaning."
60. Theodore Beza (Presbyterian). Annotations on Matthew 7:4; Acts 19:3; Matthew 3:2: "Christ commanded us to be baptized, by which word it is certain immersion is signified."
61. Assembly of Divines (Presbyterian). Annotations on Matthew 3:6; Romans 6:4: "In this phrase (Col. 2:12) the Apostle seemeth to allude to the ancient manner of baptism, which was to dip the parties baptized, and, as it were, to bury them under the water for a while, and then to draw them out of it, and lift them up. To represent the burial of our old man, and our resurrection to newness of life."
62. Leigh (Presbyterian). Critica Sacra, on Acts 8:38: "The native and proper signification of it is, to dip into water, or to plunge under water."
63. Giovanni Diodati (Presbyterian). Annotations on Matthew 3:6: "Baptized—that is to say, ducked in the water, for a sacred sign and seal of the expiation and remission of sins."
64. G. J. Vossius (Presbyterian). Disputat. De Bapt. Disp. I, Thes. I, p. 25: "Baptizein, to baptize, signifies to plunge. It certainly therefore signifies more than epipolazein, which is, to swim lightly on the top; and less than dunein, which is, to sink to the bottom, so as to be destroyed."
65. John Wesley (Founder of the Methodist Church). Note on Rom. 6:4: "Buried with Him—alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion." From Wesley’s Journal, from his embarking for Georgia, p. 11: "Mary Welsh, aged eleven days, was baptized according to the custom of the first church, and the rule of the church of England, by immersion."
66. Adam Clarke (Methodist). Comment on Romans 6:4: "It is probable that the Apostle here alludes to the mode of administering baptism by immersion, the whole body being put under water."
67. George Whitefield (Methodist). Eighteen Sermons, p. 297: "It is certain that in the words of our text (Rom. 6:3-4) there is an allusion to the manner of baptism, which was by immersion."
68. J. C. L Gieseler (Methodist). Eccl. Hist., First Period, Div. III (A. D. 193-324), ch. 4, para. 71: "The condition of catechumen usually continued several years; but the catechumens often deferred even baptism as long as possible on account of the remission of sins by which it was to be accomplished. Hence it was often necessary to baptize the sick; and for them, the rite of sprinkling was introduced."
69. G. P. Fisher (Congregationalist). The Beginnings Of Christianity, p. 565: "Baptism, it is now generally agreed among scholars, was commonly by immersion."
70. Coleman (Congregationalist). Antiquities: "In the primitive Church, immersion was undeniably the common mode of baptism."
71. Moses Stuart (Congregationalist). Essay on Baptism, p. 51: "Baptism means to dip, plunge, or immerse into any liquid. All lexicographers and critics of any note are agreed on this."
72. Doddridge (Congregationalist). Family Expositor on Romans 6:4: "It seems the part of candor to confess, that here is an allusion to the manner of baptizing by immersion, as most usual in those early times."
73. Waddington (Congregationalist). Church History, Ch. 2, sect. 3: "The sacraments of the primitive Church were two: that of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The ceremony of immersion, the oldest form of baptism, was performed in the name of the three persons of the Trinity."
74. Leonard Woods (Congregationalist). Lectures: "Our Baptist brethren undertake to prove from ecclesiastical history, that immersion was the prevailing mode of baptism in the ages following the Apostles. I acknowledge that ecclesiastical history clearly proves this."
75. L. L. Paine (Congregationalist). Professor of Eccl. Hist. in Bangor Theological Seminary: "It may be honestly asked, by some, was immersion the primitive form of baptism, and if so, what then? As to the question of fact, the testimony is ample and decisive. No matter of Church history is clearer. The evidence is all one way, and all Church historians of any repute agree in accepting it...It is a point on which ancient, mediaeval and modern historians alike—Catholic and Protestant, Lutheran and Calvinist have no controversy...But on this one, of the early practice of immersion, the most distinguished antiquarians, such as Bingham, Augusti (Coleman), Smith (Dictionary of the Bible), and historians such as Mosheim, Gieseler, Hase, Neander, Milman, Schaff, Alzog (Catholic), hold a common language." (Quoted in J. R. Graves, Act of Baptism, pp. 20-21. Dr. Paine further says: "Any scholar who denies that immersion was the baptism of the Christian church for thirteen centuries betrays UTTER IGNORANCE or SECTARIAN BLINDNESS." (Quoted by Graves, ibid, p. 33.)
76. Zwingli (Swiss Reformer). Annotations on Rom. 6:3: "Into his death." "When ye were immersed into the water of baptism, ye were engrafted into the death of Christ; that is, the immersion of your body into water was a sign, that ye ought to be engrafted into Christ and his death, that as Christ died and was buried, ye also may be dead to the flesh and the old man, that is, to yourselves."
77. Philip Melanchthon (German Reformer). Catec. Wit. (1580): "Baptism is immersion into water, which is made with this admirable benediction."
78. Matthew Poole (Episcopalian). Annotations on John 3:23: "It is apparent that both Christ and John baptized by dipping the body in the water, else they need not have sought places where had been a great plenty of water."
79. Turretin (Swiss Calvinist). Institut. Loc. 19, quaes. 11, sec. 4: "The word baptism is of Greek origin, and is derived from the verb Bapto; which signifies to dip, and to dye; Baptizein, to baptize; to dip into, to immerse...Hence it appears, that Baptizein is more than epipolazein, which is to swim lightly on the surface; and less than dunein, which is to go down to the bottom; that is, to strike the bottom so as to be destroyed."
80. Limborch (Dutch Arminian). Complete System of Divinity, Book V, chap. 27, Sect. l. Comment on Romans 6:4: "Baptism, then, consisting in washing, or rather immersing the whole body into water, as was customary in the primitive times...The apostle alludes to the manner of baptizing, not as practiced at this day, which is performed by sprinkling of water; but as administered of old, in the primitive church, by immersing the whole body in water, a short continuance in the water, and a speedy emersion out of the water."
81. J. J. Wetstein (Bible Critic). Comment on Matthew 3:6: "To baptize, is to plunge, to dip: The body, or part of the body, being under water, is said to be baptized."
82. Geikie, Life and Words of Christ, Vol. I, p. 405, says of John: "He led them in groups to the Jordan, and immersed each singly in the waters, after earnest and full confession of their sins."
83. Curcellaeus, Relig. Christ. Institut., Book V, chap. 2: "Baptism was performed by plunging the whole body into water, not by sprinkling a few drops, as is now the practice. For ‘John was baptizing in Aenon, near to Salim, because there was much water; and they came and were baptized,’ (John 3:23). Nor did the disciples that were sent out by Christ administer baptism afterwards in any other way: and this is more agreeable to the signification of the ordinance (Rom. 6:4)."
84: Hugo Grotius (Arminian). Synops. Ad. Matthew 3:6: "That baptism used to be performed by immersion, and not by pouring, appears both from the proper signification of the word, and the places chosen for the administration of the rite, (John 3:23; Acts 8:38); and also from the many allusions of the apostles, which cannot be referred to sprinkling, (Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12)."
85. Zanchius, Works, Vol. VI, p. 217: "Baptism is a Greek word, and signifies two things; first, and properly, immersion in water: for the proper signification of Baptizo, is to immerse, to plunge under, to overwhelm in water."
86. Joseph Mede, Discourse on Titus 3:5, in Works, p. 63 (Edit. 1677): "There was no such thing as sprinkling, or rantismos, used in baptism in the apostles’ days, nor many ages after them."
87. Vitringa, Aphorismi Sanct. Theolog., Aphorism 884: "The act of baptizing, is the immersion of believers in water. This expresses the force of the word. Thus also it was performed by Christ and the apostles."
88. Storr and Flatt, Biblical Theology, Book IV, sect. 109, para. 4: "The disciples of our Lord could understand His command in no other way than as enjoining immersion, for the baptism of John, to which Jesus Himself submitted, and also the earlier baptism of the disciples of Jesus, were performed by dipping the subject into cold water."
89. G. B. Winer (German Protestant). Manuscript Lectures on Christian Antiquities: "In the apostolic age, baptism was by immersion, as its symbolical explanation shows."
90. Rheinwald, Archeology, p. 303, note. 1 (1830): "Immersion was the original apostolical practice."
91. August Hahn (German Protestant). Theology, p. 556: "According to apostolical instruction and example, baptism was performed by immersing the whole man."
92. Starch, History of Baptism, p. 8: "In regard to the mode, there can be no doubt, that it was not by sprinkling, but by immersion."
93. Von Coelln, History of Theological Opinions, Vol. I, p. 203: "Immersion in water was general until the thirteenth century; but among the Latins it was displaced by sprinkling; but retained by the Greeks."
94. Claudius Salmasius (French Protestant). De Caesarie Virorum, p. 669: "Baptism is immersion; and was administered, in ancient times, according to the force and meaning of the word. Now it is only rantism or sprinkling; not immersion, or dipping." Apud Witsium, Oecon. Foed., Book IV, chap. 16, sec. 13: "The ancients did not baptize otherwise than by immersion, either once or thrice."
95. Jean Daille (French Protestant). Right Use of the Fathers, Book II, p. 148: "It was a custom heretofore in the ancient church, to plunge those they baptized over head and ears in the water...This is still the practice, both of the Greek and the Russian church, even at this very day:"
96. Danish Catechism, On Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15-16: "What is implied in these words? A command to the dipper and the dipped, with a promise of salvation to those that believe. How is this Christian dipping to be administered? The person must be deep-dipped in water, or overwhelmed with it." (Quoted in Abraham Booth, Pedobaptism Examined, Vol. I, p. 42.)
97. Magdeburg Centuriators (Lutheran). Century I, Book 2, chap. 4: "The word Baptizo, to baptize, which signifies immersion into water, proves that the administrator of baptism immersed, or washed, the persons baptized in water."
98. John Owen, in Ridgley’s Body of Divinity, quest. 166, p. 608, note: "Though the original and natural signification of the word imports, to dip, to plunge, to dye; yet it also signifies to wash or cleanse."
99: Articles of Smaldcald (Lutheran): "Baptism is no other than the word of God, with plunging into water according to his appointment and command."
100. Robert Barclay (Quaker. The Quakers do not practice a literal water baptism of any sort, and should therefore be considered impartial witnesses). Apology, Proposition 12, sect. 10: "Baptizo signifies immergo; that is, to plunge and dip in; and that was the proper use of water baptism among the Jews, and also by John and the primitive Christians, who used lt."
101. John Gratton (Quaker). Life of John Gratton, p. 231: "John did baptize into water; and it was a baptism, a real dipping, or plunging into water, and so, a real baptism was John’s."
102. Thomas Ellwood (Quaker). Sacred History of the New Testament, Part II, p. 307; speaking of Pentecost says: "They were now baptized with the Holy Ghost indeed; and that in the strict and proper sense of the word baptize; which signifies to dip, plunge, or put under."
103. William Penn (Quaker). Defense of Gospel Truths, against the Bishop of Cork, p. 82-83: "I cannot see why the bishop should assume the power of unchristianing us, for not practicing of that which he himself practices so unscripturally, and that according to the sentiments of a considerable part of Christendom; having not one text of scripture to prove that sprinkling in the face was water baptism,—in the first times.—Then it was in the river Jordan; now in a basin."
104. Thomas Lawson (Quaker). Baptismalogia, p. 117,. 118: "Such as rhantize, or sprinkle infants, have no command from Christ, nor example among the apostles, nor the first primitive Christians, for so doing...The ceremony of John’s ministration, according to divine institution, was by dipping, plunging, or overwhelming their bodies in water."
The reader now has before him over one hundred and fifty references from Lexicons and Scholars of all religious denominations except Baptists, yet all of which testify in no uncertain terms to the truth that baptism in the New Testament was always by immersion. These are concessions by Protestants and Catholics alike, and they were all scholars in their own fields. This list could be greatly multiplied, for there are almost no scholars of any repute who hold that apostolic baptism was any thing other than immersion. But aside from this aspect of the question, we find yet other proof of immersion being the ancient and proper mode of baptism.
The Meaning Of The Words According To The Ancient Writers.
1. The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This ancient church manual is generally dated in the second century, and gives these instructions for the ordinance:
And concerning baptism, baptize thus: having first gone over all these instructions, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, in living water. But if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water, and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour out water on the head thrice, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.—The Didache, chapter VII, quoted from James Heron, Church of the Sub Apostolic Age.
James Heron says, "Indeed, the preposition in the phrase ‘baptize into other water,’ points directly to immersion; and there is little room for doubt that this was the common mode of baptism in early times."—Church of the Sub Apostolic Age, p. 138. Some will doubtless object that this document condones pouring, but it is noteworthy that: (1) This is to be done only as a last resort. This was written when the heresy of baptismal regeneration had begun to make itself felt. (2) Even so, this is not called baptism, for that demands immersion, but the word used is ekcheo, to pour. The writer of the Didache does not prostitute the word baptizo by applying it to pouring. (3) This document is not of divine origin, and so, carries no authority except of example.
2. Barnabas. The epistle bearing the name of Barnabas is now generally acknowledged to be wrongly ascribed to the Biblical Barnabas, but it is of early date, perhaps as early as the first half of the second century. The Epistle of Barnabas says: "We indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilements, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart." This can be nothing other than immersion and emersion.
3. The Shepherd of Hermas. This is also of about the middle of the second century. "‘Why sir,’ I said, ‘did these stones ascend out of the pit, and be applied to the building of the tower, after having borne these spirits?’" "‘They were obliged,’ he answered, ‘to ascend through water in order that they might be made alive; for, unless they laid aside the deadness of their life, they could not in any other way enter into the Kingdom of God...The seal, then, is the water: they descend into the water dead, and they arise alive.’"—Similitude Nine, Chap. 16.
4. Justin Martyr, 140 A. D. speaks in his Apology, Sec. 79, 85, 86, of baptism as a "washing in the water." In his Dialogue with a Jew, 14, he refers to baptism as a "bathing," and connects it with Isaiah’s reference to the cisterns mentioned in Jeremiah 2:13. Certainly both fountains and cisterns in the Holy Land would be more fitting for immersion than for sprinkling.
5. Tertullian, about 204 A. D. On Baptism, chap. 7: "As of baptism itself there is a bodily act, that we are immersed in water, a spiritual effect, that we are freed from sins." On The Resurrection Of The Body, chap. 47: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus, were immersed into his death? ...For by an image we die in baptism; but we truly rise in the flesh as did also Christ." Against Praxeas, chap. 26: "And last of all, commanding that they should immerse into the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
6. Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus, near Rome. About 225 A. D. Discourse On The Holy Theophany, 10: "For he who goes down into the bath of regeneration, is arrayed against the evil one, and on the side of Christ: He comes up from the baptism bright as the sun, flashing forth the rays of righteousness."
7. Gregory of Nazianus, about 360 A. D. Discourse 40, On The Holy Baptism: "Let us therefore, be buried with Christ by the baptism, that we may also rise with him; let us come up with him, that we may also be glorified with him."
8. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem about 348 A. D. Instruction III, On Baptism, 12: "For as Jesus assuming the sins of the world died, that having slain sin he might raise thee up in righteousness; so also thou, going down into the water, and in a manner buried in the waters as he in the rock, art raised again, walking in newness of life." Initiation;. II, 4: "And ye professed the saving profession, and sunk down thrice into the water, and again came up. And there, by a symbol, shadowing forth the burial of Christ." Instruction VIII, On the Holy Spirit, II, 14: "For the Lord saith: ‘Ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days after this.’ Not in part the grace; but all-sufficing the power! For as he who sinks down in the waters and is baptized, is surrounded on all sides by the waters, so also they were completely baptized by the Spirit."
9. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. 328 A. D. Discourse On the Holy Passover, 5: "In these benefits thou was baptized, O newly-enlightened; the initiation into the grace, O newly-enlightened, has become to thee an earnest of resurrection; thou has the baptism as a surety of the abode in heaven. Thou didst imitate, in thy sinking down, the burial of the Master; but thou didst rise again from thence, before works witnessing the works of the resurrection."
10. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea. 370 A. D. On The Holy Spirit, XV, 35: "Imitating the burial of Christ by the baptism; for the bodies of those baptized are as it were buried in the water…The water presents the image of death, receiving the body as in a tomb."
11. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. 374 A. D. On The Sacraments, Book II, chap. 7: "Thou was asked: Dost believe in God the Father Almighty? Thou saidst, I believe; and thou didst sink down, that is, wast buried." The same work, Book III, chap. 1, 1: "Yesterday we discoursed respecting the font, whose appearance is, as it were, a form of sepulcher; into which, believing in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we are received and submerged, and rise, that is, are restored to life."
12. Jerome. 392 A. D. Commentary on the Epistle To the Ephesians, Book II, chap. 4: "And thrice we are immersed (Latin, merqimur), that there may appear one sacrament of the Trinity."
13. Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople. 398 A. D. Commentary on I Con, Discourse 40, 1: "For to be baptized, and to sink down, then to emerge, is a symbol of the descent into the underworld, and of the ascent from thence. Therefore Paul calls the baptism the burial, saying: ‘We were buried, therefore, with him by the baptism into death.’" On The Gospel of John, Discourse XXV: "Divine symbols are therein celebrated, burial and deadness, and resurrection and life. And all these take place together; for when we sink our heads down in the water as in a kind of tomb, the old man is buried, and sinking down beneath is all concealed at once; then, when we emerge, the new man comes up again."
14. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. 398 A. D. Homily, iv: "After you professed your belief, three times did we submerge (Latin demersemus) your heads in the sacred fountain."
15. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria. 412 A. D. On Isaiah, Book I Discourse 1, On Isaiah 1:16: The ancients were fond of seeking types and figures for the Christian rite of baptism in the Old Testament. After saying "men are justified, not by works of the law, but through faith and baptism," he adds, "And this the ancient law figured to them as in shadows, and preached before the grace which is through the holy baptism."
These do not exhaust the quotations from these ancient writers, but these are a cross-section of what the early writers had to say about the mode of baptism. We have not recorded any of the later writings, but only those of the first five centuries. For those curious to see the later writers on this subject, Dr. T. J. Conant, in his work "Baptizein" records every usage of the Greek word baptizo in Greek writings still extant, and he also records many instances of later writers to show how they used the word.
In quoting these ancient writers, our only object was to show that they used the word in the sense of immerse, as is the true import of the word. Therefore, we do not in the least, condone the erroneous ideas held by many or even most of them of them, that baptism was a saving ordinance. Since all of grace (unmerited favor), it cannot be obtained by any act of man. Baptism is simply an act of obedience whereby one outwardly confesses what has taken place inwardly. It is an act "of (not for) righteousness," (Matt. 3:15. cf. Tit. 3:5), done by a person who has already become a child of God by completely trusting in the Lord to save him.
Before passing to the next proof, we shall adduce several authorities to further show that baptism was by immersion for thirteen centuries, and that only in recent centuries have men replaced immersion by sprinkling or pouring.
16. Coleman (Congregationalist). Ancient Christianity, chap. 19, sec. 12: "The practice of immersion continued even until the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Indeed, it has never been formally abandoned."
17. Joseph Bingham (Episcopalian). Antiquities of the Christian Church, Book XI, chap. 11, sect. 4: "As this (dipping) was the original apostolical practice, so it continued the universal practice of the Church for many ages."
18. Augusti (Lutheran). Archae, Vol V, p. 5; VII, p. 229: "Immersion in water was general until the thirteenth century, among the Latins; it was then replaced by sprinkling but retained by the Greeks."
19. Whitby (Episcopalian). Annotations on Rom. 6:4: "And this immersion being religiously observed by all Christians for thirteen centuries, and approved by our Church."
20. Hagenbach (Lutheran). Hist. Doct., Vol. II, p. 84, note: "From the thirteenth century sprinkling came into more general use in the West. The Greek Church, however, and the Church of Milano still retained the practice of immersion."
21. J. J. Van Oosterzee (Lutheran). Christian Dogmatics, p. 749 (N. Y. edition): "This sprinkling, which seems to have first come generally into use in the thirteenth century, in the place of the entire immersion of the body, in imitation of the previous baptism of the sick, has certainly this imperfection, that the symbolical character of the act is expressed by it much less conspicuously than by complete immersion and burial under water."
22. Von Colln. History of Doctrine, Vol. II, p. 303: "Immersion in water was general until the thirteenth century among the Latins; it was then displaced by sprinkling, but retained by the Greeks."
23. Dr. Stackhouse, History of the Bible, Book VIII, chap. 1, pp. 1234-1235, note: "Several authors have shown, that we read no where in Scripture of any one’s being baptized, but by immersion; and from the acts of councils and ancient rituals have proved, that this manner of immersion continued (as much as possible) to be used for thirteen hundred years after Christ."
24. Dr. Brenner, Hist. Exhibit. Bapt., p. 306: "Thirteen hundred years was baptism generally and ordinarily performed by the immersion of the person under water, and only in extraordinary cases was sprinkling, or affusion, permitted. These later methods of baptism were called in question, and even prohibited."
25. Encyclopedia Ecclesiastica. Article on Baptism: "Whatever weight, however, may be in those reasons, as a defense for the present practice of sprinkling, it is evident that during the first ages of the Church, and for many centuries afterwards, the practice of immersion prevailed."
The Meaning Of The Words According To Ancient Versions.
The King James Version, though translated in 1611, is still, by many standards, a modern version. There were many versions of the Scriptures which preceded it, and almost all of these are indicative of immersion as the Scriptural mode of the ordinance, as we shall now note.
1. The Syriac version (early in the Second Century). This version translates the Greek word baptizo by the Syriac word amad, which signifies to dip or immerse. "Immersion was the universal practice of the Syrian Christian, and of the Nestorians, who speak the Syriac language. Dr. Wall (Episcopalian) says that all the Christians of Asia and Africa, and one-third of those of Europe, baptize by immersion."—J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 140.
2. An Ancient Latin version which was used by Tertullian in the Second and Third Centuries is quoted (On Baptism, chapters )KI, XIII, XIV, XX) in which the Greek word baptizo is translated tinguendi, tinguentes, tinguebat, tinguendum, tinguebantur, to dip or immerse."
3. The Coptic Version of lower Egypt (Third Century). This translation used tomas, to dip, or immerse, to translate the Greek Word.
4. The Sahidic Version of upper Egypt (Third Century). In this version, the word baptizo was not translated, but was only transferred as it is in our English versions because "evidently, as a Greek term it was well understood in Upper Egypt."—Thomas Armitage, History of the Baptists, p. 156.
5. The Ethiopic Version (Fourth Century). Thomas Armitage says of this version:
It is generally ascribed to this century, and is regarded as the oldest monument of Ethiopic literature. Dillman declares it to be "very faithful; being for the most part a verbal rendering of the Greek, and yet readable and fluent, and in the Old Testament often hitting the ideas and words of the Hebrew in a surprising manner." It also renders the word which defines the act of baptism by "tamaka," to dip.—History of the Baptists, p. 210.
6. The Gothic Version of Ulfilas, Bishop of the Moeso-Goths (Fourth Century). "In this version the Greek word (for baptize) is translated by daupian (pronounced as dowpyan), which means to dip, like the Latin mergere, and the German tauchen."—T. J. Conant, The Meaning and Use Of Baptizein.
7. The Armenian Version, called the ‘Queen of Versions.’ (Translated from the Syriac and Greek in the Fifth Century by Mesrobe, a Minister of state to the King of Armenia). It used the word mogredid, a word which signifies to immerse, to express the act of baptism.
8. The Ante-Hieronymian Version revised by Jerome, and now known as the Vulgate (Fifth Century). In this version the words relating to baptism have been transferred instead of being translated. Dr. Thomas Armitage makes the following observation on this:
This new-coined method of keeping back the meaning of God’s commands has debauched the consciences of translators, and perverted many versions from Jerome’s time to our own, by copying his pernicious example, and refusing to translate the exact sense of these words into the mother-tongues of those for whom their translations have been made. And what has rendered this practice the more blameworthy has been, the common pretense, either that these words were too holy to be translated, that their meaning was immaterial, or that they were incapable of translation, for want of proper equivalent in the tongues in which these versions were made.—History of the Baptists, p. 209.
9. The Georgian Version (Eighth Century). This version translated the word baptizo by the word nathlistemad, to immerse.
10. The first Lower-Saxon Bible (1470-1480) translates baptizo by the word doepen, to dip.
11. The Augsburg German Bible (1473-1875) renders the word by tauffen, to dip.
12. Luther’s German Version (New Testament, 1522; entire Bible, 1534). The word signifying the ordinance is rendered by the word taufen, to dip.
13. The Dutch Version (1526) renders the word by doopen, to dip.
14. The Swedish Version (1526) renders the word by doepa, to dip or plunge.
15. The Dutch Version (From Luther’s, 1550 and 1589) renders the word by doebe, to dip.
16. The Welsh Version (New Testament, 1567; entire Bible, 1588) renders the word by bedyddio, to dip.
It is noteworthy that, while some of the ancient versions of the Bible did not translate the Greek word baptizo but only transferred it as does the King James Version, yet not a single one ever translated the word with words signifying "to sprinkle," or "to pour." How can this be, if the word signifies either of these, or if these are also meanings of the word? The truth is, that both sprinkling and pouring, while dating back to the Second Century as acceptable substitutes if immersion could not be performed, were not accepted on the same level with immersion until the days of the reformation, fifteen hundred years too late to be Bible baptism. I. T. Hinton has well said:
The fact that almost every version of the Bible existing, ancient and modern, previous to 1820, has invariably, either not translated the word at all, or else rendered it by a term equivalent to dip is interesting and worthy of attention...Leaving modern missionary versions out of the question, there is not a solitary version in either the Eastern or Western languages, which in the slightest degree favors any other meaning to the term baptizo than that of immerse. Better collateral evidence could not be desired.—History of Baptism, pp. 45, 47.
Only a person extremely ignorant, or with a bigoted determination not to heed the all but universal testimony of history, will declare that sprinkling or pouring constitute valid baptism. But there is yet more proof of this. There is—
The Testimony Of The Baptisteries.
1. "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salem, because there was much water there" (John 3:23). Sprinklers and pourers try to get around this difficulty by saying that this should be translated "many waters." However, this does not in the least remove their difficulty, for men who have visited this region tell us that both translations are correct. While there are many springs here, and so, "many waters," there is also "much water," for the streams unite to form a considerable stream of water. It was here that Pastor Kary of the Baptist Church at Nablous (ancient Shechem) sometimes baptized in the Nineteenth Century. Dr. J. R. Graves, who records the above information about the waters of Aenon, also quotes Elder W. A. Whittle, who visited this place. Elder Whittle says:
If the bold prophet had searched the whole country, from Dan to Beersheba, he could have found no place more suitable to administer that sacred rite which so beautifully sets forth the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord.—Quoted in J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 164.
2. It must be remembered that the early Christians were greatly persecuted, and so were unable to have sumptuous buildings with fancy baptisteries for two or three centuries after Christ. This is the reason that we do not find many baptisteries before the Fourth Century. I. T. Hinton says:
The primitive Christians were under the necessity of baptizing either in open waters, or in private baths; for the state of the law would not admit of their erecting public baptisteries. It would appear from some of their writings, that in seasons more free from persecution they had been erected in a simple manner before the reign of Constantine. During his reign they became comparatively common...At this time baptisteries began to be built: but there were none within the churches till the sixth century; and it is remarkable that, though there were many churches in one city, yet (with a few exceptions) there was but one baptistery.—History of Baptism, pp. 167-168.
3. The baptistery in which Constantine the Great is said to have been baptized, is in a building joined to St. John Lateran in Rome. It is sixty feet in circumference, and of a depth of slightly over three feet, and has steps leading down to it from the floor of the building.
It is railed off, and might now serve for an aquarium, or a swimming pool. But when the "Church" (?) changed the ordinance, the baptistery had to be changed also, and so a beautiful font of pure porphyry has been erected in the. center of the old baptistery, out of which the perversion of baptism is practiced. The font is very distinguishably of much later date than the baptistery."—A. J. Holt, in a letter to Dr. J. R. Graves. Quoted in Graves’ John’s Baptism, p. 167.
4. The baptistery of St. Sophia was erected by Constantine, and was adorned by succeeding emperors. It was large enough for councils to meet in, and it was called the Great Illuminatory.
Baptisteries belong to a period of the church when great numbers of adult catechumens were baptized, and when immersion was the rule...It was necessary to make them large, because in the early Church it was customary for the bishop to baptize all the catechumens in his diocese (and so baptisteries are commonly found attached to the cathedral and not to the parish churches), and also because the rite was performed only thrice in the year.—Article: Baptisteries, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition.
5. In the catacombs of St. Calixtus, on the Appian Way near Rome, there is another ancient baptistery in which the persecuted brethren practiced the ordinance while they were constrained to hide from their persecutors.
Without bothering to give a detailed description of each individual baptistery, let it suffice to say that of all the ancient baptisteries which remain to this day, or of which we have any record, they are all in favor of immersion, and are all testimonies against either sprinkling or pouring. By way of proof of this, we list the testimonies of noted historians and antiquarians to this truth.
1. Joseph Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church, Book VIII, chap. 7, Sec. 2: "These Baptisteries were anciently very capacious, because, as Dr. Cave truly observes, the stated Times of Baptism returning but seldom, there were usually great multitudes to be baptized at the same Time. And then the manner of Baptizing by immersion, or dipping under Water, made it necessary to have a large Font likewise."
2. The testimony of Dr. Cave alluded to by Bingham is to be found in his Primitive Christianity, Part I, chap. 10, p. 312.
3. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, Sec. 108, pp. 558-559: "In the fourth century special buildings for this holy ordinance began to appear, either entirely separate, or connected with the main church by a covered passage. The need of them arose partly from the still prevalent custom of immersion."
4. Dr. Murdock, in a note in his edition of Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I, p. 281, note 15, says: "The baptisteries were, properly, buildings adjacent to the churches, in which the catechumens were instructed, and where were a sort of cistern, into which water was let at the time of baptism, and in which the candidates were baptized by immersion."
5. Hagenbach, History of the Christian Church, chap. 19, p. 324: "That baptism in the beginning was administered in the open air, in rivers and pools, and that it was by immersion we know from the narratives of the New Testament. In later times there were prepared great baptismal fonts or chapels. The person to be baptized descended several steps into the reservoir of water, and then the whole body was immersed under the water." 6. Coleman, Ancient Christianity Exemplified, chap. 19, sect 10: "The first baptistery, or place appropriated to baptism, of which any mention is made, occurs in a biography in the fourth century, and this was prepared in a private house."
7. Broughton, Hist. Dist., Article: Baptistery: "The Baptistery was, properly speaking, the whole house or building in which the font stood, which later was only the fountain or pool of water in which the immersion was performed."
8. Hope, Historical Essay on Architecture, p. 115, says that the early Christians "Always practiced baptism by immersion, and out of the church (edifice); consequently they wanted a building for the purpose of baptism, as much as for that of worship."
9. Dean Stanley, History of the Eastern Church, p. 117: "With the two exceptions of the cathedral of Milan and the sect of the Baptists, a few drops of water are now the Western substitute for the threefold plunge into the rushing rivers or the wide baptisteries of the East."
10. Cote, Archaeology of Baptism, p. 151: "During the dark days of imperial persecutions the primitive Christians of Rome found a ready refuge in the Catacombs, where they constructed baptisteries for the administration of the rite of immersion." Dr. Cote lived many years in Rome, and closely studied the baptismal question. (J. T. Christian, History of the Baptists, Vol. I, p. 36.)
The Testimony Of The Greek Church.
The practice of the Greek Orthodox Church has been universally immersion, and not only this group, but all who are in communion with this church as well. Surely this is highly suggestive that this was the original mode of baptism if those who speak the Greek language have always practiced immersion. Of all people, a Greek should know what a Greek word means. The following authorities are cited in proof of the practice of the Greek Church.
1. Sir P. Ricaut: "Thrice dipping or plunging this church holds to be necessary to the form of baptism, as water to the matter." (Cited by I. T. Hinton, History of Baptism, p. 188.
2. Dr. King, Rites and Ceremonies of the Greek Church, p. 192: "The Greek church uniformly practices trine immersion...undoubtedly the most primitive manner."
3. De Stourdza, Consid. Orthodox Church, p. 87: "’The Church of the West (Rome) has, then, departed from the example of Jesus Christ; she has obliterated the whole sublimity of the exterior sign. Baptism and immersion are identical. Baptism by aspersion is as if one should say immersion by aspersion; or any other absurdity of the same nature."
4. Deylingius, Prud. Past., Part III, chap. 3, sect. 26: "The Greeks retain the rite of immersion to this day; as Jeremiah, the patriarch of Constantinople declares."
5. Buddeus, Theol. Dogma., Book V, chap. 1, sect. 5: "That the Greeks defend immersion is manifest, and has been frequently observed by learned men; which Ludolphus informs us is the practice of the Ethiopians."
6. William Wall, History of Infant Baptism, Vol. II, p. 376, ed. 3: "The Greek Church in all its branches does still use immersion, and so do all other Christians in the world, except the Latins. All those nations that do now, or formerly did submit to the authority of the Bishop of Rome, do ordinarily baptize their infants by pouring or sprinkling. But all other Christians in the world, who never owned the Pope’s usurped power, do, and ever did, dip their infants in the ordinary use. All the Christians in Asia, all in Africa and about one third in Europe, are of the last sort."
7. Coleman, Ancient Christianity Exemplified, chap. 19, sect. 12: "The Eastern Church has uniformly retained the form of immersion as indispensable to the validity of the ordinances; and repeat the rite whenever they have received to their communion persons who have been baptized in another manner."
8. Broughton, Hist. Dict., Article: Baptism: "The Greek Church differs from the Romish, as to the rite of baptism, chiefly in performing it by immersion, or plunging the infant all over in the water."
9. Whitby, Critical Commentary on Matt. 3:16: "The observation of the Greek Church is this, that he who ascended out of the water must first descend into it; baptism, therefore, is to be performed, not by sprinkling, but by washing the body, and, indeed, it can be only from ignorance of the Jewish rites that this can be questioned."
10. Pantalogia, Article: Greek Church: "The Greek Church is ‘that part of the Christian Church which was first established in Greece, and is now spread over a larger extent of country than any other established Church. Amid all their trifling rites, they practice trine immersion, which is unquestionably the original manner.’"
11. Dr. A. Diomedes Kyriasko, Professor of Church History in the University of Athens, in a private letter to Elder C. G. Jones of Lynchburg, Va., dated Aug. 1890: "The verb baptizo in the Greek language never has the meaning of to pour or to sprinkle, but invariably ‘to dip.’ In the Greek Church both in its earliest time and in our days, to baptize has meant to dip." (Quoted in J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 203.)
12. Hasselquist, Travels, p. 394: "The Greeks christen their children immediately after their birth, or within a few days at least, dipping them in warm water; and in this respect they are much wiser than their brethren the Russians, who dip them into rivers in the coldest winter."
13. Venema, Hist. Eccles. Tom. 6, 660: "In pronouncing the baptismal form of words, the Greeks use the third person, saying, ‘Let the servant of Christ be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and immerse the whole man in water."
14. Miller, Propagation of Christ, II, chap. 6, p. 115: "In baptism they (the Muscovites) dip their children in cold water.’"
15. Witsius, Oecon. Foed., 1. 4, chap. 16, sect. 13: "That immersion may be practiced in cold countries, without any danger of health and life, the Muscovites prove by their example; who entirely immerse their infants three times in water, not believing that baptism can be otherwise rightly administered."
From these extracts from several writers it may be seen what the practice is of those to whom Greek is the native language. And while many of our Protestant friends would, in their endeavor to establish a human invention as the ordinance of Christ, like to teach a Greek the meaning of Greek words, we beg to be excused therefrom.
So weighty is the testimony of history concerning the mode of this ordinance, that only a very ignorant, or a very bigoted person would charge Baptists with error of observance concerning the mode of baptism. On the other hand, let those who practice sprinkling or pouring for the ordinance think long and carefully about their practice in the light of these facts. Who is more liable to censure, the one who abides by the original institution, at the cost of ridicule and reproach, and even actual persecution, or the one who, without warrant, for his own convenience and at his own caprice, alters a divine institution? Jesus’ question in Luke 6:46 is most searching in this matter: "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" And see the statement in Hebrews 5:9: "...He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." What can we say to justify knowing disobedience?
Many other testimonies could be subjoined, but they would add little weight to the ponderous authorities already cited. Most of the earlier theologians honestly acknowledged that the ancient mode was by immersion, but many present day theologians either pointedly ignore this fact, or else boldly controvert the overwhelming evidence.
One of the very few truly great scholars of the past who denied that immersion was the original mode of baptism, was Dr. W. G. T. Shedd. He says: "Sprinkling was the common mode of baptism in the Old Testament, and this fact furnishes the strongest presumption that it was the mode of Christ and his apostles."—Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II, p. 578. But Dr. Shedd was a theologian, not a historian or a philologist, which may explain his mistaken idea. He moves upon several false assumptions: (1) While sprinkling was common in the Old Testament, it is never referred to as baptism. Sprinkling had to do with certain of the ceremonial rites of the Old Testament, but baptism has little, if anything in common with it. (2) Where reference is made to washing (Greek baptizo) of the hands, cups, or bodies in the New Testament (Luke 11:38; Mark 7:4), it signifies that they were immersed, and the theory that the washing was done by pouring or sprinkling is nothing more than a subterfuge of those who will not accept the truth. (3) The term baptizo is not a generic term with several modes of application. It is itself a specific and exclusive mode, as we have already had occasion to prove. After speaking somewhat at length on this subject, I. T. Hinton sums up the proof by saying:
I have been thus minute that it might be apparent and undeniable that wherever in the New Testament the idea of washing, without the mode of dipping being specified is conveyed, louo or nipto are employed; wherever pouring is referred to, ekkeo or ballo are found; baptizo NEVER; wherever sprinkling is referred to, rantizo or breko are employed; baptizo NEVER.—Is it, therefore, too much to ask that, seeing baptizo is never found in the New Testament applied to sprinkling or pouring, but always to immersion, in future those who pour or sprinkle will cease to falsify the word baptizo, and speak of rantizing, or any other word that approximates in some slight degree the process; rather than be so absurd as to use a word the most remote that possibly could be found in the Greek language."—History of Baptism, pp. 43-44.
(4) In seeking to controvert the proof of immersion as set forth in Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:12, Dr. Shedd only goes further to prove it. He says, "Had sunthapto been translated literally, by ‘entombed,’ instead of ‘buried,’ this text never would have been quoted, as it so frequently has been, to prove that Christian baptism is immersion," (ibid. p. 586). But whether this passage is translated "entombed" or "buried," it still proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that New Testament baptism consisted in the total placing of one thing within another. The prefix "en-" shows direction to within something, and so, "entombed" means simply "to place within a tomb," which is what baptism symbolizes. It symbolizes the fact that "we have been planted together in the likeness of His death" (Rom. 6:5), and this is done by immersion only.
Let a person search all he pleases, but he will find very few, if any burials, but which involve the complete envelopment of the dead bodies in some element. It may be in the earth, as the common manner is, or it may be a burial at sea, or it may be upon a funeral pyre, but in each case, there is the total envelopment of the body. Nothing could more closely approximate an ordinary burial than immersion in water.
Even the prepositions used with this word in the New Testament proves that the mode could not have been but by immersion. "And were baptized of him in Jordan..." (Matt. 3:6). "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water..." (Matt. 3:16). "...Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in (Greek eis-into) Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water..." (Mark 1:9-10). "John answered them, saying, I baptize with (Greek en-in) water..." (John 1:26). "But he that sent me to baptize with (Greek en-in) water..." (John 1:33). "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there..." (John 3:23). "...And they went down both into the water...And when they were come up out of the water..." (Acts 8:38, 39). "Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto (Greek eis-into) John’s baptism..." (Acts 19:3).
To endeavor to make the mode in these instances to be pouring or sprinkling is to involve the greatest absurdity. Either sprinkling or pouring would demand the use of the preposition upon (Greek epi), which is never used in this connection. And even then it would not make sense, for then it would be the subjects who were sprinkled upon Jordan, or who were poured upon water, and not the water being thus poured or sprinkled upon the subjects. Let the reader substitute the word sprinkle or pour in each of the instances cited above, and, unless he also completely rearranges the text, he will see how absurd it is to endeavor to force pouring or sprinkling into the meaning of baptizo. On the other hand, let him substitute immerse for baptize, and he will see the perfect harmony of the word with the text.
There are several supposed objections which have been voiced against this mode of the ordinance, and it will be our object to consider the validity of these at this time.
First, it has been objected that the three thousand who were saved on the day of Pentecost could not have been immersed as that would have taken too long to accomplish. Answer. If only the Twelve Apostles baptized, they could have accomplished this in somewhat less than three hours if they baptized at the rate that Baptists do today. However, there were also seventy others who were authorized to baptize, who could, and doubtless did, assist the Twelve. At this same time, it is doubtful if immersion takes much longer, if any, than the ritual followed in sprinkling or pouring.
Second, it is objected that there was not sufficient water to perform the ordinance by immersion. Answer. Surely this objection proceeds only from someone who is extremely ignorant both of the geography of the Holy Land, and of the ways of the Jews. In a city of perhaps a million people, whose religion required of every one of them frequent ablutions, would there be an insufficient water supply for the purpose? In the Jerusalem area alone, there were no less than nine pools which were adequate for the purpose of immersion. These were the pools of Bethesda, Upper Gihon, Lower Gihon, Hezekiah’s pool, the King’s pool, or the pool of the Virgin, Siloam, and Solomon’s Three Pools. These all ranged in depth from three to seventy-five feet.
Third, a two-fold objection is lodged against immersion being practiced in the Jordan River. One class says that the Jordan was an insipid stream, more mud than water, and so, impractical for purposes of immersion. Answer. The reader has but to consult the following Scriptures to see that this objection is without force (Josh. 3:15; II Sam. 19:18; II Kings 5:14). It is doubtless true that if a person went far enough up towards the headwaters of this stream, he would find it shallowing out, but this would be to get away from all of the areas where baptism was performed.
The second objection goes to the opposite extreme. Some say that the Jordan is such a swift and turbulent stream that any one stepping out into it would be instantly swept away by the current. Answer. This is true of some portions of the river, but there is not a river any where which is so swift and turbulent but that it has backwater and eddy pools which would be ideal for the practice of immersion. A Lieut. Lynch, of the United States Navy, traveled the Jordan by boat in the last century, and he witnessed, on an Easter Sunday, several thousand pilgrims come to a spot on the Jordan nearly due East of Jerusalem in order to bathe in the river. He pronounced the spot one of the best places for bathing or swimming that he had ever seen (J. R. Graves, John’s Baptism, pp. 151-154).
There are doubtless other objections, but they would he as puerile as these, for when a person determines not to believe the truth about anything, objections are easy to find.
These things being so, why then will the religious world as a whole reject the clear meaning of baptizo, and interpret it in such a way as to deny all rules of Biblical exegesis? Why do Bible translators so often leave the word untranslated? Why is the majority of the professing Christian world content to practice a rite which has no Biblical authority, and no historical example before the Fourth Century? Is it not because this innovation crept in and became established in an age of extreme ignorance and ecclesiastical depravity, and now men of learning "love the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:43), and hence fear to resist it? Does not this tradition make "the commandments of God of none effect"?
Such liberty-taking with God’s Word is a dangerous thing, and cannot but earn the censure of Him who said "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). If such loose and unwarranted interpretations were legitimate, one could reverse the meaning of every word in the Bible, and Christianity would be in a maze more inextricable than a multiplication of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Mohammedanism together.
The fact that almost all scholars of repute admit that this ordinance was originally observed by immersion in water, and the fact that no one can produce any, evidence that the Lord or His apostles ever set forth a different meaning to the word, leaves no doubt in our minds as to the mode of scriptural baptism. We believe with John Gale that:
"Baptism is an ordinance of Christ; it must, of necessity, be celebrated exactly as he appointed." And again: "That only is baptism which Christ appointed; and, therefore, that which differs from what he appointed, differs from baptism; and to bring in alterations, is to change the thing, and make it not the same, but another."—On Wall, p. 66. London Edition of 1818 (Quoted by R. B. C. Howell, Terms of Communion, p. 131).
In no other field of doctrine are men so inconsistent in interpretation and translation, as they are concerning the ordinance of baptism. Well has Dr. L. L. Paine, who occupied the chair of Ecclesiastical History in Bangor Theological Seminary (Congregationalist) in the last century, said: "Any scholar who denies that immersion was the baptism of the Christian church for thirteen centuries betrays UTTER IGNORANCE or SECTARIAN BLINDNESS." (Quoted by J. R. Graves, The Act of Christian Baptism, p. 33.)
The third requisite for scriptural baptism is that which concerns the purpose of the ordinance. Baptism is meant to show before the world the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, thereby preaching the Gospel symbolically, and to show the believer’s own death to the old way of life, and his resurrection to walk in newness of life.
The phrases "like as" and "even so" as found in Rom. 6:4, mark the substance and the symbol, and show that the ordinance is designed to teach symbolically the truth of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. E. T. Hiscox observes:
What was baptism intended to represent and teach? As an outward rite, it must be a type, or sign, of some religious truth, or spiritual fact, meant to be taught or enforced by its observance. And the form of the rite, and the manner of its administration, must be such as properly to express its design and meaning. If the form be so changed that its symbolic force is lost, and its design no longer seen in its administration, then, manifestly, it is no longer baptism in form or fact; its teachings is not understood, and its chief purpose fails ...The design of Baptism was to show the death of Christ for our offences, and His resurrection for justification. Thus, in the two acts the immersion signifies burial, and the emersion signifies resurrection.—New Directory For Baptist Churches, pp. 425, 463.
The earliest heresy that attached itself to baptism had to do with the third requirement, for men began to lay more importance than needful upon the act, and to teach that without it none could be saved. This teaching was in direct contradiction to many express statements of the Scriptures such as John 3:14-18; 4:14; 5:24; 6:40; Acts 2:21; 10:43; 13:39; 15:9; 16:30-31, et al.
In departing from the scriptural design, men of necessity, then began to depart from the scriptural pattern as concerned the subject as well. For when they began to baptize in order to save, they began to baptize those who were unsaved. Thus, it only took one generation of such subjects to constitute an unscriptural administrator, for where there is corrupted baptism, there is, of necessity, also a corrupt church, and a corrupt church cannot administer scriptural baptism.
A large portion of Protestantism and all of Catholicism believes in baptismal regeneration—salvation by water—according to their creeds and confessions, and so, they have corrupted the original design of the ordinance. R. B. C. Howell, after quoting from the different denominational standards, sums up the whole in these words:
"By baptism," says the Roman Catholic, "our sins are remitted and pardoned, and we are joined and knit to Christ, as members of the head." "By baptism," says the Episcopalian, "we are regenerated and made members of Christ, the children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of God, cleansed from the defilements of the flesh, and God doth seal, confirm, and make over to us, all the benefits of the death of Christ." "By baptism," says the Methodist, "we, who are by nature, the children of wrath, are made the children of God, are regenerated and born again." And "by baptism," says the Disciple, "we are regenerated, pardoned, justified, reconciled, adopted, and saved."—Terms of Communion, p. 200.
While there are some preachers and laymen in each of these denominations who do not believe these things, and might even protest against them, yet they continue in full fellowship with these groups which unashamedly avow their belief in, and support of, these things. Thus, their protest against this error is canceled out by their continued fellowship with them.
Just when and what church began to teach baptismal regeneration would be impossible to say, but no doubt there were individuals who entertained such thoughts even during the lives of the apostles. By the Third Century it had become a common belief. So much so, in fact, that individuals began to delay baptism until late in life in the vain belief that thereby they could have all the sins of a lifetime washed away at once.
The figment of baptismal regeneration, one of the earliest corruptions of Christianity, was an outrage on morals and religion. It encouraged men in sin, and bolstered them up with a false hope, substituting the outward form for repentance, faith, and a changed heart and life.—J. M. Cramp, Baptist History, p. 47.
As is always the case, one error led to another. Infant baptism was the logical outgrowth of this heresy, and both originated in a mistaken idea of the purpose of baptism. Many of the so-called "church fathers" are claimed to have believed in baptismal regeneration, and while many of the later ones certainly did, most of the earlier ones were misinterpreted to so believe because they spoke in symbolic language.
For instance, Justin Martyr (born about 100 A. D.) says in his Dialogue 44: "...to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins..." And in Apology, I, 66: "Washed for the remission of sins and unto regeneration." In the former quotation, baptism is certainly not referred to, since Isaiah knew nothing of baptism. (See Isa. 12:3 and 55:2, to which Justin probably alluded.) In the latter quotation, the reference cannot be definitely proven to refer to baptism any more than Titus 3:5 can. We are certainly washed for the remission of sins, but washed in what? Water? No! We are washed in the blood of the lamb. "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood..." (Rev. 1:5). See also Revelation 7:14. Baptism is expressly declared not to wash away the filth of the flesh, (1 Pet. 3:21), and the sins of the soul are certainly not worn on the outside of the body like a garment. A fellow-student in seminary with the writer, Brother Dan Aebisher, used to say that to be consistent, the advocates of baptismal regeneration ought to at least drink the baptismal waters if they expected to be cleansed inwardly by them. That would get the water closer to the soul than it is in baptism.
Others have sought to show from Tertullian’s De Baptismo (born about 155 A. D.), that he believed in baptismal regeneration, but he plainly says in De Penitentia that "We are not baptized that we may cease sinning, but because we have ceased."
It is the later ecclesiastical writers, beginning with Cyprian (died 258 A. D.) who attached to baptism an actual regenerating efficacy. Those who went before, while sometimes using the term "regeneration" in reference to baptism, apparently used it in a figurative sense without attributing actual life-giving efficacy to it. There are many instances in which ancient writers were quoted in such a way as to give words a meaning which they never meant them to have. The use of extra-contextual quotations is popular in the religious world today to prove what cannot otherwise be proven.
The purpose of this ordinance is declared in part in several places, the sum of which gives us the Lord’s reason for giving it. "...baptizing them into the name of the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost..." (Matt. 28:19). Here, we note that baptism is a confession of discipleship. It marks out an individual as being a follower of the Triune God. It is not simply baptism into the name of Christ, but into the name of all three Persons of the Trinity. Trine immersion is not taught here, but a single immersion into the one name of the Triune God.
A person may attend Christian services for some time, but it will not testify to his discipleship nearly so clearly as when this ordinance is administered to him. Baptism is, first and foremost, a confession of discipleship. In the world, a man may say of another, "He is a Christian," and if asked "How do you know’?" will reply, "Because he has been baptized." This was the reason John hesitated to baptize Christ, lest men should think that Jesus was John’s disciple. John wanted the world to know that Christ was the preeminent One, and that he was Jesus’ disciple, and not vice versa.
Because it is a testimony of discipleship, every person who has been genuinely born again is obligated to confess his discipleship before the world in baptism. All too many persons go to one of two extremes in regard to baptism. Many think it to be absolutely necessary to salvation. Others go to the opposite extreme and think of baptism as nothing more than an unimportant rite which may or may not be observed at the discretion of the candidate. However, the Scriptures place an importance upon it of which we must take note. To refuse to observe this ordinance is, for the new convert, a serious matter, for he disobeys the Lard’s first command to him, and thereby denies his discipleship.
No individual who is saved has the privilege of choosing whether or not he will be baptized. God’s Word commands it and refusing to submit to it is nothing less than disobedience to the clear teachings of God’s Word...There is not the slightest indication in the New Testament that any of the early Christians refused or even hesitated about the matter of baptism. We find the very opposite to be true.—R. J. Anderson, Vital Church Truths, p. 11.
The same commission which enjoins on the church the duty of making disciples by preaching the Gospel (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15), also enjoins upon every disciple so made, the duty of being baptized.
As long, then, as it is the duty of ministers to preach, and of sinners to believe, so long it will be the duty of believers to be baptized. In other words, while the economy of grace is continued, that is, to the end of the world, baptism must be the appropriate badge of the Christian profession. So likewise the communion is enjoined on the church till the second coming of Christ.—R. B. C. Howell, Terms of Communion, p. 37.
The purpose of this ordinance is also revealed when we remember that it usually manifested, at least in New Testament times, a new attitude and relationship to the Lord. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized," Acts 2:41. It also symbolizes a spiritual cleansing and the testimony of a good conscience before the Lord. "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins (symbolically, or in picture), calling upon (literally, having called upon) the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). If this passage were alone in teaching about baptism, we should be compelled to believe in baptismal regeneration, but there are others which show that the washing away of sins is pictorial or symbolic only. "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" (1 Pet. 3:21).
This latter passage tells us several things about baptism: (1) It does not actually "put away the filth of the flesh." (2) It is a figure, type or symbol only. (3) The washing away of sins mentioned in Acts 22:16 is in figure or symbol therefore. These two passages cannot otherwise harmonize. (4) It is the answer of a good conscience, or, in other words, a right relationship with the Lord that gives assurance of salvation.
The act of baptism pictures also the burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which is the hope of all believers. Not only so, but it is also a pledge that the believer will "walk in newness of life." "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.
In baptism, we also confess our assurance of the resurrection of the just. We confess that "through the faith of the operation of God," we are already "risen with him." "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). This is further explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:29: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?"
Now, to consider the expression to be a reference to the mode and import of baptism, as implying an emblem of the resurrection of believers, will afford a natural meaning to the words, and an important argument to the apostle. Baptism is an ordinance that represents our burial and resurrection with Christ. We are baptized, in the hope that our dead bodies shall rise from the grave. Now, if there is no resurrection, why are we baptized? On that supposition, there is no meaning in baptism. It is absurd for any to be baptized, baptism being a figure of a resurrection, if they do not believe in a resurrection.—Alexander Carson, Baptism, Its Mode and Its Subjects, pp. 163-164.
The ordinance of baptism is, throughout, one of testimony. In it we confess that we are the Lord’s disciples. In it we confess faith in Christ’s burial and resurrection. In it we confess faith in our own resurrection in the likeness of Christ. In it we pledge to "walk in newness of life." Baptism does not cause these things, but is meant only to be a confession of them. Some people go to one extreme and hope, by being baptized, to purchase eternal life and its blessings. Others, while claiming to be Christians, refuse to follow their Lord in baptism, esteeming it a matter of insignificance. Both such groups do not see in baptism its true purpose.
We now come to the fourth requirement for scriptural baptism; that of a scriptural administrator—a New Testament church.
Many are the free-lance evangelists of past and present who have baptized new converts without having authority to do so, and then have left them with a pseudo-baptism, but a member of no church. Popular singer Pat Boone has often done so. This is a scriptural impossibility, since baptism was and is a church ordinance to be administered by the church to applicants for membership in the church. This is what is termed "alien baptism," and indeed it is alien to the New Testament pattern.
Much of that portion of Protestantism which practices immersion for baptism, has only an alien baptism, because the baptism which they have, originated with some individual, and not from a regularly constituted authority. It is the case with all of Protestantism which has descended from Alexander Campbell, for he received his "dunking" from a Baptist minister who had no such church authority for his action, and consequently, it was as alien as if a Buddhist had administered it. No minister has inherent authority to baptize. He can only baptize when he has been authorized to perform that act for some church, and the person upon whom it is performed thereby becomes a member of the church that authorized it.
This last requirement for scriptural baptism is probably the one held to be of the least importance by most people, and is, consequently, the one most often violated. This is brought about, perhaps, by the fact that all too many people consider baptism to be somehow tied up with sacerdotal or ministerial authority, and so, not relative to the church at all.
The mistaken idea among many Baptists that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are some sort of priestly or ministerial functions has led to the greater mistake of supposing that no church can observe either of these without an ordained minister present. E. T. Hiscox well says:
Many small and feeble churches go without the ordinances for months, or years, because no ordained minister is accessible to serve them. This is all wrong. Let them select some deacon, or private member to serve in this capacity, as they would choose one to lead a prayer meeting. The ordinances were committed to the churches; and Christ’s institutions should not be neglected.—New Directory For Baptist Churches, p. 375.
To make baptism valid only if administered by a rightly ordained minister is to make the validity of one’s baptism contingent upon another individual. We may suppose a case. A man pastors a church, or a series of churches, for many years during which time he administers the ordinance of baptism many times. After many years, it is learned that he was not really saved during this period, or else that there was something in his life which disqualified him from the ministry. On the supposition that the person whom the church authorizes to administer baptism must be ordained, all these baptisms are invalidated in a moment of time, because they were conditioned upon the qualification of the one who administered the ordinance for the church. Will any Baptist hold to such a theory? On the other hand, if we consider that the sole authority rests with the church itself, then such a case as is supposed above in no way affects all the baptisms performed through the years. Supposing the church in question to be a duly constituted New Testament church, nothing can invalidate a person’s baptism except unworthiness within himself.
We would not be misunderstood in our stand. It is true that most instances of baptism in the New Testament were performed by ordained ministers acting as the agents of the churches. This is because in the ordinary course of church life, the pastor is the servant and spiritual leader of the church and discharges a great deal of the activities of the church. However, where a church does not have a pastor, or the pastor is incapacitated from his office, the ordinances could be administered by any male member of the church whom the church might choose. This is obvious from the case of Philip who baptized the believers at Samaria (Acts 8:5, 12), and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35-39).
Perhaps some will object, "Oh, but Philip must have been an ordained minister, for he is called an evangelist in Acts 21:8." Several things are wrong with such a stand. First, the baptisms which he performed were done immediately after he became a deacon. Second, it was some twenty years later that he was called "the evangelist." Third, the term "evangelist" implies no more than that he was a preacher or missionary. It implies nothing as regards ministerial office or ordination. Fourth, even when he is called "the evangelist," Philip is still known as "one of the seven," ("was" is a present participle of the verb "to be,"—being one of the seven." He was still a deacon). If someone objects that Philip was ordained nonetheless, we reply, in the Fifth place, that he was ordained as a deacon, which office related to the physical and material aspects of the church, and conveyed no authority relative to spiritual things. Therefore, the fact that he baptized can only be justified on the ground that the church has the right to employ and authorize any of its male members to administer the ordinances for it. We say "any of its male members" because a woman could not be authorized to administer the ordinances because to do so would be to give the appearance of her having authority over men, which is clearly forbidden in 1 Timothy 2:12.
The following quotations are given to show that it has been the view of many prominent Baptists down through the years that ordination is not requisite to the right administration of the ordinances.
The person designated by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scripture holds forth to be a disciple, it being nowhere tied to a peculiar Church officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration being given to them as considered disciples, being men able to preach the Gospel.—The Baptist Confession of Faith issued in London in 1643. Quoted by E. T: Hiscox, New Directory For Baptist Churches, p. 380.
It appears to me that every approved teacher of God’s Word, whether ordained the pastor of a particular Church or not, is authorized to baptize. I see nothing objectionable, if, when a Church is destitute of a pastor, it (the Supper) was administered by a deacon, or aged brother. I know of no Scripture authority for confining it to ministers.—Andrew Fuller, Works, Vol. III, p. 494.
Originally every Church member, as such, was an evangelist wherever he could be. As Neander has shown, and all Church history proves, the distinction between the clergy and laity was much less marked at first. In regard to the administration of baptism, this was quite as much the case as in teaching. It belonged to the original priesthood of all, at first, or was, at least, committed to them, except as limited by the Church.—T. F. Curtis, Progress of Baptist Principles, pp. 298-299.
I know that we restrict to the ministry the administration of the ordinances; and to this rule I think there can be no objection. But we all know that for this restriction we have no example in the New Testament.—Frances Wayland, Sermons to the Churches, p. 35.
Suppose, however, there is a Church that has no ordained pastor; I grieve to say that there is so much popery among us that some churches in remote places go without the Supper for years because they cannot get a Baptist priest to consecrate the elements. As to the abstract question whether an ordained minister is necessary for the ordinances. I answer, No. Andrew Fuller, Robert Hall, and all our eminent men were of one sentiment here.—Richard Fuller, quoted by E. T. Hiscox, New Directory for Baptist Churches, pp. 379380.
By whom is baptism administered? The ordinance is in the custody and under the control of the church, and may be administered by any one appointed by a church. It is not an individual act; it is not a ministerial act; it is a church act.—H. G. Weston, The Constitution and Polity of the New Testament Church, p. 35.
It is evident that although the pastor administers the ordinances, this is not his main work, nor is the church absolutely dependent upon him in the matter. He is not set, like an O. T. priest, to minister at the altar, but to preach the gospel. In an emergency any other member appointed by the church may administer them with equal propriety, the church always determining who are fit subjects of the ordinances, and constituting him their organ is administering them. Any other view is based on sacramental notions, and on ideas of apostolic succession.—A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 917.
...(They) are the Body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:27, and a whole Church, 1 Corinthians 14:23. And therefore may, and ought, when they are come together, to Pray, Prophesy, break bread, and administer in all the holy ordinances, although as yet they have no officers, or that their officers should be in prison, sick, or by any other means hindered from the Church, 1 Peter 4:10 and 2:4.—Baptist Confession of Faith of 1611, in W. J. McGlothlin’s Baptist Confessions of Faith, p. 89. (Emphasis mine—DWH.)
For the sake of order and propriety it is becoming for accredited ministers to conduct all public religious services on ordinary occasions, yet ceremonial ordination is not essential to the ministry of the Word, nor to the administration of the ordinances; therefore, a Church without an ordained minister may, with the strictest propriety, direct a private member to administer the ordinances, conduct its services, and preside in its assemblies; and, indeed, this should be done for the edification of the body.—E. T. Hiscox, New Directory For Baptist Churches, p. 346.
Without burdening this chapter with further quotations in regard to this matter, it is necessary only to say that those who hold that an ordained minister is absolutely necessary to the proper administration of the ordinances, make the ordinances to receive their final authority, not from the church, but from an individual, and hence, they exalt a man to higher authority than the church. This is popery! If a properly constituted church cannot administer scriptural baptism when it has a proper candidate, a proper mode, and a proper purpose, then it is not a sovereign, independent, congregational society, but is an episcopal society, and receives its final authority from the preacher. Will any one who believes that the New Testament church was meant to be a sovereign and democratic body embrace this view which subjects it to one man’s authority? Are we to have Baptist popes?
The command for the continuity of baptism, Matt. 28:19, was given to the church, and not to individuals as such. This was a safeguard against the corruption of the ordinance. For an individual to have such authority, might mean he would try to make it . personally profitable as Simon Magus planned to do with the laying on of hand, Acts 8, or as many priests of the Dark Ages did. These latter mercenaries taught that no one could be saved without baptism, then they refused to baptize any one unless they were paid for it. Therefore, there must be proper authority for baptism, and that authority is lodged in the church.
Christ built His church, committed to it the ordinances, and since that day the authority to baptize and to administer the Lord’s Supper resides in the church that Jesus built, not in any priest or preacher on the face of the earth, but in the church. Unless one’s baptism has that authority, it is not scriptural baptism.—W. M. Nevins, Alien Baptism and the Baptists, p. 23.
When Peter baptized the Caesarean Christians, he did not do so on his own authority, but put the question to the members of the Joppa church who had come to Caesarea with him. He asked, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we" (Acts 10:47)? These men doubtless constituted a quorum of the members of the Joppa church, or, for that matter, they might have constituted the entirety of the male membership of that church. In either case, there was church authority behind the baptism of Cornelius and his household.
But not only is church authority a safeguard against the corruption of the ordinance, it is also a safeguard against the corruption of the church. If the membership admits none to baptism, and hence, to church membership, but such as are of the age of reason, and who give satisfactory evidence of having been genuinely born again, then the church membership will never become entrenched with unbelievers. This was the cause of the first great schism which rent professing Christendom. In the Third Century the sounder churches refused to accept the baptism of the laxer churches, and so a separation was brought about. W. M. Nevins says of this:
It was not the mode of baptism that was the point of controversy. Those who opposed the Anabaptists immersed as did the Anabaptists. The controversy arose because the Anabaptists would not accept as valid the immersion administered by these heretical sects, saying they had no authority to baptize, and insisted on immersing the second time all that came to them from these heretical sects. Whereupon, these heretical sects were made angry, dubbed them Anabaptists (rebaptizers) and held some church councils about the matter.—Alien Baptism and the Baptists, pp. 28-29.
That church, however, which admits any and all to its membership without an examination of their experience of grace, or their baptism, soon loses its character as an assembly of called-out ones. When this happens, the candlestick is removed (Rev. 2:4-5), and they no longer have a scriptural baptism to administer.
The exceptions to this rule are to be found only where the Lord Jesus Himself directly authorized an individual to do so. In no place can it be found that an individual ever baptized without church authority, except when the Lord directly commissioned him to do so.
John the Baptist indeed baptized without the authority of a church behind him, but he had his authority directly from God in that he was "a man sent from God" (John 1:6), "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).
The same may be said of Philip who received God’s command to go down toward Gaza to make a disciple of, and to baptize, the eunuch. When his task was finished, he was caught away by the Spirit and conveyed to Azotus where he was to preach the Word also (Acts 8:26-40). However, it is very likely that he was also sent out to do mission work by the Jerusalem church. At least they manifested that they were in full accord with his work (Acts 8:14-15).
In the case of the baptism of Saul, Acts 9, Ananias was commissioned by the Lord Himself to seek out Saul (vv. 10-17). And we find that there were also other disciples at Damascus (v. 19), and these doubtless constituted a church in that place, which would be interested in baptizing any new converts which it made or found.
Though Paul himself seldom baptized (1 Cor. 1:14-17), yet the other members of the missionary party did, but these missionaries were sent out with authority from the Antioch church (Acts 13:1-3; 15:36, 40). But even had this not been so, there were usually enough in the missionary party for them to have been constituted into a church in transit with inherent authority to baptize. Such a thing is not unheard of even in more recent history, for in the early 1660’s a Baptist pastor, John Myles, together with several members of a Baptist church in Wales, migrated to the United States and settled at Swansea, Massachusetts. They even brought their records with them (J. T. Christian, History of the Baptists, Vol. I, p. 375). And in 1701, a Baptist church was organized in Wales with sixteen members, which, together with their pastor, Thomas Griffith, migrated as a church and settled near Pennepek, Pennsylvania.
In every place where the missionaries labored and made disciples, a church is found established so that the disciples could have the ordinances administered unto them. Thus we have mention made of the churches at Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, Laodicea, Colosse, Thessalonica, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philippi, and many other places.
Baptism, then, is an ordinance of God which has been committed to the church to administer to every new convert before his inception into the body of believers. Because of this, baptism has been termed "the door to the church." Some have objected that this is incorrect terminology since there are other requirements for church membership. J. R. Graves takes this stand, and says:
There are the two front doors that are entered, the one by baptism, the other by letters of credit. There is the door of restoration on the right side, and the door of exclusion on the left side of the house; and the trapdoor in the passage, which might be named "dropped," down which go into obscurity all whose names are erased from the church books; and then the great back door—death.—The Act of Christian Baptism, pp. 5960.
It is true that a person can be saved and a member of a church, and can transfer his membership by letter to another church. Yet it is also true that initially, and that is the sense in which we use the phrase "door to the church," a person must have scriptural baptism before he can scripturally hold membership in the church. A person may be saved without becoming a member of a church. He may be saved and a morally good and upright person and still not be a church member. But he cannot be scripturally baptized without becoming a member of a church, nor can he become a member of a New Testament church without being scripturally baptized. This is the only way any person can become a member of a New Testament church, and in this sense, baptism is "the door to the church."
Baptism, in its relation to the believer, is one of testimony. It is first and foremost, a confession of Christ. (1) In it we confess our oneness with Him in death (Rom. 6:3). As the Old Testament saint laid his hand on the head of his offering, saying in effect, "This is my substitute to die in my place" (thus picturing Christ), so the believer today, in his baptism points back to Christ’s death, and, in effect, says, "There is my substitute who died for me." (2) In it we confess that because Christ died for our sins, we have died to sin (Rom. 6:4). (3) In it we confess the truth of the resurrection (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). (4) In it we promise to henceforth "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). (5) In it we express our belief that we shall "be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). (6) In it (as well as in the Lord’s Supper) we set forth Christ "evidently crucified" among us (Gal. 3:1). (7) In it we "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). Notice that the Lord did not say "it becometh me," but it "becometh us." Baptism is a becoming act for God’s people.
The requisites for baptism are a scriptural subject, a scriptural mode, a scriptural purpose, and a scriptural administrator. Eliminate any one of these, and it becomes a defective baptism. Many are the groups which today have no scriptural baptism because they have violated some or all of these requirements. And while this does not necessarily mean that they are not saved, yet it does mean that they do not constitute a true New Testament church. It is an act of wisdom to endeavor to rectify any questionable baptism, as Dr. E. C. Dargan has well said:
Correcting errors in doctrine and practice has apostolic precedent and example. The twelve men who were baptized at Ephesus because what they called baptism had been performed upon insufficient grounds affords an instructive example. The very fact that the exact defect in their case is somewhat obscure lends emphasis to the general position that where a so-called baptism is inadequate or wrong it should be replaced by a baptism properly administered.—Quoted in W. D. Nowlin’s Fundamentals of the Faith, p. 159.
If this seems uncharitable to say, it is because men put a higher value upon supposed charity between men than they do upon real obedience to the Lord, and so, many will disobey God’s Word rather than take a definite stand upon the matter of separation. We believe that baptism is very important to our Christian lives and testimonies, and can never be observed wrongly to God’s honor, nor rightly to His dishonor. May both reader and writer learn to say in all things, as Saul did at his conversion: "What wilt thou have me to do?"
II. THE ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
This ordinance is second both in order of institution, and in order of observance. It is variously denoted in the Scriptures as "The communion of the body and blood of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:16), "The Lord’s Table" (1 Cor. 10:21), "the body and blood of Christ" (Matt. 26:26, 28). In later writings of Catholic and Protestant theologians, it is called "The Eucharist." In modern writings it is commonly referred to this way.
As we have before stated in the introduction to this chapter, this ordinance is not efficacious of life. Yet, on the other hand, it is not an insignificant ritual either. Henry G. Weston truly says:
The communion is the highest act of worship by the church. By it are declared all the distinctive truths of Christianity: that Christ became man; that he died for us; that he now lives at the right hand of God; that he is coming again; that the redeemed and forgiven constitute the body of Christ, one with him and with the Father, living in him, on him and for him. By it are expressed all the distinctive Christian emotions: penitence, faith, peace, love, gratitude, joy. Each participation in it is a wordless confession of faith’s basal principles.—The Constitution and Polity of the New Testament Church, p. 38.
This ordinance naturally follows that of baptism, both in time, and in order, as John Gill says: "The one is preparatory to the other; and he that has right to the one has a right to the other; and none but such who have submitted to the former, ought to be admitted to the latter."—Body of Divinity, p. 915.
Now, as will doubtless be shown by another in this course, and as we have here a right to assume without pausing to give proof, baptism is the symbol of our spiritual birth. The Lord’s supper is the symbol of our spiritual life. We may change this statement, and say, that baptism is the new birth in symbol; the Lord’s Supper, the new life in symbol. Clearly, as the realities are related, so are the symbols. Baptism must precede the Supper, since birth precedes life. And so long as the Supper has place, its correlate must continue. Any other conception does violence to nature.—G. D. B. Pepper, in The Madison Avenue Lectures, p. 96.
The relationship between baptism and the Lord’s Supper is expressed by Abraham Booth as follows:
In submitting to baptism we have an emblem of our union and communion with Jesus Christ, as our great representative, in his death, burial and, at the same time declaring that we "reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God," and that it is our desire as well as our duty to live devoted to him. And as in baptism we profess to have received spiritual life, so in communicating at the Lord’s table we have the emblems of that heavenly food by which we live, by which we grow, and in virtue of which we hope to live forever. And as we are born of God but once, so we are baptized but once; but as our spiritual life is maintained by the continual agency of divine grace, and the comforts of it enjoyed by the habitual exercise of faith in a dying Redeemer, so it is our duty and privilege frequently to receive the holy supper.—Quoted by R. B. C. Howell in Terms of Communion, pp. 46-47.
If baptism has suffered more abuse than anything else in the realm of Christianity, the Lord’s Supper is surely entitled to the second place in the rank of abuse, for it has also suffered grievously. Many of the false theories concerning the ordinance of baptism have been also applied to the Lord’s Supper, and so, before any positive consideration can be attempted, we must first consider the subject negatively and see what the ordinance is not.
"Mother" Rome has for many centuries held this ordinance to be a life-giving "sacrament," and many of her Protestant "daughters" have espoused this view as well. While Rome and Protestantism differ on many aspects of this ordinance, they are generally agreed upon it being efficacious of life to a greater or lesser degree.
The Romish view of the Lord’s Supper, and, indeed of all seven of those rites which she observes as sacraments, was set forth at the Council of Trent, Session VIII, On Sacraments In General, Canon IV, as follows:
If any saith that the sacraments of the New Testament are not necessary to salvation, but are superfluous, and that without them, and without the desire thereof, men attain to God, through faith alone, the grace of justification...let him be anathema (accursed)."
That certainly leaves no room to doubt of the position of Rome in this matter. She not only does not believe in salvation by grace, but she also curses all who do believe in it. Rome, as a general rule, does not look to the Scriptures for her rule of faith and practice, but looks to the writings of the "Fathers," and the rule of "The Church." Hence, her practice is based upon tradition without regard to the injunctions and prohibitions of the Scriptures. Protestantism more commonly seeks to the Scriptures, at least for substantiation of doctrine, even though many of these were received directly from Rome. For this reason, it will be our present duty to examine the passages which are claimed to teach that the Lord’s Supper has something to do with salvation.
"Take, eat; this is my body...this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:26, 28). The view is held that the Lord meant that the bread and the cup were literally His body and blood, and hence, the remission of sins was possible only by partaking of these elements. But this is based upon a false premise, for Christ was yet with His disciples in a bodily form, not having been crucified, buried and raised again. It is ridiculous to think that His body and blood would have been present in two forms at once. This is to be understood in the same sense in which I would say "This is my wife" when referring to the picture which I have in my office. No one would be foolish enough to take this statement literally. "This is my body" obviously means "This represents my body," and any other interpretation leads naturally to erroneous views. Those who take an unbending literal view of this passage, are not so forward to do the same with Paul’s words in Galatians 4:24-25 where he says that Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, yet the words are used in identically the same way with those in Matthew 26:26, 28. It is clear that in both places the word "is" means "represents." In most of the world’s languages the verb "to be" is used in this representative sense. It is a very common usage.
The senses of taste, feel, and sight all tell us that the broken bread, and the cup are not the literal body and blood of the Lord, and only medieval ignorance and superstition, or a blind and unquestioning obedience to priestly authority could partake of the elements as such. Yet much of the religious world blindly follows this erroneous teaching.
John 6:53 and its context has often been used as a proof-text of salvation through observance of this ordinance, but this has nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper, for it had not even been instituted at this time, and therefore this verse would have been totally unintelligible had it had reference to the Lord’s Supper. That no outward rite is under discussion is clear when we consider that the Lord, in verse 47, bases salvation upon faith alone.
In John 6:53 man is commanded to receive and assimilate the fact of the shed blood and broken body of our Lord in like manner as he would receive and assimilate physical food; i.e., he is to receive this fact and make it a basic part of his mental and spiritual attitude. This fact is the very content of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4), and no person can be saved unless this fact has been recognized, and accepted and appropriated personally as one’s only hope of salvation.
The observance of the Lord’s Supper indeed pictures the things set forth in John 6, but the Supper itself is not the fact, and in no way procures life, which is in Christ alone. By our observance of this ordinance, we only give evidence of our faith in that which was accomplished for us long ago. Again, may we say, the passage in no way relates to this ordinance, which was not instituted until some two years late.
There may be other Scriptures which are used in an attempt to show that the Lord’s Supper actually conveys justifying grace, but they are even hazier upon the subject than these to which we have just referred, and as may be plainly seen, the theory breaks down when we compare the two primary sources of this idea with other related Scriptures.
There are several false theories about this ordinance, and what it means. Henry G. Weston sets forth six of the most common theories.
There are six principal theories, other than the Baptist, on the communion. 1. The Zwinglian. "The communion is the commemoration by appropriate emblems of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ." "There is no real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the ordinance; the benefit is produced by the truth presented to the mind in the emblems, exciting religious emotions in the truly worthy communicant, and strengthening virtuous resolutions." "The sacraments are signs or symbols, emblematically or figuratively representing or signifying scriptural truths or spiritual blessings: the reception of these is a commemoration of what Christ has done for sinners, and a profession which men make before the church and one another of the views which they entertain of the great doctrines of Scripture, as well as a public pledge to follow out consistently the views thus professed." 2. The Calvinistic. "A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein by sensible signs Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers"—Shorter Catechism. "Sacraments are signs and seals of the covenant of grace, not only signifying or representing Christ and the benefits of the new covenant, but sealing and confirming them, and, in some sense, applying them to the believer."—Reformers and Theology of the Reformation. "Worthy receivers outwardly partaking of the visible elements of the sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being not then corporally or carnally in, with, or under the wine and bread; yet as really, but spiritually, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses."—Westminster Confession. "It is declared to be an efficacious means of grace; but the efficacy, as such, is referred neither to any virtue in it, nor in him who administers it, but solely to the attendant operation of the Holy Ghost, precisely as in the case of the word. It has indeed the moral objective power of significant emblems and seals of divine appointment, just as the word has its inherent moral power, but its power to convey depends entirely, as in the case of the word, on the co-operation of the Holy Ghost." 3. The German Reformed. "The sacrament is a real communion of the believer with the whole person of Christ, who is truly present by the Holy Ghost. The sacrament communicates grace, and the invisible grace communicated is the substantial life of the Saviour himself, particularly in his human nature." "Christ is not with or under the consecrated elements, but in the entire sacramental transaction, including the formal institution, the administration by the minister, and the actual receiving in faith of the consecrated bread and wine by the communicant; Christ does not communicate himself to the unbelieving and unconverted, but to believers only, who are partakers of his true body and blood, not by the mouth, but by faith."—Bib. Sac., Jan. 1863. 4. The Lutheran. "The true body and blood of Christ are the sacramental objects. The sacramental objects are truly present in the Lord’s Supper."—Heidelberg Catechism. "Their true presence is under the form of bread and wine. Under this form or species they are communicated. Thus communicated they are received by all communicants."—Krauth’s Conservative Reformation. "True," as opposed to his mystical body; his true body, his natural body, his glorified body are one and the same in identity. "Truly present," as opposed to the Calvinistic idea that they are present in efficacy by the Holy Spirit in the believing elect. 5. The High Church Episcopalian. "The bread and wine become by consecration, really and sacramentally—though in an inconceivable manner which cannot be explained by earthly similitudes or illustration—the body and blood of our Lord." 6. The Roman. "The substance of the bread is changed into the body of Christ, that of the wine into the blood of Christ, the accidents remaining the same; under each species (form, kind), the entire Christ is present; and is received by all who partake of the sacrament; by concomitance the blood of Christ is no less under the species of bread than it is under the species of wine, and so of the other."—The Constitution and Polity of the New Testament Church, pp. 39-41.
Basically, there are only two principle theories. That of Rome, and that of the Lutheran Churches, and most of the other theories are little more than variations of one or the other of these two. One thing the reader will notice about all of these theories, is that they are filled with complicated gobbledy-gook language that few can understand, and therefore they all depart from the simplicity of the biblical teaching.
The Romish interpretation of this ordinance is called transubstantiation, and teaches that as the priest repeats the words of institution, the elements are instantaneously and miraculously changed into the real body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also conceived of as an actual, though bloodless sacrifice, and is beneficial only to the ones participating in it. Well might these who offer Christ anew upon the cross each time the "mass" is performed, be said to "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." How truly are these "nigh unto cursing" (Heb. 6:6, 8), for thereby they deny the efficacy of His original sacrifice each time they claim to repeat it. What is needed is not a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice, but a real acceptance by faith of His once for all sacrifice of Himself for sinners.
The formulation of this belief may be traced to the Third Century under Cyprian, the radical bishop of Carthage. It was brought into popular acceptance in the latter part of the Sixth Century by Gregory, bishop of Rome.
Gregory taught that the "eucharist" contributed spiritual sustenance to the participants, without which they could not have eternal life. He also taught that it was beneficial, not only for the living, but also for those who were in purgatory, by hastening their release when offered in their behalf.
It was in 1215 at the fourth Lateran Council that the word transubstantiation first began to be used, but that belief had existed for some time prior to this. The Council of Trent (1545-1563), in Sessions XIII and MI, established once for all that the same Christ who was crucified on the cross, was also bloodlessly contained in the eucharist, and that this sacrifice is "truly propitious," not only for the living, but also for the unpurified dead.
Thus, in an age of ignorance and superstition, when the miraculous was the delight of the unsuspecting masses, this blasphemous perversion of the Lord’s Supper became strongly entrenched. It is still so practiced at the present day with only minor differences, if indeed, any at all.
Catholic theologians have gone to such extremes in regard to the eucharist, as to actually worship the "host" or sacrifice of Christ as contained in the elements, as though it were Christ Himself. This is nothing less than the grossest idolatry. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven..." (Ex. 20:4). This command is no less applicable because the likeness is supposedly of Christ Himself. Let the reader consult Chiniquy’s "Fifty Years In The Church Of Rome" if he would see the depravity of Rome in this matter.
"The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17), but those who must have visible representations before them in order to bring about, or to sustain faith, do not live by faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6).
Since this "sacrament" was believed to convey saving grace, it was, for many years, administered to adults and infants alike by both the Roman and the Greek Catholic churches. In later centuries the former has ceased to give it to infants, because they so often would spit it out and refuse to eat it. This would seem to be a contradiction of principles, for if infants are entitled to baptism, as Rome teaches, then they must also be entitled to the Lord’s Supper. If, on the other hand, they are not entitled to the Lord’s Supper, then neither do they have any intrinsic right to baptism. It must be said of the Greek Catholics that they are more consistent in giving both to infants than is Rome in giving one but withholding the other. Both, however, are founded upon erroneous interpretations, and hence, are wrong in their conclusions.
This ordinance was further perverted by Rome when it began to be taught that the whole Christ was in either the bread or the cup separately, and so, it was not thought necessary to administer both to the laity. This became the official stand of Rome at the Council of Constance in 1415, and since that time the cup has been given only to the priests.
The Lutheran and Anglican churches hold the view which is called consubstantiation, which in many ways, is similar to the transubstantiation view. As the word means, it holds that within the visible elements of bread and wine there co-exists at the same time the literal body and blood of the Lord. The similarity between this theory and that of Rome may be seen in the Anglican view as set forth by A. J. Mason:
After what has been said on the nature of the Sacraments in general, it will not be necessary to state that the Eucharist is no mere repetition of the ideas above set forth, only expressed in symbol instead of language. It is a symbol which actually conveys to the believer the thing symbolized. To use our Lord’s own expression, we "eat Him" in this Divine mystery,—and that, not merely by devout memory and meditation, not merely by a subjective act of faith and love such as might be made at other times and places, but "verily and indeed," because He chooses in this Sacrament "verily and indeed" to bestow His own self upon us.—Faith of the Gospel, p. 306 (Emphasis mine—DWH).
Where Rome held that the natural elements were instantaneously and miraculously changed by the priest, that "at the touch of that more glorious substance which takes possession of them, pass out of existence and are lost, leaving behind nothing but shadowy appearances of themselves, which serve to indicate the Presence of something else instead" (Mason, ibid, pp. 309-310), this second view held that Christ’s body and blood are ubiquitous (everywhere present at the same time), and so, are in the elements of the Lord’s Supper.
It is doubtful if Luther in his early days held this view, since he was concerned with, and held to, a right view of faith. However in his later years, and especially during the peasants’ war when he began to lose his influence with the masses, he seemed to have determined to change the sacraments as little as possible from the then present tradition.
Whatever Luther’s personal view may have been, it is certain that those churches today that are called by his name, as well as certain other denominations, hold this erroneous view. This view, like transubstantiation, is the result of a belief in sacramental grace, which is directly contrary to the scriptural teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone.
If this ubiquitous view were true, then there would be no need for a formal observance of this ordinance. For every time a person partook of any food, yea, even the eating of a bar of candy, or the drinking of any liquid, would be, in effect, the communion of the body and blood of the Lord. This cannot be! Both these views are based upon ritualism which is so important to the unspiritual, and without which the worldly in the churches are unsatisfied. Such soon stray in search of some such form of ritualism which promises them eternal life for the mere observance of a rite, yet which makes no demands upon them morally or spiritually.
Another erroneous view concerning the Lord’s Supper which we might do well to consider at this time, and one which is especially dangerous to Baptists, inasmuch as many have so heartily taken it into their thought and practice, is that of open communion. This is also sometimes called inter-communion, since it involves the sharing of the Lord’s Table with anyone of any denomination who desires to partake of it.
The great inroads which this error has made in Baptist ranks may be seen when we consider how many churches practice it today as compared with the number that formerly practiced it only a century and a half ago. R. B. C. Howell said of this practice when he wrote in 1846:
Individuals have been found in our country, who express doubt as to the propriety of strict communion. A few isolated instances exist of communities who practice upon the opposite principles. But no association, nor even a single church, respectable for either numbers or intelligence, has, within the compass of my information, seceded from the great body of the denomination upon this ground.—Terms of Communion, p. 16.
Those who hold the "open" view, base it upon the universal church theory, and argue that since we are all members of the "great big church," any way, we should never restrict our communion, but leave it open to all who desire to partake of it. Aside from the fact that there is no scriptural support for the idea that there presently exists such a monstrosity as a universal church, this view, if followed to its natural conclusion, and applied to other church matters would destroy a church. This view would have us believe that any outsider, if he professed to be a Christian, could come into the business meeting of any local church and vote, or bring up matters of business, or decide on matters pertaining only to that local congregation, for the principle is the same in all these. In such a case, a disgruntled member could go out and gather up enough friends to vote in any policy he wished in a church.
To open the church doors to communion with those of other denominations is the height of folly, and is a reversal of every stand that Baptists churches have ever taken against the unscriptural practices of those denominations. J. L. Waller says of this matter:
A free-communion Baptist is, in spirit and feeling, no Baptist at all. He not only discards whatever makes us Baptists, but he can not get along without misrepresenting our system, and making it palpable to every one that he cherishes for us a feeling of contempt, and loves all others better than those whose name he bears, and to whose association he affects to belong.—History of Communion, p. 45.
Some indeed would have the Lord’s Supper to be a world ordinance instead of a church ordinance, and would invite everyone, regardless of their spiritual condition or conviction to be partakers together. This, however, is founded on the idea of sacramental grace in the ordinance. Most Protestant creeds express this belief that the communion contributes something toward the salvation of the soul and thereby they deny their own profession of believing in salvation by grace alone. Even a man of such stature as Adam Clark takes this position. He says on 1 Corinthians 11:
Every man who believes in Christ as his atoning sacrifice, should, as frequently as he can, receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. And every minister of Christ is bound to administer it to every man who is seeking the salvation of his soul, as well as to all believers.
There is no justification for the practice of open communion. Its whole theory is based upon erroneous conclusions. Henry G. Weston gives some of the objections to restricted communion, and refutes them as follows:
1. That it is the Lord’s Table. That it is the Lord’s table requires us to invite according to the Lord’s order. The very fact of giving an invitation presupposes that only certain classes are allowed and expected to come. If the table were open to all, an invitation would be superfluous. What belongs equally to all is not the subject of any man’s invitation. The invited in such a case would resent an invitation as an impertinence. The invitation in every case implies the right to exclude.
2. That there is no specific prohibition of the communion to the unbaptized. There is no specific prohibition of baptism to the unbeliever; and if the communion must be open to the unbaptized because there is no prohibition, then baptism is open to the unbeliever for the same reason. There is no express prohibition of baptism to infants, but we do not thence conclude that we may not deny baptism to infants.
3. That consistency requires us to abstain from any participation in any Christian service with those whom we do not invite to the communion. This objection proceeds on the false assumption that the positive exists before the moral and in order to it. On the contrary the moral exists before the positive and in order to it; i.e., repentance and faith exist before baptism and in order to it. Our principle and practice are consistent; we recognize the moral in things that are moral; we recognize the positive in things that are positive. When that which is moral exists without the positive, we give it recognition in the things that are moral.—Constitution and Polity of the New Testament Church, pp. 43-44.
Dr. A. H. Strong turns the proposition around, and refutes the four grounds upon which open communion is thought to be justified. He says:
Open communion must be justified, if at all, on one of four grounds: First, that baptism is not prerequisite to communion. But this is opposed to the belief and practice of all churches. Second, that immersion on profession of faith is not essential to baptism. But this is renouncing Baptist principles altogether. Thirdly, that the individual, and not the church, is to be the judge of his qualification. But this is contrary to sound reason, and fatal to the ends for which the church is instituted. For, if the conscience of the individual is to be the rule of the action of the church in regard to his admission to the Lord’s Supper, why not also with regard to his regeneration, his doctrinal belief, and his obedience to Christ’s commands generally? Fourthly, that the church has no responsibility in regard to the qualifications of those who come to her communion. But this is abandoning the principle of the independence of the churches, and their accountableness to Christ, and it overthrows all church doctrine.—Systematic Theology, p. 980.
Open communion has but one argument to sustain it, viz., sympathy, that, with some kindly minds, outweighs all others. It has neither Scripture, logic, expediency, or the concurrent practice of Christendom, either past or present, in its favor. But to some it seems kind and brotherly to invite a11 who say they love our Lord Jesus Christ, to unite in commemorating His death at the Supper. And to exclude any, or fail to invite all, seems to those sentimental natures harsh, cold, and unchristian. To them, the Supper is rather a love-feast for Christian fellowship than a personal commemoration of Christ’s love by those who have believed upon His name, and been baptized into the likeness of His death. But sympathy should not control in matters of faith, and in acts of conscience.—E. T. Hiscox, New Directory For Baptist Churches, pp. 464-465.
Baptists hold, in common with most of Protestantism, that baptism is a necessary prerequisite to admittance to the Lord’s Table. But Baptists also hold that immersion, as well as the other three elements of scriptural baptism, which have already been discussed, is necessary to the right administration of that ordinance. Therefore, Baptists are forced to the position that if an individual has a defective baptism, that is, if his baptism is lacking in one of the four prerequisites already discussed, he has no right to the Lord’s Table.
We cannot but believe that teaching and faith are intentionally enjoined as the first duty. Baptism, therefore, is intentionally enjoined as the second, and visible church fellowship as the third duty; and we are no more at liberty to invert the order in the latter case than we are in the former. We maintain, then, with exactly the same authority and conclusiveness that baptism should precede communion, as that faith should precede baptism. The two positions must stand or fall together. If we abandon the one it is impossible for us to adhere to the other. The same arguments, consequently, which make us open communionists make us at the same time Pedobaptists. But if we persevere in our principles, and baptize believers only, then it follows that to administer the Lord’s supper to unbaptized persons, even if they are undoubtedly converted, is a manifest violation of the rule by which Christ governs his churches.—R. B. C. Howell, Terms of Communion, pp. 41-42.
Baptists need to recognize that the primary tendency of open communion is the complete destruction of Baptist churches as such. For to let down our convictions is to be assimilated into the Protestant groups which surround us, and which wish to destroy, in one way or another, the evident guilt produced in them by the position held by strict Baptists. On the purpose that Pedobaptists have in desiring to be admitted to our communion, and on the tendency of open communion wherever practiced, Dr. Howell says:
Read all their books on this subject, and the conviction cannot be resisted that they esteem our communion with them as worth nothing except as an acknowledgment of their baptism, or a renunciation of our own—an humble confession that, after all, we are wrong and they are right. Who does not see that all who do this, actually renounce their own principles as Baptists, or practical falsify and dishonor them? Why, then, should any one claim to be still considered as a Baptist, when the mere profession is all he retains, and even this is contradicted and disproved by his whole life and conduct...The strongest advocate open communion ever had [Robert Hall], and all its most discerning friends concur with him, candidly confesses that its universal prevalence would certainly, and resistlessly, annihilate the Baptist church...and finally, that it is ingenuously confessed by its warmest and most able advocates, that were the Baptist church universally to adopt unrestricted communion, we should soon cease to exist as such, and our members find refuge in the little communities around us, the oldest of which did not exist until our church had run a career of fifteen centuries.—Terms of Communion, pp. 120, 128, 267268.
This last statement is proven by all history where Baptists have allowed themselves to be talked into the practice of open communion. In England, all of the Baptist churches which adopted open communion have become little more than Protestant churches, and have departed from historic Baptist beliefs, though some of them have retained the name of Baptist. However, while the foregoing things have great weight, they are not the primary reason why the communion should be restricted. The primary reason is that the ordinance is a church ordinance, and was meant to be observed in and by the local church and its members only. This is sometimes called Close or Closed Communion, but perhaps a better term for it would be Church Communion.
Paul said, "When ye come together in the church" (1 Cor. 11:18). What church? In the only one addressed in the epistle: "The church of God which is at Corinth" (1 Cor. 1:2). The Lord has restricted the ordinance to the local congregation, and for members from other churches to come in and observe the ordinance with them is to testify a lie. The breaking of the "one bread" or loaf (1 Cor. 10:17), testifies that "we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." The outsider who comes in and partakes of the Lord’s Table says by his actions, "I am one of the members of this church, because I am partaking of the bread that it breaks, which symbolizes the unity of this church body." A lie in symbol is no more pleasing to the Lord than a spoken lie.
Where Baptist churches have practiced intercommunion with "those of like faith and order," they have not only violated scripture symbolism in the ordinance, but have laid the groundwork for the practice of open communion. And in many instances, where this was formerly done, one presently finds the strongest holds of open communion.
The same arguments which are valid against open communion are also valid against intercommunion, for the principle is the same in both cases. Being "of like faith and order" does not constitute one a member of every church of that order. If there is a Scriptural justification for intercommunion, there is one also for open communion. E. T. Hiscox, while believing in intercommunion, honestly says:
Strictly speaking, however, the privileges of a Church are coextensive with the authority of a Church. A right to the communion, therefore, is limited to those over whom the Church exercises the right of discipline; that is, its own members...Since the Supper is distinctively a Church ordinance, it is to be observed by churches only, and not by individuals, even though Church members; neither in private places, nor in sickrooms, nor on social occasions, and not by companies of disciples other than churches, though composed of Church members. But a church may by appointment, and in its official capacity, meet in a private house, a sick-room, or wherever it may elect, and there observe the ordinances.—New Directory For Baptist Churches, pp. 139, 140, notes.
Every visible church of Christ may be considered a sacred enclosure that can be entered only in one way. In that enclosure is set the table of the Lord. The Lord of the table has prescribed the terms of admittance into that enclosure. Those who have complied with the terms, and have entered in, are the guardians of the table. They must see that it is approached in the way which the Lord of the enclosure has specified. If they are appealed to change the way of entrance, or to make a new way, or to allow those without to make ways of entrance to suit themselves, they must say with strongest emphasis "THERE IS ONE LAWGIVER"—"WE HAVE NO SUCH CUSTOM, NEITHER THE CHURCHES OF GOD."—J. M. Pendleton, Christian Doctrines, pp. 366-367.
No where in the New Testament do we read of intercommunion between individuals who were members of different churches. Probably the only passage which would ever be advanced in an endeavor to prove this, would be Acts 20:4-7, which, incidentally, is held by the disciples of Alexander Campbell to teach a weekly observance of this ordinance. However, this passage is misinterpreted if it is used in an endeavor to prove either of these theories. J. R. Graves has, we believe, given the true meaning of this passage.
A number of brethren, young ministers doubtless some were, learning of the voyage, and that he would make a stop at Troas, determined to accompany him a part of the way. Luke is particular to give their names. "And there went with him into Asia: Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timotheus, Tychicus and Trophimus"—seven in all Dr. Luke, his companion and writer of the Acts, with Paul, making nine. The seven brethren whose names are given above, going before us (Luke and Paul), waited for us (Luke and Paul) at Troas. And we (Paul and Luke) sailed out from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them—i.e., the seven brethren who were waiting for Paul at Troas—where we (Paul and all this company) continued seven days. (It is not said why they waited: the ship had probably to unload and reload; perhaps the wind was unfavorable; we have no right to add to the "Word.") And on the first day of the week we (this can include only the last mentioned we—this does not mean the Church at Troas, but Paul and his companions, nine in all), having assembled to break bread—evidently a common meal, the supper, the last meal they were to eat together at Troas, for Paul had heard the ship would sail in the morning (I say the meal was their evening meal, for the lamps were lighted), and he continued his discourse to, or conversation with, them (for the word, dialegomai) may mean either; it is not either kerusso or euangellizo, used for preaching) until midnight.
If it was a gathering of the Church and citizens of Troas, would there not have been some mention or hint of it? Then, the place where Paul and his companions had gathered—in the third loft of the house in which they lodged—makes it improbable. The fall of Eutychus interrupted the talk or conversation. Paul went down and brought the boy back to life. Paul returned to the upper room. How much time passed between the going down of Paul to restore the boy and his return to the upper chamber is not stated, but it was, probably, not less than one hour. "Paul ate a full meal," says Dean Alford, "and the others doubtless did the same." This meal was not eaten on the first day of the week, but between one and two o’clock [or later—DWH] Monday morning.—John’s Baptism, pp. 113-115.
There are several erroneous assumptions about the events of this passage in Acts. For example: (1) That there was ever a church at Troas. Scripture is silent about this. It is only an imagined church. (2) That the meal eaten was the Lord’s Supper. "Break bread" is used of a common meal in its first appearance in Acts 2:42, 46, and is more often used of a common meal than it is of the Lord’s Supper. Not only so, but the word "eat" in Acts 20:11 represents a Greek word that is never used of eating the Lord’s Supper. The usage of this word as a modifier of the breaking of bread clearly indicates that this was nothing more than a common meal. (3) That this was eaten on Sunday. It wasn’t, but was early on Monday morning (4) That it was the regular practice of the non-existent church there. (5) That it was the practice of all New Testament churches to so partake each Sunday. (6) That no church could scripturally observe the Lord’s Supper except as this supposed church did. (7) That Paul would, contrary to the inspired instructions that he had given to the church at Corinth, observe the Lord’s Supper in a church of which he was not a member. See then what slender biblical foundations some have for their dogmatic assertions that members of different churches can have inter-communion together, or that this ordinance must be observed on a weekly basis.
There are several proofs that the Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance and is not to be observed except in church capacity, and that there is no justification for intercommunion between members of different churches. J. R. Graves gives the following proofs of this.
1. That each church under Christ is absolutely independent...2. To each local church is committed the sole administration and guardianship of the ordinances...3. It symbolizes church relations, i.e., that all who jointly partake are members of the one and self-same church...4. It was instituted by Christ to be observed as a church ordinance...5. The Lord’s Supper was observed by the apostolic churches (A. D. 100) as a church ordinance; i.e., as a symbol of church relations.—The Lord’s Supper, pp. 9-10.
In like manner, Henry G. Weston answers the question "To whom should the communion be administered?" He says:
To a church of baptized believers. From the nature of the ordinance it can be observed properly only by a church. This commemoration of Christ is not an individual duty to be discharged when and how any one may deem proper. Simply individual duties are not under the control or supervision of the church; no church may order the time or occasion or circumstances of individual prayer, or call one to account for not praying. The communion is committed to the church and enjoined on the church. A member cannot be allowed to celebrate it when and how he will. The most solemn act of the body of Christ is the divinely appointed way of setting forth the unity of Christ, the unity of the body, and the unity of the body and the Head. Hence, the church cannot throw open the doors of the communion, and put the responsibility of partaking upon any who may choose to draw nigh. The church is the custodian and guardian. It must have the opportunity of forming a judgment as to the possession of the qualifications required by the New Testament union to Christ, and union with the body of Christ; and it may rightly invite only those whose fitness has been passed upon by a church whose principles of admission and discipline are those of the New Testament. Privilege and control must go together. In fealty to Him who has erected this memorial of Himself, the church must see that the vital conditions which inhere in the ordinance are preserved just as far as human judgment will allow.—Constitution and Polity of the New Testament Church, pp. 41-42.
With all these things in our minds, we pass now to a positive consideration of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, and we note that, as in the case of baptism, there are four requisites to the scriptural observation of the ordinance. These may be briefly comprehended as: (1) A proper subject, (2) A proper purpose, (3) A proper administrator, and (4) A proper mode. These we will consider in their order.
There are several stated requirements before a person is a proper subject to observe the Lord’s Supper. And these should be the object of examination and reflection, not only by the administrator, but also by the individual himself. For "whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord," and "eateth and drinketh damnation (judgment) to himself, not discerning the Lord’s Body" (1 Cor. 11:27, 29). It is a solemn thing for anyone to come to the Lord’s Table in an improper manner.
The first of these requirements is that the individual be a saved person. If one is not first of all a saved person, he has no right to the Lord’s Table because his affections and allegiances are foreign to the Lord. He may be ever so religious and moral, yet if Christ is not a personal, indwelling reality to him, he is still lost and alienated from the life of God. A dead man cannot observe the Lord’s Supper: "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle" (Heb. 13:10). The Jewish priests were religious, yet so long as they remained in their rejection of Christ, they had no more right to the Lord’s Supper than would a pagan.
If a man does not worship the Lord’s way, there remains but one other way he can be worshipping, and that is the devil’s way. "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils [demons]: ye cannot be partaker of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils [demons]" (1 Cor. 10:21). It is certain from this, and other texts, that all false religion is inspired by demon influence.
It is clear in every place where the Lord’s Supper is mentioned, that it was observed only by those who were the Lord’s disciples. "Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve" (Matt. 26:20). Here, it is also noteworthy that the Lord did not institute the Supper until after Judas Iscariot, a man lost and completely yielded to the devil, had departed their company. This is proven from the order of events. (1) Jesus foretold His betrayal (Matt. 26:20-24). (2) Several, including Judas Iscariot, asked, "Is it I?" (Mark 14:18-19; Matt. 26:22-25). (3) Jesus declared that it was one of those who ate of the passover supper with Him (Matt. 26:23-24; Mark 14:20-21). (4) In answer to John’s question, Jesus pointed out Judas as the guilty one (John 13:22-26). (5) Having done this, Jesus said to Judas, "That thou doest, do quickly," and Judas left, most of the others thinking he had been sent to buy something for the feast, or to give something to the poor (John 13:27-30). (6) Judas went out "immediately" after receiving the morsel from the Lord’s hand (John 13:30). (7) The Lord’s Supper was instituted after this (Matt. 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26).
Most of the religious world sees this ordinance, not as an ordinance for the saved, but as a ritual which has something to do with getting a person saved, or keeping him saved. Dr. Howell sums up the conclusions of a great portion of the religious world in these words:
What, now, is the sum of the argument submitted? The Romanists tell us there is no eternal life without the sacrament of the body of Christ. The Episcopalians, that it is "necessary to salvation." The Presbyterians, that it is an "effectual means of salvation," and "seals" to the recipient "the benefits of Christ’s mediation." And the Methodist, that it is a means of grace and regeneration, and as such to be administered to every man who is seeking the salvation of his soul. Can all this be true? Is not the proof, therefore, perfectly conclusive, that all the Pedobaptist denominations attach to the Lord’s supper an unscriptural and unreasonable degree of efficacy and importance?—Terms of Communion, pp. 212-213.
There can be no commemoration, no remembrance of Christ’s death for us (1 Cor. 11:24), if so be that we have never accepted Christ’s death as actual and effectual for us and to us. If we have so received it, then there would be no reason to look to it as "an effectual means of salvation."
Second, it is required of each participant in the Lord’s Supper that he be scripturally baptized. This is evident from the fact that all those who were at the institution of the Lord’s Supper had been baptized. The church at Corinth, as well as all of the churches of the New Testament, was composed of scripturally baptized believers. Indeed, one could not scripturally become a church member without being baptized into the church body (1 Cor. 12:13), and hence could not partake with the church of this ordinance.
Now, according to this commission, it is evident that the process of discipleship is to be followed so immediately by the administration of baptism as to leave no room for an observance of the Lord’s Supper to intervene. Baptism is the first thing after a person is discipled to Christ. It is the believer’s first duty. It is an open avowal of faith in Christ and of allegiance to Him. It is, therefore, inevitably prior to the Lord’s Supper, an observance of which is no doubt included in the expression, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20)...Thus does it appear that the men who first acted under the commission of Christ understood it as enjoining baptism before the Lord’s Supper. They have left an instructive example, which we are not at liberty to disregard. In view of this example it may be boldly affirmed that the whole tenor of the New Testament indicates the priority of baptism to the commemoration of the Redeemer’s death at his table. Nothing is plainer.—J. M. Pendleton, Church Manual, pp. 94, 96, and Christian Doctrines, pp. 363, 364.
Faith is uniformly antecedent to baptism, and baptism is as constantly required as a preparation for the communion. In the constitution and discipline of all the apostolic churches, this rule is never violated. Can we see all these facts, and fail to be convinced as to the interpretation of the commission received by the first, and inspired teachers of religion? Their recorded example proves that they conducted all their administrations with scrupulous regard to the order of its several requirements. Faith and baptism, therefore, are ordained by Jehovah, unchangeably, as terms of communion, and their position, with respect to each other distinctly fixed, cannot be changed without a flagrant violation of the law of God.—R. B. C. Howell, Terms of Communion, pp. 45-46.
Even Pedobaptists themselves recognize this order. Dr. William Wall in his History of Infant Baptism says: "No church ever gave the communion to any persons before they were baptized. Among all the absurdities that ever were held, none ever maintained that any person should partake of the communion before he was baptized," (Part II, Chapter 9). The same testimony, in essence, is given by Mosheim, Neander, Cave, Bingham, Baxter, Doddridge, Schaff, Coleman, etc. Dr. F. G. Hibbard, a noted Methodist scholar of the past well says:
In one principle Baptist and Pedobaptist churches agree. They both agree in rejecting from communion at the table of the Lord, and in denying the rights of Church fellowship to all who have not been baptized. Valid baptism they consider as essential to constitute visible church membership. This, also, we hold. The only question, then, that here divides us, is, What is essential to valid baptism? The Baptists, in passing a sweeping sentence of disfranchisement upon all other Christian churches, have only acted upon a principle held in common with all other churches—viz., that baptism is essential to church membership...Of course, they must be their own judges as to what baptism is. It is evident that, according to our views, we can admit them to our communion, but with their views of baptism it is equally evident that they can never reciprocate the courtesy; and the charge of close communion is no more applicable to the Baptists than to us, insomuch as the question of Church fellowship with them is determined by as liberal principles as it is with any other Protestant churches—so far, I mean, as the present is concerned: i.e., it is determined by valid baptism.—Christian Baptism, pp. 171, 175.
Failure to recognize baptism as requisite to the observance of the Lord’s Supper is due in large part to the mistaken notion that baptism itself is not important, or that it is optional with the new convert. Too many people judge responsibility by present day practice rather than by the Lord’s command. There is no indication in Scripture that First Century converts were ever asked "Do you want to be baptized?" It was expected of every saved person. There was, and still is, the obligation on the part of every saved person to follow the Lord’s first command, and to show before the world his discipleship and submission to the Lord. "And they, having received His word, were baptized..." (Acts 2:41), literal rendering. "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 so might we cite many other examples, but these are typical. Conversely, there are no Scriptures indicating that new converts were not baptized, or even that they put off being baptized for any length of time. This was a corruption that crept in at a later date. We believe, then, that it is beyond all controversy that baptism is a definite requisite to participation in the Lord’s Supper.
The third requirement of those who would observe this ordinance, is an orderly walk devoid of offense to one’s fellow church members. It is noteworthy that in conjunction with the institution of this ordinance, and immediately after its first observance, the Lord gave a new commandment to the disciples. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).
The Apostle Paul was also inspired to command "That ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly..." (2 Thess. 3:6). And again, "For what have I to do to judge them also that are without [outside the membership]? Do not ye judge them that are within [inside the membership]? But them that are without [outside the membership] God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:12-13).
This relates to serious breaches of Christian conduct and fellowship, but there is also the standing command for orderliness between church members, with individual responsibility to correct any breaches of fellowship. The responsibility rests both with the offender, and with the offended to seek reconciliation. If, after having privately sought to clear up the breach, either one refuses to be reconciled, the one seeking the reconciliation is to take one or two others with him to seek reconciliation. If this fails, the church is to be asked to step in and seek to reconcile the two parties. If this fails, the church is to exercise discipline upon the obstinate one by excluding him from church fellowship. He is to be unto them "as a heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:15-17; Luke 17:3-4).
As to this matter of orderliness before participation in the Supper, it was to correct the "divisions" in the Corinthian church that Paul wrote concerning the ordinance. The man who is at variance with his brother is in no more condition to partake of the ordinance than is the man who is not right with the Lord.
The fourth requirement is related to the foregoing. The participants are to examine themselves. Self judgment averts Sovereign judgment. "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup" (1 Cor. 11:28). This has been completely misunderstood by some people, who assume that this is the primary, if not the only, requirement for participation in this ordinance. They presumptuously declare that "I have examined myself and feel that I am qualified to eat of the Lord’s Supper, and therefore you have no right to forbid me to join you in the communion."
As is so often the case with misinterpretations, these lift the verse out of its context and interpret it completely apart from its setting, thus violating the interpretative principle set forth in 2 Peter 1:20 (literally "Of its own interpretation"). Self-examination is not only not the only or the primary requirement, it is almost the last of several requirements which precede and predetermine whether one is qualified to come to the Lord’s Table. The one who is here commanded to examine himself is one who has already passed the qualifications of being: (1) Saved. (2) Scripturally baptized. (3) A member of the church observing the ordinance. (4) One who is not guilty of any moral aberrations, like those in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, with such persons the church was "not even to eat." (5) One who is not guilty of any disorderliness regarding fellowship with fellow church members. Thus, self-examination is at least the sixth requirement, to which a seventh will be added.
This responsibility to "examine yourself involves one’s attitude toward the ordinance and whether one is partaking "in an worthy manner," or in an "unworthy manner." However, the examination of one’s attitude toward fellow church members also enters in, since we are exhorted to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," by having "all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Eph. 4:2-3). "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Ps. 133:1). And again, it is not possible to show love to our Lord when we do not show it to our brethren. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he had not seen?" (1 John 4:20).
It is in order here to comment upon the words "eateth and drinketh unworthily," for some overly scrupulous souls, who misread this verse, construe it to refer to the personal worthiness of the participant. And, recognizing their own sinfulness, refrain from ever observing the Lord’s Supper, thus disobeying Jesus’ command to do this is remembrance of Him. Suffice it to say that personal worthiness is never made a qualification for participation. If it were, there could never have been any one who was entitled to partake of this ordinance. Yet Jesus Himself has commanded all his disciples to partake of it: (Matt. 26:26). Here "all" modifies "ye," not "it"—all of you drink of it. To understand what it is to eat and drink unworthily, we must pay close attention to the language here. In the inspired originals Scripture is always very precise. It is not "unworthy"—an adjective, which would be required if this was dealing with the person partaking—but "unworthily"—an adverb, which modifies the verbs "eat" and "drink," and so, has to do, not with who does it, but with how it is done.
It does not say that if unworthy, and we eat and drink we are guilty of the body and blood of Christ, but if we eat and drink "unworthily"—an adverb and not an adjective—and we should rejoice that it is so, for we are all unworthy to be accounted the friends, much less the brethren and sisters of Christ and children of God. No man that ever lived was worthy of such an honor. The fearful threat is to those who eat and drink in an improper manner, in violation of the laws of the ordinance—in a word, "not discerning the Lord’s body."—JR. Graves, What is To Eat And Drink Unworthily? pp. 61-62.
The word "unworthily" has to do with the attitude of the one observing this ordinance. It warns against observing it with wrong motives, or observing it for other reasons than those intended by the Lord: "not discerning the Lord’s body." It is common to hear unspiritual people extolling the Lord’s Supper because "it reminds me of my godly mother," or "it causes me to think about our baby that died," or "it thrills me to see such wonderful unity among Christians of all different denominations." Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! The Master said "This do ye in remembrance OF ME" (1 Cor. 11:24). Christ must occupy our minds as we partake of this ordinance. Let anyone or anything else usurp His central place in it, and it becomes an eating and drinking unworthily, and endangers the health and life of the violator.
Before we come to the Lord’s Table we should examine ourselves as to whether (1) We are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). (2) We have been scripturally baptized. (3) We are members of the church observing the ordinance. (4) We are in fellowship with the church, the pastor and each member of the church. (5) Our life is orderly. (6) We are partaking of the ordinance for the right purpose (to be more fully considered afterward), and in the right attitude. These are all requisite to a scriptural subject for communion.
Next we come to consider the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, and there is a definite purpose in this. To substitute any other purpose than that for which our Lord instituted the ordinance, is to corrupt it, and make it nothing more than a mere formal ritual and tradition of man, which neither honors the Lord, nor edifies His people. Paul sets several things before us relative to the purpose of the ordinance in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26. "For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said Take, eat: this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come."
We notice, first of all, that Paul puts the authority for this ordinance where it belongs—with the Lord. It was instituted by the Lord for His own purposes. It was not hearsay with Paul; he received it by revelation from the Lord. "For I have received of the Lord..." See also Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3, et al., where he shows that he was taught numerous things by direct revelation from the Lord.
There are four purposes set forth in this passage of Scripture relative to this ordinance, and these are to be our reasons for observing it. To do otherwise is to corrupt the purpose of the ordinance.
The first purpose for which we should observe this ordinance is to be found in the words "this do ye." Here is an express command from the Lord Himself. Those who obey the Lord, show thereby that they are His disciples in deed and in truth, for the unbelieving "profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Tit. 1:16). "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?" Luke 6:46. How it must grieve the heart of the Lord because this beautiful ordinance is observed by so many as a mere formality. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he is that loveth me..." (John 14:21). Christians have his command to observe this ordinance; we prove our love to Him if we observe it as He has commanded.
The second purpose for observing the Lord’s Supper is that of remembrance. It is a memorial! "This do ye in remembrance of me." We are to remember the Lord! Man, frail creature that he is, often forgets, and so the Lord has set this ordinance in the church as a beautiful reminder of His love to us. With the wise man we may say, "Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chamber: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee" (Song 1:4).
Our remembrance is to be: (1) Of the Saviour Himself. (2) Of His great love for us which manifested itself in His voluntary submission to the cross where His body was broken, and His blood was poured out, an atonement for sins. (3) This backward look should also bring to our remembrance the dreadful state from which He has redeemed us, and should turn our hearts upward in praise to Him. May our minds ever see in the Lord’s Supper the Man of Galilee hanging in our place upon the tree.
We find, in the third place, that this ordinance has an evangelistic aspect about it, for we are told, "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death…" The word translated "shew" is kataggello, which appears in the Greek New Testament seventeen times, and is translated ten times as "preach," three times "shew," twice "declare," once "is spoken of," and once "teach." We are given the blessed privilege of preaching the gospel before all in symbolic form. "Ye do shew the Lord’s death!" We declare before the world, "There is my Sacrifice! There is where my sins are! There is my passport to glory!" "Ye do shew the Lord’s death! Not always before the world, for there may be none in the assembly at the time but believers; but we still "shew the Lord’s death" and encourage and edify each other in the faith. In this ordinance we "evidently set forth Jesus Christ, crucified among" us (Gal. 3:1).
Finally, there is a prophetic purpose in the Lord’s Supper. "Ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come." This was revealed to Paul by the ascended Christ. It was He who said "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore..." (Rev. 1:18).
"Till he come!" Then He is coming again! His words of comfort to the disciples just before the crucifixion were not idle words. He meant them. And the broken bread and poured out cup are to constantly remind us, not only of the past glory, but of the future glory as well. "In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3). "Till he come" is our answer to the skeptic, the critic, the infidel, and the atheist, who asks, "Where is His promise now. Almost two thousand years have passed, and He has not come." Our faith is in His word. We "do shew His death till He come" as He assuredly will. "For yet a little while and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:37). "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).
The next requisite is that of a scriptural administrator. No individual has the right to administer this ordinance any more than an individual has the right to baptize any one. The sacerdotal denominations believe the priests have the intrinsic right to administer the ordinances, and that their office sanctifies the operation. Such an idea has no basis in the New Testament.
Only a New Testament church has the authority to administer the ordinances, and it is only administered mediately by someone whom the church has appointed to do so. As a general rule, the pastor of the church is the agent of the church to discharge this, since the whole church could not do this without confusion, but in the absence of the pastor, any male member of the church could be appointed to administer the ordinances.
Many people look upon the ordinances as being only Christian ordinances, to be administered by and to Christian individuals as such. For this reason it is common to see a minister with his portable "eucharist" bag enter into a home or hospital to administer this ordinance in a private way. But no such example can be found anywhere in the New Testament. Every instance of this ordinance in Scripture is an observance in corporate capacity only. Speaking of 1 Corinthians 11:23-24, A. H. Strong says:
Here Paul commits the Lord’s Supper into the charge, not of the body of officials, but of the whole church. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, therefore, are not to be administered at the discretion of the individual minister. He is simply the organ of the church; and the pocket baptismal and communion services are without warrant.—Systematic Theology, p. 906.
Paul censured the Corinthians because they came together "not for the better, but for the worse" (1 Cor. 11:17), for when they came together in the church, they had divisions amongst themselves which made it impossible for them to scripturally observe the ordinance. Because of this, he said in verse 20, according to the literal reading, "Coming together therefore in one place, it is not [possible] to eat the Lord’s Supper." That is, there could be no scriptural observance of the ordinance so long as the church itself was rent by schisms (v. 18), immorality, (v. 21), and ignorance of the true meaning of the Supper (vv. 27-29). Had the ordinance been nothing more than an individual Christian ordinance, Paul’s censure of the whole church would have been out of place. In this, however, he comprehended a violation of a church ordinance, and not merely an individual ordinance.
The Lord’s Supper, as a church ordinance, is to be administered by the church to its members through one of its members whom the church has appointed. At the first institution of this ordinance, it was "the great Shepherd of the sheep," the Lord Himself, who distributed the elements, and generally now it is the "undershepherd" who acts as the organ of the church in this matter. However, it does not necessarily have to be so, and the fact that no scriptural example is given of someone being specifically appointed to administer this ordinance is evidence that no particular person is necessary for the proper administration of it. And the fact that in most churches the deacons assist in the distribution of the elements is proof that they are not considered prohibited from this work, and so, they could, in the absence of a pastor, or if he were incapacitated, be designated by the church to administer it.
Since we have already discussed this at length in the section on baptism, it will not be necessary to go into it again. It is sufficient to say that the Scripture does not give any intimation that the church’s agent in the administration of the ordinances must be ordained. And it is a violation of the basic principle of Baptists, namely, that the Scriptures are sufficient as our rule of faith and practice, to "go beyond what is written," and require what the Lord has not required.
When we recognize that it is the church that has the authority for administering the ordinances, and not any individual, then we will see how that it doesn’t make so much difference whether the ordinances are actually administered by a pastor, a deacon, or only a lay Christian.
Some, indeed, would seek to press Acts 2:46 into service as a proof of individual observance of the Supper apart from church capacity. But: (1) As the latter part of the verse tells us, this was not the Lord’s Supper, but was a common meal. "And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they did take their food with gladness and singleness of heart," as the R. V. more literally renders it. (2) Even had this been susceptible of proof that it was the Lord’s Supper, the context (v. 44) shows that the believers were a very close-knit group, and this still could have been in church capacity. (3) Many early churches met in homes (the people are the church, and not the building), even as new churches sometimes do today until they have a regular building in which to meet. And so, the partaking of the Lord’s Supper in a private home would not rule out it having been done in church capacity.
Inasmuch as it is a church ordinance, to be observed in the local body, it is no reflection upon any individual from another church, nor upon any other church, to restrict the ordinance to the members of that particular church only. It is simply obedience to the Lord and to the apostolic example. Those who go beyond this in their "charity" or "broadmindedness," do so to their own confusion. The symbolism of this ordinance demands a local participation only (1 Cor. 10:17).
There is not a great deal written in the New Testament concerning this ordinance, but there is certainly enough for us to have a sufficient pattern for our observance. And to go beyond what is written in the matter, whatever the motive may be, is to exalt human wisdom and supposed charity above the wisdom and charity of the Lord Himself. To say that an individual has authority to administer the Supper to others, or that individuals, as such, have a right to observe it, or that church members from diverse churches have a right to come together and partake of it, is to say what the Scriptures do not say.
The next requirement for a scriptural observance of the Supper is that which we might well term the proper mode. This deals with the proper elements, time, order and the perpetuity.
The elements are the "bread" and the "cup." Taken together, they are symbolic of spiritual sufficiency, for bread and drink are the two things which are absolutely required for physical sustenance. In using these two in the memorial Supper, the Lord left a continuing testimony to Himself as the sufficient Saviour.
The bread which was used in this ordinance was an unleavened loaf of bread, probably of wheat flour, for Paul says, "Therefore let us keep. the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:8). As such, it would be a true symbol of the Lord in His humanity, for He was indeed a lamb "without blemish" (Ex. 12:5), He "hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23:41), but "was made sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21).
This bread was also to be a "loaf which could be broken up into portions for each of the participants, thereby picturing the unity of the church in observing the ordinance. A small individual wafer for each communicant can never adequately convey the symbolism demanded in the ordinance. The breaking of the loaf pictures, not only the unity of the church (1 Cor. 10:17), but also the breaking of the body of Christ upon the cross (1 Cor. 11:24).
The word "cup" is a metonymy for something to drink, and had it been left by itself, would have left the usage open to almost any kind of drink. However, it is further modified by the term "fruit of the vine." This is a metonymy for the extract of the grape. Neither of these expressions give any indication at to whether this expressed liquid of the grape was to be fermented or unfermented. Both forms were common in Palestine in the First Century.
The only symbolism required by the phrase "the fruit of the vine" is that of being crushed so that it might be "poured out" (Luke 22:20). And it pictured, not the blood as it flowed in Christ’s veins, but as it was poured out at the foot of the cross. Christ’s sinlessness is pictured in the unleavened bread, and hence, there was no necessity for this sinlessness to be pictured again in the "cup." Scripture is silent as to the "cup" ever symbolizing the purity of Christ’s blood. If this is held, it is a going beyond what is written, and could not be symbolized by either grape juice or fermented wine, both of which have a degree of leavening in them, but the latter a much higher degree of it, as we will shortly see.
There have been many arguments as to whether fermented wine were necessary to the proper observance of this ordinance. J. R. Graves and others take the affirmative, and argue at great length to prove that the Greek word oinos (wine) in the New Testament is always fermented. This is not so, as William Patton shows.
Biblical scholars are agreed that in the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the word oinos corresponds to the Hebrew word yayin. Stuart says: "In the New Testament we have oinos, which corresponds exactly to the Hebrew yayin." As both yayin and oinos are generic words, they designate the juice of the grape in all its stages. In the Latin we have the word vinum, which the lexicon gives as equivalent to oinos of the Greek, and is rendered by the English word wine, both of which are generic. Here, then, are four generic words, yayin, oinos, vinum, and wine, all expressing the same generic idea, as including all sorts and kinds of the juice of the grape. Wine is generic, just as are the words groceries, hardware, merchandise, fruit, grain, and other words...But the misery and delusion are that most readers of the Bible, knowing of no other than the present wines of commerce, which are intoxicating, leap to the conclusion, wine is wine all the world over—as the wine of our day is intoxicating, and there are none other.—Bible Wines, or The Laws of Fermentation, pp. 52, 53.
In proof of the same thing, Ferrar Fenton, cites Anacreon, who wrote some five hundred years before Christ, who said "Only males tread the grapes, Setting free the oinos (wine)," after which he concludes:
Here, at this early period, we see that the juice of the grapes was called (wine) oinos. And all sane persons know that the juice of the grapes is not intoxicating. Nothing is clearer to those who have studied this question than that the Hebrew word yayin and the Greek word oinos were, as Professor Sir R. Jebb says of oinos, general words in those early days, and were used to describe sometimes the fruit on the vines, the juice in the grapes, the juice when it was being pressed out, when it was preserved in an unfermented state and therefore unintoxicating, and when it was fermented and intoxicating.—The Bible And Wine, p. 26.
The same author again says: "According to Professor Samuel Lee, of Cambridge University, the root of the Greek word is undoubtedly the Hebrew vocable, Yayin, Wine; which, as I have before shown, under the sections of my essay devoted to the philology of that Hebrew noun, was not confined to an intoxicating liquor made from fruits by alcoholic fermentation of their expressed juices, but more frequently referred to a thick, non-intoxicating syrup, conserve, or jam, produced by boiling, to make them storable as articles of food, exactly as we do at the present day...Consequently the contention of some of my correspondents that the Greek oinos, always meant fermented and intoxicating liquor is totally inaccurate, and only arises from ignorance, or prejudice in favor of the delusion of the commentators of the Dark Ages, who fancied drunkenness was the highest delight, and intoxication an imperative Christian practice; because Mohammedan Arabians were a sober people.—ibid., p. 4.
Advocates of fermented wine in the Lord’s Supper urge the following reasons why they believe this is necessary: First, because the symbolism of the ordinance demands that the "cup" be pure in order to symbolize the purity of Christ’s blood, and these say that the process of fermentation "purifies" the grape juice of any impurities. Answer. Any standard Encyclopedia will tell a person that fermentation does not purify grape juice of leaven. Fermentation is itself a product of leaven, and fermented wine contains yeast cells in large numbers. The writer realizes that quotations have been made from encyclopedias which seemed to contradict what has been said, or rather, were manipulated so as to sound as if they contradicted this. But the writer believes that the reader will agree that there is no higher authority so far as human writings are concerned, than the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the reader is encouraged to read what this authority has to say under the article "Wine." We venture to make one quotation concerning this.
As the character of a wine depends to a considerable extent on the nature of the yeast (see FERMENTATION), many attempts have been made of late years to improve the character of inferior wines by adding to the unfermented must a pure culture of yeast derived from a superior wine. If pure yeast is added in this manner in relatively large quantities, it will tend to predominate, inasmuch as the number of yeast cells derived from the grape is at the commencement of fermentation relatively small.—Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition. Article: "Wine."
The following things will be noted from this: (1) Yeast and fermentation are associated together, for the reader is referred to the article on "fermentation" to find out about the yeast. This same authority, under the said article refers to the fact that fermentation and putrefaction are analogous processes, the former being, in fact, a particular case of the latter. The only purifying that is done in fermentation is purifying of the yeast (leaven) culture, so that it is a "pure" culture of yeast. Let it here be said that many of the advocates of fermented wine in the Lord’s Supper mistakenly take the word "pure" in this context in an absolute sense—free from all that is bad—but that is not the meaning. Any standard dictionary will show that "pure" primarily means "free from anything that adulterates, taints, impairs, etc." (Webster’s New World Dictionary). A "pure" leaven is still leaven. It is only leaven, without a single thing to detract from its leavenous nature. Fermentation has only made the wine more leavenous than it was before. It has not purified it in any good sense. (2) It is also stated in the above quotation that "a pure culture of yeast" is derived from a superior wine, which indicates that wines have not been purged of leaven, but actually have a high degree of leavening in them. (3) It is also mentioned that grapes have yeast cells in them, but that the number of these is relatively small until fermentation is induced into them. Therefore it is certain that there is a degree of leavening in the "cup" whether it is fermented or unfermented, which only establishes what we have before said, namely, that the only required symbolism in the "cup" is that of being crushed out, which symbolized the shedding of Christ’s blood. There is not a single passage of Scripture to indicate otherwise, and those who declare that there is, are going beyond what is written, and following a figment of the imagination. "But it is reasonable to conclude..." it may be argued. However, let us never forget that there are many things which seem "reasonable" to the fleshly mind, which are, nonetheless contrary to the Revelation of Truth that God has given to us.
So much for worldly authority relative to whether wine is "pure" or not. But we are not to be swayed by human authority unless it harmonizes with divine truth. Therefore, what saith the Scriptures? Advocates of fermented wine for the Lord’s Supper say that only fermented wine is "pure," but the Scriptures declare otherwise. During Israel’s wilderness trek it is said, "Thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape" (Deut. 32:14), which cannot be anything else than the juice of the grape. This is proven from Genesis 49:11: "Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes." This indicates that the "pure blood of the grape" is not found in the vat, but in the vine. The fact that it is called "wine" here proves nothing, for the Hebrew word yayin, is, as before noted, generic in meaning. According to Young’s Analytical Concordance it means only "what is pressed out." It could, or could not be, fermented as the case might be. In this instance, it could not be, since it was still in the vine. A further proof that the "pure blood of the grape" was not fermented is found in Deuteronomy 29:6. "Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the Lord your God." Throughout their wilderness journeyings, God fed the Israelites on manna, and they drank grape juice as they found the vines in their travels. This ought to suffice for any Bible believer as to what is the pure fruit of the vine.
But this ordinance being of a symbolic nature, if the fruit of the vine must be purified from its natural state, does this not suggest that Christ’s blood was not naturally pure, but had to undergo some sort of purification? But if the natural juice of the grape is relatively the purer of the two, then it exactly harmonizes with what we know to be Christ’s state. The fact that there are a few yeast cells in the natural juice of the grape only indicates a truth that often comes before us, namely, that there is nothing that can perfectly symbolize the Son of God, for He is infinitely purer than any created thing.
A second reason advocated for using fermented wine is that this was what was used at the Passover which was celebrated immediately before the Lord’s Supper was instituted. Answer. The reader will probably be amazed, as was the writer, to learn that wine was never made part of the passover celebration by Divine command or example. That the Jews often used wine in their celebration of the passover may or may not be true. But this in no way proves that it was used by Jesus and the disciples. It was never commanded to be used, and if the Jews used wine, it was a corruption of the original institution of the passover: To assume that Jesus and the Twelve used fermented wine is a purely gratuitous supposition. Too many people assume without proof that fermented wine was part of the passover. Consider the argument that is thus advanced to obligate Churches to use fermented wine in the Lord’s Supper. Though there was no Divine command to do so, the Jews presumptuously began to use wine in the passover celebration, corrupting their observance of it, as they so often corrupted other Divine institutions. Therefore if New Testament churches are to be scriptural in their eating of the Memorial Supper, they must follow the unbelieving Jews’ practice of presuming to change the Lord’s command and add to the passover what was never commanded, and they must use fermented wine in the Lord’s Supper though Jesus said not a word about doing so. That is strange reasoning!
But the question as to whether "wine" always refers to the fermented product of the grape is indifferent to the matter at hand. Those who argue that "wine" always is fermented miss the point entirely, for this word is never applied to the "cup" of the ordinance. That which is always used in reference to this ordinance is either "cup" or "the fruit of the vine," and neither of these prove anything relative to the fermented or unfermented condition of the liquid element. There were common Greek words in the First Century for fermented grape juice. If fermented wine is absolutely necessary to the scriptural observance of the Lord’s Supper, why then did the Lord not use one of these words and forever set the matter at rest in the beginning, knowing, as He must, that a controversy would develop over this. Why did He use a term which demanded nothing more than that the "cup" be the extract of the grape, if so be that fermentation were absolutely necessary to the right observance of this ordinance. The answer is that it is not necessary to the ordinance. That is an assumption that is based upon unscriptural ideas and wrong interpretations. We need to always hold only to plain Scripture truth.
A third argument that advocates for fermented wine in the Lord’s Supper use is drawn from 1 Corinthians 11:21. It is thought that the fact that some were drunken in the Corinthian church proves that fermented wine must have been used in the Lord’s Supper there. "Were they drunken on grape juice?" it is scornfully asked. Answer. The Greek word methuei sometimes means inebriated, but also often has no other meaning than to be satiated or overfull, as in Lamentations 3:15, where the Greek Septuagint has this word. Patton, in the book quoted above, which we highly recommend on this subject, shows several instances where this word is used in the Bible in exactly this way, and where the meaning can only mean satiated, and not inebriated. In 1 Corinthians 11:21, this word is obviously used in contrast with "hungry." The opposite of hunger is not drunkenness, but overfullness. Here, the rich members evidently made the Lord’s Supper a feast. The majority of the church, being of the poorer sort, and not able to have a satiating feast as the rich did, would be separated from them, and might envy the rich, and even resent them. And thereby a schism was created in the church, making a united observance of the Lord’s Supper impossible.
However, even if we grant that these were drunken, as this word often means, it proves nothing as to the character of the "cup" used in the Lord’s Supper, for this drinking did not take place during the Communion service. Notice carefully the wording. In verse 20 it had already been pronounced that it was impossible to eat of the Lord’s Table under the circumstances. The reason is given in verse 21: "For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper," which relates to a regular meal that had just been eaten. The result of this regular meal is "one is hungry, and another is drunken." The drinking which produced the drunkenness, if such there was, was done at a meal eaten before the observance of the Lord’s Supper, which situation invalidated a right observance of the ordinance. It proves nothing as to whether they ordinarily used fermented wine in the Lord’s Supper, nor even whether they used it on this sad occasion.
On the other hand, William Patton quotes from chemists to show that:
The unalterable laws of nature, which are the laws of God, teach these stern facts: 1. That very sweet juices and thick syrups will not undergo the vinous—fermentation. 2. That the direct and inevitable fermentation of the sweet juices, in hot climates with the temperature above 75 degrees, will be the acetous (become vinegar instead of wine—DWH). 3. That to secure the vinous fermentation the temperature must be between 50 degrees and 75 degrees, and that the exact proportions of sugar and gluten and water must be secured. 4. That all fermentation may be prevented by excluding the air, by boiling, by filtration, by subsidence, and by the use of sulphurs.—Bible Wines, or The Laws of Fermentation, p. 22.
Patton further quotes from many ancient writers to show that these methods were all known and commonly used to preserve the juice of the grape without fermentation. Indeed, some writers record in minute details the recipes for doing this. The boiling or inspissation method was especially common, the juice often being reduced to a very thick consistency insomuch that sometimes as much as twenty parts water had to be added to one part syrup in order to have a good drinking consistency. This explains the Bible references to "mixed wine." It was often mixed with water, not to reduce its alcoholic strength, but to reduce it to a good drinking consistency.
Another argument intended to justify the use of fermented wine is taken from Paul’s advice to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23: "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities." It is assumed from this that Paul was doing basically the same thing that a modern doctor does when he prescribes some medicine that has a small alcoholic content. However, research into ancient writings reveals that this was not an alcoholic wine at all, but a non-alcoholic "wine" specifically concocted for stomach troubles. Ferrar Fenton gives as the literal rendering of the above verse: "No longer drink water alone, but use with a little wine for the stomach, because of your frequent infirmities." He says of this:
"Stomach wine," or "wine for the stomach," the old writers upon Greek medicine tell us, was grape juice, prepared as a thick, unfermented syrup, for use as a medicament for dyspeptic and weak persons, and there cannot be a doubt but that was the "wine for the stomach," the Apostle told his friend to "use" a little of it mixed with water, which it is evident that Timothy, like other pious Jews of that period, restricted himself to.—The Bible And Wine, p. 15.
Some of these facts presented by Patton and Fenton have compelled this writer to modify his thinking concerning this matter. There was a time when it was thought that during the winter seasons, the only way people could have the "fruit of the vine" was by having it in a fermented form. But the commonness of the numerous other methods of preserving the liquid of the grapes totally eliminates the need to ever use any fermented form of the grape. And there was a time when it was thought that though fermented wine was not required in the ordinance, it might be used, though not the preferred form. That thought has now become questionable to the writer. Fenton lists in separate columns the constituent elements in both the unfermented fruit of the vine, and the fermented wine, then shows that the three main constituents of the former, Gluten, Gum and Aroma, do not appear in the latter. He then says:
Thus it will. be seen that by a triple process of destruction, addition, and abstraction-the result of fermentation—grape juice loses all the essential qualities of "THE FRUIT OF THE VINE." It should be specially noted that, in parting with its gluten and gum, and with nearly the whole of its sugar and albumen, the nutritive and life-sustaining qualities of the fluid are destroyed, for it is to these constituents that grapes owe their value as human food. Thus it is demonstrated that ALCOHOLIC WINE is not the "FRUIT OF THE VINE."—The Bible And Wine, p. 23.
The writer is a Baptist, and therefore firmly believes in the Baptist principle of "the sufficiency of the Scriptures for our rule of faith and practice.’ Therefore, until someone can show a clear-cut command to use fermented wine, or else can prove without exception that every church in the New Testament used fermented wine in the ordinance, we must maintain that only grape juice is actually the Biblical "fruit of the vine" that is enjoined upon obedient Bible believers in the Lord’s Supper.
There now comes before us the time element of the Supper, of which a great to-do is often made by those who tend to be sacramentalists, who say that a weekly observance is necessary to sustain our spiritual life. This is, of course, based upon a false interpretation of the ordinance.
The Divine word in the matter is "as oft." Nothing morel Certainly it should not be observed so often that it completely loses its significance. A pastor friend was once considered as a pastoral candidate for a church that held to a weekly observance of the ordinance. He significantly declared: "I don’t think there is a church on earth that is spiritual enough to observe it weekly without it losing its significance." But neither should it be observed so rarely as to be relegated to the position of an unimportant rite. As often as a church desires to commemorate the death of Christ, and can do so without it becoming a mere ritual, that is how often it may be observed. The only Scripture that seems to indicate a weekly observance of this ordinance is Acts 20:7, and we have already proven that this has no relevance to the Lord’s Supper. So far as this writer knows, no other Scriptures have ever been cited in regard to the time element.
A sacramentalist once said that the reason a certain Baptist deacon was sick was because he was not "partaking" often enough. Yet, 1 Cor. 11:30, which he cited in proof of his allegation, has nothing to do with the time element. It is those who partake "unworthily"—in an unworthy manner—who partake, but wrongly—which are "weak and sickly…and sleep" in death. The Lord nowhere commands a definite frequency for the Supper, and therefore He cannot hold anyone responsible for observing it infrequently, all other things being right. Remember: sin consists solely in the transgression of Divine law (1 John 3:4), and where no law exists, God holds none guilty (Rom. 4:15 ff; 5:13 ff). This principle, if consistently applied, would eliminate a lot of false guilt, and would inspire a lot of true guilt.
The Scriptural order of the observance of the ordinance may be briefly comprehended as follows. (1) The giving of thanks. "And he took bread, and gave thanks..." (Luke 22:19). (2) The bread is broken and distributed to the members of the church wishing to participate. (Wafers cannot suffice here. A whole loaf is needed in order to be broken.) "...he brake it, and gave unto them..." (Luke 22:19). (3) The symbolism of the bread is explained and it is received by the disciples. "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me," (Luke 22:19). (4) "And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks..." (Mark 14:23). (5) The cup is divided among the participants. "...he gave it to them," (Mark 14:23). (6) The symbolism of the cup is explained, then it is received by the participants. "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the New Testament (Covenant) in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:20). "...this do ye as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:25). (7) The prophetic aspect of the Supper is explained. "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26). "But I say unto you, I will not henceforth drink of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). (8) The congregation is dismissed without prayer by the singing of a hymn. "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out" (Matt. 26:30).
The perpetuity of this ordinance is to be seen in the words, "ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come..." This ordinance is binding upon the Lord’s churches so long as they exist, or, in other words, until the return of the Lord when all true believers, and, consequently, all true churches, shall be taken out of the world. It is indeed held by some that Matthew 26:29 refers to a kingdom observance of the Lord’s Supper, but this is doubtful since there will be no need for a commemorative ordinance when He who is commemorated is physically present. Nor is there need for a prophetic ordinance since the prophecy will then have been fulfilled. The Supper is a communion between the disciples and Christ, and this verse speaks, no doubt, of that time when actual, physical communion between Christ and His disciples shall have been restored.
Much the same may be said of Luke 22:29-30: "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The table here mentioned, we believe, is not the table of the Lord’s Supper, but refers to an actual, literal, feast. Certain it is that after our Lord’s resurrection He partook of physical food (Luke 24:41-43). Why then should it be thought impossible for the resurrected and glorified saints to also partake of food?
Israel too, at that time will "sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree" (Micah 4:4), and will sow, plow, reap, and eat and drink of his gardens during the kingdom age (Amos 9:13-14). Shall not we, who are Gentiles in the flesh, but Israelites through the Spirit (Gal. 3:7-9; Eph. 2:11-13), also be partakers of the fatness of the natural olive tree (Rom. 11:17, 24)?
The Lord’s Supper commemorates an absent, though soon to return, Saviour. But when He has come there will be no need to recall Him to our remembrance, for then He shall be present with us, and too, we shall then have new bodies which are not so forgetful and negligent as ours now are.
The two ordinances are symbols. They are truth in a visible form. They are not "mysteries" as they have been called in the past, but these are often abused and misused. However there is no excuse for such, and it happens only because of an ignorance of their import and purpose.
I repeat the important truth that, like every other department of the divine service, communion has its laws by which it must in all respects be governed. To violate them in its observance, is a contempt of the authority from which they emanated, and in consequence of such dereliction, where it exists, this part of sacred devotion, and it would be true of any other similar circumstances, ceases, at once to be an act of either faith, obedience, or worship.—R. B. C. Howell, Terms Of Communion, p. 116.
The Lord has left these two ordinances with His church to be observed by His church, as such, and we have no right to observe them in any other way than what He has ordained. Some years ago this writer felt moved to express it as follows:
What a blessed privilege is ours to show,
Our oneness with Christ while here below.
We show it in pictures too plain to mistake,
In our burial in water, in the bread that we break.