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Why They Believe It

by J. G. Bow, D. D.


Baptists believe that baptism is the dipping, immersion in water, in the name of the Trinity, of a believer upon profession of faith, by one duly authorized by a church of Jesus Christ to perform such service.

All denominations admit this to be scriptural baptism, yet many claim it is not the only baptism. Others claim the act may be pouring or sprinkling water upon the person. Many, that unconscious, irresponsible infants are proper subjects to receive baptism; some even claim that it is necessary to salvation.

There is no doubt about the immersion of a believer being scriptural baptism. All admit it. All denominations accept it as such. There is of necessity great doubt about anything else being baptism. Then why be in doubt when you can be sure you are right? Baptists never doubt the scripturalness of their baptism.

Besides, Paul says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all," etc. Now if you believe Paul, or the Holy Spirit, when he says "one Lord, one faith, one God," why doubt his word or contradict him when he says one baptism? If immersion is baptism, then sprinkling and pouring are not baptism. Only one is, can be, right.

The word baptidzo is not a translation of the word used in the original, but only transferred, only one or two letters in the Greek being changed.

I could give you the names of more than forty Greek lexicons, all of which give as the primary meaning of the word to dip, to immerse, and no standard lexicon gives any definition to the word which is really at variance with this accepted meaning. None of them give sprinkle or pour as a meaning of the word.

Besides, if you substitute sprinkle or pour in any of the passages and attempt to read it, you will find it will not fit. Take Mark 1:5, "And were all sprinkled of him in the river of Jordan;" or "were all poured of him in the river of Jordan." But it is correct to say: "Were all immersed or dipped of him in the river of Jordan."

Affusionists sprinkle the water, not the people; so if sprinkling is baptism, then it is water, and not the people, baptized.

In all Greek literature the word baptidzo means to dip, plunge, immerse. Dr. Conant has collected about seventy-five passages from profane Greek literature in which the word occurs, and in every instance the meaning is plainly the same as in the Scriptures, namely, immerse.

The Greek is a very precise language, having a word for every shade of meaning, so much so that often nice shades of meaning in Greek cannot be clearly expressed in English. In Greek there is a distinct word for sprinkle, but it is never used in a single passage where baptism is mentioned. The same is true of the word for pour.

The Greek language has, like all others, undergone many changes, but the Greeks today, knowing the meaning of their own language, adhere strictly to immersion for baptism. Even the Presbyterian missionaries in Athens today are compelled to practice immersion even upon infants, as the Greek church has always done. Baptidzo means to dip just as much as the English word "dip" does.

Leading scholars of all denominations have frankly acknowledged that the scriptural and apostolic baptism was immersion. Dean Stanley, one of the most prominent of the Episcopal clergy of England, said: "For the first thirteen centuries the almost universal practice of baptism was that of which we read in the New Testament, and which is the very meaning of the word "baptize," that those who were baptized were plunged, submerged. immersed into the water. The change from immersion to sprinkling has set aside the larger part of the apostolic, language regarding baptism, and has altered the very meaning of the word." He frankly acknowledges that in the days of Christ and the apostles, the word did not mean to sprinkle, but to immerse.

John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian church, in its present form, said: "The very word baptize, itself, signifies to immerse; and it is certain that immersion was observed by the ancient church." Commenting on the baptism of the eunuch, he says: "Here we perceive how baptism was administered among the ancients, for they immersed the whole body in water."

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, on Romans 6:4, says, "We are buried with him, alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion."

Martin Luther says: "For to baptize in Greek is to dip, and baptizing is dipping. Being moved by this reason, I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether dipped into the water, as the word doth express, and as the mystery doth signify."-( Works. Wittemb. Ed., vol. 2, p. 79.)

Cardinal Gibbons, Roman Catholic, says: "For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity, baptism was usually conferred by immersion, but since the twelfth century the practice of baptizing by affusion has prevailed in the Catholic Church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than baptism by immersion."-Faith of Our Fathers, p. 275.

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica, in the article "Baptism," vol. 3, p. 351, says: "The usual mode of performing the ceremony was by immersion. . . . The council of Ravenna, in 1311, was the first council of the church to legalize sprinkling by leaving it to the choice of the officiating minister." We could multiply such testimony from those who practice sprinkling, but space forbids. If any honestly believe that Christ did ordain sprinkling for baptism (though certainly in that case it would never have been called baptism), I can respect them for following their convictions, but when they admit Jesus was immersed, and commanded his followers to follow his example, and yet say, I prefer to do something else, it looks to me like willful disobedience.

In our next chapter we will show from the Scriptures the proof of our position.

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