Saturday, December 2, 2006

Does NT baptism correspond to OT circumcision?

One of the reasons why there is widespread disagreement over whether or not the children of believers should be baptized is that many of those who believe in infant baptism see a connection between the Old Testament practice of circumcision, a rite which was administered to believers and their children, and infant baptism in the New Testament. Many who oppose infant baptism see little or no connection between these two sacraments. Usually, those who oppose infant baptism tend to be dispensationalists, while those who gravitate towards providing the rite of baptism to babies also come from a reformed background. There are, of course, exceptions. Some baptists oppose infant baptism, yet adhere to reformed theology. They're known as Reformed Baptists.

Before I continue, let me briefly define two terms: Dispensationalism and Reformed Theology.

Dispensationalism is a system of biblical interpretation formalized in the nineteenth century by John Nelson Darby and later popularized by the publishing of the study Bible of C. I. Scofield and the establishment of Dallas Theological Seminary by Lewis Sperry. It is the foundation of what is known in eschatological studies as premillenialism and involves the division of history into (usually) seven distinct periods of time known as "dispensations". Twentieth century writers such as John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, and Charles Ryrie brought the doctrines of Dispensationalism into mainstream scholarship, which are often summarized by Ryrie's famous "sine qua non", i.e., his statement of the three primary tenets of the system. These are: 1) a clear distinction between Israel and the Church, 2) literal interpretation of Scripture, and 3) the glory of God as the primary goal of history.

Reformed Theology
Reformed theology is at variance with dispensationalism. Those in reformed circles find only the third of the above principles to be valid. God's glory is clearly the driving force behind all things. But those adhering to Reformed Theology believe, among other things, that there is only one people of God, rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant, united in Christ, and consisting of both Jew and Gentile.

The terms "reformed" and "Calvinist" (referring to John Calvin, the reformer best known for his view on predestination, also known as divine election) are sometimes used interchangeably. However, John MacArthur is both a 5-point Calvinist and a dispensationalist. He is a Council member of The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc., a reformed organization and close friend of many reformed theologians, yet he, unlike most reformed theologians, does not believe Old Testament circumcision is the New Testament equivalent of baby baptism. Quoting MacArthur:

"I reject infant baptism [because] it is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision."

MacArthur goes on to say:

"Now don’t get too carried away here; this isn’t going to be as complicated as you think. Infant baptism is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision. Now, let me give you the bottom line. Infant baptism says this. This is the theology of it: the old covenant sign was a baby circumcised. That introduced them into the covenant. So, we need a parallel. The parallel sign is baby baptism. That’s in the new covenant; that introduces them into the new covenant. Sounds good. In the old covenant, they had a circumcision which introduced them into the covenant community. In the new covenant, we have the baby baptism which introduces the infant into the covenant community. That’s the logic. "

"You know what? Those two things just don’t go together ever in the Bible. It’s a nice thought; just isn’t Biblical. Scripture never makes that connection. There’s not a verse they could point to. There’s not a passage they could point to, either by explicit terms or by implicit. There’s not one place in the Bible where baptism is ever connected to circumcision, period…no place.

So, any connection is purely manufactured. So, without Scriptural support, without Scriptural connection, they infer that baby baptism is the new covenant equivalent of old covenant circumcision. Now, let me make a very simple few statements so you’ll understand just exactly what the difference is."

"It’s true. In the Old Testament, little boys, on the eighth day after their birth, were circumcised. Girls weren’t so that poses a real problem in paralleling the new covenant since girls can come into the new covenant too. But, little boys were circumcised the eighth day. Now, that introduced them—listen carefully—that introduced them into an earthly, temporal community of people. That introduced them into the nation Israel, as it were. It was physical and it was temporal. That’s what it was."

"In the new covenant, there is no "physical" community. We don’t have a nation; we don’t have a land. We aren’t a duly constituted people, ruled over…We don’t an order of priests. We don’t have a king. We are a spiritual community. There’s a big, big difference. Circumcision was the sign of ethnic identity. It was the physical participation in the temporal features of the Abrahamic covenant. Listen carefully: it didn’t have any spiritual implications at all. None! Because most of the people who were circumcised—the vast majority of Israelites who were circumcised, went to hell. You understand that? They rejected the true and living God; they worshipped idols. Right? That’s the history of Israel. In the present, most of the Jewish people, who are circumcised, will perish without the knowledge of God. In the future, two-thirds, it says, of the nation Israel, will be purged out and be judged eternally by God and He’ll save a third and bring them into His kingdom. The vast majority of Jews will perish without the knowledge of God."

"Not all Israel is Israel. What did God say? Circumcise your—hearts. You see, the spiritual promises and realities that God offered Israel didn’t come to them by any right or ceremony or ritual. All circumcision did was mark them out as a part of the nation Israel. They entered into the physical participation, the ethnic identity, the temporal features of the nation Israel that was under blessing, promised by God to Abraham. It was an earthly blessing, not salvation. That’s why Paul said, "I was circumcised the eighth day and that’s manure. That did nothing for me savingly; I was on my way to hell and I had been circumcised," Philippians 3.

A person born in Israel of Abrahamic seed was physically related to temporal, external privileges; nothing more. Now you come into the New Testament—the new covenant—this is dramatically different. There is no physical participation. There is no temporal, earthly feature attached to this—we don’t have a land, we don’t have a place. Under the old administration, the Abrahamic covenant during the Mosaic era, you entered the earthly, natural, covenantal community by birth, and by circumcision you took the sign of that people. But, there was a small remnant in Israel that really believed, wasn’t there? They entered into the special, spiritual blessings."

"But, in the new covenant, there are only those who believe, there are only those who have come by repentance and faith. This is not the same at all. There is absolutely no connection. All in the new covenant are believers. All in the new covenant know God. Now, if the early church thought that baptism was a replacement—baby baptism was a replacement for circumcision—why isn’t that in the New Testament?"

"And then, why did the Judaizers who were going around telling everybody they had to be circumcised, why didn’t Paul say to them, "Hey, you guys, that’s over; baptism has taken it’s place. We don’t circumcise babies, we baptize them." He could have put an end to the deal with just one comment. Now, why would they go into the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15 and had this big, long debate about what do we do about the circumcision…what do we do? Why didn’t somebody just get up and say, "Oh…no, no. That’s out and baby baptism has taken its place." That’s never said. Nobody ever says that."

"The Abrahamic covenant had a unique feature: circumcision. All that meant was you identified with the nation of Israel. Circumcision had a second benefit: it was physically beneficial. Up until very modern times, Jewish women had the lowest rate of cervical cancer of any people in the world because circumcision does help prevent the passing on of certain diseases. God knew that that would be a preservative in His people and He wanted to preserve His people Israel because of His ultimate purpose for them. Also, it was a sign of how desperately they needed to be cleansed on the inside…it’s symbolic of that. But, the point was it just introduced you into the nation; it didn’t save you. There is no parallel to this in the New Testament. There is nothing that sort of ushers you into some earthly group. There’s just the believers and they’re all in the new covenant. "

"You see, Jeremiah 31:34—Jeremiah in 31, is talking about the new covenant. Listen to what he says; here’s the character of the new covenant, they are very different from Israel under the old. Here’s what he says; this is the most salient feature of the new covenant. Here it is—Jeremiah 31:34, "They shall all know Me." That’s the difference. Under the old covenant, they didn’t all know God. They didn’t know Him. Remember when Jesus came, He said, "If you knew My Father, you’d know Me," didn’t He? "You don’t know My Father, you don’t know Me."

In the new covenant, they all know God. You’re not even in the new covenant unless you know God and the only way to know God is through Christ. That means that all those who are members of the new covenant community know God savingly. Membership in the new covenant is limited to those who have been saved. Jeremiah is making a dramatic statement here. He’s saying, "I know under the old covenant there were lots of folks who had the sign of the covenant, there were lots of folks in the covenant community who didn’t know God. But, in the new covenant, everybody in it is going to know God. That’s distinctive. That’s conclusive. Circumcision was never a spiritual sign of anything. Baptism is a spiritual sign of true inclusion in new covenant salvation by grace through faith."

(This message was delivered by John MacArthur Jr., of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. It was transcribed from the tape GC 80-194: "A Scriptural Critique of Infant Baptism." A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE.)

I consider John MacArthur to be one of the finest Bible teachers around. I listen to him often, have read some of his books, and have learned a lot from him for which I am truly grateful. But I have to disagree with him on this point.

I believe that the best refutation I've found so far to MacArthur's position is from a web article entitled A Biblical Response to John MacArthur, Jr.’s “A Scriptural Critique of Infant Baptism by Bob Vincent." The entire article is found at:

A Rebuttal to MacAthur's Position

Let me finish by quoting Vincent's article, which is a response to John MacArthur's rejection of infant baptism as a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision.

In many ways, this is the crux of the matter, because the practice of infant baptism—and many other New Testament doctrines, such as the Trinity and justification by faith—rests squarely on an Old Testament foundation. Remove that foundation, and infant baptism collapses.

How should we view the Old Testament? Should we reject it as having nothing to say to us today? Or should we obliterate all distinctions between the two Testaments? I believe that we should avoid both extremes. The Old Testament is related to the New in the way that a bud is related to a flower and an acorn is to an oak. The people of God in the Old Testament are compared to children; in the New they have come to adulthood. (Cf. Galatians 4:1-7.) Two extremes must be avoided as we deal with the Old and New Testaments: that of an extreme kind of Dispensationalism that sees little connection and continuity between the Old and New Testaments, on the one hand, and an approach that flattens Redemptive history, on the other, as if there were no true and radical significance to the Cross. A biblical approach to the two Testaments comprehends that there is virtually nothing “new” in the New Testament, because it is all rooted in the Old Testament, but it also understands that virtually nothing from the Old Testament comes into the New without being transformed in the work of Christ.

Our attitude toward the Old Testament should be like the Lord Jesus’. Think of the number of times our Lord established his teaching by quoting from the Old Testament. Many people seem to overlook what the Lord Jesus himself said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17.)

But how is the Old Testament fulfilled in the New? Let us take as an example the Old Testament celebration of the Passover. After having given elaborate instructions about selecting the Passover lamb, God told his people, “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants.” (Exodus 12:24.) How are New Testament believers to carry out this commandment? Are we to slaughter lambs today, or are we simply to abandon the Passover ordinance completely? We are to celebrate it, says Paul, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival. . . .” (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8)

Christian people have continued to observe the Passover for almost two thousand years; they do it every time they break the bread and drink the wine in the Lord’s Supper. And just as Old Testament believers purged the leaven out of their houses, so we must purge out of our hearts “the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness.” (1 Corinthians 5:8.)

This idea of fulfillment is written large over the doctrines and practices of the Old Testament. The power of the Holy Spirit brings the inner meaning of Old Testament institutions to greater significance. This new, heightened Spirituality often involves some modifications in the outward form.

What is true of the Passover is true of other Old Testament institutions: the kingdom promised to David is fulfilled in his Son, Jesus Christ, who sits at the Father’s right hand in glory and subdues all nations unto himself by pouring out his Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. (Cf. Acts 2:29-36.) The bloody death of Jesus on the cross fulfills the Tabernacle with its bloody animal sacrifices. (Cf. Hebrews 9 and 10:1-22.) The glorious Temple of the New Covenant is composed of the people of God, whom the Holy Spirit indwells. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17.) However, God has made modifications: the heavy veil separating sinful man from a holy God is gone; it was ripped apart as the flesh of the Son of Man was ripped on the cross. (Cf. Matthew 27:51 and Hebrews 20:19, 20.)

The Old Testament emphasis on the family is not done away with under the New Testament. While there are dimensions to the family motif that are expanded in the New Testament, unlike such things as the Passover and the Temple, the earthly family connection is reaffirmed alongside the Church as the new family of God and not simply fulfilled in it, for example: “The promise is for you and your children . . .” (Acts 2:39.) “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household . . .” (Acts 16:31 ) and “I also baptized the household of Stephanas . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:16 .) As with other New Testament institutions, baptism does not exist simply as a New Testament phenomenon; it is the Spiritually enriched, outwardly modified continuation of an Old Testament ordinance, circumcision. What is the real meaning of circumcision, and how is it fulfilled in baptism? The most basic significance of circumcision lies in the historical fact that Jesus was circumcised for us. The real circumcision of Jesus did not occur when he was eight days old but in his thirty-third year. A rabbi’s knife did not carry it out, but iron spikes and a spear on a Roman cross. The Bible had prophesied all of this centuries before. In the prophecy of the seventy weeks Daniel foretold, “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off” (Hebrew: karath.), referring, of course, to the crucifixion of Christ. (Daniel 9:26.) But this cutting off of Christ on the cross pointed to his suffering the judgment due to those who had broken the divine covenant.

When God made his gracious contract with Abraham, he cut (karath.), or established that covenant—not only with Abraham, but with his descendants as well. (Genesis 15:18.) In time God expounded on the meaning of that agreement in greater detail. His promises are sure to all who believe, but God warned that the one who does not respond to this contract “will be cut off (karath.) from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14.)

God gave an outward reminder and seal of confirmation of this covenant: “Every male among you shall be circumcised.” (Genesis 17:10.) They cut off the foreskin to remind the people of the blessings and obligations of the contract. It was a symbolic way of saying, “May I be cut off in damnation, if I do not live up to this covenant.”

As Moses was about to enter Egypt , God sought to kill him because he had failed to perform this ordinance on his son. (Exodus 4:24.) How could he expect God’s blessings on his mission when he had flagrantly disregarded God’s ordinance? “But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off (karath.) her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me’ she said. So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said ‘bridegroom of blood,’ referring to circumcision).” (Exodus 4:25, 26.)

As we know from reading the history of God’s people in the Old Testament, they broke God’s contract with them repeatedly. The wrathful judgment of God was stored up over nearly two millennia until it came crashing down in full brunt on him who took the place of the covenant breakers, Jesus Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21.)
The crucifixion of Christ is not only the reality of circumcision. It is also the reality of baptism. Jesus, in looking ahead to his death on the cross, asked James and John, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38 .) On the cross Jesus drank to the last bitter dregs the cup of God’s wrath. As our Savior hung on the cross, he was baptized with the judgment of a holy God against human sin. He was circumcised by the fury of divine justice as his life was cut off.

The Apostle Paul unites circumcision and baptism (the Old and New Testament signs of membership among God’s people.). After reminding the Gentiles of the total sufficiency of Christ to save them, Paul tells them: “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11, 12.)

When Jesus died on the cross, all believers in all ages, both Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free, were circumcised with him. So, too, were we all baptized with him. That is the connection between circumcision and baptism, the death of Christ on the cross for our sins. Because of the substitutionary death of Christ as our curse-bearer, we may wear the sign of judgment as a token of God’s favor. The Old Testament believer received circumcision as a token of God’s grace; so today, our baptism is a seal of God’s kind intention toward us because his justice was satisfied on the cross.

Some people seem to think that circumcision was little more than a sign of national identification, a kind of glorified pledge of allegiance to the nation of Israel . Scripture, however, does give us a clear understanding of the significance of circumcision. Perhaps the fullest treatment on the subject is found in the Book of Romans. There Paul tells us: “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.” (Romans 2:28, 29.) The meaning of circumcision, then, is not some outward thing; it points to the work of the Holy Spirit in giving a new heart. Circumcision reminds us of the individual’s need of being born a second time.

Paul tells us further that circumcision is a sign of being justified by faith. He reminds us that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:11.) In other words, Abraham believed, he was justified by faith, and then he received God’s sign and seal of this in circumcision. Sometimes people are married and cannot afford a wedding ring. Some years later they buy a good set of rings and begin to wear them. They are no more married now than when they were poor. But now they have an outward sign, a token of their true state. Abraham was right with God the moment he put his trust in him. He was no less saved before circumcision and no more saved after it. The important things about circumcision are the Spiritual realities to which it points: the new birth and justification by faith.

To be circumcised was to wear a sign that said, “I am a believer; I have been born again; God accepts me as holy and righteous; He has established his covenant promises with me.” It was to bear the seal of God’s ownership. To be circumcised was to say that Christ would die for your sins and to confess that you were united to him as he is offered in the gospel, the same gospel which was preached to Abraham. (Galatians 3:3.) Abraham was circumcised because he looked forward with rejoicing to the day of Christ. (John 8:56.)

What can be said about the real meaning of circumcision can be said about the real meaning of baptism, because baptism is New Testament circumcision. Under the New Covenant the gospel encompasses all nations and is not limited to one race as it was, for all practical purposes, under the Old Covenant. This is part of the reason why females also receive the seal of faith alongside males today. As with the other great symbol of the Old Testament, the Passover, so with circumcision: blood had to be shed. However, the death of Christ has fulfilled the shedding of blood, once for all time, on the cross. The outward form of circumcision is different from that of baptism, but the inward meaning is the same.

This presses us to the great objection to infant circumcision: how could the Lord command Abraham to dedicate his children to God by placing on them a mark which symbolized that they were believers, born anew by the Spirit, justified by faith? Yet that is exactly what God commanded him to do in Genesis 17:9-14. And it was Moses’ failure to carry out this commandment which so angered God that he sought to kill him before he entered Egypt . (Exodus 4:24 ff.)

Whatever God’s reasons, we see that every objection which people have raised against infant baptism may also be raised against the practice of circumcision in the Old Testament. It is not our place to object to God’s commandments. It is our place to submit to his will in all things. Why did God command us to do this?

God told Abraham to place the mark of divine ownership on his household because it was God’s purpose for them to belong to him: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7.) The Bible brings the same thought out hundreds of years later, on the plains of Moab, as God’s people were about to enter the promised land: “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6.) Deuteronomy 30:6 had both a present and a future meaning for Moses’ hearers.

Had we been among the adults standing there on the Plains of Moab, we would have understood Moses’ words as having a direct and present application to us, as well as to succeeding generations of our people. We would have understood the promise to us and our descendants in Deuteronomy 30:6 the same way we understood the admonition to us and our descendants in Deuteronomy 30:19, 20, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

We would have understood this promise about heart circumcision in light of what Moses had said to us earlier in Deuteronomy 10:15, 16, “Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.”

Do these blessing and curses point to a distant future? Yes. But they also point to an immediate future, long before the time after the return from the Babylonian Captivity. Would not Naomi have understood her journey into Moab with Elimelech and her return with Ruth to be a fulfillment of the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy?

Heart circumcision was very much the emphasis of the Old Covenant. Of the some six hundred cases where the Hebrew Bible uses the word, LEB, “heart,” a significant number of verses point to the need of a godly heart, one that could only exist after a heart was circumcised. For example, Solomon confessed that his father David was “upright in heart.” And Psalm 7:9, 10 implores, “O righteous God, who searches minds and HEARTS, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in HEART.”

The Old Testament itself indicates that there was an inner reality to circumcision that no one possessed simply because his prepuce was clipped. That is why Jeremiah admonished some physically circumcised descendants of Abraham that they needed to experience the reality of circumcision by means of a sovereign work of grace: “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it.” (Jeremiah 4:4.)

‘“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh—Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.”’ (Jeremiah 9:25, 26.)

Romans 9:6-8 describes the situation that existed under the Old Testament: ‘It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel . Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.’ As it was then, so it is now: there is always the true people of God within the visible people of God. Our prayers must be that both our children and ourselves are truly part of God’s people.

What is the Proper Mode of Baptism? Immersion, Sprinkling or Pouring?

Baptists claim that baptism by immersion is the only valid mode of baptism. Baptizo, the Greek word for baptize, can supposedly only refer to immersion, never to sprinkling or pouring. Those on the other side agree that baptizo can mean to immerse, and often does mean to immerse. But they contend that it can also mean to pour or sprinkle.

Who's right and who's wrong?

While surfing the web, I came across a very provocative article entitled: CHRISTIAN BAPTISM and ITS MODE, written by Dr. Thomas Ralston and edited by Mr. Trent Corbett. The entire article can be found at:

Let me paraphrase and summarize Dr. Ralston's findings.

Baptists strenuously contend that immersion is essential to baptism. They have closed the door of their communion against all unimmersed Christians, refusing to recognize them as members of the visible church. Ralston sees the Baptist position as "extreme," producing a "painful and pernicious schism in the body of Christ." Ralston believes that since there has long been a fierce conflict waged upon the mode of baptism, we should conclude that this is one of those minor questions which "divine inspiration has not seen proper to furnish us explicit and positive testimony." I agree with Ralston that there is profound wisdom and Christian charity in allowing each Christian to come to their own conclusion on this issue. After all, if the greatest Christian minds of the past few centuries are divided on this issue, why should Christians be forced to violate their conscience on a matter that is so ambiguous? Quoting Ralston: "Let every adult person and the parents of every child to be baptized have the choice either of immersion, sprinkling, or pouring."

Ralston affirms that "it must be admitted by the candid and unprejudiced mind that, after close and thorough investigation, no explicit and positive testimony can be found in the Scriptures prescribing either immersion, sprinkling, or pouring, as the only proper mode of water baptism. We may find a large preponderance of probably or presumptive evidence in favor of one particular mode derived from facts, circumstances, analogies, allusions, etc.; and this may rationally satisfy the mind, and give to one mode a decided preference, but we cannot find positive and undoubted proof that either immersion, sprinkling, or pouring, is the only proper mode for the administration of the ordinance."

According to Ralston, the Scriptural arguments on both sides are derived from the following sources:

I. The meaning of the Greek words used to express baptism.

II. The Scriptural instances of baptism.

III. Scripture's allusions to baptism.

I. Greek words used to express baptism
The word employed in the Greek Testament to express the action of baptism is baptizo, which comes from the root bapto. It is contended by immersionists that these words and their derivatives used in Scripture for baptism always express immersion, and can never signify sprinkling or pouring. On the other hand, Pedobaptists maintain that the words in question, though they frequently do express immersion, yet often signify sprinkling or pouring. From this it is clear that, if either party could establish their own position to the satisfaction of their opponents, the controversy would be ended; for the positions here assumed by the respective parties are perfectly conclusive on the question when satisfactorily sustained. Observe, the point at issue is not whether baptism means immersion, or whether immersion is its primary meaning; but is immersion the only meaning of baptism?

To decide this question, so far as the words referred to in the Greek New Testament are concerned, an array of Greek lexicons has been paraded. Scapula, Hedericus, Schleusner, Schrevellius, Parkhurst, Suidas, Wahl, Robinson, Groves, Greenfield, Donnegan, and others, have been quoted. The immersionists have very satisfactorily proved by the testimony of all these witnesses that baptizo means to immerse, and by several of them that to immerse is its primary meaning; but this has not ended the dispute. Indeed, as contended by Pedobaptists, the point at issue has not been reached. We farther inquire of these witnessing lexicons whether baptizo has any other meaning besides immersion. They all respond in harmony; "Yes, it has several meanings." What are they? we demand. Several of them speak at once: "It means to wash, to wet, to moisten, to dye, to tinge, to purify, to cleanse, to sprinkle." We noticed, as these witnesses were deposing, that a few remained silent while some of the definitions were pronounced; but in uttering the definition "to wash," every voice was heard in full and perfect harmony. "Enough!" cried the Pedobaptist, "it means to wash. You all agree in this; then it cannot always mean to immerse."

Allow us to add that a moment's reflection will show that to immerse expresses a specific action which cannot be performed by pouring or sprinkling, but to wash expresses a generic action which may be performed alike by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling; hence we conclude that, as all the lexicons agree that the Greek word baptizo not only means to immerse but also to wash, and as washing may properly be performed by sprinkling or pouring as well as by immersion, therefore we can derive no evidence from the mere import of the Greek term used in the New Testament for that ordinance that immersion is the only proper mode of administering it.
It should also be remembered in connection with this etymological argument, that there are several places in the New Testament in which the Greek word for baptize and its derivatives cannot mean immersion.

"And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not." Mark 7:4. Here the word rendered "wash" is baptize a variation of baptizo. Who believes that the Jews immersed themselves habitually before eating? "And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner." Luke 11:38. Here the word for "washed" is he washed, from baptizo. Surely no one supposes that the Pharisee expected our Lord to immerse himself, but simply to wash his hands.

The fact that the "baptism of the Holy Ghost" was unquestionably performed, not by immersion, but by pouring, as we shall fully show in its proper place, is an unanswerable refutation of the position that baptizo always means immersion, and nothing else.

II. Scripture instances of baptism
1. First, we call attention to the baptism of the "fathers unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea," spoken of by St. Paul (1 Cor. 10:1,2). On turning to the account of this baptism, as recorded by Moses, we find that, when the Israelites crossed the sea, it was on "dry land" - they passed over it upon "dry ground;" hence the notion that they were there and then immersed is utterly preposterous. In what mode, then, could they have been baptized? If we had no clue to the solution of this question farther than the Mosaic history, we might feel that we were involved in perplexity. But how admirably does one scripture often explain another! The Prophet Asaph has left us a comment on the record of Moses. He explains that "the clouds poured out water" upon the Israelites as they crossed the Red Sea (Ps. 77:17); hence, whatever may be our conclusion as to the mode of Christian baptism, it is certain that this Mosaic baptism was administered by pouring. Such is the testimony of the Bible; for "the clouds poured out water;" and this demonstrates also that baptism does not always mean immersion. We may conjecture and speculate as much as we please about "the clouds being above the Israelites, and the sea, as wall, on each side enveloping them, as it were, in an immersion;" but still the Scripture affirms that they were on "dry ground," and that they were baptized by pouring. From these facts there is no escape. Surely, to find immersion in this case will exhibit a wonderful feat of imagination.

2. "The baptism of John" is also appealed to by immersionists as furnishing proof that there is no proper baptism but immersion.

The argument is this: "John baptized in Jordan, and also in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there;" hence it is concluded he must have baptized by immersion.
That the Greek preposition en, here translated in, always means in will not be contended. In may mean at, by, with, or near to; and the context must determine the sense. In Matthew 3:6, it is said that John "baptized in Jordan;" but in the eleventh verse of the same chapter, John says: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, ... he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." Here the same preposition en is used both before "water" and "Holy Ghost," and our translators have rendered the preposition, in both instances, with instead of in; hence nothing as to the mode can be proved by the preposition. But an argument of much force may be derived from the manner in which John connects his water baptism with our Saviour's baptism of the Holy Ghost. These baptisms are here presented in such connection that, in the absence of proof to the contrary, to conclude that both were not administered in the same mode would be most unwarranted. But the baptism of the Holy Ghost was unquestionably performed by pouring; therefore the rational inference is that John baptized in the same way. As the disciples were not dipped, plunged, or immersed, into the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost descended or fell upon them, even so we may conclude that John did not dip, plunge, or immerse, the multitudes into the water, but that he poured or sprinkled the water upon them. As in the baptism of the Holy Ghost the influence descended upon or was applied to the subjects, even so, if there is any analogy in the case, in the baptism of John the water, or element, was applied to the subject of baptism, and not the subject to the element.

In John 1:28, we read: "These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." Here the same preposition en is used before "Bethabara;" but Bethabara was not a river but a house--the word means a house of passage--and that house was not in the River Jordan, but "beyond Jordan." Now if en before Jordan proves that John baptized in Jordan, and therefore must have immersed, according to the same logic, en before Bethabara would prove that John baptized in a house, and therefore not by immersion. The truth is, the preposition proves nothing on either side as to the mode. The true sense of the preposition here is probably at or near to; and then John baptized at or near to Jordan, and at or near to Bethabara. The probability is that Bethabara was the house at which he made his home while baptizing, and that he selected a position thus contiguous to the River Jordan for the convenient accommodation of the great multitudes of people and their beasts, and that he baptized them in the house, in the yard, in the neighborhood, "in the wilderness," or at, or near to, or in the river, as circumstances might render it convenient.

But it is said John baptized "in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there."

"Enon" signifies the fountain of On-a mere spring, sending forth a rivulet; or probably such springs were numerous in that vicinity; for the words hudria pollos, rendered "much water," mean many waters-that is, there were many springs, or rivulets, in that region. This was necessary for the comfort of the multitudes, by whatever mode they may been baptized. And as "much water," or many waters, would have been a comfort and convenience sufficient to induce John to select that locality as the theater of his operations, independently of immersion, or even that of baptism in any form, surely it must be very inconsequential reasoning to infer from this fact alone that John immersed. So far as the text is concerned, he may or may not have immersed.

But an overwhelming proof of immersion, in the estimation of Baptists, is found in the record of our Lord's baptism by John "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water." Matt. 3:16.

The whole argument for the immersion of our Saviour in this passage depends upon the meaning of the Greek preposition apo, here rendered "out of." Now it cannot be denied that the primary meaning of apo is from instead of "out of," and that, in very many instances, it is so translated in the New Testament; thus: "A certain man went down (apo) from Jerusalem." Luke 10:30.

"When he was come down (apo) from the mountain." Matt. 8:1. Our Saviour may have been immersed, for any thing we certainly know to the contrary; but nothing can be more fallacious than the attempt to prove it by this passage. "Coming up from the water," would be the most literal and natural translation.

But if there was any connection between the baptism of water and the descent of the Holy Ghost immediately following it, this would furnish an argument against immersion; for the Saviour was not immersed in to the Holy Spirit, but the "Spirit of God" was seen "descending like a dove, and lighting upon him."

3. The Pentecostal baptism is the next instance to which we refer.

But here we find a twofold baptism--that of water, and that of the Holy Ghost. The latter, being not only the first in importance, but, in this instance, the first in occurrence, shall be first considered.

(1) John says of Christ: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Matt. 3:11. Before his ascension, our Lord said to his apostles: "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Acts 1: 5. In the second chapter of The Acts we find the record of this glorious baptism; but by what mode was it administered? This is the question now before us.
St. Peter testifies on the occasion, saying: "This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh." Again, he adds: "He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." And, in speaking of the descent of the Holy Ghost on that occasion, St. Luke records that "it say upon each of them." In speaking of the baptism of the Holy Ghost at the house of Cornelius, St. Peter says: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost." Acts 11:15, 16. In giving the history of this baptism, St. Luke uses the same form of words: "The Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Acts 10:44.
We here find several forms of speech used expressive of the mode in which baptism was administered: the Holy Ghost "say upon them," it was "poured out" upon them, and it "fell on them." It is never once intimated that they were dipped, plunged, or immersed, into the Holy Ghost. Indeed, it is certain that this baptism was not by immersion, but by pouring. This is the united testimony of the Prophet Joel, of St. Luke, and of the Apostle Peter. It is one of the striking exhibitions of the strange power of prejudice in favor of a darling theory, that any may of common understanding, with there palpable Scripture proofs before his eyes, can have the temerity to stand up and contend that this baptism was administered by immersion. And how passing strange must we view the fat that, after perusing this combination of inspired testimony, setting forth, as explicitly as it is in the power of language to do, that this baptism was performed by pouring, some persons without a blush can attempt to argue that "baptism always means immersion, and can mean nothing else!"

We are apprised of but two methods resorted to by immersionists to ward off the force of the argument we have just presented.

First, an effort is made to prove that the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost was an immersion, because the "sound filled all the house" where the disciples "were sitting;" hence it is argued that, as the sound filled the house, and as the disciples were in the house, therefore they were immersed in the sound. This pleas is rendered perfectly ridiculous when it is remembered that the disciples were not said to be baptized with the sound, but with the Holy Ghost. Surely the sound was not the Holy Ghost. The sound filled the house, but the Holy Ghost "sat upon" the disciples; hence this effort to prove immersion only exhibits the desperate shifts to which the advocates of an erroneous theory may be driven.

Secondly, failing to prove immersion by an argument founded on the fact that the sound filled the house, the next effort is to set imagination to work to conjure up a kind of figurative immersion. We are told that "the apostles were so entirely overwhelmed and surrounded by the influence of the Holy Ghost, which came so abundantly upon them that it might be called an immersion." Wonderful logic! That is, the pouring out of the Spirit was so abundant that it was not poured at all; the disciples were dipped, plunged, or immersed into it. The plain truth is that the Scriptures, in so many words, declare that the "baptism of the Holy Ghost" was performed by pouring. We may imagine and explain as much as we please, but it would certainly be wiser, as well as more modest, to suspect that our theory may be wrong than flatly to contradict the Bible.

(2) We next notice the Pentecostal baptism of water. All we learn of this baptism we derive, first, from the fact that Peter commanded them to "repent and be baptized," connecting therewith the "gift" or baptism "of the Holy Ghost;" secondly, the historian informs us that "they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."

It is admitted that there is no positive proof here against immersion; but it must be admitted that there is no proof of any kind whatever for it. But we think there are, in the circumstances connected with this baptism, several strong presumptive arguments against immersion.
Look at the intimate manner in which water baptism is connected with that of the Holy Ghost--the one promised upon the condition of the proper reception of the other, and then following it in immediate succession. Remember, farther, how constantly water is used in both Testaments as an emblem of cleansing, or moral purification. Look upon these facts, and who can help believing that the water of baptism is an emblem, or sign, of that moral cleansing effected by the influence of the Holy Ghost? But if water baptism is an emblem of spiritual baptism, would we not, in the absence of truth to the contrary, expect both to be administered in the same mode? That the baptism of the Holy Ghost was not by immersion, but by pouring, is put beyond a doubt; therefore the reasonable conclusion is that water baptism was administered in the same way.
Again, look at the shortness of the time allowed for this baptism, and all the circumstances connected with it, and the probabilities will appear greatly against immersion. From the third hour of the day, or nine o'clock in the forenoon, to the ninth hour, or three o'clock in the afternoon, was all the time that could have been allowed for both preaching and the baptizing; for three in the afternoon was the settled hour for the regular public prayer. At this the apostles attended, and we may be assured that this great solemnity was not neglected on this occasion. Not more than six hours, then, could have been occupied by the wonderful evens recorded in the second chapter of The Acts. Peter preached a long discourse, using "many other words" beside what we have on record. The other apostles also preached to the thronging crowds. Fifteen nations are named, who all heard the gospel, "every man in his own tongue, wherein he was born." After this, time must be allowed for each convert to make his confession to the satisfaction of the apostles; then the believers must be separated from the multitude; the place for immersion must be sought out; permission must be obtained to use that place-pool, pond, river, or whatever it was. Taking all the difficulties of the case into the account (many more than we have taken time to name), is it probable that the apostles could have immersed the "three thousand" in so short a time? or, if they could, is it reasonable to suppose that all the necessary arrangement, preparation, marching to the place of immersion, etc. would occur, and no account be taken of it? And yet we here not one word in regard to the immersion, the preparation, the place, or any thing else about it; and why this silence about a matter that must have produced a great commotion? The most rational conclusion is, that no immersion was performed, but that the apostles sprinkled the people, or poured the water, after the manner of Jewish priestly purification, and in the easiest and most convenient method. That these "three thousand" were then and there immersed involves too many improbabilities to be accredited without evidence, but of that there is none; hence we conclude that this baptism can furnish us no proof of immersion.

4. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch has generally been relied on by immersionists as one of their most conclusive proofs on the subject.

"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip." Acts 8:36-39.

The evidence here claimed for immersion is based entirely upon the expressions-"they went down into the water," and "when they were come up out of the water."

If the Greek preposition eis, here rendered "into," and ek, rendered "out of," do not imply immersion, it is plain we can find no proof of that mode in this text. It will not be contended that eis always means into, or that ek always means out of; and if such be not their invariable import, it may not be in this case; hence the evidence for immersion founded upon this source cannot be conclusive. As Mr. Watson has observed: "eis is spoken of place, and properly signifies at, or it indicates motion toward a certain limit; and for any thing that appears to the contrary in the history of the eunuch's baptism, that limit may just as well be placed at the nearest verge of the water as in the middle of it."

That eis frequently, in the New Testament as well as elsewhere, means to cannot be denied by any candid scholar. Peter is commanded to "go (eis) to the sea, and cast a hook." Matt. 17:27. Surely he was not to go into, or under, the water. Our Lord, it is written, "went up (eis) to a mountain." Did he go into its heart, or under it?

But it is only wasting time to delay with criticisms about these Greek prepositions. Allow, for the sake of argument (which is far from being true), that eis always means into, and ek out of, allow that in the instance before us eis can mean nothing but into, or even allow that it means under, what can the cause of immersion gain by this admission? It would be as destitute of proof as ever. Indeed, if immersionists could prove that the preposition here mean into, or under, in the sense of immersion, they would most effectually overturn their own cause. They would clearly demonstrate that Philip did not baptize the eunuch by immersion. The text reads: "They went down both into the water, both Philip and eunuch." Now mark, all this was done before the act of baptizing commenced. Whatever the act of baptizing was, it was something neither synonymous nor simultaneous with the "going down to, unto, or into, the water." Now, if "going down into the water" implies immersion, then it follows that "both Philip and the eunuch" were already immersed, or under the water, before the act of baptizing commenced: consequently, if baptism means immersion, they were already baptized--that is, if "going down into the water" means immersion, then the eunuch was immersed before he was immersed, which is a contradiction, or immersion is not baptism, which destroys the immersionist's doctrine. The immersionist must either admit that "going down into the water" is not immersion, or that immersion is not baptism; for it is certain that the act of baptizing was performed after they had gone "down into the water." Surely it must be plain that, as the baptizing was an act subsequent to the going to the place at which it was performed, neither the method of going to the place nor the character of the place, whether it was in a house or in a river, in a wilderness or in a city, in a palace or in a pool, can determine any thing as to the mode of baptism. I may go up into a house, and then proceed to baptize, either by pouring, sprinkling, or immersion. The fact of my being in the house would not of itself decide the question as to the mode of the baptism. Even so Philip, with the eunuch, "went down to, unto, or into, the water; and he baptized him." But how he performed this act--whether he dipped the water up in his hand or in a cup, and whether he poured or sprinkled it upon him, or whether he immersed him once, twice, or three times, and whether he did it backward or face foremost--these are questions concerning which the text gives us no information.

There are, however, one or two circumstances connected with this transaction which furnish some presumptive evidence against immersion. The eunuch, at the time Philip entered the chariot with him, was reading a certain portion of Isaiah's prophecy concerning the Messiah. In connection with the paragraph he was reading are these words: "So shall he sprinkle many nations," etc. It is said: "Philip began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus." Now, it is clear Philip must have instructed him concerning the duty of baptism, or he would not have asked it at the hands of Philip; and if so, we can find nothing in the scripture under review so likely to lead to discourse on that subject as the verse referred to, "So shall he sprinkle many nations," etc. This passage doubtless depicts the sanctifying grace of the gospel with which the nations were to be blessed, and which is sacramentally symbolized by the baptismal water. But in reference to this subject the prophet does not speak of immersion, but of sprinkling. If the prophet had used immerse instead of sprinkle, and written "So shall he immerse many nations," how many immersionists would now clap their hands over it as a proof of the eunuch's immersion! But as it is, it furnishes presumption in favor of sprinkling.

Again, the manner in which the eunuch requested baptism is worthy of notice. It is said: As they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Now the report of all travelers is, that that region of country is exceedingly dry, and that there is no stream to be found in the route more than ankle deep. Connect this fact with the eunuch's exclamation, "See, here is water," or, as it is in the Greek, "Behold, water," and who can help believing that the eunuch had suddenly discovered a spring, or small branch, and with emotion called the attention of the apostle to the fact, and demands the ordinance of baptism? It is not probable that there was any stream, or pool, there of sufficient depth for immersion, and of course the probabilities here apparent are against that mode.

5. Next, we notice the baptism of Saul. This transaction is thus recorded by St. Luke: "And he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized." Acts 9:18. St. Paul, in relating the history of the matter, represents Ananias as coming into his presence and addressing him, saying: "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

Now, we venture the assertion that if a hundred unprejudiced persons, who had never heard of any controversy as to the mode of baptism, were, for the first time, shown these scriptures, and asked for a verdict as to the attitude of Saul when he received baptism, every one of them would arise from the perusal and exclaim, "He was standing on his feet in the room, where Ananias found him." Circumstantial as the account is, recording the fact of his rising to his feet, and then partaking of refreshments, and being "strengthened" in his weak condition of body, yet there is not a word of their going to one of "the rivers of Damascus" in search of a place for immersion! Whether he walked, rode, or was carried-whether they traveled one, two, or three miles, or only a few furlongs-whether Saul endured well the fatigue, or fainted by the way--not a hint or syllable about any of these things do we hear! Why this silence? The natural and rational conclusion is, that no such journey was undertaken or thought of. Right on the spot, in the house, where he arose and stood, then and there he was baptized. This is the rational conclusion from the New Testament history of the affair. The word anistemi, used in both the recitals of the baptism, literally signifies the act of rising up, or standing up, and, plainly as language can express it, denotes the bodily attitude in which the baptism was received. Hence, if our opinion is to be founded on the Bible account, we must set this down as a case in which the probabilities, amounting almost to positive proof, are against immersion.

6. Cornelius, and "his kinsmen and near friends," in the city of Cesarea, furnish us the next instance of baptism to be considered. The account is related thus: "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." "Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." Acts 10:44-48.
We cannot help perceiving a most striking correspondence between this, the first great Gentile baptism, and the Pentecostal baptism of the Jews, already noticed. In the one, St. Peter had opened the gospel kingdom to the Jews; in the other, he opened it to the Gentiles. In both cases the baptism of water and that of the Holy Ghost are so intimately connected as plainly to indicate that there is an important relation between them. In both instances the Holy Ghost was poured out, or fell, upon them. Upon any principle of symbolism, the hypothesis of immersion is inadmissable. The purifying Spirit is poured out, which would expressly indicate the application of purifying water in the same way. But look at the brief history of the case. Peter demands, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" None daring to object, "he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." Is there any suggestion to leave the room occupied? Is there any suggestion about a pool, bath, pond, river, or any thing of the sort? There must be water, for without it there can be no baptism; but is there the slightest hint that there must be water enough to immerse them else they cannot be baptized? Is there any hesitation, any delay, any confusion, by reason of a sudden and unforseen demand on Cornelius for a large and deep body of water? Or does not the irresistible impression of the scene indicate a demand for a small portion of water for instant use? Is there any intimation of any spectacle, any procession through the streets of Cesarea--the Roman centurion with near friends, his kindred, his devout soldiers, and his domestic servants, led by Peter and six Jews from Joppa--to a public immersion, all speaking strange tongues, and all Cesarea filled with wonder? Nothing of the sort-nothing that can be tortured into correspondence with any such ideas. They are the growth of other ages-the product of a state of mind far different from that of the apostles of the Lord. However great, perhaps unexpected, may be the issue of this Gentile baptism, it is plainly the will of God that it should be celebrated; and it is done--done there, then, with water, not into it. (Dr. R. J. Breckinridge.)
All the circumstances of the case seem rationally to preclude the idea of immersion. But when we consider the manifest connection in this case between the baptism of the Holy Ghost and that of water, the one cleansing the soul from the pollutions of sin, and the other symbolizing the same by an application of water, and when we also remember that the mode of this spiritual baptism was pouring, not immersion--when we consider all these things, the argument against immersion is little short of demonstration.

7. The baptism of the Philippian jailer is the last Scripture instance of the ordinance we shall notice. The account of this is recorded in the sixteenth chapter of The Acts.

1. It is important to notice that the jail here consisted of two apartments; for the apostles were "thrust into the inner prison;" hence there was an outer prison. 2. The jailer's own residence was connected with the prison so closely that from his sleeping chamber he could see when the doors were open into the "inner prison;" for as soon as he awoke he saw that the prison doors were all open. 3. The jailer, springing in with a light, brought the apostles from the inner to the outer prison. Here the apostles preached, here the jailer was converted, and here, it seems, the apostle's stripes were washed, and the jailer received baptism.

But the question is, by what mode was this baptism administered? In the absence of all testimony to that effect, it is certainly unreasonable to suppose that in this pagan prison there was any pool or tank ready prepared for immersion. Hence, if there was any immersion in the case, they must have left the prison and gone out in quest of some river or pond. Some of the presumptions against this supposition may be briefly stated.

1. It is unreasonable to suppose that the jailer, just recovered from his terrible alarm about the supposed escape of his prisoners, could have been induced, so soon afterward, in violation of law, to lead these same prisoners through the city and to the suburbs, or neighborhood, in search of river, pool, or pond, for the administration of an ordinance of which, till that hour, he had never heard.

2. It is unreasonable to suppose that the inspired Paul, who so strictly enjoined upon all to be "subject unto the higher powers," and "to obey magistrates," would have been accessory to so palpable a violation of law as this night-excursion, on the part of the jailer, would have involved.

3. When, in the morning, "the magistrates sent the sergents saying, "Let those men go," and Paul was informed of the fact, he replied, "They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? Nay, verily, but let them come themselves and fetch us out." Nor did the apostles consent to leave the prison till the magistrates came and legally released them. Then "they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia."

Now, we demand, can this conduct of the apostles, amid the light of the morning, be consistent with the supposition that they had already, under the dark cover of midnight, not only left the prison, but wandered off, none can tell how far, in search of a place for immersion? However men may convict themselves of absurdity in defense of a theory, let them beware how they thus involve the holy apostles in hypocrisy and crime! Relying on the Bible statements alone, we conceive it scarcely possible that the jailer was immersed.

1. That all the dispensations of true religion, the patriarchal and the Mosaic, no less than the Christian, referred to and centered in Christ, and were intended to develop, with more or less distinctness, the Messianic kingdom, cannot be doubted. In the Mosaic economy, where scarce a single ceremony or service was without an important significance in connection with the glorious revealments of the plan of gospel salvation, who can suppose that the constant and habitual use of water and blood was either accidental or unmeaning? For the ratification of the Sinaitic law, half the blood of the sacrificial offerings was sprinkled upon the altar, and the rest upon the people. In the performance of this sprinkling, Moses said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord had made with you." By express statute, the ceremonially unclean Jews were sprinkled with the water of purification. Upon the great day of atonement the high priest sprinkled blood upon the mercy-seat over the ark.

In addition to all this, look at the striking symbolic announcements of the prophets in reference to Messiah's reign. Hear the language of Isaiah: "So shall he sprinkle many nations." Listen to the yet more graphic strain of Ezekiel: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; form all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Viewing all these things together, may we not expect to find, under the gospel, something of which they were lively symbols? If the legal purification, under the formal dispensation, was manifested by the sprinkling of water upon the people, and the sprinkling of blood upon the altar, how appropriate that, under the gospel, the sanctification of the heart should be procured through the "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," made efficacious by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and that the outward symbol of this should be the baptismal water!

Conformable to the same prominent idea are the teachings of the New Testament. St. Paul says: "Ye are come--to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Heb. 11:22, 24.

If, then, all through the law, we find the sprinkling of blood and of water so familiarly connected with purification, and, under the gospel, the baptism of water so directly associated with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, how could a Jew, in the absence of direct precept to the contrary, fail to conclude that water baptism was intended to symbolize that moral cleansing which is effected by the affusion of the Holy Ghost and the "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ?" Equally manifest must it be that if the one baptism is constantly represented by sprinkling or pouring, the other should be administered in the same way. There should be a correspondence between the symbol and the substance--the external sign and the internal grace. Admitting that water baptism is administered by affusion, how striking the harmony between the covenant spiritual blessings of redeeming grace and the external ceremony by which they are symbolized! Discard sprinkling and pouring, and institute immersion as the only proper baptism, and how can we fail to perceive that much of the harmony and beauty, symmetry and coherence, of the external forms and internal grace of the gospel system are destroyed, and the types and shadows of the law shorn of their efficacy and despoiled of their significance as adumbrations of "good things to come"!

2. The next Scripture allusion to which we refer is that in which it is contended that baptism is presented as emblematic of the burial of Christ.

This has been prominently urged by immersionists as one of their strongholds. The text referred to are the following:

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin; for he that is dead is freed from sin. Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." Rom. 6:3-8.

The same apostle again says: "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 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. 2:11, 12.

We have been thus full in our quotations of these texts that the connection may at once be the more distinctly seen; for it is only necessary to observe closely the connection, and the sense will be obvious. The first inquiry here to be made is this: To which does the apostle, in these passages, refer--water baptism or spiritual baptism? We take the position that so to construe these texts as to make them refer to water baptism is one of the most glaring perversions of Scripture of which we can conceive. Such a construction would turn the apostle's beautiful argument and illustration into a perfect medley of nonsense and confusion. That this may be at once apparent, let us inquire what are the specific effects of this baptism?

(1) It produces "death"-"buried with him by baptism into death." Now, does water baptism produce death? If so, it must be either the death of the body, or the death of the soul "unto sin." If we say the former, then the body must be drowned; if the latter, then water will supersede the blood of Christ and Spirit's influence.

(2) This baptism enables us to "walk in newness of life." "Even so we also should walk in newness of life." Now, we ask, are we enabled thus to walk by water baptism? Nay, but by spiritual baptism.

(3) This baptism so plants us in "the likeness of Christ's death," as to cause us to be in "the likeness of his resurrection." Can water baptism do this? Can it cause us to die to sin as Christ died on the cross, or to lead a new life of obedience, resembling our Saviour's resurrection from the tomb to die no more?

(4)This baptism crucifies "our old man" (or carnal nature) "with Christ." Is this the effect of water baptism? Who can believe it?

(5)This baptism destroys "the body of sin." Is this the effect of water baptism? Surely it is the "renewing of the Holy Ghost"--spiritual baptism--and not water which can accomplish this work.

(6)This baptism releases us from the service of sin. "That henceforth we should not serve sin." What but spiritual baptism can effect this deliverance?

(7)This baptism produces the circumcision of the heart. "Ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands. Now, will any one contend that immersion can circumcise or change the heart?

(8)This baptism "puts off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;" that is, in this baptism all past sin is pardoned through faith in Christ--not by water baptism, but by the influence of the Spirit.

(9)From this baptism we are raised "through the faith of the operation of God;" but from water baptism, by the hands of the minister.

(10)In this baptism we are raised "quickened together with (or through) Christ, and we gain the "forgiveness of all our trespasses"--effects which can result only from spiritual baptism.
Let any reflecting mind ponder seriously upon the effects here enumerated compare them with the scriptures quoted, and mark how explicitly it is taught that they all result from the baptism spoken of, and then determine whether or not these are the effects of water baptism. He who can believe that water baptism can effect all this mighty moral and spiritual renovation may dispense with the "blood of atonement" and the "renewing of the Holy Ghost," and trust in the water alone as his redeemer and sanctifier. To what perversion of Scripture may the devotees of error be driven!

Nothing can be plainer than the fact that in these passages the apostle was discoursing of the "burial" of the "body of sin" by the "baptism of the Holy Ghost," and not the burial of our bodies in water baptism. Of the effects enumerated as resulting from the baptism of which the apostle discourses, not the first one can be produced by water baptism, but every one of them results from spiritual baptism; hence it is not the former, but the latter (which was by pouring), of which it is written, "We are buried with him by, or in, baptism." And thus this boasted proof of immersion is shown to be imaginary; for it can only appear when Scripture is perverted, and so construed as to do violence to its proper connection and obvious import.

3. When driven from his strongholds, the immersionist, as a last resort, turns upon his opponent and charges him with the error of holding to and practicing three baptisms--sprinkling, pouring, and immersion; while the Bible teaches, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Eph. 4:5. "Now," exclaims the Baptist, "if immersion be baptism, then neither sprinkling nor pouring can be baptism; and if pouring be baptism, neither immersion nor sprinkling can be baptism; and if sprinkling be baptism, then neither immersion nor pouring can be baptism; and he who practices pouring, sprinkling, and immersion, practices three baptisms; whereas the Bible allows but one."

This charge of inconsistency may seem plausible, but it is, in reality, perfectly groundless. It is founded upon a perversion of the text referred to. The object of the apostle was not to teach any thing concerning the mode of baptism; his object was to inculcate the duty of Christian fellowship and brotherly love. "Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." This is the practical lesson he is enforcing, and he urges it on the ground of a sevenfold unity which pervades the Christian system. His argument is this, because there is "one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God," therefore "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

There is but one baptism. Ye have not been baptized in the profession of different religions, nor yet in the name of different Lords. One of you was not baptized in the name of Paul, another in the name of Cephas, and another in the name of Apollos; but all have been baptized in the name of the same Lord--"in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Ye have all this one baptism; therefore "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." As to the mode of the ordinance, however we may prefer the one to the others, as the Scriptures have not explicitly prescribed one to the exclusion of all others, let each one "have the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion."

The Baptism Debate: How & Who? Introductory Remarks

The debate over baptism has been raging for centuries! Some claim only believers should be baptized, meaning that the children of believers should be denied the rites of baptism until they reach the age of accountability (whatever that is). To support that claim, they quote Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized." "See, you must repent first, then get baptized. And a baby can't possibly repent. Baptism must always follow repentance, therefore we mustn't baptize infants." They conveniently forget to mention verse 39, which says the promise of forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit is for you and your children.

Not only is there a debate over who should be baptized, but there is also a debate over how to baptize. Baptists claim that "baptizo," the Greek word for baptize, can only mean to immerse. Those on the other side concede that baptizo can and often does mean to immerse, but it can also mean to pour or sprinkle.

There are many good arguments on both sides. But one thing is for certain - only one side can be right. Either the Bible allows babies to be baptized or it doesn't. Either the Bible allows for modes other than immersion or it doesn't.

Regardless of your present position, you need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. You need to have both eyes wide open. The purpose of this blog site is to provide a format where both sides can interact and hopefully find a resolution to this age-old controversy. I welcome and strongly encourage all thoughtful comments. If you wish to remain anonymous and don't wish to use your real name, that's okay - feel free to use an alias.

Debate is important. Many of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith were the result of debate in the early church. Iron sharpens iron.

A final note: Please be respectful to our brothers and sisters on the other side of this issue. No name calling. A perfect example is John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul. These men are close friends and, I might add, two of the finest Bible teachers around. They often share the same speaking platform. But they disagree on the mode and means of baptism. Remember: In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.

Let the baptism debate begin!