POWERS AND PROCEDURES OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM.
A. THE MATTER IN CHRISTIAN BAPTISM: NOT MODE BUT EFFECT
From our discussion in Chapter 1 on the contextual use of Baptism in the Scriptures,
we can now understand why
St. Paul speaks of Baptism as a:
(1) Washing of water with the Word (Eph. 5:26)
(2) Washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5)
(3) Incorporation into Christ’s Body by drinking of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:13);
and St. Peter added the description:
(4) Pledging of good conscience towards God (not merely the washing of bodily dirt) (1 Pet. 3:21);
(5) Likened to being saved from the flood into `The Ark’ (i.e. `The Risen Christ’). 1Pet. 3:20-21.
and from St. Luke we understand Baptism as:
(6) Means whereby believers were added to the Church (Acts 2:41; 5:14).
(7) Washing sins away by calling on God’s name (Acts 22:16).
The teachings of the Scripture, on the whole, show that Water Baptism has the powerful effect of cleansing and initiation to enable participation in, and identification with the New Covenant community of Christ.
The symbolic meanings of Christian Baptism are several in the Scriptures and none of these seems to respect much of our dramatic modal concepts of Baptism as commonly peddled today. For instance, the Scripture talks of Baptism as symbolising the following:
(1) Death (to sin), burial (with Christ) and resurrection (to new life) Col. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:3,6.
(2) Circumcision without bands. Col. 2:11-12
(3) Putting-off of the old man Col. 2:11-12
(4) Quickening with the Spirit. Col. 2:13.
(5) Putting-on of Christ. Gal. 3:27.
(6) Regeneration (New Birth) with water and the Sprit Jn. 3:5; Tit. 3:5.
(7) Pledge of good conscience towards God. 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 26:18.
Note that all these meanings are to be reckoned and appropriated inwardly and spiritually by faith, not acted out dramatically in Baptismal modes.
But the Anabaptists’ contention is not plausible on scriptural grounds. The first error of the Anabaptists is that of re-baptism (ana-baptism) for those who have already been baptised (as infants or by non-immersion modes). With their descendants, they have diverted the purpose and meaning of baptism:
(1) from INTO Christ to INTO water;
(2) from cleansing (washing) to dipping (immersion);
(3) from covenant initiation symbol to congratulatory maturation symbol;
(4) from baptizo to bapto;
(5) from means of God’s grace to means of man’s witness.
(6) from seal of regeneration (for adults and children) to seal of confession (for adults only).
Further than these, they [the Anabaptists] have denied the humanity of childhood! According to divine wisdom, revealed in the Scripture infants are numbered among the images of God, among humans and among citizens of nations, who as sinners need Christ as Saviour. Can anyone deny these facts? Discretion is a social measurement but the Divine Lord measures spiritually.
E. BY WHAT MODE THEN SHOULD WE BAPTISE?
We know that water was used for Ritual Sacramental Baptism (Acts 8:36; 10:47; Matt. 3:6; Jn. 3:23; I Pet. 3:20 – 21) but nowhere in the Scriptures are we told exactly how this water was or must be applied. Attempts to use bapto and baptizo to establish this are futile as the Scripture is not helpful in this direction. The closest, most detailed description of baptism in Scripture is Acts 8:36. But the going down into the water by both Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch was clearly distinguished from the baptism of only the Eunuch subsequently. The going up from water by both men was clearly after the baptism had finished. Same was the case of Christ, who after being baptised came out of the water and was praying, at which time the Holy Spirit then descended on Him. (Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21).
Nevertheless, there are ample instances where the Scripture refers to various modes of applying water for baptismal and similar ritual purposes. These include the following:
(a) Used when referring to Christ’s Baptism into suffering, blood and death. Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 10:38, 39; Lk. 12:50.
(b) Used in describing the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. John 4:10, 13:13; 7:37 – 39; I Cor. 12:13.
(a) Commanded in the Law (Num. 19:13 – 18)
(b) Predicted by the Prophets (Ezek. 36:25)
(c) Fulfilled in Christ (Heb. 9:13,14)
(d) Preached by the Apostles (Heb. 10:22)
3. WASHING (OF PART OF THE BODY)
(a) As done in other ceremonial purification (John 3:22-26; Exd. 30:18-20; Lev. 8:6; Ps. 51:7; John 13:5-11)
(b) With water in a river (John 1:26-28)
(c) With water from a water pot (John 2:6)
(d) With water from other containers (Exd. 30:17-21)
(e) A very common descriptive word for baptism used in the Scriptures (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 10:22).
(a) Used by God in the Holy Spirit Baptism (Ezek. 36:27; Acts 2:17; 10:45; I Cor. 12:13).
(b) Most likely mode used at house baptisms (Acts 9:18; 10:47, 48; 16:33; 19:5) and at mass baptisms (Acts 2:41; and 4:4).
(c) Seems to be similar to FALLING by the Holy Spirit UPON the believer at Spirit Baptism (Acts 1:8; 2:3; 10:44).
(a) Derived from the meaning of the Greek root-word “bapto” which means “to dip momentarily” as well as “to dye into a new colour”
But we have already seen that the Scripture never used bapto to describe Baptism,nor used baptizo as being INTO water, rather it used baptizo as being INTO Christ or His Name.
(b) Appears to be probably figured in Rom. 6:4 and Col.2: 12 (However see 1 Cor. 10:1,2; I Pet. 3:20; Mk. 7:4 where baptizo could never mean immersion).
(c) A likely mode at river baptisms (Acts 8:36-38)
(d) Often practiced by the early Church.
Purification and incorporation into Christ with water does not depend on the amount of water or extent of its application (John 13:8-10), but on our attitude towards God and the efficacy of Christ’s work before God (I Pet.3: 21-22). As the power of the anointing oil does not depend on its quantity, so it is with the baptismal water.