Summary: The message examines baptism from a historical and Scriptural standpoint.
A minister in Abilene, Texas tells the story of an unusual event that took place in their baptistery. He was sitting in his office studying when he began to hear some commotion coming from the auditorium. At first he ignored it until he heard someone yell, “There’s a lady trying to drown herself in the baptistery.” Being a little skeptical, he decided to go out and investigate. When he got out into the auditorium, sure enough there was a mentally disturbed woman with her head stuck under the water in the baptistery trying to kill herself. By the time the minister got out there the children’s’ minister had already started through the ladies’ changing area to help and the youth minister was in the men’s changing area putting on the waders. He was going to help but he was determined to keep those torn blue jeans from getting wet. The minister immediately went into action jumping up on the communion table and into the baptistery. Then he held the woman’s head above the water until help could arrive. Someone had called 911 and pretty soon the church was flooded with police officers and paramedics. After it was all over everyone started leaving except for one old veteran police officer. He put his arm around the minister and said, “Son this wouldn’t have happened if you all practiced sprinkling.” Baptism is an issue that is debated quite frequently within the evangelical community. Today we are going to dive deeply into the subject of baptism dispelling some of the myths and looking at the evidence to develop a proper understanding of what the Bible really teaches about baptism.
I. Viewing baptism from a historical perspective.
A. Where did we get the word baptism?
1. The Greek word used in the New Testament for Baptism is baptizo (baptizw) which means to dip, plunge, submerge, sink or go under.
2. When the Bible was first translated into Latin in the early fifth century by Jerome the Greek word baptizo was translated merisa in the Latin which means to submerge.
3. Noted first century historian Josephus used the Greek word baptizo in several different contexts. For example he wrote, “The ship was about to be submerged.” He used the word baptizo for submerged.
4. The English word for baptism did not appear until the early seventeenth century, during the time scholars and officials were translating the Bible into English which was authorized by King James I of England.
5. During this time the Church of England practiced baptism by sprinkling and to avoid a major conflict within the State Church, they converted the Greek word baptizo into the English word baptize to signify all modes of baptism.
B. How did the early church practice baptism?
1. The necessity of baptism for the forgiveness of sins was the nearly unanimous consensus for about the first 1500 years the church was in existence.
2. Immersion for the forgiveness of sins was the exclusive method of baptism for more than 1200 years.
3. In fact sprinkling was not accepted until the fourteenth century when the council of Ravenna made sprinkling accepted in some situations in 1311.
4. The council allowed sprinkling to be used as a convenience in some situations. It was called clinical baptism and was mainly used for those individuals who were sick or dying.
C. How has the subject of baptism been dealt with throughout history?
1. Even the early church fathers saw the essential nature of baptism.
2. In the mid second century Justin Martyr wrote, “We have learned from the apostles this reason for baptism, in order that we may obtain in the water the remission of sins.”
3. Augustine in the early fifth century wrote, “Without baptism it is impossible for a man to attain salvation and everlasting life.”
4. Martin Luther wrote, “Both forgiveness and the driving out of sins are the work of baptism.”
5. The evidence from the use of the word baptizo in Jesus’ day and the view of the leaders in the early church baptism was by immersion for the forgiveness of sins.
II. Dispelling the two most common myths in regard to baptism. (Acts 2:37-38—NIV)
A. Baptism is an option; a true believer does not really have to be baptized.
1. Upon hearing Peter’s message the people were overwhelmed by the guilt that they had killed their Messiah. So they asked Peter what they needed to do to be set free from this guilt.
2. Peter’s response presents the very core of the Gospel. Good news that something can be done about sin and guilt, even guilt as serious as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
3. Two imperatives are given, “repent and be baptized.” In the Greek Language when a word is in the imperative form, the vast majority of times it is to be considered a command or exhortation. Rarely, it can be considered a polite request. Both metanoeo and baptizo are in the imperative form.