Summary: A look at the controversy of Baptism and a view of the New Testament passages and practices. We will also look at the early Churches precedents and see where this topic truly should be.
I.Baptism Instituted by Christ page 1
II.Church History and Baptism page 4
III.Differing Views/Modes of Baptism page 14
IV.Conclusion page 18
Water Baptism in Church History and New Testament Theology
Bruce P. Landry
I. Baptism Instituted by Christ in the New Testament Church
As all things within our Protestant Church is given unto the sovereign Lordship of our Lord and Savior, I feel that the bible should be used as the basis of all that we do as we look back to the head of the church—the Lord Jesus Christ. “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can mere man in any sense be the head thereof.” 1
The Bible tells us the manner in which Jesus came and was baptized is as follows 2:
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)
The bible again tells us:
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)
The Bible gives us a clear indication of the manner in which Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan and when Jesus came up from the
water, John saw the heavens open up and the spirit descending on him.
1. WCF, 25:6
2. Here’s Hope New Testament, Holman Christian Standard, Holman Bible Publishers, pp. 33
The question must be asked “How could Jesus come up from the water if Jesus had not first gone down into the water?” This is one of the greatest testimonies for full immersion baptism—the manner in which the head of our church was baptized.
Proponents of “the sprinkling method” of baptism state that Jesus is the head of the church, but rarely look at the biblical references to Jesus’ own baptism. The baptism of obedience Jesus showed for all to follow after we individually have believed on him. A baptism into the New Covenant, which would be signed in Jesus’ own blood. This indeed was the greatest and final sacrifice needed for the atonement of all of our sins.
Wayne Grudem’s position on the mode and meaning of Baptism gives several excellent examples as to the mode of Baptism.3 First, Grudem states that baptism should not be thought of as a barrier causing major divisions among genuine Christians, but that we as churches must have a firm foundation and understand the relevance of baptism. This is whether your denomination holds it to be a sacrament or an ordinance.
Grudem next detail’s that Baptism was carried out in the New Testament in one way: the person being immersed or being put completely under the water and then brought back up again. He gives the following reasons:
(1) The Greek word baptizo means “to plunge, dip, immerse” something in water. This is the commonly recognized and standard meaning of the term in ancient Greek literature both inside and outside of the bible.
(2) The sense “immerse” is appropriate and probably required for the word in several
3. Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp.967-969
New Testament passages. In Mark 1:5, people were baptized by John “in the river Jordan” (the Greek text has en, “in,” not “beside” or “by” or “near” the river). Mark also tells us that when Jesus had been baptized “he came up out of the water” (Mark 1:10). The Greek text specifies that he came “out of” (ek) the water, not that he came away from it (this would be expressed by Gk. apo). The fact that John and Jesus went into the river and came up out of it strongly suggests immersion, since sprinkling or pouring of water could much more readily have been done standing beside the river, particularly because multitudes of people were coming for baptism. John’s gospel tells us, further, that John the Baptist “was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). Again it would not take much water to baptize by sprinkling, but it would take much water to baptize by immersion. Additional biblical references given are: Acts 8:36, 38-39.