Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Print Page Is Water Baptism a Requirement for Salvation?

Baptism is something that brings definite separation to the different denominations and churches. Scripture is very clear that baptism is for believers only. We will be looking at the method and meaning of baptism from scripture and various theologians. We will also go over the different methods and meanings attributed to baptism.

There are various methods used to administer water Baptism. As an infant in a Lutheran church water was sprinkled on my head. Twenty four years later my body was immersed in water at a Bible believing church. So which is it? Sprinkle or dunk? Should infants or only believers be baptized? These are the questions which will be answered.

The Word Baptize
The word Baptize is not really a translation but a transliteration. The Greek work is βαπτίζω (baptizō). It literally means to immerse. Gary Zeolla, the translator of the Analyttical-Literal Translation gives us some insight to the reason why many, but not all, English Bibles transliterate instead of translate the word for Baptize (emphasis mine):

“The lexical data definitely does favor “immerse in,” and in its early
stages, such a translation was used in the Analytical-Literal Translation.
However, I later changed it to “baptize in” for the following reasons:

1. I did not want the translation of one word to hurt the reputation of the
ALT as being a “bias” translation. But I did keep “immerse” as an
alternate translation. It is seen the first time verb baptizo and the noun
batisma occurs in a book. I’ve used the same pattern throughout. When
what I believe is the best translation differs from the traditional translation
and it affects an interpretation in favor of my own theological beliefs, then
I used the traditional translation in the text, and the “new” translation as an
alternate (See for another example John 15:2).”[1]

His list of reasons is long but the first two are mainly the same. It is about the reputation of his translation. People would claim he had a bias and not benefit from his translation. I find this as a compromise that should not have taken place. I although will give Zeolla credit for listing the word immerse along with the word Baptize.

If you believe Zeolla’s fear is unfounded one only needs to look at Baptist history. William Carey, a famous Baptist missionary to India, ran into resistance. Here is Edward Brand’s account (emphasis mine):

When William Carey and his colleagues at Serampore made their Hindu translation of the Bible, they translated the scripture word "baptizo" by a Hindu word meaning to immerse. Their only alternative was to leave it untranslated. By and by the pedobaptist missionaries began to discover that their people objected to sprinkling as a substitute for baptism on the ground that it was not in scripture. But if it was not in scripture it ought to be! So about 1827 a protest was sent to the British Bible Society against aiding in the circulation of the Serampore versions. Through some of the Baptist brethren pressure was brought to bear on Mr. Carey to induce him to transfer the offending word and let it alone, or to translate it by one of the many words which it did not mean. But he steadily refused to abandon his principle of translating every word of scripture into the native tongue. He held that the command to baptize was the command to do a certain act, that the act was defined in the word used in the command, and that his duty as translator was to make the command as plain in the translation as it was in the original. So in 1833 the British Bible Society declared that they would no longer aid versions in which "baptize" was translated. They did not realize that in so far as they succeeded in abolishing the symbol they would abolish that which the symbol stands for, viz: Death to sin and resurrection to a new life.” [2]

Biblical Practices
So we have looked at what the Biblical word for Baptize means. So how is it used in the Bible? Let us start with Phillip and the eunuch. The eunuch confesses his faith so Phillip Baptizes him. Let us see how this is done:

Acts 8:38-39 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.  39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

Clearly Philip took the eunuch into the water and out of the water. John the Baptist went to Baptize where there was a lot of water. This wouldn’t have been needed if all he was going to do was sprinkle water on the heads of people.

John 3:23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

When John Baptized Jesus in the river Jordan Jesus came out of the water in which he was immersed.

Matthew 3:16  And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

So are you can see anytime the mode of Baptism is given in the Bible it is always by immersion. Nowhere in the Bible will you see Baptism done by sprinkling.

Early Churches Practice
The Didache is a late first century writing that contains instructions on many things, from Baptism to fasting. Even though it is not on the same level as scripture there is much we can learn from it. On Baptism it states (emphasis mine):

“Chapter VII
    1.  Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught all these things, baptize ye into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water.
    2.  And if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm (water).
    3.  But if thou hast neither, pour [water] thrice upon the head in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
    4.  But before Baptism let the baptizer and the baptized fast, and any others who can; but thou shalt command the baptized to fast for one or two days before.”[3]

As we see here that the pouring of water for Baptism was used only as a last resort.
Let us next read the words of the pedobaptists (emphasis mine):

"Their (the primitive Christians) general and ordinary way was to baptize by immersion, or dipping the person, whether it were an infant, or grown man or woman, into the water. This is so plain and clear by an infinite number of passages, that as one can not but pity the weak endeavors of such Pedobaptists as would maintain the negative of it, so also we ought to disown and show a dislike of the profane scoffs which some people give to the English Antipedobaptists, merely for their use of dipping. it was, in all probability, the way by whichour blessed Savior, and for certain was the most usual and ordinary way by which the ancient Christians did receive their baptism. ’Tis a great want of prudence, as well as of honesty, to refuse to grant to an adversary what is certainly true, and may be proved so. It creates a jealousy of all the rest that one says. As for sprinkling, I say, as Mr. Blake, at its first coming up in England, ‘Let them defend it who use it.’ They (who are inclined to Presbyterianism) are hardly prevailed on to leave off that scandalous custom of having their children, though never so well, baptized out of a basin, or porringer, in a bed-chamber, hardly persuaded to bring them to church, much further from having them dipped, though never so able to bear it."[4]

"The baptism of John the Baptist, which served for a preparative to that of Jesus Christ, was performed by plunging. When Jesus Christ came to john, to raise baptism to a more marvelous efficacy in receiving it, the Scripture says, that he went up out of the water of Jordan, (Matt. iii : 16; Mark i : 10). In fine, we read not in the Scripture that baptism was otherwise administered; and we are able to make it appear, by the acts of councils, and by the ancient rituals, that for thirteen hundred years, baptism was thus administered throughout the whole church, as far as was possible."[5]

Finally two quotes from John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists (emphasis mine):

"Mary Welsh, aged eleven days, was baptized according to the custom of the first church, and the rule of the Church of England, by immersion. The child was ill then, but recovered from that hour.”[6]

We are buried with him - Alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion."[7]

The method of Baptism is important but the meaning is even more so.

Forgiveness of Sins
Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believe Baptism forgives sin.

1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.  In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.”[8]

“He who is baptized is cleansed from original sin and from all other sins that he has committed up to the time of his baptism.”[9]

How does the Bible say we are forgiven? Let us start with the Old Testament.

Romans 4:2-3 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

The Bible is clear that Abraham was saved by his faith in God. Not by any works he did. What about New Testament cases?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Luke 18:42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.

How was the woman saved?  By faith. How was the man saved? By faith. Neither was Baptized. Faith alone saves. The thief that believed in Jesus was not Baptized while dying on the cross yet he went to be with Jesus in Paradise.

Luke 23:42-43 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.  43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans and many others Baptize infants. If Baptism is a testimony of how Jesus buried our old man (Romans 6:6) and made us a new creature (2 Corinthians 2:17 and John 3:3) wouldn’t the testimony of an infant be false? Infants have no way of making a conscious decision to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. A verse often used use to promote infant baptism and salvation requiring baptism is Mark 16:16.

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

One must look carefully at the second half of the verse. It is not the lack of baptism that damns but the lack of belief. This brings us the all important question. What then is the true meaning of Baptism?

The True Meaning of Baptism
Paul and Silas where in jail and a jailer asked them the most important question in life. What must I do to be saved? Read to see how they replied.

Acts 16:30-31 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  31  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Then after there was belief and salvation was there baptism.

Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

So we see in the Bible that the meaning of Baptism is not salvation. What does the Bible say is the meaning?

Colossians 2:12 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.

Baptism is a symbol of what Jesus did for us. We are dead to our old selves and are now new creatures in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

[1] Companion Volume to the Analytical-Literal Translation Third Edition 2007, Gary F. Zeolla
[2] History of the Baptists of Illinois 1930, Edward P. Brand, pg 128-129
[3] English translation by Peter Schaff 1885
[4] History of Infant Baptism, Part II, Chapter ii, p. 462, Dr. Wall (Episcopal)
[5] In Mr. Stennett against against Russen, p. 145-76, Bossuet (Catholic Bishop)
[6] Extract of Mt. John Wesley’s Journal, from his embarking for Georgia, p. 10
[7] John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on Romans 6:4
[8] The New Catholic Catechism
[9] Orthodox Catechism Basic Teachings of the Orthodox Faith, Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios

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