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The Mode of Baptism

In speaking of baptism we wish to emphasize once again that we do not wish to antagonize anyone or to create further division within the church of Christ. It is our deepest desire to see unity in these matters, especially between those who are otherwise agreed.

On the other hand we often hear that there is no Biblical basis for sprinkling infants and indeed that these are simply carry-overs from Roman Catholicism. Indeed, there are a number of anti-Calvinist books on the market that simply assume that if a church baptizes infants it must also be wrong on these other matters.

As far as the mode of baptism is concerned, therefore, we not only believe that there is a sound Biblical basis for the practice of sprinkling, but believe that it is the only mode of baptism recognized by Scripture! Let us look at the matter more closely.

As to the charge that sprinkling is simply a carry-over from Romanism, we would point out: (1) that this is no argument at all - if everything Rome teaches that is found in Protestantism must be discarded, then even the doctrine of the Trinity must go! (2) Not only that, but we have in front of us a Romish liturgy for baptism of children which says in its instructions for the person performing the baptism, "He immerses the child or pours water on it." That "argument" can be set aside, therefore.

As to the Biblical ground for sprinkling or pouring, the evidence, it seems to us, is unmistakable. We point out the following:

(1) All the ceremonial baptisms of the OT were by sprinkling or pouring. And that these are baptisms is clear from Hebrews 9:10 where the NT word "baptisms" is used (translated in the AV as "washings" --. Also vss. 13, 19, 21).

(2) The baptism of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by water baptism, is always described in Scripture in terms of sprinkling or pouring (Is. 44:3; Ezek. 26:35; Joel 3:28, 29; Mal. 3:10; Acts 8:16; 10:44, 45; 11:15).

(3) Likewise, the application to us of the blood of Christ, also symbolized by the water of baptism, is always described in Scripture as being sprinkled (Is. 52:15; Heb. 10:22; 12:24; I Pet. 1:2).

(4) The great typical baptism of the OT (and they are baptisms, according to the NT meaning of that word - I Cor. 10:2; I Pet. 3:18), were not by immersion. Indeed, the only ones who were ever unarguably immersed in Scripture were Pharaoh and his armies, the ungodly world of Noah's day and the wicked in the lake of fire! Immersion is a picture, we believe, of judgment, not of salvation.

(5) As we hope to show in the next issue, the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8) actually says nothing about the mode of baptism.

(6) Finally and more importantly, the baptism of Jesus, when looked at in the light of Scripture cannot have been by immersion (this too, however, we will deal with next time.)

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 1
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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