Bible Baptism [Letter to the Editor]
Fellows, I must submit this soon. If you have any suggestions, please share them quickly. Thanks, -SRB
Dr. Weinberg wrote a piece recently on baptism. I would like to take this opportunity to supplement and correct a few of his statements.
The Greek word “baptizo” does mean to immerse, submerge, or to overwhelm. However, contrary to what Weinberg stated, the baptismal element is not inherent in the term itself but must be supplied contextually. In the Scriptures it is true that often the baptismal element is water, but such is not always the case. An example of this can be seen in Jesus’ words in Luke 12:50 – “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” Jesus was not referring to water baptism here but rather to His approaching crucifixion, wherein He would be overwhelmed (“baptized”) in suffering. This baptism had nothing to do with water.
Weinberg also expressed uncertainly regarding whether or not Jesus Himself ever baptized anyone. The New Testament is clear on this. John 4:2 states that Jesus did not baptize anyone personally in water, though His disciples did.
Although the history of baptism which Weinberg shared is intriguing in some ways, what is important for those who claim to believe in the Bible as the word of God is to simply understand and obey what the Scriptures teach about baptism. Humanity has long had a tendency to corrupt God-given practices and turn them into man-made traditions. It can be proven from the New Testament that baptism (immersion) was always a burial (never sprinkling or pouring; Col. 2:12). It can also be proven from the New Testament that penitent believers in Jesus were immersed in water for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16). The power of forgiveness is not found in the water intrinsically but in one’s full submission to the divine will (I Pet. 3:21). Saul of Tarsus is an excellent example of this. He spoke with Jesus on the road to Damascus (evidencing faith), he fasted and prayed for several days (evidencing repentance), but he was still in his sins (thus, in a lost condition) when Ananias came to him and commanded – “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Contrary to popular belief, Saul was not saved on the road; he was still in his sins three days later! If we believe the New Testament, we will believe that immersion is essential to salvation.
Weinberg affirmed that “Apostolic Tradition explicitly provides for [infant baptism].” All the “Apostolic Tradition” a Christian needs today is found in the New Testament (Gal. 1:6-9), and in those 27 books there is no compelling evidence that infants were immersed. Besides, since faith and repentance are prerequisites to baptism, how can an infant even qualify? Infants are born pure and sinless (Ezek. 18:20; Matt. 18:3,4). They have no need of immersion to wash sins away.
For a more thorough study of Bible baptism, please visit: Baptism.AudioEvangelism.com. As always, it would be my pleasure to discuss these matters further with any interested party.
-Stephen R. Bradd, Clinton Church of Christ