All about Christian Baptism...

 

Dear Friend,

 

You are going to read about a Holy Sacrament that Jesus commanded. Unfortunately, this very doctrine was attacked by the devil by making it the most controversial subject of discussion within the Church, itself. 

 

As a born-again child of God, I have a personal convincement that helped me to read and study the Word of God as it intended in the first place. 

 

My convincement is  "To understand the real meaning of the Biblical writings, one must be an obeying, rather than a questioning person." 

 

Jesus commanded the Disciples before His ascension to Heaven to Baptize those who believe in Him and make them His disciples, teaching them whatever was taught by Jesus, while He was on the Earth. Hence, every person who would want to follow the teachings of Jesus must have to be Baptized in Water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One should not have any doubt in his mind about this as it has been commanded by Lord Himself.

 

The method I do follow in my studying of a controversial subject is to ask doubts and try to get my doubts resolved by consulting reliable sources; such as the Holy Bible, early church documents, learned scholars etc... Let us ask some common doubts and try to get answers from reliable sources.  You are also free to ask doubts if you do not find your doubts answered here. Please ask your doubts through the contact page or by e-mail to  anson@maramon.in  or bethaniagospelministry@gmail.com or you can WhatsApp at  +971562340493. May God Bless you.

 

1. Which are the main Bible verses about instructions to a believer in Christ Jesus to accept Baptism in Water?

 

"Go then, and make disciples of all the nations, giving them baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:  Teaching them to keep all the rules which I have given you: and see, I am ever with you, even to the end of the world." Mathew 28:19, 20 

 

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:15,16

 

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men, and brethren, "what shall we do? " Then Peter said unto them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."  Acts 2:37,38

 

2. Does the Bible teach us how and when one must get Baptized?

 

The Word 'Baptism' and the doctrines concerning Baptism have been of intense discussion for about half a millennium. The discussions only helped the Church walking into a big division into two massive groups based on the mode and age of Baptism. Discussions about baptism never reached a consensus because one group grabbed on to their tradition and the other grabbing on to the Holy Bible and early church father's teachings.

 

In the light of the above, let us try to study the subject based on the Holy Bible and the earliest available written teaching, which is the Didache, an AD49-50 doctrinal document understood to have been written and followed by a Christian group that had the Gospel of Mathew in their possession. Hence, the Didache (Means 'Teaching') is considered to be the only genuine document for reference about the doctrines and practices in the immediate past Apostolic age of the Church.

 

 

Origin of the word 'Baptism' and why did the writers of the Holy  Bible use the Greek word 'baptizo'

 

The English verb  'baptize' is an untranslated word.  The Greek term baptizo was simply transliterated into English, without translation. The final 'o' (omega) was dropped and the English 'e' was added. 

 

In the case of the Greek 'baptisma', the final 'a' (alpha) was dropped to give us the English noun 'baptism.'

 

Hence; to understand the real meaning and usage of the word 'Baptism',  we have to study the Greek words 'βαπτίζω' and 'βάπτισμα.'

 

the Greek word BAPTIZO  means 'to immerse'. In Hebrew, it is referred to as a 'MIKVEH' - an immersion.  Basically, it is an immersion into another substance, for the purpose of being saturated by it, such as water in this instance.

 

The meaning of the Greek word 'Baptizo' was derived from the root word βαπτo 'Bapto' which is used to describe the action of a dyeing professional dipping the raw colourless cloth into a dyeing solution to change its color as required. 

 

Hence, the word Baptizo, derived from the root word Bapto has a meaning as well as a purpose. The meaning is 'to immerse'. The purpose is 'to change'. Hence, the writers of the Holy Bible had a special intention to use the word Baptizo to describe the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. If you have seen above, the root word is an action in which a raw material goes down into the solution and comes out as a renewed material. Hence, the word Baptizo denotes two actions. One, immersing in water, and two, coming out of the water as a new person.

 

If the action was to just immerse a person in the water and brought out, the writers had other greek words to use. 

 

Another word in Greek,  for immerse, is βυθίζω (Bvithiso) which is used for anything that is immersed in water, like the sinking of a boat..etc.  Read Luke 5:7.

 

There is one more word for sinking in Greek, which is καταποντίζω (katapontizo). This word was used to denote the sinking of the Egyptians in the Red sea as in Exodus 15:4.

 

But, both the above words do not have any significance to the renewal process of a sinner, who has been saved in Christ Jesus. This is why the word 'Baptizo' is used for Baptism, in the Holy Bible.

 

Hence, from this word usage, we get the mode and purpose of the Holy Sacrament 'Baptism' which is to immerse in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, after proclaiming Faith in Christ Jesus, and come out from the water as a new person, died for sins and decided to live for Christ Jesus. Here, it is obvious that the believer who is to be baptized must be able to:-

 

  • know who Jesus is.

  • follow Jesus as a disciple.

  • get into the water to be baptized.

  • proclaim his/her faith in Christ Jesus.

  • understand, what sin is.

  • identify himself/herself as a sinner.

  • repent and renounce sinful life.

  • continue a Holy Life after Baptism

  • continues to study the Word of God.

 

Hence, it is very clear that it is not the age of the one who is to be baptized matters, but, his/her maturity.

 

3. If the above is considered, what about intellectually challenged people, the mentally ill, and the infants? 

 

Our God is the most righteous God.  He knows the situation of a person much better than us. When we are healthy and in a good situation to obey God's commandments, we must not fail. The inability or disability of a person to obey the Law of God is far different than disobedience.  The people mentioned above never disobey God, but, they are unable to keep the law due to their physical or mental inability. Hence, God will judge most righteously in such situations. But, what about you, who is in the most healthy condition and living in the best circumstances? Will you be spared by God for disobeying His instructions? Seriously think about it and let us study further.

 

4. What proof can we find to substantiate the doctrine of immersionism in Christian Baptism?

 

Let us try to find proof of immersionism from the Holy Bible as well as Didache, as I mentioned above.

 

Holy Bible

 

Although there is no straight and clear-cut instruction to the mode of baptism in the new testament, there are many verses pointing at the mode of baptism by immersion. Let us examine it one by one.

 

a. Apostle Mathew writes in Chapter 3 verse 6 "and they were being  baptized by him in the Jordan River,...." and in verse 16 "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately  from the water;....." 

 

 Jesus went into the water to be baptized by John the Baptist.

 

Common sense apprehends that one gets into the river to be immersed and not for the Baptist to pour or sprinkle water on the one being baptized. 

 

b. Apostle John writes in chapter 3  verse  23  "John  also  was  baptizing  in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized -"

 

If John the Baptist had to choose a place in the river where there was much water, it is indeed intended for immersion.  


c. Let us read what did Luke write in the Acts of Apostles about Philip Baptizing the eunuch. In chapter 8 verses 38 and 39, he wrote "And he ordered the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of  the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing."

 

See, how clearly the writer explained it. They both went down into the water and came up from the water. This means, on their way, the Eunuch was on the lookout to find a river or deep water where he could receive baptism. It is understood here that the requirement of baptism was explained to him by Philip. The Eunuch had no questions whatsoever to ask, but, he believed in Jesus and accepted to obey His Commandments. This is a good model of an obeying child of God.

 

When Apostle Paul wrote about baptism, he decided to write what he had understood by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He wrote in the letter to the Romans and to the Colossians that baptism symbolizes the burial and resurrection of Jesus. When a believer decides to be baptized, he/she is symbolically buried and resurrected with Jesus. Please read Romans 6:3-4 "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was  raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might  walk in newness of life."  and   Colossians 2:12" having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."

 

If baptism symbolizes burial, one has to get buried in water, or simply get immersed in water. Burial is never done by pouring or sprinkling earth over the dead body. The dead body is buried in the earth so that the earth fully covers the body.

 

The DIDACHE

 

If you are interested to read the Didache, please click this link.

 

(Downloaded from:

https://allsouls.ch/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/The-Didache.pdf)

 

The seventh chapter is about Baptism.

 

The First and foremost mode of Baptism is given as baptizing in running water, which means a river or a brook. If it is impossible, only then baptizing in a pool or pond of water either hot or cold, is permitted. If the above two methods are impossible, the candidate may be baptized by pouring water on the head three times. This may be in the case of sick or old-aged people who are bedridden and who can not be immersed at all. The Didache however,  does not support infant baptism since there is mention of a requirement of the candidate to fast for one or two days prior to the day of baptism.

 

Didache chapter 7

 

CHAPTER 7


1 Now concerning baptism, baptize like this: Having first taught all these things, you must baptize candidates in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water [a cold flowing river or stream].


2 And if you do not have living water, then baptize candidates in still water [a pool]; and if you cannot baptize them in cold water, then do so in warm water.


3 But if you do not have any of these types of water (living, still, cold, or warm), then pour some water on the candidate’s head three times in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


4 But before the baptism let the baptizer and the candidate fast, and any others who can join them; but you shall command the candidate to fast for one or two days before they are baptized.

 

Since the Didache was written in Greek to those Christian who spoke the Greek language, they have well understood what did the word in Greek 'baptizo' mean, which is 'to dip' and they obeyed it as it is.

 

Hence, from the writings of the Holy Bible and the earliest doctrines of the Apostles, it is understood that the mode of Christian Baptism was Immersing in water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This was the way Jesus taught his disciples. This is what was commanded by the LORD.

 

 5. Now it is understood that the mode of Christian Baptism must be by immersing in living water such as a river, in a normal situation for a normal candidate. But, how come these doctrines changed over a period of time?

 

The answer to this question is vague since the early church history does not indicate 'who did it first?'. but, looking back to the history of the Christian religion (Not the church), we can arrive at certain conclusions.

 

When we look back to the immediate post Apostle era of the Church, the world government,  which was Roman at that time, was against the Church of Christ, since it preached against the carnal living, idol worship and required the followers of Jesus to observe a holy living of separation as they awaited the immediate return of Christ Jesus. The Jews of that time, who were also spread all around the world were against the Christians as they did not obey the Law of Moses. These factors stirred up contempt among the people against the Christians and the world began to persecute the Christians. In the city of Rome, these persecutions included but not limited to beheading, being thrown as food to lions, being burnt alive by tieing to iron poles and being thrown into boiling oil, and so on.. But, the Christians sustained the persecutions and still multiplied in faith and numbers. They strictly followed the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles. Baptism was administered to those who believed and declared their faith in Christ Jesus.

 

But, as time advanced,  in many parts of the world persecution reduced and nations began to accept Christians. Christian faith began to spread around the world at a very fast pace. Slowly the teachings of the Apostles began to be diluted by distant preachers who never had any direct connections to the Apostles or their writings. It was mostly the word of mouth teachings that was spread around the world. Hence, many doctrines were explained and practiced considering the circumstances and past life of the newly initiated Christians. The preachers and the leaders often had to submit to the requirements of the candidates. This is how the doctrine of baptism also was diluted. Early writings of the second century onwards have mention of infants being baptized. A portion taken from Wikipedia is pasted below for reference.

 

QUOTE. The earliest reference to infant baptism was by Irenaeus (c. 130–202) in his work Against Heresies. Due to its reference to Eleutherus as the current bishop of Rome, the work is usually dated c. 180.  Irenaeus speaks of children being "born again to God." This reference has been described as "obscure." Three passages by Origen (185–c. 254)mention infant baptism as traditional and customary.  While Tertullian writing c. 198–203 advises the postponement of the baptism of little children and the unmarried, he mentions that it was customary to baptize infants, with sponsors speaking on their behalf. The Apostolic Tradition, sometimes attributed to  Hippolytus of Rome (died 235), describes how to perform the ceremony of baptism; it states that children were baptized first, and if any of them could not answer for themselves, their parents or someone else from their family was to answer for them. From at least the 3rd century onward Christians baptized infants as standard practice, although some preferred to postpone baptism until late in life, so as to ensure forgiveness for all their preceding sins. UNQUOTE.

 

It is evident from the above quotation that infant baptism does not have any support from the Holy Bible or the earliest documented doctrine of the church. Let us study, how this deviation in original doctrines happened in the early church.

 

While studying,  how did the doctrine of child baptism enter the early church, you will know that it is by misinterpreting the word 'household'  in three verses in the Holy Bible.

 

a. In 1 Corinthians 1:16, Paul says, “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.”

 

b. In Acts 16:15, Luke writes concerning the new believer, Lydia, “When she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’”

 

c. In Acts 16:33, Luke writes  that after the earthquake in the jail of Philippi, the jailer “took [Paul and Silas] that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his [household].”

 

The matter of concern must be, in any of these passages, there is no mention of an infant or child. Since the doctrine of Baptism was not diluted at the time of Apostles, it is hard for a believer of the Word of God to think to affirm that there were also infants and children, included in the Baptism performed by the Apostles. 

 

For example, my "household' or my brother's "household" or my sister's "household" do not have any infant or a child. If someone writes the whole of  Anson's "household" was baptized, why should someone imagine that there were infants and children in Anson's household?

 

It is hence, evident that the false doctrine of child baptism somehow entered the early Christian religious practice, and later on, the early writers wrote articles in order to substantiate the practice with false explanations based on wild imaginations.

 

It is at this point, an article 'De Baptismo' written in Latin by early church writer Tertullian (AD155-245) (Quintus Septimius Florens)  becomes an important document questioning the practice of infant baptism in the early church. He writes in chapter 18 as follows:

 

"And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary—if (baptism itself) is not so necessary—that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfill their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, “Forbid them not to come unto me.” Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins?” More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with the divine! Let them know how to “ask” for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given  “to him that asketh.” For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred—in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom—until they either marry or else be more fully strengthened for continence. If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay: sound faith is secure of salvation."

 

If interested, you may read the English translation of the article, 'De Baptismo' here.

 

(Downloaded from: https://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0160-0220,_Tertullianus,_De_Baptismo_[Schaff],_EN.pdf)

 

The doctrine of infant baptism entered in the early church to satisfy the influential families who joined the Christian movement, without fully knowing the Good News and who deemed the path of Christianity as a new religious practice. When the Good news of salvation was preached to them and they received and baptized, it is assumed that some parents with weaker understanding might have raised a concern about the salvation of their children. I remember studying this in my Catholic Sunday school lessons. It was understood that, unless one is part of the Church, they would not be saved. Hence, in order to make their children also part of the church, such parents requested for baptizing their children as well. And, some church leaders also thinking on like terms allowed it and thus this wrong practice entered the church in the second century itself. That is why early writers like Tertullian had to question the authenticity of this practice.

 

I remember studying in my Sunday school about early parents whose children or infants died asking questions "will our child be in Heaven, as he/she was not baptized?" This concern of the parents who lost their children in infancy was addressed and solved in the early church by instituting baptism in infancy. Later on, the church liturgy was prepared, it also included a liturgy for infant baptism.

 

Another wrong interpretation of the Holy Bible verses by few church fathers was to represent the doctrine of baptism as a replacement of circumcision of Israelites males children on the eighth day. We shall discuss this in detail as an answer to another doubt.

 

6. If a person who was once baptized as an infant needs to receive baptism again if he/she decided to do so?

 

This is a tricky question.  The answer is "No" for a person who was once baptized as an infant and decides to continue to live the same religious life in which they were born and baptized.

 

But, the answer is "Yes", if they hear the Gospel of Jesus, believed in Him and repented of their sinful life, and decided to be born again and live the rest of their life for Christ Jesus.

 

  • The Baptism commanded by Jesus is only for those who have accepted Him as  Lord and Saviour.
  • The Baptism commanded by Jesus is for those who have been born again and saved in Him.
  • The Baptism commanded by Jesus is only for those who have decided to follow Him and be His disciple.

 

Christian Baptism is the first public display of obedience of a believer in Jesus. Hence, it is an important sacrament and action. Therefore, the right way of starting a new life in Christ Jesus is by doing the Baptism as it was commanded and displayed by Jesus in the River Jordan. He submitted Himself under the hands of John the Baptist, getting into the water in the River Jordan.

 

Therefore, it is necessary for those who might have already received some sort of baptism being part of religious activity or those who have been baptized, but not conforming to the instructions given in the Holy Bible about the Baptism that was obeyed and practiced by the Apostles.

 

A. In Mathew 28 we read, "preach the Gospel and  Baptize."

B. In Mark 16 we read "Who are believed and are Baptized."

C. In Acts 2, Apostle Peter says " Repent and be Baptized".

D. In Romans 6 Apostle Paul says to crucify the old man and bury him in your Baptism.

 

The Holy Bible teaches a credobaptism which holds that Baptism must follow the Spiritual Conversion of a person by believing in Christ Jesus and thus conversion from a sinful life to Holy Life. Therefore paedobaptism is against the teaching of the Holy Bible.  If you are a person saved in Christ Jesus and were baptized as an infant, you need to accept the Baptism as taught by the Holy Bible.

 

7. Is Christian Baptism, the replacement of circumcision of a child on the eighth day?

 

This is a very false interpretation of the Word of God by some bible teachers by combining  Colossians 2: 11-13 and Romans 6: 3-5.

 

Both these bibe portions tell us about repentance and renouncement of a sinner's sinful life followed by Baptism. It is the repentance and belief in Christ Jesus that did the spiritual circumcision of your Heart. The false interpretation of equating circumcision with Baptism is refuted by the following;

 

a.Circumcision was an eternal commandment given by God to the Israelites to bear the mark of His covenant on the body of every Israelite male child. But, Baptism is not such a commandment.     (Genesis 17: 9-14)

 

b.Circumcision was only for the male child. But, Baptism is genderfree.

 

c.Circumcision commanded to the Israelites was to remove the foreskin of the sex organ of every male child. But, Baptism is for the whole person.

 

d.In the case of circumcision, those who refuse to accept it were to be expelled out from society. But, in the case of Baptism, there is no such commandment.

 

e.Circumcision was not a sacrament. But, Baptism is a sacrament. The sacrament is "a visible sign of an inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace: the sacraments of the Protestant churches are baptism and the Lord's Supper; the sacraments of the Roman Catholic  and Greek Orthodox churches are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction."

 

f.Circumcision was strict to be done on the eighth day of the child. But, Baptism is after a person has grown up to accept Christ Jesus as his/her saviour.

 

g. Baptism is an individual's decision, but circumcision is not a choice, but a rule.

 

8. There is proof in the Holy Bible that children were also baptized. How do you then say infant baptism is against the teaching of the Bible?

 

Before we move ahead to clear this doubt, I invite you to read a good article published at this URL.

 

Now let us examine each Bible verse that paedobaptists use to support their practice.

 

a. Mark 10:14 For Jesus said “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” 

 

Here, Jesus says to those who are around that Kingdom of God belongs to those who are innocent like a child. This means children are already heirs of the Kingdom of God and they are well within it. 

 

What is the need to Baptize a person who is already in the Kingdom of God? Through baptism, a sinner who was once deserted from the communion of God reunites with the Body of Christ. Who would want to detach a person who is already in the Body of Christ, just to perform a procedure and then re-attach him to the Body of Christ? Is there any rationale for it?

 

b. John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit."

 

We have already studied in our Saturday Bible class that Jesus meant by being born of water and Spirit is about being Born again. It is basically being repenting of the sinful life, being justified by God, and being born by the Holy Spirit. We have also studied that the water specified here is not the physical water. Hence, without having willfully accepted the Good News of Jesus, one can not be born again.

 

Why should children who are already in the Kingdom of God and having never willfully committed any sin, how they get detached from the Glory of God? Why they should then get born again and then enter the Kingdom of God? Is there any rationale?

 

c. Acts 2: 38-39 Peter Replied “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call”

 

The Promise is for you and your children... does this verse promote the Baptism of infants? It is very clear that repentance is prior to baptism. Do your children need to be baptized for receiving the Holy Spirit? God pours His Holy Spirit on anyone whom He feels deserving. How did Elizabeth fill with the Holy Spirit? How did the believers gathered in the house of Cornelius fill with the Holy Spirit? The promise of God is the gift of the Holy Spirit. But, a person who is not into a saving relationship with Jesus,  has to hear the Good News of Jesus and go through the process of salvation before being Baptized.

 

d. Acts 15: 14-15 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

 

     Acts 16: 31-33 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night, the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.

 

 The paedobaptists claim that there were also infants in their household. Do you think, the Apostles would have done anything against the teaching of Christ Jesus? Why should someone think that there were also infants in those households? If myself Anson and my household receive Baptism today and if anyone rights after some years that Anson and his household were baptized, is there any fact if someone claims that Anson had infants in his house?

 

As long as the Bible does not specify any children or infants in that household, we have to grab on to the teachings of Jesus. He said, in Mark 16:16, those who believed and baptized will be saved.

 

Hence, it is very clear that the above household had people who could hear the Good News and could believe and profess their faith.

 

e. Tradition.

 

There are well-preserved writings from 2 AD onwards about infant baptism being practiced commonly in the early church.

 

Answer: Let there be thousands of such writings. But, none of these writings can overshadow the very purpose of Baptism commanded by Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More to be added...... 13 Mar 2021 Please return after few weeks.