By Dr. Bert Bauman
Love is not arrogant.
I am convinced that true fellowship is impossible without the practice of love as stated above. Love must be applied upon the principles set forth in Romans chapter 14. Each believer must be allowed to have his faith between himself and his God and allow equal liberty to his brother. I know of no other ground that Baptists can have true Christian fellowship and work together in unity with Episcopalians, Lutherans and etc. It has been my privilege to see this kind of fellowship so I know it is possible. I have conducted the baptismal service of infants in the presence of Baptists and immersed adults in the presence of Lutherans without the slightest disruption in fellowship. Our basis of fellowship is not doctrinal, denominational or intellectual but rather Jesus Christ and faith working through love by His Spirit. No one has compromised personal convictions but rather all honor each other’s faith and convictions. We dare not impose our own way, but allow each his own way and faith toward God. This makes, for heavenly fellowship!
FELLOWSHIPis nurtured through understanding. I therefore feel impelled to set forth what I and those who believe as I do see in the scripture on this subject of water baptism. I do not hope to convert anyone with a contrary view, nevertheless, I feel our view should be presented so that if not agreed to, it might at east be understood or tolerated. In so doing I trust this will help those who disagree to understand that we believe there is a scriptural foundation for our practices. In other words, this is an attempt to give a reason for the faith that is in us and thus help to eliminate that gray area of suspicion and misunderstanding which often separates the body of Jesus Christ.
Many years ago, after repeated challenges from those who held Baptist views I determined to search out the truth for myself and so I took my Bible and prayerfully sought an answer. As I searched the scripture, the following things became convincingly clear to me. The years since then have only increased the depth of that conviction.
What is baptism?
In the New Testament we find the word baptism used in five different ways. (1) Water baptism. (2) Ceremonial cleansing. (3) Baptism with the Holy Spirit. (4) Baptism into spiritual union with Christ. (5) To describe going through some trial or experience. The same Greek word is used in each of these cases. In this study it is not always easy to distinguish between points one and four and so will attempt to refer only to those passages which unmistakably speak of water baptism.
The obvious thing we see from those passages which undeniably relate to our subject is that it signifies entrance into the Christian faith. Jesus commanded those who heard and believed the Gospel to be baptized. Mark 10:10 and Matthew 28:19.
In his first sermon Peter also commanded baptism for those who believe in Jesus and added, "…for the forgiveness of sins", Acts 2:38. Ananias also understood something like this in baptism. When he baptized Paul he said, "be baptized and wash away your sins." Acts 22:16. Thus from these two scriptures we see that baptism is a means by which forgiveness and washing away of sins is appropriated.
The Apostle Paul adds testimony to the cleansing received through baptism in Ephesians 5:25-26. "Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. The reference is obviously to the baptismal waters in which Christ cleanses His church. The water with the word gives baptism its purifying power. Christ can cleanse His church in this way because He "gave himself for it."
The wonderful truth of union with Christ through baptism seems to be taught in Romans 5:3-5 and Galatians 3:27, but we must allow for the possibility that here the word baptism is used in the sense of our fourth usage, i.e. the Holy Spirit’s work of baptizing the believer into the body of Christ according to I Corinthians 12:13. (Though I believe it is one and the same work). Be that as it may, in Colossians 2:10-12, water baptism is meant and the same truth stands out there.
The law of sin and death must be fulfilled. Christ has paid the demands of this law or rather fulfilled this law. Through Christian baptism, the believer is brought into complete union with Christ. This identification with Christ brings the believer into His death and consequently into His resurrection life. In other words, through Christian baptism the old self dies the death of Christ and is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea with Him and finally a new man free from all the claims of the law of sin and death comes forth with Jesus in His resurrection. The law of sin and death has been satisfied. Correctly understood, baptism is not an empty sign but a means of spiritually transferring a soul from the state of legal condemnation into living union with Christ and through Him into divine sonship. It is infinitely more than an act of obedience or testimony. Testimony to the world is only an incidental part of the believer’s baptism. Nowhere in the Bible is baptism set forth as a testimony to the world. It is a visible means through which to appropriate an invisible promise of grace. God has given several such aids to faith in the Lord’s supper, baptism, the anointing with oil and the laying on of hands.
A very important point to note in Colossians 2:11-12, is the linking of circumcision with baptism.These verses have been translated in various ways and not always too clearly. Following are quotes from three translations which have made a point of using clear, modern language: (Weymouth) "In Him also you who were circumcised with a circumcision not performed by hand, when you threw off your sinful nature in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in your baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith produced within you by God, who raised Him from the dead." (The New English Bible) "In Him also you were circumcised, not in a physical sense, but by being divested of the lower nature; this is Christ’s way of circumcision. For in baptism you were buried with Him, in baptism also you were raised to life with Him through your faith in the active power of God who raised Him from the dead." (The Amplified Bible) "In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, but in a (spiritual) circumcision (performed by) Christ by stripping off the body of the flesh (the corrupt, carnal nature with its passions and lusts). (Thus you were circumcised when) you were buried with Him in (your) baptism, In which you were also raised with Him (to new life) through (your) faith in the working of God (as displayed) when He raised Him up from the dead". These words clearly speak of baptism as the way into Christ’s death whereby the sinful man has been put to death and buried, that is, the body of the sins of the flesh is put off even as the Old Testament circumcision symbolized. In the old ordinance of circumcision, God took away the "reproach of Egypt". Joshua 5:9. The "reproach" of course, is sin. In Old Testament typology, Egypt is a type of the world so that we may say "the reproach of the world" was rolled away. This is also what God does in baptism, as we have seen. Circumcision was the gateway into the Old Testament promises of God. Baptism is the gateway into the New Testament promises.
Another scripture which obviously speaks concerning our subject, is I Peter 3:20-21. "They had refused obedience long ago, while God waited patiently in the days of Noah and the building of the ark, and in the ark a few persons, eight in all, were brought to safety through the water. This water prefigures the water of baptism through which you are now brought to safety. Baptism is not the washing away of bodily pollution, but the appeal made to God by a good conscience; and it brings salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. New English Bible. Here again it is clearly stated that baptism is an agent of grace, a means through which we pass out of danger into safety. Just as Noah and his were saved from a condemned world into a new world through water so the believer and all his are translated out of the condemned kingdom into the kingdom of safety. Correctly understood then, baptism is the means of bringing Christ and the benefits of His work to the believer.
Should children be baptized?
Baptist theology gives an uncompromising no to this question, chiefly due to its interpretation of Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 in which the sentence structure places believing and repentance before baptism. They conclude, since a child cannot believe or repent it does not meet the conditions set forth and should therefore not be baptized. A casual reading of these passages certainly yields such a conclusion. Upon further reflection however, it is evident that these references contain no revelation whatever of God’s attitude towards children. Both scriptures are directed towards responsible persons who can hear and reason and make a choice.
In the case of Mark 16:16, Jesus told the disciples to announce the good news to the whole creation and baptize those who receive the word. Baptism was the visible act of receiving the invisible grace which came to them through the word. There is no other way the gospel can come into a community but for someone to preach it and for responsible persons to receive it. This command has to do with the first principles of evangelization and gives no direction concerning the daily lives or family responsibilities of those who are converted. No one would go into a heathen land and baptize children thus hoping to convert the country. Even today those who practice infant baptism evangelize according to Christ’s formula. I personally know dedicated Lutheran missionaries who have opened new areas to the Gospel and they did it by bringing the word of God to responsible men through teaching and preaching and baptizing those who believed. I repeat, this scripture is not a doctrinal statement concerning children and their relationship to the Gospel.
Turning to Acts 2:38 we note this to be a quote from a sermon preached by a disciple who was following the directions Jesus laid down in Mark 16:16, but here the word "believe" replaces the word "repent". There is good reason for this change. The audience of Peter’s sermon were not rank heathen but a people who knew of Jesus Christ. They saw His miracles and listened to His message but rejected and crucified Him. This is clear from the context of Peter’s sermon. To accept Christ they obviously had to turn around from their attitude of rejection, thus repenting, and come to Christ before they were in a position to receive His grace through being baptized. This is exactly the same way anyone believing in infant baptism would preach to such a people today. This passage is a quotation from a sermon to a particular group of people who had before chosen against God and are here directed to reverse their unbelieving choice. One can not build a doctrine from such a specific instance and apply it to questions outside of these circumstances. If this passage says anything concerning children it is in favor of they’re being heirs to God’s provision along with their parents for verse 39 declares, "the promise is to you and to your children."
Other New Testament scriptures prove just as unrevealing concerning children. None are conclusive to confirm or deny the baptism of infants. Mark 10:13-16 is used in most infant baptism ceremonies but this reference is not clearly related to baptism and so is not convincing. However, Jesus was obviously displeased with those who would keep little children from Gods blessing. These were infants as is clear from the Greek text in this and parallel passages such as Luke 18:15. Since He invited infants and blessed them it is folly to insist that infants cannot receive from God. Jesus would not be guilty of an empty formality. Many present day disciples still hold the same attitude toward infants these early disciples held, but I doubt for the same reasons. The early disciples, I believe, were more concerned with saving Him from annoyances. Whatever the reason, Jesus disagreed with this attitude to the point of indignation. It is noted that Jesus blessed rather than baptized the infants but this is not a valid argument against infant baptism since Jesus baptized no one, not even adults. John 4:2.
The New Testament records of entire households or families receiving baptism have been cited by some. There are at least three such records: the household of Lydia in Acts 16:15, the Philippian jailer and all his in Act. 16:33 and the household of Stephanas in
I Corinthians 1:16. That these do not definitely state children were in the household, though it seems unlikely to me that out of three households there should be no children. In that day families were large and the household often included servants with their families as well as relatives. Be that as it may, if children were included we have no way of knowing how old or young they would have been, therefore these scriptures prove nothing either for or against infant baptism.
One must admit the obvious -- the New Testament is riot clear on the subject of infant baptism. All that can be known from the most pertinent New Testament citations must be gleaned by inference and as we see, inference can be draw towards opposite conclusions.
The Old Testament speaks
It seemed strange to me that the New Testament should be so indefinite on such a foundational subject until I realized that foundational principles had already been taught to these people through whom salvation came. Remember Christianity is not a new religion but the fulfillment of a religion. "Salvation is from the Jews." John 4:22. God had already over many centuries established His attitudes and principles concerning many things in these people and it was from this root that Christianity grew. In I Corinthians 10:11 the New Testament points us back to the Old for instruction through the examples and principles taught there. It is my conviction that many of the doctrines Christians wrangle over with New Testament scriptures could be cleared up if they would learn to use the full revelation of God which begins with the Old Testament. I believe the problem before us must also be approached through the Old Testament patterns and examples.
When God first revealed Himself to Abram, He made a covenant with him. It was a covenant of grace resting entirely upon promise. Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran in obedience to God. When he was 99 the Lord renewed His promise, changed the name Abram to Abraham and gave him a covenant sign. Genesis 17:11. This sign was circumcision and was a seal between God and Abraham and all his descendants. God had made a promise to Abraham but it was necessary for Abraham to accept it. The way designated to receive the promise was to receive the sign or token of the covenant. The promise was not automatic to Abraham’s descendants but for those who receive the covenant sign only. Those who did not receive the covenant sign were cut off from the covenant people. Genesis 17:14. The very day the covenant sign was given Abraham received it as did his 13 year old son Ishmael, together with Abraham’s household. Genesis 17:26. But what about the descendants of Abraham not yet born -- when should they enter the covenant? When 99 as Abraham or 13 as Ishmael? Perhaps when they reach the age of understanding so they can believe for themselves and choose the covenant sign as Abraham did? No, God did not allow Abraham to guess or reason about this important question. The divine attitude towards the infant sons that came from Abraham was taught in very specific language. He said in effect, "Abraham, you are responsible to bring your sons into our covenant when they are 8 days old." Genesis 17:12. God considered this charge to Abraham and his descendants a very serious responsibility. Every father who descended from Abraham was held accountable to bring his sons into the covenant by administering the covenant sign. A father who neglected to do so was in danger of judgment. Even the great Moses when on his way to bring deliverance to the children of Israel was saved from a judgment of death when his wife Zipporah performed the circumcision he had neglected to do. Exodus 4:34-26. Every descendant of Abraham had the divine grant of coming into covenant relation with God through the covenant sign administered by the father. It was the faith of the father that brought the covenant blessing to his children. The infant himself obviously does not first believe or repent to receive the covenant sign. It was his right through Gods free provision and promise and entirely by grace. Following entrance into God’s covenant, the child was to be taught about God and His plan so when he came of age he would through his own choice believe in the promise of His God. Deuteronomy 6:7, 11:19. Should the son decide to reject the covenant after himself becoming responsible his circumcision was of no value. The father was responsible to bring his son into the covenant but the son was responsible to ratify that covenant with his heart when he grew up. Deuteronomy 10:15-16.
So far we have seen how God dealt with Abraham, the example to the faithful, and his children. The promise of course, extended to his children’s children and all his posterity. But God also made provision for others who were not of Abraham’s stock. It was possible for any man to come into the covenant the same way that Abraham did, in other words, an adult strange to the promise could be converted and join the covenant people becoming full heir of the promise with Abraham’s descendants by choosing Abraham’s God and receiving the covenant sign together with his sons. Read Exodus 12:48-49.
To summarize our observations of the Old Testament dealings between God and man we have as follows:
It is not necessary for the New Testament to clarify infant baptism because it would be redundant to restate something which is so precisely taught under the old covenant and so deeply ingrained in the hearts of the people through whom Christianity came. No Jewish father, who believed in Jesus and received baptism, the sign or token of receiving the new covenant, would think twice about what to do with his children. He knew he was God’s priest in his home and responsible for the spiritual welfare of his children as the law had taught him, therefore, he would administer the sign of the new covenant to his children soon after they were born. What a believing father should do with his children is taken for granted in the New Testament. Nothing in the New Testament contradicts what is clearly taught to Abraham and reinforced in the law concerning this matter of believers, their infants and the covenants of God.
The old covenant was only a type of what was to come, Hebrews 10:1, yet the old made definite provision for children. Would not a new and better covenant do as much? Some simply dedicate their children, however, that was the second command in the old covenant. First came administration of the covenant sign. It would seem to me that the same objections raised against infant baptism should apply to the dedication of infants. In either case the parents are acting in behalf of the child and the child does not of its own will believe or choose God. Jesus was first circumcised (Luke 2:21), then dedicated to the Lord, (verse 22). Since baptism replaces circumcision as the covenant sign, (Colossians 2:11-12), we ought to give our children the benefit of this blessing even as the Jewish children received it. The church from the earliest time has administered baptism to children. It is certainly scriptural to do this for children of believers. Paul expressly teaches in Galatians, 3:15-29, that believers in Christ are under the gracious provisions of the covenant which God made with Abram. Under that covenant circumcision was administered to children as a sign of their participation in the relationship in which their parents stood to God. Certainly the children of believers in a new and better covenant have an equal privilege. Jesus Christ is forever the same. Hebrews l3:8. As He thought, acted and spoke yesterday, so He does today.
At this point I would like to inject an observation drawn from the experience of those who are engaged in counseling and deliverance ministries. It has often been found that Satanic subjection came upon people in childhood or even infancy through the occult practices of parents. Participation in Fortune Telling, Spiritism, Astrology or any of the multiplied forms of divination and sorcery seems to give Satan a peculiar right to the children of those so involved. Often the occult abilities of parents are passed on to offspring through recognized ceremonies for that purpose. Since children are so vulnerable to the spirit world, why deny them the protection of the covenant sign? If they can be subjected to Satan through occult ceremonies, surely they can also be subjected to God through the holy ceremony of baptism. In my opinion, believing parents who baptize their children bring them under the protection of God in a special way so they are not "open game" to the curses and evil spirits of this age.
The grace of God is free to all and by its very nature flows wherever it is not resisted. Receiving it is more a matter of ceasing resistance than doing something to get it. Faith allows the grace of God. Since children do not resist, they are the best example of the citizens of the Kingdom of God. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:2-4.
Affusion or immersion?
How much water is necessary before baptism can be considered valid? Christians today generally take the position that it is not important how water is administered so long as it is used and therefore most practice affusion. Other Christians insist on immersion as the only valid mode. These are known in history as Anabaptists because they re-baptize those who have been baptized in any other way.
Those who practice affusion are willing to accept the validity of immersion. On the other hand, the Anabaptist aggressively asserts only immersion is true baptism. Immersionists claim their objection to other modes is based upon obvious scripture texts. Since the scripture is the only patent source of truth we must examine these texts carefully to see if they are indeed as conclusive as immersionists suppose.
In my opinion the strongest point immersionists have is the meaning of the Greek word translated baptism (baptizo) is to dip, plunge or immerse. This no doubt is the classical definition of the word and it is so defined in any Greek lexicon. However, in a lexicon dealing with New Testament words, the lexicographer finds it necessary to modify the classical definition with alternate meanings.
The New Testament was not written in classical Greek but in what is known as the Koine or common Greek. This was the language of the man on the street. In many instances the Koine Greek is different from the language of the classical writers. Just as our language tends to change over a period of time and words tend to acquire modifications in daily use, so many Greek words were altered from their strictly Classical sense by common usage. We are not so much concerned with how the classical Greek writers use a word as we are with what that word meant to Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Greek lexicons can never fully settle the question as to what baptizo means in the New Testament. The best way to find out what the word meant to the people in Jesus’ day is to go to the New Testament and see how it is used there. When Christianity began, certain Greek words had to be "Christianized in order to express religious experiences and thoughts. For example, the lexicon defines the Greek word logos as word or speech, but in the New Testament it is often used of Jesus Christ. Pneuma literally means wind or breath but in the New Testament it is adapted to mean spirit. There is a big difference between the lexicon definition and the New Testament use of these examples.
Baptizo is not always used in its classical or literal sense in the New Testament. The Greek language was the world language long before the days of Christ. Even the Jews spoke Greek more than Hebrew. Greek words were adopted to express their religious thoughts. There was no Greek word that exactly conveyed the idea of ceremonial cleansing or purification which held a very important place in their religious life. Baptizo was the Greek word which came to be used to denote the idea of purification -- regardless of how it was done. When a Jew was baptized, he was cleansed. He might be sprinkled, immersed or poured upon, the important thing to him was that he was cleansed. The translators of our English Bible knew this and wisely carried over the word from Greek to English for there is no other word that can exactly convey the meaning this word carried. Therefore, some immersionists charge unjustly that the translators were being dishonest and prejudiced when they used the word baptize rather than immerse as they contend should have been done.
In Young’s Concordance, we find the word water joined with the word baptism eight times. In each instance the preposition with rather than into appears. If Immerse is the only meaning of baptism, it should be translated "immersed into water". The force of the verb immerse is to place the subject into something. One does not immerse with water but into water. Jesus should have said, John truly baptized into water, in Acts 1:5, if immerse is the only allowable definition. If, however, water baptism was understood as a cleansing in these references, then the translation stands as it is without strain.
In six of the eight instances under consideration, water baptism is set in contrast to Spirit baptism. The Greek baptizo is used in both types of baptism. Whenever the baptism with the Holy Spirit is indicated the Greek is baptizo. In passages which speak of the baptism of the Spirit, however the inference is not to the believer being dipped or immersed into the Spirit. Other words are used to describe that baptism.
In Acts 1:5, Jesus said, "For John baptized with water but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit", In verse 8 He uses the phrase "come upon you" referring to the same promise. When it came to pass in Acts 2:4, scripture says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter quoting the prophecy from Joel in verse 17 and 18 said, "I will pour out my Spirit". Thus we have at least six appearances of the word baptizo where it is used to mean, "to pour upon". Jesus and Joel clearly say that is how it was done and yet it is called baptism.
Three other appearances of the word baptizo are important to consider. The King James version translates with our word wash in these places. Mark tells us in Mark 7:4 that the Jews in his day baptized themselves every time they returned from the market and that they also baptized cups vessels, utensils and even couches. Were the translators prejudiced when they used wash instead of immerse in these two places? Obviously they did not immerse their couches nor themselves many times a day. It was a ceremonial cleansing and they did it by sprinkling as the law commanded. In Luke 11:38 the Pharisees marveled that Jesus did not wash (baptize) before dinner. Surely any thinking person realizes that the Pharisees did not expect Jesus to immerse himself before eating. It was the ceremonial cleansing they expected which they were so strict to observe. The "divers washings" spoken of in Hebrews 9:10 are "various baptisms". One of these is mentioned in verse 10 and it was done by sprinkling as the law commanded. See also Numbers 19:17-18.
Here then, are three uses of the word baptizo where it applies to sprinkling. We have found at least nine places where the word baptize does not mean immerse but sprinkle or pour. This we learn not from a lexicon definition but from the context of the scripture itself. This is a much safer way to find out what a writer means by his use of a word. Of course there may be times when baptizo is used in the sense of immerse. I am not saying the word is never so used but I do say the scriptures we have examined prove the dogmatism of some immersionists cannot be supported.
The baptism of Jesus
Often I have heard the statement "follow Jesus in baptism". This is a catchy phrase and some preachers seem to delight in using it much like a modern advertising jingle. The baptism of Jesus in fact, was not the same baptism we are considering. It was an Old Testament cleansing but surely not Christian baptism, Christians have a better baptism than John. Paul rebaptized those he found with only John’s baptism, Acts 19:4, Those who espouse the before mentioned catch phrase seem to forget all this. Jesus was baptized under the law and according to the law, with running water at thirty years of age, so they do not really follow Him in baptism at all. These same people often refer to Mark 1:10 "and when He came up out of the water", as conclusive for immersion. The RSV in Matthew’s account of Christ’s baptism (3:16) renders it accurately as, "He went up immediately from the water." Mark says out of, Matthew says from. The King James does not make the distinction the Greek text makes but the RSV does. Either way this is read, I have often gone down into water and came up out of the water but this does not me that I was under the water. It is a geological fact that every stream or body of water is in a depression and you go down when you approach it. You go down into the water if you walk beyond the shore and you come up out of the water when you return to the higher ground.
John baptized thousands of people; a monumental task considering the short time he had to do it in. It would have required a great deal of stamina and time to immerse all those people. On the other hand, John had precedent from Moses on how to cleanse a multitude, which was done by sprinkling with hyssop according to law. In this way hundreds of people could be baptized by John each day and still leave time for his preaching and teaching. John was the son of a priest and no doubt was thoroughly familiar with the methods of cleansing commanded in the law. For example, instruction for induction of Levites into their office was prescribed in Numbers 8:6-7, "Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shall you do unto them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them …". In Numbers 19:18-40, we have the law for cleansing the unclean. "And a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in water and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there … and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean …".
When John objected to Jesus coming for baptism, Jesus said, "Suffer it to be so now for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness". When the Jews fulfilled all righteousness it meant they carefully did what the law commanded. Jesus came to fulfill the law. He is our priest, it would seem to me that His baptism was in part a fulfillment of Numbers 8:6-7. His consecration into God’s service had to be completed according to law since He came under the law, thus He had to fulfill all righteousness. Immediately after this He began His ministry. If Jesus was baptized in fulfillment of the law, it is logical to think of John standing in the Jordan and with a bunch of hyssop sprinkle water upon Jesus as He came down to him in the water. The Pharisees who were sticklers for doing things according to law did not criticize John’s method of cleansing so it must have been done as the law prescribed.
Acts 8:38-39 is a parallel scripture to Mark 1:8 which is often quoted by Baptists. "… they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip." This they say describes immersion, "they went down into the water… and when they were come up out of the water." These words could not be describing the actual baptism. As in Mark 1:8, they went down into the water and Philip could have either sprinkled or poured the water upon the eunuch. If one reads this as going under the water then Philip would also have gone under the water with the eunuch. This scripture emphasizes that both went down into the water - - both Philip and the eunuch. Surely the one performing the baptism never goes under the water with the candidate.
The context of what the eunuch was reading begins in Isaiah 52:13 and continues through the last verse of chapter 53. Of course, it is a prophecy of Jesus and the work He would do. Verse 15 prophecies of the cleansing of the Gentiles, "So shall he sprinkle many nations. It does not say immerse but sprinkle nations. Quite possibly the eunuch requested baptism because of what he had just read in Isaiah 52:15. In my opinion, he surely would expect it to be done according to the prophecy.
Ezekiel 36:21-38 is a prophecy of the future conversion of the house of Israel. Verse 25 says they will be cleansed with water. This water is to be applied to Israel the same way as it was to be applied to the nations -- by sprinkling. In other words, this scripture promises that the house of Israel will be brought into the New Testament covenant. The only cleansing involving water in the New Testament at is baptism, therefore this must be a prophecy of Israel receiving Christian baptism and God says it will be done by sprinkling.
How important is baptism?
We have seen in the course of this study that God intends baptism to be more than an empty sign. He promises in baptism to put us into Christ (Galatians 3:26, 27). Forgive our sins and give the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Wash away our sins (Acts 22:18). Bury our old sinful self and raise us to new life with Christ (Romans 6:3-5). Save us from being condemned along with the world (I Peter 3:21). All these things, and more may be ours because Jesus Christ bought them for the human race with His own blood. God has given us baptism as a tangible means through which we can receive Christ and be united with Him, thus inheriting all these blessings through this union. Galatians 3:21-27 and l Corinthians 6:11. Jesus Christ commands this grace for "all nations" (Matthew 28:19) and to "every creature" Mark 16:15). Surely infants are included in "all nations" and "every creature" for "of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10,14,15) and "the promise is unto you, and to your children" (Acts 2:39). However, no one, not even adult converts, when receiving baptism fully understands what is promised to them in baptism. They do not walk in the fullness of their Christian inheritance immediately. The Christian, regardless of age, is in a process of growth in knowledge and faith; nevertheless, baptism is the point in time when all these things are given to the individual. All the promises must be individually appropriated by faith. Baptism is intended to be an aid to faith in receiving the manifold grace of God.
The one essential when coming to God is faith. Everything we have written here is only valid when it is done in faith. Baptism is not essential to salvation but without faith it’s impossible to please God. Baptism is intended to be an aid to faith. It is a God-given tangible way to receive the intangible grace of God won for us by Jesus Christ. Other means are sometimes used to do this such as the altar call, the raised hand or coming forward in a meeting. Whatever aid to faith may be utilized, the important thing is that each individual appropriates the grace of God personally through faith. This is usually done at a specific point in time through a definite outward act and choice of will. I believe from the scripture we have examined that baptism is the God-given aid to faith. Thus we may know exactly at what moment in time we were cleansed from the sinful old man and were united with Christ.
It seems, however, that God is not so much of a legalist on baptism as some of His children. We have already noted that Jesus baptized no one and the Apostle Paul wrote that God did not send him to baptize but to preach the gospel. Salvation is a gift of grace and grace alone. How it is received is not so important as that it is received.
What I have written here is not so much to win agreement as to plead for tolerance. Certainly, this has not been written to set forth a rigid view that must be followed in order to be saved. Every believer is to be fully persuaded in his own mind as to what he believes. This often gets to be an intensely personal thing with deep conviction. Perhaps it must be that all are in some degree different in faith and doctrine in order to properly fulfill God’s individual call and ministry. My prayer is that after reading this those who disagree with what we have written, will at least be able to understand why some of us believe as we do.
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