For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1Co 14:33 KJV)
I know that I have taken a while to post again, and I am sorry for that. With everything that happened in Charlotesville a few weekends ago, I got myself way too wrapped up in it on social media and needed to take a break for a little while. Thank you for being patient with me, and I want to say thank you again for the continued views of my page. I greatly appreciate all of the readers. I hope that you are finding these blogs enlightening and challenging. The last blog in this series that I wrote was about whether or not baptism was required for salvation. In this blog I want to focus on the fact that if you even get past this challenging issue, you then have to ask which baptism; pouring (effusion), dipping (immersion), or sprinkling (aspersion) is the correct one? Once again, this is, I think, considered a non-issue among most believers. When I talk to most Christians about what church they go to, a favorite question I like to ask is what made them chose that church. I can count on one hand the amount of times I have been told it was based on specific beliefs. Usually it is more vague reasons, such as, “they preach the Bible”. Other vague reasons given include, “we like the music”, “they have a great youth program”, “they help out in the community”, and my all time favorite “we love the Preacher”.
And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” (Luk 4:8 ESV)
I will leave that blog for another day, but I will simply state that I have seen people back their preachers message (because lets be honest they idolize the Preacher instead of God), more then the Bible. I hear all the time, “Well Brother so and so said…”. Or, “Brother so and so gave an awesome message this morning and he said…”. I hear that a whole lot more then I hear, “I read in my Bible today…”. However, I am not trying to suggest that the Bible is the only place you should get your information (I am sure that will not sit well with most). The thing about it is that it is not the only place where any of us get our information. Here is the problem relying on your preacher, do you know how many preachers there are in various belief systems? Nearly all of them use the Bible, the same one your preacher uses, only to preach a completely different message then your preacher. Someone has it wrong, but nine times out of ten it seems the main reason we choose a church has more to do with the music, the youth program, and/or “loving” the Preacher, then what is actually being preached.
Back on topic, sorry for chasing a rabbit. When it comes to the topic of baptism I realize that some who think it is not a requirement for salvation may not see then why it matters what way you were baptized. However, try and go into most Baptist churches, if you were only sprinkled, and ask to join. Most Baptist churches will require you to be baptized by full immersion (all the way under the water), in order for you to become a member of that church. For this reason and other reasons, I believe it does matter that we understand the differences in opinion on this topic.
What reason do churches sprinkle (or pour water) water on people? Well first, it is important to note that most churches that believe sprinkling or pouring water on someone is an acceptable form of baptism, also usually do not have an issue with full immersion as well. The opposite is true of those that believe in full immersion as the only way, as they seem to think that it is literally the only way to be baptized (I would like one proof of it being the only way). The reason that most churches sprinkle or pour water on people to symbolize baptism is because it is an acceptable practice according to scripture.
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” (Eze 36:25 NAS)
If you continue in this chapter, these verses continue to describe a salvation experience through this cleansing by sprinkling. Not to overlap the last blog in this series, but this is an interesting point that it would be put as a necessity for cleansing a person. You may say, well that is in the Old Testament. OK, well look at the New Testament, in it you will find the story of Paul being baptized in Acts 9. This is what is said in verse 18:
And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. (Act 9:18 KJV)
To those who support the idea of sprinkling or pouring, it is a common verse used to show that Paul was clearly standing, as it says “he rose” (ESV), and then the baptism happened. Obviously, you can not be baptized by full immersion if you are standing (that I am aware of, please correct me if I am wrong). The common defense for this verse being used to show that full immersion is not required is to claim that the word, ἐβαπτίσθη in the Greek, is defined as full immersion. Honestly though, it depends on which commentary you are using. I would also point you to Luke 11:38, where the Pharisees try and trip Jesus up by criticizing Him because he did not “wash” before dinner. Contextually, this was referring to a ceremonial practice to cleanse yourself before eating. However, when you look at the Greek word used here for wash, it is the same word used later in Acts, ἐβαπτίσθη. No one is going to try and argue that the Pharisees were trying to say that Jesus needed to go be fully immersed in water before He could eat.
The reality is that there is no scripture to suggest that full immersion is the only way to be baptized. Quite the contrary, there are scripture that suggest it improbable, and unlikely that full immersion was the only way people were baptized. Another interesting perspective on this to consider is that it is interesting considering that Baptist believe that you have to be fully immersed in water that they also believe it is not a requirement for salvation, and they believe that a child is not bound by this salvation requirement (Age of Accountability). It seems to be convenient that you would not require a young child to be baptized by full immersion (you would be considered crazy, and likely be sent to jail), and instead would simply suggest that baptism is then not required for salvation, and that you have to be old enough to understand what you are accepting in order to be held liable for your salvation. After all, how could you tell a grieving mother that her young child will be going to hell because they did not accept Christ, nor were they baptized. Instead of facing that issue it would naturally be easier to just do away with baptism as a requirement, and do away with salvation being required of a child before a certain (not specific, although most agree on 12 years old) age. I fear that we are basing our doctrine on logic instead of the Bible. I am not saying that is necessarily wrong, but it could be.
I want to leave you with some personal application of a real world example of where full immersion was an illogical choice, and so a Chaplain went outside the box and baptized by pouring. Lt. Carey H. Cash (Navy Chaplain), author of A Table In The Presence, tells of his personal experience being attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as they entered into Iraq from Kuwait as one of the first during Operation Iraqi Freedom following 9/11. In this book, Lt. Cash talks about an amazing experience that he had with his men, where a Marine in his unit asked to accept Christ out in the Iraq wasteland, and then to be baptized. Lt. Cash admits that it would have been easier to have done this back in the states, and to be able to plan it out, but this was not their experience. They were in the middle east, in the middle of a war. Lt. Cash shares how he baptized this young Marine.
“Filling my chalice to the rim with the potable water from my canteen, I asked the young Marine to lean back, and in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Eli was baptized”. A Table In The Presence, Lt. Carey Cash, p. 133
There are churches today that would reject this baptism of Eli. You see, out in Iraq it did not make any sense to try and baptize this young man by full immersion. The author of this book that I have quoted certainly seems to be very confident of his choice of baptism for this Marine. I do not think it is fair to simply dismiss this other opinion, because as Baptist you may not believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. You do require it in most Baptist churches to be a member. So, why does it have to be full immersion?
It is very confusing to me to be hard on what form of baptism for church membership, but not on being baptized to be saved. This seems to be chosen for the sake of convenience, and not theological doctrine. Please feel free to leave a public comment at the bottom of this blog, or you can send a private comment through the form directly below this paragraph. Please let me know what you think. I appreciate all of the feedback.