Baptism, Christian

an ordinance immediately instituted by Christ (Matt. 28:19, 20),
and designed to be observed in the church, like that of the
Supper, "till he come." The words "baptize" and "baptism" are
simply Greek words transferred into English. This was
necessarily done by the translators of the Scriptures, for no
literal translation could properly express all that is implied
in them.

The mode of baptism can in no way be determined from the Greek
word rendered "baptize." Baptists say that it means "to dip,"
and nothing else. That is an incorrect view of the meaning of
the word. It means both (1) to dip a thing into an element or
liquid, and (2) to put an element or liquid over or on it.
Nothing therefore as to the mode of baptism can be concluded
from the mere word used. The word has a wide latitude of
meaning, not only in the New Testament, but also in the LXX.
Version of the Old Testament, where it is used of the ablutions
and baptisms required by the Mosaic law. These were effected by
immersion, and by affusion and sprinkling; and the same word,
"washings" (Heb. 9:10, 13, 19, 21) or "baptisms," designates
them all. In the New Testament there cannot be found a single
well-authenticated instance of the occurrence of the word where
it necessarily means immersion. Moreover, none of the instances
of baptism recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (2:38-41;
8:26-39; 9:17, 18; 22:12-16; 10:44-48; 16:32-34) favours the
idea that it was by dipping the person baptized, or by
immersion, while in some of them such a mode was highly

The gospel and its ordinances are designed for the whole
world, and it cannot be supposed that a form for the
administration of baptism would have been prescribed which would
in any place (as in a tropical country or in polar regions) or
under any circumstances be inapplicable or injurious or

Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two symbolical
ordinances of the New Testament. The Supper represents the work
of Christ, and Baptism the work of the Spirit. As in the Supper
a small amount of bread and wine used in this ordinance exhibits
in symbol the great work of Christ, so in Baptism the work of
the Holy Spirit is fully seen in the water poured or sprinkled
on the person in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
That which is essential in baptism is only "washing with water,"
no mode being specified and none being necessary or essential to
the symbolism of the ordinance.

The apostles of our Lord were baptized with the Holy Ghost
(Matt. 3:11) by his coming upon them (Acts 1:8). The fire also
with which they were baptized sat upon them. The extraordinary
event of Pentecost was explained by Peter as a fulfilment of the
ancient promise that the Spirit would be poured out in the last
days (2:17). He uses also with the same reference the expression
shed forth as descriptive of the baptism of the Spirit (33). In
the Pentecostal baptism "the apostles were not dipped into the
Spirit, nor plunged into the Spirit; but the Spirit was shed
forth, poured out, fell on them (11:15), came upon them, sat on
them." That was a real and true baptism. We are warranted from
such language to conclude that in like manner when water is
poured out, falls, comes upon or rests upon a person when this
ordinance is administered, that person is baptized. Baptism is
therefore, in view of all these arguments "rightly administered
by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person."

The subjects of baptism. This raises questions of greater
importance than those relating to its mode.

1. The controversy here is not about "believers' baptism," for
that is common to all parties. Believers were baptized in
apostolic times, and they have been baptized in all time by all
the branches of the church. It is altogether a misrepresentation
to allege, as is sometimes done by Baptists, that their doctrine
is "believers' baptism." Every instance of adult baptism, or of
"believers' baptism," recorded in the New Testament (Acts 2:41;
8:37; 9:17, 18; 10:47; 16:15; 19:5, etc.) is just such as would
be dealt with in precisely the same way by all branches of the
Protestant Church, a profession of faith or of their being
"believers" would be required from every one of them before
baptism. The point in dispute is not the baptism of believers,
but whether the infant children of believers, i.e., of members
of the church, ought to be baptized.

2. In support of the doctrine of infant baptism, i.e., of the
baptism of the infants, or rather the "children," of believing
parents, the following considerations may be adduced:

The Church of Christ exists as a divinely organized community.
It is the "kingdom of God," one historic kingdom under all
dispensations. The commonwealth of Israel was the "church" (Acts
7:38; Rom. 9:4) under the Mosaic dispensation. The New Testament
church is not a new and different church, but one with that of
the Old Testament. The terms of admission into the church have
always been the same viz., a profession of faith and a promise
of subjection to the laws of the kingdom. Now it is a fact
beyond dispute that the children of God's people under the old
dispensation were recognized as members of the church.
Circumcision was the sign and seal of their membership. It was
not because of carnal descent from Abraham, but as being the
children of God's professing people, that this rite was
administered (Rom. 4:11). If children were members of the church
under the old dispensation, which they undoubtedly were, then
they are members of the church now by the same right, unless it
can be shown that they have been expressly excluded. Under the
Old Testament parents acted for their children and represented
them. (See Gen. 9:9; 17:10; Ex. 24:7, 8; Deut. 29:9-13.) When
parents entered into covenant with God, they brought their
children with them. This was a law in the Hebrew Church. When a
proselyte was received into membership, he could not enter
without bringing his children with him. The New Testament does
not exclude the children of believers from the church. It does
not deprive them of any privilege they enjoyed under the Old
Testament. There is no command or statement of any kind, that
can be interpreted as giving any countenance to such an idea,
anywhere to be found in the New Testament. The church membership
of infants has never been set aside. The ancient practice,
orginally appointed by God himself, must remain a law of his
kingdom till repealed by the same divine authority. There are
lambs in the fold of the Good Shepherd (John 21:15; compare Luke
1:15; Matt. 19:14; 1 Cor. 7:14).

"In a company of converts applying for admission into Christ's
house there are likely to be some heads of families. How is
their case to be treated? How, for example, are Lydia and her
neighbour the keeper of the city prison to be treated? Both have
been converted. Both are heads of families. They desire to be
received into the infant church of Philippi. What is Christ's
direction to them? Shall we say that it is to this effect:
'Arise, and wash away your sins, and come into my house. But you
must come in by yourselves. These babes in your arms, you must
leave them outside. They cannot believe yet, and so they cannot
come in. Those other little ones by your side, their hearts may
perhaps have been touched with the love of God; still, they are
not old enough to make a personal profession, so they too must
be left outside...For the present you must leave them where they
are and come in by yourselves.' One may reasonably demand very
stringent proofs before accepting this as a fair representation
of the sort of welcome Christ offers to parents who come to his
door bringing their children with them. Surely it is more
consonant with all we know about him to suppose that his welcome
will be more ample in its scope, and will breathe a more
gracious tone. Surely it would be more like the Good Shepherd to
say, 'Come in, and bring your little ones along with you. The
youngest needs my salvation; and the youngest is accessible to
my salvation. You may be unable as yet to deal with them about
either sin or salvation, but my gracious power can find its way
into their hearts even now. I can impart to them pardon and a
new life. From Adam they have inherited sin and death; and I can
so unite them to myself that in me they shall be heirs of
righteousness and life. You may without misgiving bring them to
me. And the law of my house requires that the same day which
witnesses your reception into it by baptism must witness their
reception also'" (The Church, by Professor Binnie, D.D.).