Vol. 5, No. 11
Since You Asked
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Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.
I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. When you are baptized, does your whole body have to be dunked? or if preacher puts water on your forehead in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit is it just as good?
Some English dictionary definitions for "baptism" may describe it as immersion in water, pouring water or sprinkling water. However, any dictionary merely reflects the current usage of a word. Therefore, a contemporary dictionary is unsatisfactory for the reliable definition of biblical words. After all, no one expects to be judged in the last day by the dictionary, but we understand that all of humanity will be judged by the Word of God -- the Bible (Revelation 20:12).
The Greek word for baptism is baptisma, which means: "consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence" (Vine) or "of Christian baptism; a rite of immersion in water as commanded by Christ" (Strong). The Greek word for baptize is baptizo, which means: "to dip" (Vine) or "to dip in or under water" (Liddell and Scott). The Greek words for sprinkling and pouring are rhantizo and katacheo or epicheo, respectively; these words are not used in Scripture to refer to Christian baptism. Only words meaning immersion in water are used in the New Testament to refer to Christian baptism.
Even without resorting to Greek dictionaries, one can easily ascertain from English in the Bible that Christian baptism is intended to be immersion. Two passages in particular describe baptism as a burial or planting (immersion) rather than some other type of application of water. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Romans 6:3-5, emphasis added). "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12, emphasis added).
Other passages complement Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12 respecting baptism is immersion with their own allusions to immersion. "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized" (John 3:23, emphasis added). "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38, emphasis added).
The only confidence anyone can have regarding future judgment is to do what God through his Word has instructed us to do, and in the way in which God has instructed us to do it. Therefore, when it comes to baptism, it behooves mankind to be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Neither sprinkling nor pouring water is a suitable substitute for immersion in Christian baptism. Alternatives to immersion for Christian baptism were introduced by the Catholic Church several hundred years after the apostles of Christ, by inspiration of God, established that Christian baptism is immersion. It was supposed, without the authority of Scripture and amid protest, that one on his deathbed could be sprinkled instead of immersed; initially, this new procedure was called clinic baptism. "The first instance of clinic baptism is found in a letter from the Roman bishop Cornelius (about 250)..." (McClintock and Strong).
Sprinkling, pouring or putting water on one's forehead in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not the biblical enactment of Christian baptism. There is no biblical reason to suppose that any alternative to immersion in water is suitable to God in place of doing what he caused to be penned in the Bible. Not one soul will be judged in the last day by a preacher, but by God and the Word of God. Therefore, it is imperative that souls who have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God be immersed in water for the remission of their sins.
Liddell, H. G. and Scott. Abridged Greek-English Lexicon. CD-ROM. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
McClintock, John and John Strong. McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.
Strong, John.Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. CD-ROM. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos, 1995.
Vine, W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1981.
[The querist of the preceding question posed it to both the Editor and the Associate Editor. As it turned out, we both answered it, and since both responses provide complementary information with minimal overlap, we are pleased to print both replies.]
It is good that you "agree totally" about baptism for, "baptism doth also now save us" (1 Peter 3:21), and "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). The word "baptism" has been anglicized, or simply brought into our English language from the Greek word, baptizo. This word means to submerge. The Greek poet Homer wrote about ships being sunken in his epics the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the word he used to describe that was a form of baptizo. There is no doubt that this word means different things today to many people. Indeed one dictionary I have defines baptism as the "application of water in a religious rite." Yet, even if words may change their meaning, and they do over time, we still must understand what the word meant to the people of New Testament times. If you read over Acts 8:36-39, (the account of the Ethiopian Nobleman), you will see that both Phillip, (the baptizer), AND the Eunuch, (the baptized) went down into the water. Such would hardly have been necessary had Phillip seen fit to simply apply some water to the Ethiopian's forehead. Read also Romans 6:1-11 and you will also see words like "buried" and "planted" in reference to baptism. Baptism is also a picture of Jesus' death burial and resurrection, which cannot be pictured in sprinkling, pouring or anointing a person. The very motion is re-enacted in baptism. Jesus was buried in a tomb, meaning he was completely covered, not just laid on the ground and some dirt sprinkled over him. As you read and study the Scriptures, it becomes evident that baptism is both a burial in water, and it is necessary for one to be baptized to become a member of the body of Christ. I hope you will consider these words carefully, and study the New Testament for yourself. If you contact the church of Christ in your area, I am sure someone there will be willing to study with you, and if you are willing, someone will surely baptize you into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27).
Good Morning! I enjoyed reading your article on James. A learned friend of mine told me that James was the OLDER brother of Jesus. This would indicate that Joseph must have been married previously to fathering Jesus. Is this supported in scripture? He sites the book, "The Rabbi Jesus." I read the book as well and the author did say this, but I can't find where it says this in the Bible. Thanks for your help and God bless you. Larry Schneiderman, Minnesota
The reason that you cannot find biblical references to Joseph's prior marriage or James being the older brother of Jesus is because nothing appears in the Bible to substantiate either claim. Likewise, the reason that the book to which you refer does not cite biblical references for its claims is that there is no Bible for such presumptuous statements. When it comes to religious matters, one is not as "learned" as he needs to be unless he resorts to God's Word and recognizes it as the only authority in religion. "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men..." (1 Corinthians 3:18-21; see also 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).