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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

1. Christian baptism in the NT. -It will be convenient at the beginning of this article to collect the narratives of and allusions to Christian baptism in the NT. The command of our Lord to make disciples of all the nations by baptism ( Matthew 28:19; see below, 4 and 8 ) was faithfully carried out by the first disciples. Actual baptisms are recorded in  Acts 2:38;  Acts 2:41 (the 3000 converts),  Acts 8:12 f.,  Acts 8:16 (Samaritans, men and women, and Simon),  Acts 8:36;  Acts 8:38 (the Ethiopian eunuch),  Acts 9:18;  Acts 22:16 (Saul),  Acts 10:47 f. (Cornelius and his friends),  Acts 16:15 (Lydia and her household),  Acts 16:33 (the Philippian jailer ‘and all his’),  Acts 18:8 (Crispus and his house, and many Corinthians),  Acts 19:5 (about twelve Ephesians),  1 Corinthians 1:14;  1 Corinthians 1:16 (Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas).

In addition to these narratives there are many allusions to Christian baptism in the NT- Romans 6:11.,  Colossians 2:12, baptized into Christ Jesus, into His death, buried with Him in baptism: a common thought in early times-e.g. Apost. Const . ii. 7 and often in that work (see A. J. Maclean, Ancient Church Orders , 123).- 1 Corinthians 6:11, sanctification and justification connected with the washing of baptism; three aorists, referring to a definite event: ‘ye washed away (ἀπελούσασθε, middle) [your sins] … in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’; cf.  Acts 22:16 (above): ‘arise and be baptized’ (βαπτίσαι, ‘seek baptism’) and wash away (ἀπολούσαι) thy sins.’- 1 Corinthians 12:13, [Jews and Gentiles] all baptized in one Spirit into one body.- Galatians 3:27, baptized into Christ, put on Christ.- Ephesians 4:5, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’- Ephesians 5:26, Christ sanctified the Church, having cleansed it by the washing (λουτρῷ) of water with the word. The ‘word’ is said by Robinson ( Com. in loc .) to be the ‘solemn invocation of the name of the Lord Jesus’; Westcott ( in loc .) adds: ‘accompanied by the confession of the Christian faith, cf.  Romans 10:9’; Chase ( Journal of Theological Studies viii. 165) interprets it of the word or fiat of Christ, and compares Cyril of Jerusalem ( Cat . iii. 5).- Titus 3:5, ‘by the washing of regeneration (διὰ λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας) and renewing of the Holy Ghost’; see below, 8.- Hebrews 6:2;  Hebrews 6:4, the first principles are repentance, faith, teaching of baptisms (βαπτισμῶν) and of laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment; Christians were once enlightened (φωτισθέντας) and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; hence the name ‘illumination’ (φωτισμός) and ‘illuminated’ for ‘baptism’ and ‘the baptized’ in Justin ( Apol . i. 61, 65) and elsewhere. Westcott interprets the ‘teaching [διδαχῆς, but B reads -ήν, which is adopted in Revised Version margin and by Westcott-Hort’s Greek Testament] of baptisms’ as instruction about the difference between Christian baptism and other lustral rites. Chase ( Confirmation in Apostol. Age , p. 44f.) denies this, and interprets the phrase of the baptism of different neophytes, ‘the Christian rite in its concrete application to individual believers’: the ‘heavenly gift’ is one part of the illumination or baptism, i.e. the gift of the Son, of Eternal life, of sonship (Chase); the partaking of the Holy Ghost is the other part. In any case the ἐπίθεσις χειρῶν must refer to the laying on of hands which followed immersion (see below, 6), though Westcott would extend it to benedictions, ordinations, etc., as well.- Hebrews 10:22 f., ‘our body washed with pure water’ (our sacramental bathing contrasted with the symbolic bathings of the Jews [Westcott]), ‘let us hold fast the confession (ὁμολογίαν) of our hope.’-In  1 Peter 3:21 baptism is the ‘antitype’ of the bringing of Noah safe through the water; the antitype is here the ‘nobler member of the pair of relatives’ (Bigg, International Critical Commentary , in loc .), the fulfilment of the type; but in  Hebrews 9:24 it is used conversely, as it often is in Christian antiquity when the Eucharistic bread and wine are called the antitype of our Lord’s body and blood, e.g. Verona Didascalia (ed. Hauler, p. 112) ‘panem quidem in exemplar quod dicit Graecus antitypum corporis Christi’; so Cyr. Jer., Cat . xxiii. 20; Tertullian similarly uses ‘figura’ ( adv. Marc. iv. 10), and Serapion ὁμοίωμα ( Liturgy , § 1). For other instances, see Cooper-Maclean, Test. of our Lord , Edinburgh, 1902, p. 172f., and Apost. Const . v. 14, vi. 30, vii. 25. In Ps.-Clem. 2 Cor . 14 the flesh is the ‘antitype’ of the Spirit.

In the Gospels, Christian baptism is three times referred to:  Matthew 28:19,  Mark 16:16,  John 3:3;  John 3:5. In the last passage the words ἐξ ὕδατος, read in all Manuscriptsand VSS[Note: SS Versions.], have been judged by K. Lake (Inaug. Lecture at Leyden, 17th Jan. 1904, p. 14) to be an interpolation, as they are not quoted by Justin. This deduction is very precarious (for an examination of it, see Chase, Journal of Theological Studies vi. [1905] 504, note, who deems the theory unscientific); but in any case the ‘birth of the Spirit’ could not but convey to the Christian readers of the Fourth Gospel a reference to baptism. Westcott truly remarks ( Com. in loc .) that to Nicodemus the words would suggest a reference to John’s baptism. An attempt to explain ‘water’ here without reference to baptism is examined by Hooker ( Eccl. Pol . v. 59), who lays down the oft-quoted canon that ‘while a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst’ (see below, 8).

In these passages water is not always mentioned; but the word βαπτίζω, which to us is a mere technical expression, and its Aramaic equivalent (rt.[Note: root.]מבל) would to the first disciples at once convey the idea of water. The clement is mentioned or alluded to in  Acts 8:36,  1 Corinthians 6:11;  1 Corinthians 12:13 (‘drink of one Spirit’),  Ephesians 5:26,  Titus 3:5,  Hebrews 10:22,  1 Peter 3:20, and is necessitated by the metaphor of burial in baptism in  Romans 6:4,  Colossians 2:12. Justin ( Dial . 14) emphasizes the element used, by calling baptism the ‘water of life’: so in Hermas ( Vis . iii. 3) the Church (the tower) is built on the waters, ‘because your life is saved and shall be saved by water.’

More indirect allusions to Christian baptism are found in the NT. The Israelites, by a metaphor from it, are said to have been baptized into (εἰς) Moses in the cloud and in the sea ( 1 Corinthians 10:2). Whatever view is taken of baptism for the dead ( 1 Corinthians 15:29), it alludes to the Christian rite. It has been interpreted ( a ) of vicarious baptism on behalf of those who had died unbaptized (cf.  2 Maccabees 12:43 ff., offering made for the dead); this was the practice of some heretics (so Tert., de Res. Carn . 48, adv. Marc. v. 10, and Goudge, Alford). But there is no evidence that it existed in the 1st cent., and the practice may have originated from this verse; could St. Paul have even tacitly approved of such a thing?-( b ) The words ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν are rendered by many Greek Fathers ‘in expectation of the resurrection of the dead’; but this forces the grammar, and gives no good sense to ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν, which is the best attested reading at the end of the verse; also ‘they which are baptized’ means not all Christians, but some of them.-( c ) Others interpret the verse of people being drawn to the faith and to baptism out of affection for some dead friend; Robertson-Plummer ( International Critical Commentary , in loc .) incline to this.-( d ) Estius and Calvin render ‘as now about to die,’ jamjam morituri  ; but see ( b ).-( e ) Luther renders ‘over the graves of the dead’; here again see ( b ). Many other suggestions have been made. It is probable that the problem is insoluble with our present knowledge, and that the reference is to some ceremony in the then baptismal rite at Corinth of which we hear no more, but not to vicarious baptism (see Plummer in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 245).

Other allusions to baptism (the complete rite, see below, 6 ) may probably be found in the metaphors of anointing and sealing. For anointing, see  2 Corinthians 1:21 (χρίσας, aorist),  1 John 2:20;  1 John 2:27 (the anointing abides in us and is not only a historical act). Though anointing may have accompanied the rite in the NT, and Chase ( Confirmation , 53ff.) decides that it was so used, yet it is also not improbable that its institution at a very early age of the Church may have been due to these very passages-that the practice came from the metaphor. We notice that in the Didache , § 7, anointing is not mentioned, but that in Apost. Const . vii. 22 (4th cent.), which incorporates and enlarges the Didache , it is introduced. It was certainly used very early. Irenaeus says that some of the Gnostic sects anointed alter baptism ( c. Haer . i. xxi. 3f.); and as the Gnostic rites were a parody of those of the Church, this carries the evidence back to c. [Note: . circa, about.]a.d. 150. It is mentioned by Tert., de Bapt . 7, de Res. Carn . 8; by Cyr. Jer., Cat . xxii. 1. From the anointing came the custom of calling the baptized ‘christs,’ χριστοί (Cyr. Jer., loc. cit .; Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins , viii. 8, where  Psalms 105:15 Septuagintis quoted). In the NT, χρίειν is used metaphorically of our Lord; cf.  Luke 4:18,  Acts 4:27;  Acts 10:38,  Hebrews 1:9.

For sealing, see  2 Corinthians 1:22 (same context as the anointing),  Ephesians 1:13 (‘having believed ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise’),  Ephesians 4:30 (‘sealed in the Holy Spirit’). The aorists in all three passages, which connect the Holy Ghost with the sealing, point to the definite time when they became believers (Chase, Confirmation , p. 52). (The metaphor is used in  Romans 4:11 of circumcision; and otherwise in  John 3:33;  John 6:27,  Romans 15:28,  1 Corinthians 9:2,  2 Timothy 2:19.) Hence in Christian antiquity the baptismal rite, either as a whole or in one or other of its parts, is frequently called ‘the seal,’ σφραγίς; e.g. Hermas, Sim . ix. 16, ‘the seal is the water’; cf. viii. 6; Ps.-Clem., 2 Corinthians 7  ; Clem. Alex., Quis dives , 42; Tert., de Spect . 24 ( signaculum ); Cyr. Jer., Cat . iv. 16, etc.

To these passages must be added those which speak of Christian adoption;  Romans 8:15;  Romans 8:23,  Galatians 4:5,  Ephesians 1:5; for these see articleAdoption.

2. Predecessors of Christian baptism

-( a ) The words βαπτίζω, βαπτισμός, βάπτισμα are used in the NT of various ceremonial washings of the Jews. The verb is derived from βάπτω, ‘to dip’ (found in the NT only in  Luke 16:24,  John 13:26, and some Manuscriptsof  Revelation 19:13, always literally), and has in classical Greek the same meaning. In the NT βαπτίζω is used either metaphorically, of the Passion of our Lord ( Mark 10:38 f.,  Luke 12:50, and some Manuscriptsof  Matthew 20:22 f.-so also βάπτισμα) and of the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost ( Acts 1:5;  Acts 11:16, see below, 6), or else of baptism and of Jewish ablations. For these last, see  Mark 7:4 (the Jews ‘baptize,’ v.l. [Note: .l. varia lectio, variant reading.]sprinkle, themselves before meat and have ‘baptizings,’ βαπτισμούς, of vessels),  Luke 11:38 (of washing before breakfast, ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου),  Hebrews 9:10 (divers ‘baptisms,’ i.e. washings).*[Note: βαπτισμός is used of Christian baptism in  Colossians 2:12 (v.l. βάπτισμα), and in the plural in  Hebrews 6:2 (see above, 1); Josephus (Ant. XVIII. v. 2) uses it of John’s baptism. βάπτισμα is used in the NT 12 times of John’s baptism and 3 (or 4) times of Christian baptism; for its metaphorical nee see above.] Ceremonial ablution was a common practice of the Jews ( Exodus 29:4 etc.,  Mark 7:3 πυγμῇ νίψωνται,  John 2:6;  John 3:25); and the allusions to washing in connexion with baptism (above, 1 ) would be familiar to the early Christians, who also had the metaphor of cleansing; see  2 Corinthians 7:1,  1 John 1:7,  Revelation 1:5 (some Manuscripts)  Revelation 7:14; cf.  2 Peter 2:22.

( b ) Baptism of proselytes .-The Jews admitted ‘proselytes of righteousness,’ i.e. full proselytes, with baptism, circumcision, and sacrifice. This custom was very common in Rabbinical times, though Josephus and Philo do not mention it, and some have therefore concluded that it did not exist in the 1st cent.; but Edersheim has clearly proved from ancient evidence that it was then in use ( LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Edersheim).]ii. 746, Appendixxii.). It may be added that the Jews in later times would not have borrowed baptism from the Christians, though it is intelligible that first John and then our Lord and His disciples should have adopted a custom already existing and have given it a new meaning. Such a baptized person was said by the Rabbis to be as a little child just born (cf.  Titus 3:5; see Edersheim, loc. cit .).

( c ) The baptism of John is described in all the Gospels. It was a preparatory baptism ( Matthew 3:11), the baptism of repentance ( Mark 1:4,  Luke 3:8,  Acts 13:24;  Acts 19:4), intended, by an outward symbol, to induce repentance which is the essential requisite for the reception of spiritual truth. So marked a feature of his teaching was baptism, that John is called pre-eminently ‘ the Baptist’ (ὁ βαπτιστής,  Matthew 3:1;  Matthew 11:11 f.,  Mark 8:28,  Luke 7:20;  Luke 7:33;  Luke 9:19; Josephus, Ant . xviii. v. 2; in  Mark 6:14;  Mark 6:24 f. ὁ βαπτίζων). But he himself shows the difference between his baptism and that of Jesus, in that the latter was to be with the Holy Ghost ( Matthew 3:11,  Mark 1:8,  Luke 3:16,  John 1:33) and with fire (Mt., Lk.). For the meaning of baptism ‘with the Holy Ghost,’ see below 6 and 8 ( e ). Baptism ‘with fire’ is explained in  Matthew 3:12; it is a baptism of judgment separating the wheat from the chaff, and burning the chaff with fire unquenchable (Allen, Com. in loc .; so ||  Luke 3:17). This interpretation, however, is denied by Plummer ( International Critical Commentary on  Luke 3:16), who prefers a reference to the purifying power of the grace given, or to the fiery trials that await Christians. Others see a reference to the ‘tongues like as of fire’ at Pentecost ( Acts 2:3). However this may be, the fundamental difference between the two baptisms is that John’s was a ceremonial rite symbolizing the need of repentance and of washing away sin, while that of our Lord was, in addition, the infusing of a new life; see below, 8 . The baptism of John is mentioned in the NT outside the Gospels in  Acts 1:5;  Acts 1:22;  Acts 10:37;  Acts 11:15;  Acts 13:24;  Acts 18:25;  Acts 19:3 f.; the last two passages show that it survived after Pentecost among those who had not yet received the gospel.

To this preparatory stage is also to be assigned the baptism of Jesus by John; it was not the institution of Christian baptism, though it paved the way for it, and in some sense our Lord may be said to have thereby sanctified ‘water to the mystical washing away of sin.’ Such also was the baptizing by Jesus’ disciples during His earthly ministry ( John 3:22;  John 4:2); we note that our Lord carried on the Baptist’s teaching about the approach of the kingdom and about repentance ( Mark 1:15; cf.  Matthew 3:2), though in His teaching the Good Tidings predominated, while in that of John repentance was the chief note (Swete, Com. in loc .).

3. Preparation for baptism. -Instruction in Christian doctrine before baptism is to some extent necessary, because otherwise there cannot be faith and repentance. Our Lord commanded the disciples to teach ( Matthew 28:20, διδάσκοντες) as well as to baptize. St. Peter instructed the people and Cornelius before he commanded them to be baptized ( Acts 2:14-38;  Acts 10:34-43;  Acts 10:48). Philip instructed the Samaritans and the Eunuch before baptism ( Acts 8:5 f., Acts 8:12;  Acts 8:35). The instruction of Theophilus ( Luke 1:4) was probably, at least in part, before baptism. Lydia’s baptism followed a preaching ( Acts 16:18), as did that of the Corinthians ( Acts 18:5). But in most of these cases the teaching was very short, in some of them not lasting more than one day. And no instruction that can be properly so called is mentioned in the case of Saul ( Acts 9:18;  Acts 22:16), or the Philippian jailer ( Acts 18:8; note ‘immediately’), or the twelve Ephesians ( Acts 19:5). Apollos had been instructed (ἦν κατηχημένος) in the way of the Lord, but only imperfectly, and Priscilla and Aquila taught him more carefully (ἀκριβέστερον,  Acts 18:26). The allusions to the instruction of Christians in  1 Corinthians 14:19,  Galatians 6:6 (κατηχέω),  Romans 12:7,  Colossians 1:28 etc. (διδάσκω), have no special reference to baptism. In  Romans 2:18 κατηχέω is used of Jewish instruction.

At a later period, persons under instruction for baptism were called catechumens (κατηχούμενοι, ‘those in a state of being taught’; cf.  Galatians 6:6), and their preparation was called catc̄chçsis (κατήχησις; cf. our word ‘catechism’ from κατηχισμός, through Latin). The catechumens were taught the Creed, or Christian doctrine, during their catechumenate, and their instruction was called the ‘traditio symboli’; they professed their faith at baptism, and this profession was called the ‘redditio symboli’ (see below, 5 ). The baptism in later times normally took place in the early morning of Easter Day, and the selection of candidates for baptism took place on the 40th day before (Cyr. Jer., Cat. , Introd. § 4; it was called the ‘inscribing of names,’ ὀνοματογραφία); thenceforward the selected candidates were called ‘competentes,’ συναιτοῦντες. In the 4th cent. the catechumenate lasted two years (Elvira, can. 42) or three years ( Ap. Const . viii. 32, and several Church Orders); but this was never a hard and fast rule. Catechumens were not allowed to be present at the main part of the Eucharist or at the Agape ( Didache , 9, and often in the Church Orders). See, further, A. J. Maclean, op. cit. pp. 16-19, 97; Dict. of Christian Antiquities , article‘Catechumens.’

4. Formula of baptism. -It is not quite clear what words were used for baptism in NT times. In  Matthew 28:19 our Lord bids His followers make disciples of all the nations, baptizing (βαπτίζοντες, present part.) them into the name (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, Authorized Version‘in the name,’ see 8) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. These words are in all Manuscriptsand VSS[Note: SS Versions.], but F. C. Conybeare ( Zeitschrift für die neutest. Wissenschaft , 1901, p. 275ff.; HJ [Note: J Hibbert Journal.]i. [Oct. 1902] 102ff.) and K. Lake (Inaug. Lect. at Leyden, 17th Jan. 1904) dispute their authenticity, because Eusebius often quotes the text without them or with ‘make disciples of all the nations in my name.’ The careful refutation of this view by Chase ( Journal of Theological Studies vi. 483ff.) and Riggenbach (‘Der trinitar. Taufbefehl  Matthew 28:19,’ in Beiträge zur Förderung christl. Theol. , Gütersloh, 1903) has made this position untenable, and we can with confidence assert that the full test is part of the First Gospel. It has, however, been denied that the words were spoken by our Lord. But the view that He made some such utterance, of which the words in  Matthew 28:19 are doubtless a much abbreviated record, is the only way in which we can comprehend how such a Trinitarian passage as  2 Corinthians 13:14 could have been written, or understand the numerous passages in the NT which affirm the Godhead of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (Chase, Journal of Theological Studies vi. 509f.; see also article‘God’ in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible ).

In Acts we read of people being baptized (almost always in the passive) ‘in (ἐν) the name of the Lord Jesus’ ( Acts 2:38 [ v.l. [Note: .l. varia lectio, variant reading.]ἐπί]), or ‘into (εἰς) the name of the Lord Jesus’ ( Acts 8:16;  Acts 19:5), or ‘in (ἐν) the name of Jesus Christ’ ( Acts 10:48). In the Pauline Epistles we read of baptism into Christ Jesus, into His death ( Romans 6:3), into Christ ( Galatians 3:27); with these passages cf.  1 Corinthians 1:13;  1 Corinthians 1:15 (‘into the name of Paul,’ ‘into my name’),  1 Corinthians 10:2 (‘into Moses’),  1 Corinthians 12:13 (‘into one body’),  Acts 19:3 (‘into what?’-‘into John’s baptism’); all these passages also have the passive ‘to be baptized,’ except  1 Corinthians 10:2 which (according to the best reading) has the middle ἐβαπτίσαντο (cf.  1 Corinthians 6:11,  Acts 22:16; above, 1 );  1 Corinthians 6:11 has ‘in (ἐν) the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.’ Of these passages only  Acts 8:16;  Acts 10:48;  Acts 19:5 are narratives of baptisms.

The Pauline references clearly do not refer to the formula used, though  1 Corinthians 1:13;  1 Corinthians 1:15 makes it probable that in some form the ‘Name’ was mentioned in the words of baptism. Do the other passages refer to a formula? On this point there is much diversity of opinion. ( a ) It is maintained that the formula at first ran ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’ or the like; and that the First Evangelist introduced into his Gospel the Trinitarian formula which was in use towards the end of the 1st century (Robinson, Encyclopaedia Biblica , article‘Baptism’). It is not easy to see how, if the other formula was the original apostolic usage, this one could have been invented in the third or even in the last quarter of the lat cent., unless indeed our Lord had really spoken such words as are found in  Matthew 28:19; and in that case it is hard to see why the apostles should have used a quite different formula.-( b ) It is thought that the passages in Mt. and Acts alike refer to the formula used, but that baptism into Christ’s name is necessarily the same as baptism into that of the Holy Trinity. The latter statement is quite true, but it does not meet the whole difficulty.-( c ) It is said that none of the passages in Acts refers to a formula at all, but only to the theological import of baptism (see below, 8 ). This is quite probable; at least the differences of wording show that if a formula is referred to at all in Acts, it was not stereotyped in the first age.-( d ) Assuming that our Lord spoke, at any rate in substance, the words recorded in  Matthew 28:19, many think that He did not here prescribe a formula, bat unfolded the spiritual meaning of the rite (so Chase, Journal of Theological Studies vi. 506ff., viii. 177; Swete, Holy Spirit in NT , p. 124; W. C. Allen, International Critical Commentary , in loc .). This view is extremely probable, whatever interpretation we put upon the passage, for which see below, 8 . It was our Lord’s habit not to make regulations but to establish principles; so Socrates ( HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).]v. 22), speaking of the keeping of Easter, contrasts the practice of Jesus with that of the Mosaic Law in the matter of the making of rules.

It is quite possible that no formula of baptism is given in the NT at all, and even that at first there were no fixed words. It is probable that all the NT passages refer primarily to the theological import of the rite, though they may have a remote allusion to the mode of baptizing. But though we cannot assert that there was in the Apostolic Age a fixed form of words, it was a sound instinct which induced the Church, at least from the 1st cent. onwards, to adopt the Trinitarian formula, and it would be rash indeed to depart from it. If our Lord’s words did not prescribe a form of words, at least they suggested it. We find it in the Didache (§ 7: ‘baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’), though in describing Christians in § 9 the writer speaks of them as ‘baptized into the name of the Lord.’ So Justin paraphrases: ‘They then receive the washing with water in the name (ἐπʼ ὀνοματος) of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit,’ and says that ‘he who is illuminated (see above, 1 ) is washed in the name of Jesus Christ … and in the name of the Holy Ghost’ ( Apol . i. 61). Tertullian says that the formula has been prescribed [by Christ], and quotes  Matthew 28:19 exactly ( de Bapt . 13; note especially that he translates εἰς τὸ ὄνομα by ‘in nomen’ though Migne, apparently by error, gives ‘nomine’). In de Praescr . 20 he paraphrases the text: ‘He bade them … go and teach the nations who were to be baptized (intinguendas) into the Father (in Patrem), and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghosts’; and in adv. Prax . 26 thus: ‘He commands them to baptize into the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, non in unum ’- i.e. not into one Person. The Trinitarian formula is the only one found in the Church in ancient times. It is prescribed or referred to in Origen, Hom. in Leviticus 7 § 4, in the Church Orders ( Can. of Hipp . xix. [ed. Achelis, § 133]; Ap. Const . iii. 16, vii. 22; Ethiopic Didascalia , 16, ed. Platt; Test. of our Lord , ii. 7), in the Acts of Xanthippe twice (M. R. James, Apocr. Anecd . i. [= Texts and Studies ii. 3, Cambridge, 1893] p. 79), and in the Apostolic Canons [ c. [Note: . circa, about.]a.d. 400], can. 49f. The fact that this last work forbids any other form probably shows that in some heretical circles other words were used.

Most of the Eastern Churches, Orthodox or Separated, use the passive voice ‘N. is baptized,’ or the like. The Westerns, on the contrary, always use the active: ‘N., I baptize thee.’ The latter is perhaps the older form; it is found in the Canons of Hippolytus and (in the plural, ‘We baptize thee’) in the Acts of Xanthippe (as above); and it is favoured by  Matthew 28:19 itself (‘baptizing them’) and Didache , 7 (‘baptize,’ imperative). It is also found among the Copts and Abyssinians ( Dict. of Christian Antiquities i. 162b; H. Denzinger, Ritus Orientalium , Wurzburg, 1863, i. 208, 230, 235).

We may ask what is meant by the invocation of the Divine name over the persons who were being baptized, of which we read in Justin, Apol . i. 61 (‘the name of God is pronounced over him’) and Ap. Const . iii. 16 (‘having named, ἐπονομάσας, the invocation, ἐπίκλησιν, of Father and Son and Holy Ghost, thou shalt baptize them in the water, ἐν τῷ ὕδατι’). In connexion with this,  Acts 22:16 (‘calling on his name’) is quoted; but there it is the baptized, not the baptizer, who ‘invokes’; baptism is given in response to the prayer of the candidate. More to the point are  Acts 15:17 (‘the Gentiles upon whom my name is called,’ from  Amos 9:12), and  James 2:7 (‘the honourable name which was called upon you,’ Revised Version margin, τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς); cf.  Numbers 6:27, where God’s name is put upon the Israelites by the threefold blessing, and  Acts 19:13, where the Jewish exorcists names the name of the Lord Jesus over the demoniacs, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus …’ It is quite possible that in the NT passages there may be some reference to the words used in baptizing, which, as we have seen, probably (at least in the ordinary way) included a mention of the Name. But there is no evidence that any invocation was part of the rite in apostolic times, and Chase denies that it was so ( Journal of Theological Studies viii. 164). Is it necessary to suppose that Justin and the writer of the Apostolic Constitutions refer to anything else than the Trinitarian formula of baptism?

5. Baptismal customs. -Some traces of customs which were part of the rite in the early Church are found in the NT.

( a ) A profession of faith and renunciation of evil is common in ancient times ( e.g. Justin, Apol . i. 61, where the candidate undertakes to be able to live according to the faith; Tert. de Bapt . 6, de Idol . 6, de Cor . 3, de Spect . 4-Tertullian mentions the renunciations, for which see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics i., article‘Abrenuntio’). To such a profession the gloss of  Acts 8:37, which is older than Irenaeus who mentions it ( c. Haer . III. xii. 8), is the oldest certain reference. But it is possible that there is an allusion to it in  1 Corinthians 15:3-8 -or at least to an instruction before baptism-though no form of Creed can be intended (note v. 3: ‘I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received’-the ‘delivery’ of the faith to the catechumens, see above, 3 ); also in  Romans 6:17;  Romans 10:9,  1 Timothy 6:12,  2 Timothy 1:13 f.,  Hebrews 10:22 f.,  1 Peter 3:21 (for this verse see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics i. 38),  Judges 1:3. While, however, it is extremely probable that some sort of a profession of faith was always made at baptism, the NT passages fall short of proof of the fact.

( b ) Trine immersion is a very early custom, being mentioned in the Didache (§ 7) and by Tertullian ( de Cor . 3, adv. Prax . 26). The practice of immersion would probably be suggested by the word βαπτίζω (see above, 1 ). But J. A. Robinson ( Journal of Theological Studies vii. 187ff.) denies this, and says that as the word is used of ceremonial washings in  Mark 7:4,  Luke 11:38, it need not imply immersion, though βάπτω (see above, 2 ) does; but need only denote ceremonial cleansing with water. Chase ( Journal of Theological Studies viii. 179f.) replies that the vessels in  Mark 7:4 must have been dipped in order to be cleansed, and also that  Luke 11:38 means bathing; to this may be added that ceremonial ‘baptizing’ of ‘themselves’ in  Mark 7:4 is shown by  Mark 7:3 to mean the dipping of their hands into water. However this may be with regard to those passages, it seems more than probable that the word βαπτίζω to the first disciples, when used of baptism, conveyed the idea of immersion, both because it would be difficult otherwise to explain the metaphor of baptismal burial and resurrection ( Romans 6:4,  Colossians 2:12), and because the Jewish practice in proselyte-baptism (see above, 2 ) was to undress the candidate completely, and to immerse him so that every part or his body was touched by the water (Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Edersheim).]ii. 745f.; the candidate also made a profession of faith before the ‘fathers of the baptism’ or sponsors). But it is also probable that total immersion could not always be practised, as in the case of the Philippian jailer; and that when this was the case the candidate stood in the water, which vas then poured over him.

There is no trace in the NT of trine immersion, which doubtless was founded on the Trinitarian formula, though this is no evidence against its existence, in the apostolic period. Flowing (‘living’) water, if it can be had, is prescribed in the Didache (§ 7) and in several Church Orders (Maclean, p. 104). In case of necessity the Didache ( loc. cit .) expressly allows affusion. Immersion is implied in Ep. of Barnabas , § 11, where we read of going down into the water laden with sin, and rising up from it bearing fruit in the heart.

( c ) Clothing the neophytes .-In the early Church the putting off of the clothes of the candidates before baptism, and the clothing of them afterwards, usually in white robes, were emphasized as ceremonial actions; but of this we have no certain evidence before the 4th century. Constantine was buried in his baptismal robes (τὰ ἐμφώτια, Dict. of Christian Antiquities i. 162). The Church Orders make a great point of the clothing, and the Test. of our Lord mentions white robes (ii. 12, see Maclean, p. 105), as does Ambrose, de Myst . 34 (vii.). Even from the first, whether immersion was total or partial, there must have been an unclothing and a re-clothing; and this, as it would seem, gives point to the metaphor about ‘putting off’ (ἀπεκδυσάμενοι) the old man, and ‘putting on’ (ἐνδυσάμενοι) the new, in  Colossians 3:9 f., and about ‘putting on’ Christ in baptism in  Galatians 3:27; cf.  Romans 13:14,  Ephesians 4:24. The metaphor goes back in some degree to OT times; in  Zechariah 3:3 f. Joshua the high priest is stripped of his filthy garments as a symbol, and Justin ( Dial . 116) perhaps applies this to Christian baptism: ‘even so we … have been stripped of the filthy garments, that is, of our sins.’ Josephus tells us ( Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. viii. 5) that the Essenes clothed themselves in white veils and bathed as a purification, and then partook of a common meal with benediction before and after it; then, laying aside their garments, they went to work till the evening. But there was apparently no symbolism about this clothing.

( d ) The kiss of peace after baptism is common in Christian antiquity. Justin ( Apol . i. 65) describes it as taking place after the newly-baptized are received among the faithful and after the people’s prayers, i.e. at the Eucharist which followed the rite of baptism. Cyprian ( Ep . lviii.4, ad Fidum ) alludes to it at the baptism of infants. In the Church Orders it is used at Confirmation, as well as at the Eucharist, and (apparently) at all times of prayer (Maclean, pp. 18f., 108). Tertullian ( de Orat . 18) says that some did not observe it in times of fasting. There could be no better symbol of Christian love than this, and it is highly probable that it was used in worship in NT times; such would seem to be the suggestion of the ‘ holy kiss’ in  Romans 16:16,  1 Corinthians 16:20,  2 Corinthians 13:12,  1 Thessalonians 5:26, and of the ‘kiss of love ’ in  1 Peter 5:14. But there is no evidence in the NT as to its use in baptism.

( e ) For a possible use of anointing in the NT, see 1  ; for the laying on of hands , see 6. The sign of the cross was used in early times, and was often called the ‘seal’ (Maclean, p. 108; Cyr. Jer., Cat . xiii. 36). Some think that this is referred to in the passages cited above in 1 about ‘sealing’; but this is more than doubtful.

( f ) Of three other early baptismal customs there is no trace in the NT. (α) Sponsors are mentioned by Tertullian in de Bapt . 18 (‘sponsores’); cf. de Cor . 3 (‘inde suscepti’). They were called ‘susceptores’ (ἀνάδοχοι) because they ‘received’ the newly-baptized when they came up from the font; cf. ἀναληφθείς, Socrates, HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).]vii. 4. They are found in the Church Orders (Maclean, p. 98f.); and, especially in the case of infants, when they make the responses for them, they might be the parents or others of their ‘houses’ ( Test. of our Lord , ii. 8). In Justin ( Apol . i. 61) ‘he who leads the person that is to be washed to the laver’ seems to be the baptizer. (β) Fasting before baptism is ordered in the Didache (§ 7), and is mentioned by Justin ( Apol . i. 61) and Tertullian ( de Bapt . 20; cf. de Jejun . 8), and frequently in the Church Orders (Maclean, pp. 133f., 137f.). This is analogous to the fasting in  Acts 13:2 before the sending forth of Barnabas and Saul. (γ) The tasting of milk and honey by the newly-baptized after baptism (and communion) seems originally to have been an Egyptian and ‘AfricanR

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Baptisms in the sense of purifications were common in the Old Testament The "divers washings" (Greek "baptisms") are mentioned in  Hebrews 9:10, and "the doctrine of baptisms,"  Hebrews 6:2. The plural" baptisms" is used in the wider sense, all purifications by water; as of the priest's hands and feet in the laver outside before entering the tabernacle, in the daily service ( Exodus 30:17-21); of the high priest's flesh in the holy place on the day of atonement ( Leviticus 16:23); of persons ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 14; 15;  Leviticus 16:26-28;  Leviticus 17:15;  Leviticus 22:4-6), a leper, one with an issue, one who ate that which died of itself, one who touched a dead body, the one who let go the scape-goat or buried the ashes of the red heifer, of the people before a religious festival ( Exodus 19:10;  John 11:55). The high priest's consecration was threefold: by baptism, unction, and sacrifice ( Exodus 29:4;  Exodus 40:12-15; Leviticus 8).

"Baptism" in the singular is used specially of the Christian rite. Jewish believers passed naturally from the Old Testament baptismal purifications, through John's transitional baptism, to Christian baptism and the subsequent laying on of hands, accompanied with the Holy Spirit ( Acts 8:12;  Acts 8:14-17). The spiritual sense of ceremonial baptisms was recognized in the Old Testament ( Psalms 26:6;  Psalms 51:2;  Psalms 51:7;  Psalms 73:13;  Isaiah 1:16;  Isaiah 4:4;  Jeremiah 4:14;  Zechariah 13:1.)

Ceremonial washings had been multiplied by tradition, before the Lord's coming ( Mark 7:3-4). Even the Gentile Pilate washed his hands to symbolize his innocence of Jesus' blood. The Targum of Jonathan on  Exodus 12:44 is the earliest authority for the common notion that the Jews baptized male (besides circumcising them) and female proselytes. No notice of such a custom occurs in Philo, Josephus, or the Targum of Onkelos; the commonness of such ceremonial purifications makes it a probable one. In the 4th century A.D. it certainly prevailed. In the case of Jewish proselytes from Ishmaelites and Egyptians, who were already circumcised, some such rite would be needed. Probably it was at first merely the customary purificatory washing before the sacrifice offered in admitting the proselyte, whence Philo and Josephus would omit mentioning it as being usual at all sacrifices. When sacrifices ceased, after the destruction of the temple, the washing would be retained as a baptism of initiation into Judaism.

John's "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" ( Luke 3:3) was the pledge his followers took of their determination to separate themselves from the prevalent pollutions, as the needful preparation for receiving the coming Messiah, who remits the sins of His believing people. The "remission" was not present but prospective, looked for through Messiah, not through John ( Acts 10:43). John's baptism was accompanied with confession ( Matthew 3:6), and was an act of obedience to the call to renounce all sin and believe in the coming Redeemer from sin. The universal expectation of the Messianic king "in the whole East" (says Suetonius, a pagan writer, Vespas. 4) made all ready to flock to the forerunner. The Jews hoped to be delivered from Rome's supremacy ( Malachi 3:1;  Malachi 4:5-6).

The last of the prophets had foretold the coming of Elijah before the great day of the coming of the Lord, the Sun of righteousness, the messenger of the covenant. Elijah was to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers," namely, the disobedient children to the faith and fellowship of their pious forefathers, Abraham, Jacob, Levi, Elijah ( Luke 1:17), lest Messiah at His coming" should smite the earth with a curse." The scribes accordingly declared, "Elias must first come." Jesus declared that John was this foretold Elias ( Matthew 11:13-14;  Matthew 17:10-12). John's preaching was "Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand," the latter phrase referring to  Daniel 2:44;  Daniel 7:14. The Jews, as a nation, brought the "curse" on their land ("earth") by not repenting, and by rejecting Messiah at His first advent.

Their sin delayed the kingdom's manifestation, just as their unbelief in the wilderness caused the 40 years of delay in entering into their inheritance in Canaan. He brought blessing to those who accepted Him (John was the instrument in turning many to Him:  John 1:11;  John 1:36), and shall bring blessing to the nation at His second advent, when they shall turn to the Lord ( Romans 11:5;  Romans 11:26;  Luke 13:35). John's baptism began and ended with himself; he alone, too, administered it. But Christ's baptism was performed by His disciples, not Himself, that He might mark His exclusive dignity as baptizer, with the Holy Spirit ( John 4:2), and that the validity of baptism might not depend on the worth of the minister but on God's appointment. It continues to the end of this dispensation ( Matthew 28:19-20). John's was with water only; Christ's with the Holy Spirit and with fire ( Luke 3:16).

The Holy Spirit in full measure was not given until Jesus' glorification at His ascension ( John 7:39). Apollos' and John's disciples at Ephesus knew not of the Holy Spirit's baptism, which is the distinctive feature of Christ's ( Acts 18:25;  Acts 19:2-6; compare  Acts 1:5;  Acts 11:16). The outward sign of an inward sorrow for sin was in John's baptism; but there was not the inward spiritual grace conferred as in Christian baptism. Those of the twelve who had. been baptized by John probably received no further baptism until the extraordinary one by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Christian baptism implies grafting into fellowship or union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; for the Greek expresses this ( Matthew 28:19): "Go ye, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name (the revealed person) of the Father," etc.

John, being among the Old Testament prophets, not in the kingdom of God or New Testament church, preached the law and baptism into legal repentance and reformation of morals, and Messiah's immediate advent. Christian baptism is the seal of gospel doctrine and spiritual renewal. Jesus' own baptism by John was, Christ saith, in order "to fulfill all righteousness" ( Matthew 3:15). Others in being baptized confessed their sins; Jesus professed" all righteousness." He submitted, as part of the righteousness He undertook to fulfill, to be consecrated to His ministry in His 30th year, the age at which the Levites began their ministry ( Luke 3:23), by the last of the Old Testament prophets and the harbinger of the New Testament, His own forerunner. At the same time that the outward minister set Him apart, the Holy Spirit from heaven gave Him inwardly the unction of His fullness without measure; and the Father declared His acceptance of Him as the sinners' savior, the anointed prophet, priest, and king ( John 3:34;  John 1:16): "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Since God, against whom we have sinned, is satisfied with Him (and God cannot but be so, seeing it was the Father's love and justice which provided Him), so also may we. As the high priest's consecration was threefold, by baptism, unction, and sacrifice, so Jesus' (compare  Acts 10:38) baptism began His consecration, the Holy Spirit's unction was the complement of His baptism, and His sacrifice fully perfected His consecration as our priest forevermore ( Hebrews 7:28, margin). This is the sense of  1 John 5:6; "this is He that came by water and blood;" by water at His consecration by baptism to His mediatorial ministry for us, when He received the Father's testimony to His Messiahship and His divine Sonship ( John 1:33-34). Corresponding to His is our baptism of water and the Spirit, the seal of initiatory incorporation with Him ( John 3:5).

Jesus came "by blood" also, namely, "the blood of His cross" ( Hebrews 9:12). His coming "by water and blood," as vividly set forth in the issue of water and blood from His pierced side, was seen and solemnly attested by John ( John 19:34-35). John Baptist came only baptizing with water; therefore was not Messiah. Jesus came, undergoing Himself the double baptism of water and blood, then baptizing us with the Spirit cleansing, of which water is the sacramental seal, and with His atoning blood once for all shed and of perpetual efficacy; therefore He Messiah. It is His shed blood which gives water baptism its spiritual significancy. We are baptized into His death, the point of union between us and Him, and, through Him, between us and God, not into His birth or incarnation ( Romans 6:3-4;  Colossians 2:12).

"The Spirit, the water, and the blood agree in one" (Greek: "tend to the one result," "testify to the one truth"), i.e., agree in testifying to Jesus' Sonship and Messiaship by the sacramental grace in water baptism received by the penitent believer through His droning blood and His inwardly witnessing Spirit ( 1 John 5:5-6;  1 John 5:8;  1 John 5:10), answering to the testimony to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship by His baptism, by His crucifixion, and by the Spirit's manifestation in Him. By Christ's baptism, by His blood shedding, and by the Spirit's past and present working in Him, the Spirit, the water, and the blood are the threefold witness to His divine Messiahship. On and after the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles preached, Repent (including faith in Christ), and be baptized, as the sacramental seal to yourselves inwardly of your faith, and the open confession outwardly of it before the world. Compare  Romans 10:9-10;  Acts 2:38;  Acts 8:12-36;  Acts 10:47;  Acts 16:15;  Acts 16:33.

As circumcision was the painful entrance into the yoke of bondage, the law of Sinai, so baptism is the easy entrance into the light yoke of Christ, the law of liberty and love. Circumcision was the badge of Jewish exclusiveness in one aspect; baptism is the badge of God's world-wide mercy in Christ. As He was "the desire of all nations," consciously or unconsciously, so all nations are invited to Him. Any spiritualizing that denies outward baptism with water, in the face of Christ's command and the apostles' practice, must logically lead to rationalistic evasions of Scripture in general. Preaching, no doubt, takes the precedency of baptism with the apostles, whose office was evangelistic rather than pastoral ( 1 Corinthians 1:14;  1 Corinthians 1:17). The teaching and acceptance of the truth stands first; the sealing of belief in it by baptism comes next not vice versa.

"Go ye, teach (or make disciples), baptizing," etc. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not (whether he be baptized or not) shall be damned." There might be salvation without baptism, as the penitent thief on the cross was saved; but not salvation without believing, to those capable of it. As circumcision bound the circumcised to obedience to the law, and also admitted him to the spiritual privileges of Judaism, so baptism binds the baptized to Christ's service, and gives him a share in all the privileges of the Christian covenant. But in stating these privileges Scripture presumes that the baptized person has come in penitence and faith. Thus  1 Peter 3:21, literally "which water, being antitype (to the water of the flood) is now saving (puts in a state of salvation) us also (as well as Noah), to wit, baptism."

It saves us also, not of itself (any more than the water saved Noah of itself; the water saved him only by sustaining the ark, built in faith), but the spiritual thing conjoined with it, repentance and faith, of which it is the seal: as Peter proceeds to explain, "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God (the instrument whereby it so saves, being) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" ( Colossians 2:12;  Ephesians 1:19-20); not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but of the soul. Water baptism can put away that filth, but the Spirit's baptism alone can put away this ( Ephesians 2:11). The ark (Christ) and His Spirit-filled true church saves, by living union with Him and it; not the water which only flowed round the ark and buoyed it up, and which so far from saving was the very instrument of destroying the ungodly.

The "good conscience's" ability to give a satisfactory "answer" to the interrogation concerning faith and repentance ensures the really saving baptism of the Spirit into living fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The same union of the sign and the grace signified, repentance and faith being presupposed, occurs ( John 3:5;  Acts 22:16): "Be baptized, washing away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord" ( Ephesians 5:26;  Titus 3:5; compare  1 Corinthians 10:1-2). The passage through the Red Sea delivered Israel completely from Egyptian bondage, and thenceforward they were, under God's protecting cloud, on their way to the promised land. hence it is written, "they were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (the sea, according to some of the fathers, representing the water, the cloud the Spirit). In  Colossians 2:11-12, baptism is represented as our Christian "circumcision made without hands," implying that not the minister, but God Himself, confers it; spiritual circumcision ("putting off the body of the sins of the flesh") is realized in union with Christ, whose "circumcision" implies His having undertaken for us to keep the whole law ( Luke 2:21).

Baptism, coincident with this spiritual circumcision, is the burial of the old carnal life, to which immersion corresponds. "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him by faith IN the operation of God who hath raised Him from the dead" ( Colossians 2:12;  Ephesians 1:19-20). Here, and in  Romans 6:3-4-5-6, baptism is viewed as identifying us with Christ, by our union to His once crucified and now risen body, and as entailing in us also a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness, and as involving as the final issue our bodily sharing in the likeness of His resurrection, at the coming first resurrection, that of the saints. Figuratively, death is called a "baptism" ( Matthew 20:22;  Mark 10:38;  Luke 12:50). The Greek word does not necessarily mean immersion of the whole body: compare  Mark 7:3-4;  Luke 11:38;  Hebrews 9:10).

In some cases the palpable descent of the Spirit was before, in others after, the baptism, and. in connection with the laying on of hands ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 10:47;  Acts 19:5-6); proving that the water sign and the Spirit are not inseparably connected. At the same time, there being but one preposition to govern both nouns, "born of water and the Spirit" implies the designed close connection of the two in the case of penitent believers ( John 3:5). In  Ephesians 5:26 "Christ gave Himself for the church, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the laver (Greek) of water by the word." The bride, the church, must pass through her purifying bath before being presented to the Bridegroom, Christ. The gospel word of faith, confessed in baptism, carries with it the real, cleansing, regenerating power ( John 15:3;  John 17:17;  1 Peter 1:23;  1 Peter 3:21).

Baptism being regarded according to its high ideal, Scripture asserts of its efficacy all that is involved in a believing appropriation of the divine truths it symbolizes. In  Titus 3:5, "He saved us by the laver (Greek) of regeneration, and (by) the (subsequent, gradually progressive) renewal of the Holy Spirit," Paul in charity assumes that Christian professors are really penitent believers (though some were not so:  1 Corinthians 6:11), in which case baptism with water is the visible laver of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. "Faith then is confirmed, and grace increased, by virtue of prayer to God" (Church of England, Article 27). Infants are charitably presumed to have received a grace in connection with their Christian descent, in answer to the believing prayers of their parents or guardians presenting them for baptism ( 1 Corinthians 7:14), which grace is visibly sealed and increased by baptism. They are presumed to be regenerated, until years of developed consciousness prove whether they have been actually so or not.

The tests whether it has or has not taken place in the baptized are  1 John 3:9;  1 John 3:14;  1 John 5:1;  1 John 5:4. The infants of pagan parents are not admissible to baptism, because faith is not in the parents. The faith of the beads consecrated the households ( 1 Corinthians 7:14), as in the case of Lydia and the jailer of Philippi, so that even the young were fit recipients of baptism. Christ's power and willingness to bless infants is proved by  Matthew 19:13-15. So that infant unconsciousness is no valid objection to infant baptism. Since the believer's children are "holy" in the Lord's view, why refuse them the seal of consecration? ( 1 Corinthians 7:14;  Acts 16:1;  Acts 16:15;  Acts 16:33.) Infant baptism tacitly superseded infant circumcision, just as the Lord's day superseded the Jewish sabbath, without our having express command for the transference.

A child may be heir of an estate, though incapable of using or comprehending its advantage; he is not hereafter to acquire the title to it; he will hereafter understand his claim, take his wealth, and be responsible for the use. So the baptized infant. The words which follow Jesus' command, "baptizing them," etc., express the necessary complement of baptism for it to be availing, "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." "Illumination," in subsequent writers used for "baptism," is found connected with it in  Hebrews 6:4;  Hebrews 10:32. The "baptizing with fire" ( Matthew 3:11), symbolized by the "tongues of fire" at Pentecost ( Acts 2:3), expresses the purifying of the soul by the Spirit, as metal is by fire. In  Galatians 3:27, "as many of you as have been baptized into Christ (compare  Romans 6:3;  Matthew 28:19, Greek: 'into the name') have put on Christ;" ye did, in that act of being baptized into Christ, clothe yourselves in Christ.

Christ is to you the man's robe (the toga virilis assumed by every Roman on reaching manhood). Christ being the Son of God by generation, and ye being one with film, ye also become sons by adoption. Baptism, when it answers to its ideal, is a mean of spiritual transference from legal condemnation to living union with Christ, and sonship to God through Him ( Romans 13:14). Christ alone, by baptizing with the Spirit, can make the inward grace correspond to the outward sign. As He promises the blessing in the faithful use of the means, the church rightly presumes in charity that it is so, nothing appearing to the contrary (compare on the other hand  Acts 8:13;  Acts 8:18-24). In  1 Corinthians 12:13, "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, ... and were all made to drink into one Spirit" (all the oldest manuscripts omit "into"), the two sacraments are alluded to. Where baptism answers to its ideal, by the Spirit the many members are baptized into the one body ( Ephesians 4:4-5), and are all made to drink the one Spirit (symbolized by the drinking of the wine in the Lord's Supper).

Jesus gives the Spirit to him only that is athirst ( John 7:37). God ( 1 John 3:9;  1 John 5:1;  1 John 5:4;  1 John 5:18) gives us crucial tests of regeneration: whosoever lacks these, though, baptized, is not, in the Scripture view, "regenerate" or "born again." "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (habitually); for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin (be sinning), because he is born of God"; i.e., his higher nature doth not sin, his normal direction is against sin; the law of God after the inward man is the ruling principle of his true self ( Romans 6:14;  Romans 7:22), though the old nature, not yet fully deadened, rebels: "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God"; "whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world"; "whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."

The Nicene Creed has no authority but so far as it can be proved from Scripture; the clause, "one baptism for the remission of sins" was the decision arrived at by its members as to the question, Were those baptized by heretics, or those who having been baptized had lapsed into heresy, to be rebaptized? Basil on the contrary thought they ought to be rebaptized. A questioning at the time of baptism as to the candidate's repentance and faith seems implied as customary in  1 Peter 3:21. A profession of faith in a "form of sound words" is spoken of in  2 Timothy 1:13. Timothy "professed a good profession before many witnesses" ( 1 Timothy 6:12). Christians derived "sponsors" from the Jewish usage in baptizing proselytes; mention of them occurs first in Tertullian in the 3rd century.

The laying on of hands after baptism is spoken of as among the first principles of the Christian teaching in  Hebrews 6:1-2. Though the miraculous gifts imparted thereby at first have long ceased, the permanent gifts and graces of the spirit are in all ages needed. The sevenfold gift is described  Isaiah 11:2-3. Our dispensation is that of the Holy Spirit, who is Christ's second Self, His only Vicar in His bodily absence ( John 14:16-18). Besides the first sealing by the Spirit in baptism, a further confirmation, unction, or sealing by the Spirit is needed to establish us firmly in the faith, and to be an earnest, or installment, of future blessedness ( Acts 8:12-14 (See Peter );  2 Corinthians 1:21-22;  Ephesians 1:13;  Ephesians 4:30;  1 John 2:20).

The laying on of hands; as a sign of spiritual blessing or strengthening, occurs in Jacob's blessing on Ephraim and Manasseh ( Genesis 48:14); Joshua's ordination in Moses' room ( Numbers 27:18;  Deuteronomy 34:9); in Christ's blessing of children ( Matthew 19:13) and healing the blind man ( Mark 8:23); in the apostles' healing of the sick ( Mark 16:18); in Saul's recovery of sight, and Publius' father's healing of fever ( Acts 9:17;  Acts 28:8). The laying on of hands, originally following close on baptism as a corollary to it ( Acts 19:5-6), became subsequently, and rightly in the case of infants, separated by a long time from it. The Latins made it then a sacrament, though wanting both the material element or sign and the institution of Christ.

Baptism for the dead.  1 Corinthians 15:29; "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?" What profit would they get who are baptized to take the place of the dead? ( 2 Timothy 2:2.) Of what use are fresh witnesses for Christianity, baptized to minister instead of those dead? "Why are they then baptized for" (literally, in behalf of) "the dead? Why then (too) stand we in jeopardy every hour?" "Why are they baptized, filling up the place of the martyred dead, at the risk of sharing the same fate?"

Possibly some symbolical rite of baptism or dedication of themselves to follow the martyred dead even to death, grounded on  Matthew 20:22-23, is alluded to. Or, without such rite, "baptized" may be figuratively used, as in  1 Corinthians 10:2 (where "baptized in the cloud," which became FIRE by night, typifies the baptism with water and the Holy Spirit). As the ranks of the faithful are thinned by death (natural or violent), others step forward to be baptized to take their place. This is in behalf of the dead saints, seeing that the consummated glory will not be until the full number of saints shall have been completed.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

from the Greek word βαπτιζω , is a rite or ceremony by which persons are initiated into the profession of the Christian religion; or, it is the appointed mode by which a person assumes the profession of Christianity, or is admitted to a participation of the privileges belonging to the disciples of Christ. It was by this mode that those who believed the Gospel were to be separated from unbelievers, and joined to the visible Christian church; and the rite accompanying it, or washing with water, was probably intended to represent the washing away, or renouncing, the impurities of some former state, viz. the sins that had been committed, and the vicious habits that had been contracted; and to this purpose it may be observed, that the profession of repentance always accompanied, or was understood to accompany, the profession of faith in Christ. That our Lord instituted such an ordinance as baptism, is plain from the commission given to the Apostles after his resurrection, and recorded in  Matthew 28:19-20 . To this rite there is also an allusion in  Mark 16:16;  John 3:5;  Acts 2:41;  Acts 8:12;  Acts 8:36-38;  Acts 22:16 . The design of this institution, which was to express faith in Christ on the part of those who were baptized, and to declare their resolution of openly professing his religion, and cultivating real and universal holiness, appears from  Romans 6:3-4;  1 Peter 3:21;  Ephesians 5:26; and  Titus 3:5 . We find no account of baptism as a distinct religious rite, before the mission of John, the forerunner of Christ, who was called the "Baptist," on account of his being commanded by God to baptize with water all who should hearken to his invitation to repent. Washing, however, accompanied many of the Jewish rites, and, indeed, was required after contracting any kind of uncleanness. Also, soon after the time of our Saviour, we find it to have been the custom of the Jews solemnly to baptize, as well as to circumcise, all their proselytes. As their writers treat largely of the reasons for this rite, and give no hint of its being a novel institution, it is probable that this had always been the custom antecedent to the time of Moses, whose account of the rite of circumcision, and of the manner of performing it, is by no means circumstantial. Or, baptism, after circumcision, might have come into use gradually from the natural propriety of the thing, and its easy conformity to other Jewish customs. For if no Jew could approach the tabernacle, or temple, after the most trifling uncleanness, without washing, much less would it be thought proper to admit a proselyte from a state so impure and unclean as Heathenism was conceived to be, without the same mode of purification. The antiquity of this practice of proselyte baptism among the Jews, has been a subject of considerable debate among divines. It is strenuously maintained by Lightfoot. Dr. John Owen considers the opinion, that Christian baptism came from the Jews, as destitute of all probability. On the other hand, Mr. Wall has made it highly probable, to say the least, from many testimonies of the Jewish writers, who without one dissenting voice allow the fact, that the practice of Jewish baptism obtained before and, at, as well as after, our Saviour's time. There is also a strong intimation, even in the Gospel itself, of such a known practice among the Jews in the time of John the Baptist,  John 1:25 . The testimonies of the Jewish writers are of the greater weight, because the practice, reported by them to have been of so ancient a date, did still remain among them; for if it had not been of that antiquity to which it pretends, viz. before the time of Christ, it is not likely that it would ever have become a custom among the Jews afterward. Would they begin to proselyte persons to their religion by baptism in imitation of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they held accursed? And yet if this proselyte baptism were adopted by the Jews since the time of Christ, it must have been a mere innovation in imitation of Christians, which is not very likely. This ceremony is performed by immersion in the oriental churches. The practice of the western churches is, to sprinkle the water on the head or face of the person to be baptized, except in the church of Milan, in whose ritual it is ordered, that the head of the infant be plunged three times into the water; the minister at the same time pronouncing the words, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;" importing that by this ceremony the person baptized is received among the professors of that religion which God, the Father of all, revealed to mankind by the ministry of his Son, and confirmed by the miracles of his Spirit.

2. It is observable that the baptismal form, above cited from St. Matthew, never occurs in the same words, either in the book of the Acts, or in any of the Epistles. But though the form in St. Matthew never appears elsewhere, the thing intended thereby is always implied. There are many ceremonies delivered by ecclesiastical writers, as used in baptism, which were introduced after the age of Justin Martyr, but which are now disused; as the giving milk and honey to the baptized, in the east; wine and milk, in the west, &c. They also added unction and the imposition of hands. Tertullian is the first who mentions the signing with the sign of the cross, but only as used in private, and not in public worship; and he particularly describes the custom of baptizing without it. Indeed, it does not appear to have been used in baptism till the latter end of the fourth or fifth century; at which time great virtue was ascribed to it. Lactantius, who lived in the beginning of the fourth century, says the devil cannot approach those who have the heavenly mark of the cross upon them as an impregnable fortress to defend them; but he does not say it was used in baptism. After the council of Nice, Christians added to baptism the ceremonies of exorcism and adjuration, to make evil spirits depart from the persons to be baptized. They made several signings with the cross, they used lighted candles, they gave salt to the baptized person to taste, and the priest touched his mouth and ears with spittle, and also blew and spat upon his face. At that time also baptized persons wore white garments till the Sunday following. They had also various other ceremonies; some of which are now abolished, though others of them remain in the church of Rome to this day.

3. The Quakers assert, that water baptism was never intended to continue in the church of Christ any longer than while Jewish prejudices made such an external ceremony necessary. They argue from   Ephesians 4:5 , in which one baptism is spoken of as necessary to Christians, that this must be a baptism of the Spirit. But from comparing the texts that relate to this institution, it will plainly appear that water baptism was instituted by Christ in more general terms than will agree with this explication. That it was administered to all the Gentile converts, and not confined to the Jews appears from  Matthew 28:19-20 , compared with  Acts 10:47; and that the baptism of the Spirit did not supersede water baptism appears to have been the judgment of Peter and of those that were with him; so that the one baptism spoken of seems to have been that of water; the communication of the Holy Spirit being only called baptism in a figurative sense. As for any objection which, may be drawn from  1 Corinthians 1:17 , it is sufficiently answered by the preceding verses, and all the numerous texts, in which, in epistles written long after this, the Apostle speaks of

all Christians as baptized and argues from the obligation of baptism, in such a manner as we can never imagine he would have done, if he had apprehended it to have been the will of God that it should be discontinued in the church. Compare   Romans 6:3 , &c;  Colossians 2:12;  Galatians 3:27 .

4. Baptism, in early times, was only administered at Easter and Whitsuntide, except in cases of necessity. Adult persons were prepared for baptism by abstinence, prayer, and other pious exercises. It was to answer for them, says Mosheim, that sponsors, or godfathers, were first instituted in the second century, though they were afterward admitted also in the baptism of infants. This, according to M. Daille, was not done till the fourth century. Wall refers the origin of sponsors, or godfathers, on the authority of Tertullian, to the commencement of the second century; who were used in the baptism of infants that could not answer for themselves.

The catechumens were not forward in coming to baptism. St. Ambrose was not baptized before he was elected bishop of Milan; and some of the fathers not till the time of their death. Some deferred it out of a tender conscience; and others out of too much attachment to the world; it being the prevailing opinion of the primitive times, that baptism, whenever conferred, washed away all antecedent stains and sins. Accordingly they deferred this sanctifying rite as long as possible, even till they apprehended they were at the point of death. Cases of this kind occur at the beginning of the third century. Constantine the Great was not baptized till he was at the last gasp, and in this he was followed by his son Constantius; and two of his other sons, Constantine and Constans, were killed before they were baptized. As to the necessity of baptism, we may observe, however, that, though some seem to have laid too great stress upon it, as if it were indispensably necessary in order to salvation; it must be allowed, that for any person to omit baptism, when he acknowledges it to be an institution of Christ, and that it is the will of Christ that he should submit to it, is an act of disobedience to his authority, which is inconsistent with true faith.

5. The word baptism is frequently taken for sufferings,   Mark 10:38;  Luke 12:50;  Matthew 20:22-23 . Of expressions like these we find some traces in the Old Testament also, where waters often denote tribulations,  Psalms 69:1;  Psalms 69:15;  Psalms 124:4-5; and where to be swallowed up by the waters, and to pass through the great waters, signify to be overwhelmed with miseries and calamities.

6. St. Paul, endeavouring to prove the resurrection of the dead, among several other reasons in support of the doctrine, says, "If the dead rise not at all, what shall they do who are baptized for the dead?"   1 Corinthians 15:29 . Of this phrase various interpretations have been given; three of which only shall be here mentioned. "It means," say some, "baptized in the room of the dead just fallen in the cause of Christ, and who are thus supported by a succession of new converts, immediately offering themselves to fill up their places, as ranks of soldiers who advance to combat in the room of their companions, who have just been slain in their sight." Others think it signifies, "In hope of blessings to be received after they are numbered with the dead." Dr. Macknight supplies the words, της

αναστασεως , and reads the clause, "Who are baptized for the resurrection of the dead;" or in consequence of their believing in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; on account of which faith, and their profession of it, they are exposed to great sufferings, for which they can have no recompense, if there be no resurrection of the dead, nor any future life at all.

7. As to the subjects of baptism, the anti-paedobaptists hold that believing adults only are proper subjects, because the commission of Christ to baptize appears to them to restrict this ordinance to such only as are taught, or made disciples; and that, consequently, infants, who cannot be thus taught, ought to be excluded. "It does not appear," say they, "that the Apostles, in executing the commission of Christ, ever baptized any but those who were first instructed in the Christian faith, and professed their belief of it." They contend that infants can receive no benefit from baptism, and are not capable of faith and repentance, which are to be considered as prerequisites.

8. As to the mode, they observe that the meaning of the word βαπτιζω signifies to immerse or dip, and that only; that John baptized in Jordan; that he chose a place where there was much water; that Jesus came up out of the water; that Philip and the eunuch went down both into the water; that the terms, washing, purifying, burying in baptism, so often mentioned in the Scriptures, allude to this mode; that immersion only was the practice of the Apostles and the first Christians; and that it was only laid aside from the love of novelty, and the coldness of climate. These positions, they think, are so clear from Scripture, and the history of the church, that they stand in need of but little argument for their support. Farther, they also insist that all positive institutions depend entirely upon the will and declaration of the institutor; and that, therefore, reasoning by analogy from previously abrogated rites is to be rejected, and the express command of Christ respecting baptism ought to be our rule.

9. The Paedobaptists, however, are of a different opinion. As to the subjects of baptism, they believe that qualified adults, who have not been baptized before, are certainly proper subjects; but then they think, also, that infants ought not to be excluded. They believe that, as the Abrahamic and Christian covenants are the same,   Genesis 17:7;  Hebrews 8:12; that as children were admitted under the former; and that as baptism is now a sign, seal, or confirmation of this covenant, infants have as great a right to it as the children of the Israelites had to the seal of circumcision under the law,  Acts 2:39;  Romans 4:11 . Farther, if children are not to be baptized because there is no positive command for it, for the same reason they say that women should not come to the Lord's Supper; nor ought we to keep holy the first day of the week; neither of these being expressly commanded. If baptizing infants had been a human invention, they also ask, how such a practice could have been so universal in the first three hundred years of the church, and yet no record have remained when it was introduced, nor any dispute or controversy about it have taken place? Some reduce the matter to a narrower compass; urging, (1.) That God constituted in his church the membership of infants, and admitted them to that privilege by a religious ordinance, Genesis 17;   Galatians 3:14;  Galatians 3:17 .

(2.) That this right of infants to church membership was never taken away: and this being the case, they argue, that infants must be received, because God has appointed it; and, since they must be received, it must be either with baptism or without it; but none must be received without baptism; therefore, infants must of necessity be baptized. Hence it is clear that, under the Gospel, infants are still continued exactly in the same relation to God and his church in which they were originally placed under former dispensations. That infants are to be received into the church, and as such baptized, is also inferred from the following passages of Scripture: Genesis 17;   Isaiah 44:3;  Matthew 19:13;  Luke 9:47-48;  Acts 2:38-39;  Romans 11:17;  Romans 11:21;  1 Corinthians 7:14 .

10. Though there are no express examples in the New Testament of Christ and his Apostles baptizing infants, yet there is no proof that they were excluded. Jesus Christ actually blessed little children; and it is difficult to believe that such received his blessing, and yet were not to be members of the Gospel church. If Christ received them, and would have us "receive" them, how can we keep them out of the visible church? Beside, if children were not to be baptized, it is reasonable to expect that they would have been expressly forbidden. As whole households were baptized, it is also probable there were children among them. From the year 400 to 1150, no society of men, in all that period of seven hundred and fifty years, ever pretended to say it was unlawful to baptize infants: and still nearer the time of our Saviour there appears to have been scarcely any one who advised the delay of infant baptism. Irenaeus, who lived in the second century, and was well acquainted with Polycarp, who was John's disciple, declares expressly, that the church learned from the Apostles to baptize children. Origen, in the third century, affirms, that the custom of baptizing infants was received from Christ and his Apostles. Cyprian, and a council of ministers, held about the year 254, no less than sixty-six in number, unanimously agreed that children might be baptized as soon as they were born. Ambrose, who wrote about 274 years from the Apostles, declares that the baptism of infants had been practised by the Apostles themselves, and by the church down to that time. "The catholic church every where declares," says Chrysostom, in the fifth century, "that infants should be baptized;" and Augustine affirmed, that he never heard or read of any Christian, catholic or sectarian, but who always held that infants were to be baptized. They farther believe that there needed no mention in the New Testament of receiving infants into the church, as it had been once appointed and never repealed. So far from confining baptism to adults, it must be remembered that there is not a single instance recorded in the New Testament, in which the descendants of Christian parents were baptized in adult years. The objection that infants are not proper subjects for baptism, because they cannot profess faith and repentance, falls with as much weight upon the institution of circumcision as infant baptism; since they are as capable or are as fit subjects for the one as the other. Finally, it is generally acknowledged, that if infants die, (and a great part of the human race die in their infancy,) they are saved: if this be the case then why refuse them the sign of union with Christ, if they be capable of enjoying the thing signified?

11. As to the mode, the Paedobaptists deny that the term βαπτιζω , which is a derivative of βαπτω , and, consequently, must be something less in its signification, is invariably used in the New Testament to express plunging. It is denied, therefore, that dipping is its only meaning; that Christ absolutely enjoined immersion; and that it is his positive will that no other mode should be used. As the word βαπτιζω is used to express the various ablutions among the Jews, such as sprinkling, pouring, &c,  Hebrews 9:10 , for the custom of washing before meals, and the washing of household furniture, pots, &c, it is evident from hence that it does not express the manner of doing a thing, whether by immersion or effusion, but only the thing done; that is, washing; or the application of water in some form or other. It nowhere signifies to dip, but in denoting a mode of, and in order to, washing or cleansing; and the mode or use is only the ceremonial part of a positive institute; just as in the Lord's Supper, the time of day, the number and posture of the communicants, the quantity and quality of bread and wine, are circumstances not accounted essential by any part of Christians. If in baptism there be an expressive emblem of the descending influence of the Spirit, pouring must be the mode of administration; for that is the Scriptural term most commonly and properly used for the communication of divine influences,   Matthew 3:11;  Mark 1:8;  Mark 1:10;  Luke 3:16-22;  John 1:33;  Acts 1:5;  Acts 2:38-39;  Acts 8:19;  Acts 8:17;  Acts 11:15-16 . The term sprinkling, also, is made use of in reference to the act of purification,   Isaiah 52:15;  Ezekiel 36:25;  Hebrews 9:13-14; and therefore cannot be inapplicable to baptismal purification. But, it is observed, that John baptized "in Jordan:" to this it is replied, To infer always a plunging of the whole body in water from this particle, would, in many instances, be false and absurd. The same Greek preposition, εν , is used when it is said they should be "baptized with fire;" but few will assert that they should be plunged into it. The Apostle, speaking of Christ, says, he came not, εν , "by water only;" but, εν , "by water and blood." There the same word, εν , is translated by; and with justice and propriety; for we know no good sense in which we could say he came in water. It has been remarked that εν is, more than a hundred times, in the New Testament, rendered at; and in a hundred and fifty others it is translated with. If it be rendered so here, John baptized at Jordan, or with the water of Jordan, there is no proof that he plunged his disciples in it.

Jesus, it is said, came up out of the water; but this is no proof that he was immersed, as the Greek term, απο , often signifies from: for instance, "Who hath warned you to flee from," not out of, "the wrath to come?" with many others that might be mentioned. Again: it is urged that Philip and the eunuch went down both into the water. To this it is answered, that here also is no proof of immersion: for, if the expression of their going down into the water necessarily includes dipping, then Philip was dipped, as well as the eunuch. The preposition εις , translated into, often signifies no more than to, or unto: see   Matthew 15:24;  Romans 10:10;  Acts 28:14;  Matthew 3:11;  Matthew 17:27 : so that from none of these circumstances can it be proved that there was one person of all the baptized, who went into the water ankle deep. As to the Apostle's expression, "buried with him in baptism," that has no force in the argument for immersion, since it does not allude to a custom of dipping, any more than our baptismal crucifixion and death has any such reference. It is not the sign, but the thing signified, that is here alluded to. As Christ was buried, and rose again to a heavenly life, so we by baptism signify that we are separated from sin, that we may live a new life of faith and love.

To conclude: it is urged, against the mode of immersion, that, as it carries with it too much of the appearance of a burdensome rite for the Gospel dispensation; as it is too indecent for so solemn an ordinance; as it has a tendency to agitate the spirits, often rendering the subject unfit for the exercise of proper thoughts and affections, and indeed utterly incapable of them; as in many cases the immersion of the body would, in all probability, be instant death; as in other situations it would be impracticable, for want of water; it cannot be considered as necessary to the ordinance of baptism, and there is the strongest improbability that it was ever practised in the times of the New Testament, or in the earliest periods of the Christian church.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [4]

The ceremony of washing, or the application of water to a person, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, by which he is initiated into the visible church. Baptism exhibits to us the blessings of pardon, salvation through Jesus Christ, union to and communion with him, the out-pouring of the Spirit, regeneration, and sanctification. From baptism results the obligation of repentance, love to Christ, and perpetual devotedness to his praise. Baptism does not constitute a visible subject, but only recognizes one. Ministers only have a right to administer it; and have a negative voice in opposition to all claims. It is an ordinance binding on all who have been given up to God in it; and to be perpetuated to the end of the world. It is not, however, essential to salvation; for mere participation of sacraments cannot qualify men for heaven: many have real grace, consequently in a salvable state, before they were baptized: besides, to suppose it essential, is to put it in the place of that which it signifies.

Baptism has been supposed by many learned persons to have had its origin from the Jewish church; in which, they maintain, it was the practice, long before Christ's time, to baptize proselytes or converts to their faith, as part of the ceremony of their admission. "It is strange to me, " says Dr. Doddridge, "that any should doubt of this, when it is plain, from express passages in the Jewish law, that no Jew who had lived like a Gentile for one day could be restored to the communion of this church without it. Compare  Numbers 19:19-20 . and many other precepts relating to ceremonial pollutions, in which may be seen, that the Jews were rendered incapable of appearing before God in the tabernacle or temple, till they were washed either by bathing or sprinkling." Others, however, insist, that the Jewish proselyte baptism is not by far so ancient; and that John the Baptist was the first administrator of baptism among the Jews.

The baptism of John, and that of our Saviour and his apostles, have been supposed to be the same; because they agree, it is said in their subjects, form, and end. But it must be observed, that though there be an agreement in some particulars, yet there is not in all. The immediate institutor of John's baptism was God the Father,  John 1:33; but the immediate institutor of the Christian baptism was Christ,  Matthew 28:19 . John's baptism was a preparatory rite, referring the subjects to Christ, who was about to confer on them spiritual blessings,  Matthew 3:11 . John's baptism was confined to the Jews; but the Christian was common to Jews and Gentiles,  Matthew 3:5;  Matthew 3:7 .  Matthew 28:19 . It does not appear that John had any formula of administration; but the Christian baptism has, viz. "in the name, " &c.

The baptism of John was the concluding scene of the legal dispensation, and, in fact, part of it; and to be considered as one of those "divers washings" among the Jews; for he did not attempt to make any alteration in the Jewish religion, nor did the persons he baptized cease to be members of the Jewish church on the account of their baptism; but Christian baptism is the regular entrance into, and is a part of, the evangelical dispensation,  Galatians 3:27 . It does not appear from the inspired narrative (however probable from inferential reasoning) that any but John himself was engaged as operator in his baptism; whereas Christ himself baptized none; but his disciples, by his authority, and in his name,  John 4:2 . Baptism has been the subject of long and sharp controversy, both as it respects the subject and the mode. To state all that has been said on both sides, would be impossible in a work of this kind. An abstract, however, of the chief arguments, I think it my duty to present to the reader, in order that he may judge for himself, as to the subject.

The Antipaedobaptists hold that believing adults only are proper subjects, because Christ's commission to baptize appears to them to restrict this ordinance to such only as are taught, or made disciples; and that consequently, infants, who cannot be thus taught, are to be excluded. It does not appear, say they, that the apostles, in executing Christ's commission ever baptized any but those who were first instructed in the Christian faith, and professed their belief of it. They content that infants can receive no benefit from it, and are not capable of faith and repentance, which are to be considered as pre- requisites. As to the mode.

They observe that the meaning of the word in Greek signifies immersion, or dipping only; that John baptized in Jordan; that he chose a place where there was much water; that Jesus came up out of the water; that Phillip and the eunuch went down both into the water. That the terms washing, purifying, burying in baptism, so often mentioned in Scripture, alludes to this mode; that immersion only was the practice of the apostles and the first Christians; and that is was only laid aside from the love of novelty, and the coldness of our climate. These positions, they think, are so clear from Scripture, and the history of the church, that they stand in need of but little argument to support them. Farther, they also insist that all positive institutions depend entirely upon the will and declaration of the institutor, and that, therefore, reasoning by analogy from previous abrogated rites, is to be rejected, and the express command of Christ respecting baptism ought to be our rule.


The Paedobaptists, however, are of a different opinion. As to the subject, they believe that qualified adults who have not been baptized before, are certainly proper subjects; but, then, they think also that infants are not to be excluded. They believe that, as the Abrahamic and the Christian covenants are the same,  Genesis 17:7 . Heb. viii 12; that as children were admitted under the former; and that as baptism is now a seal, sign, or confirmation of this covenant, infants have as great a right to it as the children had a right to the seal of circumcision under the law.  Acts 2:39 .  Romans 4:11 . That if children are not to be baptized because there is no positive command for it, for the same reason women should not come to the Lord's supper; we should not keep the first day of the week, nor attend public worship, for none of these are expressly commanded; that if infant baptism had been a human invention, how would it have been so universal in the first 3000 years, and yet no record left when it was introduced, nor any dispute or controversy about it?

Some bring it to these two ideas:

1. That God did constitute in his church the membership of infants, and admitted them to it by a religious ordinance,  Genesis 17:1-27 :   Galatians 3:14;  Galatians 3:17 .

2. That this right of infants to church membership was never taken away. This being the case, infants must be received, because God has instituted it; and since infants must be received, it must be either without baptism or with it; but none must be received without baptism, therefore infants must of necessity be baptized. Hence, it is clear, that, under the Gospel, infants are still continued exactly in the same relation to God and his church, in which they were originally placed under the former dispensation. That infants are to be received into the church, and as such baptized, is also inferred from the following passages of Scripture:  Genesis 17:1-27 : Is. 44:3.   Matthew 19:13 .  Luke 9:47-48 .  Mark 9:14 .  Acts 2:1-47;  Romans 11:17;  Romans 11:21 .  1 Corinthians 7:14 .

Though there are no express examples in the New Testament of Christ and his apostles baptizing infants, yet this is no proof that they were excluded. Jesus Christ actually blessed little children; and it would be hard to believe that such received his blessing, and yet were not to be members of the Gospel church. If Christ received them, and would have us receive them in his name, how can it be reconciled to keep them out of the visible church? Besides, if children were not to be baptized, it would have been expressly forbidden. None of the Jews had any apprehension of the rejection of infants, which they must have had, if infants had been rejected. As whole households were baptized, it is probable there were children among them. From the year 400 to 1150, no society of men in all that period of 750 years, ever pretended to say it was unlawful to baptize infants; and still nearer the time of our Saviour there appears to have been scarcely any one that so much as advised the delay of infant baptism.

Irenxus, who lived in the second century, and was well acquainted with Polycarp, who was John's disciple, declares expressly that the church learned from the apostles to baptize children. Origen, in the third century, affirmed that the custom of baptizing infants was received from Christ and his apostles. Cyprian, and a council of ministers (held about the year 254) no less than sixty-six in number, unanimously agreed that children might be baptized as soon as they were born. Ambrose, who wrote about 274 years from the apostles, declares that the baptism of infants had been the practice of the apostles themselves, and of the church, till that time. The Catholic church every where declared, says Chrysostom, in the fifth century, that infants should be baptized; and Augustin affirmed that he never heard nor read of any Christian, Catholic, or sectarian, but who always held that infants were to be baptized. They farther believe, that there needed no mention in the New Testament of receiving infants into the church, as it had been once appointed, and never repealed. The dictates of nature, also, in parental feelings; the verdict of reason in favour of privileges; the evidence in favour of children being sharers of the seals of grace, in common with their parents, for the space of 4000 years; and especially the language of prophecy, in reference to the children of the Gospel church, make it very probable that they were not to be rejected.

So far from confining it to adults, it must be remembered that there is not a single instance recorded in the New Testament in which the descendants of Christian parents were baptized in adult years

That infants are not proper subjects for baptism, because they cannot profess faith and repentance, they deny. This objection falls with as much weight upon the institution of circumcision as infant baptism; since they are as capable, or are as fit subjects for the one as the other. It is generally acknowledged, that, if infants die (and a great part of the human race do die in infancy, ) they are saved: if this be the case, then, why refuse them the sign in infancy, if they are capable of enjoying the thing signified? "Why, " says Dr. Owen, "is it the will of God that unbelievers should not be baptized? It is because, not granting them the grace, he will not grant them the sign. If God, therefore, denies the sign to the infant seed of believers, it must be because he denies them the grace of it; and then all the children of believing parents (upon these principles)dying in their infancy, must, without hope, be eternally damned. I do not say that all must be so whom God would not have baptized."

Something is said of baptism, it is observed, that cannot agree to infants: faith goes before baptism; and as adults are capable of believing, so no others are capable of baptism; but it is replied, if infants must not be baptized because something is said of baptism that does not agree to infants,  Mark 16:16 . then infants must not be saved, because something is said of salvation that does not agree to infants,  Mark 16:16 . As none but adults are capable of believing, so, by the argument of the Baptists, none but adults are capable of salvation: for he that believeth not shall be damned. But Christ, it is said, set an example of adult baptism. True; but he was baptized in honour to John's ministry, and to conform himself to what he appointed to his followers; for which last reason he drank of the sacramental cup: but this is rather an argument for the Paedobaptists than against them; since it, plainly shows, as Doddridge observes, that baptism may be administered to those who are not capable of all the purposes for which it was designed; could not be capable of that faith and repentance which are said to be necessary to this ordinance.

As to the mode.

They believe that the word in Greek signifies to dip or to plunge; but that the Greek term, which is only derivative of another Greek term, and consequently must be somewhat less in its signification, should be invariably used in the New Testament to express plunging, is not so clear. It is therefore doubted whether dipping be the only meaning, and whether Christ absolutely enjoined immersion, and that it is his positive will that no other should be used. As the word in Greek is used for the various ablutions among the Jews, such as sprinkling, pouring, &c.  Hebrews 9:10; for the custom of washing before meals, and the washing of household furniture, pots, &c; it is evident from hence that it does not express the manner of doing, only the thing done; that is, washing, or the application of water in one form or other. Dr. Owen observes, that it no where signifies to dip, but as denoting a mode or, and in order to washing or cleansing: and, according to others, the mode of use is only the ceremonial part of a positive institute; just as in the supper of the Lord, the time of the day, the number and posture of communicants, the quality and quantity of bread and wine, are circumstances not accounted essential by any party of Christians. As to the Hebrew word Tabal, it is considered as a generic term; that its radical, primary, and proper meaning is, to tinge, to dye, or wet, or the like: which primary design is effected by different modes of application.

If in baptism also there is an expressive emblem of the descending influence of the Spirit, pouring must be the mode of administration; for that is the Scriptural term most commonly and properly used for the communication of divine influences. There is no object whatever in all the New Testament so frequently and so explicitly signified by baptism as these divine influences,  Matthew 3:11 .  Mark 1:8;  Mark 1:10 .  Luke 3:16-22 .  John 1:33 ,  Acts 1:5 .  Acts 2:38-39 .  Acts 8:12;  Acts 8:17 .  Acts 11:1-30

The term sprinkling, also, is made use of in reference to the act of purifying, Is 52: 15;  Hebrews 9:1-28 .  Ezekiel 36:25 , and therefore cannot be inapplicable to baptismal purification. But it is observed that John baptized in Jordan: to this it is replied, to infer always a plunging of the whole body in water from this word, would, in many instances, be false and absurd: the same Greek preposition is used when it is said they should be baptized with fire; while few will assert that they should be plunged into it. The apostle, speaking of Christ, says, he came not by water only, but by water and blood. There the same wore is translated by, and with justice and propriety, for we know no good sense in which we could say he came in water. It has been remarked, that this Greek word is more than a hundred times in the New Testament, rendered "at" and in a hundred and fifty others, it is translated with. If it be rendered so here, "John baptized at Jordan, or with the water of Jordan, there is no proof from thence that he plunged his disciples in it. It is urged that John's choosing a place where there was much water is a certain proof of immersion. To which it is answered, that as there went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, that by choosing a place where there were many streams or rivulets, it would be much more expeditiously performed by pouring; and that it seems in the nature of things highly improbable that John would have baptized this vast multitude by immersion, to say nothing of the indecency of both sexes being baptized together. Jesus, it is said, came up out of the water; but this is said to be no proof of his being immersed, as the Greek term often signifies from; for instance, "Who hath warned you to flee from, not out of, the wrath to come." with many others which might be mentioned.

Again: it is said that Phillip and the eunuch went down both into the water. To this it is answered, that here is no proof of immersion; for if the expression of their going down into the water necessarily includes dipping, then Phillip was dipped as well as the eunuch. The Greek preposition translated into, often signifies no more than to or unto.

See  Matthew 15:24 .  Romans 10:10 .  Acts 28:14 .  Matthew 17:27 .  Matthew 3:11 . So that, from all these circumstances, it cannot be conclude that there was a single person of all the baptized who went into the water ankle deep. As to the apostle's expression, "buried with him in baptism, " they think it has no force; and that it does not allude to any custom of dipping, any more than our baptismal crucifixion and death has any such reference. It is not the sign but the thing signified that is here alluded to. As Christ was buried and rose again to a heavenly life, so we by baptism signifying that we are cut off from the life of sin, that we may rise again to a new life of faith and love. To conclude this article, it is observed against the mode of immersion, that, as it carries with it too much of the appearance of a burdensome rite for the Gospel dispensation; that as it is too indecent for so solemn an ordinance; as it has a tendency to agitate the spirits, often rendering the subject unfit for the exercise of proper thought and affections, and indeed utterly incapable of them; as in many cases the immersion of the body would in all probability be instant death; as in other situations it would be impracticable for want of a sufficient quantity of water, it cannot be considered as necessary to the ordinance of baptism.

See Gale, Robinson, Stennett, Gill, and Booth, on Antipaedobaptism; and Wall, Henry, Bradbury, Bostwick, Towgood, Addington, Williams, Edwards, Miller, Evans, &c. on the other side.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

BAPTISM . This term, which designates a NT rite, is confined to the vocabulary of the NT. It does not occur in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , neither is the verb with which it is connected ever used of an initiatory ceremony. This verb is a derivative from one which means ‘to dip’ (  John 13:26 ,   Revelation 19:13 ), but itself has a wider meaning, = ‘to wash’ whether the whole or part of the body, whether by immersion or by the pouring of water (  Mark 7:4 ,   Luke 11:38 ). The substantive is used ( a ) of Jewish ceremonial washings (  Mark 7:4 ,   Hebrews 9:10 ); ( b ) in a metaphorical sense (  Mark 10:38 ,   Luke 12:50; cf. ‘plunged in calamity’); and ( c ) most commonly in the technical sense of a religious ceremony of initiation.

1 . The earliest use of the word ‘baptism’ to describe a religious and not merely ceremonial observance is in connexion with the preaching of John the Baptist, and the title which is given to him is probably an indication of the novelty of his procedure (  Matthew 3:1 ,   Mark 8:28 ,   Luke 7:20; cf.   Mark 6:14;   Mark 6:24 ). He ‘preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’ (  Mark 1:4 ), i.e. the result of his preaching was to induce men to seek baptism as an outward sign and pledge of inward repentance on their part, and of their forgiveness on the part of God. ‘Baptism is related to repentance as the outward act in which the inward change finds expression. It has been disputed whether the practice of baptizing proselytes on their reception into the Jewish community was already established in the 1st cent.; probably it was. But in any case the significance of their baptism was that of ceremonial cleansing; John employed it as a symbol and a seal of moral purification. But, according to the Gospel record, John recognized the incomplete and provisional character of the baptism administered by him: ‘I indeed have baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost’ (  Mark 1:8 ).

2 . Jesus Himself accepted baptism at the hands of John (  Mark 1:9 ), overcoming the reluctance of the Baptist with a word of authority. That Jesus Himself baptized is nowhere suggested in the Synoptic Gospels, and is expressly denied in the Fourth Gospel (  John 4:2 ); but His disciples baptized, and it must have been with His authority, equivalent to baptism by Himself, and involving admission to the society of His disciples. On the other hand, His Instructions to the Twelve and to the Seventy contain no command to baptize. Christian baptism was to be baptism ‘with the Spirit,’ and ‘the Spirit was not yet given’ (  John 7:39 ). It is recorded in Acts (  Acts 1:5 ) that the Risen Lord foretold that this promised baptism would be received after His departure, ‘not many days hence.’

3 . Christian baptism, although it finds a formal analogy in the baptism of John, which in its turn represents a spiritualizing of ancient Jewish ideas of lustration, appears as in its essential character a new thing after the descent of the Holy Spirit. It is a phenomenon ‘entirely unique, and in its inmost nature without any analogy, because it rises as an original fact from the soil of the Christian religion of revelation’ (von Dobschütz). It has been customary to trace the institution of the practice to the words of Christ recorded in   Matthew 28:19 . But the authenticity of this passage has been challenged on historical as well as on textual grounds. It must be acknowledged that the formula of the threefold name, which is here enjoined, does not appear to have been employed by the primitive Church, which, so far as our information goes, baptized ‘in’ or ‘into the name of Jesus’ (or ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘the Lord Jesus’:   Acts 2:38;   Acts 8:16;   Acts 10:48;   Acts 19:5; cf,   1 Corinthians 1:13;   1 Corinthians 1:15 ), without reference to the Father or the Spirit. The difficulty hence arising may be met by assuming ( a ) that Baptism in the name of Jesus was equivalent to Baptism in the name of the Trinity, or ( b ) that the shorter phrase does not represent the formula used by the baptizer (which may have been the fuller one), but the profession made by the baptized, and the essential fact that he became a Christian one of Christ’s acknowledged followers. But it is better to infer the authority of Christ for the practice from the prompt and universal adoption of it by the Apostles and the infant Church, to which the opening chapters of Acts bear witness; and from the significance attached to the rite in the Epistles, and especially in those of St. Paul.

4 . That baptism was the normal, and probably the indispensable, condition of being recognized as a member of the Christian community appears from allusions in the Epistles (  1 Corinthians 12:13 ,   Galatians 3:27 ), and abundantly from the evidence in Acts. The first preaching of the Spirit-filled Apostles on the day of Pentecost led to many being ‘pricked in their heart’; and in answer to their inquiry addressed to ‘Peter and the rest of the apostles,’ Peter said unto them: ‘Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (  Acts 2:37-38 ). ‘They then that received his word were baptized’ to the number of ‘about three thousand souls.’ At Samaria, ‘when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women’ (  Acts 8:12 ), the earliest express statement that women were admitted to the rite. In this case the gift of the Spirit did not follow until Peter and John had come down from Jerusalem, and ‘prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost.’ ‘Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost’ (  Acts 8:17 ). Saul was baptized by Ananias (  Acts 9:17 ) in accordance with instructions recorded by himself (  Acts 22:16 ), and that he might ‘be filled with the Holy Ghost.’ In these cases the gift followed upon baptism, with or without the laying-on of hands. In the case of Cornelius and his friends, the gift followed immediately upon the preaching of the word by Peter, and presumably its reception in the heart of those who heard; and it was after that that the Apostle ‘commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord’ (  Acts 10:48 ). It was on the ground of this previous communication of the Holy Spirit that Peter subsequently justified his action in admitting these persons to baptism (  Acts 11:15-18 ).

5 . The preaching of St. Paul, no less than that of St. Peter, led to the profession of faith through baptism, though the Apostle seems as a rule to have left the actual administration to others (  1 Corinthians 1:14-17 ): ‘for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.’ At Philippi Lydia was baptized ‘and her household’; there also the jailor, ‘and all that were his’ (  Acts 16:15;   Acts 16:33 ); at Corinth, Crispus and Gaius, and ‘the household of Stephanas’ (  1 Corinthians 1:14;   1 Corinthians 1:16 ).

6 . The conditions antecedent to baptism are plainly set forth in Acts, viz. repentance and profession of faith in Jesus as Messiah or as ‘the Lord,’ following on the preaching of the word. The method of administration was baptizing with water in or into the name of Jesus. Immersion may have been employed when the presence of sufficient water made it convenient; but there is nothing to show that affusion or sprinkling was not regarded as equally valid. That baptism was ‘in the name of Jesus’ signifies that it took place for the purpose of sealing the new relationship of belonging to, being committed to, His Personality. The blessing attached to the rite is commonly exhibited as the gift of the Holy Spirit; the due fulfilment of the condition of baptism involved ipso facto the due fulfilment of the condition of receiving the Spirit. In the Epistles, this, the normal consequence of Christian baptism, is analyzed into its various elements. These are in the main three: ( a ) the ‘remission of sins’ ( Act 2:38 ,   1 Corinthians 6:11; cf.   Hebrews 10:22 ,   1 Peter 3:21 ). ( b ) In baptism the believer was to realize most vividly the total breach with his old life involved in his new attitude to God through Christ, a breach comparable only with that effected by death (  Romans 6:2-7 ,   Colossians 2:12 ); he was to realize also that the consequences of this fellowship with Christ were not only death to sin, but a new life in righteousness as real as that which followed on resurrection (  Romans 6:4 ). ( c ) Baptism conferred incorporation in the one body of Christ (  1 Corinthians 12:13 ), and was thus adapted to serve as a symbol of the true unity of Christians (  Ephesians 4:5 ). The body with which the believer is thus incorporated is conceived of sometimes as the corporate community of Christians, sometimes as the Personality of Christ; ‘for as many of you as were baptized into Christ, did put on Christ’ (  Galatians 3:27 ).

Conversely, as with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, all the elements both of qualification and of experience are sometimes summed up in a pregnant phrase and without regard to the order in which they emerge.  Ephesians 5:26 may find its best interpretation through comparison with   John 15:3 (cf.   John 17:17 ), i.e. as referring to the continuous cleansing of the Church by the word; but if the reference is to baptism, then the phrase ‘by the word’ probably alludes to the profession of faith by the baptized, whether it took the form of ‘Jesus is Lord’ (  Romans 4:10; cf.   1 Corinthians 12:3 ), or whether it expressed the content of the faith more fully. In   Titus 3:5 , while baptism is the instrument by which salvation is realized,’ regeneration’ and ‘renewal’ are both displayed as the work of the Holy Spirit. And here the Apostolic interpretation of the rite touches the anticipation of it in our Lord’s words recorded in   John 3:5 . Faith wrought by the Spirit and faith professed by the believer are alike necessary to entrance into the Kingdom of salvation (cf.   Romans 10:9-10 ).

In  1 Corinthians 15:29 Paul refers to the practice of persons allowing themselves to be baptized on behalf of the dead . Such a practice appears to have had analogies in the Greek mysteries, from which it may have crept into the Christian Church. As such it may be regarded as ‘a purely magical, and wholly superstitious, vicarious reception of the sacrament.’ Of such a practice the Apostle expresses no approval, but ‘simply meets his opponents with their own weapons without putting their validity to the proof’ (Rentdorff).

7 . The NT contains no explicit reference to the baptism of infants or young children; but it does not follow that the Church of the 2nd cent. adopted an unauthorized innovation when it carried out the practice of infant baptism. There are good reasons for the silence of Scripture on the subject. The governing principle of St. Luke as the historian of the primitive Church is to narrate the advance of the Kingdom through the missionary preaching of the Apostles, and the conversion of adult men and women. The letters of the Apostles were similarly governed by the immediate occasion and purpose of their writing. We have neither a complete history, nor a complete account of the organization, of the primitive Church. But of one thing we may be sure: had the acceptance of Christianity involved anything so startling to the Jewish or the Gentile mind as a distinction between the religious standing of the father of a family and his children, the historian would have recorded it, or the Apostles would have found themselves called to explain and defend it. For such a distinction would have been in direct contradiction to the most deeply rooted convictions of Jew and of Gentile alike. From the time of Abraham onwards the Jew had felt it a solemn religious obligation to claim for his sons from their earliest infancy the same covenant relation with God as he himself stood in. There was sufficient parallelism between baptism and circumcision (cf.   Colossians 2:11 ) for the Jewish-Christian father to expect the baptism of his children to follow his own as a matter of course. The Apostle assumes as a fact beyond dispute that the children of believers are ‘holy’ (  1 Corinthians 7:14 ), i.e. under the covenant with God, on the ground of their father’s faith. And among Gentile converts a somewhat different but equally authoritative principle, that of patria potestas , would have the same result. In a home organized on this principle, which prevailed throughout the Roman Empire, it would be a thing inconceivable that the children could be severed from the father in their religious rights and duties, in the standing conferred by baptism. Thus it is because, to the mind of Jew and Gentile alike, the baptism of infants and children yet unable to supply the conditions for themselves was so natural, that St. Luke records so simply that when Lydia believed, she was baptized ‘with her household’; when the Philippian jailor believed, he was baptized, and all those belonging to him. If there were children in these households, these children were baptized on the ground of the faith of their parents; if there were no children, then the principle took a still wider extension, which includes children; for it was the servants or slaves of the household who were ‘added to the Church’ by baptism on the ground of their master’s faith.

8 . Baptism was a ceremony of initiation by which the baptized not only were admitted members of the visible society of the disciples of Christ, but also received the solemn attestation of the consequences of their faith. Hence there are three parties to it. The part of the baptized is mainly his profession of faith in Christ, his confession ‘with his heart’ that he is the Lord’s. The second is the Christian community or Church (rather than the person who administers baptism, and who studiously keeps in the background). Their part is to hear the profession and to grant the human attestation. The third is the Head of the Church Himself, by whose authority the rite is practised, and who gives the inward attestation, as the experience of being baptized opens in the believing soul new avenues for the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

C. A. Scott.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

Christian baptism is a ceremony commanded by Jesus, by which Christians make a public confession that they have repented of their sins and committed themselves in faith to Jesus as their Saviour and Lord ( Matthew 28:19;  Acts 2:38;  Acts 2:41;  Acts 9:18;  Acts 10:47-48;  Acts 18:8;  Romans 10:9). The Bible speaks of people going into the water to be baptized ( Acts 8:38; cf.  Matthew 3:16), but it gives no detailed description of the act of baptism. The original meaning of ‘baptize’ was ‘dip’ or ‘immerse’, suggesting that believers were immersed in water.

Pre-Christian baptism

Although it had great significance in the birth and growth of the church as recorded in Acts, baptism was practised before this. Jews, it seems, baptized Gentile converts as part of their introduction into the Jewish religion. John the Baptist also practised baptism, demanding it of those who responded to his preaching and repented of their sins ( Luke 3:1-8;  John 3:22-23;  Acts 13:24;  Acts 18:25).

John pointed out that the baptism he practised, though it may have pictured cleansing, could not in itself bring cleansing or give people the power to live pure lives. His baptism prepared the way for Jesus Christ, who would bring the blessings that John’s baptism symbolized. Those who accepted Jesus as the Saviour-Messiah would enter the kingdom of God and, through Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit, receive an inner power to live righteously ( Matthew 3:11;  John 1:26-28;  John 1:31;  John 1:33;  Acts 1:5; see Baptism With The Spirit ).

The baptism of Jesus

Even Jesus was baptized, though he had no sins to repent of. For this reason, John at first did not want to baptize him, but Jesus insisted. He wanted to show his oneness with the faithful in Israel who, by their baptism, declared themselves on the side of God and his righteousness ( Matthew 3:13-15).

Jesus’ baptism was also his declaration, at the outset of his public ministry, that he knew what his work involved and he intended carrying it out fully. As the Messiah, he was the representative chosen by God for a people needing deliverance, which in this case meant the deliverance of people from the bondage of sin. Jesus’ baptism in water prefigured a far greater ‘baptism’ that was yet to come; for he, as humanity’s perfect representative, would suffer God’s judgment on human sin through his death on the cross ( Luke 12:50;  Mark 10:38).

Having shown his intentions openly, Jesus then received openly the Father’s gift of the Spirit’s unlimited power to enable him to carry out his messianic work ( Matthew 3:16;  John 3:34;  Acts 10:37-38). The Father’s expression of full satisfaction with his Son consisted of combined quotations from the Old Testament relating to God’s messiah-king and God’s submissive servant ( Matthew 3:17; cf.  Psalms 2:7;  Isaiah 42:1). In both cases the God-appointed tasks could be carried out only in the power of the Spirit ( Isaiah 11:1-2;  Isaiah 42:1-4).

Christian baptism

As Jesus preached the message of the kingdom, those who accepted his message and entered the kingdom showed the genuineness of their faith and repentance by being baptized. The disciples of Jesus, rather than Jesus himself, did the baptizing ( John 3:22;  John 4:1-2). Just before he returned to his heavenly Father, the risen Christ told his disciples to spread the good news of his kingdom worldwide and to baptize those who believed ( Matthew 28:19). The book of Acts shows how the early Christians carried out his command ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 2:41;  Acts 8:12;  Acts 8:35-39;  Acts 10:47-48;  Acts 16:13-15;  Acts 16:31-33;  Acts 18:8).

Baptism was so readily acknowledged as the natural and immediate consequences of faith that the New Testament links the two inseparably. The object of saving faith is Jesus Christ and what he has done through his death and resurrection. Paul, the great interpreter of Christian belief and practice, saw baptism as more than just a declaration of faith; he saw it as having meaning that is tied up with the unique union that believers have with Jesus Christ ( Romans 6:3;  Galatians 3:27).

According to Paul’s teaching, baptism is an expression of union with Christ in dying to sin and being raised with Christ to new life. When Christ died and rose again, believers died and rose again, so to speak. They demonstrate this in their baptism, but they must also make it true in practice. They must live as those who are no longer under sin’s power ( Romans 6:1-11;  Colossians 2:12). They are united with Christ in his baptism at Golgotha, as the Israelites were united with Moses in their redemption from Egypt ( 1 Corinthians 10:1-2).

Baptism is also a witness, or testimony. It declares that believers are cleansed from sin ( Acts 22:16; cf.  1 Peter 3:21), given the Holy Spirit ( Acts 10:47; cf.  1 Corinthians 12:13) and introduced into the body of Christ, the church ( Galatians 3:26-28; cf.  1 Corinthians 12:13).

Peter, like Paul, interprets Christian baptism in relation to the death and resurrection of Christ. He sees judgment and salvation pictured in baptism, as they were pictured in the flood of Noah’s time. Christ died to bear God’s judgment on sin, but he rose from death to new life. Through him believers are cleansed from sin and made sharers in a new and victorious life ( 1 Peter 3:20-22;  1 Peter 4:1).

The community that believers enter through their conversion is of divine, not human, origin. It is not a club, but the kingdom of God. Believers are therefore baptized not in the name of a human cult-figure, but in the name of God ( Matthew 28:19;  1 Corinthians 1:13). The early preachers constantly kept this in mind. Paul, for example, preferred someone else to baptize his converts, to avoid the appearance of building a personal following ( 1 Corinthians 1:14-16). Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ, and he alone is their Lord ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 8:12;  Acts 10:48;  Acts 19:5;  Romans 10:9).

Baptism of infants

The well known practice of baptizing infants, usually by sprinkling, is not specifically taught in the Bible. Nor does the Bible deal specifically with the related subject of the salvation of infants. Although the Bible shows that God has a special concern for children, its teaching about salvation is mainly concerned with those who are old enough to be responsible for their own decisions ( Matthew 18:1-6;  Matthew 19:13-15; see Child ).

Clearly, people are mistaken if they think that any sort of baptism, whether for adults or infants, guarantees personal salvation regardless of what people believe or do as morally responsible beings ( Matthew 3:7-10). Nevertheless, many Christians, while realizing that infant baptism does not guarantee salvation, see meaning in it, particularly for those in Christian families. They point out that in New Testament times whole households were baptized; though the narratives do not state whether those households included infants ( Acts 16:15;  Acts 16:33-34;  1 Corinthians 1:16).

The belief in the value of infant baptism among Christian families is related to the Old Testament idea of God’s covenant with his people. God’s covenant with Abraham, for example, included his household, and the males within that household were circumcised as the formal sign that they were part of that covenant ( Genesis 17:4;  Genesis 17:7;  Genesis 17:10-14;  Genesis 21:4; see Circumcision ; Covenant ).

Believers who practise infant baptism, while seeing it as a parallel to the Old Testament rite of circumcision, realize that, like circumcision, it is no assurance of salvation ( Genesis 17:23;  Romans 2:25-29). Each person is born with a sinful nature and needs to exercise personal faith to be saved ( Romans 3:22-23). Even the blessing of being brought up in a Christian family does not remove the need for the individual to repent and accept Christ in order to become a child of God ( John 1:12-13;  John 3:5-6).

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

Jewish Background As with most Christian practices and beliefs, the background of baptism lies in practices of the Jewish community. The Greek word baptizo , “immerse, dip, submerge” is used metaphorically in  Isaiah 21:4 to mean, “go down, perish” and in   2 Kings 5:14 for Naaman's dipping in the Jordan River seven times for cleansing from his skin disease. The radical Qumran sect which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls attempted to cleanse Judaism. The sect laid great emphasis on purity and purifying rites. These rites normally involved immersion, though the term baptizo does not seem to appear in their writings. It is quite possible that such a rite was used to initiate members into the community. Along with the rite, the Essenes at Qumran emphasized repentance and submission to God's will.

At some point close to the time of Jesus, Judaism began a heavy emphasis on ritual washings to cleanse from impurity. This goes back to priestly baths prior to offering sacrifices ( Leviticus 16:4 ,Leviticus 16:4, 16:24 ). Probably shortly prior to the time of Jesus or contemporary with Him, Jews began baptizing Gentile converts, though circumcision still remained the primary entrance rite into Judaism.

John's Baptism John the Baptist immersed repentant sinners: those who had a change of mind and heart ( John 1:6 ,John 1:6, 1:11 ). John's baptism—for Jews and Gentiles—involved the same elements later interpreted in Christian baptism: repentance, confession, evidence of changed lives, coming judgment, and the coming of the kingdom of God through the Messiah, who would baptize with the Spirit and with fire ( Matthew 3:11 ). John thus formed a purified community waiting for God's great salvation.

Jesus' Baptism John also baptized Jesus, who never sinned ( Matthew 3:13-17;  John 1:13-16 ). Jesus said that His own baptism was to fulfill all righteousness ( Matthew 3:15 ). Thus Jesus acknowledged that the standard of life John demanded was correct for Himself and for His followers. In this way He was able to identify with sinful mankind and to be a model for others to follow. In this way Jesus affirmed John and his message. The coming of the Spirit and the voice from heaven showed that Jesus represented another point in God's revelation of Himself and formed the connection between baptism and Christ's act of redemption.

Christian Baptism John's baptism prepared repentant sinners to receive Jesus' baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire. (Note that Jesus did not do the water baptizing; His disciples did— John 4:1-2 .) Jesus' baptism and the baptizing by His disciples thus connected baptism closely with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus comes into a life, the Holy Spirit comes with His saturating presence and purifies. He empowers and cleanses the believer in a spiritual baptism. The main differences between John's baptism and Jesus' baptism lie in the personal commitment to Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' baptism ( John 1:33 ).

A thorough study of the Holy Spirit is helpful to understand what “baptism with the Holy Spirit” means ( John 1:33 ). The sequence of baptism and the coming of the Spirit into individual lives will show some differences ( Acts 8:12-17 ). The usual sequence of events is: the Spirit comes into a person's life at conversion, and then the believer is baptized. The Holy Spirit is the gift who comes with salvation ( Acts 2:38 ) and is its seal ( Ephesians 4:30 ). The Holy Spirit saturates the new Christian's life. Or we might say that Jesus baptizes the new Christian by plunging the person into the Holy Spirit's presence and power ( John 14:16-17;  Acts 11:15-16 ).

To be baptized is to clothe oneself with Christ ( Galatians 3:27 Nrsv, Niv ) Baptism refers to the suffering and death of Christ (  Mark 10:38-39;  Luke 12:50 ). Christian baptism is in a sense a sharing of this death and resurrection and all that brought Christ to those events ( Romans 6:1-7;  Colossians 2:12 ). Baptism shows that a person has died to the old way of life and has been raised to a new kind of life—eternal life in Christ ( Matthew 28:19-20;  Colossians 3:1;  2 Timothy 2:11 ). The resurrection from the water points to the Christian's resurrection also ( Romans 6:1-6 ).

Believers' Baptism In the New Testament baptism is for believers ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 8:12-13 ,Acts 8:12-13, 8:36-38;  Ephesians 4:5 ). Water apart from personal commitment to Christ makes no difference in the life of anyone. In the New Testament baptism occurs when a person trusts Christ as Lord and Savior and obeys the command to be submerged in water and raised from it as a picture of the salvation experience that has occurred. Baptism comes after conviction of sin, repentance of sin, confession of Christ as Lord and Savior. To be baptized is to preach a personal testimony through the symbol of baptism. Baptism testifies that “ye are washed ye are sanctified ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” ( 1 Corinthians 6:11 ).

Church Practice The church has attempted to build its practice upon that of the New Testament but has not found agreement always as to what the practice was. Several church groups practice the baptism of infants. This necessarily moves away from immersion to sprinkling as the mode. They have tried to justify infant baptism on the basis of the baptism of households ( Acts 11:14;  Acts 16:33;  Acts 18:8 ), by connecting Christian baptism with Jewish baptism of Gentile converts which may have included baptism of children, and by interpreting Christ's saying in  Mark 10:4 as indicating an invitation to bring young children or infants into the church. Others have tried to see continuity between the covenant theology of the Old and New Testaments joined by the rites of circumcision and baptism, so that if introduction into the Jewish covenant community was through circumcision of the infant, so introduction into the Christian community would be through baptism of the infant. Most New Testament scholars find these arguments as fitting the practice of the church rather than resting on strong exegetical grounds, for the New Testament emphasized the connection of faith and baptism.

The setting of baptism is often restricted to a church setting with an ordained person. In the New Testament baptism takes place in varied settings wherever there is another person to do the baptizing ( Acts 8:36-39;  Acts 9:18;  Acts 10:47-48 ). Both Jesus and Paul let others do the baptizing, so that the restriction of baptism to a leading professional minister does not seem to be the New Testament practice.

Rebaptism Scriptural baptism (baptism because of belief in Christ) occurs once. Sometimes people are baptized again because they feel they were not saved when they were first baptized. If that was the case, the first baptism simply wasn't scriptural baptism. Others are baptized because something changes in their beliefs—other than their salvation experience—and they either want to be or are urged by someone else to be rebaptized. The purpose of baptism was never to affirm each change in beliefs. For example, Apollos got his understanding corrected, but no mention is made of his rebaptism ( Acts 18:24-28 ). The disciples grew spiritually and changed in understandings, but no mention is made of their rebaptism. Christians are to become learners along with their baptism, but no mention is made of any need to rebaptize them if they were scripturally baptized the first time. Rebaptism in the New Testament seemingly occurred only when a group of people never had received the Holy Spirit, who is the seal of salvation ( Ephesians 4:30; see also  Acts 1:4-5;  Acts 2:38 ,Acts 2:38, 2:41;  Acts 8:12-13 ,Acts 8:12-13, 8:36-39 ). Although the dozen people focused on in  Acts 19:1-7 had John's baptism, they were then properly scripturally baptized as they trusted in Jesus and received the promised Holy Spirit.

Baptism and Salvation Baptism is not a requirement of salvation, but it is a requirement of obedience. Baptism is a first step of discipleship. Although all meanings of baptism are significant, the one that most often comes to mind is water baptism as a picture of having come to know Christ as Lord and Savior. Baptism is never the event but, rather, the picture of the event. So the pattern of obedience is to come to Christ in trust and then to picture that through the symbol of baptism.

Johnnie Godwin

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [8]

 Matthew 3:11 (b) Two baptisms seem to be included in this passage.

  • the first is the baptism of the believer in the Holy Spirit.
  • the second one seems to be the baptism of the sinner in the lake of fire from which there is no resurrection.

The Lord Jesus gives us over to the Holy Spirit when He saves us, and this seems to be called a baptism as in  Acts 1:5. We should note that it is never the element that is moved, but always the person. The water is not put on the person, but contrariwise the person is always put in the water. It is the person who is put in the Spirit, or in the body of Christ which is the church. It is always the person who is moved and placed in baptism.

 Luke 3:21 (c) The baptism of JESUS certainly had nothing whatever to do with salvation, nor the new birth, nor forgiveness. He said that He did it "to fulfill all righteousness." He took His place publicly by this rite with those who were to walk in newness of life and be known as Christians, believers or saints of GOD.

 Luke 7:29-30 (b) A type of burial wherein the believer accepts GOD's condemnation of himself, admits that he had to die at Calvary, and therefore should be buried out of sight in a watery grave. Thus he justifies GOD's diagnosis of his case, and proves it by going through this symbolical burial. Those who refuse to be baptized thereby reject GOD's testimony about their wickedness and sinfulness. They refuse to admit that they are so bad that they should be put to death and buried.

 Luke 12:50 (a) This is the baptism of our Lord JESUS which He endured on the Cross when GOD poured out His wrath upon Him and engulfed Him as it were in the burning billows of His anger. He had already been baptized by John in the water. Now He is baptized in the mystic fire of GOD's wrath. It was said by Him in prophecy "all thy waves and thy billows rolled over me." That is the baptism that saves us. He went down under the flood instead of us. He was baptized there at Calvary in our place. He is the ark of safety into which we enter for protection from the deluge of GOD's anger against sin.

 Romans 6:3 (b) This baptism seems to represent that mysterious and rich experience which any person enjoys in the Lord JESUS. Immediately upon trusting CHRIST the believer is reckoned as having been baptized in or buried with the Lord JESUS in contrast with his former position of being buried in the world. The believer is said to be "in Christ," whereas, before, he was "in the world."

 1 Corinthians 10:2 (b) This is the baptism accomplished in the Red Sea when the walls of water on each side, and the cloud above hid Israel from the sight of the Egyptians. They went through what was apparently a tunnel, and this is called a baptism. They were set free from the damnation of Pharaoh into the leadership of Moses. They were released from the bondage of Egypt and brought into the liberty of the children of GOD.

 1 Corinthians 12:13 (b) In this place the believer is in a mysterious way put into the body of CHRIST, the church, by the Holy Spirit as soon as he trusts his soul to Jesus Christ In every case the word "baptism" is used to indicate that the change or the transfer is a complete transaction which involves the entire person and personality.

 Colossians 2:12 (b) Here again baptism is a symbol of burial in order that the world may know that the Christian is dead and buried so far as the world is concerned. The Christian emerges from the watery grave to bear witness and testimony that he is "alive unto God" and is walking with Him.

 1 Peter 3:21 (a) We should note in this case that Noah and his family were not in the water at all. They were "in the ark," which is a type of the Lord Jesus. Christ was baptized under the waves and billows of GOD's wrath, and it is His baptism that saves, not our own baptism. The passage says "in like figure." Those who stayed out of the water were saved by the ark which was in the water. Those who are "in Christ" are saved by the baptism of CHRIST on Calvary. He endured the wrath of GOD and we who belong to Him go free.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Baptism. The Scriptures speak of baptism "in" or "with" water, "with the Holy Ghost, and with fire,"  Matthew 3:11;  Acts 1:5; and Jesus compared his sufferings to "a baptism,"  Luke 12:50. John (called "the Baptist,"  Matthew 11:11;) preached "the baptism of repentance," and baptized in the river Jordan those confessing their sins,  Mark 1:4-5. Jesus was baptized by John "to fulfill all righteousness,"  Matthew 3:15. His disciples were baptizing more than John.  John 3:22;  John 4:1-2. Jesus at his ascension appointed baptism for all disciples, "Teach all nations, baptizing them." etc.,  Matthew 28:19. Paul says the baptized "put on Christ,"  Galatians 3:27; and "by one Spirit are baptized into one body,"  1 Corinthians 12:13. Baptism with water is associated with remission of sins,  Acts 2:38;  Acts 22:16; and birth by the Spirit,  John 3:5;  Acts 11:27. Paul speaks also of being "buried with him [Christ] in baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead... even so we,"  Romans 6:4. Baptism of the Holy Spirit was bestowed at Jerusalem, Samaria, Cesarea and Ephesus,  Acts 2:1-4;  Acts 10:44;  Acts 19:6. This gift sometimes followed and sometimes preceded baptism by water. Many instances of baptism are noted; the terms "baptism," "baptized," and "baptizing," occurring about 100 times in the New Testament. They are not found in the Old Testament, although "wash,"  Psalms 51:2;  Psalms 51:7;  Jeremiah 2:22, and "sprinkling,"  Leviticus 7:14;  Numbers 8:7;  Ezekiel 36:25, are there sometimes used as figurative of cleansing. Among the instances of baptism mentioned in apostolic times are: 3000 at Pentecost,  Acts 2:41, men and women, including Simon the Sorcerer at Samaria; the Ethiopian Eunuch, 8:12, 13, 38; Saul; Cornelius and his Gentile company, 10:47; Lydia and "her household," 16:15; the Philippian jailer "and all his," 16:33; and "the household of Stephanas,"  1 Corinthians 1:16. At Ephesus twelve who had received John's baptism only were again baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus,"  Acts 19:2-5. Some, it is said, were "baptized for the dead,"  1 Corinthians 15:29. And the Israelites were "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea,"  1 Corinthians 10:2. Peter compares baptism to the saving of Noah from the flood in the ark,  1 Peter 3:21. Paul urges the Ephesians to Christian unity on the plea that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."  Ephesians 4:5. See also  1 Corinthians 12:13. The consideration of the mode, subjects, effects, and administration of baptism belongs to theological and denominational works.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

One of the ordinances which the Lord Jesus hath appointed in his church. An outward token, or sign, of an inward and spiritual grace. A dedication to the glorious, holy, undivided Three in One Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; in whose joint name baptism is performed, and from whose united blessings in Christ, it can alone be rendered effectual. ( Matthew 28:19) Beside this ordinance, which Christ hath appointed as the introduction to his church, we are taught to be always on the watch, in prayer and supplication, for the continual baptisms of the Holy Ghost. Concerning the personal baptisms of the Lord Jesus Christ, we hear Jesus speaking of them during his ministry. (See  Luke 12:50) Hence, to the sons of Zebedee, the Lord said, "Can ye drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" And Jesus added, "Ye shall drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptised." ( Mark 10:38-39)

Some have thought, that these expressions are figurative of sufferings. But there doth not seem sufficient authority in the word of God to prove this. And, indeed, the subject is too much obscured by those expressions, to determine that sufferings were the baptisms to which the Lord had respect. Besides, had sufferings been meant by Christ, could he mean that the sons of Zebedee were to sustain agonies like himself in the garden and on the cross? This were impossible.

Others, by baptism, have taken the expression of John the Baptist literally, where he saith, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." ( Matthew 3:11) Others, with more probability of truth, have considered the baptisms of the Holy Ghost, and with fire, to mean his manifold gifts and graces. The Old Testament spake of "the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of burning." ( Isaiah 4:4) And the New Testament gives the record of the first descent of the Holy Ghost, after Christ's return to glory, in the shape of cloven tongues, like as of fire, which sat upon each of them. ( Acts 2:4) It were devoutly to be prayed for, and sought for by faith, that all true believers in Christ were earnest for the continual influences of the Holy Ghost, as the only read and sure testimony of being baptized unto Christ, in having put on Christ. For if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his? ( Galatians 3:27;  Romans 8:9)

Smith's Bible Dictionary [11]

Baptism. It is well known that ablution or bathing was common in most ancient nations as a preparation for prayers and sacrifice or as expiatory of sin. In warm countries, this connection is probably even closer than in colder climates; and hence the frequency of ablution in the religious rites throughout the East. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is the rite or ordinance by which persons are admitted into the Church of Christ . It is the public profession of faith and discipleship.

Baptism signifies -

1. A confession of faith in Christ ;

2. A cleansing or washing of the soul from sin;

3. A death to sin and a new life in righteousness.

The mode and subjects of baptism being much-controverted subjects, each one can best study them in the works devoted to those questions. The command to baptize was co-extensive with the command to preach the gospel. All nations were to be evangelized; and they were to be made disciples, admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion, by baptism.  Matthew 28:19.

It appears to have been a kind of transition from the Jewish baptism to the Christian. The distinction between John's baptism and Christian baptism appears in the case of Apollos,  Acts 18:26-27, and of the disciples at Ephesus mentioned  Acts 19:1-6. We cannot but draw from this history, the inference that in Christian baptism, there was a deeper spiritual significance.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [12]

The holy ordinance by which persons are admitted as members of the Christian community. It is administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and is a visible and public profession of faith in Christ and his salvation, of vital union with him, of the obligation to live a new life according to his precepts and in his service, and of the expectation of sharing in his glorious and heavenly immortality. It is not by any means to be regarded as a regenerating ordinance, though significant of regeneration. It was established in the Christian church by Christ and his apostles, and is binding on his followers to the end of time. The use of water in this ordinance is grounded in part on its qualities as the great element of purification, and on the rites of the ancient dispensation, in which "water and blood: were the divinely appointed symbols of moral renovation and atonement.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [13]

Used figuratively to express the overwhelming sufferings which the Lord Jesus endured in order to accomplish the purpose for which He came to the earth; He was 'straitened' until that work was accomplished.  Luke 12:50;  John 12:27 . When the sons of Zebedee asked to sit on the right and on the left of the Lord in His glory, He at once referred to the cup He had to drink, and asked if they could drinkof that cup, and be baptised with the baptism He was to be baptised with. They, ignorant of the depths of suffering involved in the question, said they could. In one sense they should share in His sufferings — the non-atoning sufferings, from the hand of man; but the places they sought were not His to give.  Mark 10:38-40 .

King James Dictionary [14]

3. So much of the gospel as was preached by John, the Baptist. Acts :

Copyright Statement Dictionary of Words from the King James Bible. Public Domain. Copy freely.Material presented was supplied by Brandon Staggs and was derived from the KJV Dictionary found on his website located at unabridged 1828 version of this dictionary in the SwordSearcher Bible Software.

Bibliography Information Entry for 'Baptism'. King James Dictionary.

Webster's Dictionary [15]

(v. i.) The act of baptizing; the application of water to a person, as a sacrament or religious ceremony, by which he is initiated into the visible church of Christ. This is performed by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

a rite of purification or initiation, in which water is used; one of the sacraments (q.v.) of the Christian Church. The word baptism is simply an Anglicized form of the Greek Βαπτισμός , a verbal noun from Βαπτίζω (likewise Anglicized "baptize"), and this, again, is a derivative from Βάπτω , the predominant signification of which latter is to Whelm or "dye," Lat. Tingo. Not being a verb implying motion, Βαπτίζω is properly followed in Greek by the preposition Ἐν , denoting the Means or method (with the "instrumental dative"), which has unfortunately, in the Auth. Engl. Vers., often been rendered by the ambiguous particle "in," whereas it really (in this connection) signifies only with or by, or at most merely designates the locality where the act is performed. The derivative verb and noun are sometimes used with reference to ordinary lustration, and occasionally with respect to merely secular acts; also in a figurative sense. In certain cases it is followed by the preposition Εἰς , with the meaning "to," "for," or "unto," as pointing out the design of the act, especially in phrases (comp. Πιστεύειν Εἰς ) expressive of the covenant or relation of which this rite was the seal. (In  Mark 1:9, the Εἰς depends upon ῏Ηλθεν preceding; and in  Mark 14:20, there is a Constructio Praegnans by which some other verb of motion is to be supplied before the preposition.) On these and other applications of the Greek word, see Robinson's Lex. of the N.T. s.v.; where, however (as in some other Lexicons), the statement that the primary force of the verb is "to dip, immerse," etc., is not sustained by its actual usage and grammatical construction. This would always require Ἐν , "into," after it; which occurs in 15 examples only out of the exhaustive list (175) adduced by Dr. Conant ( Meaning And Use Of Baptizein, N. Y. 1860); and a closer and more critical examination will show that it is only the context and association of the word that in any case Put this signification upon it, and it is therefore a mere gloss or inference to assign this as the proper sense of the term. The significations "p plunge," " submerge," etc., are here strictly Derived, as cognates, from the more general and primitive one of that complete envelopment with a liquid which a thorough wetting, saturation, or dyeing usually implies. In like manner, Dr. E. Beecher (in a series of articles first published in the Am. Bib. Repos. during 1840 and 1841) has mistaken the allied or inferential signification of purification for the primitive sense of the word, whereas it is only the result expected or attendant in the act of washing. See further below.

As preliminary to the theological discussion of this subject, it will be proper here to discuss, more fully than can be conveniently done elsewhere, the classical and Biblical uses of the word, and some subordinate topics, reserving the conitroverted points for later consideration.

I. Philological Usage Of The Word Βαπτίζειν .

1. By Classical Writers. No instance occurs in these writers of the use of Βάπτισμα , and only one in a very late author (Antyllus) of the use of its equivalent Βαπτισμός ; but the verb occurs frequently, especially in the later writers. It is used to designate:

(1.) The Washing Of An Object By Dipping It Into Water, Or Any Other Fluid, Or Quasi-Fluid, For Any Purpose Whatever: as Βάπτισον Σεαυτὸν Εἰς Θάλασσαν , "bathe yourself by going into the sea" (Plut. Maor. p. 166 A.); Βαπτίζειν Τὸν Διόνυσον Πρὸς Τὴν Θάλατταν ( Ibid. p. 914).

(2.) The Plunging Or Sinking Of An Object: as Οὐδὲ Γὰρ Τοῖς Ἀκολύμβοις Βαπτίζεσθαι Συμβαίνει Ξύλων Τρὸπον Ἐπιπολάζουσι , where Βαπτίζεσθαι , in the sense of "submersed," is contrasted with Ἐπιπολάζουσι , in the sense of "float;" Ἐν Ὕδασι Γενέσθαι Τὴν

Πορείαν Συνέβη , Μέχρι Ὀμφαλοῦ Βαπτιζομένων , Being in water up to the navel (Strabo, Geogr. xiv, p. 667); Μόλις Ἕως Τῶν Μαστῶν Ὅι Πεζοὶ Βαπτιζόμενοι Διέβαινον ( Polyb. in). So Pindar says ( Pyth. 2:145), Ἀβάπτιστός Εἰμι , Φελλὸς '''''É''''' '''''Σ''''' , where the cork of the fisherman is. styled unbaptized, in contrast with the net which sinks into the water. From this, by metonomy of cause for effect, is derived the sense To Drown, as Ἐβάπτισ᾿ Εἰς Τὸν Οϊ v Νον , "I whelmed him in the wine" (Julian A Egypt. Anacreont.).

(3.) The Covering Over Of Any Object By The Flowing Or Pouring Of A Fluid On It; and metaphorically (in the passive), the Being Overwhelmed Or Oppressed: thus the Pseudo-Aristotle speaks of places full of bulrushes and sea-weeds, which, when the tide is at the ebb, are not baptized (i.e. covered by the water), but at full tide are flooded over (Mirabil. Auscult. § 137, p. 50, in Westermann's edit. of the Script. Rer. Mir. Gr.); Diodorus Siculus (bk. 1) speaks of land animals being destroyed by the river overtaking them ( Διαφθείρεται Βαπτιζόμενα ) ; Plato and Athenaeus describe men in a state of ebriety as baptized ( Sympos. p. 176 B.; and Deipnos.V. ); and the former says the same of a youth overwhelmed with sophistry ( Euthyd. 277 D.); Plutarch denounces the forcing of knowledge on children beyond what they can receive as a process by which the soul is baptized ( De Lib. Educ. ) ; and he speaks of men as baptized by debts ( Galbae, C. 21); Diodorus Siculus speaks of baptizing people with tears (bk. 1, c., 3); and Libanius says, "He who hardly bears what he now bears, would be baptized by a little addition" ( Epist. 310), and "I am one of those baptized by that great wave" ( Ep. 25).

(4.) The Complete Drenching Of An Object, Whether By Aspersion Or Immersion; as Ἀσκὸς Βαπτίζῃ , Δῦναι Δὲ Τοι Οὐ Θέμις Ἐστι , "As a bladder thou shalt be washed (i.e. by the waves breaking over thee), but thou canst not go down" ( Orac. Sibyll. De Athenis, ap. Plutarch, Thesei ) .

From this it appears that in classical usage Βαπτίζειν is not fixed to any special mode of applying the baptizing element to the object baptized; all that is implied by the term is, that the former is closely in contact with the latter, or that the latter is wholly in the former.

2. By The Septuagint. Here the word occurs only four times, viz.  2 Kings 5:14 : "And Naaman went down and baptized himself ( Ἐβαπτίσατο ) seven times in the river Jordan," where the original Hebrew is וִיִטְבֹּל , from טָבִל , to Dip, Plunge, Immerse;  Isaiah 21:4;  Isaiah 21:6 Iniquity baptizes me" ( Ἀνομία Με Βαπτίζει ) , where the word is plainly used in the sense of Overwhelm, answering to the Hebrews בָּעִת , to come upon suddenly, to terrify;  Judith 12:7, "She went out by night . . . and baptized herself ( Ἐβαπτίζετο ) at the fountain;" and  Sirach 31:30, [Sirach 34], "He who is baptized from a corpse" ( Βαπτιζομένος Ἀπὸ Νεκροῦ ) , etc. In these last two instances the word merely denotes washed, without indicating any special mode by which this was done, though in the former the circumstances of the case make it improbable that the act described was that of bathing (comp.  Numbers 19:19).

In the Greek, then, of the Sept., Βαπτίζειν signifies To Plunge, To Bathe, or To Overwhelm. It is never used to describe the act of one who dips another object into a fluid, or the case of one who is dipped by another.

3. In The New Testament. Confining our notice here simply to the philology of the subject, the instances of this usage may be classified thus:

(1.) The Verb Or Noun Alone, Or With The Object Baptized Merely: as Βαπτισθῆναι ,  Matthew 3:13-14; Βαπτισθείς ,  Mark 16:16; Βαπτίζων ,  Mark 1:4; Βαπτίσωνται , 7:4; Βαπτίξεις ,  John 1:25; Ἐβάπτισα ,  1 Corinthians 1:14, etc.; Βάπτισμα Αὐτοῦ ,  Matthew 3:7; '''''Ž''''' '''''Ν''''' Βάπτισμα ,  Ephesians 4:5; Βάπτισμα ,  Colossians 2:12;  1 Peter 3:21, etc.; Βαπτισμοὺς Ποτηρίων ,  Mark 7:4;  Mark 7:8; Βαπτισμῶν Διδαχῆς ,  Hebrews 6:2; Διαφόροις Βαπτισμοῖς ,  Hebrews 9:10.

(2.) With Addition Of The Element Of Baptism: as Ἐν Ὕδατι ,  Mark 1:8, etc.; Ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ Καὶ Πυρί ,  Matthew 3:11, etc.; Ὕδατι ,  Luke 3:16, etc. The force of Ἐν in such formulse has by some been pressed, as if it indicated that the object of baptism was in the element of baptism; but by most the Ἐν is regarded as merely the Nota Dativi, so that Ἐν Ὕδατι means no more than the simple Ὕδατι , as the Ἐν Πλοίῳ of  Matthew 14:13, means no more than the Πλοίῳ of  Mark 6:32. (See Matthiae, sec. 401, obs. 2; Kuhner, sec. 585, Anm. 2.) Only in one instance does the accusative appear in the N.T.,  Mark 1:9, where we have Εἰς Τὸν Ι᾿Ορδάνην , and this can hardly be regarded as a real exception to the ordinary usage of the N.T., because Εἰς here is local rather than instrumental. In connection with this may be noticed the phrases Καταβαίνειν Εἰς Τὸ Ὕδωρ , and Ἀποβαίνειν Ἐκ or Ἀπὸ Τοῦ Ὕδατος . According to some, these decisively prove that the party baptized, as well as the baptizer, went down into the water, and came up out of it. But, on the other hand, it is contended that the phrases do not necessarily imply more than that they went to (i.e. to the margin of) the water and returned thence.

(3.) With Specification Of The End Or Purpose For Which The Baptism Is Effected. This is usually indicated by Εἰς : as Βαπτίζοντες Εἰς Τὸ Ὄνομα ,  Matthew 28:19, and frequently; Ἐβαπτίσθημεν Εἰς Χριστόν . . . Εἰς Τὸν Θάνατον Αὐτοῦ ,  Romans 6:3, al.; Εἰς Τὸν Μωυσῆν Ἐβαπτίσθησαν ,  1 Corinthians 10:3; Εἰς Ἕν Σῶμα Ἐβαπτίσθημεν ,  1 Corinthians 12:13; Βαπτισθήτω Ἕκαστος . . . Εἰς Ἄφεσιν Ἁμαρτιῶν ,  Acts 2:38, etc. In these cases Εἰς retains its proper significancy, as indicating the Terminus Ad Quem, and tropically, That For which, or With A View To which the thing is done, modified according as this is a person or a thing. Thus, to be baptized for Moses, means to be baptized with a view to following or being subject to the rule of Moses; to be baptized for Christ means to be baptized with a view to becoming a true follower of Christ; to be baptized for his death means to be baptized with a view to the enjoyment of the benefits of his death; to be baptized for the remission of sins means to be baptized with a view to receiving this; to be baptized for the name of any one means to be baptized with a view to the realization of all that the meaning of this name implies, etc. In one passage Paul uses Ὑπὲρ to express the end or design of baptism, Βαπτιζόμενοι Ὑπὲρ Τῶν Νεκρῶν ,  1 Corinthians 15:29; but here the involved idea of Substitution justifies the use of the preposition. Instead of a preposition, the genitive of object is sometimes used, as Βάπτισμα Μετανοίας  Luke 3:3, al.= Βάπτισμα Εἰς Μετανοίαν , the baptism which has Μετανοία as its end and purpose.

(4.) With Specification Of The Ground Or Basis On Which The Baptism Rests. This is expressed by the use of Ἐν in the phrases Ἐν Ὀνόματι Τίνος , and once by the use of Ἐπί with the dative,  Acts 2:38 : "to be baptized on the name of Christ, i.e. so that the baptism is grounded on the confession of his name" (Winer, p. 469). Some regard these formulae as identical in meaning with those in which Εἰς is used with Ὄνομα , but the more exact scholars view them as distinct.

The two last-mentioned usages are peculiar to the N.T., and arise directly from the new significancy which its writers attached to baptism as a rite.

II. Non-Ritual Baptisms Mentioned In The N.T. These are:

1. The baptism of Utensils And Articles Of Furniture,  Mark 7:4;  Mark 7:8.

2. The baptism of Persons,  Mark 7:3-4;  Luke 11:38, etc.

These are the only instances in which the verb or noun is used in a strictly literal sense in the N.T. and there may be some doubt as to whether the last instance should not be remanded to the head of ritual baptisms. These instances are chiefly valuable as bearing on the question of the mode of baptism; they show that no special mode is indicated by the mere use of the word baptize, for the washing of cups, of couches, and of persons is accomplished in a different manner in each case: in the first by dipping, or immersing, or rinsing, or pouring, or simply wiping with a wet cloth; in the second by aspersion and wiping; and in the third by plunging or stepping into the bath.

3. Baptism Of Affliction,  Mark 10:38-39;  Luke 12:50. In both these passages our Lord refers to his impending sufferings as a baptism which he had to undergo. Chrysostom, and some others of the fathers, understand this objectively, as referring to the purgation which his sufferings were to effect (see the passages in Suicer, Thes. s.v. Βάπτισμα , 1:7); but this does not seem to be the idea of the speaker. Our Lord rather means that his sufferings were to come on him as a mighty overwhelming torrent (see Kuinol on  Matthew 20:22-23; Blomfield, Ibid. ) . Some interpreters suppose there is an allusion in this language to submersion as essential to baptism (see Olshausen in Loc.; Meyer on  Mark 10:38); but nothing more seems to be implied than simply the being overwhelmed in a figurative sense, according to what we have seen to be' a common use of the word by the classical writers.

4. Baptism With The Spirit,  Matthew 3:11;  Mark 1:8;  Luke 3:16;  John 1:33;  Acts 1:5;  Acts 11:16;  1 Corinthians 12:13. In the first of these passages it is said of our Lord that he shall baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Whether this be taken as a hendiadys = the Spirit as fire, or as pointing out two distinct baptisms, the one by the Spirit, the other by fire; and whether, on the latter assumption, the baptism by fire means the destruction by Christ of his enemies, or the miraculous endowment of his apostles, it does not concern us at present to inquire. Respecting the intent of baptism by the Spirit, there can be little room for doubt or difference of opinion; it is obviously a figurative mode of describing the agency of the Divine Spirit given through and by Christ, both in conferring miraculous endowments and in purifying and sanctifying the heart of man. By this Spirit the disciples were baptized on the day of Pentecost, when "there appeared unto them cloven tongues of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance" ( Acts 2:3-4); by this Spirit men are saved when they are "born again of water and of the Spirit" ( John 3:5); when they receive "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost" ( Titus 3:5); and when there is the putting away from them of the filth of the flesh, and they have the answer of a good conscience toward God ( 1 Peter 3:21); and by this Spirit believers are baptized for one body, when through his gracious agency they receive that Spirit, and those impulses by which they I are led to realize their unity in Christ Jesus ( 1 Corinthians 12:11). Some refer to the Spirit's baptism also, the apostle's expression, '''''Ž''''' '''''Ν''''' Βάπτισμα ,  Ephesians 4:5; but the common and more probable opinion is that the reference here is to ritual baptism as the outward sign of that inner unity which the Εϊ v Σ Κύριος and the Μία Πίστις secure and produce (see Alford, Ellicott, Meyer, Matthies, etc. etc. In Loc. ) . In this figurative use of the term "baptism" the Tertium Comparationis is found by some in the Spirit's being viewed as the element In which the believer is made to live, and in which he receives the transforming influence; while others find it in the biblical representation of the Spirit as coming upon men, as poured upon them ( Isaiah 32:15;  Zechariah 12:10;  Joel 2:28;  Acts 2:17), and as sprinkled on them like clean water ( Ezekiel 36:25).

5 . Baptism For Moses. In  1 Corinthians 10:2, the apostle says of the Israelites, "And they all received baptism ( the middle voice is selected to express a Receptive sense,' Meyer) for Moses ( Εἰς Τὸν Μωυσῆν Ἐβαπτίσαντο ) in (or by, Ἐν ) the cloud, and in (or by) the sea." In the Syr. Εἰς r. M. is translated "by the hand of Moses;" and this is followed by Beza and others. Some render Una Cum Mose; others, Aupiciis Mosis; others, In Mose, i.e. "sub ministerio et ductu Mosis" (Calvin), etc. But all these interpretations are precluded by the proper meaning of Εἰς . and the fixed significance of the phrase Βαπτίζειν Εῖς in the N.T. The only rendering that can be admitted is "for Moses," i.e. with a view to him, in reference to him, in respect of him. "They were baptized for Moses. i.e. they became bound to fidelity and obedience, and were accepted into the covenant which God then made with the people through Moses" (Ruckert in loc.; see also Meyer and Alford on the passage).

III. The Types Of Baptism.

1. The apostle Peter ( 1 Peter 3:21) compares the deliverance of Noah in the Deluge to the deliverance of Christians in baptism. The apostle had been speaking of those who had perished "in the days of Noah when the ark was a-preparing, in which few, that is eight souls, were saved by water." According to the A.V., he goes on, "The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us." The Greek, in the best MSS., is ῾῏Ο Καὶ Ἡμᾶς Ἀντίτυπον Νῦν Σώζει Βάπτισμα . Grotius well expounds Ἀντίτυπον by Ἀντίστοιχον , "accurately corresponding." The difficulty is in the relative . There is no antecedent to which it can refer except Ὕδατος , "water;" and it seems as if Βάπτισμα must be put in ap- position with , and as an explanation of it. Noah and his company were saved by water, "which water also, that is, the water of baptism, correspondingly saves us." Even if the reading were Ω῏ /, it -would most naturally refer to the preceding Ὕδατος . Certainly it could not refer to Κιβωτοῦ , which is feminine. We must, then, probably interpret that, though water was the instrument for destroying the disobedient, it was yet the instrument ordained of God for floating the ark, and so for saving Noah and his family; and it is in correspondence with this that water also, viz. the water of baptism, saves Christians. Augustine, commenting on these words, writes that "the events in the days of Noah were a figure of things to come, so that they who believe not the Gospel, when the church is building, may be considered as like those who believed not when the ark was preparing; while those who have believed and are baptized (i.e. are saved by baptism) may be compared to those who were formerly saved in the ark by water" ( Epist. 164, tom. 2, p. 579). "The building of the ark," he says again, "was a kind of preaching." "The waters of the deluge pre-signified baptism to those who believed punishment to the unbelieving" (ib.).

It would be impossible to give any definite explanation of the words "baptism doth save us" without entering upon the theological question of baptismal regeneration. The apostle, however, gives a caution which no doubt may itself have need of an interpreter, when he adds, "not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer ( Ἐπερώτημα ) of a good conscience toward God." Probably all will agree that he intended here to warn us against resting on the outward administration of a sacrament, with no corresponding preparation of the conscience and the soul. The connection in this passage between baptism and "the resurrection of Jesus Christ" maybe compared with  Colossians 2:12.

2. In  1 Corinthians 10:1-2, the passage of the Red Sea and the shadowing of the miraculous cloud are treated as types of baptism. In all the early part of this chapter the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness are put in comparison with the life of the Christian. The being under the cloud and the passing through the sea resemble baptism; eating manna and drinking of the rock are as the spiritual food which feeds the church; and the different temptations, sins, and punishments of the Israelites on their journey to Canaan are held up as a warning to the Corinthian Church. It appears that the Rabbins themselves speak of a baptism in the cloud (see Wetstein in loc., who quotes Pirke R. Eliezer, 44; see also Schottgen in loc.). The passage from the condition of bondmen in Egypt was through the Red Sea, and with the protection of the luminous cloud. When the sea was passed the people were no longer subjects of Pharaoh, but were, under the guidance of Moses, forming into a new commonwealth, and on their way to the promised land, It is sufficiently apparent how this may resemble the enlisting of a new convert into the body of the Christian Church, his being placed in a new relation, under a new condition, in a spiritual commonwealth, with a way before him to a better country, though surrounded with dangers, subject to temptations, and with enemies on all sides to encounter in his progress.

3. Another type of, or rather a rite analogous to, baptism was circumcision. Paul ( Colossians 2:11) speaks of the Colossian Christians as having been circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, when they were buried with Christ in baptism, in which they were also raised again with him ( Ἐν Ω῏ / Περιετμήθητε . . . . Συνταφέντες Αυτῷ Ἐν Τῷ Βαπτίσματι . The aorist participle, as often, is contemporary with the preceding past verb." Alford in loc.). The obvious reason for the comparison of the two rites is that circumcision was the entrance to the Jewish Church and the ancient covenant, baptism to the Christian Church and to the new covenant; and perhaps also that the spiritual significance of circumcision had a resemblance to the spiritual import of baptism, viz. "the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh," and the purification of the heart by the grace of God. Paul therefore calls baptism the circumcision made without hands, and speaks of the putting off of the sins of the flesh by Christian circumcision ( Ἐν Τῇ Περιτομῇ Τοῦ Χριστο À ), i.e. by baptism.

4. Before leaving this part of the subject, we ought perhaps to observe that in more than one instance Death is called a baptism. In  Matthew 20:22;  Mark 10:39, our Lord speaks of the cup which he had to drink, and the baptism that he was to be baptized with; and again, in  Luke 12:50, "I have a baptism to be baptized with." It is generally thought that baptism here means an inundation of sorrows; that, as the baptized went down in the water, and water was to be poured over him, so our Lord meant to indicate that he himself had to pass through "the deep waters of affliction" (see Kuinol on  Matthew 20:22; Schleusner, s.v. Βαπτίζω ) . In after times martyrdom was called a baptism of blood. But the metaphor in this latter case is evidently different; and in the above words of our Lord baptism is used without any qualification, whereas in passages adduced from profane authors we always find some words explanatory of the mode of the immersion. Is it not then probable that some deeper significance attaches to the comparison of death, especially of our Lord's death, to baptism, when we consider, too, that the connection of baptism with the death and resurrection of Christ is so much insisted on by Paul?

IV. Names Of Baptism.

1. "Baptism" ( Βάπτισμα : the word Βαπτισμός occurs only three times, viz.  Mark 7:8;  Hebrews 6:2;  Hebrews 9:10). The verb Βαπτίζειν from Βάπτειν , to wet) is the rendering of טָבִל , to Plunge, by the Sept. in  2 Kings 5:14; and accordingly the Rabbins used, טְבילָה for Βάπτισμα . The Latin fathers render Βαπτίζειν by Tingere (e.g. Tertull. Adv. Prax. c. 26, "Novissimo mandavit ut tingerent in Patrem Filium et Spiritum Sanctum"); by mergere (as Ambros. De Sacramentis, lib. 2, c. 7, "Interrogatus es, Credis in Deum Patrem Omnipotentem? Dixisti Credo; et mersisti, hoc est sepultus es"); by mergztare (as Tertullian, De Corona Militis, c. 3, "Dehinc ter mergitamur"); see Suicer, s.v. Άναδυω . By the Greek fathers the word Βαπτίζειν is often used figuratively for overwhelming with sleep, sorrow, sin, etc. Thus Ὑπὸ Μέθης Βαπτιζόμενος Εἰς Ὕπνον , buried in sleep through drunkenness. So Μυρίαις Βαπτιζόμενος Φρόντισιν , absorbed in thought (Chrysost.). Ταῖς Βαρυτάταις Ἁμαρτίαις Βεβαπτισμενοι , steeped in sin (Justin M.). See Suicer, s.v. Βαπτίζω .

2. "The Water" ( Τὸ Ὕδωρ ) is a name of baptism which occurs in  Acts 10:47. After Peter's discourse, the Holy Spirit came visibly on Cornelius and his company; and the apostle asked, "Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost?" In ordinary cases the water had been first administered, after that the apostles laid on their hands, and then the Spirit was given. But here the Spirit had come down manifestly; before the administration of baptism; and Peter argued that no one could then reasonably withhold baptism (calling it "the water") from those who had visibly received that of which baptism was the sign and seal. With this phrase, Τὸ Ὕδωρ , "the water," used of baptism, compare "the breaking of bread" as a title of the Eucharist,  Acts 2:42.

3. "The Washing of Water" ( Τὸ Λουτρὸν Τοῦ Ὕδατος , "the bath of the water") occurs  Ephesians 5:26. There appears clearly in these words a reference to the bridal bath; but the allusion to baptism is clearer still, baptism of which the bridal bath was an emblem, a type, or mystery, signifying to us the spiritual union betwixt Christ and his church. For as the bride was wont to bathe before being presented to the bridegroom, so washing in the water is that initiatory rite by which the Christian Church is betrothed to the Bridegroom, Christ.

There is some difficulty in the construction and interpretation of the qualifying words, Ἐν Ῥήματι , " by the word." According to the more ancient interpretation, they would indicate that the outward rite of washing is insufficient and unavailing without the added potency of the Word of God (comp.  1 Peter 3:21), "Not the putting away the filth of the flesh," etc.); and as the Λουτρὸν Τοῦ Ὕδατος had reference to the bridal bath, so there might be an allusion to the words of betrothal. The bridal bath and the words of betrothal typified the water and the words of baptism. On the doctrine so expressed the language of Augustine is famous: ‘‘ Detrahe verbum, et quid est aqua nisi aqua? Accedit verbum ad elementum, et fit sacramentum" (Tract. 80 ins Johan.). Yet the general use of Ῥῆμα in the New Testament and the grammatical construction of the passage seem to favor the opinion that the Word of God preached to the church, rather than the words made use of in baptism, is that accompaniment of the laver without which it would be imperfect (see Ellicott, in loc.).

4. "The washing of regeneration" ( Λουτρὸν Παλιγγενεσίας ) is a phrase naturally connected with the foregoing. It occurs  Titus 3:5. All ancient and most modern commentators have interpreted it of baptism. Controversy has made some persons unwilling to admit this interpretation; but the question probably should be, not as to the significance of the phrase, but as to the degree of importance attached in the words of the apostle to that which the phrase indicates. Thus Calvin held that the "bath" meant baptism; but he explained its occurrence in this context by saying that "Baptism is to us the seal of salvation which Christ hath obtained for us." The current of the apostle's reasoning is this. He tells Titus to exhort the Christians of Crete to be submissive to authority, showing all meekness to all men: "for we ourselves were once foolish, erring, serving our own lusts; but when the kindness of God our Savior and His love toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we performed, but according to His own mercy He saved us by (through the instrumentality of) the bath of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost ( Διὰ Λουτροῦ Παλιγγενεσίας Καὶ Ἀνακαινώσεως Πνεύματος Ἁγίου ) , which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we might be made heirs of eternal life through hope (or according to hope, Κατ᾿ Ἐλπίδα ). The argument is, that Christians should be kind to all men, remembering that they themselves had been formerly disobedient, but that by God's free mercy in Christ they had been transplanted into a better state, even a state of salvation ( Ἔσωσεν Ημᾶς ) , and That by means of the bath of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. If, according to the more ancient and common interpretation, the laver means baptism, the whole will seem pertinent. Christians are placed in a new condition, made members of the Church of Christ by baptism, and they are renewed in the spirit of their minds by the Holy Ghost.

There is so much resemblance, both in the phraseology and in the argument, between this passage in Titus and  1 Corinthians 6:11, that the latter ought by all means to be compared with the former. Paul tells the Corinthians that in their heathen state they had been stained with heathen vices; "but," he adds, "ye were washed" (lit. ye washed or bathed yourselves, Ἀπελούσασθε ) , "but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God." It is generally believed that here is an allusion to the being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; though some connect "sanctified" and "justified," as well as "washed," with the words "in the name," etc. (see Stanley, in loc.). But, however this may be, the reference to baptism seems unquestionable.

Another passage containing very similar thoughts, clothed in almost the same words, is  Acts 22:16, where Ananias says to Saul of Tarsus, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord" ( Ἀναστὰς Βάπτισαι Καὶ Ἀπόλουσα Τὰς Ἁμαρτίας Σου , Ἐπικαλεσάμενος Τὸ Ὄνομα Αὐτοῦ ) . See Calvin's Commentary on this passage.

5. "Illumination" ( Φωτισμός ). It has been much questioned whether Φωτίζεσθαι , "enlightened," in  Hebrews 6:4;  Hebrews 10:32, be used of baptism or not. Justin M., Clement of Alexandria, and almost all the Greek fathers, use Φωτισμός as a synonym for Baptism. The Syriac version, the most ancient in existence, gives this sense to the word in both the passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, and other Greek commentators so interpret it; and they are followed by Ernesti, Michaelis, and many modern interpreters of the highest authority (Wetstein cites from Orac. Sibyll. 1, Ὕδατι Φωτίζεσθαι ) . On the other hand, it is now very commonly alleged that the use is entirely ecclesiastical, not scriptural, and that it arose from the undue esteem for baptism in the primitive church. It is impossible to enter into all the merits of the question here. If the usage be scriptural, it is to be found only in the two passages in Hebrews above mentioned; but it may perhaps correspond with other figures and expressions in the New Testament. The patristic use of the word may be seen by referring to Suicer, s.v. Φωτισμός , and to Bingham ( ''E. A'' bk. 11, ch. 1, § 4). The rationale of the name, according to Justin Martyr, is, that the catechumens, before admission to baptism, were instructed in all the principal doctrines of the Christian faith, and hence

"this laver is called illumination, because those who learn these things are illuminated in their understanding" (Apol. 2:94). But if this word be used in the sense of baptism in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as we have no mention of any training of catechumens in the New Testament, we must probably seek for a different explanation of its origin. It will be remembered that Φωταγωγία was a term for admission into the ancient mysteries. Baptism was without question the initiatory rite in reference to the Christian faith (comp. Τρία Βαπτίσματα Μιᾶς Μυήσεως , Can. Apost. 1). Now that Christian faith is more than once called by Paul the Christian "mystery."

The "mystery of God's will" ( Ephesians 1:9), "the mystery of Christ" ( Colossians 4:3;  Ephesians 3:4), "the mystery of the Gospel" ( Ephesians 6:19), and other like phrases, are common in his epistles. A Greek could hardly fail to be reminded by such language of the religious mysteries of his own former heathenism. But, moreover, seeing that "in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," it seems highly probable that in three memorable passages Paul speaks, not merely of the Gospel or the faith, but of Christ himself as the great Mystery of God or of godliness.

(1) In  Colossians 1:27, we read, "the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, Τοῦ Μυστηρίου Τούτου , Ὅς Ἐστιν Χριστὸς Ἐν Ὑμῖν

(2) In  Colossians 2:2, Lachmann, Tregelles, and Ellicott, as we think on good grounds, adopt the reading Τοῦ Μυστηρίου Τοῦ Θεοῦ , Χριστοῦ , rightly compared by Bp. Ellicott with the preceding passage occurring only four verses before it, and interpreted by him "the mystery of God, even Christ."

(3) It deserves to be carefully considered whether the above usage in Colossians does not suggest a clear exposition of  1 Timothy 3:16, Τὸ Τῆς Εὐσεβείας Μυστήριον Ὃς Ἐφανερώθη Κ . Τ . Λ· For, if Christ be the "Mystery of God," he may well be called also the "Mystery of godliness;" and the masculine relative is then easily intelligible, as being referred to Χριστός understood and implied in Μυστήριον ; for, in the words of Hilary, "Dens Christus est Sacramentum."

But, if all this be true, as baptism is the initiatory Christian rite admitting us to the service of God and to the knowledge of Christ, it may not improbably have been called Φωτισμός , and afterward Φωταγωγία , as having reference, and as admitting to the Mystery of the Gospel, and to Christ himself, who is the Mystery of God.

V. We pass to a few of the more prominent passages, not already considered, in which baptism is referred to.

1.  John 3:5 "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" has been a well-established battle-field from the time of Calvin. Hooker states that for the first fifteen centuries no one had ever doubted its application to baptism ( Eccl. Pol. v, 59). Zuinglius was probably the first who interpreted it otherwise. Calvin understood the words "of water and of the Spirit" as Ἕν Διὰ Δυοῖν , "the washing or cleansing of the Spirit" (or rather perhaps "by the Spirit"), "who cleanses as water," referring to  Matthew 3:11 ("He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire"

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [17]

A conviction of the holiness of God excites in man the notion that he cannot possibly come into any amicable relation with him before he is cleansed of sin, which separates him from God. This sentiment found a very widely extended symbolic expression in the lustrations which formed an essential part of the ceremonial creeds of the ancient nations. In the language of the prophets, cleansing with water is used as an emblem of the purification of the heart, which in the Messianic age is to glorify the soul in her innermost recesses, and to embrace the whole of the theocratic nation ( Ezekiel 36:25, sq.;  Zechariah 13:1). Such declarations gave rise to or nourished the expectation that the advent of the Messiah would manifest itself by a preparatory lustration, by which Elijah or some other great prophet would pave the way for him. This supposition lies evidently at the bottom of the questions which the Jews put to John the Baptist ( John 1:25, comp.  Matthew 3:7 and  Luke 3:7), whether he was the Messiah, or Elijah, or some other prophet? and if not, why he undertook to baptize? Thus we can completely clear up the historical derivation of the rite, as used by John and Christ, from the general and natural symbol of baptism, from the Jewish custom in particular, and from the expectation of a Messianic consecration. Dans, Ziegler, and others have, nevertheless, supposed it to be derived from the Jewish ceremonial of baptizing proselytes; and Wetstein has traced that rite up to a date earlier than Christianity. But this opinion is not at all tenable: for, as an act which strictly gives validity to the admission of a proselyte, and is no mere accompaniment to his admission, baptism certainly is not alluded to in the New Testament; while, as to the passages quoted in proof from the classical (profane) writers of that period, they are all open to the most fundamental objections. Nor is the utter silence of Josephus and Philo on the subject, notwithstanding their various opportunities of touching on it, a less weighty argument against this view. It is true that mention is made in the Talmud of that regulation as already existing in the first century A.D.; but such statements belong only to the traditions of the Gemara, and require careful investigation before they can serve as proper authority. This Jewish rite was probably originally only a purifying ceremony; and it was raised to the character of an initiating and indispensable rite coordinate with that of sacrifice and circumcision, only after the destruction of the Temple, when sacrifices had ceased, and the circumcision of proselytes had, by reason of public edicts, become more and more impracticable.

Baptism of John

It was the principal object of John the Baptist to combat the prevailing opinion, that the performance of external ceremonies was sufficient to secure participation in the kingdom of God and his promises; he required repentance, therefore, as a preparation for the approaching kingdom of the Messiah. That he may possibly have baptized heathens also, seems to follow from his censuring the Pharisees for confiding in their descent from Abraham, while they had no share in his spirit: yet it should not be overlooked that this remark was drawn from him by the course of the argument ( Matthew 3:8-9;  Luke 3:7-8). We must, on the whole, assume that John considered the existing Judaism as a stepping-stone by which the Gentiles were to arrive at the kingdom of God in its Messianic form. The general point of view from which John contemplated the Messiah and his kingdom was that of the Old Testament, though closely bordering on Christianity. He regards, it is true, an alteration in the mind and spirit as an indispensable condition for partaking in the kingdom of the Messiah; still he looked for its establishment by means of conflict and external force, with which the Messiah was to be endowed; and he expected in him a Judge and Avenger, who was to set up outward and visible distinctions. It is, therefore, by no means a matter of indifference whether baptism be administered, in the name of that Christ who floated before the mind of John, or of the suffering and glorified One, such as the apostles knew him; and whether it was considered a preparation for a political, or a consecration into a spiritual theocracy. John was so far from this latter view, so far from contemplating a purely spiritual development of the kingdom of God, that he even began subsequently to entertain doubts concerning Christ ( Matthew 11:2). John's baptism had not the character of an immediate, but merely of a preparatory, consecration for the glorified theocracy ( John 1:31). The Apostles, therefore, found it necessary to re-baptize the disciples of John, who had still adhered to the notions of their master on that head (Acts 19). To this apostolic judgment Tertullian appeals, and in his opinion coincide the most eminent teachers of the ancient church, both of the East and the West.

Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus by John ( Matthew 3:13, sq.;  Mark 1:9, sq.;  Luke 3:21, sq.; comp.  John 1:19, sq.; the latter passage refers to a time after the baptism, and describes,  John 1:32, the incidental facts attending it).—The baptism of Jesus, as the first act of his public career, is one of the most important events recorded in evangelical history: great difficulty is also involved in reconciling the various accounts given by the Evangelists of that transaction, and the several points connected with it. To question the fact itself, not even the negative criticism of Dr. Strauss has dared. This is, however, all that has been conceded by that criticism, viz., the mere and bare fact 'that Christ was baptized by John,' while all the circumstances of the event are placed in the region of mythology or fiction. Critical inquiry suggests the following questions:—

In what relation did Jesus stand to John before the baptism?

What object did Jesus intend to obtain by that baptism?

In what sense are we to take the miraculous incidents attending that act?

With regard to the first point, we might be apt to infer, from Luke and Matthew, that there had been an acquaintance between Christ and John even prior to the baptism; and that hence John declines ( Matthew 3:14) to baptize Jesus, arguing that he needed to be baptized by Him. This, however, seems to be at variance with  John 1:31;  John 1:33. Lücke (Comment, i. p. 416, sq. 3rd edit.) takes the words 'I knew him not' in their strict and exclusive sense. John, he says, could not have spoken in this manner if he had at all known Jesus; and had he known Him, he could not, as a prophet, have failed to discover, even at an earlier period, the but too evident 'glory' of the Messiah. In fact, the narrative of the first three Gospels presupposes the same, since, as the herald of the Messiah, he could give that refusal ( Matthew 3:14) to the Messiah alone.

With regard to the second point at issue, as to the object of Christ in undergoing baptism, we find, in the first instance, that he ranked this action among those of his Messianic calling. This object is still more defined by John the Baptist ( John 1:31), which Lücke interprets in the following words: 'Only by entering into that community which was to be introductory to the Messianic, by attaching Himself to the Baptist like any other man, was it possible for Christ to reveal Himself to the Baptist, and through Him to others.' Christ, with His never-failing reliance on God, never for a moment could doubt of His own mission, or of the right period when His character was to be made manifest by God; but John needed to receive that assurance, in order to be the herald of the Messiah who was actually come. For all others whom John baptized, either before or after Christ, this act was a mere preparatory consecration to the kingdom of the Messiah; while for Jesus it was a direct and immediate consecration, by means of which He manifested the commencement of His career as the founder of the new theocracy, which began at the very moment of His baptism, the initiatory character of which constituted its general principle and tendency.

With respect to the miraculous incidents which accompanied the baptism of Jesus, if we take for our starting-point the narration of the three first Gospels, that the Holy Spirit really and visibly descended in the form of a dove, and proclaimed Jesus, in an audible voice, to be the Son of God, there can be no difficulty in bringing it to harmonize with the statement in the Gospel of John. This literal sense of the text has, indeed, for a long time been the prevailing interpretation, though many doubts respecting it had very early forced themselves on the minds of sober inquirers, traces of which are to be found in Origen, and which Strauss has more elaborately renewed. To the natural explanations belong that of Paulus, that the dove was a real one, which had by chance flown near the spot at that moment; that of Meyer, that it was the figure of a meteor which was just then visible in the sky; and that of Kuinoel (ad Matthew 3), who considers the dove as a figure for lightning, and the voice for that of thunder, which the eyewitnesses, in their ecstatic feelings, considered as a divine voice, such as the Jews called a Bath-kol(Meyer). Such interpretations are not only irreconcilable with the evangelical text, but even presuppose a violation of the common order of nature, in favor of adherence to which these interpretations are advanced.

A more close investigation of the subject, however, induces us to take as a starting-point the account of the Apostle St. John. It is John the Baptist himself who speaks. He was an eyewitness, nay, to judge from Matthew and John, the only one present with Jesus, and is consequently the only source—with or without Christ—of information. Indeed, if there were more people present, as we are almost inclined to infer from Luke, they cannot have perceived the miracles attending the baptism of Jesus, or John and Christ would no doubt have appealed to their testimony in verification of them.

In thus taking the statement in St. John for the authentic basis of the whole history, a few slight hints in it may afford us the means of solving the difficulties attending the literal conception of the text. John the Baptist knows nothing of an external and audible voice, and when he assures us ( John 1:33) that he had in the Spirit received the promise, that the Messiah would be made manifest by the Spirit descending upon Him, and remaining—be it upon or in Him—there; this very remaining assuredly precludes any material appearance in the shape of a bird. The internal probability of the text, therefore, speaks in favor of a spiritual vision in the mind of the Baptist; this view is still more strengthened by the fact, that Luke supposes there were many more present, who notwithstanding perceived nothing at all of the miraculous incidents. The reason that the Spirit in the vision assumed the figure of a dove, we would rather seek in the peculiar flight and movement of that bird, than in its form and shape. This interpretation moreover has the advantage of exhibiting the philosophic connection of the incidents, since the Baptist appears more conspicuously as the immediate end of the divine dispensation. Christ had thus the intention of being introduced by him into the Messianic sphere of operation, while the Baptist recognizes this to be his own peculiar calling: the signs by which he was to know the Messiah had been intimated to him, and now that they had come to pass, the prophecy and his mission were fulfilled.

None of the Evangelists give any authority for the common tradition that the descent of the Spirit upon Christ was sensibly witnessed by the multitude. Matthew simply states that the vision appeared to Christ; Mark adds that the Spirit appeared to him 'as a dove descending upon Him;' Luke, more generally, states only the fact of the Spirit's descent in a sensible form; and John informs us that besides Christ this vision was witnessed also by the Baptist.

Christian Baptism

Jesus, having undergone baptism as the founder of the new kingdom, ordained it as a legal act by which individuals were to obtain the rights of citizens therein. Though He caused many to be baptized by His disciples ( John 4:1-2), yet all were not baptized who were converted to Him; neither was it even necessary after they had obtained participation in Him by his personal choice and forgiving of sin. But when He could no longer personally and immediately choose and receive members of His kingdom, when at the same time all had been accomplished which the founder thought necessary for its completion, He gave power to the spiritual community to receive, in His stead, members by baptism ( Matthew 28:19;  Mark 16:16). Baptism essentially denotes the regenerating of him who receives it, his participation both in the divine life of Christ and the promises rested on it, as well as his reception as a member of the Christian community.

Each of these momentous points implies all the rest; and the germ of all is contained in the words of Christ ( Matthew 28:19). The details are variously digested by the Apostles according to their peculiar modes of thinking. John dwells—in like manner as he does on the holy communion—almost exclusively on the internal nature of baptism, the immediate mystical union of the Spirit with Christ; baptism is with him equivalent to 'being born again' ( John 3:5;  John 3:7). Paul gives more explicitly and completely the other points also. He understands by it not only the union of the individual with the Head, by the giving one's self up to the Redeemer and the receiving of His life ( Galatians 3:27), but also the union with the other members ( Galatians 3:28;  1 Corinthians 12:13;  Ephesians 4:5;  Ephesians 5:26). He expresses a spiritual purport by saying that it intimates on the part of those who have received it, their being joined with Christ in His death and raised with Him in His resurrection.

As regards the design of Christian Baptism, different views have been adopted by different parties. The principal are the following:—

That it is a direct instrument of grace; the application of water to the person by a properly qualified functionary being regarded as the appointed vehicle by which God bestows regenerating grace upon men. This is the Romanist and Anglo-Catholic view.

That though not an instrument it is a seal of grace; divine blessings being thereby confirmed and obsignated to the individual. This is the doctrine of the Confessions of the majority of the Reformed Churches.

That it is neither an instrument nor a seal of grace, but simply a ceremony of initiation into Church membership. This is the Socinian view of the ordinance.

That it is a token of regeneration; to be received only by those who give evidence of being really regenerated. This is the view adopted by the Baptists.

That it is a symbol of purification; the use of which simply announces that the religion of Christ is a purifying religion, and intimates that the party receiving the rite assumes the profession, and is to be instructed in the principles, of that religion. This opinion is extensively entertained amongst the Congregationalists of England.

Differences of opinion have also been introduced respecting the proper mode of baptism. Some contend that it should be by immersion alone; others, that it should be only by affusion or sprinkling; and others, that it matters not in which way it is done, the only thing required being the ritual application of water to the person. The first class appeal to the use of baptizo by the classical authors, with whom they affirm it is always used in the sense of dipping or immersing; and to such expressions as 'being buried with Christ in baptism,' etc. where they understand an allusion to a typical burial, by submersion in water. The second class rely upon the usage of baptizo by the sacred writers, who, they allege, employ it frequently where immersion is not to be supposed, as when they speak of 'baptism with fire,' and 'baptism with the Spirit;' upon the alleged impossibility of immersing such multitudes as we learn were baptized at once in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; upon the supposed improbability of an Eastern female like Lydia allowing herself to be publicly immersed by a man whom she had never seen before; upon the language used by Paul at Philippi, when he commanded water to be brought into the room, that he might baptize the jailor and his family, language which, it is said, cannot be understood of such a quantity of water as would be required to immerse in succession a whole household; and upon the use of the term baptism, to designate what is elsewhere spoken of as the outpouring of the Spirit. The third class maintain, that according to universal usage baptizo signifies simply to wet, and that the following preposition determines whether it is to be taken in the sense of wetting by immersion or not; they urge especially that the word as used in the New Testament possesses so much of a technical character, that it is not possible from it to deduce any correct inference as to the mode of baptizing; and they adduce historical evidence to show that baptism was performed indifferently by immersion or affusion as convenience dictated.

In fine, differences of opinion have arisen respecting the proper subjects of baptism. Here also we have three classes.

1. Those who maintain that baptism is to be administered only to those who believe and give evidence of being regenerated. This opinion is grounded chiefly upon the positions that, Repentance and Faith are distinctly prescribed in the New Testament as conditions of baptism, and the alleged fact that the Apostles did not baptize any, until satisfied that they sincerely believed. It is urged also by the advocates of this opinion, against the practice of infant baptism, that not only are infants excluded from baptism by their inability to comply with the required terms, but that they are virtually excluded by their baptism not being expressly enjoined in the New Testament. It is also alleged that infant baptism was unknown to the Early Church, and was a corrupt invention of the patristic age.

2. Those who contend that baptism is to be administered not only to believers who have not been before baptized, but to the infant offspring of believers. This opinion is chiefly based on the covenant established by God with Abraham. This covenant it is maintained was the everlasting covenant, the covenant of grace; under it a connection of a spiritual kind was recognized as existing between parents and their children; in virtue of this the latter received the sign of the covenanted blessings; no evidence can be adduced that this divinely-appointed connection has been abrogated, though the sign of the covenant has been changed; on the contrary, there is abundant evidence to show that the Apostles administered to the children of converts to Christianity the same rite, that of baptism, which they administered to the converts themselves. It is also affirmed by this party that the requiring of faith and repentance as a condition of baptism in the case of adults cannot be fairly held as including children, inasmuch as by the same reasoning children dying in infancy would be excluded from salvation. It is denied that the absence of any express injunction to baptize children virtually prohibits their baptism; and the assertion that infant baptism was unknown in the primitive age is rebutted by historical evidence.

3. Those who assert that baptism is to be administered to all who either will place themselves under Christian instruction, such as adults who have grownup as heathens, Jews, or infidels; or who may be thus placed by their parents or guardians, such as infants. In support of this view, stress is laid upon our Lord's words when He commanded His Apostles to go and teach and baptize all nations; the 'baptizing' being regarded as associated with the 'teaching' and commensurate with it, while what is said about 'believing' is regarded as relating to something which may or may not follow the teaching and baptizing, but which is declared to be essential to salvation. It is argued that the Apostolic practice was altogether in accordance with this view of our Lord's commission, inasmuch as the multitudes frequently baptized by the Apostles were such, that to obtain satisfactory evidence of the knowledge and piety of each individual was impossible in the time which elapsed between the Apostles' preaching and the baptizing to which it led; while such cases as those of Simon Magus and the Philippian Jailor show that even very ignorant men, and men who could not possibly give what any person would receive as credible evidence of piety, were at once baptized. The practice of the Apostles also in baptizing whole households, including children and servants, without asking any questions as to their knowledge and belief, is urged in favor of this opinion, as well as the corresponding practice of the Church.

Baptism for the Dead

Paul ( 1 Corinthians 15:29) uses this phrase. Few passages have undergone more numerous and arbitrary emendations than this text. We shall examine first—

A. Those interpretations which take it to be some particular application of baptism.

1. Some imagine that Paul speaks of a baptism which a living man receives in the place of a dead one.

Various passages have been quoted from the fathers in support of this opinion; but all we can infer from their statements is, that baptism by substitution had taken place among the Marcionites, and perhaps also among the Cerinthians and other smaller sects towards the end of the fourth century; but that it existed between that period and the time when Paul wrote the above passage is wholly unsubstantiated. The idea, then, that such a superstitious custom existed in the Corinthian community is devoid of all historical evidence.

The difficulties will still more increase, if we were to admit, with Olhausen, Rückert, and De Wette, that the Apostle approved of the absurd practice in question, since he would thus be brought into contradiction with his own principles on the importance of faith and external works, which he develops in his Epistle to the Galatians. In the words of Paul we discover no opinion of his own concerning the justice or injustice of the rite; it is merely brought in as an argumentum ex concesso in favor of the object which he pursues through the whole chapter (comp.  1 Corinthians 2:5). However much may be objected against this interpretation, it is by far more reasonable than the explanations given by other critics. The Corinthian community was certainly of a mixed character, consisting of individuals of various views, ways of thinking, and different stages of education: so that there might still have existed a small number among them capable of such absurdities. We are not sufficiently acquainted with all the particulars of the case to maintain the contrary, while the simple grammatical sense of the passage is decidedly in favor of the proposed interpretation.

2. Origen, Luther, Chemnitz, and Joh. Gerhard, interpret the words as relating to baptism over the graves of the members of the community, a favorite rendezvous of the early Christians. Luther says that in order to strengthen their faith in the resurrection, the Christians baptized over the tombs of the dead. But the custom alluded to dates from a much later period.

3. Epiphanius mentions also a view, according to which the word rendered 'dead' is to be translated mortally ill persons whose baptism was expedited by sprinkling water upon them on their death-bed, instead of immersing them in the usual way; the rite is known under the name of baptismus clinicus, lectualis. But few of the modern theologians (among whom, however, are Calvin and Estius) advocate this view, which transgresses not less against the words of the text than against all historical knowledge of the subject.

B. The interpretations which suppose that the text speaks of general church baptism. To these belongs the oldest opinion we know of, given in Tertullian, according to which the Greek word rendered 'for' is here taken in the sense of on account of, and the word rendered 'the dead' in that of dead bodies, they themselves, the baptized, as dead persons. The notion which lies at the bottom of this version is, that the body possesses a guarantee for resurrection in the act of baptism, in which it also shares. The sinking under and rising up is with them a symbol of burying and resurrection.

2. A later view, expressed by Chrysostom, adopts the same meaning as regards 'the dead,' but construes the whole clause 'in behalf of the dead,' to signify 'in the belief of the resurrection of the dead.' This ungrammatical version is adopted by Theophylact: 'Why are men baptized at all in behalf of resurrection, that is, in expectation of resurrection, if the dead rise not?'

3. Pelagius, Olearius, Fabricius, are of opinion that the phrase 'on account of the dead,' or 'of those who are dead,' although strictly plural, here alludes to an individual, namely, to Christ, 'on account of whom' we are baptized, alluding to  Romans 6:3.

4. Among the best interpretations is that of Spanheim and Joh. Christ. Wolf. They consider 'the dead' to be martyrs and other believers, who, by firmness and cheerful hope of resurrection, have given in death a worthy example, by which others were also animated to receive baptism. Still this meaning would be almost too briefly and enigmatically expressed, when no particular reason for it is known, while also the allusion to the exemplary death of many Christians could chiefly apply to the martyrs alone, of whom there were as yet none at Corinth.

5. Olhausen's interpretation is of a rather doubtful character. The meaning of the passage he takes to be, that 'all who are converted to the church are baptized—for the good of the dead, as it requires a certain number ( Romans 11:12-25), a “fullness” of believers, before the resurrection can take place. Every one therefore who is baptized is so for the good of believers collectively, and of those who have already died in the Lord.' Olhausen is himself aware that the Apostle could not have expected that such a difficult and remote idea, which he himself calls 'a mystery,' would be understood by his readers without a further explanation and development of his doctrine. He therefore proposes an explanation, in which it is argued that the miseries and hardships Christians have to struggle against in this life can only be compensated by resurrection. Death causes, as it were, vacancies in the full ranks of the believers, which are again filled up by other individuals. 'What would it profit those who are baptized in the place of the dead (to fill up their place in the community) if there be no resurrection?'

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [18]

The Christian rite of initiation into the membership of the Church, identified by St. Paul (Rom. vi. 4) with that No to the world which precedes or rather accompanies Yea to God, but a misunderstanding of the nature of which has led to endless diversity, debate, and alienation all over the Churches of Christendom.