Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 22, 1968
NUMBER 41, PAGE 7b-9a

A Study Of Baptism

Tom O. Bunting

This was prepared as an answer to a letter that I received from a Lutheran priest here in Norway. I present it here, perhaps others may benefit from it.

Permit me to first give you some of the ideas of others who have written some on the subject. Mosheim: "This not only shows that the parties were immersed under water, but that it was done `according to the express command of our blessed Lord'." (Mosheim, Church History, Vol. 1, pg. 69).

Neander was a member of a church which practiced sprinkling. He says: "In respect to the form of baptism, it was with the original institution and the original import of the symbol, performed by immersion." (Neander, Church History, Vol. 1, pg. 310).

Wall: "Their general and ordinary way was to baptize by immersion..." (Wall, History of Infant Baptism).

Stuart says: "Tertullian, who died in A.D. 220, is the most ample witness of the early writers... they were let down into the water, immersed..." (Stuart On Baptism, pp. 144-146).

It is precisely this type of statement that one will consistently find by reading other historians on the subject of the action of baptism in the New Testament times. I personally place no great importance on these witnesses, only mention these as you requested. The important thing, which I'm sure we both agree, is the Bible teaching on the action of baptism. Was it sprinkling, pouring, or immersion?

The word of God is very, very clear on the subject of baptism. We can read that John was baptizing at Enon near to Salem because there was much water there (John 3:23). Why much water? It certainly doesn't take much for sprinkling or pouring! Let us go on. In Acts 8:37,38, we learn that when the Ethiopian was baptized by Philip, they both went down into the water! This makes it a little more clear as to why John was using "much water," it was to be enough for them both to go down into it. Still, once in the water, was one immersed or only sprinkled? The Bible leaves no doubt, when it used the word "buried", in speaking of baptism (Rom. 6:3,4; Col. 2:12). John was baptizing where there was much water because they were to be buried. Philip and the man of Ethiopia both went down into the water for the man being baptized was to be buried! When people were baptized they were buried with Christ, they were also in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:4,5).

Having noted that Christians practiced immersion (burial) only as the action of baptism, what about the origin of sprinkling or pouring as the action of baptism? When did it originate? The first case known to us is that of Novatian, in the year A.D. 251. This is 200 years too late to have been done by the authority of the Son of God. Novatian was baptized while in bed because of sickness. Most of those in the church (Roman Catholic Church) at that time did not accept such as a valid act! (Wall, Infant Baptism, p. 385386).

The first general law for sprinkling was from Pope Stephan II (NOT FROM THE BIBLE) in A.D. 753. He said that water could be poured on the head in a case of necessity. It was practiced then only in case of necessity. It was not until the year A.D. 1311, that legislature in the Roman Catholic Church, in a council held in Ravenna, declared immersion or sprinkling to be indifferent. So, although it had been done occasionally before 1311 , it was not an official practice until the Roman Catholic Church passed the legislation in the council of Ravenna. (Brents, Plan of Salvation).

Infant Baptism. It is claimed that infants are part of "all nations" of the great commission. Will you stand by that rule. The most wicked infidel that lives is part of "all nations", should he be baptized for the same reason??

The phrase "all nations" often occurs in the scriptures where only a class is embraced in it. The context clearly shows that infants were NOT included. Here are a few New Testament examples: "Ye shall be hated of all nations" (Matt. 24:9). "Made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:26). Also, see — Matt. 24:14; Mk. 11:17; Rev. 14:8. Similar examples may be found in the Old Testament. One example from Old Testament: "I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle." (Zech. 14:2). Surely you understand that infants were not to enter the army of Titus. Read these passages carefully and you can see that the infants were excluded. So it is with the great commission in Matt. 28:18-20 and Mk. 16:15-16. We know infants were not included, for the subjects to be baptized were to be taught !! "Go, teach all nations,...baptizing them...teach them to observe..." (Matt. 28:19-20). Great import to the passage is "TEACH." Teach the elementary principles of the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection). Teach, so that they may believe in Jesus as God's Son (Heb. 11:6, Rom. 10:17). Teach them to repent (Acts 2:38). Teach them, then baptize!! Then teach them further on how to live. This is what we are told. (Matt. 28:18-20).

But: If infants are included in the commission, then it follows that they must all be lost. Mark records the commission: "Go ye...he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mk. 16:15-16). Infants cannot believe the gospel, hence, if the commission included them, they must all be damned. I don't believe this, but this is the necessary conclusion for those teaching and practicing infant baptism!

In all of the Bible, there is NO commandment for infant baptism. In all of the Bible, there is NO example for infant baptism. The language of the commission makes faith a necessary antecedent to baptism. Teach the nations — baptizing them. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Here the fact is clear that unbelievers are not to be baptized.

Having seen that the commission does not authorize infant baptism, we respectfully suggest that it clearly forbids the practice. When God gave specific directions for doing anything, it was clear violation of the law to do it otherwise. When God commanded Noah to build an ark of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14), it clearly prohibited making it of cedar wood. And had he made it of cedar, it would have been a clear violation of God's law. The same was true of the law to the Jews to kill a red heifer. So when the Lord commanded the apostles to teach the nations, baptizing them; it clearly implies they were to baptize the taught, none others. It is a violation of the commission to baptize the untaught, that applies to untaught infants.

Only believers were baptized by divine authority. In Acts 2, when Peter preached to thousands; they heard, understood, and believed it. They were cut to the heart and anxiously inquired what to do (Acts 2:36-38). And who was it that was baptized? "Those who gladly received the word. (Acts 2:41). Peter told them to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). He would not have so addressed infants.

Second example: Philip was preaching to the people of Samaria. The scripture says, when they believed, they were baptized; but not before they believed (Acts 8:12). Hence, Philip understood faith to be antecedent to baptism.

Then Simon himself, believed also and he was baptized (Acts 8:13). The same order is observed — preaching, hearing, faith, then baptism. Preach the gospel! Jesus said, "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk. 16:16).

We have another example in this same chapter (Acts 8). We find Philip preaching to the man from Ethiopia; who understood, believed and demanded baptism saying, "See here is water what doth hinder me...And Philip said, If thou believest..." (Acts 8:36-38). This clearly shows that one was not allowed to be baptized who did not believe with the heart in Jesus Christ as the Son of God!

The question is asked, "If we are not to baptize infants, why did God make no provision for them to be saved, should they die in infancy?" The thought of the necessity for infant baptism is based upon the erroneous idea, that infants are born with the built of inherited sin, or original sin.

The Bible teaches the very opposite of this! The Bible teaches us that an infant and small child is without reproach, but becomes evil in his youth. The infant or small child is of like character to which youth and adults become through conversion.

Sin cannot be inherited because of its very nature. Sin is defined in the word of God as the transgression of law. This is not something that can be inherited. Sin is something that one does, not something that he has inherited! "For sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). One is not guilty of sin until he breaks God's law.

"Doesn't the Bible teach that we can inherit the guilt of sin?" NO, it most certainly does not. The passage in Romans 5, usually referred to, says that "death passed upon all men." It does not say that sin passed upon all, nor the guilt of sin, but death. It goes on; "death passed upon all men for all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12). We are not held responsible for another's sins, only our own. We are to be judged by the things we have done in this body. (II Cor. 5:10). Not judged for the things Adam or someone else did in their body, but the things we have done! We shall give account of our self before God. (Rom. 14:12)

Listen to what God said about 'inherited sin.' "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (Ezek. 18:20). If sin is not inherited, then when does one become a sinner? If he is not a sinner from the very time of birth, when is he a sinner? Certainly there is no set age given, but the Bible does tell us when, in Gen. 8:21. Read it carefully. God says; from his YOUTH, not from infancy, but from youth. This is why he said, "Suffer the little children... for of such is the kingdom..." (Matt. 19:14). Also, "Except you be converted and be like unto them ye cannot enter...(Matt. 18:3,4). When one has become "youth" and has done evil, when he has transgressed God's law, he has sinned! Then he must be taught, he must believe, repent, confess his faith, and be baptized to receive the forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God. Why does the Bible use the term "reconciled"? Because he was once in fellowship with God but his sins and iniquities had separated him from God, now he can be reconciled through Jesus Christ.

If we keep the whole law and offend in one point we are guilty of all. (Jas. 2:10). This applies to infant baptism as all other things man does for which he has no authority in the word of God! Infant baptism is but one point where the religious world violates God's law!

-Natlandsveien 84, Bergan, Norway