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  Alan Jones, Editor

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"Brightly beams our Father's mercy

From the lighthouse evermore;

But to us He gives the keeping

Of the light along the shore."

       Published monthly by the church of Christ, 35900 Palmer Road, P.O. Box 86-233, Westland, MI  48186     

Volume 5                                                                   December 2005                                                                                 No6 

 

CONTROVERSY OVER BAPTISM

 

No command of Scripture has generated more controversy and has caused more division among “Christians” than baptism.  There are so many differences as to WHAT baptism is, WHO is to be baptized, and WHY one is to be baptized.  How is the common man going to sort out all this confusion without going insane?  The Scriptures contain the answers to these questions.  If we look to them instead of tradition or denominational dogma, our confusion will be replaced with clear understanding.  In this issue, let the Scriptures answer the question, “What is baptism?” 

                If you were to dye a white shirt so that it would be purple, would you sprinkle dye on it?  Would you pour dye on it?  Or would you dip the shirt into the dye?  Well, unless you were interested in polka-dots, you would dip the entire shirt into the dye so that the whole shirt would turn to purple. 

                In the first century A.D., when the New Testament was written in the Greek language, the Greek word baptizo was used to describe the process of dyeing clothes (See Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, p. 99).  This is the same word that we read as “baptize” in our English Bibles.  The Bible dictionaries agree that, when Jesus commanded men to be baptized, he was ordering men to be dipped, immersed, or submerged.     Arndt and Gingrich (p. 131) add another clear illustration of how the word “baptize” was used in N.T. times.  The word was used to describe someone who is overwhelmed by debt.  As we would say, he is  “in over his head”.

 

 

            The idea of “water” is not found in the word we call baptism.  The submersion could be in dye or debt, or in anything the context de-scribes.  So how do we know that the baptism Jesus commands is in water?  By seeing men obey the command.  After Philip brought the Ethiopian to faith by showing him how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53, the eunuch asked, “Behold here is water, what prevents me from being baptized?”  Immediately following the Ethiopian’s confession of his belief in Jesus, “they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.  When they came up out of the water … (Acts 8:38-39)  It does not take a Greek scholar to see that Jesus commanded IMMERSION in WATER! 

                The first known case of sprinkling instead of immersion for baptism was not until A.D. 251 when Novation was sprinkled on his deathbed.  Sprinkling was only done for the very sick until A.D. 1311 when the Catholic council at Ravenna okayed “baptism” for the healthy, as well as the sick.  By the time the Bible was translated into English in the 1500’s, the notion that the sprinkling and pouring of water constitutes “baptism” was widespread.  So the translators did not trans-late the word baptizo as “immersion” as they should have.  Instead, they coined a new English word by taking the Greek letters of baptizo and changing them to English letters (a process called transliteration).  Then they gave the new English word three meanings- “sprinkling, pouring, or immersion”.  If the translators had been honest, everywhere you read “baptize” in your Bible you would read “dip, submerge, or immerse”.

BURIED WITH JESUS

As surely as night follows day, burial follows death.  We all have made our sad trips to the cemetery.  There we lovingly placed the earthly remains of our dear ones, who are gone from our lives, but not from our hearts.  We set up a memorial at the burial site and return from time to reflect and remember.

                 Jesus of Nazareth was CRUCIFIED some 2000 years ago.  Following His cruel death, two of His once secret disciples stepped forward to re-ceive His body and prepare it for BURIAL.  In a garden, near the crucifixion site, they lovingly laid it (Jn 19:38-42).  Following the Sabbath rest, women who were friends and disciples of Jesus, who had shared closely in His ministry, came to see the tomb and to anoint His body with spices, in a show of their respect and love (Mt 28:1; Lk 23:55-24:1).  But, the stone was rolled away from the tomb and the body was gone!  Jesus was RISEN from the dead!! 

                The risen Savior commanded those who would become His disciples to be baptized.  In baptism, a person is symbolically BURIED with Him,

 

after first CRUCIFYING the old man of sin.  As one is RAISED from the watery “grave” of baptism, to a new life of righteousness, he does so in “likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:3-6).

                The fact that, in baptism, one is buried and raised with Jesus is proof that the baptism Jesus commanded is immersion in water, even without a Greek word study.  Jesus commanded immersion because in this act men unite with His death, burial, and resurrection.  When you bury someone, you don’t sprinkle or pour dirt on them- you cover them with dirt!  When sprinkling or pouring are substituted for immersion and called “baptism”, the action loses the symbolism and therefore the meaning that Jesus gave it.

               Whenever you visit the cemetery or pass by, remind yourself what “burial” is.  Think of Jesus’ empty tomb in Palestine.  Make the decision to crucify your old self.   Then be buried and raised with Jesus by immersion in water and begin a new life with Him.

Baptism is:

      A.  Immersion

    B.  Sprinkling

 C.  Pouring 

                D.  Any of the Above 

If we wish to obey Jesus, then His choice, A., is the only right answer



 

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