Wineskins Archive

December 19, 2013

Baptism’s Many Modes (Mar-Jun 2010)

Filed under: — @ 10:39 am and

by Edward Fudge
May 19, 2010

A gracEmail subscriber asks, “Does water baptism in the New Testament involve sprinkling, pouring or immersion?”

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As New Testament writers describe the process of conversion, they include all three of those actions in the picture. Jesus himself ordained water baptism as the principal visible expression of initial faith. Indeed, gospel baptism is significant, for it sign-ifies many blessings which the believer enjoys freely by God’s grace. One blessing is the forgiveness of sins and a clean conscience before God, which Scripture pictures as God sprinkling the believer with Jesus’ atoning blood (Heb 10:22; 1 Peter 1:2; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Another blessing is God’s lavish pouring out the Holy Spirit – his personal, powerful Presence and that of the Risen Jesus Christ – on the believer (Acts 2:33; Titus 3:5-6; Joel 2:28-32).

I personally conclude that water baptism itself, done most meaningfully, involves full immersion in water. Evidence pointing to this conclusion is of many types: historical (first-century Jews practiced such ritual washings and proselyte baptism), archaeological (the land of Israel is dotted with ruins of stone baptisteries known as mikvas), narrative (immersion most naturally fits biblical stories of actual baptisms recorded in John 3:23 and in Acts 8:38), linguistic (total dunking displays the undisputed original meaning of the Greek word baptizo), as well as theological, psychological and cultural (immersion embodies New Testament imagery of rebirth, washing and resurrection). Immersion is also an ecumenical practice. For, while Christians disagree regarding the propriety of other methods, they all regard this form to be a scriptural and appropriate mode.

All three, I say, therefore – all three. Immersed in water, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit poured out in generous abundance! In this passive act of baptism, one comes in faith, formally and ritually, to the crucified and risen Savior to celebrate the gift of grace — a gift to which the believer can never contribute, and which he or she will never merit, earn or deserve.

Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail, but only in its entirety, without change and without financial profit.

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