Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Mode of Baptism, According to Scripture, Part 4, the Last

Finally, Hodge reviews the examples of baptism in the New Testament. He concludes that none require immersion, and in several, immersion is highly unlikely.

Before considering particular examples, Hodge gives two general reasons weighing against immersion: 1) because the Apostles and most of their early converts were Jews, accustomed to purification rites performed by sprinkling or pouring (as discussed in Part 2); and 2) because of the large numbers baptized at one time, under the arid conditions predominant in Palestine.

Three thousand were baptized in one day in Acts 2:5-6, in a Jerusalem dependent on wells and culverts for water. The Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8:26-39 was baptized by the roadside at a random stop in the countryside in the desert. While there could be a seasonal brook beside the road, there wouldn't likely be a pool! And most clearly of all was the baptism of Paul by Ananias in Acts 9:18 and 22:16. Not only was he baptized at bedside, hardly likely to be a pool, but Ananias explicitly tells him to stand to be baptized, which Paul then does.

I write this, not to tell any Baptist that he has been baptized wrongly, but rather to free the conscience of the one who is concerned about his own baptism. God isn't waiting with a writ to shove in your face about the mode of your baptism! Also, I write for the Presbyterian or Anglican who is accused of being somehow biblically-deficient or tradition-bound. The Bible doesn't sustain that accusation, so your conscience should be free.

To get to part 1, the beginning of this essay, click here.

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