Monday 24 September 2012

Baptism Continued

Does Baptism have to be by Immersion or Dipping?

Some sections of the professing church insist that baptism must be by immersion. However, does this suggestion carry biblical weight? One of the common appeals is to the supposed meaning of the Greek word "to baptise", but does this assertion demonstrate that baptism must be by immersion to be valid?

The plea is made by some, from the meaning of the Greek word “baptise” (baptiz┼Ź). Proponents of this view insist that it is to be understood exclusively as “to immerse, plunge or dip”. Greek scholars concur that this meaning is included, but the context of each usage of this word in the NT does not fit such a constrained jacket of meaning (Mark 7:4, Col. 2:12, Heb. 6:2, 9:10).

Frederick Danker responsibly includes the idea of “ritual or ceremonial washing” (Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009, 67). John Owen refuses to yield to this singular insistence of dipping. He writes “I must say, and will make it good, that no honest man who understands the Greek tongue can deny the word to signify ‘to wash,’as well as ‘to dip’ ”. (John Owen, “Of Dipping” in The Works of John Owen: The Church and the Bible, Volume 16, ed William H. Goold, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1968, repr., 2006, 266-67).

Owen prefers the rendering “to wash” and this has implications of cleansing which is spiritually significant. The waters of baptism speak of the shed blood of Christ and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, Eph. 1:7, Titus 3:5-6, Heb.12:24).

The Westminster Confession of Faith is affirmed: “Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary: but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person” (28:3). Dipping is not excluded, but it is not exclusively necessary for Christian baptism.

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