The following is excerpted from the book New Testament Christianity, written by Lancelot Oliver and first published in Birmingham, England in 1911. This, from the fourteenth chapter of that book, is an excellent treatise on the subject of immersion in water for the remission of sins (baptism).
Some wording and spelling has been modified to reflect the modern American usage of the English language, and one change has been made to reflect scriptural accuracy. (The phrase "New Testament," when used to describe the books of the scripture from MattithYahuw (Matthew) to Revelation, was modified to the correct phrase "Greek Scripture.") Also, some slight modifications of phrasing have been made that do not effect the meaning of the sentence but make the reading easier.
Mr. Oliver uses the pagan title "God" for our Creator instead of His name, which is Yahuwah (pronounced yah-hoo-wah'). He also uses the mangled English transliteration of the Greek rendering of the name of our Savior instead of the name by which He was called by those who talked with Him in His earthly native tongue. The name JESUS is from the Ibriy (Hebrew) Yahushua, which means salvation of YAHUW (short for Yahuwah). This name is rendered from the Ibriy scripture through the Greek Iesous into English as Joshua and Jesus. There is no "J" letter or sound in the Ibriy or Greek languages so those names are literally impossible. Also, the Greek word kristos, rendered as Christ in English, means anointed. The Ibriy word for anointed is mashiach. These are common errors among the people of today, but not one which we have to perpetuate. Properly spoken, "Yahushua is the Anointed of Yahuwah."
BAPTISM--ACTION, SUBJECT, AND DESIGN.
WE speak of the ordinance of Baptism in this chapter from the point of view of its being a condition of salvation -- the present salvation, as explained in the foregoing chapters, in which a chief element is the remission of past sins.
After Jesus Christ arose from the dead, and during forty days before He ascended to the right hand of the Father, He appeared to His disciples and gave them His commandments for the great work now to be carried on in His Name. These instructions were given at various appearances, and we have them reported to us at the close of each Gospel. Jesus appears to have repeated the instructions not always in the same words, and we require to compare the Great Commission in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, so as to have the full account. It is found the evangelists do not contradict, but complement and throw light upon, each other. In Matthew the Apostles are instructed to "make disciples" and to baptize these disciples into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is expressed in Mark thus: "Preach the Gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." Thus baptism as a condition of salvation, or as Matthew, to the same effect, reports, baptism into the Divine Name, comes before us in the Great Commission itself.
The ordinance has given rise to much controversy, owing to the fact that in Christendom there has come to be much diversity of thought and practice in relation to this ordinance. Baptists get their name from the fact that they hold that the word means to immerse; and many others not called Baptists yet practice immersion. But most of the great religious communities sprinkle water on the candidate and call it baptism. There are differences also regarding the proper subject of baptism, and also regarding its purpose.
One good result of all this discussion is that a unanimity prevails as to what are the points which need discussion.
Some few have thought that the baptism referred to in some places, such as Romans 6, where Christians are said to have been " buried with Christ by baptism," is baptism in the Holy Spirit and not baptism in water at all. This conclusion seems plainly wrong. Water is distinctly mentioned in Acts 8, where the eunuch is recorded as being baptized in water, and in Acts 10, where Peter, sanctioning the reception of the first Gentiles, asks, "Can any man forbid the water that these should not be baptized?" Paul in Ephesians 4 says there is one baptism; we therefore conclude that this "one baptism" is that baptism in water which we see practiced in the Acts of Apostles. Moreover, Jesus commanded the Apostles to baptize the believers or converts. This, as baptism in water, they were familiar with through John's baptism and their own practice under Christ's direction (John 4:1-2); they would understand Jesus, therefore, to refer to baptism in water; and they could baptize the converts in water, while only Jesus Himself could baptize them in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is generally agreed that this one baptism is in or with water; it is further agreed that three points need to be decided: (1) The Action of Baptism; (2) The Subject of Baptism; and (3) The Design of Baptism.
I. THE ACTION OF BAPTISM.
Jesus, as we have read, commanded His Apostles to make disciples and to baptize them. By the action of baptism we simply mean, the act which was to be done to these disciples. The usual thing, when we do not know the meaning of an English word is to turn it up in an English dictionary. The "Standard" defines as follows: "Baptism: The act of baptizing; a sacrament, ordinance or rite commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:19), in which water is made use of, to initiate the recipient into the Christian Church, or to symbolize purification or spiritual burial and resurrection with Christ, or to signify or seal union with Christ as Savior and Lord, or to acknowledge consecration to Christ." This is followed by a note to intimate that there is disagreement about the act as to whether it means immersion, effusion (pouring), or sprinkling. This is really all that could be done; for as different people use it to denote different acts, what could an English dictionary do, but reflect this want of agreement?
Now at this point we do well to remember that the thing that is really important is the meaning of the Greek word Jesus employed(a). If we can ascertain that, then we know what act our Lord commanded. The two principal Greek words involved are the noun, baptisma, and the verb, baptize. If the reader has the means of doing so, he should turn these up in a Greek Lexicon and he will find that immersion is the act meant, the verb meaning, to dip.
With this meaning, dipping or immersion, all the circumstances mentioned in connection with the ordinance in the Greek Scriptures. We may dwell on this a little, as some who do not feel confident enough to go to Greek Lexicons may easily satisfy themselves that baptism was immersion by looking at the Scriptures where baptism is mentioned.
Take first Romans 6:3: "We were buried therefore with Him through baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. "Here, then, baptism is spoken of as suggesting a burial and resurrection. No doubt there is more meant here than what outwardly meets the eye. Whether we think of baptism as sprinkling or immersion, we are all agreed in thinking there is an unseen reality. But the Apostle saw in what took place outwardly, a picture of the unseen change. It was as if the baptized was dead and in baptism was being buried with Jesus and was then raised out of the grave with a new life. Now, in sprinkling, does anything meet the eye which suggests this burial of the old man and resurrection to a new life? The answer must be, No! On the other hand, when a person is immersed one sees the body disappear in the water and then reappear -- the scene is suggestive in the highest degree of burial and resurrection.
The reader will do well to look through all the places where baptisms are recorded, and he will find many circumstances which fit in with immersion but not with sprinkling. Thus, in Matthew 3, we are told of John baptizing in the river Jordan - the people resorting to him there from all parts. In John 3:23, We are even told that the reason why the Baptist baptized in Aenon near to Salem was that "there was much water there." Now, in our day those who practice immersion find it necessary to have a large baptistry or go to a river or stream; but to sprinkle, so doing is not necessary and so is never done. This fact intimates that John immersed.
Again, we are told that Jesus when He was baptized came up out of the water; and, in Acts 8, that the eunuch went down into and came up out of the water. Now it is most improbable that people went into the water to sprinkle; but to immerse this going into and subsequent coming out of the water would be necessary. We once read a quaint incident which occurred at a Union meeting in America, where many were yielding to Christ. Among them an elderly negress desired to be baptized. The preacher asked in what manner, for it being a united mission, the converts were either sprinkled or immersed as they desired. To several inquiries the candidate avoided choosing, but always said, " I want to be baptized as Jesus was." At last one of the preachers, somewhat testily and in true American style said, "I guess we'll need to go to the river." No doubt, if the baptism Christ submitted to was immersion, the baptism He commanded was immersion.
In Mark 10:38-39, our Lord refers to His sufferings under the figure of a baptism. He describes those sufferings in the words, "The baptism that I am baptized with." No one can think that if baptism was sprinkling, our Lord would have likened His approaching sufferings to it. But if baptism was immersion how apposite it was to speak of his sufferings as a baptism! To do so was sure to give a vivid idea of the greatness and, as it were, the overwhelming force of the sufferings of Gethsemane and Calvary. Our conclusion, therefore, is that the New Testament is everywhere strikingly in harmony with the idea of immersion as the action of Baptism.
II. THE SUBJECT OF BAPTISM.
This relates to the person qualified to be baptized. Is it scriptural to baptize an infant; or must the subject be one who has heard and believed the Gospel? Many baptize infants who cannot hear the Gospel, and who have no wish, will, intention or hope in connection with it; others baptize only those who have heard and believed the Gospel, and who come to baptism desiring to yield to Christ as Lord, and are conscious of aspirations and intentions to live a new life. What saith the Scriptures on this point?
The reader cannot do better than examine such a Scripture as Romans 6. Here you have an Apostle writing to Christians referring to their baptism. It will be seen that he assumes that all of them came to baptism with a clear conception of what they were doing; with a serious moral and spiritual intention.
In this chapter Paul is answering an objection to his previous teaching. This objection he first states as follows: "What shall we say then; shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" In answer, he appeals to a past experience he and his readers could alike look back upon: "We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" Note well what is implied, namely, that all of them could remember a time when they were active in sin, and also a change which he describes as having "died to sin." I need not say that he is not speaking of the death of the body, or natural death; but he is figuratively describing the literal fact, which was that their mind had been changed, they had ceased to live in and practice sin. This he describes as dying to sin. He carries the thought out by referring to their baptism as a burial. We do not bury the living. It was only when dead to sin that they were buried in baptism. "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life."
The Apostle not only appeals to the memory of his readers as to their death to sin, and their burial through baptism, but also to the expectation they had when baptized. The whole experience here depicted is impossible in the case of any, such as infants, who are incapable of being conscious of sin -- of change of mind -- of definitely ending or putting off an old, and commencing or putting on a new, life. If now we turn to other places where baptism is mentioned, do we find this view of conscious moral and spiritual convictions and intentions on the part of those baptized confirmed? We do. The baptism of John was administered to those who confessed their sins and who could understand John instructing them to believe in the Coming One. The baptism commanded by Jesus was evidently for those who believed the Gospel: "Go ye unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16). By this "Great Commission" Baptism is for believers of the Gospel, and so infants and unbelievers are excluded.
Pass on to the Acts of the Apostles, and this view of the Commission is confirmed. In the second chapter it is they who are pricked to the heart and who receive the Apostle's word that are baptized. And so all through. The case of the Corinthians is typical. Of them we read: "many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized."
Reference has been made in support of infant baptism to some households who were baptized. Dr. Beet, the great Wesleyan commentator, who therefore would naturally welcome proof that infants were baptized in apostolic days, in commenting on 1 Corinthians 1, writes: "That Paul is said to have baptized the three households of Lydia, and the jailer (Acts 16:34-35) and Stephanas, has been appealed to in proof that he baptized infants; on the ground that these three families probably contained infants; and that when Paul baptized the households he must have baptized the infants. But that these three persons, one a woman in business of whose husband nothing is said, had infant children, is far from certain, and a very unsafe basis for argument." After further remarks he sums up, "Consequently, these passages render no aid to determine whether the Apostles baptized infants."
We conclude that the New Testament is fairly represented by Romans 6, not only on the Action but also on the Subject of Baptism, in exhibiting that the Action is immersion or a burial and resurrection, and the Subject a penitent believer.
III. THE DESIGN OF BAPTISM.
It is well to remember that there are several baptisms mentioned in the New Testament, because we are only concerned here with what Paul speaks of as "one baptism." We have already shown that the "one baptism" is an immersion in water, and not in the Holy Spirit. We may now add that, although John's baptism was in water, it was not the ''one baptism." The Apostle Paul, in Acts 19:1-7, explained that John's baptism was obsolete, and certain disciples who had known only of John's baptism were re-baptized. The one baptism now in force is the baptism commanded by Christ in His instructions to the Apostles, and might be distinguished as "Christian Baptism."
We have, in Chapter XII, dwelt on the fact that none of these "conditions of salvation" required in those who are the recipients of the grace of God in Christ Jesus are arbitrary, and we have seen that faith is absolutely necessary to bring the Gospel into operation in the heart of man, which is one reason, among others, for its being required. "Repentance," or a change of will, is obviously required in the nature of the case; as to pardon and receive into His fellowship sinners who persist in sin would be to encourage sin and not to save from its power. Of confession with the mouth, which is also "unto salvation," it is obvious that a man's faith can only be known by him voicing it in clear words, and so confession is clearly involved in the primary condition -- Faith.
Coming now to baptism, we might on general principles have inferred that there is a use for it, that it would not be arbitrarily required; but we are surprised to find that there is remarkable expression given in the Word of God to the end to which baptism introduces the penitent believer. This "end" is "remission of sins" or "salvation." This is so prominent that in the chief creeds of Christendom this end or design is attributed to baptism. This is done even when baptism is administered by sprinkling, which we have seen is not baptism at all, and when the subject is an infant, for whom baptism was not intended. But if it be noted that the scriptural act is immersion, and that the subject is a penitent believer, it seems to us that the Scriptures support the usual view, as expressed in the creeds and formulas, namely, that baptism is for or unto the remission of sins. Dr. Beet says, commenting on 1 Corinthians 6:11: "Only thus, in ordinary cases, could men obtain salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38)" The Baptists, right in the Action and Subject, are the only noted religious community who object regarding the baptism of a penitent believer as a condition of remission. The reason of their attitude seems to be a fear of attaching too much importance to an outward rite, and also an idea that if you make it a condition of salvation you make baptism a meritorious act, and encroach upon the doctrine of "salvation by grace."
What the Scriptures teach is of infinitely more importance than what we think about that teaching, so we first give examples of the Scriptures that speak of the relation between baptism and salvation or remission. We note the following: "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven "(John 3:15); "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16); "And Peter said, Repent ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38); "Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ " (1 Peter 3:21).
In Acts 2:38, where repentance and baptism are enjoined "unto the remission of sins," the Greek word, rendered "for" in the Common Version but "unto" in the Revised Version, is eis. This word is usually rendered "into". No doubt unto suits our English speech better in some conditions, but the meaning is the same as "into". We mention this because this little word is used in several places as indicating whereinto baptism introduces the penitent believer ending in him being therein. We quote the more important: "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into (eis) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28); "And when they heard this, they were baptized into (eis) the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5); "Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into (eis) Christ Jesus, were baptized into (eis) His death" (Romans. 6:3); "For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into (eis) Christ did put on Christ."
If to any one who remembers that Christ said that His blood "was shed for many unto (eis) the remission of sins," it seems strange that the baptism of a penitent believer is also "unto remission of sins," the above passages suggest the right view, and show that they all increase rather than diminish emphasis upon the all-sufficiency of the blood of the New Covenant. If baptism inducts the believer or disciple into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; into the name of Christ (the only saving name, Acts 4:12); into Christ Jesus and into the death of Christ, and into sonship, it is a simple matter of necessary inference that baptism is into the remission of sins, for, of course, there can be no remission out of the divine Name, out of Christ Jesus, and out of His death for our sins. So that if Acts 2:38 were expunged, these passages just quoted would place the same emphasis on baptism as the appointed ordinance to introduce the penitent believer into the privileges and blessings which are in Christ Jesus our Lord. All the merit is, of course, His alone; and salvation is ours (not as an equivalent for our faith, repentance, confession, and baptism), but as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The fact is that it is the all-sufficiency of Christ's work which gives all the importance they possess to the steps by which the sinner enters into union with Christ. One who believes that faith is the only condition of accepting Christ, while he insists on the necessity of faith, does not for a moment intend to divide the merit of saving men between the Son of God and the sinner. So with us who with the Scriptures say that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are conditions of salvation, of remission of sins, steps into Christ Jesus. All these conditions look to Christ as the all-sufficient Savior, and baptism obviously so, for it is an acknowledgment of Him as Lord, a putting of Him on (Galatians 3:27), a clothing of ourselves in Him. "As many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." Looked at in this, the Apostle's way, there is a fuller acknowledgment of the all-sufficiency of Christ's redeeming work in receiving Him, in being united to Him, by faith, repentance, confession and baptism than by faith alone.
(a) - Here Mr. Oliver implies that Yahushua (he erroneously calls Him Jesus) used the Greek language in His discourses. This is not correct. That the Apostles and other writers of the Greek Scriptures used Greek in some of their writing is obvious, but they conversed with each other in Ibriy (Hebrew). There is also some evidence that several of the books in the Greek scriptures were written in Ibriy and later translated into the Greek manuscripts that we have today.