3159 21st Street N.
St. Petersburg, FL
Elder Steve Shelton
Baptism - In Water
TO DIVINE COMMANDS IS NOT
A WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
"There is... one baptism." (Eph. 4:4, 5)
"Know ye not, that so
many of us as were baptized into
with reference to) Jesus Christ
were baptized into (with
reference to) his death?" (Rom.
6:3.) "Our fathers.., were
reference to) Moses in the cloud and in the sea."
(I Cor. 10:1, 2.)
Use of scriptural terms in an unscriptural sense is a favorite
trick of modernists that has been adopted by some so-called
interdenominationalists who pride themselves on their supposed orthodoxy
or fundamentalism. So it has become fashionable in certain circles to
speak of a "spiritual baptism" of which the Bible tells us
Satan has never introduced
among God's people a heresy so ridiculous but that he has been able to
find men willing to prostitute some degree of scholarship in its defense.
So it has been with the practice of baby baptism, pouring, and sprinkling
as substitutes for believer's baptism. There have been a few scholars of
limited ability or honesty, or both, who have tried to justify these
unscriptural practices by perverted interpretations of scripture.
But among competent scholars the scriptural meaning of"baptize"
and "baptism" is no longer a matter of debate. Everyone knows
that the ordinary literal meaning of baptize in the New Testament is to
dip, plunge, or immerse in water--and whatever figurative meaning the word
may occasionally have must be derived from and based upon this literal
Martin Luther, John Calvin, and
John Wesley, whatever their doctrinal errors, were at least, unlike some
of their followers, scholarly enough to admit that scriptural baptism was
immersion, and that sprinkling in its place was an innovation for the sake
of convenience rather than obedience.
An elementary principle of
honest translation and interpretation is that the literal or ordinary
meaning of a word is always to be preferred if it makes good sense in the
eontext; figurative or unusual meanings are to be adopted only when
demanded by context.
Undoubtedly in Matt. 20:22, Mk.
10:38, and Lu. 12:50 Jesus was speaking of a figurative baptism or
immersion in the sufferings of the cross. So the baptism in fire mentioned
in Matt. 3:11 and Lu. 3:16 is evidently not a dipping in water. Some
interpreters think the reference is to the "fiery trial" of I
Pet. 4:12; others refer the language to the lost in the lake of fire (Rev.
20:15), in which case the baptism is quite literal, except that it is in
fire instead of water.
The Holy Spirit
The Bible also speaks of a baptism in (NOT "with") the Holy
Spirit. Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lu. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5, ll:16--these
six times and nowhere else do we read that Jesus was to baptize in the
Holy Spirit. This baptism in the Holy Spirit took place on the day of
Pentecost, symbolizing the dedication and accreditation of the church as
an institution, even as baptism in water symbolizes the dedication and
accreditation of the individual believer.
Just as an individual believer
is scripturally baptized in water only once, so the church as an
institution was baptized in the Holy Spirit only once, that is, on the day
of Pentecost. The additional manifestation in the house of Cornelius was
simply to convince Peter and other Jewish church members that Gentile
believers rightfully belonged in the same church.
in all the New Testament is a single individual said to be baptized in the
Holy Spirit. This was a baptism of the church as such, not of single
believers as such. Let us not confuse fillings with the Spirit or gifts of
the Spirit with baptism in the Spirit.
If we are members of a
scriptural church, in scriptural succession from that first (Baptist)
church in Jerusalem, then our church was baptized in the Holy Spirit at
Pentecost, once for all. If we have not such a church, no fake
"Pentecost" will change the fact.
preposition is a weak peg to hang a doctrine on, but the phrase
"baptized into Jesus Christ" in the King James version of Rom.
6:3 has long been a favorite with baptismal regenerationists. They are
conveniently or willfully ignorant of the fact that identical translation
of the same Greek preposition eis in I Cor. 10:2 makes "our
fathers.., all baptized into Moses."
Of course, nobody is ever
dipped into Christ, any more than anybody was ever dipped into Moses. The
Greek preposition in both these passages should be rendered "with
reference to" or"because of," either of which translations
will give good sense, while "into" gives nonsense.
reader wants to know what I think of the so-called "expanded
translation" by Kenneth S. Wuest of Rom. 6:3 and Eph. 4:5. I quote:
"Do you not know that all we who were placed
in Christ Jesus, in his death were placed?" (Rom. 6:3.)
"One Lord, one Faith, one placing into
[the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit]." (Eph. 4:5, brackets
I answer: that is not translation, expanded
or otherwise: that is mere wild Wuestern whimsy.
The Greek word transliterated baptize does
not mean to place or place into in any such free and easy sense. It means
to dip, plunge, or immerse in water--unless the context obviously demands
No reputable Greek scholar ever dreamed of
such "translation'' in former years, but now, driven to desperate
expedients to promote the "invisible church" fantasy,
modernistic Bible dictionaries and commentaries of pseudoscholarship are
chirping a chorus of "spiritual baptism"--a thing as invisible
and nonexistent in the Bible as the invisible church itself.
Up To Moses"
Amusingly consistent only in its inconsistency is the same Wuestern
"translation" of I Cor. 10:2:
"And all had themselves immersed,
surrounded by the cloud [on both sides], thus shut up to Moses [as their
leader]." (Brackets are part of quotation.)
"Shut up to Moses," indeed! At
least, thank God, we are not shut up to Wuest. If that is translation, a
dozen generations of formerly respected English translators missed their
According to the Bible (Eph. 4:5), there is only one (literal) baptism,
and that is the baptism in water instituted by John the Baptist by divine
commission, received by the Lord Jesus, and by Him committed to His church
to be observed as an ordinance for disciples (believers) only, as a first
act of obedience, to be followed by the observance of all His
When men speak of a fictitious "spiritual
baptism" not mentioned in the Bible, and belittle the one baptism (in
water) that is taught in the Bible, we can be sure that their strange
doctrine is not the work of the Holy Spirit.
to Query: The Article, "One Baptism--In W.ater," published in
the Ashland Avenue Baptist, has drawn criticism from a number of
readers--some friendly and some hostile. Answering such criticism, Bro.
Brong submits the following review with some additional facts from the
Let us simply recognize that nouns and verbs, in
the very nature of language, are more nearly dependable in meaning than
are prepositions. Specifically, we MUST take the Greek preposition eis in
different senses in different contexts; we NEED NOT take the noun or verb
for baptism or baptize in any other than the literal or nearly literal
sense of dip, plunge, immerse, submerge, or overwhelm--and ALWAYS in water
unless the context DEMANDS otherwise. This assumption makes possible
harmonious interpretation of the scriptural doctrine of baptism without
But if we insist on "into" as the
unvarying English translation of eis, even though Webster's Third New
International Dictionary gives 11 main definitions of"into,"
we shall have all sorts of trouble. Did the men of Nineveh repent
"into" the preaching of Jonah? Did Jesus speak of giving someone
a drink "into" the name of a disciple? (Matt. 12:41, 10:42.) Did
Peter tell repenters at Pentecost to be baptized "into"
remission of sins? (Acts 2:38.)
This last reference involves the use of eis in
connection with baptism certainly parallel with Matt. 28:19, Rom. 6:3,
Gal. 3:27, etc. Even more pertinent is I Cor. 10:2, where we read that the
Israelites were baptized eis Moses. The construction here is exactly
parallel with baptism eis Christ and eis the name of the Lord Jesus. There
is no more reason to imagine a "spiritual baptism"
"into" Christ than a "spiritual baptism"
No doubt there is a real
spiritual and scriptural experience FIGURED or SYMBOLIZED in scriptural
(water) baptism, but we ought not to confuse the figure with the thing
figured. From such confusion the Campbellites teach baptismal regeneration
and ultra-dispensationalists teach that"water baptism" was a
"temporary rite" no longer to be practiced.
Romans 6:5 seems to me simple enough: "For
if we have become planted with (Him) in the LIKENESS of his death, yet
also we shall be (in the likeness) of his resurrection." The baptism
which figures the burial of Jesus in His death, and His resurrection, also
figures our own spiritual death and resurrection as well as the death and
resurrection of our bodies. With all this wealth of meaning in Christ's ordinance
of baptism, it is no wonder that Satan tries to destroy it!
If we have here only a "spiritual"
baptism, a "spiritual" likeness, a "spiritual"
death--have we also only a "spiritual" resurrection? Some would
say so, but the Bible teaches otherwise. See I Cor. 15:12-19, 29.