The Mode Of The One Baptism

[Editor’s Note: An earlier installment of this study appeared under the title, “Various Baptisms Exemplifying One Baptism.” Due to space limitations, the last part of that article was omitted. It may, however, very well serve as an introduction to this article. The omitted section was as follows: 

The New Testament records eleven cases of baptism, which may be found in Matthew 3Acts 2, 8, 9, 11, 16, 18, 19, and I Corinthians 1. It is remarkably significant that five of these cases were household (or family) baptisms. For the families of Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, Crispus and Stephanus were baptized. We may inject the thought here that if, as our Baptist brethren will be sure to argue, there were no infants in these families, why is it that Baptists do not practice family baptism? Continuing, among these eleven cases of baptism, three of them were purely individual baptisms, the reason being obvious when they are identified as Jesus’ baptism, Paul’s, and the Ethiopian eunuch’s.

What we hope to do, D.V., in the next installment in this series is to begin with the first case of baptism in the New Testament, that of our Lord, indicating how to avoid error in connection with it, and proving that it was not at all by immersion, but rather in perfect harmony with the Old Covenant’s “various baptisms.”] 

The Flood was, for the family of Noah, a baptism; so for the congregation of Israel the passage through the Red Sea, and the clouds pouring out water on the Lord’s inheritance in the wilderness was a baptism. Early pictures were these baptisms, continued in the frequent prophecies of the outpouring of the Spirit. The subject as treated in the Reformed standards has both mode and meaning clearly determined. Mode is there expressed by such terms as poured andsprinkled, implying the also accompanying terms expressing meaning, as purging, cleansing and having been washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ. The actual cases of baptism in the New Testament, about eleven in number, so far from being in conflict with all this, will rather be therewith in confident and unshakable agreement. 

The Lord’s baptism is the first case on record in the New Testament. It is commonly assumed that He was immersed. If the two previous articles are kept in mind, such an idea would be viewed as actually impossible. The Old Testament does not countenance it. Yet a superficial reading of Matthew’s account might lead one to presuppose immersion, as also a failure to exegete the passage would. Also one might stick at a minor inaccuracy in our Confession to suppose this. The last statement is not made in any supercilious sitting in judgment of the Reformed fathers and their highly esteemed creedal expressions. This should be plain from the article entitled, “Various Baptisms,” relative to certain expressions in the Three Forms of Unity and our liturgies. But when the Confession says, “the Son was seen in the water” (Art. IX), it would be more accurate to say that he was “seen by the water.” This is especially true when one understands the proper use of prepositions in the Greek New Testament. The same article in the Confession also states that “our Lord was baptized inJordan.” This has the backing of Mark 1:9. But it does not necessarily follow from His being baptized in a certain river area that He “was seen in the water.” That He was actually seen in the water is neither a report of an eye-witness, nor a claim of Scripture, explicitly or implicity. No one is ever going to prove that He was in the water, let alone seen in the water. John says he saw the Spirit descending upon Him. From that alone, and so from the manner in which He was baptized with the Holy Ghost, it might be legitimately concluded that also the water of baptism was seen descending upon Him. For there is always something perfectly visible in every case of baptism, and that is, “water . . . is seen on the body of the baptized” (Art. XXXIV). Matthew in his account says, not that, upon being baptized, He went up out of the water (KJV), but went up from the water (Greek). 

One of two interesting words in Matthew’s account is the word apo, from (v. 16). According to this, Jesus was not at all in the water, but by the water. Nor is it anywhere stated in Scripture that He was baptized in water, but with water. The difference between these two prepositions must not only be maintained, but also appreciated. The Greek preposition en has reference to place or it has reference to means. When it refers to place, as it does in Matt. 3:6, it is properly translated in. When the idea is that of means or instrument, then it is properly translated with. The KJV is correct in having “with water” and “with the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 3:11). The ASV is correct at this point only in its margin. Mark states, “John did baptizein the wilderness,” “baptized in the river Jordan,” denoting place. The KJ translators properly understood Mark’s meaning when they translated the same preposition, “with water” and “with the Holy Ghost.” These venerable translators show understanding of en as it appears twice in the same place: “in their synagogue . . . a man withan unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23). In the synagogue he was, but in the unclean spirit he was not; it was in him! Also we find, “with what judgment ye judge, and with what measure ye mete” (Matt. 7:2). Furthermore, en is quite correctly rendered by, as in “neither by heaven, nor by the earth, neither by thy head” (Matt. 5:34-36). So it would be perfectly accurate to have, “the Son was seen by the water.” 

The other interesting word in Matthew 3 is katabainon, descending. As Jesus was baptized with the Holy spirit, the Spirit came descending upon Him, agreeing with the promise, “I will pour out My Spirit.” The Lord’s baptism with water is perfectly congruent to His baptism with the Spirit. John 1:31-33(KJV) stands in proof of this. Also this perfectly agrees with Matthew writing, according to the KJV, that He went up out of the water, and with Mark that He was coming up out of the water. For while Matthew uses “apo”, from the water, Mark has “ek,” which should also be translated from (the water). Much appeal has been made to two other Greek prepositions, ek and eis, to support, practically exclusively, the ideas out of and into, respectively, in order to teach that the baptized went down into the water and came up out of the water, and that in the very act of baptism. But when you examine the usage of eis and ek in Scripture, you find something quite different from this claim. In John 20, Mary Magdalene comes “unto(eis) the tomb” to find the stone removed “from(ek) the tomb.” Here it is plain that Mary went tothe tomb, not into it, and that the stone was takenfrom the tomb, not out of it. Then Peter and John “went toward (eis) the tomb” and John “came firstto (eis) the tomb . . . yet entered not in.” Peter arriving, “entered into the tomb . . . Then enteredin . . . the other disciple” vv. 1-8). Here is demonstrated the distinction between “going to” and “going into.” By itself, eis means to, expressing motion toward, as in John 20:1, 3, 4. To express motion into, the preposition is both prefixed to the verb and added after the verb, as in v. 6, eiselthen eis. (See Acts 9:6, 8, 17Matt. 18:3John 3:5;Mark 2:1Matt. 5:20). So then Mark 1:10, 11 ought to be translated, “coming up, from (ek) the water” and “a voice came from (ek) the heavens,” as in John 20:1, “from (ek) the sepulchre.” 

The next case of baptism in the New Testament is that of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost. Whereas, in the case of Jesus, His baptism with water (the symbol) took place before His baptism with the Spirit (the reality), it is just the reverse with the three thousand souls at Pentecost, They first experienced the real baptism, then received symbolical baptism. That they “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4) means not that they were somehow put into the Spirit, but the Spirit was put into them (Ezek. 36:27). The Spirit came upon them appearing like cloven tongues of fire, and “sat upon each of them.” So the church was “baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:5). Then Peter commanded them to be baptized with water, and that baptism also took place (2:38, 41). How it was performed, there is no question. That mode cannot, one way or the other, be determined from these New Testament cases of baptism, is a contention which cannot be maintained in the face of Acts 1:5, 8Acts 2:3, 4, 17, 18, 33, 38f. Peter explains the supernatural baptism with the Spirit in the words, “saith God, ‘I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh,’ and, ‘I will pour out in those days of My Spirit.'” God through Christ “hath shed forth” (poured out; same word as in vv. 17 and 18) the Spirit. When Peter exhorted, “Repent and be baptized” and “they were baptized” (41), it could not have been done any otherwise than as graphically delineated in this whole context and in every place where is found the promise of the outpoured Spirit. 

The next case is the baptism of the people of Samaria (Acts 8:12-16). It is remarkable, to say the least, that here where you have baptism water is not mentioned, yet mode is indicated (Acts 8:16)! What follows is the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. Especially verses 38 and 39 are sure to be emphasized, calling attention to “down into the water . . . and . . . up out of the water.” The question is who experienced this action? Also, which is first, in the account, the action of going down, or the action of coming up? In answer, we point out that Philip, as commanded, joined the eunuch as he was traveling by chariot in the desert. Running beside the vehicle, he heard the man reading aloud the prophecy of Isaiah. Keeping up with the lumbering chariot, Philip greeted the man with the sudden, “Doubtless so! Yet understandest thou what thou readest?” (Gk.). Then the man desired Philip that he wouldcome up and sit with him.” Then Philip instructed him in the Scripture he had been reading, Isaiah 53. Likely it is that Philip also gave him some insights into the immediately preceding context, Isaiah 52:13-15. For since the man requested baptism, we would think naturally the baptism of Isaiah 52:15 would be in mind: “So shall He sprinkle many nations.” Philip complying with the request, the man “commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip.” Here three things occurred: (1) they went down both into the water,both Philip and the eunuch; (2) he baptized him, and (3) they came up out of the water. To be carefully noted is the fact that the going down into the water and the coming up out of the water did not constitute the baptism. The baptism took place between the going down and the coming up. Since the going down and the coming up are said of both of them, the words cannot imply immersion, as Philip obviously would not immerse himself along with the eunuch. That both went down, both Philip and the eunuch, has them now stepping down out of the chariot where casual water immediately confronts them.

For “into (to, eis) the water,” compare Matt. 12:41, “they repented at (eis) the preaching of Jonah,”Mark 5:19, “Go home to (eis) thy friends,” John 11:31, 32, 38, “she goeth unto (eis) the grave. . . she fell downat (eis) his feet . . . Jesus . . . cometh to (eis) the grave.” Also see again John 20:1, 3, 4, 8. For “up out of(ek) the water;” compare John 13:4, “He riseth from (ek) supper” and “Mary. . .seeth the stone taken away from (ek) the sepulchre” (John 20:1). The stone, not being in the sepulchre, needed not to be removed out of it, simply from it. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, stood at the water, where the baptism was then performed; then came up from the water. Sound exegesis sees neither of them in the water.