Sunday, April 3, 2016

Baptizo (βαπτιζω)

How many books are God-breathed? One—the Bible, or, 66—the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. The Bible is supernatural in origin, originating from God Himself. Its authors were inspired by God, guided by the Holy Spirit, which means it is alone sufficient and the only authoritative book for every area of life. It also means that it is without error. If any book is going to be the final authority on matters pertaining to doctrine and faith, it is the Bible and the Bible alone.

Take a look at any dictionary for the English language. How often do words change definitions, add definitions, or remove definitions? We have examples of words that used to mean one thing but now mean the complete opposite thing. Plus, new words are added regularly, whether borrowed from other languages and given meanings, or ridiculous words completely made up and given meanings (like twerk, which refers to shaking one's derriere, and fap, which refers to masturbation [Seriously, what idiot came up with those terms?!?]). Either way, how authoritative is a dictionary? Not very. You have to define the meaning of your words according to the time of their usage. Applying meanings of certain words today to words we find in the King James Bible results in complete disaster. In a matter of 200 years, the meaning of unicorn went from being that of a single-horned rhinoceros to being that of a mythical horse with a horn on its forehead.

If you look in most Bible dictionaries, they define baptizo (βαπτιζω) more or less as "to baptize, to dip; by immersion, submersion, and emergence." Some specifically define it as "to immerse." The problem? Most of these Bible dictionaries, if not all of them, were written in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, and were done so with a pre-supposition toward immersion. If we look these words up in the Bible and let their context and usage define themselves, immersion cannot be supported! A simple examination of the circumstantial evidence surrounding the various cases of baptism in Scripture also does not support immersion! So how can a word that supposedly means "to immerse" be consistently surrounded by logistical difficulties that prove immersion impossible to have transpired in such cases?
The various Bible study tools available to us today can help us in our understanding of Scripture, but they must never take the place of Scripture as the only authoritative book. All other books are works of man and prone to error, regardless of how well their scholarship may be. Do you not think the biblical authors knew their words better than we do? So if the context of the word they used does not fit the definition we have given that word, then there is something wrong with our definition. Often, preachers who argue for immersion will recommend this book and that book regarding the meaning of baptizo, but will never turn to the Scriptures to determine the meaning. Why is that I wonder? Are they afraid of what they will find? Sadly, most Christians are afraid to really study God's Word for fear of having their beliefs confronted and challenged.

The words baptizo (βαπτιζω), baptisma (βαπτισμα), baptismos (βαπτισμος), and baptistes (βαπτιστης) all originate from the word bapto (βαπτω). The definition "to dip" I could agree with. "To dip" is a far cry drastically different from "to immerse." Your immersionists refer to ceremonial washings in an attempt to try and prove immersion, saying that "the washing of hands was done by immersing them in collected water." In one sense, you could say that your hands have been immersed in water. However, the correct thing to say would be that you dipped your hands in the water. "To dip," however, is partial immersion. John 13:26 speaks of Jesus dipping the morsel of food and then giving it to Judas. He did not immerse the morsel, He dipped it. Much the same as you and I would dip a potato chip in chip dip. Nobody immerses the entire chip—at least not on purpose.

In John 2, we see jugs that are for the purpose of ceremonial washing. Do you honestly think they would have dipped (or, for argument's sake, "immersed") their hands into those jugs? How clean would the water be for the next time they had to ceremonially wash themselves? How simple a task do you think it was to constantly have to fill those jars with water? Most likely they tried to make it last as long as possible. Washing their hands in the jar would contaminate the water by containing germs. While they may not have known about germs scientifically speaking, they knew about washing hands under running water (Lev. 15:13). The most likely practice was that they would scoop water out of these jars and pour it over their hands. When Jesus washed the disciple's feet, it is doubtful that he dipped (or "immersed") their feet in the water. Most likely he held their feet over the basin and poured water over their feet and then dried their feet off. You can look at many cultures around the world and easily see the method of scooping water and pouring it over one's hands. In some countries, this is precisely how they have to bathe. They sit on a stool, scoop water out of a container, and pour it on themselves.

Pouring and sprinkling are certainly more effective methods for baptizing someone, and easily fit the various cases of baptism found in Scripture. They also fit with the simplicity of the service, whereas immersion does not—and stories involving immersion can get more and more complex. Do you honestly think Jesus would implement a ceremony where individuals living in places where water is scarce would have to travel dozens or hundreds of miles just to be immersed? Or people living in colder climates would have to cut holes in the ice just to be immersed? With John's baptism, it is easy to picture him using a hyssop branch to baptize thousands of people a day. But with the Ethiopian eunuch's baptism and the Philippian jailer's baptism, what are the odds that hyssop branches were readily present? It is easier to picture them having water poured on them, symbolizing the pouring out of the Spirit upon us. The amount of water really has nothing to do with the imagery. It just needs to be applied to the person.

Immersion in no way symbolizes the truth of what baptism represents. Baptists claim that baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. That is not true. Baptism represents the gift and work of the Holy Spirit. The Baptist's false representation comes from a flawed and eisegetical interpretation of Romans 6:3-4. In Acts 10, while Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles. After they had received the Holy Spirit, what did Peter ask? "Can any man refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?" (v. 47). What gave Peter the idea for Cornelius and his household to be baptized? The pouring out of the Spirit. Without corrupting the meaning of the passage, you could say this: When Peter saw that the Holy Spirit was poured out on these Gentiles, then he saw that water baptism should be poured out on them.

Finally, nowhere in Scripture do you see the mention of or the need of use for dry clothes. People coming to John, do you think they walked around with spare clothes just in case such an event should happen? Do you think they wandered around afterward with soaking wet clothes on? Maybe they changed in the public change rooms that were available to them. After having been told by Jesus earlier not to take anything with them when they evangelized, can you see the apostles walking around later on and baptizing people while getting their own clothes soaking wet? Can you see Philip traveling 20 miles soaking wet? Immersion requires great preparation. We see none of that in Scripture. No preparation of the location, no preparation of the amount of water required, no preparation of dry clothes.

Come on, Christians! We really need to pay better attention to the details contained in Scripture. Remember, it does not matter what traditions we hold to, it does not matter what system of theology we follow, it does not matter what denomination we belong to, we must compare all teachings with the Scriptures and hold the Scriptures as the only authority. Where any of those do not agree with Scripture, we need to reject them and conform our beliefs to the Word of God. Any true student of the Word, a Berean at heart, understands this and will subject these, and all systems of theology, to the scrutiny of the Word of God. How we were raised, what we were taught, and what we presently believe must conform to Scripture. Otherwise we are blind, ignorant, disobedient, rebellious fools.