A Letter To A Friend On Baptism
by Alex D. Ogden

Dear Bill,

I indicated while in North Carolina that I wanted to discuss with you by way of letters some of our differences on religious matters. For now let's center our discussion on the subject of Baptism and it's connection, if any, to salvation as well as the mode of baptism as taught in the New Testament. Notice I said as taught in the New Testament. If we can't find it in the word of God then it isn't TRUTH (see John 1:17; 14:6; 16:13; 17:17). I will try to keep my comments based on God's word and will ask that you do the same.

On whether baptism is connected with our salvation or not the Bible seems to be quite clear. In Mark 16:15,16 Jesus said, "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." Catholics teach--"He that believeth not and is baptized shall be saved." In other words, they teach we are saved by works only. Baptist teach--"He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved." In other words, they teach we are saved by faith only. But Jesus made it clear, believe AND be baptized to be saved.

On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 Peter commanded those in the crowd, "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." (v-38) Peter, by revelation, commanded them to repent AND be baptized FOR, or unto, the remission of sins. They apparently understood it was necessary to be baptized to be saved since 3,000 of them went out and were baptized that very day (v-41). There is no other way which we can understand this passage either.

I would also point to Acts 22 where Paul tells again the story of his conversion. He points out that Ananias told him, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." (v-16) Paul apparently believed it to be necessary for salvation for he "arose and was baptized." (9:18)

I will only take the time to look at one other passage on this point. 1 Pet.3:20,21 says, "that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: 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." It would be difficult for an honest person to miss the point--BAPTISM IS NECESSARY FOR OUR SALVATION!!

It should be clear how the Lord views baptism--as a command man must obey before He will grant salvation.

Now on the mode of baptism. The Bible nowhere shows the sprinkling or pouring of water upon a person for baptism. There is no teaching in all the Bible that water, unmixed with anything else, was ever poured or sprinkled upon the head, or any other part of the body, of any man, woman or child in any age of the world, as a religious ceremony! Never! The following passages are the only scriptures where sprinkling and pouring are found in all the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles:

Sprinkling Pouring
1. Heb.9:13 -- Blood 1. Matt.26:7,12 -- Ointment
2. Heb.9:19 -- Blood 2. John 2:15 -- Money
3. Heb.9:21 -- Blood 3. John 13:5 -- Water
4. Heb.10:22 -- Hearts 4. Luke 10:34 -- Oil and Wine
5. Heb.11:28 -- Blood 5. Acts 2:17,18 -- Spirit
6. Heb.12:24 -- Blood 6. Rev.16:1,17 -- Wrath
7. 1 Pet.1:2 -- Blood 7. Acts 10:45 -- Spirit
  8. Rev.14:10 -- Wrath

There can be no question about it. Sprinkling & pouring for baptism are just not found in the New Testament. If you believe they are, please show me. I would be most anxious to see.

The Greek words for baptism, as defined by every source I have access to, means "immersion".

Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, page 88--"baptism, consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence.."

The Analytical Greek Lexicon, page 65--"pr. immersion; baptism, ordinance of baptism.."

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page 94--"a word peculiar to N.T. and eccl writ., immersion, submersion;" used "3. of Christian baptism; this, according to the view of the apostles, is a rite of sacred immersion, commanded by Christ...."

The common rendering of the Greek word baptizo is immersion, NOT sprinkling or pouring.

We can see this to be true from various New Testament. passages. Note how baptisms were done in the New Testament:

1. With water Acts 10:47
2. Much water John 3:23
3. Going to the water Acts 8:36
4. Going down into the water Acts 8:38
5. Coming up out of the water Matt.3:16; Mk.1:10; Acts 8:39
6. The body is washed Heb.10:22
7. By a birth John 3:5
8. By a burial Rom.6:4
9. By a resurrection Rom.6:4; Col.2:12
10. By being planted Rom.6:5

An immersion is not necessarily implied in each and every one of these passages, but then such is not necessary. Number's 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 do clearly imply an immersion.

Now let's turn specifically to Romans 6:3-ff. I believe this passage, more clearly than any other, shows baptism to be by immersion. Paul says those who have been baptized into Christ have been "baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death.." He shows that when we are baptized we are "buried" with Him. In verse 6 he says that "our old man was crucified with him." We crucify, or put to death, the "old man", our former life of sin. According to you this old man is not buried but merely sprinkled with some dirt. But Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shows we bury the old man when we are baptized into His death. With this passage in our New Testaments how can you deny that baptism must be by a complete burial, or immersion?

I find it strange, Bill, how you deny baptism in the New Testament was by immersion while the founder of Presbyterianism, John Calvin, understood it to be by immersion. He is quoted as saying, "It is evident that the term 'baptize' means to immerse and that this was the form used by the primitive church." --Institutes, book 4, chapter 5, paragraph 19, page 701. I could also quote Martin Luther, Moshiem (Lutheran Historian), James "Cardinal" Gibbons and others. They all understood baptism to mean immersion. Why can't you see it, Bill?

I anxiously await your reply in answering these passages and arguments.

In a spirit of love,

Alex Ogden

(The above letter was the result of several conversations with my friend Bill Smith in North Carolina. We have known each other for several years now and have had several such discussions. He is a retired Presbyterian preacher. To date I have received no reply to the letter.)


This page is Copyright 1998 by Alex Ogden, All Rights Reserved.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 04, 1998.


Unable to open file