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Baptism in

History
Baptism Review...
Last week we discussed how Jesus
commanded baptism for His followers; in the
Book of Acts alone there are 10 accounts of
active obedience to this ordinance; and yet,
there is still controversy in the religious
world concerning whether or not it has any
real significance in the Lord’s gospel plan of
salvation!
Baptism...

This week, we will continue our study on the


significance of baptism by looking at more
Scriptures concerning baptism. Additionally,
we will look at the place baptism held in the
early history of the church by examining
writings from some of the church fathers on
this subject.
Baptism: A Necessity for Salvation?
What comes to your mind when the subject of
baptism arises? Do you believe it is a
necessary component of the Gospel plan of
salvation?
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear
that baptism is absolutely essential for
salvation. The necessity of baptism was one
of the most important and clear-cut doctrines
of ancient Christianity.
Baptism in the Book of Romans
One overriding truth as it relates to these
verses is that baptism always takes place
after belief. Therefore, an infant would not
be a candidate for baptism as they have no
faith and they have no sin. And, if the
meaning of baptism could be boiled down to
one word, that word would be identification.
Baptism speaks primarily of a personal,
public identification with Jesus Christ.
Baptism in the Book of Romans
In Romans 6:3-4, the Apostle Paul put it this
way: “Or don’t you know that all of us who
were baptized into Christ were baptized into
His death? We were therefore buried with
Him through baptism into death in order
that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, we too may
live a new life.”
Baptism in the Book of Romans

Notice the strength of the


expressions: “baptized into Christ”
and “baptized into His death” and
“buried with Him in baptism.”
Baptism then, means at least 3
things in this passage:
Baptism in the Book of Romans

•It’s a turning from the old life of sin to a


new life in Jesus Christ.
•It’s a time of public identification with the
death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
•It’s a total commitment to join the ranks
of those who believe in Christ.
Baptism in the Book of Romans

When you are baptized, you are in fact


visually preaching the Gospel. As you
stand in the water waiting to be
baptized, you symbolize Jesus dying on
the cross.
Baptism in the Book of Romans

As you are lowered into the


water, you’re providing a visual
demonstration that Jesus was
buried in the tomb.
Baptism in the Book of Romans

As you shoot out of the water,


you’re picturing Jesus rising
triumphantly from the dead, just as
He had promised.
Your Own Personal Sermon
And since you personally are being baptized,
you are also saying, “I died with Jesus
Christ, I was buried with Him and now I am
raised with Christ to a brand-new life, and
it’s my intent to live my life under His
leadership and for His glory from this point
on.” In short, in your baptism you are
preaching a sermon without using any words
at all.
Your Own Personal Sermon

How important is your baptism? It is


your personal identification with the
greatest act of human history--the
death, burial and resurrection of Jesus
Christ.
Back to the Controversy...

Now, in spite of what we have seen


from the numerous passages from
the Book of Acts and the examples
of conversion, many still will deny
baptism a place in the Gospel plan
of salvation.
Back to the Controversy...
They will cite Ephesians 2:8-9 as
“proof” that baptism has nothing to do
with salvation: “For it is by grace you
have been saved, through faith-and
this not from yourselves, it is the gift
of God-not by works, so that no one
can boast.”
Back to the Controversy...
And they ignore other passages that
contradict their doctrine, such as this:
“For in hope were we saved: but hope
that is seen is not hope: for who hopes
for that which he sees?” (Romans 8:24)
Paul says hope saves us, too.
Back to the Controversy...
Or this:
“... because if you shall confess with your
mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in
your heart that God raised Him from the
dead, you shall be saved: for with the heart
man believes unto righteousness; and with
the mouth confession is made unto
salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10) Paul says
here our confession saves us.
Back to the Controversy...
Or this:
“...not by works done in righteousness,
which we did ourselves, but according to
His mercy He saved us, through the
washing of regeneration and renewing of
the Holy Spirit, Which He poured out
upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our
Savior….” (Titus 3:5-6)
Back to the Controversy...
Did you catch that? Paul said we were saved
by God’s mercy through the “washing of
regeneration” (baptism) and “renewing of
the Holy Spirit.” If you still do not think
that baptism is the point that one becomes
saved through the grace of God, we have this
from Peter:
Back to the Controversy...

“...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 3:32)
Being One with Christ

Your guilt before God is removed the


moment you are baptized into Christ. It is
your personal testimony to, and the inward
assurance of, your passage from the old
life to the new life. In essence, your
baptism is a funeral!
Being One with Christ
It’s an act of faith in which we testify,
both to God and to the watching world,
that the person we used to be is dead and
buried, and that we’ve been raised to
new life as 2 Corinthians 5:17 states:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is
a new creation; the old has gone, the
new has come!”
Being One with Christ

When we go under the water, we


are stating publicly in a very
visible way that our desire is to be
completely committed, totally
devoted and undeniably identified
with Christ.
Mode of Baptism
Throughout Christian history three primary
modes of baptism have been followed:
sprinkling, pouring and immersion. The
Greek work translated “baptize” is the verb
baptizo. According to contemporary
lexicons, the primary meaning is “to dip,
plunge, or immerse.”
Mode of Baptism
The secondary meaning is to “bring under
the influence.” Interestingly, while there
were Greek words for sprinkling or
pouring that were available to the authors
of Scripture, they consistently chose the
word baptizo, or immersion, to describe the
mode of baptism.
Mode of Baptism
A brief survey of the how of baptism in
the New Testament reveals the
following interesting facts:
Baptism requires water. John the
Baptist said, “I will baptize you with
water….” (Matthew 3:11)
Mode of Baptism
Baptism requires plenty of water.
After the Ethiopian ruler came to faith
in Christ, he stopped his chariot, and
said, “Look, here is water. Why
shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36)
Mode of Baptism

Baptism requires going down into the


water. After the chariot stopped, the
Bible says that Philip and the man
“...went down into the water and Philip
baptized him.” (Acts 8:38)
Mode of Baptism
Baptism requires coming up out of the
water. This man went down into the
water, and then came back up out of
the water (Acts 8:39). Jesus did the
same when He was baptized (Matthew
3:16).
Mode of Baptism
Clearly, immersion is in view here.
In addition, the figures of speech used
by the Apostle Paul are consistent
with immersion. Baptism is called a
“burial” in Romans 6:4 and
Colossians 2:12.
Mode of Baptism
“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. ... having been
buried with Him in baptism, wherein you
were also raised with Him through faith in
the working of God, who raised Him from
the dead.” (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12)
Mode of Baptism

Baptism is “into His death” and


involves being “raised to walk in
newness of life.” It is impossible to
see how sprinkling or pouring could
convey these meanings.
Mode of Baptism

Finally, the testimony of church history is


that immersion was indeed the mode of
baptism practiced in the early church. So,
what does all this mean? As we have seen
from the Scriptures in the New Testament,
water baptism was always by immersion.
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers

To a man, the ancient Christian bishops and


apologists believed that baptism was essential
for salvation. What follows is a small
sampling of the many statements they made
on the importance of this sacred
commandment of God.
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Tertullian, Christian apologist (155-230)

“...without baptism, salvation is attainable


by none….” (Roberts and Donaldson
3:674)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (201?-258)

“...baptism [is]...the saving access to the


hope of life eternal, and the divine
condescension for purifying and
quickening the servants of God.”
(Roberts and Donaldson 5:382)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Novatus, bishop of Thamugada (210-260)
“Although we know that all the Scriptures
give witness concerning the saving
baptism, still we ought to declare our
faith, that heretics and schismatics who
come to the church, and appear to have
been falsely baptized, ought to be
baptized in the everlasting fountain.”
(Roberts and Donaldson 5:566)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Sedatus, bishop of Tuburbo (210-260)

“Wherefore we must endeavour with all


peaceful powers, that no one infected and
stained with heretical error refuse to receive
the single and true baptism of the Church,
by which whosoever is not baptized, shall
become an alien from the kingdom of
Heaven.” (Roberts and Donaldson 5:567-
568)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Felix, 210-265, bishop of Gurgites

“I judge that, according to the precepts


of the holy Scriptures, he who is
unlawfully baptized by heretics outside
the Church, when he wishes to take
refuge in the Church, should obtain the
grace of baptism where it is lawfully
given.” (Roberts and Donaldson 5:571)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (late 4th
century)

“Nay, he that, out of contempt, will


not be baptized, shall be condemned
as an unbeliever, and shall be
reproached as ungrateful and
foolish.” (Roberts and Donaldson
7:457)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Justin Martyr, Christian apologist (100-165)
“By reason, therefore, of this laver [baptismal
font] of repentance and knowledge of God,
which has been ordained on account of the
transgression of God's people, as Isaiah cries,
we have believed and testify that that very
baptism which he announced is alone able to
purify those who have repented; and this is the
water of life.” (Roberts and Donaldson 1:201)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Iranaeus, bishop of Lugdunum (130-202)

“And again, giving to the disciples the


power of regeneration into God, He
[Christ] said to them, ‘Go and teach all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost’(Matthew 28:19).” (Roberts and
Donaldson 1:444)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Hippolytus of Rome (165?-235)

“Come into liberty from slavery, into a


kingdom from tyranny, into
incorruption from corruption. And
how, saith one, shall we come? By
water and the Holy Ghost.” (Roberts
and Donaldson 5:237)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)

Johannes Quasten has said the following


about Didymus the Blind:
“Didymus, surnamed ‘the Blind,’ stands out
among the heads of the catechetical school of
Alexandria in the fourth century. Born about
the year 313, he had lost his sight at the age
of four. . . .
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)

Johannes Quasten has said the following


about Didymus the Blind:
“The high esteem that he won during his
lifetime sprang partly from spontaneous
admiration for a man who, despite the
tremendous handicap of lifelong blindness,
amassed an amazing treasure of erudition....
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)

Johannes Quasten has said the following


about Didymus the Blind:
“He was a veritable prodigy of
encyclopaedic knowledge…. Athanasius did
not hesitate to place him in the highly
responsible position of the head of the
catechetical school of Alexandria….
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)

Johannes Quasten has said the following about


Didymus the Blind:
“His best known pupils are St. Jerome and
Rufinus. The first mentions Didymus
repeatedly as his magister, praises his learning,
and testifies to his influence on the divines of
his time in the West as well as in the East. The
second calls him a ‘prophet’ and ‘apostolic
man.’ ” (3:85-86)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)

Didymus affirmed that baptism was essential for


salvation. Here are a few of the things he said on
the subject:
“The Holy Spirit as God renovates us in baptism,
and in union with the Father and the Son, brings
us back from a state of deformity to our pristine
beauty….
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)
Didymus affirmed that baptism was essential for
salvation. Here are a few of the things he said on
the subject:
“He...makes us spiritual men, sharers in the
divine glory, sons and heirs of God and of the
Father. He conforms us to the image of the Son
of God, makes us co-heirs and his brothers, we
who are to be glorified and to reign with Him.”
(Quasten 3:98)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)

Quasten reiterates the fact that Didymus


believed in the necessity of baptism for
salvation:
“Speaking of the effects of baptism, he
[Didymus] mentions both the negative and
the positive aspect…. Baptism is
absolutely essential for salvation.
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)
Quasten reiterates the fact that Didymus
believed in the necessity of baptism for
salvation:
“Not even the perfection of a faultless life can
make up for it: ‘No one not regenerated by the
Holy Spirit of God and marked with the seal
of His sanctification [baptism] has attained
heavenly gifts….’
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Didymus the Blind (313-398)
Quasten reiterates the fact that Didymus
believed in the necessity of baptism for
salvation:
“He sums up the effects of baptism on the
soul as follows: ‘Thus, renovated in baptism,
we enjoy the familiarity of God, in so far as
the powers of our nature permit….’ ” (3:98)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Clement of Alexandria (148?-213?)

“For thus He [Christ] wishes us to be


converted and to become as children
acknowledging Him Who is truly our
Father, regenerated by water.” (Quasten
2:27)
“Being baptized, we are illuminated.”
(Quasten 2:28)
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers:
Clement of Alexandria (148?-213?)

Quasten notes that “Clement


uses...the terms seal, illumination,
bath, perfection and mystery for
baptism.” (2:28)
Baptism and Other Early Church Fathers:
Athanasius of Alexandria (293?-373)

In his highly respected work entitled


Early Christian Doctrines, J. N. D.
Kelly summarizes the views of other
church fathers on the importance of
baptism:
Baptism and Other Early Church Fathers:
Athanasius of Alexandria (293?-373)

“Through baptism, according to Athanasius,


man is united with the Godhead; it is the
sacrament of regeneration by which the
divine image [in man] is renewed. The
participant becomes an heir of eternal life,
and the Father's adoptive son.
Baptism and Other Early Church Fathers:
Athanasius of Alexandria (293?-373)

“For Gregory of Nyssa similarly the


baptized person receives God and is in
Him; united with Christ by spiritual rebirth,
he becomes God's son by adoption and puts
on the divine nature.
Baptism and Other Early Church Fathers:
Athanasius of Alexandria (293?-373)

“Chrysostom speaks of the Christian's having


Christ in himself as a result of baptism and so
being assimilated to him; stepping out of the
sacred bath, the catechumen [religious
convert] is clothed with light and, fully
regenerated, enjoys the possession of justice
and holiness.
Baptism and Other Early Church Fathers:
Athanasius of Alexandria (293?-373)
“Cyril of Alexandria states that perfect
knowledge of Christ and complete
participation in him are only obtained by the
grace of baptism and the illumination of the
Holy Spirit…. According to Theodore,
baptism is our second birth, as a result of
which we belong to Christ and are associated
with the privileges of His glorious life, being
His body and His members.” (431-432)
Baptism and Other Early Church Fathers

Jeffrey Burton Russell is certainly


correct when he observes that among the
early Christians "it was universally
believed that...we obtain the benefits of
Christ's sacrifice by baptism." (100)
Back to the Controversy...
Most Protestants reject the necessity of
baptism because it contradicts and is,
therefore, incompatible with their belief in
salvation through grace by faith alone.
However, the fact remains that the Savior's
ancient church taught that one could not enter
the kingdom of God without being baptized.
Back to the Controversy...
In Harper's Bible Dictionary we read the
following:
“...baptism was in some sense to Christianity
what circumcision was to Judaism. John 3:3-
5, in fact, makes baptism--not circumcision--
the formal entrance rite into the covenant
unity.” (p. 92)
Additional Comments
In the highly revered ancient Christian text
entitled the Shepherd of Hermas, we read that the
angel told Hermas that baptism was essential, and
that it was through baptism that people were able
to enter into the kingdom of God. (Similitude IX,
93:1-5, in Jack N. Sparks, editor, The Apostolic
Fathers, pp. 245-246). It's interesting to note that
the translator, Graydon Snyder, identified 93:2-3
as rough paraphrases of John 3:5 (see page 245).
Final Comments
We have seen from the Scriptures and
from the early church history that baptism
has been taught as being essential in the
gospel plan of salvation. So do we choose
to follow God, or men?
“...but as for me and my house, we will
serve Jehovah.” (Joshua 24:15)
Whom will you choose to follow?