By Bro. Peter Dimond
Most Protestants today do not believe that baptism regenerates. This includes Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, most Evangelicals, and many others. They do not believe that baptism removes sin from the soul and places man in a state of justification. Their position is that water baptism should be performed, but that it’s just a sign of initiation, a sign of a conversion or a spiritual rebirth that has already happened.
The Catholic position is that baptism is necessary for salvation. The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is necessary for every man because baptism is the cause of spiritual rebirth. Baptism regenerates.
So what does the Bible teach on the matter?
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT BAPTISM IS FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS
Acts 2:37-38- “But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
That’s quite clear. The Bible says that baptism is for the remission of sins. It takes away sins.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT BAPTISM WASHES AWAY SINS
Acts 22:12-16- “And one Ananias… Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And [he said]… arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
This clearly indicates that St. Paul’s sins would be washed away in baptism.
JESUS TEACHES THAT ALL MEN MUST BE BAPTIZED TO HAVE THE FAITH AND BE SAVED
Matthew 28:18-20- “And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”
In the very last INSTRUCTION THAT JESUS CHRIST GIVES THE APOSTLES BEFORE LEAVING THIS WORLD – He gives His Apostles two commands: to teach all nations and to baptize. This should tell everyone something about the importance and the necessity of baptism. Baptism is bound up, by Jesus Himself, with the very command to teach all nations the Christian faith. That’s because no one can be saved without it, as we see in St. Mark’s Gospel.
Mark 16:15-16- “And he (Jesus) said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Jesus says that those who believe and are baptized will be saved, which indicates that the unbaptized will not be saved. But some ask: why didn’t Jesus say, “he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned,” after saying he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved? The answer is that those who don’t believe are not going to get baptized, so it’s not necessary to mention baptism again.
ROMANS AND EPHESIANS TEACH THAT ONE COMES OUT OF SIN THROUGH BAPTISM
In Romans 5 and 6, St. Paul explains that Christ reconciles some men to God, removes their Original Sin, and makes them members of the family of God. He explains that this happens by baptism.
Romans 6:3-4- “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death…”
The reference to being “buried into death” by baptism refers to the spiritual rebirth which baptism gives. It puts to death the old man who lived in original sin, and gives birth to a new life in Christ.
In the Book of Ephesians, the Bible teaches that the souls of the Church are cleansed in water baptism.
Ephesians 5:25-26- “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life.”
The Church is sanctified and cleansed by the laver (or washing) of water in the word of life. What’s this washing of water? It obviously refers to water baptism. The “word of life” refers to the words which were given by Jesus for the baptismal form (Matthew 28:19). Even John Calvin, the famous Protestant who denied baptismal regeneration, admitted that this passage (Ephesians 5:26) refers to water baptism.
1 CORINTHIANS 12 TEACHES THAT BAPTISM MAKES ONE A MEMBER OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
1 Corinthians12:13- “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free…”
The Bible says that one comes into the Body of Christ and receives the Holy Spirit through baptism.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT ALL TRUE BELIEVES HAVE RECEIVED THE ONE BAPTISM
Ephesians 4:4-6- “Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in the hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all…”
In Ephesians 4, St. Paul is describing the unity in the Church of Jesus Christ. Consider the list that he gives: One Lord, One Faith, One God, One Father. Prominently placed with “Lord” and “Faith” and “God” and “Father” is baptism. This is because it is through this baptism that a man becomes united to God and to the unity of the Church. To believe that people in the Church do not have this one baptism is equivalent to believing that they don’t have the one Lord and the one Faith. That’s how necessary baptism is.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT FAITH IS RECEIVED THROUGH BAPTISM
In Galatians 3, we see the link between receiving the faith and receiving baptism. We see that one first receives faith through baptism.
In Galatians 3:23, St. Paul says: “But before the faith came…”
In verse 24, he says: “that we may be justified by faith…”
In verse 25, he says: “But after the faith is come…”
In verse 26, he says: “For you are all the children of God by faith, in Christ Jesus.”
St. Paul explains exactly what he means by “faith in Christ Jesus” in the very next verse (verse 27).
Galatians 3:27- “For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
This very interesting chapter of Scripture should give a message to everyone. It’s clearly teaching what the Catholic Church has held for 2000 years: that it is by means of the Sacrament of Baptism that one receives faith. That’s why baptism has been, since apostolic times, called “the Sacrament of faith.” Without baptism, one does not have the faith and cannot be saved.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT WATER BAPTISM SAVES
Titus 3:5- “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
The Bible says that men are saved by the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” This refers to the spiritual regeneration given in the baptismal waters. The outward pouring of water effects the interior cleansing and renewal of the Holy Spirit. This sacramental action justifies the soul, and applies the merit of the Blood of Jesus Christ while the baptism is occurring.
Protestants have tried to explain this passage away. They argue that the “washing” doesn’t refer to the water of baptism, but to the cleansing of the Spirit without baptism. This is refuted by comparing this passage to 1 Peter 3:20-21. They both teach that baptism “saves.” 1 Peter 3:20-21 is clearly referring to water baptism, not just a spiritual washing. This demonstrates that Titus 3:5 is also referring to regeneration through the water of baptism.
1 Peter 3:20-21- “… when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also…”
1 Peter 3:20-21 is one of the strongest passages in the Bible on the necessity of baptism. Notice the force of St. Peter’s assertion here. Baptism now saves you. He is talking about water baptism (the Sacrament), of course, because he draws an analogy between the baptismal waters and the Flood waters. Peter compares receiving the Sacrament of (Water) Baptism to being on the ark of Noe. Just as no one escaped physical death outside the ark of Noe during the time of the Flood (only eight souls survived the Flood by being firmly planted on the ark), likewise no one avoids spiritual death or is saved from original sin without baptism! Baptism saves you. How clear does it have to be that the Bible teaches that water baptism is necessary for salvation?
THE CROSSING OF THE RED SEA WAS A TYPE OF WATER BAPTISM
This brings me to another point. That is typology. As mentioned in the section on the Virgin Mary, a biblical type is a real event or a real person or a real thing in the Old Testament which foreshadows and points forward to something in the New Testament. There are types of water baptism. One type of water baptism and its necessity is found in the crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and the Israelites.
Just as no one escaped physical death at the hands of the Egyptians without crossing through the waters of the Red Sea, no one escapes eternal death without receiving the baptismal waters. St. Paul makes the connection in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2:
1 Corinthians 10:1-2- “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea…”
OTHER OLD TESTAMENT TYPES OF WATER BAPTISM
In the very beginning God created heaven and earth; and the first thing mentioned in the Bible is the waters. Look at the very first two verses in the first book of the Bible.
Genesis 1:1-2- “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
This tells us that water has been of major – and even unique – significance to God’s creation from the very beginning. It has been integral to His plan. He has used it to cleanse, to generate new life. It makes perfect sense, therefore, that the element He would choose, in bringing the new life of Jesus Christ to souls by dispensing the merit of His passion and the cleansing of the Holy Spirit, is that primordial element over which His Spirit moved at the beginning of creation.
Another clear type of, or reference to, the sanctifying effects of water baptism is found in Ezechiel 36.
Ezechiel 36:24-26- “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”
This clearly refers to the cleansing power of water baptism, which will transmit the new life of Jesus Christ, and will be dispensed to God’s people gathered from all over the Earth. The reference to “clean water” in Ezechiel 36 proves that it’s referring to justification in the New Testament; for the very same language is found in Hebrews 10:22, to describe the interior change effectuated by justification in Christ. In Hebrews10:22, that change is described as a heart being sprinkled from an evil conscience. Ezechiel 36 specifically indicates that this cleanness of heart is effectuated by the sprinkling with clean water (in baptism).
Some people object at this point. They bring up the Good Thief on the Cross as an example against the necessity of baptism. But this example fails. First, the law of baptism, which Jesus made binding on every man, became an obligation after Jesus’ Resurrection, when Jesus gave the command to preach the Gospel and to baptize all nations in Matthew 28:20. The Good Thief died under the Old Law, before the Law of Baptism became binding on everyone. Second, the Good Thief did not go to Heaven on the day that Jesus was crucified. We know this because no one went to Heaven until after Jesus did. Jesus had the primacy in all things, as St. Paul says in Colossians 1:18.
Jesus didn’t ascend into Heaven until after His Resurrection, as John 20:17 proves. So the Good Thief is not an example against the necessity of baptism for salvation. That’s why the Apostles’ Creed, which Catholics recite, correctly states that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into Hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead and then ascended into Heaven. He didn’t ascend to Heaven until after His Resurrection, and He descended into Hell on the day of His death. What was this Hell? It was Abraham’s bosom, the waiting place of the just of the Old Testament. That’s where the Good Thief went with Jesus on the day of His Crucifixion; Jesus called it paradise because He would be there.
JESUS SUBMITTED TO BAPTISM TO SHOW ALL MEN THAT IT’S NECESSARY TO BE BAPTIZED
Baptism is so necessary that even Jesus submitted Himself to it. He was baptized by St. John the Baptist to show that every single man – and Jesus was both true God and true man – must be baptized for salvation. It should be pointed out that in Catholic theology, the baptism given by John the Baptist was not the same as the baptism which Jesus instituted: the true Sacrament of Baptism. It did not have the same force or power.
The baptism instituted by Jesus takes away original and actual sins, as well as all punishment due to sin; the baptism of John was a baptism which stirred people to repentance and was a prefigurement of the baptism which Jesus instituted. That’s why those who had only received the baptism of John were baptized again (Acts 19:4-5). But Jesus’ reception of baptism at the hands of John is considered to be the transition between John’s prefigured baptism and the real baptism of Christ. The baptism of Jesus sanctified the waters so that they could be efficacious in taking away sin, even though the baptism which Jesus would institute would not become binding on all until after the Resurrection.
Luke 3:21-22- “… it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”
The descent of the Holy Ghost signifies the regenerative powers of baptism. The opening of Heaven signifies that Heaven is open to a man once he has properly received baptism. It makes him an adopted son of God, instead of an excluded child of Adam.
BLOOD AND WATER CAME FROM JESUS’ SIDE BECAUSE HIS BLOOD IS POURED OUT IN THE WATER OF BAPTISM
The Bible makes a clear connection between the Blood of Jesus and the water of baptism. In John 19, we see that blood and water came forth from Jesus’ side after His death on the Cross. This real event had a symbolic significance as well.
John 19:34- “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”
This signified that His Blood (and the merit of His passion) would be poured out with water in baptism. That’s why we also read in 1 John 5 that there is a connection between the spirit, the water and the blood.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT THE BLOOD OF JESUS, THE SPIRITUAL RENEWAL, AND THE WATER OF BAPTISM COME AS ONE
1 John 5:8- “And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one.”
This refers to the three witnesses in justification: the new life or spirit brought by justification, the water of baptism, and the blood of Jesus. These three must be present for a person to be justified. The first and the third come together – are poured out – in the water of baptism. That’s why Jesus speaks of being born again of water and the spirit (John 3:5). He could have also truly spoken of being born again of water, blood and the spirit.
JESUS SAYS NO ONE ENTERS HEAVEN WITHOUT REBIRTH OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT
John 3:3-5- “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Deeply consider that when Jesus teaches this profound truth, He prefaces His statement by saying: “verily, verily” or “truly truly” or “amen, amen,” depending upon the translation you are reading.
This double-affirmation is an act of oath-taking. In a Jewish court of law, no one could be put to death without the testimony of two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). Both of them had to raise their right hand and say: Amen. Therefore, this solemn language indicates that what Jesus has to say here is extremely serious. Jesus is affirming in a solemn oath that no one enters Heaven without being born again of water and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus then specifically asks Him how that happens; how is one is born again? Jesus answers, in John 3:5, by declaring that unless a man is born OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT HE CANNOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD. So, being born again means being born of water and the Holy Ghost. This clearly refers to water baptism.
It’s true that non-Catholics have tried to explain away the clear meaning of these words, but to no avail. Many of them say that the water refers to natural birth, and the Spirit refers to the born again process by accepting the faith. That’s impossible because the passage is about the rebirth. Jesus says that the rebirth is of water and the Spirit. Moreover, the phrase “of water and the Spirit” in Greek (ek hudatos kai pneumatos) is a single linguistical unit, as Greek scholars point out. It describes being “born of water and the Spirit,” not “born of water” on the one hand, and “born of the Spirit” on the other.
In addition, the extended context of the passage confirms that it’s referring to water baptism. In the very next chapter, we read that Jesus’ Apostles went out and baptized. Look at John 4:1. So, after the Bible presents the absolute necessity of water baptism, it mentions that the Apostles practiced what Jesus preached.
It’s crucial for people to understand that John 3:5 refers to water baptism; for millions have a false and unbiblical concept of what it means to be born again. They think it means coming to a true commitment that Jesus is the Savior. That is incorrect, and was not believed in the ancient Church. It is certainly necessary for a person above the age of reason to accept Jesus Christ, to believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation, and to accept all of His teachings. But the Bible clearly teaches that being born again refers to the spiritual regeneration which water baptism gives. The overwhelming evidence which we’ve considered from other passages in the New Testament also proves it.
The Sacrament of Baptism removes all original and actual sins for those who properly receive it. It should be noted, however, that receiving that sacrament is not a guarantee of salvation. One can lose the grace of baptism through mortal sins and by denying the true faith of Jesus Christ.
THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH ALL TAUGHT BAPTISMAL REGENERATION AND THAT BAPTISM IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION
From the very beginning of the Christian Church, the fathers of the Church unanimously believed in the necessity of water baptism and baptismal regeneration. They based that belief on the teaching of the New Testament, John 3:5 and Apostolic Tradition. Here are just four passages. One could quote dozens of others.
In the Letter of Barnabas, dated as early as 70 A.D., we read:
“… we descend into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our heart…” (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1:34.)
In the Shepherd of Hermas, dated 140 A.D., Hermas quotes Jesus in John 3:5 and writes:
“They had need to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God.” (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1:92.)
In 155 A.D., in First Apology, 61, St. Justin the Martyr writes:
“… they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn… in the name of God… they receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ The reason for doing this we have learned from the apostles.” (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1:126.)
St. Aphraates, the oldest of the Syrian fathers, writes in his Treatises, 336 A.D.:
“For from baptism we receive the Spirit of Christ… For the Spirit is absent from all those who are born of the flesh, until they come to the water of re-birth.” (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 681.)
THE PROOF FOR INFANT BAPTISM
Many Protestants do not believe that infants should be baptized. They think baptism should only be given to those who have reached the age of reason and have chosen to receive it. They consider the baptisms of infants to be invalid and unscriptural. This position is false for many reasons.
It should be pointed out, first of all, that most Protestants agree with Catholics on this point. Most of them practice infant baptism. Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and others practice infant baptism. This is obviously not to suggest that because these groups practice infant baptism that proves the truth of the practice; but merely to note that Protestants who reject infant baptism are in the minority, even among Protestants.
Second, the Bible teaches that whole households were baptized:
1 Cor. 1:16- “And I [Paul] baptized also the household of Stephanas…”
Acts 16:15- “And when she [Lydia] was baptized, and her household…”
Acts 16:33- “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.”
Entire households were baptized. Think about these verses. The Bible refers to a woman and “her household.” It refers to a man and his “household.” Why didn’t the passage just say a woman and “her husband”? Why didn’t it say a man and “his wife”? Households generally include children. Scripture connects the two:
Gen. 18:19- “… he will command his children and his household after him…”
Gen. 36:6- “And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house.”
Since households generally include children – and the Bible repeatedly mentions that whole households were baptized – these passages by themselves make the case against infant baptism extremely unlikely. In fact, if a Protestant who rejects infant baptism believes in Scripture alone, he would have to find an explicit teaching in the Bible that infants should not be baptized. But there is nothing like that.
Third, Jesus clearly taught that every man must be baptized to be saved. We saw this in John 3:5. He does not make any distinctions or exceptions. This is very significant because in John 6:53 – a passage on the necessity to eat Jesus’ flesh, which uses language that is similar to John 3:5 – we do see a distinction. In John 6:53, Jesus says:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
But in John 3:5, he says:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
In John 6:53 (John 6:54 in Catholic versions), Jesus says unless YOU eat the flesh of the Son of man. But in John 3:5, the statement is universally applicable: unless A MAN is born again of water and the Spirit.
The wording is slightly different because receiving the Eucharist is necessary for all who hear the command and can fulfill it, such as those above the age of reason. Jesus said unless you, to those to whom He was speaking and to others who hear the command. But the necessity to receive water baptism is universal. Hence, Jesus says unless a man is born again of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Every man necessarily includes infants. It logically follows from the teaching of Jesus in John 3:5 that infants should be baptized.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT BAPTISM IS THE NEW CIRCUMCISION –
INFANTS WERE CIRCUMCISED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Moving to the next point, which is extremely important, we must consider circumcision. Circumcision was the Old Testament counterpart to Baptism. Circumcision was the way that males in the Old Testament entered a covenant relationship with God. If you were not circumcised, you were not in God’s covenant. It was a type of baptism.
Like other types, not every aspect of circumcision corresponded to what baptism would be. For instance, only males could be circumcised in the Old Testament, but males and females are baptized in the New. But there is no doubt that circumcision was the Old Testament counterpart to baptism. Colossians 2 teaches that baptism is the New Testament circumcision.
Colossians 2:11-12- “In [Jesus] also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith…”
This passage identifies baptism as the new and greater circumcision. It also says that one rises to new supernatural life in Christ by baptism. Infants were circumcised in the Old Testament. If baptism is the new circumcision, it follows that infants are to be baptized in the New. If not, then God would have been more generous, more universal, more inclusive in the inferior Old Covenant than He is in the New. But this is not the case.
The salvation which is made available in Jesus is open to all peoples: to Jews and Gentiles. It’s unthinkable that Jesus would not establish a means to incorporate children into His spiritual Kingdom and to give them His blessings and salvation.
In fact, notice what Peter says in his famous sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2:
Acts 2:38-39- “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. For the promise is unto you, and to your children…”
This passage is speaking of baptism, and the blessings and forgiveness given through it. It says that the promise is also for the children. They receive the forgiveness through water baptism.
Matthew 19:13-15- “Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.”
THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH BELIEVED IN INFANT BAPTISM
The fathers of the Christian Church also believed in infant baptism, having received this tradition from Jesus and the Apostles. Here are just three passages; others could be quoted.
Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 8:3, 244-248 A.D.- “In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous.”
Pope St. Innocent, 414 A.D.- “But that which Your Fraternity asserts the Pelagians preach, that even without the grace of Baptism infants are able to be endowed with the rewards of eternal life, is quite idiotic.” (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3: 2016.)
St. Augustine, Letter to Jerome, 415 A.D.- “Anyone who would say that even infants who pass from this life without participation in the Sacrament [of Baptism] shall be made alive in Christ truly goes counter to the preaching of the Apostle and condemns the whole Church,where there is great haste in baptizing infants because it is believed without doubt that there is no other way at all in which they can be made alive in Christ.” (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3:1439)
BAPTISM DOESN’T HAVE TO BE BY IMMERSION
Some non-Catholics believe baptism must be done by immersion. This is not taught in the Bible. Consider the fact that on Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, when thousands were baptized, there wasn’t a sufficient water supply to baptize them all by immersion. Baptism by effusion (pouring) or sprinkling must have been used.
In addition, baptism by immersion would be very difficult or impossible in extremely cold environments such as the Arctic, and in extremely hot environments such as deserts. In other situations – such as an apostolate to prisoners (e.g., Acts 16) – where freedom of movement is limited, baptizing by immersion wouldn’t be practicable. Jesus never would have made it so difficult or impossible to administer baptism in these situations when He was the one who declared that every man must have it.
Some people also say that the word baptism in Greek exclusively means immersion. This is not true. The word is used to signify immersion, but it is also used to signify washings which are not immersions. Examples where baptism means washing, but not immersion, are found in Luke 11:38 and Hebrews 9:10. Baptism is valid if performed either by immersion, effusion (i.e., pouring) or sprinkling, but the water must be moving as it strikes the skin and the proper words (“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” or their equivalent) must be said.
Another point is that in baptism, the Holy Spirit is poured out. That means that even though baptism by immersion is certainly valid if done properly, one could say that baptism by effusion (i.e., pouring) more precisely signifies the action of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. There is also the fact that paintings in the catacombs, which were made by the earliest Christians, depict baptisms by pouring. This shows that these baptisms by pouring were considered acceptable from the beginning.
The Didache was written around A.D. 70. It’s a famous document from the early Church. It’s a strong witness to the beliefs and practices of the ancient Christians. In chapter 7, The Didache approves of baptism by immersion in a river, but also baptism by effusion or pouring.
The Didache, 70 A.D.- “And concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”
This was written while some of the Apostles might have been living or in the first generation after them. All of this shows that the Catholic Church’s teaching on baptism is the true teaching of the Bible. This is because the Catholic Church is the one true Church.
Section: Biblical Proof for Catholicism
Copyright 2008: Bro. Peter Dimond of Most Holy Family Monastery. All Rights Reserved.