The Baptism thing

Here's this week's Bible study blog entry for i.ucc.org!

This week's Bible reading is from Matthew 3:13-17 - one of the Bible passages that describes the baptism of Jesus. It gets me thinking about the different methods and the arguments Christians have regarding baptism.

I'm familiar with the three main ways water is used in baptism.
  • Sprinkling – a little bit of water on the head.
  • Pouring – where a person’s head is held over a basin while water is poured over their head or where a person stands in or out of water and water is poured over their head.
  • Dunking – baptism by immersion.
Which one is the correct way? What does baptism really mean anyway?

I believe the most correct definition would be “to dip” or “to make fully wet” The word is a transliteration from the Greek.

Knowing that – wouldn’t baptism by immersion be the only way to fulfil the definition?

Many scholars would agree. They would cite the definition of baptism together with the words of Paul, who says, “ In baptism, we are "buried with Him...into death" -” Baptism is a "likeness of his death". Romans 6:3-5.
The immersion and subsequent emersion from the water is highly symbolic of death and resurrection.

It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Of course, there are a few scholars who have something different to day. They say that God’s original Old Testament promise to save the people was symbolized by God’s promise to purify them through sprinkling.

Ezekiel 36:24-25 "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols."

As far as pouring goes, those that support that mode say that sprinkling is insufficient. They say the water must flow over the candidate, and that the flowing of only one or two drops is insufficient.

Well, I believe that in reality, things are more flexible than that. In the Didache, an early church manual used buy early followers of Jesus; you can find this statement.

“In regard to Baptism - baptize thus: After the foregoing instructions baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water; and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
There was flexibility in the Early Church about the method of baptism. That flexibility continues today.

I believe that a person can be baptized with water and in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – or in the Name of our Creator, Our Savior and the Holy Spirit – both describing the three persons of God – by sprinkling, pouring or dunking. I don’t believe that God ever intended baptism to be the subject of a giant list of rules. I don’t believe that God is overly concerned with the method.

What are your thoughts?

No comments: