By Carol R. Lumpkin
Every time a person is baptized there is pictured the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into 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” (Rom. 6:3-4). Any change in this pictured event would be a perverted one. This very thing has occurred with the practice of sprinkling and pouring being substituted for a burial in baptism.
Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river by John. After He was baptized, He “went up straightway from the water” (Matt. 3:16). Both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, where the eunuch was buried in water. They both came up out of the water. “They both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38). The person being baptized went to the water; the water was not brought to him. There is no scriptural evidence of anyone being baptized into Christ, except by a burial in water.
The substitution of sprinkling for baptism was unknown until the second century. Then it was used only because sufficient water was not available. Sprinkling was accepted for baptism in unique cases about the middle of the third century. The Greek word for baptism means to bury, to plunge, to immerse. It never was translated to mean sprinkling or pouring. Sprinkling is the work of man and does not meet the requirements of scriptural baptism. Sprinkling must be rejected by all who have a love for the truth.
Leaders in most all religious groups who practice sprinkling agree that the early church practiced immersion. Martin Luther, whose influence founded the Lutheran church, practiced sprinkling. Luther said, “The name baptism is Greek; In Latin it can be rendered immersed. When we immerse anything in water, that it may be covered with water. And although that custom has now grown out of use-yet they ought to be entirely immersed, and immediately drawn out. For this the etymology of the word seems to demand.” John Calvin, a leader of the Reformation and the founder of the Presbyterian Church, practiced sprinkling. He said, “The word baptize signified to immerse; and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the primitive church.” John Wesley, early Methodist leader said, “We are buried with him alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion.
Does it seem rather strange that these men, and many others could as well be used, with one accord understood the true meaning of the word baptize; yet, they each taught and substituted sprinkling and pouring for immersion in baptism.
We also see from these quotes how leaders of religious movements were satisfied to teach and practice that which the Bible does not authorize. Paul said those who would do this were perverters of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:6-9). John declared that those who would go onward and abide not in the doctrine of Christ have neither the Father nor the Son (2 John 9). John wrote that those who would add unto, or take away from God’s word would not obtain eternal life (Rev. 22:18-19).
Truth Magazine XXII: 33, p. 530
August 24, 1978