Bible Basics: “Is Sprinkling Spiritual Baptism?”

By Earl Robertson

Often we are asked this question. Mere established practices often become the norm for many religious activities. But the fact of their existence is not sufficient authority to make them right before God. The history of sprinkling covers many centuries, but it does not go back to the apostles of Christ in the first century or to anything written in the Book of God. Mere assertion by some preacher does not make sprinkling for baptism scriptural baptism. Neither does sprinkling become baptism by just calling it that.

The Bible says baptism is a burial (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12). Is it correct to say what the Bible says? Is it right to call Bible Things by opposing words? The testimony of the so-called”Fathers,” the testimony of the historians, and the lexicographers, all attest to the fact that baptism is a burial and that this what the early church did. For convenience, sprinkling was substituted in the third century in the case of Novation, according to Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (p. 266). The Council of Revenna (1311) gave men the choice between sprinkling and immersion. No apostle of Christ ever gave such a choice, not did Christ Himself.

But someone says, “What about the `household baptisms’?” They mean by this that the jailer had little babies and they were sprinkled. There is no way to prove this man had even children must less infants. Even if we granted he did (which we do not), the proof for sprinkling is still lacking. What evidence can be offered to show this was a case of sprinkling?

Well, another says, “there wasn’t any water in the desert when the eunuch was baptized, so it had to be sprinkling with his own drinking water.” First, the word “desert” in Acts 8:26 does not mean dry or arid; it here means, “solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited” (Thayer, p. 249). The same word is, used (in dative case) in Isa. 43:19 of “rivers in the desert.” Because a place is deserted one cannot conclude it is also arid! But this nonsense is the length to which men will go to justify their religious practices.

Since neither Christ nor His apostles authorized sprinkling for baptism, and none practiced it for centuries, we conclude yet today that baptism is a burial (Rom. 6:3, 4).

Truth Magazine XXIII: 13, p. 217
March 29, 1979