By Larry Ray Hafley
From Mexico: “Would you please comment on the following argument? If baptism is pouring out’ when the Spirit is the element (Acts 2:4, 17), then, baptism is pouring out” when water is the element.”
This argument is fallacious because it rests upon the assumption that “pouring out” is baptism. It assumes what must be proven, i.e., that “pouring out” is baptism. Then, it “proves” that “pouring out” is baptism by that assumption.
The Meaning of Baptism
To baptize is to dip, to immerse, to plunge. Baptism is immersion. The element or substance into which an object is immersed is not inherent in the word “baptize.” One may be immersed, dipped, or baptized in water, fire, ink, or buttermilk. A figurative use of baptism is seen in such expressions as baptism of suffering, that is, overwhelmed, covered over with pain. A sports announcer once said that a quarterback was baptized in the opposing team’s defensive line.
Since baptism is immersion, any figurative use of that word should correspond with the original meaning of “baptize.” In Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:4, Paul used the term “buried.” It is a figurative expression which harmonizes with the literal meaning of the word “baptize.” “In Romans 6:3, 4 is to be found a simile. Now, Webster says a simile is a ‘figure of speech by which one thing, action, or relation is likened or explicitly compared, often with as or like, to something of different kind or quality.’ The `something of different kind or quality’ in Romans 6:3, 4 is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; the ‘action likened or explicitly compared’ is the sinner’s death to sin, his burial in baptism, and his resurrection to a new life, and incidently, the comparatives as and like are both used in the passage” (James R. Cope, Why Not To Baptize By Sprinkling, 60, 61). The figurative description of items emanating from the Holy Spirit, that is, being “poured out” from the Spirit, cannot refer to baptism since to “pour out” does not fit the real meaning of baptism. One employs a figurative use of a term based upon the genuine definition of the word. Thus, “burial” illustrates baptism, but “pouring out” does not. One does not determine the true meaning of a word by a figurative expression. Rather, the figures are used because of the definition. Figures of speech should not be used to define. That is what the argument our querist uses attempts to do.
A Quote From Franklin T. Puckett
“The `outpouring’ of the Holy Spirit is a favorite subject in many denominational pulpits. And the teaching that is heard on the subject is-well, the only word I can think of to describe it is the word preposterous. It is contended that the Holy Spirit himself, the third person of the Godhead was that which was `poured out.’ The idea that one could `pour out’ the divine person of the Godhead, just like one would pour water out of a pitcher, is beyond my ability to accept. And this certainly is not what Joel prophesied … (Joel 2:28-32).
“Peter gave a divine commentary on what Joel had said. The word `afterward,’ as Joel wrote it, means `in the last days’ as explained by Peter. Joel wrote, `I will pour out my Spirit,’ and Peter, being filled with that Spirit, explains that as `I will pour out of (or from) my, Spirit.’ It was not the Spirit himself that was poured out; but was something that was ‘of’ or ‘from’ the Spirit. That is what Joel is saying. The preposition puts the emphasis on the point of separation. The thing that was `poured out’ was something that was separated from the Spirit. It was not the Spirit himself, but was that which came from the Spirit” (Franklin T. Puckett, Vanguard Magazine, June 12, 1975, p. 7).
Truth Magazine, XX:17, p. 2
April 22, 1976