Once upon a time everyone knew that immersion in water was required to be added to the body of Christ, to be saved! Even the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) knew it!
Jesus himself gave us the example when He went to his second cousin, John the “Baptist”, son of Zacharias, to be “baptized”. (Matt. 3: 13-17; Mark 1:9-10; Luke 3:21) John immersed all who came to him in the river Jordan. (Matt. 3:6) All of the examples in Acts of “baptism” by the Apostles were immersion in water. (Acts 8:38-39) Every time you read the word “baptism” in the New Testament you need to think in English, immersion.
The purpose of the immersion is the participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is an outward sign of an inward renewal, an inward decision to live for Christ, and follow Him. Sprinkling is not a burial into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. (Col. 2:12, Rom. 6:3-4; 2Cor 4:10-16)
The Roman Catholic Church practiced the correct form until the 12th century A.D., until it became inconvenient. It is said that Eusebius “baptized” Emperor Constantine on his deathbed in 337 A.D. by pouring water over him.
There were occasional instances of a practice of “clinical baptism.” The Catholics would allow sprinkling or pouring of water over the forehead in cases of sick babies or dying adults, or when there just wasn’t any available pool of water. So, the Council of Ravena decided in 1311 A.D. that they were indifferent to the method; that either immersion or sprinkling was sufficient. There are many articles which document the change from immersion to sprinkling in the Roman Catholic Church, and are easily found. Here are three such.
“Sprinkling as a form of baptism took the place of immersion after a few centuries in the early Church, not from any established rule, but by common consent, and it has since been very generally practiced in all but the Greek and Baptist churches, which insist upon immersion.” (McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, Art. Sprinkling, Vol. IX, p. 968).
“Sprinkling was still (in the period of 323 – 692) confined to Baptismus Clinicorum (clinical baptism) and was first generally used in the West in infant baptism in the 12th century, while the East still retained the custom of immersion.” (Kurts, a German Lutheran Historian, in Church History, Vol. I, p. 367)
“The Scripture makes it clear enough that water is to be used, but it is not so plain at first sight that the sprinkling or pouring of water will suffice. In Apostolic times the body of the baptized person was immersed, for St. Paul looks on this immersion as typifying burial with Christ, and speaks of baptism as a bath (Rom. 6:4, Eph. 5:26)….even St. Thomas, in the 13th century speaks of baptism by immersion as the common practice of his time. Still, the rubric of the Roman Ritual, which states that baptism can be validly given by immersion, infusion, or aspersion, is fully justified by tradition.” (Catholic Dictionary, Art. Bapt., p. 60).
The question remains; why did the translators of the 1599 Geneva Bible, and the King James 1611 version transliterate the Greek words “baptizo” and “batisma” into the English? Why have all English translations since continued the use of the anglicized version of the Greek words? How was John the “Baptist” really named in the Syriac texts?
A true translation would not have required a Greek replacement. They lifted the Greek word and put it into an English translation of the Bible. The verb “baptizo” became “baptize”, and the noun “baptisma” became “baptism” in the English language. Here are the meanings of “baptizo” from reliable lexicons, as used in the original Koine (common) Greek at the time of Christ, in the first century A.D
Baptizo: “To make a thing dipped or dyed. To immerse for a religious purpose” (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, E.W. Bullinger).
Baptizo: “Dip, immerse, mid. Dip oneself, wash (in non-Christian lit. also ‘plunge, sink, drench, overwhelm. . . .’)” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Arndt and Gingrich, p. 131).
Baptizo: “immersion, submersion” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Grimm-Thayer, p. 94).
Baptizo: “to dip, immerse, sink” (Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Abbott-Smith, p. 74).
Baptizo: “dip, plunge” (A Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott, p. 305).
Baptizo: “consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip)” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Baptizo: “immerse, sumberge. The peculiar N.T. and Christian use of the word to denote immersion, submersion for a religious purpose” (Biblico-Theological Lexicon of the New Testament Greek, Cremer).
Baptizo: “to dip, immerse; to cleanse or purify by washing” (The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, Perschbacher, p. 66).
Baptizo: “to dip, to immerse, to sink. . . . There is no evidence that Luke or Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks” (Greek and English Lexicon, Sophocles).
The Greek word “baptizo” comes from the primary verb “bapto” which means to overwhelm, to cover wholly with a fluid.
Someone reading the original Koine Greek texts of the scriptures would have understood it as immersion, submersion, to dunk or sink, etc.
F.H. Chase explains, “In English we translate the Greek word baptizein. When we use the word “baptize” we think at once and we think only of the religious rite. Apart from that rite the word has no meaning for us. It is simply and solely a religious technical term. But the Aramaic Christian when he used the Aramaic word, and the Greek Christian when he used the Greek word, would never in this particular application of the term lose sight of its primary and proper signification “to immerse,” “to plunge in or into”, and he continues
“In their versions of the New Testament the Syriac and the Egyptian Christians translated the word baptizein. Latin-speaking Christians, though like ourselves they commonly transliterated it (baptizare), yet sometimes . . . used as its equivalent the Latin verb tingere. What if we dare to follow their example and, instead of transliterating it, venture to translate it—Baptizontes autous eis to onoma, “immersing them into the Name”? So surely a Greek-speaking Christian would understand the words. He would regard the divine Name as the element, so to speak, into which the baptized is plunged. Thus the outward rite is seen to be an immediate parable of a great spiritual reality. (“The Lord’s Command to Baptize,” The Journal of Theological Studies, July, 1905, p. 503). (Bold emphasis is mine.)
The reason we are stuck in continued arguments about what constitutes “baptism” with the denominational world is that the translators from the original Greek texts were afraid. By the time the Bible was translated into the English in the 14th and 16th centuries A.D., too many powerful people, such as King James, had already been sprinkled under the practice of the Church of England as learned and approved from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Church has allowed a practice of sprinkling as a substitution for immersion. They have changed the form of “baptism” as directed by God in its original practice by John the “Immersor”, and the Apostles.
If you have not been immersed for the remission of sins, you have not been added to the body of Christ. You cannot put on Christ, nor be covered and cleansed by the blood of Christ without it. (Gal. 3:27; 1 John 1:7; Eph. 2:13; Heb. 9:14) You will not be added to the book of life without it. (Rev. 20:15)
Consider for a moment the simple analogy of a father who tells his son that he will give the son $5 if he sweeps the sidewalk. The son tells his father, “I believe you.” But he doesn’t sweep the sidewalk. Does the father give him the $5? No! (All of those who have believed that you only need to say a “saving prayer of faith”, pay attention!)
Suppose the son only swept part of the sidewalk. Would his father give him the $5? No. The agreement was not completed by the action. Promise, and consideration. No shoes, no service.
There is a perfect agreement with the promise of remission of sins, and it contains the consideration, the action of completed contract. God’s offer is out there. His call of the gospel is for everyone. But, we have to answer the call. We have the obligation and duty to perform a function that God demands. If you do not complete the agreement, the promise cannot be given.
Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is [immersed in water] shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (KJV, as it truly should have been translated)
The Roman Catholic Church has changed God’s word concerning “baptism” – immersion – and have lied to the people again. They are deceivers and liars, and therefore are none of God. (John 8:44) They have no authority from God.