By John Norcott
Baptism is Dipping under Water
1. The Greek word Baptize means to plunge or to overwhelm.
Thus Christ was plunged in water, Matthew 3.16. He was also plunged or overwhelmed in His sufferings, Luke 12.50. “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!”
2. The Dutch translation reads, In those days came John the Dipper, Matthew 3.1. And in John 3.23, that version reads, John was dipping in Aenon, because there was much water there. Why the need for much water if it were not for dipping?
3. They baptized in rivers. They came to John and were baptized in Jordan, Matthew 3.6. John was baptizing in Aenon, because there was much water there, John 3.23. Why need it be in a river and where there was much water? Would not a little water in a basin be enough to sprinkle the face?
4. Baptism signifies the burial of Christ. “Therefore we are buried . with him by baptism into death,” Romans 6.4. “Buried with him in baptism,” Col. 2.12. Now we do not reckon a man to be buried when a little earth is sprinkled on his face, but he is buried when he is covered; thus you are buried in baptism.
5. Christ’s sufferings are called a baptism, Luke 12.50. When Christ suffered he was plunged into pains. Did His sufferings lie only on His head or on His forehead? No, no, there was no part free;
He was from head to foot in pain; His head was crowned with piercing thorns, His hands and feet were nailed to the cross; His whole person was so stretched out on the cross that a man might have counted all His bones, Psalm 22.17. There was not one part of His body free from pain. Man has sinned, body, soul, and spirit, and so the whole Christ must suffer for sin. Christ was baptized into pain, plunged into sorrow, not any part free: this He calls His
baptism. So, in baptism, one is plunged under water to show how Christ was plunged into sorrow for our sakes.
6. Baptism is a putting on of Christ. “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” Gal. 3.27. This verse means that as a servant wears his lord’s livery, a garment which shows he is a servant to such a great person, so in baptism we put on our Lord’s livery, and He himself clothes us from head to foot. In his way we put on Christ by baptism.
7. When Christ was baptized He came out of the water, Matthew 3.16. Was His baptism performed by having a little water thrown on His face? If so He had no need to be in the water and could not have come up out of it; but because He was baptized in the water He then came up out of it.
Philip and the Eunuch “went down both into the water,” and there in the water Philip baptized him, then both of them came “up out of the water,” Acts 8.38-39. But why should they go down into the water if Philip merely sprinkled or poured water on his head?
So you see that the place where these various persons were baptized was a river or a certain water; their action was like this -they went down into the water, then, being in the water, they were baptized. This was done in places where there was much water. The purpose was to show forth Christ’s burial. Now if there is no burial under water to show forth Christ’s burial, the great purpose of the ordinance is lost; but burial is well set forth by dipping under water.
Question. But why may not sprinkling with water do just as well as covering under water? Is there more virtue in a great deal of water than in a little?
Answer. Sprinkling will not do as well as dipping under water:-
1. Because God is a jealous God, and insists upon small things in matters of worship. It is likely that Nadab and Abihu thought that if they put fire in the censer it would be good enough even though it was not fire from the altar; but God calls it strange fire and so He bums them with strange fire. Lev. 10.1-2. Notice that Moses adds this in verse three, “This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”
God told Moses to speak to the rock, but he smote the rock and so he had to die outside of Canaan. Numbers 20.8-12. How careful therefore should we be to notice the Lord’s commands in the smallest point.
2. Sprinkling will not do because the intention of the ordinance is lost, which is to show the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, Romans 6.4. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Now neither sprinkling nor pouring can represent burial and therefore they will not answer the purpose.
3. Sprinkling will not do because it is not what God has appointed. Naaman the leper thought that the waters of Damascus were as
good as, or better than, the waters of Israel and so he asked, “May I not wash in them and be clean?” 2 Kings 5.12. God had appointed that he should dip in Jordan; not that there was more virtue in that water, but simply that God had appointed that he should dip in Jordan, and therefore when he obeyed he was clean. Dipping is God’s appointment and therefore no other form may be put in its place.
4. Sprinkling will not do because it is not according to the pattern -Christ went down into the water, for He came up out of the water, Matthew 3.16. Philip and the Eunuch went down into the water, Acts 8.38.
“See that thou make all things according to the pattern,” Hebrews 8.5. It is not for us to invent ceremonies but to follow the pattern set before us, lest we be found guilty of will-worship.
5. Sprinkling will not do, because it is high presumption to change God’s ordinances. Is not God wise enough to appoint His own worship and to declare how it shall be performed? Isaiah says, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, and changed the ordinance.” Isaiah 24.5. It is not right for us to alter one jot or tittle of our Lord’s command.
6. Sprinkling will not do because sprinkling is not baptism; it is not the thing intended by God. Baptism is dipping or plunging. Sprinkling is not baptism and therefore will not do instead. “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized of him.” Luke 7.29-30. God’s counsel is baptism or dipping; do not reject it.