Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Selective Reformation

Roman Catholicism botched up Christianity, massively changed it by mixing it with spiritualized, allegorical interpretation and Platonic philosophy. The Reformation addressed this in a major fashion especially in the one area of soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. However, the Reformation didn't get to the root of the problem with Catholicism, that is, the faulty hermeneutic itself, that did more than change the gospel. It also perverted ecclesiology and eschatology among other doctrines. Protestantism hijacked the Catholic allegorizing and spiritualizing even in its own approach to the Bible.

We have people today who title themselves Reformed. We should call them selectively reformed, because they didn't reform the root problem of Catholicism. They held on to gigantic chunks of allegorization of Scripture. Some Reformed today have partially corrected this error. They use a literal hermeneutic in more than their soteriology by also applying it to eschatology, so they are premillennialists. Still, however, they have not rectified the ecclesiology.

Reformed may say that they haven't changed in eschatology or ecclesiology because that wouldn't be historical. Historic Christianity, according to them, believes in justification by faith in contradiction to Roman Catholicism. And yet, how historical is a view of salvation that travels only as far back as 1500 years after Christianity began? Justification by faith isn't historic if it is only 500 years old, and Catholics would have a good argument for their authority, if that were true. And yet, you will hear the Reformed regularly call their doctrine of salvation, the Reformed doctrine of justification, as if it originated 500 years ago.

To be fair, the Reformed say that their belief in justification comes from the Bible, which is the source of all doctrine. And yet, in a sense, they are also then saying that there was some type of total apostasy of the doctrine of salvation, and they, the Reformed, brought everybody back to the true doctrine of justification by faith. If not, justification by faith couldn't be a Reformed doctrine. It was still always around somewhere. If so, where was it around? Were there always believers of justification by faith since the time of the completion of the New Testament?

Some type of total apostasy does not match up with a biblical doctrine of apostasy, but does fit with a common presentation for most cults. Most cults contend for a total apostasy of true doctrine until the cult came along to make the necessary alteration back to the original true doctrine that was lost all those years. Mormons (Latter Day Saints) say that. Jehovah's Witnesses make that point. The Church of Christ also pushes this point of view.

Catholics will argue that they are the original church, that the Reformed don't have any authority. Some evangelicals have recently bought into that position. Probably many have that I haven't heard about, but a well-known "return" to Catholicism from evangelicalism was the head of the Evangelical Theological Society himself, Francis Beckwith. His bio reads:

The 57th President of the Evangelical Theological Society (November 2006-May 2007) , Professor Beckwith served from 2005 through 2008 as a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Philosophy and Law. In January 2008 he was selected as the 2007 Person of the Year by Inside the Vatican Magazine.

The Vatican made him Person of the Year because he left evangelicalism. When you read Beckwith's testimony, the historical aspect was foundational and vitally important to his decision. Would the gates of hell prevail against the true church? They couldn't, so in Beckwith's surmisal, the true church must be Roman Catholicism, as flawed as it might be. Reformed ecclesiology was not enough to keep Beckwith Protestant. I think he really was just trying to be consistent.

Was ecclesiology and eschatology affected by Roman Catholicism? A John MacArthur would say that definitely eschatology was influenced by Roman Catholicism. He among others, who are both Reformed and premillennial in their eschatology, would say that an allegorical hermeneutic of Origen and then later Augustine twisted a literal, biblical eschatology. He and they would say that this is where amillennialism came from, from the Roman Catholic spiritualizing of the eschatological passages. In that sense, are MacArthur and others saying that there was a total apostasy of eschatological truth until after the Reformation? Perhaps. This is one of the major attacks of covenant or Reformed theologians on dispensationalism and premillennialism, that is, that it has no history behind it.

I want to draw attention to ecclesiology. The Reformation selectively reformed soteriology. Later dispensationalists selectively reformed eschatology. I'm saying, come on everybody, let's at least keep it going. Let's reform our ecclesiology too. Let's not take a reformed soteriology (I mean justification by faith), a reformed eschatology (I mean premillennialism), and then take a Roman Catholic ecclesiology (I mean universal church). And if reforming isn't your cup of tea, just go with what the Bible teaches.

Even better would be to reject a Roman Catholic view of history, which says that there was in a sense a total apostasy and the Reformation brought Christianity back to sole Scriptura. I say, Wrong! Scripture teaches no total apostasy. Taking a presuppositional approach, we start with evidence, the Bible, and then we view history based upon the truth. Were there always believers with a non-allegorical, non-spiritualized soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology? Yes. We presuppose that based upon Scripture, and then we look to history. We're not promised that everything in history will be preserved, but we can see that there were always assemblies separate from Roman Catholicism. Today they're called Baptists.

So justification by faith is not Reformed historically. Premillennialism is not Dispensational historically. Both continued after the completion of the New Testament even up to the Reformation. And then we come to ecclesiology. We have always had New Testament Christians with a literal, a grammatical-historical soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. I believe we should presuppose that based upon the biblical teaching of no-total-apostasy (Mt 16:18; 1 Tim 4:1).

We can see what an allegorical interpretation has done to the doctrine of salvation. We can see what an allegorical interpretation has done to the doctrine of last things. Are we willing to be consistent here, and see what an allegorical interpretation has done to the doctrine of the church? Let's not be selectively reformed. Let's go all the way. Let's not be biblical in our soteriology, biblical in our eschatology, and then Roman Catholic in our ecclesiology. Let's not. "Let us go on to perfection" in our doctrine, finishing it off with a scriptural ecclesiology.

We really are just casting a blind eye if we are not willing to reexamine our ecclesiology, to see how that Catholicism may have affected it. I believe Catholicism has affected it, but I'm saying "may have" for your sake. You may think that you are keeping your universal church ecclesiology in part because it is historical. But, my friend, isn't Roman Catholic soteriology and eschatology also historical? Isn't that why Francis Beckwith "returned" to Catholicism, back to the mother church? He had his historical reasons. So if you can agree that Catholic soteriology and eschatology are actually not historical---they are not---could you not go one step further and consider whether you are still believing Catholic ecclesiology that the Reformers did not reform? Is it possible that your sole Scriptura hasn't touched your ecclesiology?

To abandon Catholic ecclesiology, we've got to look at the origination of an invisible church. What is an ecclesiology that depends solely on the Bible? What is an understanding of the church that comes from studying its 118 separate usages in the New Testament? How would the people have understood ekklesia who were hearing it in that day? Do we really pull this concept of a universal, invisible church from the text? Does the meaning of the word ekklesia not clash with the ideas of universal and invisible? Isn't the whole point of an ekklesia both in its original usage in secular literature and then in the Bible, local and visible, an absolute contradiction to the universal, invisible church idea?

Catholicism made a wreck of soteriology and eschatology. Can't we take a moment to consider what it did to ecclesiology? Is it possible that the state church philosophies of Calvin and Luther, taken from Catholicism, guided their own ecclesiology and then continue to influence ecclesiology today? State church was what Calvin and Luther knew. It also worked well in their minds to combat Catholicism.

If we are going to reject the state church idea, shouldn't we consider going all the way and rejecting the universal church concept as well? No verse in the Bible teaches infant sprinkling. No verse in the Bible teaches a universal church. There is no universal, invisible Platonic usage of the singular noun in any language, including koine Greek. Is it possible we have been reading that into Scripture? Is it possible that we have been affected in our ecclesiology by selective Reformation, just like men were long affected in their eschatology? Please consider it. Think about it. I'd love to talk to you about it.


Lance said...

Good article. I was once asked by a Reformed Baptist if I would allow Calvin to preach from my pulpit. I told him I would not allow someone who was completely wrong on Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Soteriology, Pneumatology, and who did not understand the basics of Hermenuetics to preach from my pulpit.

Another important factor is the pre-suppositionalism of Reformed Theology.

In Calvin’s preface to his Institutes of the Christian Religion (second edition of 1539), we have a defining statement that really tells us why the exegesis of all Calvinists is perverted, transforming it into eisegesis. This happens because all Calvinists look at the Scriptures through the theological presuppositions of Calvin. This is clearly stated as Calvin’s purpose in writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

“I have endeavored to give such a summary of religion in all its parts (in the Systematic Theology laid out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion), and have digested it into such an order as may make it not difficult for anyone who is rightly acquainted with it (the Systematic Theology laid out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion) to ascertain both what he ought principally to look for in Scripture, and also to what head he ought to refer whatever is contained in it. Having thus, as it were, paved the way, I shall not feel it necessary in any Commentaries on Scripture which I may afterwards publish to enter into long discussions of doctrine or dilate on commonplaces, and will therefore always compress them. In this way the pious reader will be saved much trouble and weariness, provided he comes furnished with a knowledge of the present work (the Systematic Theology laid out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion) as an essential prerequisite. ” (parenthesized areas added)

Anonymous said...

Butbutbutbut Pastor Brandenburger, don't you realise that all these little imperfect local churches are just inexact shadows of the Perfect Church that is, uh, out there somewhere, sort of infusing them all or something?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Nice Calvin quote and good and interesting point.


Yes, Platonic philosophy. Aren't all those visible chairs infused with the invisible chair, the idea of chair out there, the true chair?

Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
Thanks for this important article. We know from history that some of the (ana)Baptists reached out to the Reformers to try to get them to come to a more Biblical position, but their influence was rejected. It would be a great thing if "Baptists" today would reexamine their doctrine of the church from the Scriptures. I did it, & I know that others are also.

philipians2511 said...

Using Calvin to show the error of the reformed theology, most excellent!

It's a shame that in reaching out to the reformed theology crowd today would get us the same thing it,perhaps, did the (ana) baptist. This being ad hominim attacks and a flat rejection of the truth.

Respectfully Submitted,

Br Steve

Gal. 2:20

d4v34x said...

Bro. B.,

Re: your use of the phrase "total apostasy;" are you saying that if there hasn't been one group that always had everything right (justification by faith, dispensationalism, local only) then there has been total apostasy?

If one group here had 2/3 and another there had 2/3 (but including the third the first group omitted) wouldn't that "forstall" a true apostasy?

James Wyatt said...

Excellent post! I especially like the correlation between the reformation thought process and other cults, that is so true. God has promised the preservation of His Word and the perpetuity of His church, His truth has never disappeared and had to be brought back!

PSFerguson said...

Thanks Kent. As the only Reformed KJV commentator here perhaps you are addressing me. Well, I would love to talk to you about it also. When you are at it I would be interested in finding the verse that explicitly states:

(1) Baptism is by immersion only
(2) Baptism is only for adults
(3) The New Testament teaches only local self-governing churches which are completely independent of one another in determining faith and practice.

I would really love to hear your argument how a predominantly Jewish Church in AD 50 would see the word ecclesia in Acts 7:38 as clearly teaching a non-universal local independent local churches doctrine. Even the most prejudiced IFBer is going to struggle with that one. Perhaps you want to try the tribal distinctions made them independent self-governing units or that Moses adopted the Catholic hermeneutic at Horeb in seeing them all as one universal ecclesia!

I would truly love to hear how a Jewish believer would read the account in Acts 15 and come to the "obvious conclusion" that the Apostle Paul had transferred his membership from the independent local church at Damascus to Jerusalem and then to Antioch. Also, that the word "decrees" in Acts 16:4 here is a typo and what it should be is a "suggestion" from the apostles in Jerusalem that were optional on the other churches to be voted on by their local church meeting. Be interested to know why in Acts 15:23 the apostles of the local independent baptist church at Jerusalem spoke of those receiving the optional suggestions as "brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia" rather than the local independent baptist churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't believe there was a total apostasy. However, the Reformed talk about their soteriology that way.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I didn't have you in mind when I wrote it. I had in mind evangelicals and fundamentalists at large, those who haven't considered the content of my above post, especially evangelicals and fundamentalists who are premillennial.

All the examples of baptizo are immersion and the word means "to immerse, dip, or plunge." Baptism is for believers only (Acts 2:41 and every example of baptism in the NT)---we take our teaching from what the Bible says, not from silence. 1 Timothy 3:15, each church which has pastor and deacons, a congregation, is the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Cor 6, Mt 18---church governance. Jesus didn't send letters to "the church," but to seven churches. The New Testament shows only the three that you enumerate.

I don't get the struggle with Acts 7:38. The example doesn't change the meaning of ekklesia. Israel congregated in the wilderness. Israel wasn't spread over the then-known world, but in one location. Do you think that the Jews were scattered abroad in the wilderness?

I'm out of time on the last paragraph. But I'll address it later.

PSFerguson said...

Sorry Kent, I must have missed that verse that says that baptism is only by immersion. Which book was it again? Please do not quote selectively from lexicons as we have agreed that it is only the Bible that must guide us as that would be “selective Reformation” according to your dogma. Acts 2:41 does not say that baptism is for believers only. You are not doing very well just sticking to the text of Scripture so far! 1 Timothy 3:15 says nothing about local independent churches being free to determine their own doctrine and practice. If Paul wanted to teach the IFB position here he would have said, “the churches independently are the pillar of ground and truth.” Taking your argument logically you would have to teach that Paul saying here is teaching that Timothy’s local church only at Ephesus was the ground and pillar of truth but no other was! 1 Cor 6 and Matt 18 are not teaching the local autonomy of local churches. They are inspired commentaries that the first level of church discipline should happen at the local church level. No one disputes that – the Reformed churches believe the same. What Acts 15 makes clear is that there is an inter-dependence in authority between local churches. Do not take the passages further with your own IFB presuppositions than the text allows. Yes, Jesus wrote to seven churches because they had seven different types of needs. How that equates to teaching that each church is independent of one another escapes me. Did Christ not tell all His readers “He that hath an ear” to heed the messages? Peter wrote to the “strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” – does that mean Peter was writing to a Presbyterian denomination in these areas when he sends one epistle to five regions with local churches?

Now I do have verses that speak of the church in a local context – true. But there are numerous passages that speak of the church in a universal denominational context such as “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28; cf. Ephesians 4:11–12). Carefully note the definite article in the Greek text before ecclesia in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

If you are going to trumpet your position here as “clear truth” then please do not state your doctrine from passages that teach nothing of the kind. Lets stick to the ground rules in this “Neo-Reformation” post and only posit what the Bible says not what you hope it says or Maranatha Baptist College hope it says. Presbyterians read the same text and have the same Holy Spirit in us so we are happy to be guided to all truth if you really have found it.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I enjoy being on the other end of your barbs. At least, unlike other evangelicals or fundamentalists, you attempt to deal with something written. I applaud that from you. However, when I read you on this, I do wonder if others who you confront on other issues think they're getting the same thing I think I am here.

When we do disagree, how it comes across to me is that you have your paradigm in mind and you somewhat ignore or read into what someone else has written. This occurs right from the beginning. A right hermeneutic looks at what the Bible says, not what it doesn't say. We would get our understanding, for instance, of baptizo from what we see occur in actual baptisms in the New Testament, and lo and behold, all of them are immersion. All. Of. Them. Jesus comes up out of the water. The Ethiopian eunuch goes down into the water. John baptizes near Aenon because there is much water there. Those are all in the Bible. And I said in my very first sentence of my comment these words: "All the examples of baptizo are immersion." You did nothing with that. Nothing, my friend. You have to have me, as if you don't already know, and maybe you don't, show you all of these instances in the Bible. You have none. You can go nowhere to show me sprinkling. You pull sprinkling out of a hat. How we understand the Bible, be sole Scriptura, is to have the Bible tell us what the word means. If the word already means "to immerse, dip, or plunge," and then we see that is how it is used, then we would deduce that is what it means. And then immersion portrays the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:3-4). Sprinkling doesn't. Colossians 2:12 says "buried with him in baptism." Only immersion would do burial. Sprinkling doesn't. So everything points to immersion. I'm going to deal with everything else you say, but if you can't follow along with this, this will be tell-tale to me about how you submit to Scripture.

PSFerguson said...

Kent, It is always a pleasure to interact with you also. I am delighted that you want to debate immersion on the grounds of Scripture alone. You set forth the principle, “A right hermeneutic looks at what the Bible says, not what it doesn't say.” I agree and I am doing so. However, you then immediately take passages that state no such thing and read your immersion presupposition into it. What we do see in all of those incidents is not a clear statement on immersion. The fact that they went down into the water and there was much water there doesn’t establish sprinkling, pouring or immersion. That is frankly kindergarten logic and kindergarten exegesis! All of those statements apply equally to all modes.

Now you then claim I pull sprinkling out of a hat and have ignored all the examples of NT baptism. Let me have a quick summary. The OT explicitly states that ritual cleansings are by sprinkling with water and this is cited in Hebrews 9:13 as a “baptizo” in Hebrews 9:10. The Scriptures also give us an inspired commentary on the word “baptizo” of Acts 2:17 as a “pouring” in Acts 10:45. So I do not need some Neo-Orthodox lexicon to give me the various meanings of “baptizo” as I have the Scriptures to do so. I don’t want to waste time debating this here as I have already answered all your points here:


Incidentally, Romans 6 has nothing to do with water baptism. In fact the Greek text deliberately excludes the idea that immersion is a picture of dying with Christ as the burial precedes the death! I deal with Romans 6 and the meaning of baptizo here:


Kent Brandenburg said...


The Bible is perspicuous, that is, God is clear; He is plain. And baptism is only one possibility then. To you, it is sprinkling with your zero examples of it. And that you, I guess, see as post-graduate exegesis to my kindergarten exegesis, seeing the going down into water and coming up out of water. Sometimes it is so clear a kindergartener can understand. That's what is great about this issue. That's why not many wise or noble are called. On your part, you have to become genius like to complicate something so simple.

If baptism is only one mode, the going down into water and the coming up out of it clears it up even for a kindergarten student. Not for you though, because you come to the table with your presuppositions, your more than child like faith. You make something rocket science that is plain and simple.

"Down into" and "up out of" don't describe someone being sprinkled no matter how someone might spin them.

I believe that Rom 6 is water baptism, but let's say for argument's sake that it isn't. It still is baptism, and baptism is associated with death, burial, and resurrection. Sprinkling doesn't do that. And then you just ignored, completely dismissed Col 2:12. Sprinkling doesn't bury anything.

And why would John need "much water" for sprinkling? If it were sprinkling, it would be, he baptized where there was little water, because who needs it when you're only sprinkling? You hear hoofbeats, and you think dolphins.

Now, your Hebrews 9:10 reference for you is a crusher, an absolute devastating loss for your presupposed point of view. Hebrews 9:10 is not baptizo, but baptismos, a totally, totally different word. It is the word for ceremonial washings, which were not immersion. The author of Hebrews tells his audience to leave these ceremonial washings in Hebrews 6.

Your Acts 2 and 10 argument is probably the best thing you've got going for you, but that is a total stretch, P.S. It isn't even the word baptizo. It is the word for pour. Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit. What you are saying is that pouring and baptizing are synonymous. No. Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit and He baptized with the Holy Spirit. They are events close to one another.

Here's an illustration to help you. I poured the water into the pool and then I baptized with the water. The pouring and the baptizing are closely related, but they are not the same. Exegetically, you are proving nothing with that. Certain words are related in the Bible without being synonymous.

I'll take a look at the articles later.


jg said...

Well, I doubt Brother Brandenburg needs a lot of help on this baptism discussion, but I'll throw one point in here on Acts 8.

I'm making an assumption. It isn't based on Scripture, because the Scripture doesn't tell us. But I'm assuming that the treasurer of the Ethiopian queen was a prudent man, or he wouldn't have that position. I'm also assuming that a prudent man, if he decided to travel across a desert in a chariot, would take some water along with him.

Those assumptions aren't in the Bible, and could theoretically be wrong. I don't think any reasonable person would doubt them, but it wouldn't be good to build a doctrine around them. But if they are true, then he had sufficient water in the chariot to sprinkle or pour.

For some reason, though, the Ethiopian eunuch never got around to thinking about baptism until there was enough water for them to go "down into" and come up out of.

The fact that they went "down into" the water doesn't irrefutably prove this was immersion. Neither does the fact that there was enough water in the chariot to sprinkle or pour. All of that only makes it about 99% certain that the eunuch was immersed. We'll have to get the other 1% certainty from other Scriptures.

Someone might concede that the eunuch was immersed but argue that this does not necessarily mean that baptism is always immersion. Logically, that is correct. The fact that the other "modes" were never even considered when they would have been so easy in the circumstances means it is a logical argument, but a pretty weak one.

No one text is likely to persuade someone who has made their decision, but Acts 8 really should give the non-immersionist pause.

PSFerguson said...

Strong's states that the noun baptismos is from the same root word bapto as the verb baptizo. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology explains it is the noun form of baptizo.

Yes, I know that is not Scripture but you are the one making the argument of baptizo from lexicons. So I do not know how you can possibly say it is, "a totally, totally different word." It is clearly the same Greek verbal action and it is used by the Holy Spirit to speak of sprinkling. That you cannot get round.

I will reply to your other comments again. I do note that they follow the same consistent pattern "down into" means immersion because Kent says so. You know I wish we would allow the Holy Spirit to say what He means and leave it at that. If He wanted to say immerse He could have said they went down into the water and were immersed. But He didn't - why? Try the OT and Isaiah 52:15. BTW be interested in when Isaiah 52:15 is going to occur. Are the Millennial believers going to be Presbyterians?

Kent Brandenburg said...


If you are going to take your position, I would as soon prefer you approach it with gusto. But I would rather you give in to what the Bible teaches.

I said baptizo means immerse. You say I got that from lexicons, when you'll find I never reference that in anything I've written. I only prove immerse from passages. Now you, who set that standard for this discussion, go to Strong's and a Dictionary. Look how baptismos is used in its only 4 uses. Are you going to look at the usage, P.S.? If it does mean baptism, then we shouldn't baptize because Hebrews said to leave it in Hebrews 6:2. We're told to leave it. So why baptize period, if you are going to use that word as your proof? You've got problems there. The other usages are Mark 7:4, 8, which are clearly ceremonial washings that were part of the OT ceremonial law. That you depend on baptismos for your position indicates you are forcing this. Look at the usages of baptismos---it is obvious that word is differentiated from New Testament baptism.

I still want to deal with your initial comment because you brought in more than mode of baptism there. And I'll look at your Isaiah 52:15. I'm going to be gone all day today.


I agree with your entire layout of the Acts 8 account---very good observations based on the flow of the text.

PSFerguson said...


The text of Acts 8 makes no such inference except those looking at it with immersionist glasses. What we do know is that the Eunuch was looking at Isaiah 53 scroll (which was not chapter divided). As he was looking at that text and Philip was preaching Christ unto him from the text that the Eunuch spotted water and said “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Where did the Eunuch make the connection between baptizing Gentiles from the Scripture – Answer Isaiah 52:15!! That is the logical inference. That text that we know the Eunuch was reading should make every immersionist pause!


Yes, I knew I used the lexicons but I did so as you were the one who authoritatively claiming that the Greek words were completely unrelated. Now you did not get that from Scripture but from your knowledge of Greek lexicons. So the only way to rebut your argument is from lexicons. You say “Look at the usages of baptismos---it is obvious that word is differentiated from New Testament baptism” – what basically you are saying is that because baptismos is used for sprinkling then it cannot be linked to baptizo because that does not fit with how you want to see baptizo interpreted. Bit of a circular argument there.

It is kind of ironic that if “baptismos” was cited in Hebrews 9 as the dipping of Namaan in the Jordan then all the immersionists would be screaming this to the rooftops as “evidence” for their dogma. I am not using Hebrews 9 to argue that we engage in ceremonial washings as per OT today. All I am doing is showing that the Greek word and its derivatives under inspiration are utilized to describe sprinkling, which you cannot do for immersion. Acts 10:45 does this the same despite your attempt to differentiate. What Peter saw then in Acts 10:45 is what he described in Acts 11:15 and he said (not Presbyterians) in Acts 11:16 was a baptizo with the Holy Ghost. It is not the text there that makes you try this but your need to drive through your immersionist presuppositions.

Now you have singularly failed to prove that “baptizo” means immerse from the Bible. Every reference you have cited can equally apply to every mode. That does not constitute “proof.” The best you have mustered so far is circumstantial and suggestive evidence that immersion is the mode of baptism based upon syntax ie they went “down into the water” and “burial” is best pictured by immersion. Incidentally I would love to read how identification with the crucifixion of Christ is best pictured by immersion! I would also love to know how Israel were immersed unto Moses in 1 Corinthians 10:2 without being dipped in a cloud and passing through the sea miles wide!

What you have argued so far is a world away from proving that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism. That is the challenge you must overcome as you made the authoritative absolute statement. If you can, I will become a Baptist.

Joshua said...

Questions for both sides.

Kent: Is Hebrews 6 saying we need to lay aside all those doctrines. I'm sorry but I didn't really follow your point there.

I'd always assumed Paul was using a rhetorical flourish, and was saying "leaving all these things as understood and assumed, and not staying here in the shallow end of the spiritual pool, let us go on to the big boy stuff..."


I see no absolutely no reason why we have to assume that the eunuch's desire to be baptised is because he read sprinkling in the preceding chapter. That's a very tenuous straw to build an argument on. The man just came from Jerusalem where many were being baptised. John the Baptist and Jesus' disciples and their baptising ways were well known. Would Phillip have been able to avoid this, seeing as "repent and be baptised" seemed to be a pretty common line at the time?

That seems a very, very weak argument for sprinkling. Why did the eunuch even mention the water? He didn't need to point out water. He was a rich man in a dusty chariot. Did he forget his water bottle? Why didn't he say "see, here is my flask, what doth hinder..."?

Why did anyone ever need to mention that there was a body of water for baptising if a few flicks of water does the trick? Wherever you have humans you have drinking water in some supply. It seems a moot point to mention it.

Finally, I'd be pretty pleased if you ended up a Baptist. I've always enjoyed your writings on the King James and it seems a shame you'd be so on the money there yet miss the boat on the Catholic leftovers in Reformed doctrine. Just sayin'!

Gary Webb said...

I hope that you are kidding about Isaiah 52:15? It is pretty obvious to anybody (but a sprinkler,I guess) that the reason the eunuch asked about baptism (dipping) is because Philip preached Christ to him, & that message includes baptism, just as John's message did.
It seems to me that you are arguing that the words baptize, pour, and sprinkle are all synonymous. It also seems to me after reading through the Bible 56 times, and studying & preaching expositionally for 27 years that those words mean different things in the Bible (also in the English language). God did "pour" out the Holy Spirit, but He "baptized" His people. Why would you have a problem differentiating the meaning of those words?
By the way, if I want to learn the meaning of an English word, I use a dictionary - though English is my native language. Though lexicons may be biased some, it is a unreasonable to outright reject the testimony they give - especially when you cannot give Scriptural proof that their testimony is wrong.

jg said...

Dr. Ferguson,

Others have answered, but since you've addressed your comments to me, and since I have thoughts that others haven't mentioned, I'll take the liberty that Pastor Brandenburg gives us here and answer as well.

I trust we would be agreed that the context of Is. 52:15 is Messianic.

I trust we would also therefore be agreed that the "he" who is doing the sprinkling in this verse is Messiah.

I trust we would also be agreed that Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not baptise "many nations" with water. In fact, it appears that He never baptised anyone with water (Mt. 4:2).

You certainly know that the vast majority of the uses of the Hebrew word nazah (sprinkling) deal with the sprinkling of blood in atonement. I would have hoped you would have known that Baptists would therefore almost certainly see Is. 52:15 as referring to the shedding of Christ's blood to cleanse the sins of many nations.

The context fits with this interpretation. Verse 3 says "ye shall be redeemed without money," which immediately raises the question, with what will you be redeemed? The whole Old Testament makes it clear, blood is the price of redemption. In verse 9, the redemption of Jerusalem is mentioned, so redemption is still in view. The last three verses of chapter 52, and chapter 53, make it clear whose blood will be shed, and that this is a redemption that goes beyond Israel and Judah.

You said that this verse should make every immersionist pause? I would hope the context would make every non-immersionist pause before trotting out an argument like this. I don't know you, but generally, I've come to expect better than this from you.

You may prefer to view "sprinkling" here as "baptising with the Spirit". I can understand that position, from your theological perspective. But in no way can this sprinkling be understood as water baptism.

As to your thoughts on my prior post. You are correct in asserting that the sudden view of water may have triggered the eunuch's desire to be baptised. Indeed, it certainly did, along with what he had just been reading/hearing, trigger that desire.

If sprinkling were the means of baptism, or even one acceptable means of baptism, the eunuch, upon seeing the water, certainly could have had his charioteer just keep right on driving. He sees water, gets the thought of baptism, and pulls out a water bottle, and says, "Please, baptise me!" Philip opens the water bottle and pours or sprinkles it over his head, and everyone is happy!

Except, that didn't happen. For some reason, they had to stop the chariot and go down into the water. I've never heard a non-immersionist reason why all that trouble was necessary. Perhaps you have such a reason, but you haven't given it yet.

This is not Scriptural teaching, it is logical inferences from the text. I readily acknowledge, as I did previously, that the text does not absolutely demand those inferences. But the events make little sense, from any kind of logical perspective that I can see, if sprinkling or pouring is baptism. If I am missing something, I would certainly appreciate being enlightened -- but your reference to Is. 52:15 was not enlightening at all.

PSFerguson said...


Everyone is being very polite to me, which is getting uncomfortable. I am not used to it on Kent’s site. Now, Isaiah 52:15 refers to the ministry of the Messiah and His sprinkling of the nations. Now, it does not refer directly to conversion so I don’t think we have to assume that the Ethiopian reading that passage would assume that.

Lets assume for the sake of argument that it is not speaking of Messiah’s water baptism ministry through His servants. The obvious candidate is then the Baptism by Christ of the Holy Spirit, which would be by sprinkling then. So that throws the baptizo equates to immersion out the window then in Acts 1:5!

If you want to argue that Isaiah 52:15 is speaking about conversion by sprinkling of the blood of Christ then you have another problem. There is always a correlative in the OT between sprinkling with blood and sprinkling with water to illustrate spiritual cleansing and separation e.g. Ezekiel 36:25; Num. 19:1-13. All of us can see immersion is never used to represent an OT cleansing on believers. Also, immersion would make the work of the Holy Spirit inwardly in sprinkling (Heb. 10:22) as improperly represented by a correlative outward act.

I don’t see much significance in the fact that they got down from the chariot. All of us believe that baptism should be conducted in a public way before witnesses. Even immersionists don’t immerse at home in the bath! The obvious way to do that would be in water before all the others travelling in a great convoy.

Let me emphasise – I have nothing against immersion. What I have a problem with is people taking the Scriptures and stretching them to say that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism when the Bible says no such thing. If God wanted to make that clear He would have. Do you not think it is significant that in all the OT ritual cleansings the mode is detailed to the minute degree yet this is not reflected in the OT teachings on baptism? (same is true of the Passover vs Lord's Supper) All of us can see and agree that the OT ritual cleansings was by sprinkling with water. Why? Because the text is explicit. Why can we not all see baptizo is immersion? Because the text is not explicit! I have great faith in the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t need Baptists help to interpret what He wrote and did not write.

PSFerguson said...


You said "God did "pour" out the Holy Spirit, but He "baptized" His people." The problem with that is that the pouring out of the Spirit is called a baptizo in Acts 1:5 and Acts 11:16. Peter interpreted this Acts 1:5 predicted baptizo as a pouring from Joel 2 in Acts 3:17. He explicitly said in Acts 11:16 that this pouring in Acts 10:44-47 was the same as Acts 3:17 and was a fulfilment of Christ promise to baptizo with the Spirit. There is no other way to get round that. Coupled with the fact that the related noun word baptismos in Hebrews 9:10 is clearly sprinkling then you are the one with the problem.

Lance said...

Until we understand the three central ordinances (in that theses three things were ordained of God for the consecration of priests) involved in the consecration of the Old Testament priests, we cannot understand Romans 12:1-2 or the extension of these two verses into verses three through eight. These three central ordinances for the consecration of the priests are also detailed in Romans chapters three through eight. Therefore, the Old Testament ordinances for consecration are merely the physical pattern, or shadow, of the New Testament spiritual reality.

In Exodus chapter twenty-nine, God gives the details of the consecration of the Levitical priesthood in Aaron and his sons. The details of their consecration are physical shadows of the spiritual reality of Christ as our High Priest and every believer as His servant-priesthood. In Exodus 29:1, God tells us that certain practices were ordained to “hallow them, to minister unto me {God} in the priest’s office.” The word “hallow” is translated from the Hebrew word qadash (kaw-dash'), which means to consecrate or dedicate. The three central physical types are:

1. BAPTISM- “And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water” (Exodus 29:4).

Clearly, the context of Old Testament and New Testament baptism is connected to the consecration of the priesthood for service. Baptism is never connected to salvation or the cleansing of sin. It certainly was not connected to circumcision in any way. Even Jesus, our High Priest, was baptized to fulfill this type. Because water baptism is disconnected from its main intent in the consecration of a priest before he begins his priestly service to God, we have all this confusion in connecting it to salvation. Baptism was commonly connected to salvation in paganism, but never in Judaism or true Christianity.

“1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 2 Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, 3 From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation” (Numbers 4:1-3).

“21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age . . .” (Luke 3:21-23a).

Lance said...

The baptism of John the Baptist was transitional in nature. We should not confuse John’s baptism with Jewish proselyte baptism or the baptism connected with the consecration of priests for serving the LORD (Hebrews 6:1-2). John’s baptism had both an Eschatological purpose and a purpose of preparing Old Testament believers to trust in the coming Messiah. John knew that the appearance of Messiah on the scene of history was to take place during his ministry. John’s baptism is transitional in nature in that it was something new in connection to ushering in the New Covenant and the priesthood of all believers after the Day of Pentecost.

“29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. 31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. 32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. 35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29-36)!

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).

“1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:1-6).

John the Baptist’s baptism was initiatory in its nature and identificational in its purpose. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 10:2 that this initiation and identification happened to all of Israel in the types of the “cloud” and the “sea.” The fact that only those traveling together FOLLOWING Moses (a type of Christ) passed through the Red Sea. In this, they were initiated as a nation.
Secondly, only those FOLLOWING the “cloud” were in identification with the God of the nation of Israel. New Testament baptism places the believer in a new position.

“1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (I Corinthians 10:1-5).

James Wyatt said...

Mr. Ferguson

You said in an earlier post that if he meant immerse why didn't he say immerse? I am not a Greek scholar and do not claim to be, so please take this as an honest question, what word should have been used in place of Baptizo, if he meant immerse?

jg said...

Dr. Ferguson,

If I seem to be polite, please don't take it too personally. :) I try to be polite to everyone, not just you. You probably know that Churchill said if you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite. That's true when you have to kill a man's position, too, I suppose.

"There is always a correlative in the OT between sprinkling with blood and sprinkling with water to illustrate spiritual cleansing and separation e.g. Ezekiel 36:25; Num. 19:1-13." Always? How about "in a few cases"?

In fact, the overwhelming majority of uses of the word "sprinkling" (there are actually two Hebrew words, but I've missed any substantive difference between them) refer to blood, with no mention of water. And where it is water, it often refers to water of purification, which included the ashes of the heifer -- in other words, a sacrifice.

There is no cleansing without a sacrifice, right?

Your reference to Hebrews 10:22 makes it clear -- sprinkling is a reference to the sacrificial work of Christ, by which we are cleansed. It has nothing to do with water baptism, because water baptism is not a sacrifice.

I understand the non-immersionist position. But you do it a disservice to try to claim that Isaiah 52 is problematic for Baptists.

"Why can we not all see baptizo is immersion? Because the text is not explicit!"

Perhaps the problem here is that the text explicitly used a word that means to immerse. Anyone who know Koine Greek knew what that meant, so it was hardly necessary to lay it out. It was explicit.

Here's another question for you. We know that the Jews practiced proselyte baptism by total immersion.

When John started baptising, the Jews came and asked why he was baptising. They didn't ask, "Why aren't you immersing people like we do?" Natural conclusion: He was immersing people.

Why does the NT never spell it out that other "modes" are ok? The argument from silence here cuts against you more than it cuts for you.

d4v34x said...

Bro B.,

Boy, did the ecclesiology train get derailed!

You may have dealt with this elsewhere, but this may provide an interesting respite from the baptism discussion, so I'll ask.

What church did Christ build on Peter's "rock"? Is that the only church built on said rock?

Gary Webb said...

I know you are busy, but you only answered part of my post. I would ask along with James Wyatt, what Koine Greek word means to dip or immerse? Do we have any lexicon telling us that baptizo means to sprinkle? The only reason you can try to make the words sprinkle, pour, and baptism mean the same thing is because you reject the express meaning of the word baptizo.

Jonathan Speer said...


Regarding the paragraph way back in your original post dealing with Paul's church membership, :-), I thought I'd let you know that the reason Paul seemed to have "universal" church appeal and authority was because he was an apostle. As much as some men throughout history and in our day try to have apostolic ministries (meaning, they wish to have broad influence among churches), they cannot have a Biblically apostolic ministry because they do not meet the requirements of an apostle like Paul and Peter did.

Thanks everyone for the well-thought-out discussion!

PSFerguson said...

James Watt

Please read my paper. If the Holy Spirit had wanted to use a Greek word that means to immerse He could have used egkataduno which means “sink beneath.” Again the same point you and JG need to answer – why did the Holy Spirit not expressly say that it was by immersion in the NT when He made it explicitly clear in the OT that ritual symbolic cleansings were by sprinkling. No one has given me a proper answer yet.


If baptizo was so clearly immersion we would not be having this dispute. You claim that the Koine word means only immerse yet when I show you what the same lexicons say about baptismos being a related word meaning sprinkling you reject it. Now, either we go we the lexicon approach consistently or not at all. The issue is not what the Koine Greek speakers understood baptizo but how the Scriptures used the word. If the word is used in a context where a strict root-meaning is inapplicable, the word’s definition has been expanded into a semantic range by a natural linguistic process of expansion. That I demonstrated by the use of baptismos and the explicit linking of baptizo with pouring in Acts 1:5; Joel 2; Acts 3:17; Acts 10:44-47; and Acts 11:16. Ironically, one major lexicon gives baptizo as plunging under and remaining submerged under. Don’t see many Baptists taking that approach!

The point I was making about the correlation between water sprinkling and blood sprinkling is that when the OT links cleansing by blood and by water it is always by the mode of sprinkling. Ezekiel 36:25 is a classic text for that. Lance Ketchum makes a good observation about Christ’s baptism by John and OT sprinkling rituals. In fact, why if John was immersing, why did the Pharisees, who were sticklers for the law, not inquire why the Levitical son of a priest is immersing when all the OT priests used sprinkling in their cleansing rites e.g. Numbers 8:5-7? It is safe and entirely reasonable to assume that John’s baptism was identical in mode and manner to all of the baptisms of the Old Testament economy.

You stated “We know that the Jews practiced proselyte baptism by total immersion.” This is a standard immersionist myth. We know no such thing. There is not a hint of it in the OT or the NT. All that we know that the Scribes and Pharisees prided themselves on their adherence to the minutest degree on the OT external rituals. That included for proselytes – circumcision and blood & water sprinkling rituals. Where would they get the idea to immerse from? Where does it say they did?

jg said...

Dr. Ferguson,

I refer you to Alfred Edersheim, in his Appendix to "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah". If you don't possess the book, every Bible student ought to, but the appendix in question can be found at http://articles.ochristian.com/article14832.shtml.

Edersheim argues that Jewish proselyte baptism by immersion was indeed taking place at the time of Christ, and gives his reasons.

Edersheim was an ordained minister of the Free Church of Scotland. I'm presuming you know that is a Presbyterian denomination that practices infant baptism by sprinkling. He then became a minister in the Church of England, which practices the same.

If Jewish proselyte baptism is simply an "immersionist myth", it was propagated by a non-immersionist, and one who has studied the rabbinic writings more deeply than perhaps any other Christian scholar. He would have had as much theological inclination to deny Jewish immersion in the time of Christ as anyone, yet he did not.

That the Jews practiced baptism by immersion proves nothing about Christian baptism. That there is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate any distinction (other than the public nature of Christian baptism) does give evidence on "our" side of the scales. How heavily one weights that evidence is perhaps dependent on one's theological perspective.

Gary Webb said...

Thanks for some further information on your reasons for not accepting the meaning of baptizo.
When you ask about the Pharisees questioning John about immersing, that is exactly what they did: "Why baptizeth thou then?" John 1:25. Why did they not ask, "Why sprinklest thou then?" & use rantidzw or prosxusis - words that Paul used to speak of sprinkling when he wrote to Jewish Christians?

Jonathan Speer said...

PS, you said:

"All that we know that the Scribes and Pharisees prided themselves on their adherence to the minutest degree on the OT external rituals."

I think you will find that the Scribes and Pharisees were more interested in following the external practices they had invented in order to maintain their unscriptural authority than following God's word as it was given in the Old Testament. We can never assume that the Scribes and Pharisees were practicing anything from the OT as God had intended them to practice it.

It would be interesting to see what the Talmud says about baptism since that is what they were most likely practicing during Christ's time on Earth.

James Wyatt said...

In relation to the connection between pouring and immersion the two can be quite connected. I believe Bro. Brandenburg referenced this earlier, Christ poured out the Holy Spirit until those present where immersed in the Holy Spirit. Just as I could put a rock in a bowl and and pour in water until it was immersed, thus Baptizing it by

Liam O'Brian said...

To get back to the orginality of this thread, I would have to ask what proof can be set forth that only Baptists are in descent from the apostles. It is said that Luther merely rehashed the beliefs of Huss (something he admitted to) and Huss was clearly picking up where Wycliffe left off. Wycliffe himself was said by the Romanists to have "renewed the heresies of the Albigenses and the Waldenses" - both remnant groups dating back centuries before. It is also said by some that Wycliffe was spiritually descended from the Culdees, a sect that arose in Britain and Wales about the year 63 - with beliefs similar to, but not completely in agreement with modern Baptists.

Did the Reformers come as far as I would have liked? Absolutely not. However, I also realise that unless one is willing to say that God made a mistake in not choosing him to be one of the Reformation leaders, he ought not say anything else about it.

It is simple logic: God picked the best possible candidate to be Adam - while we might like to think differently, we could have only done worse than Adam. Somebody, out of all the possible men who ever lived or could ever live, had to be Adam and God picked Adam. In the same way, somebody had to be Dr. Martin Luther, or Dr. John Calvin, &c. God picked the best possible candidates to be them.

If we are going to say they should have learnt and grown more, I will reverse the question - why haven't we, with five centuries of hindsight (always 20/20) and teachers to help us (something they had neither of), learnt and grown more?

d4v34x said...

Since Bro B. is busy, I'll open this up to anyone.

What church did Christ build on Peter's "rock"? From the English (I don't know Greek) that appears to be the only church to which the gates of hell promise applies to,

Joshua said...

Hi d4,

The assembly (ekklesia) Christ built upon Peter's rock (his confession of faith in Christ) was His own assembly. He said "my assembly" to differ it from the other assemblies that existed in the day, like the one there at Ceasarea Phillipi that governed the city.

What does His assembly look like? It looks like born again believers in an organized assembly, overseen by elders, served by deacons, carrying out the Great Commission in obedience to Scriptural doctrine, of whom Christ is the head.

If your church doesn't look like that, then it's not His assembly.

Liam O'Brian said...


The Greek rendering of "I will build my church" includes the article with the word "Ekklesia" so in one sense it may be said that it refers to only one church. However, Dr. Brandenburg would probably say that Jesus referred to the church in a general sense, much as one would refer to the plough by saying "the plough was one of the most useful inventions of all time." Personally, I believe it refers to the true church (as opposed to the visible) in that a visible church may be in apostasy (and thus not fulfill the promise) or have unregenerate tares as members. The true church is within the local/visible and is made up exclusively of regenerate wheat.

Anonymous said...

PS Ferguson - I must admit, you are making a valiant effort at defending infant baptism (via sprinkling), but it is to no avail.

You said, "If baptizo was so clearly immersion we would not be having this dispute. You claim that the Koine word means only immerse yet when I show you what the same lexicons say about baptismos being a related word meaning sprinkling you reject it."

You have further tried to rely upon the word "baptismos" as meaning "sprinkling," and have appealed to Hebrews 9:10 to support this.

Your arguments are simply completely wrong. Every last one of them.

First of all, bapto, baptismos, and baptizo are all derived from (or are) the same root. Hence, it stands to reason that all of them will have similar meanings. In fact, they do. They all describe the immersion, temporary or permanent, of an object. That's it. They do not refer to sprinkling, lexically or contextually.

First of all, I'd like to ask what your lexical source for saying that "baptismos" means "sprinkling" is. The reason I ask is because the lexical sources I've seen (Liddell and Scott, and the intermediate Liddell) both say that baptismos refers to dipping or immersion, but say nothing about sprinkling.

The only five uses of baptismos in Greek literature are certainly not definitive. Three are in the NT, one is in Josephus describing John the Baptist as "baptising" people (but does little to disambiguate), and one is in Plutarch, where the word definitely is describing immersion.

In Greek literature outside the Bible, every single use of the verb baptizo is in connection with something being immersed, drowned, covered with a liquid, etc., or else is a figurative use which depends on allusion to the same. Every single one. There is no use of the verb baptizo in any Greek literature that I am aware of that uses the verb to describe sprinkling.

Indeed, one use by Josephus is very pertinent here because Josephus uses baptizo to describe the dipping of hyssop into water in one of the purification rituals, but then uses a completely different verb to describe the act of sprinkling the hyssop.

Anonymous said...

(cont.) While I do not believe the LXX to be a good translation, and certainly don't think it can be used to "correct" the Masoretic text, I nevertheless think the LXX *can* provide a clue as to how its translators (paraphrasers?) understood the Hebrews terms, by how they rendered them in Greek.

It is interesting that at no place where the OT rituals of sprinkling, either blood or water, are mentioned did the LXX translators render "sprinkle" as any form or derivative or bapto.

Very clearly, whatever else bapto, baptismos, and baptizo may mean, sprinkling is NOT included.

Your attempt to defend baptismo as sprinkling from Hebrews 9:10 is insufficient. Basically, what you're doing is *assuming* that the "divers washings" in this verse are referring to sprinklings. However, this is not the case.

Look at the context. The verse is talking specifically about the ordinances of washings *for the priests* (with a view towards showing that Christ as our High Priest replaced all of that). So, we're not talking about things like the sprinkling of the blood on the people at the consecration of the covenant, nor the various purification rituals for houses, people who had touched dead bodies, etc. It is talking specifically about the washing rituals for the priests.

These would include things like washing their hands and feet before entering in to minister in the Tabernacle (Ex. 30:19-21), washing Aaron and his sons with water (Ex. 40:12), washing in preparation for and after ministry (Lev. 16:4, 24; Num. 19:7), etc. Included with these perhaps could also be the various washings that the people were to make of their flesh and their clothing after various things like taking the ashes of sacrifices outside the camp, etc.

Hence, there is no reason at all to think Hebrews 9:10 is support for a "sprinkling" meaning to baptismos. Further, your assertion that the OT "always" links cleansing with sprinkling is false.

Further, the uses of baptismo in Mark 7:4 and 7:8 clearly suggest an "immersion" meaning for the word, since one doesn't wash dishes by "sprinkling" them, but by dunking them in water.

Hence, there seems to be absolutely no lexical nor Biblical support for any variant or derivative of bapto as meaning anything besides immersion.

Anonymous said...

Therefore, your question,

"why did the Holy Spirit not expressly say that it was by immersion in the NT when He made it explicitly clear in the OT that ritual symbolic cleansings were by sprinkling."

Is answered by simply noting that the Holy Spirit DID expressly say that baptism is by immersion - that's why he used baptizo. That's the word in Greek that means "immerse."

I find it interesting that you suggested egkataduno as a word that the Holy Spirit "should" have used if He were going to describe something being immersed. What? That is NOT what that word means. In fact, the word is used exactly once in Greek literature (never in the NT), in Josephus' Jewish Wars, to describe people who *fled underground* into subterranean caverns to escape the Romans. I suppose there is a vague similarity to the meaning of baptizo in the sense of somebody going down inside something, but really, to suggest that the two words are synonymous, or that egkataduno would be a "better" word to describe immersion in a liquid is simply credulous.

I also observed that you were relying upon Isa. 52:15 as evidence for sprinkling as a mode of baptism. I'm tempted to assume that you were simply being facetious, but I don't think you were.

Your argument for Isa. 52:15, especially using it to try to prove mode of baptism, is not credible. This verse is not describing baptism in any way, shape, or form. It is instead describing Messiah's priestly role when He returns - the nations that had previously rejected Him will now be astonished before Him, their kings will be made subject to Him, and this verse apparently describes a cleansing of these people as they go into the Millennium, probably analagous to the cleansing of the people of Israel in Ex. 24:8 when they entered into covenant with Him. There is nothing to suggest that baptism is the intended method of cleansing (especially since baptism is never scripturally a method of cleansing from sin anywise).

In summation, the only mode of baptism that we see in the NT is immersion. Therefore, when Jesus was baptised, it was by immersion. When the Ethiopian eunuch was baptised, it was by immersion. The fact that the Holy Spirit tells us that in both these cases, the ones being baptised "came up out of the water" ought to serve as a common sense indicator of what the mode was, without having to resort to lexica, etc. I'm sorry, but there is simply NO credible case to be made for sprinkling as a mode of baptism - period.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't think I'm going to write any more to you, because I think others have answered very well. I don't think you can use baptismos for your argument, because it is obvious not NT baptism that it is talking about, but OT ceremonial washing---in every case. So without using a lexicon, you are going to have a problem.

I'll be writing more concerning the church issues in a part two here.


Joshua answered the question just like I would. Ekklesia is an assembly. When Jesus says "my assembly" He is differentiating from other assemblies, other governing bodies. That is backed by the "gates," "keys," and "kingdom" reference in the next verse. The singular noun is either a generic or a particular---there is no Platonic usage of the singular noun in Greek grammar. It either is an institutional usage, speaking of the ekklesia as an institution (generic use), or a particular assembly (the Jerusalem assembly). When Jesus says "will build," the Greek word is oikodomeo, that is, "to edify." Jesus will edify His assembly, that is, build up His assembly.

What is His assembly? It is the assembly that follows Him, which is to follow "the faith" once delivered.

Unknown said...

We can observe in the Bible that in every Baptism in the New Testament, the candidate is brought to the waters, and not the other way around.

PSFerguson said...


Your contribution has added nothing further to this debate. Like all the immersionists here you just assume “baptizo” means immerse because it must to suit your presuppositions. I am glad that you accept that baptismos and baptizo are from the same root and bizarrely then claim “They all describe the immersion, temporary or permanent, of an object.” Sorry but “baptismos” is the word used in Hebrews 9:10 which has to refer to a sprinkling ritual because the passage refers in Hebrews 9:13 to the OT passage in Numbers 19:17-18 which is sprinkling. Indeed, the law never required immersions but frequently explicitly demanded sprinklings as seen in Hebrews 9:13, 19, 21. It would take some major twisting of the passage, ripping out of the context, and rejection of all the OT witnesses to argue that “baptismos” means immerse! Bizarrely your argument is that Hebrews 9:10 “baptismos” means “diverse types of immersions” – just give me at least two from the OT then? Baptism is not a NT ritual but as Hebrews 9 proves it goes back to Moses! It is always by sprinkling! The “diverse washings” was not the mode but the element used - Numbers 19:17-18; Exodus 24:6, 8; Leviticus 8:19; 16:14. Even Kent seems to realize that and has tried to argue that the word has no relation to “baptizo.” Finally Mark 7:4 the word “tables” means couches which would be an odd belief that the Pharisees immersed their couches every time they ate. Where would they find such a ceremonial immersion ritual in the OT?
The point about Isaiah 52:15 is also pertinent to the incident with John the Baptist. What prompted the leaders of Judaism to think he may be the Messiah because of his baptizing ministry? Answer – the prophecies of the OT predicting the baptizing ministry of the Messiah. Where are these? Isaiah 52:15 and Ezekiel 36:25. Both refer to sprinkling ministry of the Messiah!

I don’t want to prolong this discussion but your claims that the syntax of
"came up out of the water" proves immersion. That is equally true of all modes but you must then be consistent in using syntax all the way. In Acts 9 the syntax of Paul’s baptism literally "standing up, he was baptized" (Acts 9: 18) so that rules out immersion as the mode.

Bill Hardecker

That statement that "in every Baptism in the New Testament, the candidate is brought to the waters, and not the other way around" is not true. In Acts 10:47 the language is just the opposite. However, even if were true that the candidate was brought to water it would prove nothing as to the mode.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Rather than write out a long defense of immersion, which is the obvious mode of baptism, read other defenses of it that will say what I would say.

J. T. Christian, Immersion: The Act of Christian Baptism, http://books.google.com/books?id=ZqUTAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=text

Here's what immersion has going for it:
*The examples read immersion. They don't read anything like pouring or sprinkling. The prepositions read immerse.
*The history of the word baptizo is used as immerse, which is why lexicons have it mean immerse to, and they show the examples.
*The association with baptism is immerse: burial
*The history of the understanding of "baptize" is immerse. Sprinkling came in later from Roman Catholicism.

All of these are typically the way we understand doctrine, and then reject false doctrine. The word doesn't mean two things. That also is illogical. So if it does mean immerse, it doesn't mean sprinkle or pour.

Thanks P.S. I do like you and I don't even have a problem with your edginess. I like your writing style. I won't even say that you haven't been polite, even though you intimated we weren't so that seemingly you could throw down the victim card. Hey, if we're not polite, let's get it settled, so you don't have to be a victim.

PSFerguson said...

Thanks Kent

I have read the immersionist defences. I don't agree with them so that is why we have interacted on this blog. It seems most of your readers have not read the standard non-immersionist responses. Incidentally, "baptizo" can mean a number of things despite your claim "The word doesn't mean two things." Even immersionists accept that it can mean, at the very least, "to dip, to dye, to permanently submerge."

I appreciate all of you trying to argue from Scripture, but despite your best efforts we have got no further than it seems from the syntax that it must be immersion and burial with Christ must mean immersion. That is hardly overwhelming evidence to lead you to decry the majority of Bible-believing saints throughout the ages as being part of non-Nt churches because they did not immerse. Incidentally, no one has yet explained how immersing someone in water best represents the crucifixion of Christ, the removal of His body, the wrapping it in grave clothes, and the placing in in a hewn rock tomb with a stone above the ground.

BTW - I was not playing the victim card. I appreciate the direct style here. It is a man's website so am happy to give and take. Like Elijah am happy to be the only one left on Scripture on this issue! My surprise was merely directed at the complimentary style of JG and a few others. I did not say I was comfortable with it.

Unknown said...

What language? The point of Acts 10:47 is that the believers cannot be denied water baptism. It says nothing about water being brought to them.
Sprinkling doesn't require "much water" (as in John 3:23a). Immersion is the only mode that places the candidate "into the water" (as in Acts 8:38).

Candidates being brought to the waters is significant because that is what is seen in the Bible.

Immersion is historically the first and recognized manner or mode of baptism. This fact is reported virtually by every historian and/or historical writing which bears upon the topic. Edward Hiscox in his book "Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches," reports a brief history on the deviant mode of pouring. He notes that the first incident of "aspersion" (or pouring) is that of Novatian in A.D. 250 upon his sick bed, hence it is called "clinic baptism." Sprinkling however is rather sketchy but one historian (Vedder) places it on A.D. 259 and adapted as a mode by the Roman Catholic Council of Revenna in 1311. Infant baptism, being motivated by the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration (or pardon through baptism) was recognized as early as A.D. 350. One can observe that convenience would be a motive of changing from immersion to any other mode. This change, however convenient it may be, is unjustifiable. The very word for baptism itself, and the examples in Scripture, and the teachings regarding baptism within the Scriptures themselves tells us that immersion is the only Biblical mode for believer's baptism (or credobaptism - from the Latin "creed" meaning belief, i.e. we only baptized those who have made a profession of faith in Christ - which is another reason why we don't baptize infants, they cannot exercise repentance from sin and self and belief on the Lord Jesus Christ).

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm glad to hear the politeness thing cleared up. Just to be clear then about what I mean by "baptism" has one meaning is that "baptism in the Bible has one meaning." I don't concur that baptizo means several things, but even if it does, it only means one thing in the Bible, since the Bible has one meaning. There is no basis for ambiguity here. I know that the Free Presbyterians take a position that allows for more than one mode, but we don't have a basis in the Bible for more than one mode. We've got to come down on one or the other is what I'm saying.

jg said...

Dr. Ferguson,

Just to say in private email, I've called him "Kent" but in forums, it's "Pastor Brandenburg". I don't ask for the same in return, I have reasons for preferring to just use initials. But if you prefer, I would call you PS or "hey you" or "The Committed Sprinkler" or whatever moniker you want. :)

You never answered my citation of Edersheim, by the way. Do you still claim that Jewish proselyte baptism by immersion is just an "immersionist myth"? How did we manage to fool a scholar and paedobaptist like Edersheim on that point?

Peter James said...

Dear Pastor Ken - Greetings; I just want to comment that you are one of a few Pastors I have seen who is knowledgeable, really do their homework, and make thought provoking posts for Independent Baptists. While the jury is still up for me when it comes to Landmarkism, I can definitely say that I have never seen nor could ever come up with Bible verses that implied the 'invisibility' or 'universality' of the local church and anyone I have ever asked always comes up with implications in verses.

Thank you again - Peter James