Appraisal of Infant Baptism in the Anglican Communion

Master's Thesis, 2020

103 Pages, Grade: 4.5


Table of contents

1.I Background of the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Research Questions
1.4 Purpose of the Study
1.5 Methodology
1.6 Scope of the Study
1.7 Significance of the Study
1.8 Organization of the Study
1.9 Definition of Terms

2.1 Theoretical Foundation
2.1.2 Initiatory Theory
2.1.3 Leadership Successional Theory
2.1.3 Expectancy Theory
2.2 Baptism and Church History
2.2.1 Baptism
2.2.2 Church History
2.3 Significance of Baptism
2.3.1 Baptism as Means of Grace
2.3.2 Baptism as Initiation into the Church
2.3.3 Baptism as Remission of Sin
2.3.4 Baptism as Participation in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
2.3.5 Baptism as Regeneration
2.3.6 Baptism as the Gift of the Holy Spirit
2.3.7 Baptism Eschatological Dimension
2.4 Conceptual Framework
2.4.1 Paradoxical Exposition
2.4.2 Concept of Infant Baptism
2.4.3 Historical Development of Infant Baptism
2.4.4 Reasons for Infant Baptism
2.5 Empirical Review

3.1 Meaning
3.2 Baptism in the Scripture
3.3 Types of Baptism
3.3.1 Water baptism
3.3.2 Baptism is a figure of salvation in Christ (1Pe 3:21)
3.3.3 Baptism by the Holy Spirit
3.3.4 Baptism with the Holy Ghost
3.3.5 Baptism of Christ's suffering
3.3.6 Baptism with fire
3.4 Mode
3.5 Candidates

4.1 What is the Anglican communion
4.2 Doctrines of The Anglican Communion
4.3 Baptism in the Anglican communion
4.4 Anglican Beliefs and Practices of Infant Baptism
4.5 Arguments in favour of Infant Baptism
4.6 Arguments against Infant Baptism
4.7 The Paradoxes of Infant Baptism
4.8 Appraisal

5.1 Summary
5.2 Conclusion
5.3 Recommendations
5.4 Contribution to Knowledge




1.1 Background of the Study

Baptism comes from a Greek word which basically means to dip repeatedly, to immerse, or submerge. Here from its root word, it signifies the burial of a person in water to declare publicly his or her faith in Christ Jesus (Henry, 1889). As a spiritual exercise, (1994) understands baptism as a public affirmation of a person's conscious decision to place himself or herself under the lordship of Jesus.

For Packer (1993), baptism is the union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. It is a very important doctrine in Christianity and has been held in high esteem by all Christian denominations. The reason has been that Christ commissioned the disciples to baptize those who accept the gospel (Matthew 28:19). History reveals that baptism has been administered by the church at all times. The importance of the doctrine of baptism has made it one of the mostly debated topics among scholars (Mark 2001).

Various aspects of the doctrine of baptism have received different views from scholars (Grenz, 1994; Packer, 1993). Those who believe baptism as an expression of faith advocate that only believers should be baptized. On the other hand, some believe that infants of believers can also be baptized (Mark, 2001; Richard, 2017). Murray (1980), an advocator of infant baptism, makes clear that infants of parents who are intelligent and make credible confession can be baptized “simply because God has instituted” the rite. Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young children. It is argued that the New Testament Church shows no apparent concern for infant baptism, that is, viewed from the household theory, some argue that there is no clear evidence in the New Testament to the fact that infants were baptized.

There is no consensus on the existence of infant baptism in the early church, but for Didier, it is hard to deny its positive probability. Specific evidence for the practice of infant baptism was shown in the second and third centuries. In the fourth century, Basil, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, and others deferred baptism for a latter age due to a misguided prudence. For their time, baptism was understood as sacrament of pardon other than as means of being incorporated into the church. For some time, the church related baptism to actual sin until the controversy between Augustine and Pelagians arose.

Neo-Manicheans rejected infant baptism in the thirteenth century on the basis that infants cannot believe. They insisted on Mark 16:16 which is a call for believers’ baptism. The Anabaptist, also, during the Reformation renewed the rejection of infant baptism together with the Protestants. In spite of this, “the Anglican Communion has continued to defend the practice of infant baptism” since her official acceptance in 1349 AD. Also, there exist denominations today that engage in the practice of infant baptism. Denominational families that practice infant baptism include Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians and other Reformed denominations, Methodists and some Nazarenes, and the Moravian Church (Carter, 2017). Is infant baptism biblical? What are the arguments for and against infant baptism? In other words, what are the bases for the practice infant baptism? The study aims to answer these questions. The study, also, provides an evaluation of infant baptism in the light of the Bible. The study traces the historical development of infant baptism or its debate.

A right understanding of infant baptism is of critical importance to God’s people within the context of the covenant community as it is described in Scripture. Unless the rite is understood in terms of God’s covenant with his people, God’s covenant people may misappropriate infant baptism, and engage in sacramental malpractice. The purpose of this study is to paradoxically appraise infant baptism through research in the areas of church history, theology and biblical studies, and to apply that research to the circumstances of the present-day church. The study focuses on the augments for and against infant baptism from biblical point of view. The study as it seeks to examine infant baptism in the light of the Bible will go a long way to contribute greatly to the already existing knowledge on the Christian doctrine of baptism.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

This study is about a paradoxical appraisal of infant baptism in the Anglican Communion as a response to the mission and doctrinal challenges of baptism controversy in the Christian domain. Given the situation in the background, it is opined in this study that the Anglican theology of baptism needs to be appraised critically in line with its mission. The practice of infant baptism in Anglican Communion is being misunderstood doctrinally by some other Pentecostal denominations that insist on adult baptism of immersion mode. This misunderstanding of baptism in matters of its significance, function, efficacy, method and the adequacy of the outward mode has made this study very imperative. In other words, the lack of consistent knowledge and teaching about infant baptism seems to be the main factor that enables the baptism theology to have a great influence on the infant baptism debate in Nigeria. That is why this study will investigate the better understanding of the Scriptural significance and mode of infant baptism and survey the Anglican theology of baptism in order to respond to its doctrinal challenges in the Nigeria Christian environment.

The response of the church toward these doctrinal challenges by the official integration of infant baptism is obviously not a satisfactory or final solution alone. The present acceptance of two mode- practices of baptism in Anglican Communion demands clearly the pastoral responsibility to instruct the congregants about the meaning and function of infant baptism in a person’s life, the importance of the outward rite and the effect of the inward spiritual act during baptism, and the biblical mode of baptism.

The missionary mandate of the church to baptize and teach becomes much more demanding to be well understood and fulfilled objectively. The persistence of the negligence and inability to resolve the controversy toward infant baptism can continually lead to the departures of congregants to other denominations, the increase of the re-baptised in hidden occasions, the increasing pressure to the church to practice rebaptism, and divisions in the congregations. These challenges motivated the researcher to undergo this study.

1.3 Research Questions

The study has been embarked upon to paradoxically appraise infant baptism with a case study of the Anglican Communion. In order to pursue and realize the purpose of the study, the following research questions were formulated:

i. What is baptism?
ii. What is the origin of infant baptism?
iii. What is the Anglican theology of infant baptism?
iv. What are the arguments in favour of infant baptism?
v. What are the arguments against Infant baptism?
vi. What are the paradoxes of infant baptism?

1.4 Purpose of the Study

The study seeks to examine paradoxically - infant baptism with emphasis on Anglican Communion. Accordingly, the study seeks to achieve the following purposes:

i. To examine what baptism is.
ii. To determine the origin of infant baptism.
iii. To find out the Anglican theology of Infant baptism.
iv. To evaluate the arguments in favour of Infant baptism.
v. To assess the arguments against Infant baptism.
vi. To scrutinize the paradoxes of infant baptism.

1.5 Methodology

The research shall make extensive use of both primary and secondary data. Primary data shall be obtained through interviews, and personal observations. Secondary data shall be elicited by using textbooks, Internet materials, magazines, journals and church documentations. This research will rely heavily on a wide range of literature both old and new for general information and more specifically will seek for materials on critical issues surrounding infant baptism and Anglicanism.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The content scope of this study aims at examining paradoxically infant baptism with: a case study of Anglican Communion. This covers all the Anglican churches in Nigeria as all of them are involved in infant baptism. The study unit scope which involves the unit of analysis is restricted to the members of Anglican churches in Nigeria. It shall mainly be an Anglican Communion level analysis. The specific area involved is infant baptism. The g eographical scope covers the geographical area location where the study will be conducted. This study shall be restricted to Anglican Communion in Nigeria. The geographical scope of this study is therefore Nigeria.

1.7 Significance of the Study

This study shall contribute to the development of the doctrine of infant baptism in the Anglican Communion. It will also will provide empirical evidence of the practice of infant baptism in Anglican Communion and other Christian denominations. It shall also be of tremendous help to Christians in various denominations to develop their Christian baptismal strategies through in-depth knowledge in infant baptism with Biblical backgrounds. In addition, the study shall be of good use to policy makers to know the short comings in this area and integrate same to guide them in their future planning and decisions concerning doctrinal issues.

1.8 Organization of the Study

The study is organized into five chapters. Chapter one introduces the study with background of the study, statement of problem, research questions, purpose of the study, methodology, scope of the study, significance of study, organization of the study and definition of terms. Chapter two reviews relevant literature in such areas as: Theoretical foundation – initiatory theory, successional theory and expectancy theory, Other issues in literature review include conceptual framework- paradoxical exposition, conception of infant baptism, historical development of infant baptism, reasons for infant baptism, Anglican beliefs on infant baptism and empirical review. Chapter three deals with the concept of Christian baptism – covering such subtopics as meaning, types of baptism, mode and candidates. The fourth chapter is for infant baptism in Anglican Communion with subtopics as: The origin of infant baptism, Anglican beliefs and practices of infant baptism, the paradoxes of Infant baptism, arguments in favour of infant baptism, arguments against infant baptism and critical appraisal. Finally, chapter, five, contains the summary, conclusion and recommendations of the study as well as contribution to knowledge and suggestions for further research.

1.9 Definition of Terms

Anglican Communion: The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion with 85 million members, founded in 1867 in London, England. It consists of the Church of England and national and regional Anglican episcopal polities in full communion with it, with traditional origins of their doctrines summarised in the Thirty-nine Articles.

Anglicanism: Anglicanism denotes the pattern of Christian belief and practice that originated in the Church of England and has spread globally, and its institutional expression is known as the Anglican Communion. The first application of the term “Anglican” is traced to this family of churches in 1849 when the Christian socialist writer Charles Kingsley applied it to the church in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Baptism: Baptism is the Christian rite of initiation into the church. It is an unrepeated rite of which the visible symbol is water in which the subject is immersed or with which he or she is sprinkled along with words that the person is being baptised in the name of the Trinity.

Infant: Infant is a child in the first period of life; a person who is not of full age – a minor.

Infant Baptism: Infant baptism is the Christian rite of initiation of children into the church. It is an unrepeated rite of which the visible symbol is water in which the subject is immersed or with which he or she is sprinkled along with words that the person is being baptised in the name of the Trinity.

Paradox: Paradox is a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true.

Theology: Theology is personally involved reflection on a religious faith. It is a systematic discourse that examines faith and asks questions about it. This reflection must be conducted upon a specific faith what implies that there exist various theologies such as Christian Theology, Islamic Theology, Jewish Theology, etc. Therefore, by theology of infant baptism, the researcher, in this study, denotes the understanding or comprehension of infant baptism with respect its mandate, significance, and administration.



2.1 Theoretical Foundation

This study seeks to do a paradoxical appraisal of infant baptism – a case study of Anglican Communion. In this section the theoretical framework underpinning the study has been explored. Theories such as: Initiatory theory, successional theory and expectancy theory have been x-rayed in this section.

2.1.2 Initiatory Theory

An assessment of the current state of initiatory studies and Pauline scholarship elicited six questions that we shall pursue throughout the study. These six questions require an initiatory theory that not only addresses the areas that remain unresolved in Pauline scholarship, but also attends to those aspects of initiation that have been overlooked by initiatory theorists (Bultmann, 1995). It is noted by Rappaport (1979) that socio-functional initiatory analyses often involve a degree of ambivalence to the extent that they fail to make a functionalist/ selectionist distinction. Scholars often attribute an initiatory cause to a social effect without demonstrating that the initiator exists in order to bring about that particular social effect. Even if the functionalist/ selectionist distinction is maintained, socio-functional analyses fail to account for why initiatory is particularly apt or uniquely qualified for achieving the ends ascribed to them. Moreover, we found above that embodiment theorists have tended to err by making too sharp a distinction between the semiotic and the somatic. While the human body does indeed express symbol systems, the body is also generative and formative of those symbol systems. The body does not simply enact previously existing cogitations or beliefs but is also integral to the formation and maintenance of such cogitations and beliefs.

The study is therefore in agreement with performance- and practice-based theories and their emphasis on the role of the invitatories’ body in the formation of social order. Social dynamics and the knowledge forged therein are constituted by and around the physical body in practices properly basic, foundational, to human experience, knowledge and identity (Oriji, 2005). The invitatories’ body thus mediates the social arrangement of time and space in ways that are specific to the structural relations of the constituent elements inherent in invitatory activity. The delineation and disambiguation of these structural relations has been the sustained analysis of the American ecological anthropologist, Roy A. Rappaport, who proposes that initiatory provides ‘cybernetic’ (i.e. self-regulating) controls necessary for the adaptive systems of cultures (Rappaport 1979). According to Rappaport (1979), all cultures respond to perturbations or disturbances in their social equilibrium with what he terms ‘cognized environments’, initiatorily organised meaning systems that enable cultures to interpret and thus respond to the challenges posed by their ecologies and/or social contexts. These initiatorily organised meaning systems involve primary sacred values, what Rappaport terms ‘ultimate sacred postulates’, which inform cosmological and temporal conceptions that in turn certify and legitimate social order and ethics. Invitatory activities in effect calibrate social and ethical life around sacred and cosmic conceptions and thereby establish cultural conventions and socially normative behaviour. It is through such invitatory calibration that cultural perturbations are both recognised and countered.

What is important for this study is that Rappaport’s theory addresses each one of the gaps that this study identified in survey of initiatory readings of Paul:

1. Rappaport observes that initiatory involves both form and embodiment: “As a form or structure it possesses certain logical properties, but its properties are not only logical. Inasmuch as performance is one of its general features, it possesses the properties of practice as well. In initiatory, logic becomes enacted and embodied – is realized – in unique ways (Rappaport 1999). For Rappaport (1999), act and utterance, belief and practice, are dialectically reciprocal and thus irreducible to one another, in that initiatory order and actualise the meaning systems shared by a population: “Liturgical orders impose structure upon understanding or, perhaps it is better to say, provide the structure without which understanding can only be fragmented and contradictory.
2. Rappaport argues that the structural relations between the constituents of initiatory form and performance entail a highly definite and unambiguous periodicity that calibrates time in ways unique to invitatory processes (Steyn, 2008).
3. The reciprocity of logic and performance in initiatory involves two classes of messages transmitted through initiatory processes: the performative element produces what Rappaport terms ‘self-referential’ messages, and the logical element produces ‘canonical’ messages ((Bultmann, 1995). Self-referential messages transmit variant information concerning the participant’s own status to herself and to other participants, while canonical messages transmit information of transcendence encoded in invariant orders of liturgy and communicated by the participants. As the Hebrew Shema remains unchanged on the lips of constantly changing confessors, initiatory uniquely merges the transcendent (often associated with the discursive) with the specific (the physical, embodied relating a sacred transcendent order to the variegated participants who by their initiatory performance realise such order.
4. Finally, the invitatory mechanisms of embodiment entail for Rappaport a highly ethical dimension. The formal and public nature of initiatory participation make it clear that an act of acceptance of the canonical messages communicated in their invitatory activity is taking place, in that it would be contradictory and therefore impossible for initiatory participants to reject the messages that are being realised through their own invitatory embodiment.119 Through invitatory acceptance, the performers have obliged themselves to fidelity toward that which was accepted, and thus moral obligation is implicit in initiator’s structure (Rappaport 1999)

Rappaport (1999) presents a sustained analysis of the formal properties and relationships constitutive of initiators processes of performance and embodiment that address the six questions pursued in this study. Rappaport’s theory will be applied heuristically to the two main initiatory options identified by Pauline Christian communities namely initiatory washings and initiatory meals. As will be demonstrated, these two letters present the richest spread of evidence pertinent to the initiatory theory as summarised above.

2.1.3 Leadership Successional Theory

The succession model of leadership should feel familiar. Monarchies and major religions have used this model of leadership for thousands of years to retain control of countries and believers across the globe (Crawford 2009). This theory of leadership succession is also seen in the business world with companies promoting from an existing leadership structure to retain control of business strategies and organizational direction.

The leadership succession model as posited by Grenz (1994), encourages a church or institution to achieve growth in its management structure. This begins with the chief administration head of the church or institution and moves downward through corporate officers to department heads, shift supervisors and project leaders. This allows for a linear path for communication and ensures that employees/staff/members always have a member of the team who can inform them of management orders and new project initiatives. Management/staff/members seldom work without direct supervision in this theory of leadership.

Changing the church/organisation or institution's leadership is a primary concern of succession leadership theory (Crawford, 2009). Preparing for the eventual departure of an existing leadership structure is an important component of a corporation's governance strategy and is necessary for the church/organisation or institution to maintain operations and implement its overall management plan. The succession theory of leadership encourages an organisation or institution to groom the next chief administration from within the organisation or institution's own ranks as opposed to looking outside the organisation or institution.

By grooming an internal candidate to assume the role of leadership, a church or institution can ensure the new chief administration understands the corporation's culture and business direction. The prospective administration can learn all the nuances of the corporation's daily operations and interacting with other members of the management board by watching the organisation or institution's existing leadership. This helps ensure a seamless transition from one leader to the next without any lag in overall business operations that might occur if the organisation or institution chooses to find an outside candidate to fill the leadership position (Anderson & Kaprianou, 2004).

Grooming a new administration can be a depressing process for the existing leadership (Van-Schaik & Rafferty. F. (2010). The succession model of leadership according to Steyn (2008), forces an existing church administration to come to terms with the time when it will no longer run the establishment or institution. This may breed resentment in the administration that may retard the growth of the church or institution's chosen candidate to replace the existing leadership. This could cause problems down the road for the church if the existing leadership actively works to undermine the candidate's learning process to retain control of the church or institution longer.

2.1.4 Expectancy Theory

This theory developed by Victor Vroom in 1964 and later extended by Porter and Lawler in 2008 explains the determinants of workplace behaviour and attitudes (Alo, 2010). According to this theory, prior to investing effort the employee or person goes through a process of evaluating the value of rewards (valence), the probability that the effort will achieve results (expectancy) and that effort will achieve the performance required (instrumentality). The degree of motivation is affected by the person's preferences for intrinsic or extrinsic rewards and perceptions of equity. Consistent with this view, Steyn (2008) asserts that motivation is determined by individuals' beliefs in their own efforts, the resulting job performance, and finally the outcomes or rewards and incentives offered for the job performance. From the Expectancy Theory, it is clear that employees will be motivated only to the extent that they expect high levels of efforts to be reflected in high levels of performance. If employees do not believe that their performance will be rewarded then this will affect motivation negatively, but if they believe in the high valence of outcomes then they will be highly motivated (Steyn 2008). Anderson & Kaprianou, (2004) added that if one of these factors is absent, motivation will be zero. So, the higher these three factors are, the more motivated employees will be in organisations. The Expectancy Theory is widely accepted for two main reasons (Van-Schaik, & Rafferty, 2010). It makes sense that managers or leaders cannot motivate employees with things they do not want or things they feel they cannot earn. In fact, employees must want the motivator, be it recognition, status or bonus and they must believe that they have a fair chance of obtaining it in order for it to motivate them to perform.

On the other hand, managers or leaders must identify the type and amount of behaviour that will be used to judge good or outstanding performance, that is establish clear appraisal parameters. They should also determine whether employees have the appropriate skills and knowledge to do their work effectively (Steyn 2008). According to Crawford (2009), managers or leaders should give appropriate rewards for individual performance and take heed of intervening variables such as traits, organisation procedures and support facilities that might affect performance. The concept of expectancy provided by this theory is useful to employees and managers or leaders.

2.2 Baptism and Church History

2.2.1 Baptism

Baptism is an outward act that symbolizes the inward phenomenon of coming to and accepting Jesus Christ as real, as God incarnate, as the sacrificial means by which those who believe in him can be forever reconciled to God. The purpose of baptism is to give visual testimony of our commitment to Christ. It is the first step of discipleship (Acts 8:26-39). Baptism is an invitation to join the Church family. When a baby or younger child is baptised, the parents accept the invitation on behalf of their child. Older children and adults accept the invitation themselves. Often adults are baptised at Easter. Baptism is a special time for the person who is to be baptised, for their family and friends and the parish community (Richard, 2017).

The Old Testament. In the Septuagint4 βαπηíδω occurs very infrequently (II Kings 5:14; Isa. 21:4). in Isaiah 21:4 it is used in a figurative sense to translate the Hebrew word txb which means to terrify, startle, or fall upon. It would appear that nothing very determinative regarding the precise import of βαπηíδω can be derived from this instance. In II Kings 5:14 the reference is to Naaman‟s baptising of himself seven times in Jordan, and βαπηíδω translates the Hebrew word. It is the word βαπηω which occurs most frequently in the Septuagint, occurring some seventeen times. In most of these instances it translates the Hebrew word just as Βαπηíδω does in II Kings 5:14. It means to dip or be moist with. In Leviticus 11:32 βαπηω translates the Hebrew word azb and no doubt refers to immersion — the articles concerned are put into water. In Psalm 68:23(24) βαπηω translates the Hebrew word ~lbf which means to smite through. But the Greek seems to convey a different idea, one akin to that of the Hebrew word lbf. There need be no question then that βαπηíδω means to dip and so also does βαπηω which the Greek rendering is.

Furthermore, that βαπηω may also sometimes refer to immersion there need be no question. This appears in Leviticus 11:32. The question is whether lbf and βαπηω necessarily refer to immersion and that they therefore mean to immerse. It can readily be shown that lbf and βαπηω do not mean immersion. That is to say, the dipping denoted by and βαπηω is not always to be equated with immersion. This fact that dipping is not equivalent to immersion needs to be stressed at the outset. Far too often in anti-baptist discussions this fact is overlooked and a good deal of unnecessary argumentation arises from the oversight. In Leviticus 14:6, 51 we have the ritual prescribed for the cleansing of a leper and of a house in which the plague of leprosy appeared. The priest was to take the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop and the living bird and dip them in the blood of the bird that was slain. It is obvious that a living bird cannot be immersed in the blood of another bird. It may be dipped in such blood but such dipping could not be immersion. Here is a case where βαπηω is used to denote an action that cannot be construed as immersion.

So βαπηω does not mean immersion. It can refer to an action performed by immersion but it can also refer to an action that does not involve immersion at all. Hence there is no reason arising from the meaning of the word βαπηω why in any instance of its occurrence it should refer to immersion. When it does refer to immersion our knowledge that this is the case is not derived from the word βαπηω but from other considerations. It is also worthy of note that in these two instances the live bird was to be baptised into the blood (eíς tó αîmα) of the slain bird. Hence even “baptism into” (βαπηω eíς) does not mean to immerse, and the preposition “into” does not add any force to the argument that βαπηω means to immerse.4a In Leviticus 14:16 we have another instance which, while not as conclusive as Leviticus 14:6, 51, nevertheless, points in the same direction. This has reference to the sprinkling of oil. The priest took some of the log of oil and poured it into the palm of his left hand. Then he dipped his right finger in the oil that was in the palm of his left hand and sprinkled the oil seven times before the Lord. Now it may be possible to pour into the cupped left hand enough oil so that the right finger may be immersed in this oil. But it is not an easy performance.

The passage concerned does not indicate any such requirement. All that is prescribed is dipping of the right finger in the oil which is in the palm of the left hand, and it is quite unreasonable to suppose that immersion of that right finger was required. Dipping of the right finger in the oil was all that was requisite for the sprinkling which followed and dipping without the necessity of immersion is rather plainly indicated to be the action in view. Again, in Ruth 2:14 we have the word of Boaz to Ruth: “dip thy morsel in the vinegar”. It would be quite unreasonable to insist that the custom to which Boaz referred was to immerse one’s morsel in the vinegar. On the other hand, the idea of dipping something in vinegar is reasonable and natural. No doubt that was what Boaz had in mind. This same meaning of βαπηω could also apply in I Samuel 14:27, where we are told that Jonathan put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in the honey. In this case it is of course not unreasonable to suppose that the end of the rod was completely covered by the honey. But it is not necessary to suppose this.

What we have found is this: there is one case where βαπηω and even βαπηω eis does not mean and cannot mean immersion (Lev. 14:6, 51); there is the other case where it is unreasonable to suppose that immersion was required or took place (Lev. 14:16); there is still another instance where dipping but not immersion is the reasonable and natural supposition (Ruth 2:14); finally, in the case of I Samuel 14:27 immersion is not unreasonable but it is not by any means necessary to the action denoted. Hence, we have no reason to suppose that in a great many other instances immersion is the action denoted by βαπηω. In other words, we have no ground upon which to insist that in Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 4:6, 17; 9:9; Numbers 19:18; Deuteronomy 33:24; II Kings 8:15 immersion is the mode of action referred to in the respective cases.

There is nothing in the Hebrew word used nor in the context of the passages concerned which requires immersion. And the Greek word βαπηω, as we have just found, does not require immersion. So, we are compelled to conclude that there is nothing to show that in any of these instances just cited immersion was practised or even suggested. And returning to II Kings 5:14, the case of Naaman, where we have βαπηíδω rather than βαπηω, this instance cannot be adduced to prove that Naaman immersed himself in Jordan. Without doubt he bathed himself in Jordan; but there is no evidence derived from the terms used either in Hebrew or Greek, or from the details of the narrative, to prove that Naaman immersed himself. Again, Joshua 3:15 cannot be adduced to prove that the priests‟ feet were immersed in Jordan. We are told that their feet were baptised in the brink of the river. It is quite possible that their feet were immersed in the water. But there is nothing to prove this. Dipping of their feet in the brink of the river is all that is necessary to satisfy the terms used both in Hebrew and Greek. Besides, in verse 13 we are told that, when the soles of the feet of the priests would rest in Jordan, the waters would be cut off and stand in one heap. In verses 15 and 16 we are told that, when the feet of the priests were dipped in the brink of the river, the waters stood and rose up in one heap. Surely the kind of contact with the water, mentioned in verse 13, satisfies the terms of verse 15. To demand more for dipping than the resting of the soles of the priests‟ feet in the water would be indefensible.

In the usage of the New Testament βαπηω recedes into the background and Βαπηíδω comes into the foreground. The former occurs only four times (Luke 16:24; John 13:26(2); Rev. 19:13) whereas the latter seventy-five to eighty times. There are twenty occurrences of the substantive βaptisma and three of βaptismos. In determining the meaning of these terms used to denote baptism it must be remembered again that the question is not whether they may be used to denote an action performed by immersion. It is not our interest to deny that they may be used to denote such an action.

The question is whether these terms mean immersion and therefore always imply in one way or another the act of immersion and could not properly denote an action performed by any other mode. This is the precise question that is relevant to the Baptist contention. And we are concerned now to deal with the evidence which the New Testament itself presents. The thesis which we are propounding is that the terms for baptism are used to denote actions which were not performed by the mode of immersion and that, while these terms could refer to immersion, yet they do not mean immersion. In other words, we undertake to show that the Baptist contention that βαπηíδω and its cognates mean immersion is not borne out by the evidence and that βαπηíδω can be used to denote an action which neither indicates nor implies immersion. We propose to show this by appeal to several passages and groups of passages. 1. Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:2-5; Luke 11:38.

In Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:2-5 we have express allusion to the custom of the Jews, called “the tradition of the elders”, to wash their hands before eating bread. “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread” (Matt. 15:2). “For the Pharisees and all the Jews, except they wash their hands, do not eat, holding the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3). There is some uncertainty as to the precise force of the word πσγμń in the clause, έαν μń πσγμŋ νíψωνηαı ηας xεıρας, whether it refers to the wrist or to the fist. Both Lightfoot and Edersheim claim that according to Jewish custom there were two ways of washing the hands before eating, namely, by dipping the hands in water or by pouring water over the hands. In the former case πσγμń may refer to the washing of one hand with the cupped fist of the other. In the latter case there is every good reason for believing that πσγμń refers to the wrist.

It is distinctly provided in the Talmudic tractate Yadayim that water was to be poured over the hands to the wrist. Chapter II, Mishnah 3, reads as follows: “Hands become unclean and are made clean as far as the wrist. How so? If he poured the first water over the hands as far as the wrist and poured the second water over the hands beyond the wrist and the latter flowed back to the hands, the hands nevertheless become clean.” It would appear that Edersheim is correct when he says, “Accordingly, the words of St. Mark can only mean that the Pharisees eat not „except they wash their hands to the wrist ”. In any case it is a washing of the hands that is in view and, most probably, washing of the hands up to the wrist. In Luke 11:38 this same tradition is referred to when we are told that the Pharisee marvelled because Jesus “had not first baptised himself before dinner” (οσ πρωηον εβαπηíζθń πρò ηοσ άρíζηοσ).

There is no reason to suppose that anything else than the tradition referred to above is in view here, and everything would point to that conclusion. The important observation now is that this tradition is described as baptising oneself (for this is the force of the form εβαπηíζθń) and provides evidence that βαπηíδω can be used with reference to an action which did not involve immersing oneself. Washing the hands by dipping them in water or, more probably, by pouring water upon them can be called baptism. It is quite unwarranted to insist that on this occasion (Luke 11:38) there must be allusion to the Jewish practice of immersion and that what the Pharisee expected on this occasion was that Jesus should have plunged himself in water.

There is no evidence to support such a supposition and the evidence is decidedly against it. Jewish tradition, it is true, did prescribe immersion in certain cases of uncleanness. Seder Tohoroth in the Babylonian Talmud includes several tractates which evince these prescriptions, and the tractate Mikwaoth deals expressly with the bathing-pool which served these purposes. In this bathing-pool, persons as well as vessels and other articles were immersed. But rabbinic tradition prescribed immersion not for the washing and purification which preceded eating, as in this case, but for the uncleanness contracted by such things as leprosy and various kinds of running issue. These tractates deal with the way in which such uncleanness was to be removed. There is no evidence that the Pharisee, in the instance of Luke 11:38, would or could have considered Jesus as having contracted such defilement as, in accordance with rabbinic prescription and tradition, required immersion for purification. In other words, there is no evidence which would indicate that the Pharisee expected of Jesus anything more than the washing referred to in Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3, a washing of the hands as far as the wrist, either by pouring water over them or by dipping them in water. The significant fact is that such washing is referred to as baptising oneself.

The Bible presents baptism as an outward sign of faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Christian baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Jesus, declaring the believer’s faith in and identification with their crucified, buried, and risen Savior. Baptism is a visible sermon of the gospel of Jesus Christ, identifying the Christian with his death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism does not save and is not “necessary” for salvation. (Matt. 28:19–20; Rom. 6:1–11; 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 2:12).

The symbolism of baptism is that, just as Christ died and was buried, so the baptized person is submerged (whether physically or symbolically) under water. And just as Christ rose again from beneath the earth, so the baptized person rises again from beneath the water. Under the water is the believer’s old, dead, heavy, suffocating life. Out of the water, cleansed by the blood of Christ, is the believer’s new, fresh, purposeful life.

Baptism is like a wedding ring. We put on a wedding ring as a symbol of our commitment and devotion. In the same way baptism is a picture of devotion and commitment to Christ. A wedding ring reminds us and tells others that we belong to someone special. In the same way, baptism reminds us and others that we are devoted to Christ and belong to Him. Jesus' b aptism as presented in Matthew 3:13-17 says "t hen Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” If John was baptizing for repentance and Jesus was without sin, why would he have to be baptized? Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 3:15 was not a statement that baptism is necessary for salvation, nor that he needed to repent of anything. The intent of the Jewish people regarding baptism was to signify their readiness to follow the will of God. So, by engaging in this action, by including himself in this tradition of his people, Jesus “fulfills all righteousness,” not merely by the physical act, but by the spiritual implications of it. There was no written legal requirement for Jesus to be baptized in order to inaugurate his ministry. Jesus followed the law, but he also followed the traditions in line with the heart of the law. By this act, Jesus proclaims the beginning of his ministry.

2.2.2 Church History

The church started as part of Judaism. John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles were all Jews. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell only on Jews. In the first few years of its existence the church functioned as a movement within Judaism, consisting only of Jews and proselytes. They were all circumcised and they all observed the Law of Moses and the traditions. Only about ten years after the Cross, through divine intervention, did the church for the first time preach the Jesus-message to Gentiles and were the first Gentiles baptized. The Gentile Christians in the church caused a dispute over whether they must observe the Law of Moses. This dispute was settled a further ten years later when the church council meeting, recorded in Acts 15, decided that Gentile Christians do not have to observe the Law of Moses. Jewish Christians, on the other hand, remained zealous for the Law of Moses throughout the period recorded by the Book of Acts.

Periods of Church History

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

- Clarence Larkin, 1918, “Dispensational Truth”

The history explained in this study is therefore important context for Paul’s letters, most of which have been written in the decade after the Jerusalem council decision recorded in Acts 15. For example: The dispute raging in the church before the Jerusalem Council decision explains the letter to the Galatians. The separation made by the Law of Moses between Jewish and Gentile Christians explains the need for Paul’s arguments for unity. The continued observance of the Law of Moses by Jewish Christians provides background to Paul’s statements that the law was added “until the seed (Jesus) would come” (Gal 3:19), which implies that the Law of Moses is no longer relevant; even for Jewish Christians.

The claim that “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1) explains the idea of justification by the works of the Law (Rom. 3:27), which Paul had to contend with in his letters. Justification by the works of the law is the idea that compliance with the rituals and ceremonies of the Law and the traditions will compensate for one’s sins, in contrast to Paul’s argument that we are “justified as a gift by His grace”.

This history provides important context for Paul’s teaching, or lack of it, with respect to the Seventh Day Sabbath, and for his comments on the observance of “days” (Rom. 14:6; Gal. 4:10). When he wrote, all Jewish Christians observed the Sabbath while the Gentile Christians probably observed the Sabbath, but the different Sabbath taught by Christ.

The church was conceived within its mother religion – Judaism. John the Baptist was a Jew, calling Israel to repentance. Jesus was a Jew, and His followers were Jews. He preached in the Jewish countryside, not the Hellenistic cities. When a Gentile woman once asked for healing for her daughter, Jesus responded (at first) “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27).

The apostles were all Jews. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell only on Jews. In the first few years of its existence the church functioned as a movement within Judaism, consisting only of Jews and proselytes. They were all circumcised and they all observed the Law of Moses and the traditions. In those first years the church grew exponentially, but it was confined to Jerusalem – the capital of Judaism.

In the earliest stage Christianity was made up of all those Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) (Freedman & Myers, 2000). After the first few years the church was dispersed throughout Judea and Samaria by the persecution of the church by the Jewish authorities. Many Samaritans accepted Christ and were baptized, but the Samaritans also accepted the five books of Moses. Consequently, all Christians still observed the Law of Moses. Only about ten years after the Cross, through divine intervention, did the church for the first time preach the Jesus-message to Gentiles and were the first Gentiles baptized.

The Gentile Christians in the church caused a dispute over whether they must observe the Law of Moses. This dispute was settled a further ten years later when the church council meeting, recorded in Acts 15, decided that Gentiles do not have to observe the Law of Moses. This decision created a double separation:

Firstly, the decision was not relevant to Jewish Christians, who were still the majority in the church. The Jewish Christians, particularly in Judea, continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses, and continued to live like Jews, as evidenced by Acts 21, which is dated to nearly 30 years after the cross. There arose therefore a separation between Gentile and Jewish Christians; one group observing the Law of Moses, the other not.

Secondly, this decision erected a permanent barrier between Judaism and the Church. For the Jews it was a great sin to associate with uncircumcised people. By associating with uncircumcised Christians, the Jewish Christians became unclean in the eyes of their Jewish friends and families (Gal. 6:12), hastening the separation of the church from Judaism.

The apostles and the other Christian Jews in Jerusalem therefore remained zealous for the Law of Moses throughout the period recorded by the Book of Acts. The Jerusalem church also had a strong influence over the wider church, as evidenced by the following:

- The Samaritans only received the Holy Spirit after Peter and John laid hands on them (8:14-17).
- The Gentiles received the Holy Spirit through Peter (Acts 10).
- The dispute whether Gentiles must observe the Law of Moses was referred to Jerusalem for resolution (Acts 15).

The influence of the Jewish Christians on the wider church diminished in later years due to various factors, but this is not discussed in this article because the purpose here is to describe the context within which Paul’s letters have been written, at a time when the influence of Jewish Christianity still was strong.

Christians today find it difficult to appreciate the Jewishness of the early Christian church. They tend to think that the early church was like the church of today; unaware that the past 2000 years have transformed the church from a movement within Judaism—an exclusively Jewish organization—to an almost exclusively

Gentile organization. The consequence is that Christians today read Paul’s letter into today’s context, and then misinterpret what he wrote with respect to issues such as the Law of Moses, the role of the nation of Israel, justification and the Sabbath.

The history explained in these articles is therefore important context for Paul’s letters. The dispute raging in the church before the Jerusalem Council decision explains the letter to the Galatians. Even after that decision Paul’s letters had to frequently explain why it is not necessary to observe the law, namely that man is not saved by the works of the Law, but by grace.

This history makes us aware of the sensitivities which Paul had to avoid. Paul did his best not to offend the Jewish Christians. In many towns there were Jews and Jewish Christians, and when Paul arrived in a town, he first preached his message to the Jews. That normally failed. Then he turned to the Gentiles. With his letters he addressed both groups simultaneously, and he had to be very careful not to offend unnecessarily.

Jewish Christians combined the confession of Jesus as Christ with continued adherence to Jewish traditions such as Sabbath observance, observance of the Jewish calendar, observance of Jewish laws and customs, circumcision, and synagogue attendance (Freedman, D. & Myers, A.C. 2000).

1st century “Jewish Christians” were totally faithful religious Jews. They differed from other contemporary Jews only in their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. In effect, the Jewish Christians seemed to regard Christianity as an affirmation of every aspect of contemporary Judaism, with the addition of one extra belief — that Jesus was the Messiah (McGrath, 2006).

On the other hand, they allowed Gentile Christians freedom from the Law of Moses. It is not suggested here that Jewish Christians are still subject to the Law of Moses, but rather that this explains the context within which Paul taught that the two groups are made one, such as: “N either is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision” (Gal. 6:15). “I f you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirsaccording to promise” (Gal 3:29). “He (Jesus) Himself is our peace, who made both groups ( Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles ) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Eph. 2:11-14).

He described Israel as an olive tree from which some branches have been broken off (unbelieving Jews), while branches from a wild olive (the Gentiles) have been grafted in, sharing in the wealth of the root (the fathers of the Jewish nation and the promises they received) (Romans 11:11-24). While the Christian Jews in Jerusalem based their separateness on Moses and his law, Paul taught the unity of two groups in Abraham; both groups are children of Abraham and both share in the promises to the fathers of the nation of Israel (Gal. 3:17).

This evidence that the large number of Jewish Christians observed the Law of Moses during the entire period during which Paul worked and wrote his letters, explains the context for his statements about the law. Paul was accused by the Christian Jews in Jerusalem “that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses” (Acts 21:21). Reading his letters, this was true. Paul wrote of himself that he is not under the law (1 Cor. 9:20) and that the law was added “until the seed (Jesus) would come” (Gal 3:19), which implies the Law is no longer relevant; even for Jews. See the discussion of Galatians 3:19-25 for more on this subject.

This context allows one to better understand the idea of justification by the works of the Law (Rom. 3:27), which Paul had to contend with in his letters:

The Jewish Christians maintained “unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (15:1). That is justification by the works of the law. It does not mean that one is justified by not sinning. Justification by the works of the law is the idea that compliance with the rituals and ceremonies of the Law and the traditions will compensate for one’s sins and put one in a right relationship with God. This was not a novel idea that developed after the church was established, but a concept which the church inherited from its mother religion – Judaism (McGrath, 2006).

In contrast Peter argued, “we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (15:11). This is the same as saying that we are “justified as a gift by His grace” (Rom. 3:23), which is something which Paul emphasized. This means that our sins are wiped away by grace (mercy); not by the rituals and ceremonies of the Law.

2.3 Significance of Baptism

Baptism is an essential need for the remission of sins; the sinful nature of all men of Adam race and individual actual sins that broke the human beings’ relationship with God make baptism necessary for the forgiveness of sins and the bearing of the new Adam (The Church of England, 1662, p. 161). The Anglican tradition does not ignore the issue of actual sins after baptism and it holds that repentance and the bestowal of forgiveness are inherent to the lifelong of a Christian.

According to the Anglican tradition, in reference to the liturgy of the public baptism service, baptism is an institution of Jesus Christ through the Great Commission in Mark 16, and during his own baptism, Jesus sanctified water to be a sign of the spiritual washing away of sins. Concerning the significance of baptism, in the perspective of the Gospel of John 3.1-8, the passage that must be read in each baptism service, the intention of the institution of baptism is the necessity of the regeneration and thus the incorporation into the kingdom of God. It is argued that the fact that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”, it is obvious that baptism is a sacrament of ‘the great necessity’, “where it may be had” (The Church of England, 1662, p. 162).

Next, the prayers involved and instructions given to the congregation during baptism administration make clear that always baptism is the Spirit baptism: “I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that … he will grant to these persons that which by nature they cannot have; that they may be baptised with Water and the Holy Ghost…” (The Church of England, 1962, p. 162). Here there cannot be any misunderstanding that water itself saves, because the application of water is the physical and symbol act which is inseparable from the spiritual or mystical Spirit’s act of regeneration of the baptised. The beginning prayer of the baptismal liturgy mentions that the washing away of sins is spiritual and has to be performed by the Holy Spirit: “We beseech thee… that thou will mercifully look upon these thy servants; wash them and sanctify them with the Holy Ghost” (The Church of England, 1662, p. 161). Meanwhile, the indissolubility of the Holy Spirit from baptism was also attested by Archibald Grahamstown in the Lambeth Conference (1948) in these terms: “the dissociation of the Holy Spirit’s operation from any part of the Initiation is strongly depreciated, as is also the attempt to measure His operation quantitatively” (p. 110).

Furthermore, the instruction addressed to the congregants during baptism service shows explicitly that repentance and confession of faith are inseparable from baptism. Before their baptism, the candidates are required to publically renounce the devil and sins and confess faith in the Triune God in the light of the Nicene Apostles’ Creed (The Church of England, 1662, p. 163). Despite humankind’s fall, the humans are capable to respond to the gospel; the Lambeth Conference (1968) puts it in this way: “we believe that, in spite of their sin, all men can respond to God’s goodness and share his power over evil…” (p. 65). Eventually, baptism is not merely a symbolical rite, but also it has an actual effect and confers the divine gracious gifts, namely, the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, the eternal life and the integration into the reign of God.

Earnestly believe, that he will favourably receive these present persons, truly repenting, and coming unto him by faith; that he will grant them remission of their sins and bestow upon them the Holy Ghost; that he will give them the blessing of eternal life and make them partakers of his everlasting kingdom. (The Church of England, 1662, p. 162). The general ecumenical agreement on the ministration of baptism, as presented by Thurian (1983), is that any comprehensive order of baptism should include the following elements: “(a) an acknowledgment of God’s initiative in salvation, of his continuing faithfulness, and of our total dependence on his grace;(b) declaration of the forgiveness of sins in and through Christ; (c) an invocation of the Holy Spirit; (d) a renunciation of evil; (e) a profession of faith in Christ; and (f) an affirmation that the person baptised is a child of God and incorporated into the body of Christ, whereby he becomes a witness to the Gospel”. It is emphasised that all the said above activities must “precede or follow the baptism with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. (p.212). Therefore, the researcher admittedly shares with Francis (1987) the impression that the meaning of the Christian baptism is complex (p. 39). Thus, the study goes on to delineates the main aspects of the Christian baptism significance for instance the means of grace, the initiation into the church, the remission of sins, the participation in death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the gift of the Spirit, the regeneration and the eschatological fulfilment.


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Appraisal of Infant Baptism in the Anglican Communion
Research and Development
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Infant Baptism, Anglican Communion, Holy Spirit, Initiation
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Newman Enyioko (Author), 2020, Appraisal of Infant Baptism in the Anglican Communion, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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