Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 22, 1953
NUMBER 24, PAGE 1,3c

Baptism -- How Administered?

Roy E. Cogdill

The question of how baptism is to be administered is one that has been endlessly debated — and needlessly so. It is to be administered by immersion; not by sprinkling, not by pouring, but by immersion only. I want to support that conclusion with three lines of evidence; first, the circumstances surrounding it, secondly, the meaning of the word, and thirdly, the New Testament description of the action itself.

Consider the baptism of John the Baptist. John baptized in the River Jordan. The baptizing took place in the water; the people being baptized did not stand on dry ground to receive the baptism. The baptism practiced by John required much water. "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there." (John 3:23) Thus John's baptism required water; he baptized in the water; and it was necessary to have much water.

The River Jordan is an interesting stream both historically and geographically. There are some people who have the idea that Jordan is such an insignificant little brook that it would be impossible to immerse anybody in it at all. I heard of a preacher up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, a few years ago who told some of the members of his congregation that the River Jordan was such a tiny trickle that one could easily step across it. I heard of another preacher, speaking to the same point, who said you could actually dam the stream up with your foot! There is not a word of truth in either of these statements, but they do illustrate to what lengths some people will go in order to get away from plain Bible truth.

Rand McNally's Bible Atlas will give you these facts about the River Jordan: It originates in four springs, high in the Lebanon Mountains to the north of the Sea of Galilee, and about 500 feet above sea level to form the Jordan River. The stream falls to sea level by the time it reaches the Sea of Galilee. It flows into Galilee from the north, continues to flow through the sea, and emerges from the southern end of that body of water to flow a swift, turbulent current to its final resting place in the Dead Sea. From sea level when it reaches the Sea of Galilee the streams falls a precipitous 1300 feet below sea level by the time it reaches the Dead Sea. As the crow would fly this is a distance of 70 miles, but by the winding bed of the river it is about 200 miles.

This same authoritative Bible Atlas tells us that the stream varies from 80 to 120 feet in average width, and from 8 to 12 feet in average depth. It would take quite a foot to dam that flow of water!! And it would take some pretty lengthy legs to step across it! The River Jordan would afford ample water at any spot in its course for immersion. The Bible says that Jesus was baptized IN the Jordan River. This is an historical fact, recorded by Divine power; it cannot be disputed.

Not only was Jesus baptized IN the water, but following that baptism, He came "up out of the water." If a man is not baptized IN water, and does not "come up out of water" after his baptism, then he is not baptized like the Savior was. He has not followed the Lord's example as to the way, or method and manner, of baptism.

But what about the baptism of the Great Commission? Was it also administered as was John's? Yes. In the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), the record is clear and precise. "And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more." (Acts 8:38-39) Both the preacher who did the baptizing and the man who was to be baptized went down into the water; they were BOTH in the water. Why did God give such emphasis to this fact? Could it be because He knew that way down the years somebody was going to arise and teach that they stayed OUT of the water? To check that very error, God made it unmistakably clear that they were both in the water; that the baptizing took place while they were there; and that they both then came up out of the water.

These are the circumstances surrounding baptism. Pretty strong circumstantial evidence, don't you think? And the circumstances do not indicate sprinkling. While it conceivably might be possible that one could be sprinkled while standing in water, who ever saw it done so? It just doesn't happen that way. When people are sprinkled, they stay out of the water they do not "go down into" it.

When people accept sprinkling or pouring, they do not get their feet wet; in fact, they usually get only a bare few drops of water on a single small area of the head, and none at all on the feet. But it was not that way in New Testament days. The facts speak too strongly to be denied. All the circumstances indicate immersion — that and nothing else. Those circumstances were: water, much water, a coming to the water, a going down into the water, the baptism, and a coming up out of the water. Who ever saw any sprinkling under such circumstances?

It is only by a denial of plain Bible statements that one can get away from immersion under such clear circumstantial evidence. But in the next article we will look at the actual meaning of the Greek word from whence our "baptize" comes.