Why John MacArthur’s Credobaptism is “Devilish” Part Six

Or Why Immersion-Only Baptists Would Die from Their Own Baptism

If the Pharisees had cars, would they be satisfied with “baptizing” (“immersing”) only their dining couches (Mark 7:4)? Since Noah and his family were “baptized” (“immersed”), why do human beings still live on earth? (1 Peter 3:20-21)


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The guys at Sinners and Saints Radio (S&SR) have posted the latest audio episode of their critique of John MacArthur’s accusation that infant baptism is “devilish.” You can listen to Episode 10 here, which focuses on his claim that baptism is always by immersion, of which the S&SR guys says: “What a joke! What a simplistic, ridiculous argument.”

With Episode 10 and this Part 6 (I’ll post Part 5 later), you may be thinking that this is beating a dead horse. No, it’s not, because all these claims and misrepresentations of infant baptism by JMac and other Baptists never die. And the argumentation goes like this (JMac’s method on the right):

“Infant baptism is unbiblical. Infant baptism is unbiblical. Infant baptism is unbiblical…. ad nauseam.”

“Baptism is immersion. Baptism is immersion. Baptism is immersion… ad nauseam.”

Nothing different from mantric “breath prayers” or the rosary, or the Beatles’ 5-minute Hare Krishna mantra. Just repeat a mantra enough times and what’s black will be white.

The S&SR guys say that even some Baptist scholars (such as Dr. T. J. Conant cited below) say baptidzo is immersion, but not emmersion, wherein the thing immersed is drawn out or brought up out of a liquid or some media in which it is immersed.

Before I summarize the S&SR presentation, I quote below Dr. Grover Gunn, Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Winona, MS, in his paper, “The Mode of Baptism,” where he argues that baptidzo is an amodal word€”it does not say how the baptism is done:

The Greek word baptidzo in ancient Greek literature most frequently and most literally refers to immersion in a liquid. A common error of those who use this fact to argue the immersionist position regarding baptism is that they assume baptizo also necessarily includes the idea of dipping, which involves plunging down under liquid and then lifting up out of liquid. This is not the case. Baptidzo is an amodal word. It refers to the accomplishment of immersion with no implicit indication in the word as to how this occurs. The immersion can be through various and sundry modes: liquid coming down from above, liquid rising to cover, wading into liquid, dropping into liquid, sinking permanently below a liquid, or any other way… The Greek word baptidzo is much like the English word bury, which means to encase in some solid substance regardless of how this is accomplished.

[B]aptidzo also does not contain within itself the idea of the immersed object’s coming up from under liquid. If that occurs, it must be learned from the larger context. Several of the word’s more concrete usages refer to shipwrecks and drownings where the immersion is more or less permanent.[ref]Example 13. Didorus (the Sicilian), Historical Library, book XVI. chp. 80. “The river, rushing down with the current increased in violence, submerged (baptidzo) many, and destroyed them attempting to swim through with their armor.”

Example 21. The Same writer [Josephus], Life of himself, 3: “For our vessel having been submerged (baptidzo) in the midst of the Adriatic, being about six hundred in number, we swam through the whole night.”[/ref]

The Greek word which often means dipping into and out of liquid is bapto. Unlike baptidzo, bapto often refers to contexts where there is no full immersion.[ref]Examples of how bapto (LXX; Hebrew: tabal, DIP), (LXX; Aramaic: tseba’, WAS WET), (NT, DIP) is used in Scriptures:Exod 12:22; Lev 14:6, 16; Num 19:18; Ruth 2:14; Dan 4:33, 5:21; John 13:26; Rev 19:13.[/ref]Bapto often refers to dipping without immersion, whereas baptidzo often refers to immersion without dipping. In a study of 175 uses of baptidzo in ancient Greek writings, the Baptist Dr. T. J. Conant translates baptidzo with some form of the English word dip only ten times.

The word baptidzo is also used in the New Testament to communicate a religious state into which one is immersed. The baptism of the New Testament effects not a temporary dipping into and out of a religious state but a permanent immersion. One can see this by examining the New Testament’s use of baptidzo with the Greek preposition eis with the accusative, literally translated into. The Christian is baptized into Christ and His Body and His redemptive work. Here are some samples: Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4; 1Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27.

Therefore, if baptism is immersion without emmersion, then all Baptists would drown during their baptism! They should also look at some of the Scriptures cited below, notably 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 and 1 Peter 3:19-21, and ask themselves, “If I’m baptized, why am I still alive?”

So here are the S&SR examples of just a few uses of the word baptism, with some of my own additions to the discussion:

• Acts 1:4: Jesus commanded his disciples to stay in the Jerusalem and they “will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” By JMac’s argument, these disciples were going to be immersed in the Holy Spirit! This is ridiculous, so what does baptism with the Holy Spirit mean here? On the Day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed that what happened to them was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh'” (Acts 2:16-17; also verse 18). What did Joel say? “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28, also verse 29).

Continuing his sermon, Peter says that Christ “has poured out [the Holy Spirit]” whom the Father has promised (Acts 2:33). The word “poured out” is used in liquids, such as wine, spilled (Matt 9:17; Luke 5:37), or blood shed (Matt 23:35; Luke 11:50; Acts 22:20). In these texts, baptism so obviously means “pouring out,” but JMac willfully discards this meaning.

 Luke 11:38: When Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to dinner, “The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash (baptidzo) before dinner.” Did the Pharisee expect Jesus to immerse his entire body or hands? This is no ordinary hygienic washing of hands, but an extrabiblical Jewish “tradition of the elders” cleansing rite (see Matt 15:2 and Mark 7:2-5). So in Mark 7:2-5, a parallel passage to Luke 11:38, the Pharisees are said to practice ceremonial washing of the hands before eating, and “many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing (baptismos) of cups  and pots and copper vessels and dinning couches.” Immersing dining couches? No, in this ceremony, water is poured onto the hands, not dipped in water, by using cups, so the water will remain clean for other people to use.

1 Corinthians 10:2: Paul says all the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Who were dipped or immersed in the sea: the Israelites or the Egyptians? If baptism means immersion here, all the Israelites would have drowned! For a discussion of this verse, see “What 1 Corinthians 10:2 Means”.

A striking similarity to Paul’s “baptism into Moses” is Peter’s reference to the great flood of Noah’s day as a “baptism” in 1 Peter 3:19-21:

when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds (antitupon) to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Peter says that the family of Noah’s ordeal during the flood was a tupos of New Testament baptisma, the antitupos. Again, if Noah and his family were “baptized,” and if baptism means immersion, all mankind would have drowned in the great flood!

Hebrews 9:10: Most Christians do not know that there were “various baptismos (“washings”) in the Old Testament. The writer refers to three of these ceremonial baptisms in verses 13, 19, and 21. In each verse (together with their Old Testament references), there is a clear picture of the ceremonial purification and the effect that constituted an Old Testament baptism by sprinkling:

Hebrews 9:13
“the sprinkling of defiled persons… for the purification of the flesh”
Numbers 19:17-18
“a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it”
Hebrews 9:19
Moses “sprinkled both the book itself and all the people”
Exodus 24:6-8
“And Moses took half of the blood and threw against the altar and on the people”
Hebrews 9:21
Moses “sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels”
Leviticus 8:19; 16:14, 16
“And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger…”

All three Old Testament baptismos focus on purification, as the Hebrews writer affirms, “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites” (Heb 9:23), the copies being Moses’s tabernacle and the vessels in it. This is why David prayed,“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,” as he confessed his sin (Psa 51:7). The Lord promised to Israel, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses” (Ezek 36:25). To purify us from our sins, Christ sprinkled his blood on us (Heb 10:22; 12:24; 1Pet 1:2)

Baptism is a picture of personal salvation€”the union of a believer to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. But what about Paul’s statement in Romans 6:3-5: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death”? Isn’t baptism a picture of being buried with Christ? This is another simplistic, even pathetic, interpretation. Consider these:

 Jesus was never drowned, but was crucified. His body was placed in a cave hewn out of a rock, not buried underground. The Baptist assumption of immersion as a picture of Jesus’ burial imposes the modern concept of burial as a body being placed six feet underground. How would Galatians 3:27 translate if baptism was immersion: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ”? No, not immersed into Christ, but clothed with Christ’s righteousness (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10).

 Paul is talking is about our mystical union with Christ and covenantal representation by Christ in his death and resurrection. This is why he says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” And when we are resurrected with him, we too will “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4-5). As Gunn says, “[B]aptidzo is used to communicate a total immersion into Christ and His Body and His saving benefits through the work of the Holy Spirit… who comes down upon a person from above.”

Some who have a “neutral” stance in this matter will say it really does not matter whether baptism is by immersion, pouring or sprinkling. But as Rev. William Shishko writes in “Is Immersion Necessary for Baptism”:

The answer, according to our confessional standards, is that we do not make an issue of the mode of baptism! … “Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary” [Westminster Confession of Faith 28:3]. Our friends who maintain that baptism requires immersion are not only making a false assertion, based on the incorrect assumption that baptizo and bapto mean the same thing, but are also binding people to believe something that is not given in Holy Scripture. That is a serious error (see Deuteronomy 4:2). It is precisely because we really do believe what the Bible says about the way baptism is to be administered that we do not insist upon immersion as the mode of baptism, but maintain, rather, that it is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.

For a thorough treatment of this subject, see the paper “The Meaning of Baptism with Special Reference to the Baptist View” by Rev. Angus Stewart.

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8 thoughts on “Why John MacArthur’s Credobaptism is “Devilish” Part Six”

  1. I just stumbled upon your site, and appreciate the earnestness in which you take your faith. With that said, I find your attacks on Baptists, and credo baptism to be non edifying (I’m not baptist, but do fall in the believers baptism camp). Quite frankly, I find it disappointing that as a pastor, you would choose this type of medium to work out doctrinal issues with another pastor. Is this series of articles a result of your failed attempts to contact and talk to pastor John MacArthur directly? You gratuitously cite him as ‘JMac’ throughout your 6 part exposé, which leads me to believe you have a deep, and personal relationship with him?

    I gather, as a pastor of the reformed faith, you would frown upon shock value, trendy, social gospel tactics to gain attention to your church. Wouldn’t the same hold true here, as you’re using a website with provocative headlines, and extensive name dropping to garner user clicks? I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your points in the article, and in fact, they give me a lot to test and approve against scripture. For that I am grateful. However, again, I’m disappointed that the pastorate have stooped to name calling and personal finger pointing to work out issues of the faith.

    1. We paedobaptists only “attacked” JMac because of his prayer that infant baptism is a “devilish” practice. You might want to read Part 1 to see why we had this series. And what you call “name dropping” is what people in the academic field call “citations.” How else would I tell the readers that my views are not only mine and not new, and that they are the historic Protestant views unless I cite those who are well-respected in the history of the church? My name calling is reserved for false teachers and heretics. They’re only personal if the teaching is against Christ, and if the Reformers are vilified as “unbiblical.”

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