Baptism: Immersion Only? (Hodge)

Outlines of Theology, rewritten and enlarged ed. One question that Christians sometimes ask is this: What is the proper mode of baptism?  In other words, when we baptize someone, should it be by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling?  Reformed Christians will answer: Yes!  The main question about the mode of baptism is not how much water, but only the fact that water is used.  For example, the Westminster Confession notes that dipping is acceptable, but so is pouring or sprinkling (28:3). This Reformed view – that dipping, pouring, or sprinkling are all valid modes of baptism – is found in Scripture.

A. A. Hodge did a nice job of explaining this in chapter 42 of his “Outlines of Theology.”  In the following paragraphs, Hodge notes that the baptisms in the NT are not necessarily and always done by immersion.  In fact, Hodge notes that immersion is sometimes not even probable in these examples:

(1) The baptism of the eunuch by Philip, Acts 8:26–39, is the only instance which even by appearance favors immersion. But observe (a) the language used by Luke… applies just as naturally to baptism performed by affusion [pouring – spl] as by immersion. (b.) The Greek prepositions, εἰς, here translated into, and ἐκ, here translated out of, are in innumerable instances used to express motion, toward, unto, and from.—Acts 26:14; 27:34, 40. They probably descended from the chariot to the brink of the water. Philip is also said to have “descended to” and to have “ascended from the water,” but surely he was not also immersed. (c.) The very passage of Isaiah, which the eunuch was reading, Is. 52:15, declared that the Messiah, in whom he believed, should “sprinkle many nations.” (d.) Luke says the place was “a desert,” and no body of water sufficient for immersion can be discovered on that road.

(2.) Every other instance of Christian baptism recorded in the Scriptures bears evidence positively against immersion. (a.) The baptism of three thousand in Jerusalem on one occasion on the day of Pentecost.—Acts 2:38–41. (b.) The baptism of Paul.—Acts 9:17, 18; 22:12–16. Ananias said to him “standing up, be baptized,” ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι, and, “standing up, he was baptized.” (c.) The baptism of Cornelius.—Acts 10:44–48. (d.) The baptism of the jailor, at Philippi.—Acts 16:32–34. In all these instances baptism was administered on the spot, wherever the convert received the gospel. Nothing is said of rivers, or much water, but vast multitudes at a time, and individuals and families were baptized in their houses, or in prisons, wherever they happened to be at the moment.

 Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 614–615.

Shane Lems,
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015


Will the Jews Be Restored to Their Land?

Some dispensationalists teach that the Jews will one day return to their land en masse.  They believe that the OT prophecies about Israel in the future must be taken “literally” (e.g. Isaiah 11:11-12, Hosea 3:5, etc.).  It’s not quite that easy or simple, however.  I appreciate A.A. Hodge’s arguments against a future return of the Jews to Palestine:

1st: The New Testament is entirely silent on the subject of any such return, which would be an inexplicable omission in the clearer revelation, if that event is really future.

2nd: The literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies concerned in this question would be most unnatural, (1) Because, if the interpretation is to be consistent, it must be literal in all its parts. Then it would follow that David himself, in person, must be raised to reign again in Jerusalem, Ezek. 37:24, etc. Then the Levitical priesthood must be restored, and bloody sacrifices offered to God, Ezek. 40. to 46.; Jer. 17:25, 26. Then must Jerusalem be the center of government, the Jews a superior class in the Christian church, and all worshippers must come monthly and from Sabbath to Sabbath, from the ends of the earth to worship at the Holy City, Isa. 2:2, 3; 66:20–23; Zech. 14:16–21. (2) Because the literal interpretation thus leads to the revival of the entire ritual system of the Jews, and is inconsistent with the spirituality of the kingdom of Christ.  (3) Because the literal interpretation of these passages is inconsistent with what the New Testament plainly teaches as to the abolition of all distinctions between the Jew and Gentile; the Jews, when converted, are to be grafted back into the same church, Rom. 11:19–24; Eph. 2:13–19. (4) Because this interpretation is inconsistent with what the New Testament teaches as to the temporary purpose, the virtual insufficiency, and the final abolition of the Levitical priesthood and their sacrifices, and of the infinite sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, and the eternity of his priesthood, Gal. 4:9, 10; 5:4–8 Col. 2:16–23; Heb. 7:12–18; 8:7–13; 9:1–14.

3rd: On the other hand, the spiritual interpretation of these Old Testament prophecies—which regards them as predicting the future purity and extension of the Christian church, and as indicating these spiritual subjects by means of those persons, places and ordinances of the old economy which were typical of them—is both natural and accordant to the analogy of Scripture. In the New Testament, Christians are called Abram’s seed, Gal. 3:29; Israelites, Gal. 6:16, Eph. 2:12, 19; comers to Mount Zion, Heb. 12:22; citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, Gal. 4:26; the circumcision, Phil. 3:3, Col. 2:11, and in Rev. 2:9, they are called Jews. There is also a Christian priesthood and spiritual sacrifice, 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Heb. 13:15, 16; Rom. 12:1.

This is a longer discussion to be sure, but Hodge’s points are certainly worth thinking about when asking and answering this question about eschatology!

The above quote is found in Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 454–455.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI