The subject of baptism revolves around in five salient points:
(1) What is the importance of baptism and what are its efficacious?
The Orthodox believe that
baptism is the way to receive
salvation, purification, justification, renewal of life and
membership in the Body of Christ? While these things,
according to the Protestant denominations, are only received by
faith? If the latter is correct, what is then, the use of baptism?
Is it just a sign of Christianity? Or is it merely an obedience to
the Lord's commandment: "Go therefore and make disciples of
all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.28: 19)?
(2) Should who administer baptism?
in the Orthodox Church is administered only by the
clergy. But our Protestant brethren do not, at all, accept human
Priesthood. So in their churches, a minister and not a clergyman
administer baptism. He could be an elder (or a lady elder in case
of groups who allow women ministers). Anyhow, according to
the Protestant belief, the elders or the ministers are not
(3) We believe that baptism is one of the Church Sacraments but our Protestants brethren do not.
(4) We baptise by
immersion in water whereas the
majority of our Protestant brethren baptise by sprinkling water.
baptise infants on the belief of their parents, but our
Protestant brethren do not believe in Paedobaptism since they
condition the belief of the baptised prior to baptising him.
Some of the objections raised by our Protestant Brethren:
1. Isn’t faith sufficient without baptism?
2. How was the Penitent Thief saved without baptism?
3. Does water have the property that gives birth and renewal?
4. Why a clergyman? What happens if the clergyman who
administers baptism is a malefactor?
5. If baptism is renewal of life, why do we sin thereafter?
6. How does the infant inherit the sin of
his parents who were
previously baptised and whose sins were forgiven?
7. Is the water in baptism a symbol of the
word? The Apostle
says concerning the relationship of Christ with the Church:
"... that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing
of water by the word" (Eph.5: 26).
The Efficacious of Baptism
(1) Salvation is completed through baptism
This is pursuant to the Lord Jesus Christ's words: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved" (Mark.16: 16). The Lord did not say: "He who believes is saved", but He put the condition of baptism alongside the condition of belief.
(2) Through baptism we receive the Second Birth which is of water and the Spirit
(a) This is pursuant to the
Lord Jesus Christ's words to
Nicodemus: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John.3:3). The
Lord explained this to him, saying: "Most assuredly, I say to
you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter
the kingdom of God" (John.3: 5). Then He added "that which is
born of the Spirit is spirit. The wind blows where it wishes... So
is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John.3: 6,8). Thus the
Lord considers that everyone who is born of water and the
Spirit is born from above or born of the Spirit.
seems strange that some Protestant brethren want to
water-down this text by claiming that the Lord did not say,
"unless one is baptised of water and the Spirit", but, "unless one
is born"! Of course there is no doubt that both express the
same thing, because what is the other meaning of "born of
water" except "to be baptised" since the baptised comes out of
the womb of the font and moreover the Apostle St. Paul affirms
the same meaning when he says:
"...not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing
of regeneration" (Titus 3: 5). And about the Church he said:
"... that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of
water by the word" (Eph.5: 26). The Apostle considered that
the washing of water (in baptism) is the washing of renewal and
the washing away of sins.
(3) Baptism washes away sins
is according to the last two verses and also according to
Ananias' words to Saul: "And now why are you waiting? Arise
and be baptised, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22: 16).
Here we see that one of the outcomes of baptism is the washing
away of sins. We are surprised at Saul's case: He was called by
the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to be an Apostle to the Gentiles
and a chosen vessel to bear His name and to suffer for the sake
of His name (Acts 9: 15,16). Nevertheless, his sins were not
forgiven by his encounter with the Lord or by his faith or by
becoming an Apostle. He was still in need of baptism to wash
away his sins. Probably the Apostle Paul always remembered
that washing away of sins through baptism, so he said to the
Corinthians: "But you were washed, but you were sanctified,
but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the
Spirit of our God" (1Cor.6: 11). This was because they were
baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and received the
forgiveness of sins as St. Peter -had said to the Jews.
(4) In baptism there is forgiveness of sins
On the Day of Pentecost, when the Jews believed and were
cut to the heart, they said to St. Peter and the other Apostles:
"Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then St. Peter and the
Apostles replied: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptised
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins"
(Acts 2: 37,38).
If the belief of the Jews was adequate for the forgiveness of sins, the great Apostles would not have instructed them to be baptised, especially on such an historical day; the day of establishing the Church; the day on which important principles were being set up for salvation.
One may ask: How are sins forgiven in baptism? We reply:
(5) Baptism is dying with the Lord Jesus Christ and rising with Him
The Holy Bible says: "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom.6:
23). The way of salvation began by death:
the Lord Jesus Christ
died for us. It is necessary to die with the Lord Jesus Christ or at
least to resemble Him in His death as the Apostle says: "...that I
may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the
fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death"
(Phil.3: 10). This is achieved in baptism. How?
Apostle says: "Or do you not know that as many of us
were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death"
(Rom.6: 3,4). And he continues to confirm this expression by saying: "...we died with Him... we were buried with Him... we have been united together in the likeness of His death... our old man was crucified with Him." Confirming the same meaning, the Apostle also says in his Epistle to the Colossians: "...buried with Him in baptism" (Col.2: 12).
But why all this? The
Apostle says: "Now if we died with
Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Rom.6: 8).
Therefore, baptism is
essential for salvation because it is
sharing in Christ's death. It is a belief in death as a means to life
and it is a confession that the wages of sin is death. In chapter
six of the Epistle to the Romans, we notice two important
(a) The phrase "buried with Him through baptism" means immersion as when the body is lowered into the grave.
(b) It appears that one of the results of baptism is the crucifixion of our old self.
(6) Another Result of baptism is newness of life
The Apostle says: "Therefore
we were buried with Him
through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from
the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should
walk in newness of life" (Rom.6: 4). The new life is the life we
receive through baptism. Therefore our old nature is renewed in
(7) In baptism we put on Christ
The Apostle says: "For
as many of you as were baptized
into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal.3: 27). Is there a more powerful phrase than this to signify the great efficacy of baptism?
We put on Christ... We put
on His righteousness which He
bestows upon us in baptism, we put on salvation which He
bestows upon us in baptism by His blood, we put on God's
image (Gen.1: 26) which we lost through the original sin.
(8) In baptism we become members of the Church
There is no doubt that
baptism was symbolised by
circumcision in the Old Testament. The Apostle St. Paul says
about the Lord Jesus: "In Him you were also circumcised with
the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body
of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried
with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him
through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the
dead" (Col.2: 11,12).
It is known that in circumcision a part of the body is cut off and it dies. This refers to the complete death in baptism.
Circumcision is a mark that
can not be effected
As blood is shed in
As the circumcised was considered a member of God's people (Gen.17: 7)
As the uncircumcised was cut
Likewise, baptism can not be
likewise, the merit of the
Blood shed on our behalf is
received in the new life in
likewise, the baptised becomes a member of the Church; of God's Body
likewise, he who is not born of
As circumcision was a must and a necessity by God's command
water and the Spirit (John.3:
3,5) will not enter the
kingdom of God because he was not baptised, he was not buried with Christ and did not rise with Him
likewise, baptism is necessary
for the forgiveness of sins and
for the membership in Christ's
As man dies only once and
then rises, and is circumcised
only once, therefore baptism is performed only once: it is not to
be repeated because the baptised does not die with Christ more
As for the relation between
circumcision and baptism and the
forgiveness of sins, the Apostle expresses it in his discourse about
the spiritual circumcision; circumcision made by Christ and not by
the hands of men; circumcision in which the old sinful body is
taken off. He refers to baptism when he says: "In Him you were
also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by
putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of
Christ. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the
uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with
Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col.2: 11,13).
The symbols of baptism in the Old Testament give the same meaning
Noah's Ark was a symbol of St. Peter the Apostle says:
baptism "...while the ark was
namely baptism" (1Pet.3:
20,21). We explain that there is
salvation in baptism with water.
Similarly, in Noah's ark which is
a symbol of baptism, all those
who were in the ark were saved
from the death of the Flood.
This confirms what we have
previously said about salvation
through baptism according to
Circumcision is another symbol
of baptism and we have already explained this point
Another symbol of baptism in the Old Testament is the crossing of the Red Sea
the Lord's words in (M
St. Paul the Apostle says:
"Moreover, brethren, I do not
want you to be unaware that
all our fathers were under the
cloud, all passed through the
sea, all were baptised into
Mosses in the cloud and in the
sea" (1Cor.10: 1,2). It is
known that the crossing of the
Red Sea was salvation to the
people from the slavery of
Pharaoh. Here St. Paul refers
to the salvation we receive in
baptism from the slavery of sin
and death. The element of
water is clear in both
examples. Here Mosses
resembles priesthood in the
same way that Noah resembles
priesthood in the symbol of
the Ark in the Era of the
Another symbol of baptism in
the Old Testament is found in
(Ezek.16: 8,9) where the Lord
says to the sinful Jerusalem
which here resembles the
human soul in its fall: "'When I
passed by you again and
looked upon you, indeed your
time was the time of love. I
entered into a covenant with
you, and you became Mine,'
says the Lord God. 'Then I
washed you in water; yes, I
thoroughly washed off your
blood, and I anointed you with
This water and this washing
are symbols of baptism and the
ointment is a symbol of the
anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The phrase "you became
Mine" means that Jerusalem
(the human soul) became a
member of Christ's Body (the
Therefore, in baptism there is salvation and forgiveness of sins, not only according to the teaching of the New Testament but also according to the symbolic references in the Old Testament: circumcision, the Ark and the Red Sea.
Baptism Is the Task of the Clergymen
Baptism should be
administered by a canonical clergyman.
The Holy Bible shows us that the Lord Jesus Christ did not
commend the task of baptism to the public but commanded it to
His pure Apostles. Before His ascension, He said to them: "Go
therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit" (Matt.28: 19). This is also confirmed in (Mark.16:
It is very clear that it was
the Apostles who undertook the
task of baptism as we read in the Book of Acts in the spread of
the Early Church. Then the Apostles commanded the task to
their disciples the bishops who in turn commanded it to the
these reasons we do not accept a baptism which was not
administered by a clergyman. The clergyman should be an
canonical clergyman in the sense that the laying on of hands was
carried out by an apostolic and a canonical bishop. He should
not be an expelled nor an anathematised priest, but a priest who
has the Presbyterian to administer the Sacraments.
The above reasons are
our answers to the question,
repeatedly asked of us: “why do the Orthodox Church re-
baptise the converts from the Protestant denominations”?
could also say that we adorn them with all the spiritual
treasures which they did not receive when accepted their Protestant baptism. We usually ask of them: "Have you received salvation in your baptism? Have you received righteousness, newness of life and the forgiveness of sins? Have you been clothed with Christ in baptism? Have you been born anew? Especially that you did not consider baptism to carry with it any of those graces
We also repeat the
non-Orthodox baptism as a canonical
priest did not conduct it, while our Protestant brethren refute
human priesthood, as well as the teaching of the holy
While it may have been
administered in the Name of The
Holy Trinity , we tend not to call the baptism of a Protestant
convert “a re-baptism” as it lackes three important qualities:
(a) It was not administered by a clergyman
(b) It was not considered a Sacrament
(c) It was not considered to carry any spiritual efficacious
The Necessity of Baptism Ever Since the Establishment of the Church
Since the beginning of
Christianity, baptism has been an
inseparable part of accepting the . Especially that it is an
undisputed commandment by Christ Himself.
Holy and imperative commandment is “Go
make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.28:
19). He also commanded: "He who believes and is baptised will
be saved" (Mark. 16:16). If baptism were meant to be only a
sign, the Lord would have not given it all that importance.
the practical administration of baptism, when the
Jews believed on the Day of Pentecost, St. Peter immediately
called them to baptism. He said: "Repent, and let every one of
you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins" (Acts 2:38). On that day 3000 believers were baptised.
Undoubtedly, baptising that multitude was a tedious and
difficult task and must have taken a long time. Unless baptism
was so important for Salvation the Apostles would of bypassed
it, avoiding the hassel of baptising all these thousands. It would
have been easier for the Apostles to say: "Since you now
believe, brethren, you have received salvation. Go, the Lord's
blessing be with you."
We find the same situation
with the Ethiopian eunuch who
himself asked to be baptised immediately after he had believed. He
was baptised by Philip and went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8: 36-39).
Saul of Tarsus was called to be baptised to wash away his sins after he had believed (Acts 22:16). Lydia, the woman dealer of purple cloth was baptised together with all her household after they had believed. When Cornelius believed, Peter the Apostle baptised him together with all those who heard the message, after saying: "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10: 44,47)
If salvation was to only be attained through belief, why were all those who believed baptised?
Baptism by Immersion
(1) It is clear from the
Holy Bible that baptism was by
immersion and not by sprinkling, even at the time of John the
Baptist. The Lord Jesus Himself was baptised by immersion.
That is why the Holy Bible says: "Then Jesus, when He had
been baptised, came up immediately from the water" (Matt.3:
16); (Mark.1: 10). Our Church names the Day on which the
Lord Jesus Christ was baptised "Immersion Day" to confirm
this meaning in our minds.
(2) The same meaning of
the expression "came up
immediately from the water" is used in the event of Philip
baptising the Ethiopian eunuch. The Holy Gospel says: "And
both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he
baptised him. Now when they came up out of the water, the
Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away" (Acts 8: 38,39). This
proves that baptism was by immersion. If it were by sprinkling, it
would have been adequate for Philip to sprinkle water on the
eunuch while he was in the chariot without the necessity for both of
them to go down into the water.
(3) The word 'baptisma' means dye. Dyeing cannot be done without immersion.
Baptism is the action of being buried with Christ and tasting
death with Him, as the Apostle says: "Therefore we were buried
with Him through baptism into death" (Rom.6: 4) and we were
"buried with Him in baptism" (Col.2: 12). The action of burying
cannot be achieved except by immersion. The coming up out of
the font signifies rising with Christ after having died and been
buried with Him, whereas sprinkling does not express the action of
dying and rising.
(5) Baptism is a rebirth. Birth is the coming out of a body from another body. This is manifested in baptism when the body of the baptised comes out of the font, whereas sprinkling does not express the action of birth at all.
(6) Baptism is the washing away
of sins as said to St. Paul
(Acts 22:16) and as St. Paul said in his Epistle to Titus: "He saved
us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy
Spirit" (Titus 3: 5). The action of washing needs dipping into
water which is represented by immersion but not by sprinkling.
(7) Whoever looks at the buildings of the early churches will notice the existence of immersion fonts which are proof that baptism was by immersion and not by sprinkling because the action of sprinkling does not need a deep font.
Our Protestant brethren
do not baptise little children,
insisting on the necessity of belief before baptism and depending
on the Lord's saying: "He who believes and is baptised will be
saved" (Mark. 16:16) and also on the fact that little children do
not comprehend what is happening in baptism. So how can
baptism be administered without belief or without
But we insist on paedobaptism for the following reasons:
(1) We are concerned about the eternal life of children because the Lord says: "...unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John.3: 5). So how can we prevent children from being baptised and expose them to God's Judgement as long as the Lord did not exempt children when He said the above words?
Through baptism, little children are given the opportunity
to practise the life of the Church and enjoy the divine
Sacraments therein together with all their efficacious. They can
also enjoy all the means of Grace in the Church and their effects
on their lives. In this way, we practically prepare the infants for
the life of faith. If we excluded them from the Church we
would be depriving them of faith and of the means of Grace.
Lord's saying: "He who believes and is baptised will
be saved" is meant for adults who are capable of
comprehending the meanings of faith. That is why we cannot
baptise adults unless they believe, according to the Lord's
words in (Mark.16: 16). As for infants, we apply the Lord's
saying: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid
them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19: 14).
(4) From the point of view
of faith, little children are in the
stage of believing and accepting everything; they do not refuse
or reject faith; the doubt, inquiring, questioning and reasoning
of adults have not yet entered their sphere. There is nothing in
them to prevent them from the kingdom of heaven. Baptising
them conforms to the principle of "Free Salvation" which is
believed in and strongly propagated by our Protestant brethren.
(5) If we were utterly strict on the condition of belief, we would have forbidden from baptism many adults who were not mentally mature to comprehend the facts and depths of belief, such as the peasants, labourers, illiterates, the poorly educated and those of too limited understanding to get into the depth of the theological facts. May we ask: What would be the extent of those people's belief? Should we prevent them from being baptised, as little children should be?
(6) Some ask: What happens if the little child refuses the faith when he grows up?
be considered an apostate. He may refuse the grace
he received in baptism by his own free will. We had done our
duty towards him and the matter is left to him. He will be like a person who, after having begun in the Spirit, is now trying to be made perfect by the flesh (Gal.3: 3).
Probably the little children
who are baptised and live in the
Church, tasting all the means of Grace therein, are less liable to
perversion than those who are left without baptism until they
(7) Those who deny paedobaptism are in fact denying the necessity of baptism for salvation (Mark. 16:16); because if they believe in the necessity of baptism for salvation, it would be a serious matter to deprive little children of salvation.
our Protestants brethren hold that belief is a condition
for salvation and that little children have no belief, what then,
from their point of view, is the destiny of little children who are
unbaptised and have no belief? Will they be saved without
belief and baptism? The question remains unanswered.
(8) We baptise little
children because the Holy Bible
indicates this. The Holy Bible mentions baptisms of whole
families or of a person with his entire household, and there is no
doubt that there must have been children in those families.
The following are a few of numerous examples:
baptism of the jailer at Philippi: St. Paul and St. Silas
said to him: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be
saved, you and your household" (Acts 16: 31). This means that
the jailer's belief would be the first step which would lead his
household to salvation. That is why it is said after that: "Then
they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to
all who were in
his house" and then "immediately he and all his family were
baptised" (Acts 16:32,33). The Holy Bible did not exempt little
children from the household of the jailer at Philippi but said
about their baptisms: "...he and all his family”, of course
including little children.
(b) In the event of baptising Lydia, the dealer of purple cloth, it is written: "And when she and her household were baptised" (Acts 16: 15).
(c) St. Paul the Apostle
said: "Yes, I also baptised the
household of Stephanas" (1Cor.1: 16). Could all these
households have been without little children?
The Holy Bible does not mention that there were no little
children among those who were baptised on the Day of
(9) Paedobaptism was practised in history. Here we remember the disagreement between St. Augustine and St. Jerome on the origin of the soul: whether is it born or created?. St. Augustine said that it is born with man and St. Jerome said that it is created. St. Augustine asked: "If it is created, it does not inherit Adam's sin. Why then do we baptise infants?" St. Jerome could not reply to this question.
(10) There is not a single verse in the Holy Bible that forbids paedobaptism.
(11) With regard to belief, we baptise little children on the belief of their parents which in essence has many examples in the Holy Bible:
Circumcision in the Old Testament symbolised baptism as
we have previously explained. The circumcised was considered
a member of God's people according to the covenant between
God and Abraham (Gen.17: 11). It is known that circumcision
was to be done on the eighth day after birth, according to God's
command (Gen.17: 12). What understanding did the eight-day
old baby boy have regarding the covenant between God and
Abraham? To what extent was he aware of this membership in
God's people? Undoubtedly, he had nothing of the sort, but he
was circumcised on his parents' belief in such a covenant; he
became a member of God's people and was entitled to the
promises which God endowed upon our father Abraham. The
baby attained all these through the belief of his parents.
crossing of the Red Sea was a symbol of baptism or
a baptism itself as St. Paul the Apostle explained in (1Cor.10:
2). It represented salvation from the
slavery of death, Satan and
sin. Adults who were aware of God’s promise to the Prophet
Mosses crossed the Red Sea; they knew that they were slaves
to Pharaoh; they knew the meaning of salvation from slavery by
the Mighty Hand of God and when they crossed the Red Sea
(baptism), they were saved. What was the position of the little
children who were carried by their mothers and fathers across
the Sea? Of course they received salvation from slavery; they
were baptised, not on their own faith but on the faith of their
parents because those children were not aware of any of the
(c) Another important and very strong example is the
salvation of the little
children, through the blood of the Passover lamb, from the hand
of the Angel who killed every firstborn son. The
Lord commanded Mosses to kill a one-year-
old male goat or sheep without any defect and put its blood on the sides and tops of their doors, and said: "And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Ex. 12:13).
The blood of the Passover lamb was a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ's Blood through which we have received salvation, as St. Paul the Apostle said: "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1Cor.5: 7).
And the question now is:
What was the belief of the little
children who were saved by the blood of the Passover lamb?
What did they know about the covenant between God and
Mosses or of the Passover and the salvation from death by the
blood of the Passover lamb? Undoubtedly they were not aware
of anything but they were saved by the faith of their parents; the
parents who believed in the blood, its effect and the importance
of the blood of the Passover lamb for salvation from death.
These little children who were saved by circumcision, by the blood of the Passover lamb and by the crossing of the Red Sea, came to know the meaning of all these things later on when they grew up. Nevertheless, they received salvation freely in their childhood through the belief of their parents in God's promises and covenants with men. When the children grew up, they entered into this belief practically.
If baptism is renewal of life, why do we sin after being baptised?
is renewal of life according to the teaching of the Holy
Bible (Rom.6: 4), but it does not bestow infallibility. We receive
new birth, new life and new graces in baptism, and we take a new
nature. The Apostle says: "...according to His mercy He saved us,
through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy
Spirit" (Titus 3:5). This nature has the capability and the
potentiality of a spiritual life. Nevertheless we are not infallible as
long as we are still in the flesh. Here we are in a test, we still
possess our freedom to do good or bad because the grace of
renewal we received in baptism does not eliminate the grace of
freedom which we possess and with which we were created after
God's image. That is why a virtuous person falls seven times a day
and rises again. But we shall receive infallibility and the crown of
righteousness in the life to come. Our teacher the Apostle Paul said
effusively when his hour came: "Finally, there is laid up for me the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will
give to me on that Day" (2Tim.4: 8).
Does baptism still carry its efficacious if the clergyman who administers it is a malefactor?
The graces we receive in baptism are from God and not from the clergyman who is but a minister of the Lord the Giver. The graces are based on the true promises of God and not on the deportment of the clergyman.
also compare the clergyman to the gardener sowing
seeds in the earth to bring forth fruits. Whether he is sinful or
virtuous does not matter; what matters are the seeds themselves
and the life therein, not the hands of the gardener who sows
You may drink water from a
gold or copper cup, yet the
water itself remains the same irrespective of the kind of cup you
In our discourse about baptism and its efficacious, we shall discuss the dogma objectively. We shall not touch any subjective issue as this leads to judging others and to disregarding what the Lord endowed upon human beings in baptism according to His true words in the Gospel.
How was the Penitent Thief saved without baptism?
When we reply to this
question we say that this thief
received the best baptism after whose example we all wish to be
baptised. What is baptism but dying with Christ, as our teacher
St. Paul says (Rom.6)? The Penitent Thief actually died with
Christ and his death became a baptism. Similarly is the baptism
by blood attributed to the martyrs who believed in the Lord
Jesus Christ and were killed at the time of persecution before
they had received the grace of baptism by water. Their death
became a baptism because they died with Christ like the
Penitent Thief. (We have explained this point in our book
If baptism is essential, why
did the Apostles Paul and Silas
say to the jailer at Philippi: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and you will be saved" (Acts16: 31) and not: "Believe and be
baptised", which is proof that belief is adequate for salvation?
The reply to this is that
the two Apostles were talking to an
unbeliever. No matter what he did, he could not be saved
without faith. Therefore, they first had to direct him to faith so
that he could be saved. If he accepted the faith then they would
explain to him the necessary matters. That is why the following
two things happened after they said those words to him:
(a) "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house" (Acts 16: 32).
(b) "And immediately he and all his family were baptised"
(Acts 16: 33).
Thus we should not put
before us just one verse and forget
all the other verses connected with the same subject. Alongside
the belief of the jailer of Philippi, we have to put the baptism of
the jailer of Philippi. Alongside the words of the two Apostles:
"Believe... and you will be saved", we also have to put before
us the words of the Lord Himself: "He who believes and is
baptised will be saved" (Mark.16: 16) and in addition, all the
verses that are related to salvation through baptism such as
(1Pet.3: 21) and (Titus 3: 5).
If baptism is so important. were the prophets of the Old Testament baptised?
If the commandment of baptism had existed in their days, they would have been baptised. But this commandment is laid down in Christianity. Why? Because baptism is dying with Christ and Christ had not died in the Old Testament.
The prophets of the Old Testament practised what they could in their days: the symbols of baptism such as circumcision and crossing the Red Sea. They also celebrated the Passover lamb, which symbolised the Blood of Christ. We should not expect people to have obeyed a commandment, unknown to them, as it succeeded their time/s.
Is salvation through the word and not through water?
Do the Apostle's words about
the Church: "...that He might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word"
(Eph.5: 26) mean that cleansing is through the word, that is,
salvation is through the word? What about the other verses
which signify the necessity of the word for salvation such as:
"...having been born again, not of corruptible seed
incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides
forever" (1Pet.1: 23) and "Of His own will He brought us forth
by the word of truth" (Jas.1: 18), and which did not say:
"having been born again... through baptism" and "saved us through baptism"?
What is the importance of water for salvation? Since the
Lord says: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved",
then salvation will be attained this way. But the phrase "He
who believes" should be preceded by teaching or preaching,
because the Apostle says: "And how shall they believe in Him
of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear
without a preacher?" (Rom.10: 14) The importance of the
word arises from here.
word, which results in belief, comes first and then after
belief baptism is administered, the result of which is salvation
and renewal of life. Although salvation and renewal of life are
received through baptism, yet the word should come first
because it leads to faith and faith leads to baptism. That is why
the Apostle says: "...He brought us forth by the word of truth"
and "...having been born again through the word of God", on
the assumption that the 'word' is the origin that led to all these.
The Apostle's words about
the Church: "...that He might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word"
(Eph.5: 26) means that cleansing is
completed by baptism (the
washing of water) through the word, that is, through preaching
and the ministry of the word which result in faith and then in
observe that the Apostle says: "with the
water by the word" and not "with the washing of water which is
the word". If the washing of water means the word there
would have been no need for this repetition. But "the washing
of water by the word" means the washing of water which takes
place following the effect of the word. Without the word and
its effect the people could not have come to the washing of
water, that is, to baptism.
We observe that the word ‘belief’ is not mentioned in the
phrases "having been born again... through the word of God" (1 Pet.1: 23) and "brought us forth by the word of truth" (Jas.1: 18). Is the word without belief sufficient for the new birth? This is impossible. The word ‘belief’ is not mentioned because it is obviously implied.
There is no need to repeat on every occasion words whose meanings are obviously implied. We cannot on every occasion repeat the words: word - belief - baptism rebirth.
Preaching has its
importance; nobody can deny the
importance of the ministry of the word. Nevertheless, we can
never say that some people are 'brought forth by the word of
truth' whether they believe or not. This also applies to baptism.
The phrase 'washing of water by the word' implies two things: the word and baptism. We notice that the word 'belief' is not mentioned since it is implied.
Our Protestant brethren are
constantly concentrating on
faith. Does the absence of the word 'faith' in (Eph.5: 26);
(Jas.1: 18); (1Pet.1: 23) mean that it is not important or
necessary? Of course not. Sometimes the absence of a word does not render it unnecessary, but that its meaning is implied. This applies to the word 'baptism'.
the position of water in salvation and the second
(a) Although the word
'water' is not mentioned in the
phrases: "brought us forth by the word of truth" and "having
been born again... through the word of God", yet it is
mentioned plainly in the Lord's saying: "...unless one is born of
water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God"
(John.3: 5). In this verse, it is clear that rebirth is from water. The water meant is real water and not symbolic.
(b) This is clear when Cornelius and his Gentile followers accepted the faith and were joined to the Church. In this case righteous persons were called to the faith by God: An angel appeared to Cornelius and Peter saw a vision; a Divine command. Then St. Peter preached to them the word of God and the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message (Acts 11: 1) and they spoke in tongues.
Was that sufficient for
their second birth? Could St. Peter
tell them: "Blessed is this second birth to you all"? Obviously
this was not the case, as St. Peter, after he had witnessed the
descent of the Holy Spirit on them, said: "'Can anyone forbid
water, that these should not be baptised who have received the
Holy Spirit just as we have?' And he commanded them to be
baptised in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10: 47,48).
The writer of the Book of Acts comments immediately on this event by saying: "...the Gentiles had also received the word of God" (Acts 11: 1). Here the importance of water goes alongside the importance of the word, and the word ‘water’ does not mean ‘the word’ as some interpret it in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph.5: 26).
(c) Another clear example is
the baptism of the Ethiopian
eunuch. When he believed, the Holy Bible says: "Now as they
went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch
said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being
baptised?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart,
you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus
Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptised him" (Acts 8: 36-38).
was a baptism of water, exactly the same as the baptism
of Cornelius and his followers; baptism of actual water was
necessary immediately after the preaching of the Word. In this
case the water was not the word. If the eunuch were born of the
word and washed by the word what then was the need for
Concerning this, I would
like to speak about an important
The importance of water and its
symbols in the Holy
In order to understand why water was chosen for washing and renewal in the Sacrament of Baptism, we should remember that ever since the beginning, in the story of creation, there has been a association between water and life.
The Holy Bible says: "And
the Spirit of God was hovering
over the face of the waters" (Gen.1: 2). And God said: "Let the
waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let
birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of
the heavens" (Gen.1: 20). Thus life sprang out of water and we
can see the connection between water, life and the Spirit of
also read in the Old Testament that God likens Himself
to water when He reproached the people saying: "They have
forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn
themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water"
(Jer.2: 13). This correlation is also mentioned in the words of
the Lord Jesus Christ: " 'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' By this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive" (John.7: 38,39).
words are similar to the Lord's words about Himself in
His discourse with the Samaritan woman about living water,
when He said that He is the Giver of living water. He said: "But
the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of
water springing up into everlasting life" (John.4: 10-14).
Therefore, water is a symbol
of life and sometimes of the
Holy Spirit Himself. How beautiful are the Divine Inspiration's
words in the First Psalm about the virtuous man: "He shall be
like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its
fruit in its season" (Ps.1: 3). The fruit is the fruit of the Holy
The connections between
water, life and the Holy Spirit in
the Holy Bible commence from Genesis (Gen.1: 2) and continue
until the end of the Book of Revelation: "I will give the
fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts" (Rev.21:
6), "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as
crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb"
(Rev.22: 1) and "...let him who thirsts come. And whoever
desires, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev.22: 17).
In the crossing of the Red Sea, the water symbolised life and death together; death of the servile man and life of the free man who came up out of the water.
On Maundy Thursday, the
water symbolised purification.
That is why, after washing the feet of His Apostles, the Lord
said: "...and you are clean" (John.13: 10). The Psalmist says:
"I will wash my hands in innocence" (Ps.26: 6). This cleansing is the washing of the new birth with the word; the cleansing which we receive in the bath of the new birth and the cleansing obtained in baptism referred to by the Apostle's words: "...and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb.10: 22).
Water and Blood
On the Cross, when one of the soldiers pierced the Lord Jesus’ side with a spear, "immediately blood and water came out" (John.19: 34). What is the Divine wisdom thereof?
From His side blood came out to give us the meaning of redemption. But how do we receive this redemption?
We receive it through water
in baptism. Therefore, the
emergence of both water and Blood from the side of Christ
showed us the means of redemption. We receive the Blood of
Christ which purifies us from every sin through water. How
beautiful it is when, in the Eucharist, we blend the Blood with
St. John the Beloved, who
witnessed the incident of the
coming out of the blood and water, clarified this subject when
he said: "And there are three that bear witness on earth: the
Spirit, the water, and the blood,. and these three agree as one"
(1John.5: 8). This verse explains the redemption, we receive.
Redemption was given to us by Blood (the Blood of Christ) and we receive the merit of this Blood through the birth ofwater and the Spirit. Therefore the three elements: Blood, water and the Spirit, gather in baptism.
Does water have all these efficacious?
(a) This question reminds
me of the rage of Naaman the
Syrian when Elisha asked him to wash in the Jordan to be
cleansed. He could not believe that the matter was as simple as
just washing in water, especially as he had better rivers in
Damascus than those in Israel (2Kin.5: 10-12). But when he
obeyed and washed, he was cleansed by his belief.
prophet ordered Naaman to wash in the River Jordan in
which John the Baptist was to baptise later (Matt.3: 6). Shall
we be like Naaman and think it too much for water to have
these efficacious? God gives grace in the way He wishes. The
grace in this case was not in the water of the River Jordan itself
but in the power to cleanse which God endowed upon that
water. The same is said about baptism, as we will explain later.
When the Lord healed the man born blind, He put mud
on his eyes and said to him: "'Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam'
(which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came
back seeing" (John.9: 6,7). With his mere belief, the blind man
could have seen, but God wished to enlighten him (baptism is
spiritual enlightenment) through water. Let God's will be done
the way He wishes; we do not design plans to be carried out by
God, blessed be His name.
(c) In addition, we say in
reply to this question that the
water of baptism is not just ordinary water and the baptised is
not only born of water but of water and the Spirit. The Holy
Spirit sanctifies the water of baptism, giving it a special nature
so that whoever is submerged in it is born of water and the
Spirit. Thus the baptised receives the merit of the redeeming
Blood of Christ. When he is submerged into this water, he is buried with Christ and shares in the fellowship of His death in order to merit the fellowship of sharing in His resurrection. That is why, in sanctifying the water of baptism, we pour into it the Holy Chrism, the ointment of the Holy Spirit. Thus the water is sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Whoever is born of this water is born of water and the Spirit.
sanctifying the water of baptism, the clergyman prays the
litanies of sanctifying the water and of invocations the Holy
Spirit. He also reads certain passages from the Holy Bible.
Thus the water of baptism which cleanses us is sanctified by the
Would it not be better if we
say that baptism is rising
with Christ and not dying with Him because death is
harmful and not beneficial whereas rising is beneficial?
Baptism is dying with Christ
and rising with Him as the
Apostle explained in his Epistle to the Romans: "For if we have
been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we
also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom.6: 5)
and "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also
live with Him" (Rom.6: 8). In this matter no one may depend
on his own thoughts and stray from the Church’s teaching,
saying that death is useless but resurrection is beneficial. The
Holy Bible says: "Or do you not know that as many of us as
were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into
death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of
life"(Rom.6: 3,4). The Apostle repeats this in his Epistle to the
Colossians, saying: "...buried with Him in baptism, in which
you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of
God, who raised Him from the dead" (Col.2: 12). From these
verses we see that baptism is both death and resurrection.
Truly, those who despise dying with Christ cannot receive the
blessing of His resurrection.
Here we ask: Why is there death in baptism? And what is its importance?
(a) To have fellowship with
the Lord Jesus Christ. The
Apostle did not say that he only enters into the power of His
resurrection, but he said: "...that I may know Him and the
power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death" (Phil.3: 10) and "I have been
crucified with Christ" (Gal.2: 20). The phrase dying with Christ
is repeated many times in his Epistle to the Romans (Rom.6).
Man's corrupted nature (the old man) must die in baptism so
he may receive the new nature. This is what the Apostle express in
his words about crucifying the old self in baptism. In the same
chapter of his Epistle to the Romans he says: "...knowing this, that
our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be
done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he
who has died has been freed from sin" (Rom.6: 6,7). Here is the
benefit of death. Death is not harmful as some think. It is better
for us and for our old self to die so that we can rise with a new
nature after the image of God. As for the corrupted nature, it does
not have the power to rise with Christ. It is essential for our old
self to die in order to live.
The fellowship of His death implies that we profess that
we were under the penalty of death; we were dead in
trespasses. Christ died for us and was buried. That is why we
are baptised into His death. As long as the wages of our sin is
death, we are buried with Him in baptism. In this way we
receive the merit of the blessing of rising with Christ.
(d) It is common sense that
resurrection means rising from
the dead. Whoever rises with Christ in baptism must have died
with Him in order to rise. If he did not die, how then will he
Why should a person whose parents were baptised and saved from Adam's sin, be baptised as well?
We did not inherit the
penalty of death from our immediate
parents so that we are saved if they are baptised, but we inherited it
directly from Adam and Eve: the first of the human race. We were
in Adam's loins. When Adam's nature sinned and he was
condemned to death, everything in his loins became mortal. We
came out of Adam's loins under the penalty of death. Therefore the
sentence of death was passed on Adam and all his offspring; not
only on Cain, Abel and Seth. Concerning this, the Holy Bible says:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and
death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all
sinned" (Rom.5: 12) and also "For as in Adam all die, even so in
Christ all shall be made alive" (1Cor.15: 22). Hence death was a
judgement on the entire human race, being the offspring of Adam.
Every born human being is condemned to death because He was in
Adam's loins when Adam was condemned to death.
Salvation from death is an individual salvation, whether or
not the parents received it. This salvation
needs repentance and
belief in baptism and in Christ's Blood as well as in all the means
of Grace. There are no parents without sin. The Psalmist says:
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Ps.51: 5).
We are born in sin until
liberated from the bondage of
corruption (Rom.8: 21). When are we going to be liberated
from this corruption? The Apostle says about our bodies: "So
also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in
corruption, it is raised in incorruption. For this corruptible
must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on
immortality" (1Cor. 15: 42,53). When will this be? When the
trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised.
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