Does the Mode Matter?

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Often, we hear comments made about baptism that would make the listener believe that the mode of baptism matters little, and further would lead you to believe the Bible has little direction to give.
I will not keep you wondering, I do believe the mode of pouring can be backed from scripture, and in the same sentence I will tell you I have respect for those who have been taught otherwise. Let’s look into scripture for direction on the subject.
To get a picture of what the Jewish culture was accustomed to, we need to look in the Old Testament. Time after time they were to offer sacrifices and offerings, and I think it safe to say that the offering was always poured out. They had bowls made to pour out the offerings (Ex 25:29). Offerings were poured out (Ex 29:12). Objects being ceremonially cleansed nearly always had the cleansing agent either poured or sprinkled on the object being cleansed (Lev 8:11, 14:15). Do a word search and follow the many times they were instructed to pour out the sacrifices.
Another interesting study is the difference in the words ‘in’ and ‘with’. Leviticus 14:8-9 “And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself ‘in’ water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp but live outside his tent seven days. And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body ‘in’ water, and he shall be clean.”
Many more examples could be given. Notice the difference when something is cleansed ‘with’ water. In Leviticus 8 God told Moses to take Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and to assemble the congregation. Moses obeyed and brought Aaron and his sons and washed them ‘with’ water. Remember in Exodus 30 God commanded Moses to make a laver, a basin to wash ‘at’. He was to put it between the door and the altar and the Priests were to wash their hands and feet ‘at’ it. This concept is simply understood when we consider that we wash dishes ‘in’ water and our vehicles ‘with’ water.
Now let’s go to the New Testament for further study. The Gospels are clear that John and the ones he was baptizing were ‘in’ the water. In John’s message to the people in Mark 1:8, he said “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16) Jesus’ parting words to the disciples in Acts 1:5- “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Now let’s look at what happened not many days later when Jesus said there would be a baptism. Acts 2:17: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;”
I believe it is significant that when Jesus said there would be a baptism and God performed the ceremony that the method of pouring was used.
One other example of a baptism performed by God is found in First Corinthians 10:1-2 “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Did you ever wonder how this happened? Psalms 77:17 says, “The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.”
It seems significant that the two baptisms we have recorded in the Word, where God performed the ceremony- both by pouring.
What about Romans 6:3-4? “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
I am suggesting that baptism identifies us with the death of Christ, and of course is only a type of that death. Being raised is a type of the new life we are to live, and when we take the hand of the person who is on their knees and has been baptized and tell them to ‘rise’- this is likewise a type of being raised to the new life. Read it carefully and ponder if Paul was even thinking about either mode.
What about Philip and the eunuch? Didn’t they like John both go down into the water and ‘he baptized him’?
What about Cornelius, or the Philippian jailor? Is there any evidence for either mode in these examples? Probably not- but it does seem that they were in the house for the service.
Shall we say anything about being practical? Does it really seem like the gospel of Jesus to put in an expensive baptistery or else limit baptisms to warm times of the year? An eyewitness told me some people in cold countries make a hole in the ice and let the person down into the water. Does that really seem to be what Jesus had in mind? Shall we say anything about modesty and appropriateness for our sisters? I will be content to stay with what we find in the Word. I conclude as many of our doctrinal statements say, “We believe pouring to be the scriptural mode”