Regarding Baptism

This year I’ve been working to update and further flesh out our website. In fact, the blog you are reading right now (that was launched in April of this year) is one manifestation of my labor.

Recently I was working to develop a specific page devoted to our belief in baptism by Trine Immersion. As you may know, I grew up in the Brethren church, so I was taught to believe that baptism by Trine Immersion fulfills Jesus’ command. As I was working on this page I felt led to further explore the Biblical case for, or against, Trine Immersion. As I was exploring the scriptures and creating my own notes related to baptism I decided that I wanted to share some of my findings here too.

Spoiler Alert: Trine Immersion is Biblical and today only Trine Immersion fulfills Jesus’ commandment for baptism within the church.  

The Old Testament Roots of Baptism

In the New King James Version, baptism is mentioned roughly 75 times in just over 60 verses. Interestingly baptism is only mentioned in the New Testament, although when John the Baptist bursts onto the scene baptizing many in the Jordan River (see Matthew 3:1-17, Mark 1:4-12 and Luke 3:1-22) the Jews do not at all seem taken aback by what may appear to us to be a brand new teaching. I believe that when John arrived, the Jews already had an inherit understanding that water cleanses and is an important step in sanctification (the process of becoming holy) based upon:  1. The need for Aaronic priests to wash before approaching The Lord (see Exodus 30:17-21)  2. The washing and cleansing of lepers (see Leviticus 14:1-9) and  3. The various instances of washing for cleansing in Leviticus 15.

The Baptism of John the Baptist

Let’s take a closer look at John’s ministry and his baptism. Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:2-3 and Luke 3:3-6 are all clear that John came to fulfill Isaiah 40:3-5. John’s ministry was pivotal in the transition between Israel as the channel of salvation and Christ’s arrival, sacrifice and the beginning of God’s new channel of salvation — the church. Both John’s message and baptism were consistent, they very specifically correlated with repentance. The disciple Mark writes

John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
— Mark 1:4

Matthew 3:2-11 and Luke 3:1-8 also state that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. John himself explicitly tells us that there are different types of baptism, including baptism that does not even involve water! In Luke’s gospel John is quoted saying

I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
— Luke 3:16

Even though it is obvious, let me clearly state that you and I are not living during this transitional time period, therefore John’s baptism is not applicable (or even available) to us. Since roughly 33 A.D. God has been working through His church which officially began on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2. So, the real question is, “how is the church to baptize?”

Baptism in The Church

Just before Jesus ascended back to His Father He gave instruction to His 11 disciples, including most notably Peter (see Matthew 16:17-19 where Jesus promised to build the church upon Peter or as He calls him ‘the rock’). Jesus’ final earthly command was

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:18-20

Here is Jesus’ precise, succinct prescription for baptism in the church — please allow me to rightly divide it. Because Jesus is giving direction for discipleship in ‘all nations’ we see that this is more than a command for the Jews, it’s a command given to Christ’s church. Jesus’ words are very clear that believers are to be baptized by 3 distinct dips. First of all, the Koine Greek word translated “baptizing” in Matthew 28:19 is βαπτίζω (baptizō) which means “to dip repeatedly.” So, in order for the church to precisely obey Jesus’ command to baptize disciples we must literally “repeatedly dip believers”. Secondly Jesus individually names each member of The Trinity — The Father, then The Son, and finally The Holy Spirit. Put these two points together and you have the specific command ‘Repeatedly dip, believers first into The Father, second into The Son and third into The Holy Spirit.’

The Trinity and Baptism at Pentecost

As I mentioned before, the first baptisms that we know of in the church are recorded at Pentecost. After The Spirit powerfully fills the infant church causing them to speak in tongues, Peter preaches a masterful sermon including a very clear mention of The Trinity as follows 

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
— Acts 2:32-33

Our God Who Is perfectly united, yet distinctly Three-Beings was, is, and will be Who those in the Church are baptized into. Because God is Three-In-One, we must baptized with by three dips into the water.

At the end of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:38-39 he calls the hearers first to repentance (note this is different than John’s baptism that was for repentance), then to baptism and finally to receive The Spirit. Again, here we see The Trinity, although The Father is not implicitly mentioned in these verses.

To recap, the entire sequence of actions leading to one's fellowship with the church is found in Acts 2:41-42: Step 1. Reception of God’s Word or His apostle’s doctrine — this would include confession of sins and salvation  Step 2. Baptism into The Trinity by Trine Immersion  Step 3. Remaining in the doctrine or teaching of those God has appointed to lead His church  Step 4. Breaking of bread or The Lord’s Supper and  Step 5. Prayer

If you still have any doubt about the necessity for baptism by Trine Immersion see Acts 8:14-16

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
— Acts 8:14-16

Baptism only in the name of Jesus yields a result that lacks The Spirit!

The Three-In-One God in Three Dips in One Substance

As I close this post, I’d like to point you back to The Old Testament which is the foundation for all of God’s Truth. Some of Moses’ final words to Israel are 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
— Deuteronomy 6:4

The Lord and Moses were clear that God is One Being, yet in Luke 24:13-33, Jesus shows Himself, to Cleopas and his companion, throughout the entire Old Testament! In John chapters 14-17 Jesus is explicit that The Father sent The Christ, Who would then go to The Father and send The Spirit and that all believers should be one in God as God is One. God is One Being expressed in Three Persons, just as the Hebrew word for God is אֱלֹהִים or Elohim, which means “Gods” plural! Baptism by Trine Immersion is a perfect visual of The Trinity — three distinct dips into a single substance representing The Three-In-One-God Who surrounds and fills His children!

Have You Been Trine Immersed?

If you haven’t obeyed Jesus’ command to be baptized by Trine Immersion and to join His church, then what’s stopping you? I invite you to obey Jesus’ command and be baptized by Trine Immersion today!

Additional scriptures: 2 Kings 5:1-14, Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 7:24-30, Acts 8:12-13, Acts 8:26-40 (note that belief is established first, then Philip baptizes the eunuch), Acts 19:1-7 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-2.

Note 1. Baptism by Trine Immersion is a requirement for membership in The Mount Vernon Grace Brethren Church.

Note 2. Additional details about baptism can be found in our Statement of Faith under Articles 1, 8 and 9.