Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Three Windows of Baptism

In yesterday’s blog we introduced the concept of trine immersion as the mode of baptism that we practice here at Grace Church. We explained that trine immersion is the practice of dipping a person under the water three times and that it is not a new form of baptism but rather one that history records back as far as the second century. There are three windows that we can look through to understand the Biblical support for trine immersion.

First, is the window of THEOLOGY. In Matthew 28:19, we are told to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is identifying with the God of the Bible who is a triune God. He is one God, yet three persons. The mode of trine immersion is a beautiful picture of this identification. Trine immersion is not three baptisms just as the Trinity is not three Gods. Trine immersion is three dips in one baptism just as the Trinity is one God in three persons.

Second, is the window of GRAMMAR. I believe that Matthew 28:19 is what we call an elliptical sentence. An elliptical sentence is one in which certain words are left out that we naturally understand as we hear or read it. For example, if a mother told her son to pick up his toys, his books and his clothes, what does she want him to do? She wants him to pick up his toys, to pick up his books and to pick up his clothes. Yet, she does not need to use the words “pick up” more than once. She does not need to say, “pick up your toys, pick up your books, and pick up your clothes.” This is an elliptical sentence.

Here is another example. If a boy is told to dip his pencil in the glass of water, in the glass of juice and in the glass of milk, how many times will he dip his pencil? Three times, right? He could have been instructed to dip his pencil in the glass of water, to dip his pencil in the glass of juice, and to dip his pencil in the glass of milk. However, all of these words are not necessary.

How about one more example? If a teacher tells his student to write their name in their English book, in their Math book, and in their History book, how many times will the student write his name? Again, the answer is three times. This is an elliptical sentence. The words “write your name” do not need to be repeated. They are naturally understood.

So it is with Jesus words about baptism in Matthew 28:19. Jesus could have said, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father; Baptizing them in the name of the Son; and baptizing them in the name of the Holy Spirit.” However, He didn’t have to use all of these words. Though He just used the words “baptizing them” once, it is naturally understood grammatically to be an elliptical sentence. A good piece of evidence for this is in looking at the Greek Orthodox Church which knows the Greek language and which practices a threefold mode of baptism.

Along with the window of grammar and the window of theology is also the window of HISTORY. We will look at this window in tomorrow’s blog.

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