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Baptism by Affusion
hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. 22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:9-22
1) Infant Baptism -
Notice that the English word washings, which is the Greek word baptismos or baptism is used to reference sprinkling.
And it is a very good translation for baptismos as it refers to a change of condition from impurity to purity. That idea captures its meaning. So you can see that the Bible uses baptismos or baptism to refer to Old Testament rites of purification performed by sprinkling. Many people are not aware that there were baptisms in the Old Testament. The theology of many people would go to pot if they did. But as you can see, the author of Hebrews says that indeed there were, and-he says these baptisms were performed by sprinkling, which is what is done in infant baptism.
2) Infant Baptism -
To clarify even more what the author of Hebrews is saying, lets look more carefully at the verses he his quoting from in the Old Testament. In Hebrews 9:13 he references Numbers 19:17-18 which reads:
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In studying infant Baptism we look to the author of the Book of Hebrews who uses the noun baptismos, or baptism, to describe Old Testament baptisms by pouring or sprinkling. He says:
“Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings (baptismos), regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. …. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? …. 18 Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and
“Then for the unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the burnt purification from sin and flowing water shall be added to them in a vessel. And a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there, and on the one who touched the bone or the one slain or the one dying naturally or the grave.” Numbers 19:17-18 (Hebrews 9:13)
In this Old Testament passage, water was applied by means of sprinkling which the author of Hebrews calls a baptism. Now, as you know, the translators of this passage often use the English word washings for this Greek word baptismos. And, as we said earlier, this is a very good translation. In fact, if they had used the word “washing” for all New Testament uses of the Greek word baptism, it would have been a very good choice of words. Baptisms are washings, that is, rites of purification as described right here in Numbers 19 and Hebrews 9.
3) Infant Baptism -
If you are looking for a Biblical definition of baptism, few definitions could compete with this one. Baptism is a washing, a rite of purification, a change of condition from ritual impurity to ritual purity. The mode used in the Old Testament? Hebrews and Numbers make that clear: sprinkling. However, I would like to make it clear that baptidzo does not itself convey a mode; any mode will do with baptidzo. Its purpose is not to covey mode but convey change of condition. It is the Book of Hebrews and the Book of Numbers that give us the mode-not the word baptidzo.
4) Infant Baptism -
Now look at other Old Testament passages which the author of Hebrews addresses:
“And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Exodus 24:6-8
“And Moses slaughtered it and sprinkled the blood around on the altar.” Leviticus 8:19 (Hebrews 9:21)
“Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.” Leviticus 16:14 (Hebrews 9:21)
5) Infant Baptism -
Now what do these comparisons of Old Testament references to Hebrews 9 tell us? There is no complexity here; the washings (baptismos) spoken of in the Book of Hebrews are sprinklings.
The author of Hebrews, quoting the Old Testament accounts of sprinklings, calls them baptisms. Therefore by authority of Scripture, sprinklings are an acceptable mode for baptisms. Actually, many modes are possible just as long as a change of condition takes place. However, this does bring up another point: if sprinkling is simply one possible mode of baptism, are other modes possible? Other modes of baptism are possible-baptism in pagan or heretical Jewish cults can be and were by many modes. Other modes of Biblical baptism, however, may not be possible. Only the context of Scripture itself can answer that question.
6) Infant Baptism -
So, if this Hebrews passage was all there was in the Bible about this topic, there is enough evidence right here for the case to be closed in the affirmative that sprinkling is indeed a proper mode of Biblical baptisms.