Baptism by Triune Immersion -- By: David R. Plaster

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 06:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: Baptism by Triune Immersion
Author: David R. Plaster

Baptism by Triune Immersion

David R. Plaster

The practice of triune immersion as the mode of baptism for believers has been a historic distinctive of the Brethren movement. This mode of baptism is supported by three arguments: doctrinal, grammatical, and historical. The doctrinal thrust of Matt 28:19 is trinitarian and supports the triple action involved in triune immersion. The grammar and language of the text also support this approach. And history provides evidence that triune immersion was the mode utilized by the early church. Thus, triune immersion is the preferred mode of baptism.

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For over nineteen centuries the imperative of Christian baptism has been almost universally recognized within all branches of Christianity. Christians, however, have differed concerning the mode of baptism and those who may properly receive it. This article focuses on the former. Since the very inception of the movement in 1708, the Brethren have practiced baptism by triune immersion. The reasons for the adoption of this mode are doctrinal, grammatical, and historical.

Doctrinal Considerations

The spiritual significance of an ordinance is absolutely vital to its understanding and practice. As John Calvin stated,

the principal thing recommended by our Lord is to celebrate the ordinance with true understanding. From this it follows that the essential part lies in the doctrine. This being taken away, it is only a frigid ceremony.1

An ordinance is a teaching aid to God’s people in that it pictures truth. The form of the ordinance, therefore, should correspond to the

teaching that the Word of God explicitly associates with it.2 These truths can be grouped with respect to the believer and with respect to God.

Truths with Respect to the Believer

A New Relationship with the Triune God

Water baptism is an aid to teaching concerning the believer’s salvation experience, symbolizing important aspects of that salvation experience. First, baptism symbolizes the believer’s new relationship/identity with the triune God. In Matt 28:18–20 Jesus commands that disciples are to be baptized “in (εἰς) the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (NASB). What does it mean to be baptized “into” the name of someone? Ryrie concludes that “a theological definition of baptism would best be understood in terms of iden...

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