Liquid Baptism

Reading the section on Baptism in J. L. Dagg’s Manual Of Theology, I came across a quote that struck me kind of funny. He wrote:

The commission of Christ to his apostles reads thus: “Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20) It is not expressly stated in these words that water must be used in the baptizing which is enjoined; but so common is the use of water, that a command to immerse, wash, or sprinkle, naturally implies the use of it, unless something in the circumstances of the case, or connection of the word, suggests the use of some other liquid.

I wonder what Dagg meant by “some other liquid?” It seems almost silly to consider any other liquid. I had to chuckle when I read the words. My mind flooded with all sorts of ludicrous possibilities, but I’d probably be labeled sacrilegious if I mentioned them here.

My friend Mike Stike of WDAC in New Providence, PA, told me an interesting story that makes Dagg’s remark seem not so out of place. Mike attends the oldest Southern Baptist Church in the state of Pennsylvania. In the early days of the church (1930’s), dairy farming served as the staple industry in the area. One of the first pastors, along with a traveling evangelist, went to visit one of the local dairy farmers one morning. When sharing the gospel, the man fell under such conviction that he got saved on the spot. Much like Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-38), the dairy man expressed an interest to be baptized immediately. The pastor tried to get him to wait until Sunday. The zealous evangelist, not wanting to quench the spirit, stepped in. He asked if the man had a creek on the property. He didn’t. He did have a fresh tub of non-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. Pointing to the tub, the man asked, “Will that work?” “Absolutely!” replied the evangelist. The sheepish pastor dutifully baptized the new convert in the milk.


I think I would have to disagree with using anything but water; But then why would muddy river water be any different, they both (milk and river water) are 99.9% aqua. In the Old Testament times however, they were sure to use water for all of their cleansing duties and not milk. Makes you wonder about using juice instead of wine or crackers instead of bread, let alone unleavened bread.

Brings to mind Matt 20:22-23: “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared of my Father.”

No liquid there; rather , a reference to suffering and death. And of course, Mar 1:8 “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost,” indicating at least one other baptism that has no liquid involved.

And there’s 1Cr 12:13 “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit,” another water-free reference to baptism.

And the topper, 1Cr 10:2 “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;” a baptism by water that required that the person **not** get wet. HAH! Guaranteed to stump a Baptist.

All this to say, water or milk doesn’t matter. Water baptism does not make a person right with God. We are justifed and sanctified by faith. What a person undertakes by faith in Christ is his righteousness. What he clings to as his own righteousness hinders him.

Here’s the bonus round, where Paul declares he’s not baptizing anybody ever again because it’s not importan to his callingt: 1Cr 1:17 “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

HAH! Guaranteed to stump a Baptist.

Only one that had not read his Bible.

Here’s the bonus round, where Paul declares he’s not baptizing anybody ever again because it’s not importan to his callingt: 1Cr 1:17

Um… Is that what he said? That’s not quite how I read the entire passage, wherein he says he didn’t want anyone to say “so-and-so baptised me.”

There’s a clear distinction given in scripture between physical and spiritual baptism. Physical baptism, however, is a command given to us which I don’t think we should neglect. Nor should we waste our time trying to stump others with it.

As to the original post here, I found it very intersesting. A former pastor of mine told of baptising several men in prison in a foot tub because nothing else was available. They did use water, however… But the principle of using whatever is at hand has always stuck with me.

I think I would have agreed with the preacher, though, and tried to get the guy to wait 8)

>>> Physical baptism, however, is a command given to us which I don’t think we should neglect<< Except Paul, of course, neglected it. Downright refused to do it any more, in fact. Saw it as a distraction from the preaching of the Gospel.


If you interpreted my subject line as a denial of the fact that scripture sometimes uses baptism as as a spiritual metaphor or as an endorsement of baptismal regeneration, you missed my point. I just played off of the familiar phrase “water baptism” and Dagg’s curious statement regarding “other liquid.” I guess that’s what I get for trying to be pithy. I almost used “Got Milk?” or “Baptized in Milk,” but I didn’t want to give away the punch line quite that soon. I guess I could have used, “Baptism: A Moo-ving Experience.”

Lots of laughs on that “Moo-ving experience!” there Don!

Sorry, no, bad puns like that are too mooo-ch to bear.

And now I would like to sincerly apologize for this comment.

1) Innitiation into Judaism for a convert (foreigner) was through water.
That is the background which underlies the NT. To expect any other medium other than water would therefore need a specific comment by Jesus. There is none.

2) Baptism only makes you wet – but it does nevertheless symbolise something vital – ‘cleansing’. You don’t usually cleanse yourself with milk – especially when you are living under Roman occupation as many of the first converts recorded in the NT were!

3) The Ethipoian Eunuch said “here is water….” (Acts). Philip came to him in the power of the Spirit and left in the power of the Spirit having conducted the baptism. Presumably the Holy Spirit thought water was the norm!

4) The giving of rain (water) is again and again associated with God’s favour and blessing inthe OT – withholding the converse. The water even saved those who trusted God (the flood).

5) The whole universe was made out of water in the original creation (Peter). What wonderful harmony that in the new creation those who come to trust in the ‘water of life’ (Jesus) are asked to be baptised in the waters HE has made.