Andrew Urshan & Water Baptism

By Jim Ellis

Recently I read two different autobiographies of Andrew Urshan. One was printed serially in several magazines in 1946. The other was written in 1918 and is available from the UPC publishing house.

The book from 1918 tells about his birth and childhood and conversion as a young man in Persia, his trip to the U.S., his baptism in the Spirit, and his ministry in the U.S., Persia, and Russia. There is no mention of his baptism in Jesus' name (unless I missed it).

The magazine articles covered a lot of the same information but they do talk about baptism in Jesus' name. Andrew Urshan was sprinkled as a baby in the Presbyterian manner. Later as a young man he was immersed. He later had some questions concerning water baptism and came to the conclusion that, "The Lord Jesus Christ is the One Proper Name of the whole Deity for this Gospel dispensation because in Him, Jesus Christ our Lord, all the fullness of the Godhead dwells and to Him all the power in Heaven and earth was given."

He goes on to say, "...This was indeed a wonderful revelation of the Trinity in Christ....seeing the great value of the baptism invested in faith in the One Name of the triune God..." He goes on to say that he had a tract published about this revelation, that he had Acts 2:38 painted above the baptistry tank and that he began to baptize new converts "into the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ which is the One Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost." This is on page 10 of a magazine titled, The Witness of God, edition no. 3 of 1946. He said this happened in 1910 while pastoring an assembly at Sheffield and Montana Street in Chicago, Illinois. It is interesting that although he started baptizing new converts this way, he did not practice rebaptism.

He later went back to Persia and then to Russia. In 1915 while preaching in Russia, he hoped no one would want to be water baptized because he knew it had become a controversy in the U.S. and he did not want to join in with either side of the issue. He did decide not to do any baptizing unless someone specifically requested baptism using the name of Jesus.

A new convert came to him, pointing to Acts 8:16 in a Bible, and asked for baptism according to this verse. Several days later they went out into the woods to a river, cleared away two feet of snow, broke a hole through the ice and baptized several people. There were more converts and a few days later more wanted to be baptized.

Bro. Urshan preached on Isaiah 9:6 about "the sonship of Jesus and the Divine Fatherhood in Him." He then talked about baptism in Jesus' Name. As a result some who had been previously baptized requested rebaptism.

Here is what Bro. Urshan wrote about his attitude toward rebaptism. "I objected to such a thing then. I had come to the conclusion to baptize the new repenting souls in Jesus Christ's name, but never those who were already baptized. In spite of my personal feeling on the subject, I was almost begged to baptize some who once were already baptized.... I tried to discourage it, and told the folks it was not necessary at all and that it would bring trouble and division among them. I went as far as to tell them of the havoc that very thing had created in America and then I plainly stated that I would not rebaptize them.... I prayed hard against rebaptism and branded it to be a trick of the devil to destroy that good revival."

When they insisted on being rebaptized, he told them to go ahead and rebaptize one another. He told them that he himself had not been rebaptized and wanted to return to America and discuss it more fully with people there. Finally they prevailed upon him and he asked an elderly Russian to rebaptise him and then he baptized about 75 people in Jesus' Name.

Even though he had now been rebaptized, when Bro. Urshan returned to the U.S. he continued to fellowship and preach among those who practiced both types of baptism. Later, he was forced to choose sides and he sided with the "New Issue" or Jesus' name baptism.

Just a little history lesson for you.

This writing is the copyright of Jim Ellis and is posted with his permission.


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