There are many views on water baptism today. Some differ concerning the mode of water baptism. Others disagree on the essentiality of water baptism in the name of Christ as far as salvation from past sins and becoming a Christian is concerned. What does God teach on these issues? Why do people differ on whether “baptism” is immersion only or, our choice between immersion, sprinkling, or pouring?
Bible Baptism is defined as “immersion”
There are a few words in Greek manuscripts that are translated “baptism” (or its forms: baptize, baptized, baptizing, etc.) in the new testament. Note the Strong’s # and the transliteration into English letters of that Greek word, followed by the form of the English word “baptize” in the following occurrences:
STRONGS NT #907: “βαπτίζω…
v., baptizo, were baptized, was baptized, to be baptized,
Acts 2:38,41; 8:12,13,16,36,38; 10:47,48; 16:15,33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27
STRONGS NT 908: βάπτισμα
n., baptisma, baptism,
Rom. 6:4; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12; I Pet. 3:21
From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
STRONGS NT 907: “βαπτίζω…
1. properly, to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge …
2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water; …to wash oneself, bathe; …
3. metaphorically, to overwhelm, … to be overwhelmed with calamities, of those who must bear them, Matthew 20:22f Rec.; Mark 10:38; Luke 12:50 …
II. In the N. T. it is used particularly of the rite of sacred ablution, first instituted by John the Baptist, afterward by Christ’s command…(see βάπτισμα, 3), viz., an immersion in water…
a. The word is used absolutely, to administer the rite of ablution, to baptize… Mark 1:4; John 1:25f, 28; John 3:22f, 26; John 4:2; John 10:40; 1 Corinthians 1:17; with the cognate noun τό βάπτισμα, Acts 19:4; ὁ βαπτίζων substantively equivalent to ὁ βαπτιστής, Mark 6:14 (24 T Tr WH). τινα, John 4:1; Acts 8:38; 1 Corinthians 1:14, 16. Passive to be baptized: Matthew 3:13f, 16; Mark 16:16; Luke 3:21; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12, 13,(); ; 1 Corinthians 1:15 … to allow oneself to be initiated by baptism, to receive baptism: Luke [iii.7,12]; vii.30; Acts 2:38; Acts 9:18; Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8; with the cognate noun τό βάπτισμα added, Luke 7:29; 1 aorist middle, 1 Corinthians 10:2 … Acts 22:16. followed by a dative of the thing with which baptism is performed, ὕδατι, see bb. below.
b. with prepositions; aa. εἰς, to mark the element into which the immersion is made: εἰς τόν Ιορδάνην, Mark 1:9. to mark the end: εἰς μετάνοιαν, to bind one to repentance, Matthew 3:11; εἰς τό Ἰωάννου βάπτισμα, to bind to the duties imposed by John’s baptism, Acts 19:3 … to profess the name (see ὄνομα, 2) of one whose follower we become, Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5; 1 Corinthians 1:13, 15; εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν, to obtain the forgiveness of sins, Acts 2:38; εἰς τόν Μωυσῆν, to follow Moses as a leader, 1 Corinthians 10:2. to indicate the effect: εἰς ἕν σῶμα, to unite together into one body by baptism, 1 Corinthians 12:13; εἰς Χριστόν, εἰς τόν θάνατον αὐτοῦ, to bring by baptism into fellowship with Christ, into fellowship in his death, by which fellowship we have died to sin, Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3 … by the authority of the Lord, Acts 10:48. …relying on the name of Jesus Christ, i. e. reposing one’s hope on him, Acts 2:38…”
From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
STRONGS NT 908: βάπτισμα
βάπτισμα, βαπτίσματος, τό (βαπτίζω), a word peculiar to N. T. and ecclesiastical writings, immersion, submersion;1. used tropically of calamities and afflictions with which one is quite overwhelmed: Matthew 20:22f Rec.; Mark 10:38; Luke 12:50 (see βαπτίζω, I. 3).
2. of John’s baptism, that purificatory rite by which men on confessing their sins were bound to a spiritual reformation, obtained the pardon of their past sins and became qualified for the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom soon to be set up: Matthew 3:7; Matthew 21:25; Mark 11:30; Luke 7:29; Luke 20:4; Acts 1:22; Acts 10:37; Acts 18:25; (); βάπτισμα μετανοίας, binding to repentance (Winer’s Grammar, 188 (177)), Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; Acts 19:4.
3. of Christian baptism; this, according to the view of the apostles, is a rite of sacred immersion, commanded by Christ, by which men confessing their sins and professing their faith in Christ are born again by the Holy Spirit unto a new life, come into the fellowship of Christ and the church (1 Corinthians 12:13), and are made partakers of eternal salvation; (but see article in BB. DD., McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopaedia, Schaff-Herzog): Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12 (L marginal reading Tr βαπτισμῷ which see); 1 Peter 3:21; εἰς τόν θάνατον Romans 6:4 (see βαπτίζω, II. [end of Thayer’s definition on #908]
Notice the use of the terms “immersion”, “submerge”, “dip”, and “dipping” in the definition of the Greek words which are translated into the forms of baptism (n.) and baptize (v.). There is no indication that water baptism in the Bible was anything close to pouring or sprinkling (in fact, there are other Greek words that are translated properly “sprinkled” or “pour/ed” in the New Testament (See Strong’s #4378,4472,4473, for “sprinkled” and Strong’s #1632, 2708,2767 for “pour, poured”).
“Well,” one might ask, “what difference does it make?” Romans 15:4 teaches us that the things written long ago in Scripture were written “for our learning”. What difference did it make for Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 when they changed God’s way and offered strange fire in an offering to Him! John 4:24 says we must worship God in spirit and in truth. Colossians 3:17 teaches us that whatever we do in word or deed, it is to be by the authority (i.e. in the name of) Christ Jesus! It makes a huge difference!
We simply cannot substitute sprinkling or pouring of water on a person when God tells us to be “buried with Christ in baptism” in Romans 6:3,4 and Colossians 2:12. Substitutions are not what God requires or allows (2 John 9)!
[Please note: There are some English dictionaries that list sprinkling and pouring in defining “baptism”. Sometimes, these are secondary definitions. We need to realize that the New Testament words were written in the koine Greek language and we must get our definitions to New Testament words from koine Greek authorities (even as opposed to Classical and/or Modern Greek dictionaries) and certainly NOT from modern English dictionaries!]
The Baptism of The Great Commission is commanded!
The reading in Matthew 28:18-20 is often called The Great Commission. This is God’s way of spreading the gospel of Christ to the lost and gives us all an opportunity to obey the gospel and become God’s children in Christ Jesus our Lord. Notice that the culminating action on our part, done by a penitent confessing person who has faith in obedience to God’s will, is baptism.
Water baptism (of the Great Commission, was mandated throughout the Gospel Age. In other passages in the New Testament, there are direct statements, approved examples and even unavoidable conclusions which support the view that water baptism is essential to one’s salvation in becoming a child of God today! (See Acts 2:38, 10:48, 22:16; Rom. 6:1-17; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:9-14;
Baptism in the name of Jesus is by His authority!
I cannot think of anything that is clearer when we read Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. ‘ ” (NASB)
Jesus, having all authority in heaven and on earth, mandates the “Go, teach, baptize, teaching them to observe what I have commanded you” directive which is to continue until Jesus comes again!
Infant baptism is not found in the New Testament
In all the aforementioned cases, the individuals being baptized were responsible for their actions and able to hear the gospel preached and make a decision as to whether to obey God concerning the command to be baptized. Babies are simply not able to “believe the gospel”, “repent of any sins” (for they have none), “confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus”, nor request/respond to the gospel invitation to willingly, of their own free will…ask to be baptized for the remission of sins into the body of Christ!
Water Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is “for the remission of sins”
This is a point of controversy among religious teachers today. Most religious teachers simply assert (without proof) that baptism does NOT save us. God’s word, in I Peter 3:21 says just the opposite…that baptism does save us! Now we must realize that God saves us, the blood of Christ saves us, the gospel saves us, faith in Christ saves us, repentance saves us, confessing Christ saves us…so there are numerous things concerning “God’s part” and “man’s part” in our salvation. But, we can NEVER “do anything” to earn/merit our salvation….it is doing what God requires us to do to come into contact with the previous saving blood of Jesus Christ that saves us. Matthew 7:21 plainly teaches the necessity of obedience to God, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (NET Bible)
Despite the clarity of passages teaching that baptism is essential for the remission of sins…numerous preachers and teachers say it just isn’t so! Many are being drawn away by false doctrines of men who teach things that are patently false! (If you wish to see more information on the technical language aspects of “for the remission of sins” in the New Testament, please click HERE).
“I’ve already been immersed in water, so I’m ok!”
In Acts 18:24-26, we read of Apollos, who was an eloquent speaker and mighty in the Scriptures: but there was a flaw in his teaching… he knew only the baptism of John. The baptism of John the Baptist was a precursor to the baptism of Jesus Christ. Apollos was taken aside by a loving couple and taught the way of the Lord more perfectly (accurately, NASB). There are many people today who have been baptized in water once or even several times, but not according to the “way of the Lord“. Some folks need to be baptized properly, as their previous baptism was not the baptism for the right purposes as outlined in the gospel of Christ
A person living today needs to hear the gospel, believe the gospel, repent of all past sins and confess with the mouth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God before being scripturally immersed in water for the remission of sins…which puts that person into the body of Christ, a new creature, born again, a babe in Christ, a person who is saved from ALL past sins See Rom. 10:17; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; Rom.10:9,10; Matthew 10:32; Acts 2:38; 22:16)!