Is baptism by immersion the only proper form of the baptismal rite?

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The word baptize (Gr. Baptizō) means “to dip” or “to immerse.” The word Baptizō was used of immersing cloth in dye and of submerging a vessel in order to fill it with water. It was also used of a man drowning, as it were, in debt.

The Bible teaches that John the Baptist baptized by immersion (Matthew 3:6). Matthew emphasized the fact that John the Baptist “was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). All four Gospel writers record that John’s ministry was carried at the Jordan River (Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:5, 9; Luke 3:3; John 1:28).

Also, the Bible gives us the example of the baptism by immersion of the Ethiopian eunuch when both the one baptizing and the one baptized “went down … into the water” and came “up out of the water” (Acts 8:38, 39). Had pouring or sprinkling been permissible, the eunuch, instead of waiting until they “came unto a certain water” before requesting baptism (v. 36), might have offered Philip water from his bottle.

Baptism by immersion accurately reflects the symbolism of the baptismal rite. According to Rom. 6:3–11, Paul teaches that Christian baptism represents death. To be “baptized,” Paul says, is to be “baptized into his [Christ’s] death” (v. 3), to be “buried with him by baptism into death” (v. 4), to be “planted together in the likeness of his death” (v. 5), and to be “crucified with him” (v. 6).

Then, Paul concludes, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (v. 11). Obviously, pouring and sprinkling are not symbols of death and burial. Paul makes his meaning more clear by showing the truth that coming forth from baptism symbolizes being “raised up from the dead” (v. 4). It is evident that the writers of the NT knew only of baptism by immersion.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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