Is baptism by immersion the Biblical way?

Author: BibleAsk Team


Baptism by Immersion

Baptism by immersion is a deeply significant practice within Christianity, symbolizing spiritual rebirth, cleansing from sin, and identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This method finds its foundation in biblical teachings, specifically in the New Testament. By examining various passages and principles, we can understand why immersion is considered the biblical method of this rite.

Etymology

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.

John the Baptist

The Bible teaches that John the Baptist baptized by immersion (Matthew 3:6). 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 (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5, 9; Luke 3:3; John 1:28).

Jesus Christ

A foundational event that establishes immersion as the biblical method of this rite is the way Jesus Himself was baptized. In Matthew 3:13-17, we read about Jesus coming to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan River. Verse 16 states, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water.” This description implies that Jesus was immersed in the water, as He came up “from the water” rather than simply standing in it.

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Another biblical account that supports immersion as the biblical method of this rite is the way the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized in Acts 8:26-39. In this passage, Philip encounters the eunuch who is reading from the book of Isaiah and explains the Scriptures to him. Verse 36 records the eunuch’s response, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Philip’s answer in verse 38 is telling: “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”

The phrase “went down into the water” suggests that both Philip and the eunuch entered the water, indicating immersion. Furthermore, verse 39 describes the eunuch coming up out of the water after being baptized. This account provides clear biblical evidence for immersion as the method of this rite practiced by the early Christians.

Symbolism

The symbolism of this rite, as described in the New Testament, aligns with immersion as the biblical method. To baptize symbolizes spiritual cleansing, forgiveness of sins, and union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6:3-5 states, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Immersion uniquely captures the symbolism of burial and resurrection, as the believer is fully submerged in water and then raised up again. This physical act mirrors the spiritual reality of dying to sin and being raised to new life in Christ. Colossians 2:12 further emphasizes this symbolism, stating that believers are “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”

Early Church Practice

Historical evidence from the early church also supports immersion as the prevailing method of this Christian rite. The Didache, an early Christian document dating from the late first or early second century, provides instructions for baptism, stating, “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm.” The phrase “into the name” suggests immersion, as opposed to pouring or sprinkling.

Furthermore, writings from early church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen also indicate immersion as the common method of this rite practiced in the early church. These historical sources provide additional confirmation of immersion as the biblical method of this Christian rite.

Conclusion

In conclusion, immersion is considered the biblical method of baptism based on the teachings and examples found in the New Testament, as well as historical evidence from the early church. The baptism of Jesus, the way John the Baptist baptized, the account of the Ethiopian eunuch, and the symbolism of baptism all point to immersion as the method that best captures the spiritual significance of this sacrament.

As believers are fully submerged in water and then raised up again, they symbolically participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, experiencing spiritual cleansing and newness of life. Therefore, immersion remains a central and meaningful practice within Christian communities, reflecting obedience to biblical teachings and identification with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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