Should baptism be by immersion or sprinkling?

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By BibleAsk Team


The method of baptism, whether by immersion or sprinkling, has been a topic of debate among Christians for centuries. Some denominations practice baptism by immersion, wherein the individual is fully submerged in water, others perform baptism by sprinkling or pouring water over the person’s head. Which baptism is the correct one? The Bible stresses baptism by immersion instead of sprinkling. Let us examine some relevant references.

1. Symbolism of Baptism:

  1. Romans 6:3-4 (NKJV): “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.” This passage describes baptism as a symbolic representation of the believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Immersion in water symbolizes burial with Christ, while emerging from the water signifies resurrection to new life.
  2. Colossians 2:12 (NKJV): “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.” Like Romans 6, this verse emphasizes the imagery of burial and resurrection in baptism. The act of immersion symbolizes the believer’s participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, signifying spiritual renewal and transformation.

2. Biblical Examples of Baptism:

  1. Matthew 3:16 (NKJV): “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.” The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist provides a significant example of immersion. After being baptized, Jesus “came up immediately from the water,” suggesting that He was immersed rather than sprinkled. The Bible commands us to follow Jesus’ example (1 Peter 2:21).
  2. Acts 8:38-39 (NKJV): “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” In this account of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip, both individuals go down into the water, and the eunuch is baptized by immersion. The subsequent phrase “came up out of the water” further supports the practice of immersion.
  3. John 3:23: John always found a place to baptize where “there was much water” (John 3:23, NKJV), so it would be deep enough.

3. Linguistic Considerations:

  1. The Greek Word “Baptizo”: The Greek word used for baptism in the New Testament is “baptizo,” which means “to dip” or “to immerse.” The lexical meaning of the word suggests immersion rather than sprinkling or pouring. This linguistic evidence supports the argument for immersion as the original mode of baptism practiced by early Christians.
  2. Any baptism other than immersion breaks this command.

4. Historical Evidence:

  1. Early Christian Practice: Historical accounts from the early Christian church suggest that immersion was the predominant mode of baptism during the first centuries of Christianity. The Didache, a first-century Christian document, describes baptism as immersion in living water or running water. Early church fathers such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian also describe immersion as the customary mode of baptism.
  2. Infant baptism: Baptism by sprinkling and/or pouring came into practice as a result of the un-biblical practice of infant baptism.

5. Theological Significance:

  1. Full Participation in Christ’s Death and Resurrection: Baptism by immersion emphasizes the believer’s full participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, symbolizing spiritual cleansing, regeneration, and newness of life. The act of immersion and emergence from the water vividly portrays the believer’s identification with Christ’s redemptive work.
  2. Public Declaration of Faith: Baptism by immersion provides a powerful testimony of one’s faith in Christ. It is a public declaration of repentance, faith, and commitment to follow Jesus. The visible act of immersion serves as a witness to others of the believer’s transformation and allegiance to Christ.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Bible stresses baptism by immersion rather than sprinkling for several reasons. Scriptural passages such as Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12 emphasize the symbolic significance of baptism as a representation of the believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Biblical examples, such as the baptism of Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch, provide evidence of immersion as the mode of baptism practiced in the early Christian church.

Linguistic considerations regarding the Greek word “baptizo” support immersion as the original meaning of baptism. Furthermore, historical evidence from the early Christian church confirms immersion as the predominant mode of baptism during the apostolic era. Ultimately, baptism by immersion carries profound theological significance, symbolizing spiritual cleansing, regeneration, and public declaration of faith in Christ. As believers, we are called to embrace baptism as a sacred ordinance instituted by Christ Himself, following the example and commandments given to us in the Scriptures.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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