Baptism

Our English words, baptism and baptize, come from the Greek words “baptisma” and “baptizo”.Baptizo (baptize) means to be overwhelmed, “fully wet” or washed.Baptisma (baptism) means immersion or submersion; that is, to be plunged into liquid and to sink below the surface.It is interesting and significant that every reference to the baptism of people in the New Testament uses these Greek terms, baptizo and baptisma.Therefore, every New Testament baptism involved people being immersed, submerged or dipped below the surface of the water.

It is common knowledge that many Christian denominations today simply sprinkle people with water, but they still refer to it as baptism.However, this does not constitute baptism in the true New Testament sense of the word.There is, of course, a Greek word for sprinkling, and that word is “rhantizo”.Rhantizo is used several times in the New Testament.It is used to describe how Moses “sprinkled” blood on the people, the book of the law, the tabernacle and its vessels (Hebrews 9:19-21).It is used to depict how Moses kept the Passover and the “sprinkling” of blood (Hebrews 11:28).It is used when telling Christians that they have come to Mount Zion…..to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of “sprinkling” that speaks better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24).And, Peter also uses the word, rhantizo, when he refers to the “sprinkling” of the blood of Jesus Christ (1st Peter 1:2).However, rhantizo (sprinkling) is never used when referring to New Testament baptism.From a biblical standpoint, denominations who practice sprinkling are not actually baptizing people.

I need to reiterate that every single instance of New Testament baptism, without exception, was “baptizo” or “baptisma” baptism; in other words, baptism by being submerged in water.It is true that the Greek word baptizo’s precise definition is “overwhelmed”, fully wet or washed, rather than immersion or submersion; yet, if one is baptized and “overwhelmed with water” and becomes fully wet, wouldn’t that indicate having been submerged in the water, more so than just having been sprinkled?

However, besides any possible technicalities with the word baptizo, there are numerous New Testament scriptures that use the Greek word baptisma, which does literally mean to be immersed or submerged in liquid.Note the following texts.Matthew 3:7 speaks of John the Baptist’s baptisma (baptism).Luke 7:29 refers to the tax collectors having been baptized with the baptisma (baptism) of John.In Matthew 21:25, Jesus asked the Pharisees if the baptisma (baptism) of John was from heaven or from men.All of these passages using the word, baptisma, when referring to the baptism used by John the Baptist, make it clear that he baptized people by submerging them in water.This is also attested to in John 3:23, where it states that John was baptizing in Aenon because there was “much water” there.Much water is not required for sprinkling, but it is necessary for baptism by immersion.Also, when Phillip baptized an Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:36-39, we’re told that they both went “down into the water”, and that they “came up” out of the water, which is another obvious depiction of being baptized in enough water for submersion.Acts 18:25 states that the eloquent and mighty, scriptural teacher, Apollos, knew only the baptisma (baptism) of John.And, in Acts 19:1-7, the Apostle Paul found twelve disciples in Ephesus who had been baptized with John’s baptisma (baptism).Finally, the “frosting on the baptism cake” is found in Ephesians 4:5.This text states that there is one Lord, one faith and “one baptism”, and the Greek word is baptisma, meaning submersion in water.It is certainly significant that this scripture states that there is just “one” baptism, not two.There is baptism by submersion/immersion, and that’s it.There is no second option of sprinkling endorsed in the Bible.The fact that so many are practicing baptism by sprinkling, without any scriptural authority whatsoever, is yet another revelation of the unfaithful, disobedient, compromising condition of the contemporary Christian Church.

Baptism is clearly important in the New Testament.When Jesus gave His “great commission” to His disciples, He said that they were to baptize people in all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20).Thus, we should likewise perform our baptisms today in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.Mark 16:16 records that Jesus also said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but He who does not believe will be condemned”.It is obvious from this text that baptism is indeed very important to Jesus.When we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we should want to make a public statement to the world that we have decided to follow and serve Him.The Apostle Paul states that, in addition to believing, we must confess the Lord Jesus with our mouths (Romans 10:9-10).Jesus said that, if we confess Him before men, He will also confess us before His Father in heaven.And, He added that, if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).As you can see, making a “public confession” of Jesus Christ is not only important, but it is required.Of course, there are situations where it is physically impossible to be baptized, such as with the thief on the cross; in these cases people will not be condemned because they were not baptized.That’s why Mark 16:16 concluded by saying that “he who does not believe will be condemned”, instead of he who “is not baptized” will be condemned.Faith in Christ is mandatory; there are no exceptions.Baptism is required if it is physically possible, but in those cases where it is not possible, people will still be saved through faith in Christ.

As I mentioned, the New Testament clearly portrays baptism as being important.Galatians 3:27 states that those who have been baptized into Christ have “put on” Christ.What Christian wouldn’t want to “put on” Christ, and be covered with and by Him?The biblical importance of baptism can also be seen in the significant people who received and employed it.John the Baptist practiced baptism (Matthew 3:1-6).Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-16).Jesus and His disciples practiced baptism (John 3:22; John 4:1-2).Peter told the new converts to Christianity to be baptized (Acts 2:38-41).The Apostle Paul was baptized, before his name was changed from Saul (Acts 9:17-18).And, the Apostle Paul also practiced baptism (Acts 16:14-15; Acts 16:29-33; Acts 18:5-8).As you read through these scriptures, you may have noticed a couple of “prerequisites” for baptism.Those two prerequisites are “faith in Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31), and “repentance” (Acts 2:38), which basically means to make the decision to turn away from sin and to serve Jesus.

The fact that repentance and faith in Christ are required for baptism exposes another unbiblical practice adopted by many denominations.What is it?Many denominations are practicing infant baptism, although infants cannot repent and profess faith in Christ.This, then, results in those who have been baptized as infants, feeling no need to be baptized when they are old enough to repent and believe; consequently, they miss out on the deep and meaningful experience and blessing of true biblical baptism by immersion, as we’ll discuss in the next paragraph.

In Romans 6:3-6, the Apostle Paul compares baptism to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.Just as Jesus died and went down into the grave when He was buried, and then rose up from the grave at His resurrection; even so, when we are baptized by being submerged in the water, we go down into our “watery grave”, so to speak, which represents our dying to sin, self and the world; then, even as Jesus rose up from the grave in His glorified new body, we also come up out of the water in the newness of life received from Jesus Christ.It is our public statement to the world that we’ve chosen to crucify our old carnal nature and bury it, and that a new “resurrected life in Christ” has begun.It is truly a beautiful, meaningful, powerful and blessed experience that has been completely lost by those who are sprinkled instead of receiving biblical baptism by immersion.Paul also uses this symbolism in Colossians 2:12, where he states that we have been buried with Him (Jesus) in baptism, and raised with Him through faith.I should also mention that Paul chose to use the Greek word, baptisma, in Romans 6:4, thus indicating that his death and resurrection symbolism applies specifically to baptism by immersion/submersion.

If you have only been sprinkled, I strongly suggest that you seriously consider being baptized by immersion in accordance with the Bible.

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2 Responses to Baptism

  1. Peter says:

    Hi, I’m from Indonesia, I’ve been reading your article, very good. But I want to express my opinion in this matter. In my opinion, it’s not how we baptized that is important (submerged or sprinkled), but what is the condition of our heart when we are baptized.

    Even though I was baptized by being submerged (not sprinkled), but I think, to suggest people (who are really love God and serious with God, and when he/she was baptized, he/she really repent and have faith in Jesus) who was baptized by being sprinkled to repeat his baptism to be submerged, for me the reason is not strong enough. Especially if the reason is because the word baptism is from baptizo. I think to repeat the baptism will not change anything. If the people love God and serious with God, he/she will keep growing and bearing much fruit worthy of his repentance, even though he/she was baptized by being sprinkled.

  2. Henry Bechthold says:

    Hi Peter,

    I thank you for your response, but I respectfully disagree with you for all of the reasons listed in my article. I do, of course, agree that the most important thing is what’s inside a person’s heart.

    Henry Bechthold

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