Baptism: immersion, sprinkling, & infant baptism.

It has been argued for centuries, this matter of Baptism. Somewhere over the years the Biblical truth surrounding Baptism has been mixed up with church tradition and the teachings of men. What we have today is a mixture of denominations that believe a mixture of things about baptism.

  • Some denominations believe that baptism saves people.
  • Some denominations believe that baptism is required to complete salvation.
  • Some denominations believe it signifies identification with a certain “religious” group.
  • Some denominations believe that baptism is simply an act of obedience and testimony after salvation.

So let’s take a look at what the Bible says…

What’s baptism for?

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” – I Peter 3:18-22

The main verse I want you to see here is verse 21 (bolded above).

Baptism does not save anyone, nor does it complete anyone’s salvation.

Baptism is simply “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Why? Because He told us to be baptized. We obey God by following our profession of faith with believers’ baptism in order to keep a clear conscience toward God.

Why would anyone have an unclear conscience? Only if they had done something wrong or disobeyed something they were told to do.

When should we be baptized?

If baptism is the “answer of a good conscience toward God,” then it is only fitting that something should have taken place prior to baptism – hence the “answer” of baptism.

We saw in I Peter 3:18 that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins… that he might bring us to God” – thus, telling us that Salvation must precede baptism if it is to be in alignment with God’s Word.

“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” – Acts 8:29-38

When the eunuch asked what hindered him from being baptized, Philip’s answer left no room for confusion. He said “if thou believest… thou mayest.”

Once the eunuch confessed His belief in Jesus Christ, he was baptized!

How should we be baptized?

There are three ways that are generally recognized as a form of baptism.

  • sprinkling
  • pouring
  • immersion

Below is an exhaustive list of verses that support the idea of baptizing by way of “sprinkling.”

Oh wait… there aren’t any.

Below is an exhaustive list of verses that support the idea of baptizing by way of “pouring.”

Oops… there aren’t any of those either.

That only leaves one option left – “immersion.”

The word “baptim” comes from the Greek word baptizo (or the noun forms baptisma and baptismos). These words mean “to dip, plunge, or cover with water.”

In the section above we read about the eunuch’s conversion and baptism. In verse 38 the Bible said that they “went down both into the water,” and in verse 39 the Bible said that they both came “up out of the water.”

What purpose was there to go down INTO the water if Philip was simply going to dip his fingers in the water and sprinkle it on the eunuch? What purpose was there to go down INTO the water if Philip was simply going to scoop up the water and pour it on the eunuch’s head?

“And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” – Mark 1:5

Here we see John the Baptist baptized his converts in the Jordan River. Again, why would he need a whole river if he was going to sprinkle or pour water on their heads?

Jesus Christ Himself was baptized by immersion.

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Mark 1:9-11

Of course, we know that Jesus Christ was not baptized for the reason of identifying Himself as a convert to Himself, but rather as an example for all who would believe on His Name and follow Him in believers’ baptism.

Where did the ideas of sprinkling and pouring come from?

The concept of baptism by sprinkling or pouring started as early as the Second Century A.D. The reason being was that it was difficult to baptize those who were physically handicapped or crippled by immersion.

Eventually Roman Catholic leadership adopted baptism by sprinkling for infants because it was difficult to baptize infants by immersion.

However, neither baptism by sprinkling or pouring are found anywhere in Scripture.

What about infant baptism?

Nowhere in Scripture do we find the idea of infant baptism.

In fact, if you take a look at history, you’ll find that infant baptism was first used in 550 A.D. when Justinian “ordered all non-Christians in the Roman Empire to become Christians… he ordered them all, including the children, to be baptized. Later, in the Ninth Century, when Charlemagne ordered whole Germanic tribes to become Christians, he forced everyone to be baptized, including the infants. Refusal to practice infant baptism became a sign of political resistance.

“Many individuals and groups refused to go along with the union of church and state and the concept of infant baptism. At times, local leaders would tolerate such non-conformity, but often these separatists were bitterly persecuted. It is impossible to estimate how many millions have been put to death for refusing to go along with the related ideas of infant Baptist and the union of church and state.” (Adapted from “The Faithful Baptist Witness” by Dr. Phil Stringer)

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Posted on October 11, 2012, in Doctrines of the Faith and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Very well done, Heather. Did you write this piece yourself?

    • James –
      Thank you. Yes, I wrote this piece myself.

      I’m doing a series of “Doctrines of the Faith” on the blog this month – this was the second post in the series. The first post was the one about the “OSAS Doctrine” that posted this past Tuesday.

  2. As an atheist, I just want to say that I am impressed with your fearlessness. You are certainly not holding back from some of the most controversial aspects of the faith. Nice work!

    • Andrew –
      Thank you for engaging in various discussions here. It’s always good to have an outside perspective on the issues – which you tend to bring with your comments. I appreciate that.

      Thank you also for your kind words and support.

  3. Good one Heather. I won’t argue with those who want to sprinkle or pour but I’m certainly glad I got dunked!!

    We did have to pour for one guy who was in a wheelchair and we couldn’t physically get him into the baptistry!

    • I won’t argue with them either… unless they want to discuss it, of course.

      However, I would certainly point out to them that sprinkling and pouring “baptism” is not Biblical — nor does it fulfill “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (I Peter 3:21).

  4. Very well explained Heather.
    I agree with all you wrote and add that baptism, as well as being an act of obedience, is identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, as outlined in Romans 6:4-5.

  5. Good thoughts. You probably know I don’t agree with you 100% on baptism, but it’s always good to keep the conversation going.

    I’d just like to point out that in the Old Testament, water rituals and covenant seals (of blood) are usually performed by sprinkling (eg, Ex 24:8). I’m certainly not going to put up too much of a fight on that basis though. It does seem symbolic when water comes down from above. But, this is just a musing, there are far more important things to argue about in regards to baptism 😉 When the OT liturgical forms are taken into account alongside the apparent immersions, it seems that this is too much of an iffy issue (in my mind) to draw a solid line. You did give me a few things to think about, however, so thanks for that 🙂 keep it up.

    • Hi friend! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Just a couple thoughts in return…

      I don’t think comparing sacrifices/covenant seals to baptism is completely accurate. For one: Jesus did away with sacrifices when He died -once and for all- upon the cross of Calvary. He gave up the ghost with the words “It is finished!” and the temple veil rent in two!
      Secondly, baptism came into play in the New Testament. We never see any examples of baptism in the Old Testament. In addition, we never see any examples of baptism by way of sprinkling or pouring in the Bible — no matter how “symbolic” it is. Other than natural rain, the only things I ever see coming “down from above” that is out of the ordinary in the Bible are hail, fire, and manna. Correct me if I’m wrong…

  1. Pingback: Baptism Cannot Save You! « Strangers and aliens…

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