Baptism by Immersion
Our word “baptize” is translated from the original Greek word “baptizo“, which means to immerse. “Baptizo” does not mean sprinkle or pour. If our Lord had wanted people to be sprinkled, he would have inspired the New Testament writers to use the Greek word “rhantizo“. If our Lord wanted people to be poured He would have inspired New Testament writers to use the Greek word “katacheo”. But he didn’t, so “baptizo” was used, which can only mean to immerse.
Let’s look in the Bible to see how people were baptized. In John 3:23 we read, “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.” Why was John baptizing near Salim? “Because there was much water there;” Scriptural baptism, which is immersion, according to the Bible requires much water.
In Mark 1:5 we read, “Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to Him, and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Why was John baptizing in the Jordan River? Could it be “because there was much water there” in a river;
In Mark 1:9-10, we continue to read, “And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.”When Jesus was baptized, he was baptized in the Jordan River. Why? Again, because there is much water in a river which is required for scriptural baptism, which is immersion; Also notice that after Jesus was baptized, he came “up out of the water.” So scriptural baptism not only requires much water, but it also requires “coming up out of the water.” This cannot be said of sprinkling or pouring.
Next we turn to Acts 8:36-39. The evangelist, Philip, had been teaching the gospel or good news of Christ to an Ethiopian eunuch while they were riding along in a chariot. Then in verses 36-39 we read: “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, See here is water, what hinders me from being baptized? And Philip said, if you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. And 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.”
Here we see that the baptism that God has authorized in the Bible requires the “coming to some water”, “going down into the water,” and after a person is immersed it requires “coming up out of the water.” How much clearer could the Bible be on the mode of baptism? Also notice that after the eunuch was baptized, “he went on his way rejoicing.” Why? Because he was now saved and all of his sins had been taken away. This is certainly something to rejoice about.
Romans 6:4 say, “Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death.” Here we see that baptism is a burial, which is what is done when one is immersed. Sprinkling is not a burial; it is only sprinkling. Neither is pouring a burial. Both are unlawful substitutions made by man which will cause many people to be lost.
Colossians 2:12 says that we are “buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him.” Here again God requires the one being baptized, to be buried and raised when he is baptized. When we bury a dead person in the cemetery, we do not lay him out on the grass and sprinkle a little dirt on him. No, that would be absurd, and it is just as absurd in trying to substitute sprinkling for baptism. Sprinkling for baptism is foreign to the scriptures. God did not authorize it. There is not one instance anywhere in the Bible where anyone was sprinkled for baptism.
But we then ask the question, where then did sprinkling or pouring come from? The first recorded case in all of early church history was that of Novatian in 251 AD, who lay sick on his bed and water was poured on him. Who made this first exception, man or God? Man did without the authorization of God. God has not approved of it. Sprinkling is just as vain as if it had never been done. This man made exception over the centuries became the man made accepted practice until at the Council of Ravenna in 1311 AD, man legalized sprinkling for baptism, but without God’s authority. Since sprinkling is without God’s authority, if you were sprinkled or poured, then you have not been scripturally baptized, and you still have every sin that you have ever committed and are still lost.
WHY DO WE BAPTIZE BY DUNKING PEOPLE ALL THE WAY IN WATER?
Whilesome religions prefer to sprinkle with water in light of a handful of biblical texts that mention being sprinkled with clean water, and others prefer pouring, to symbolize the Spirit poured out in new-covenant blessings, we believe that the Bible clearly teaches baptism by immersion. It is the only mode associated with baptism in the Bible and the only mode that expresses the meaning of baptism as shown in passages such as Romans 6:1–10 and seven other lines of biblical reasoning.
1. The Greek word used for baptism in the New Testament means to plunge, dip, or immerse in water. In secular ancient Greek, this word was used to explain such things as the sinking of ships that had been submerged in water. The early translators of the Bible into English ran into the dilemma that translating baptize in as “immerse” would confuse people. So rather than translating the word, they merely transliterated it, changing the Greek characters into Roman letters. However, the Dutch Bible actually translates the word so that the man who appears in Matthew 3:1 is Johannes de Doper, which means John the Dipper!
2. According to Mark 1:5 John the Baptizer immersed people in the river. John also selected the Jordan River as the place for conducting his baptisms because “water was plentiful there.”
3. When Jesus was baptized it is clear that he was immersed in water since he came out of the water as the dove descended on him.
5. Philip took the Ethiopian eunuch down into the water to baptize him, indicating it was by immersing him in water.
6. Baptism is in a very real sense the remembrance of and identification with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. It would be inconceivable to understand Jesus’ brutal murder as something that was sprinkled upon him rather than as a total burial into death and the grace. Only immersion accurately shows Jesus’ death and descent into burial, followed by emersion out of the water into resurrection.
6. When someone who was not racially Jewish converted to Judaism in the Old Testament (and in the present day), they underwent a Jewish proselyte baptism to show that God had cleansed them from their sin. The mode of this baptism was (and is) immersion.
Christians should be baptized in the same manner as Jesus, immersed in water and then brought forth. In so doing, they are identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
WHY WE INSIST ON BAPTISM BY IMMERSION?
Pentecostals are often criticized for being so insistent on the proper method of administering Baptism. Many people declare that it is not the method but the spirit of the ordinance that pleases God. Some go so far as to say that it is not a question of what the Bible teaches, but rather, what method have the church leaders approved. We present herewith six reasons for insistence upon immersion as the only proper method of scriptural Baptism.
First: We Believe That To Be Strong A Church Should Have Definite Standards OF BELIEF.
A generation or two ago every Denomination was contending for definite dogmas of faith. The denominational leaders, the ministry and the rank and file of the members were ready to intelligently champion the tenets of their movement. Those were the days of great religious controversy, it is true, but they were also the days of great spiritual power—mighty conviction for sin was visited upon sinners, there were outstanding cases of conversion; believers were strong and churches virile.
Today doctrinal controversy is taboo; doctrinal sermons are considered bore-some; religious tolerance, so-called, is worshipped as a fetish, while few among either leaders or laity know what they believe. The great mass of professed Believers gad after the world while an impotent Church becomes the laughing stock of that same world;
People expect the Church to stand for something and are challenged by such a stand. More important still, God expects it and can only bless such (Rev. 3:8-11).
When this writer was pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Ithaca, N. Y., there was a splendid Christian brother attending the same church. He desired to unite with the Church. However, he had for years been in a Denomination which allows personal liberty in choosing the method of baptism. The leaders insisted that he must be immersed in order to become a member of the local church. He demurred for some time and finally said, rather indignantly. “I don’t think your church does right in insisting on immersion for membership.” The pastor replied, “Mr. King, why do you like to come to our church?” “Because it is different than other churches, there is more evidence of spiritual power here,” was his answer. “Do you know why that is?” “Well, you stand for something,”he admitted. “And yet,” pastor said, “you would like to have us remove one of the standards that, according to your own testimony, make our church one of power and blessing.” He saw the point but preferred to refuse baptism while he continued to enjoy the ministry of a church made strong by its insistence on doctrinal standards.
If there were no other reasons for us to continue our insistence on immersion as the proper form of baptism than this, surely in our lax, careless, indifferent day this one would be sufficient.
Second: We Believe In The Verbal Inspiration Of The Scriptures.
That is, we believe that the Holy Spirit of God gave to the men who wrote the Bible the very words that they should use in that writing (1 Cor. 2:13).
The words “baptize” and “baptism” in the English New Testament are from forms of the Greek verb “baptizo.” This word was chosen by the Holy Spirit as the one best suited to express and describe the ordinance. The meaning of the Greek word is, according to Liddell and Scott, Greek-English, Lexicon, “to put beneath,” or “to dip under.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament has this to say about it, “An immersion in water performed as a sign of the removal of sin.” Strong’s Concordance translates it, “to make overwhelmed.” “The Greek language has had a continuous history, and baptizo is used today in Greece for baptism. As is well-known not only in Greece, but all over Russia, wherever the Greek Church prevails, immersion is the unbroken and universal practice. The Greeks may surely be credited with knowledge of the meaning of their own language.”
It is interesting to note that Webster’s New International Dictionary, after it gives what might be termed a definition according to religious use of the word “baptize”, has this: “To submerge in, or to overflow, cover, or affect with, something after the manner of baptism with water.”
Matthew 28:19, in the light of the above, should be translated, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations submerging them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” and Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were submerged.”(Read the entire third chapter of Matthew substituting “submerge” for “baptize”).
Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake in His choice of the word? If He did not, and surely none would accuse Him of error, then what right have church leaders, or anyone else, to substitute a different word or give a perverted meaning to this one? Who will dare to say, “Holy Spirit, you were too narrow in your selection of ‘baptizo,’ it really does not matter how his ordinance is administered”.
We believe that the Holy Spirit was governed by Divine exactness when He used this word. We desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit so we must insist on Believers being “dipped under” when they are taken “into” the water (Acts 3:38).
Third: We Believe That The Early Church Fathers, Who Lived Near The Apostolic Times, Are Worthy of Our Following.
Mosheim, Lutheran Church Historian, tells us, “The sacrament of baptism was administered in this (the first) century by the immersion of the whole body in the baptismal font.” In the “Didache,” which Dr. Schaff says “comes, of all the sub-apostolic writings, nearest to the New Testament in its style and vocabulary,” is found this passage, “Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught all these things, baptize ye into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, in living water.
John Calvin wrote, “Among the ancients they immersed the whole body in water, and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the early church.” Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “Baptism is a Greek word and in Latin it may be rendered “mersio,” immersion,—and though among the greater part of us this practice has fallen into disuse, nevertheless they that are baptized ought to be entirely immersed.” John Wesley said, “Buried with Him” alluding to the ancient method or practice of baptizing by immersion.”
It is a well-known and well-accredited fact that many of the early churches were, for the purpose of convenience in baptism, built near the Mediterranean, the Jordan or some other stream, and that outdoor baptisteries have been discovered near the site of many an ancient church building. Baptists are proud to be followers of these early Christians.
Fourth: We Believe That Immersion Presents The Message of The Ordinance.
The Christian life begins with a definite experience in the heart and life of the individual Believer, variously represented in Scripture as, “the new birth,” “a new creation” “passing out of death into life,” “transplanting from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son,” “a death and a resurrection,” etc.
Now just as the “Life” itself begins with a definite inner experience God has ordained that the outward expressions and relationships of that “Life” should begin with a definite act. He has also decreed that that “act” should symbolize the “inner experience.” This experience, a death to the old life and a resurrection to the new, baptism is meant to picture (Rom. 6:4). No other methods than immersion does so picture it.
Moreover the Believer’s assurance of salvation rests upon his faith in his own personal identity with a Substitute who bore for him the penalty of violated law—a substitutionary Savior, dying, buried, and rising again (Rom. 4:24, 25). Baptism by immersion most beautifully portrays this method of salvation, every candidate that is baptized by that act tells all who witness, “I am placing my faith in a Savior who went down into death for me, as I go down into this water; Who was buried and rose again in my behalf even as I am buried in this water and raised up to live for Him.”
We insist on immersion as a testimony to the Believer’s experience of death to the old life of sin and resurrection to a new life,—an experience based upon the vicarious death and resurrection of Christ.
The Lord Jesus said to John (Matthew 3:15) speaking of His own baptism, “Suffer it to be so now, for thus (in like manner as baptism) it becometh us (the Trinity of heaven) to fulfill all righteousness” i.e. the righteousness fulfilled, or completed, in the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). Here our Lord plainly states the symbolism of baptism.
Fifth: We Desire To Be Loyal To The Great Head Of The Church— The LOrd Jesus.
Our Lord commanded baptism (Matthew 28:16-20). In a nation, a disobedient citizen is called an “outlaw”; in a family a disobedient child is called an “ingrate”; what shall the citizen of heaven, the child of God, the member of the Church, who stubbornly refuses to obey, be called? “Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least of these commandments, and teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” “Why callest thou me ‘Lord’. ‘Lord’, and do not these things which I command you?””To obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Sixth: We Accept The Plain Statements Of The Scriptures.
Consider the following: “And were baptized of him in Jordan,confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6). The candidate had to be old enough to know he was a sinner and to confess it. “I indeed baptize you with water,”(Matthew 3:11). “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16).
“Go ye”, all Christians; “disciple”, before baptism; “all nations”, universal; “baptizing them in (literally “into”) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” “Unto the end of the world” [literally “age”] (Matthew 28:19, 20).
“John did baptize in the wilderness . . . And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, Confessing their sins,”(Mark 1:5, 6). “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came … and was baptized of John in Jordan.And straightway coming up out of the water “(Mark 1:9, 10);
“John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water“(Luke 3:16). “John answered them saying, I baptize you with water“(John 1:26). “And John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). “And they that gladly received his word were baptized,” people old enough to understand and “receive” the word preached (Acts 2:41). “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized,both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also, and then he was baptized (Acts 8:12, 13).
“See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Christ 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. And when they were come up out of the water . . .” (Acts 8:36-39)
Cornelius, a captain of the Italian regiment:
“Then answered Peter, Can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:46-48).
Roman jailor: “And they spoke unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” The whole household heard the word preached. “And he . . . was baptized, he and all his, straightway . . . believing in God with his entire house.” The whole family heard, believed, and were baptized (Acts 16:32-34).
These are the reasons we present for our firm stand on this matter and standing here we find ourselves in company with history, logic, Scripture and Deity. What better company could one want? “Wherefore compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside” every argument of expediency and tradition of men and be obedient unto the heavenly vision. Have YOU obeyed your Lord unto baptism?