After someone becomes a believer, they often get baptized. Mark 16:16 says “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” But what exactly is baptism? And do we really know what it means?
The word baptism occurs 22 times in the King James Bible. Not every time is it actually speaking about water baptism; however, a lot of the times it is. One question that has caused some contention among Christians is the mode of baptism. Some sprinkle, some pour, and yet others dunk. The question is: Which group is right? I will answer this question in this article, looking only at the Bible.
In Matthew 3:16 and Mark 1:10, it says that Jesus came up out of the water. When Philip baptized the Ethiopian in Acts 8:38-39, it says that they both went down into the water and they both came up out of the water. These verses make it abundantly clear that the early church immersed, rather than poured.
Some people may argue that baptism signifies the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. However, Romans 6:3-4 say “Know ye not, that so many of us were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into his death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Colossians 2:12 says “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” According to these verses, not only is the proper mode of baptism immersion, but the meaning of baptism is the identification with the death and resurrection of Christ. Baptism does not save us, but it signifies us “dying to live with Christ”.
Some may say that Paul did not immerse the Philippian jailor. The answer is a simple “Yes, he did.” The jailor took Paul and Silas out of the jail to wash their stripes, and brought them to his house. Where could he wash their stripes but in a river or public bath (which the Romans had)? So we can see that Paul did indeed immerse, rather than poured.
John the Baptist immersed, as he baptized where there was much water in John 3:23.
The word baptism comes from the Greek word that means to immerse in a fluid. Jesus referred to His sufferings as a baptism in Luke 12:50. He meant that they were overflowing. Baptism has to be by immersion, or else it is not really baptism. Baptism by pouring or sprinkling is not baptism. This is where the very word Anabaptist, and later Baptist comes from. The Catholics called Christians Anabaptists because, according to the Catholics, believers were baptized twice—once when they were babies, and once again when they were immersed as adults. The truth was that the believers were only baptized once—when they were immersed as adults. This is why many Christians still dunk. It is the only biblical way to baptize.
“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).
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