Sprinkling or Immersion: What the Bible Says about Baptism in Water
By Betty Miller
Water baptism is an act of obedience that follows conversion to portray symbolically the washing away of our sins. Water baptism calls for immersion instead of sprinkling. Many groups that have only sprinkled in times past are now seeing that the Scriptural method is total immersion in water. In fact, the Greek word “baptism” means to immerse, submerse and emerge.
The baptism itself does not bring salvation; salvation inspires the water baptism. It should be the first thing we do after we are “born again.” Those who have received Jesus in their hearts should desire to follow Him in this ordinance. Jesus Himself came to John the Baptist to receive His water baptism because He was to take the sins of the world at His death. These sins would be washed away by God for those who put their trust in Him. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water” (John 1:29-31).
Anyone who receives water baptism must realize what it means to receive it; therefore, infant baptism is not Scriptural. One must repent and be saved to be baptized. Water baptism portrays the burial of the old man and his works of death and the raising out of the water into the new life in Christ. An infant cannot repent. However, parents can dedicate their babies to the Lord, as there are many accounts of this throughout the Bible. Hannah prayed a beautiful prayer when she dedicated her son Samuel to the Lord, “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28). John’s baptism of repentance was to prepare the way for the baptism of the Holy Ghost by Jesus.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. Matthew 3:11
And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. John 1:32-34
Once we are “born again” the Lord instructs us to be baptized in water as an act of obedience to typify what has happened to us spiritually.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Romans 6:1-18
Verse 4 says if we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into His death; all of our sins are nailed to the cross. This revelation will free us from all guilt when we realize every sin we have ever committed has been washed away. Going under the water is a type of being buried with Christ in death. Coming out of the water is a type of being raised alive with Christ.
Verses 14-15 says we are no longer under the law (the law of sin and death), but we are not to yield to sin or we will come back under that law. We need to nail the sin principle in our lives to the cross. (Jesus was crucified, so now sin has no more dominion over us.) We must crucify the sin in our lives which means to die to self through God’s resurrection power. If we yield to the Spirit of God, then sin will no longer have control over us.
Verse 16-18 tells us that when we yield to the devil and sin, at that moment we become Satan’s servant. The “law of sin and death” begins at that time to work against us. That law produces fear, guilt, doubt, unbelief, sickness, etc., because we have become a servant of Satan. The moment we truly repent, we are back to being the servant of God and sin has no more dominion over us. When we walk in God’s peace, we will even be able to walk the martyr’s life filled with the resurrection power of Christ. We need to be in the place where we would lay our life down before we would deny Christ or hurt God by sinning against Him. We should look different from those in the world! When we yield completely to Christ, we will be truly free. Daily, we must crucify self and let Christ live through us.
In water baptism, we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus. This has been a controversial subject in the Body of Christ as some people baptize in “Jesus’ name only.” However, scripture tells us how to baptize in Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
This commission is given to disciples. Disciples can baptize those that need to be baptized. However, not all Christians qualify as disciples unless they are being obedient to the Lord’s commandments. One cannot teach others until they are first taught themselves. The Bible teaches that disciples are to baptize others when they come to Christ.
In the above scripture, we see that we are to baptize in the name of each member of the Trinity, BUT we do it in the “authority and the name of Jesus Christ.” Some people discount a water baptism if it was not done in “Jesus’ name only.” It is legalistic to say one has been baptized wrongly if they have been baptized in name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost since all is done in the authority of Jesus.
Acts 8:26-39 is a New Testament example of water baptism:
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, ‘Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.’ And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 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. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:26-39
Here Phillip preached Jesus and water baptism. The eunuch received Jesus and was baptized in obedience to God’s Word after he was “born again.” From these verses we can see the importance of water baptism. Baptism in water is in obedience to God’s Word, and by it we identify ourselves with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12: 2-14). The baptism into the Body is actually a baptism in the Blood of Christ at the time we are born again. We become a member of the body of Christ. It does not matter what denomination we are a member of, but rather what family we are “born” into. We become sons and daughters of God and are now members of the body of Christ when we repent and accept Him as our Savior. Our water baptism is the portrayal of that happening and a witness to the world that we are saved. If you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior and have not been water baptized you need to be baptized today to seal your covenant with God.
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Topic: What the Bible Says about Baptism in Water
Related Topics: What the Bible Says about Baptism in the Holy Spirit; Born Again; Repentance; Healing; Scriptural Prayer for Tongues