A Biblical Examination of
Mode of Baptism
Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor
Mode of Baptism
"Submersion, immersion, and emergence" is the meaning of the Greek word "BAPTISMA" (from 'BAPTO", to dip). Is it then proper to administer the Ordinance of Baptism by that of sprinkling, instead of immersion? The answer would be "No," as we shall see. The Greek word for "sprinkle" or "sprinkling," as found in Hebrews 9:13, is the verb "RHANTIZO," which is never used in reference to a Christian's baptism.
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling (RHANTIZO) the unclean..."
Since the Christian's baptism symbolically identifies one's faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; it is, therefore, the Holy Spirit which chose "BAPTISMA" (immersion) instead of "RHANTIZO" (sprinkling).
It should also be noticed that our English words, "baptise, baptism, and baptized" are not a translation from the Greek, but a transliteration. For example, in 1st Corinthians 1:16, Paul stated...
"And I baptized (BAPTIZO) also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized (BAPTIZO) any other."
Here the Greek is brought over into the English without the meaning being translated into English. Had the King James Version translated the meaning of "BAPTIZO" into our English, you would then be reading the Verse this way...
"And I immersed (BAPTIZO) also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I immersed (BAPTIZO) any other."
In recapitulation, our English "baptise" is a transliteration from the Greek, "BAPTIZO," which comes from "BAPTA," meaning "to immerse, dip"; derived from a root meaning "deep."
It is interesting that the Holy Spirit would record why John the Baptist was baptizing in Enon, near to Salim...
"And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, BECAUSE there was MUCH WATER there: and they came, and were baptized ("BAPTIZO," immersed)." (John 3:23)
Three things become immediately apparent: First, John went where there was "much water." If sprinkling was the method, then this would have been unnecessary. Secondly, notice that "they came." Whoever they were, and wherever they came from, it was because there was not enough water to immerse them. Thirdly, the Greek word, itself, means "immersion"; not "sprinkling."
John's Baptism of Christ
This is recorded in mark 1:9, where we read:
"And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized ("BAPTIZO," immersed) 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." (See also Matthew 3:16)
John baptized our Lord by immersion, as it would have been illogical to "come up out of the water" unless you went down under the water! No, John didn't go to the Jordan River, get a pan of water and sprinkle our Lord; he immersed the Lord Jesus.
The Ethiopian - Acts 8
Here, Philip had led the eunuch to the Lord and he, in turn, asked Philip what would "hinder me from getting baptized." Faith is always the prerequisite for baptism, so Philip put the question to him in Verse 37...
"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."
The qualification is met and the baptism is administered in Verses 38, 39...
"...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..."
As we have previously pointed out, the word "baptized" is the Greek word "BAPTIZO" and means "to immerse"; whereas, an entirely different Greek word is used for sprinkling, "RHANTIZO." It would be illogical to imagine Philip going down into the water, then taking his hand and sprinkling water over the eunuch's head. I have never knew anyone who baptized by sprinkling that went down into a pool of water and administered the ordinance. All I have ever witnessed was done from a pan or bowl of water--standing on dry ground. No, sprinkling is NOT Biblical baptism, nor does it show the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
There are those who would argue that sprinkling was necessary, since there was not enough water in Jerusalem in which to immerse. In refuting this proposal, may I call your attention to John 9:7...
"And (Christ) said unto him, Go, wash in the POOL OF SILOAM (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing."
During Hezekiah's reign (2nd Chronicles 32:27-30), he tunneled the water from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, a distance of about 762 feet in a straight line. Here, alone, was more than enough water to baptize anyone!
Another place where people could have been baptized was at the Pool of Bethesda. John mentions this pool in Chapter 5, Verses 2 and 3...
"Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt (lame or crippled), withered, waiting for the moving of the water."
Enough water to immerse would have been no problem, here, as this was a spring fed pool within the walls of Jerusalem.
May we also note that that there was enough water to flush the blood of Temple sacrifices down to Brook Kidron, which ran on down into the Dead Sea. Also, there was the Pool of En-Rogel, located south of Jerusalem near the Valley of Hinnom. Today, there is also a well there, over 100 feet deep, called Bir-Aujub, or the Well of Job. Lack of water, as an excuse for sprinkling, fades into oblivion when we check out Jerusalem and the surrounding area. To the sincere child of God who desired to follow the Lord in Biblical baptism, such a place could be found.
I have baptized people in streams, rivers, lakes, as well as the baptismal pool of our church. A strange thing happened when I was baptizing in a creek, many years ago. The church had congregated at the creek site on Sunday afternoon for the baptismal service. Prior to our arrival, the deacons were supposed to have made sure there were no snakes in the immediate area! The first person to be baptized was a young lady and, just as I was about to immerse her, she spotted a water snake swimming by. I spotted the thing about the same time she did and immersed her immediately! That is the fastest I have ever baptized anyone. Needless to say, she needed no help at all in coming up out of the water, nor did she wait to be escorted back to the shore! I believe that was about as close as I have ever come to seeing anyone walk on water, or should I say, run on water? It can sure put a damper on the service.
One of the first churches I pastored after Bible college was located up north, in a very rural area with no baptismal facilities. Other means had to be used. It was winter, and several had come to know Christ as Saviour and wanted to be baptized. All the streams and lakes were frozen, so one of our elders came up with a suggestion; he had just purchased a large, shiny, new watering tank for his cattle. He said he could rig up some kind of device to heat the water and we could baptize in it; and that we did. These people were determined to be baptized no matter what!
The day of service arrived, and it was cold and snowing when we arrived at his farm. The candidates came out, one by one, wearing overalls and plaid shirts--stepping over the side of the tank and into that cold water. You see, the device he was going to use to hook up to heat the water didn't really work out. After they came up out of the cold water, we put a blanket around them and ran them to the house to change clothes and warm up. These, or course, are the odd situations; but, it does show what can happen when a Christian wants to follow his Lord and be obedient in baptism. The good thing about this arrangement--I stood outside of the tank while doing the baptizing. That was the only time I have baptized in a cattle watering tank, and I hope it is the last! These folks surely fulfilled Philippians 4:13 and deserve a double blessing.
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Allow me to pose the question, have you obeyed the Lord's command by following Him in being baptized? If not--why not? There will always be the spiritual vacuum that cannot be filled by anything, except giving your testimony through baptism of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Baptism Prior to Salvation?
This is the most frequently asked question concerning baptism. Should a person be baptized again after they are saved. The answer is, unequivocally, "Yes!" May I list a few of the reasons:
Baptism is only for the saved. The Ethiopian Eunuch asked Philip...
"...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 baptized him." (Acts 8:36-38)
We might ask, if a person was baptized prior to salvation, they must have thought it had something to do with salvation, or they would not have been baptized. Peter's words are very fitting for this group...
"...Repent (change your mind), and be baptized (after you are saved, not before) every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for (BECAUSE OF) the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38)
Baptism does not effectuate salvation, BUT, is a testimony of salvation; therefore, it is meaningless prior to salvation. I was baptized so often before I was saved that I think the frogs knew my Social Security number! When Christ became my Saviour, all prior involvement, such as singing in the choir, church membership and attendance, and baptism were absolutely meaningless. When I was baptized after I was saved, this had meaning and fulfillment as I realized this was a testimony of my faith in Christ. I felt good about myself because I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do.
Another question asked, though not as frequently as our first one, is, "What if one was baptized by sprinkling after they were saved?" Personally, I believe any child of God who is sincere, would want to be baptized the way God sets it forth in Scripture; by immersion. The Holy Spirit will always convict, in accordance with His Word, the conscience of any sincere believer regarding this matter. Then, it becomes their responsibility to God to decide the matter of obedience in Scriptural baptism, by immersion.
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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor
HERITAGE BAPTIST BIBLE CHURCH
P.O. Box 573
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
Telephone (507) 859-2519
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