Baptism. Everyone has his or her own way of doing it. Some "baptize" infants. Others "baptize" for the dead. Some say you are saved before "baptism." Some sprinkle. Others pour. Some wait and "baptize" a large group at once. I'm sure some don't baptize at all. Did God intend for us to be so confused about baptism? The early church was confused about spiritual gifts. The apostle Paul spends much time addressing the issue of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 14, verse 33 of this inspired writing Paul answers the question we asked above. God is not the author of confusion! Since God is not the author of confusion, why are we so confused? It must be because of our misunderstanding and misapplication of God's Word. Since God has written a book we can all understand, we will have no excuse in the day of judgment for our disobedience. As Jesus tells us in John 12:48, we will be judged by the words written in the Bible. Our lives are classic open book tests! We have the book. If we don't open it we will have no one but ourselves to blame when we fail the test.
In this study I will address ten different questions regarding baptism. As I become aware of new questions or issues regarding this vital topic, I'll add them to these pages. I will begin our study with a discussion of the definitions of the words we will use while considering baptism, and then proceed to a list of the scriptures found in the Bible regarding baptism. Finally, we'll consider the 10 questions dealing with different issues regarding baptism. Links are provided to each scripture we'll study. In addition, I've provided links to Vine's Dictionary of Old and New Testament words and to a Greek concordance. Please make use of these links freely.
My goal in undertaking such a study is to present the Biblical teachings regarding baptism. The word baptizo is used 80 times in the New Testament, and is recorded in 8 of the 27 books of the New Covenant. The writers of the New Testament had much to say regarding baptism. In this study I pray that all will gain a greater understanding of God's Will for us and the role baptism plays in His Will.
As in all my studies within my site I encourage you, no I plead with you to open your Bibles and see what God has to say. I opened this introduction with a statement regarding the confusion present in the religious world concerning baptism, as well as many other scriptural concepts. This confusion is man's fault, not God's. In answering one of the questions regarding baptism I include a study of the word "opinion." Please remove all opinion from your mind as you consider baptism. The scriptures answer for themselves. We don't have to embellish God's Word with our opinions. I thank you for your interest in the Word of God. Now, let's begin our study!
Baptism: the Greek verb baptizo is translated "baptize, baptized, baptizest, baptizeth, and baptizing" in the New Testament. The noun form of the word is baptisma and is translated "baptism." Two similar words are used in the NT: baptismos refers to the ceremonial washing of pots (see Hebrews 6:2), and baptistes is used to refer to John the Baptist. Vine's defines each of these words.
Buried: two Greek verbs are translated "buried" in the NT. Thapto refers to the act of burying a corpse, while sunthapto refers to one being "buried together with." Please link to Vine's for additional information regarding thapto and sunthapto.
Immersion: "an act of immersing: baptism by the complete submersion of a person in water."
Submersion: "to put under water."
Complete: "total, absolute." (Merriam-Webster 4b, see link)
Emerge: "to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid: come out into view."
Bury: "to dispose of by depositing in or as if in the earth."
Sprinkle: this word is not used in the NT. Follow this link to Vine's for more information regarding the use of "sprinkle" in the New Testament. The word "sprinkle" above is linked to Merriam-Webster's dictionary.
Mark 16:16: Jesus makes baptism a requirement for salvation.
Acts 2:38: Peter tells the hearers on Pentecost what they must do for remission of sins.
Acts 2:41: Response of those who believed on Pentecost.
Acts 8:12,13: Response of the Samaritan people and of Simon to Philip's preaching.
Acts 8:16: Whose name those of Samaria were baptized into.
Acts 8:36-38: The eunuch's question, Philip's answer, the eunuch's confession and baptism.
Acts 9:18: Saul's baptism.
Acts 10:47,48: Baptism of Cornelius and his household in water.
Acts 16:14,15: Baptism of Lydia and her household.
Acts 16:33: Baptism of the Philippian jailer and his household.
Acts 18:8: Conversion of Crispus, his household, and many Corinthians.
Acts 19:1-5: The ineffective baptism of some disciples, and their response.
Acts 22:16: Ananias tells Saul why he must be baptized.
Romans 6:3,4: What those who were baptized were baptized into.
1 Corinthians 1:12-16: We are not to be baptized in the name of another man.
1 Corinthians 12:13: We are all baptized into one body.
1 Corinthians 15:29: Some were being baptized for the dead (see summary below).
Galatians 3:27: Those baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Ephesians 4:5: How many baptisms there are.
Colossians 2:11,12: Baptism as a burial, the change in one after baptism.
1 Peter 3:21: Baptism doth also now save us.
Hebrews 12:1: Being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses...
Some of these questions may seem simple, but if we're going to properly understand baptism we must consider each.
Is baptism a New Testament principle? Yes. Several inspired writers of the New Testament have written about baptism. Please review the scriptures listed above.
What does "baptism" mean? The noun form of the word (baptisma) refers to the process of "immersion, submersion, and emergence." (see Vine's for a review of this definition) My inclusion of the definitions above may seem simplistic, but I want to make sure we all understand the words we are using in this study. As one can see from the definitions for immersion, submersion, and emergence (emerge) above, one who is baptized has been placed completely under water (immersion, submersion), after which they arise from the body of water (emerge, or emergence). The Greek word meaning "to pour upon" (epicheo) is used once in the NT. When the good Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of the injured man Luke uses the word epicheo (Luke 10:34). At no time is this word used in reference to the act of baptism. "Sprinkled" and "sprinkling" as well are not used to refer to the act of baptism. As one can see, baptism refers to a complete immersion, not simply a pouring on or sprinkling of water.
Who is a candidate for baptism? This question is answered for us in the scriptures. Before one is baptized one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-38). The believer must repent of their sins before being baptized (Acts 2:38). As we've discovered in our study of salvation one must hear the Word of God. Hearing the Word leads to faith (Romans 10:17). With faith one has taken the first step toward being pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6). Just as Abraham's faith in God was demonstrated by his willingness to offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice (Hebrews 11:17-19; James 2:20-23) we show our faith in God by the works we perform (James 2:24). In order to be saved we must repent of our sins and perform works meet for repentance (Luke 13:3; Acts 26:19,20). So, we see that a candidate for baptism has heard the Word, has developed a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, is willing to confess Jesus' name before men (Romans 10:10; Acts 8:37,38), and has repented of their sins (please review our lesson on repentance and consider the works we will perform once we've repented).
How is one baptized? We saw in our study of the word baptism that immersion within a body of water is required. Let's turn again to the example of the Ethiopian eunuch as we answer question #4. In Acts 8:37-39 we read of the eunuch's baptism. Again, he asked Philip "What doth hinder me from being baptized" in verse 36. After making the confession in verse 37, we see Philip commanding the chariot they were in to stand still (verse 38). Once it was still, they left the chariot and both went down into a body of water. Once in the body of water, Philip baptized the eunuch. In these verses we see the answer to our question. First, a body of water large enough for two people to enter must be available. Second, a Christian is present to assist the believer in their immersion (will continue this thought later). Third, the believer is completely submerged beneath the surface of the water. Finally, the newly baptized Christian leaves the body of water having had their sins washed away (Acts 22:16) to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Please link to the article published elsewhere on my site dealing with Jesus' commandment for water baptism. The history of "clinical baptism" is given in the studies entitled It is Settled: Grievous wolves and It is Settled: Quotations from creed books.
Can one's baptism be invalid? To answer this question let's turn to Acts 19:1-5. Paul found some disciples in Ephesus who had "not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." When Paul asked them unto what were they baptized they responded, "Unto John's baptism." Paul explains to them the purpose of John's baptism in verse 4. Notice the response of these disciples as recorded in verse 5: they were "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" upon hearing Paul's words. In these verses we see that one may be baptized, and have their baptism be invalid. These disciples saw the need to be baptized again once they had learned the truth. John's baptism ceased to be in effect once Christ died on the cross and the church was instituted. Just as these people needed baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus once they heard the truth, people today who are baptized in response to false teaching need to submit to baptism in the name of Jesus to have their sins washed away. If one hears and believes error, they will not be baptized for the right reasons. Once they hear and believe the truth, they must repent of sins, confess the name of Jesus before men, and be baptized for the remission of sins in order to enter a saved state (see our discussion above).