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 Vol. 7, No. 5 

May 2005


~ Page 3 ~

What Is Baptism?

By Robert Rushmore

Image Unfortunately, "baptism" is not defined well in American dictionaries. Webster defines it as so: "to immerse (an individual) in water, or pour or sprinkle water over (the individual), as a symbol of admission into Christianity or a specific Christian church." Not only does this definition falsely state baptism as sprinkling or pouring, but it also gives the false concept of denominationalism. This article will not deal with the denominationalism problem, but will address the falsity of sprinkling and pouring as acceptable to God.

The Bible gives enough information in example baptisms for one to correctly understand what baptism involves. Notice that John 3:23 states that John baptized in the Jordan because "there was much water there." If baptism were sprinkling or pouring, why was there a need for "much water"? Further, Acts 8:38 emphasizes the fact that Philip and the eunuch went into the water when the eunuch was baptized. Why would both of them need to be in the water if baptism is sprinkling or pouring? The fact of the matter is that baptism is immersion in water; therefore, there is a need for "much water" and going "into the water."

Another way the Bible shows that baptism is immersion is by means of grammar. Notice Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." In this verse, the word "baptized" is a verb. The subject, the one carrying out the action of the verb, is "he." Notice "he" is the one "that believeth." Since a definition can stand for the word defined, the sentence could read, "He that believeth and is immersed shall be saved." This makes sense, as it is possible for one to be dipped into water. However, if baptism were sprinkling, the sentence would read, "He that believeth and is sprinkled shall be saved." Obviously, this will not work, as one would have to be chopped up into little pieces to be "sprinkled." Neither would "poured" fit in this sentence as one would have to be changed into liquid form and then "poured." Just by looking at the grammar, one can see that baptism has to be immersion in water. Any other definition will not fit the grammar.

The purpose of baptism is two-fold. According to Acts 22:16, baptism will wash our sins away. By coming in contact with the blood of Christ, our sins will be forgiven (Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5). The text of Acts 2:38-47 teaches that God adds those who have been baptized to the church. Notice from verse forty-seven the Lord adds the saved to the church. Man does not vote each other into the church. Once an individual is baptized, God adds him to the church. Baptism washes sins away and after which the saved are added to the church.

Although the world accepts sprinkling and pouring, God does not. Baptism, according to the Bible, is immersion in water. The Bible shows the need for "much water" and going "into the water." Grammar shows "sprinkling" and "pouring" are not acceptable definitions of "baptism." Baptism is immersion in water for the purpose of washing away sins and adding one to the church.

[The foregoing is a well-reasoned and biblically supported glimpse of much more evidence available in Scripture and Bible study tools that likewise affirm Christian baptism is by immersion. For instance, Scripture describes baptism as a burial and a planting because baptism is immersion (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12). In addition, Greek lexicons or dictionaries that represent the biblical Greek words for "baptism" and "baptize" define them as immersion. God only authorized immersion in water for the remission of one's sins as Christian baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:20-21). ~ Editor]Image

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