Water Baptism According to the Word of God
This subject is very complicated. Different denominations are baptizing people in different ways:
1. By sprinkling water.
2. By pouring water on the head.
3. By immersing in the water.
Then someone would say, "Which is the correct baptism?" The answer to this question is found in the word of God.
Baptism according to the word of God
The word "baptism" came from the Greek word "baptisma," meaning immersion. The verb is "baptizo," meaning "to immerse."
Jesus is our example. Let us follow His footsteps and the teaching of the first-century Christian church.
In 1 Peter 2:21, we are told to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He is our model.
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:" (1 Peter 2:21)
Jesus took the immersion baptism (Matthew 3:15-17). The Bible says that He came out of the water. That means He had to go into the water in order to come out of the water.
"When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water...." (Matthew 3:16)
In John 3:23 we read that there was much water. Much water is needed in order to immerse people. That is why the Holy Spirit especially mentioned about much water. So there will not be any confusion about this.
"Now John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized." (John 3:23)
In Acts 8:35-38, we read that both Philip and the eunuch went into the water, and Philip baptized him.
"...And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:38)
From these examples, we can understand that baptism is given by immersion.
Our example is Jesus Christ (and His teaching) and the teaching of the first-century apostles (1 Corinthians 3:9-11; Ephesians 2:20-22, 4:11-16).
"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)
"Having been built on the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20)
Who should take baptism?
1. A person should repent of his sins before he is baptized. John the Baptist baptized people when they repented (Luke 3:3,7,8).
"And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Luke 3:3)
Peter said to "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38).
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
2. A person should believe Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37) and accept Him as his personal Savior according to Romans 10:9-10. In Acts 16:31 we read, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy household." In short, a person should be born-again before he is baptized.
"Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:36-37)
"That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10)
3. A person should be old enough (matured) to take baptism. Little children were not baptized in the time of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, or the first-century church. We can understand this from the following:
a) John preached repentance. People repented and got baptized.
b) People brought children to Jesus to be blessed (not to be baptized), and we read that Jesus laid His hand on them and blessed them (Matthew 19:13-15). We do not see here Jesus giving command to His disciples to baptize them or He Himself baptizing them. They were simply blessed. We should also do the same thing.
"But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' And He laid His hands on them and departed from there." (Matthew 19:14-15)
c) In the first-century church also we do not see any reference about children being baptized.
When people read Acts 10:43-48 as well as Acts 16:31-33 they might think that children also might have been included. But when we read Acts chapters 10 and 16 carefully, we will know that children were not baptized. Reason: Peter and Paul knew very well that children should not be baptized.
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word... Then Peter answered, 'Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?' And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." (Acts 10:44, 47-48)
"So they said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized." (Acts 16:31-33)
1) Peter preached, they heard the message, they got saved, and they received baptism in the Holy Spirit. Little children cannot do these things. (Acts 2:37-38, Acts 10:43-48).
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:37-38)
2) In chapter 16, the time of the event is midnight (Acts 16:25). Here we see Paul preaching. People who heard him got saved and they were baptized right away (that same night).
"But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:25)
From these also we can understand that little children cannot listen, comprehend the message, and be baptized that night (it was late at night). Also Paul knew the scripture very well. So I believe He did not baptize children.
d) In Matthew 28:18-20, we read that Jesus gave His disciples command to teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Here we see that first comes teaching, before baptism. Little children cannot be taught about the plan of salvation and they cannot repent in order to be born-again. That is why we do not see anywhere Christ's disciples baptizing children.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19)
Why is water baptism so important?
1. It saves us from the Adamic sin: the nature of sin, the power of sin. In Romans 6:6 we read, "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Example:
a) The children of Israel were saved by the blood of the lamb, but when they came to the sea, the enemies were behind them. They were afraid. Then Moses said, "Fear not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord" (Exodus 14:13). In 1 Corinthians 10:2, Paul says it was a symbol of baptism.
"All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." (1 Corinthians 10:2)
b) Peter also says about Noah and his family that they were saved by water and in like figure baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:20, 21).
"...when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us - baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:20,21)
c) In Mark 16:16 Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
d) In Acts 22:16, we read about Ananias baptizing Saul.
"Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16)
All these examples say that baptism saves. Saves from what? From Adamic sin. This sin only applies when a person reaches the age of accountability (maturity; ability to discern from right and wrong, good and evil).
2. Baptism is fulfilling the righteousness of God (Matthew 3:15).
"But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15)
3. By taking baptism we justify God (Luke 7:29).
"And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John." (Luke 7:29)
4. By taking baptism we are not rejected the counsel of God. That means by not taking baptism we are rejecting the counsel of God (Luke 7:30).
"But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him." (Luke 7:30)
5. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21).
"There is also an antitype which now saves us - baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21)
6. Baptism is being identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection through faith of the operation of God. It is a testimony (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12).
"Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)
"Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12)
7. Baptism is the command of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19). Peter also commanded people to be baptized (Acts 10:48). In 1 John 5:3 we read, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous." In John 14:15 Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19)
"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." (Acts 10:48)
In short, any born-again child of God who loves Jesus will obey His commandment gladly.
Who is qualified to baptize others?
1. The person must be born-again.
2. The person must be baptized by immersion.
3. The person must be filled with the Holy Spirit.
4. The person must live a good Christian life.
5. The person must believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and should have a thorough knowledge of the Bible.
6. The person must have good report and good testimony at home, at church, and in the community.
7. The person must be involved in the church activities on a regular basis and serving the Lord or must be a servant of God.
In Acts 6:1-6 we read, "Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, 'It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them."
The people who were chosen to serve at the table were of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. How much more spiritual qualification should a person have who is the minister of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you study Saint Paul's letter to Titus and Timothy, you will have a better idea about the qualification of the servant of God.
What is the proper method and/or posture of baptism?
Many people baptize people different ways.
a. Some people baptize by tilting the person forward as they are immersed in the water.
b. Some people baptize by tilting the person backward while immersing them in the water.
c. Some people baptize in a straight position while immersing, as in dipping.
d. Some people immerse a person three times while others only immerse one time.
What does the Bible say about this matter? We do not see any example in the Bible of immersing more than one time. Also, the Bible does not say anything about the posture of the person being baptized, as long as the person is immersed.
In Ephesians 4:5 we read, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." That means to immerse once, because baptism means to immerse.
Should a person be baptized in Jesus' name only?
Let us see what the Bible teaches about it.
In Matthew 28:18-20 we read, "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen."
1. Jesus said, "All authority is given unto Me," and He gave the same authority to His disciples.
2. Jesus said to "make disciples of all nations," which means to make others followers of Jesus as they were His followers.
3. Jesus said to "teach them to observe all things." That means to teach them to put into practice what He has taught them or commanded them.
From this verse itself we know that the disciples cannot break the commandment of God to baptize people in any other way.
Some people might argue that the Holy Spirit might have instructed them to do differently than what Jesus commanded. In John 14:26, Jesus said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." As we can see, the Holy Spirit is supposed to remind people of what Jesus said. The Holy Spirit will not contradict what Jesus commanded to do. We see that clearly in John 16:13, where we read, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." From these verses, we do not believe that Jesus' disciples changed the commandment of Jesus Christ as we read in Matthew 28:18-20.
Some people are confused about different phrases used in the book of Acts referring to baptism. For example: John's baptism was called "the baptism of repentance" as well as "John's baptism." In John 4:1-2 we read that Jesus' disciples also used to baptize while John was baptizing people. This baptism was done of course before Jesus gave the new commandment to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. That baptism was called "the baptism of John" or "the baptism of repentance."
In the book of Acts we read different phrases used when describing baptism. For example: In Acts 2:38 we read "in the name of Jesus Christ." In Acts 8:16 we read "in the name of the Lord Jesus." In Acts 10:48 we read "in the name of the Lord." In Acts 19:5 we read "calling on the name of the Lord."
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:27)
From these examples, we do not see that people were baptized in the name of Jesus.
As we studied earlier, until the day of Pentecost, the water baptism was called John's baptism or the baptism of repentance. After the day of Pentecost, the water baptism is referred to as Jesus' baptism or baptism according to the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If a person or denomination emphasizes that a person should be baptized in the name of "Jesus only," they may not be believing in the Trinity. They are also disobeying the commandment of Jesus Christ.
So, we would follow the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is written in Matthew 28:18-20.
"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)
If I was not properly baptized, should I take another baptism?
As we read earlier in Ephesians 4:5, there is "one baptism." However, that should be the proper baptism. We see the example of this in Acts 19:1-6.
"And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' So they said to him, 'We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.' And he said to them, 'Into what then were you baptized?' So they said, 'Into John's baptism.' Then Paul said, 'John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.' When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:1-5)
Here we see that the people were already baptized by Apollos. Saint Paul baptized them again because they did not take the right (proper) baptism. What was wrong with their baptism?
1. Apollos had baptized them with John's baptism, after the day of Pentecost. That baptism was not valid after the day of Pentecost.
2. Apollos was born-again but not baptized with the Holy Spirit. They had not heard about the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).
From this example, we know that we should take the right baptism according to the word of God.
I hope this study about the water baptism will help you. As a believer you will be able to make sure that you take the right baptism. As a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ you can teach others and baptize them the correct way. When I baptize people, I say, "According to the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son (Lord Jesus Christ), in the name of the Holy Spirit, I baptize you in water."
- Pastor S. S. Peter, Th.D, Ph.D.