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Should Baptism in Water Be Done by Sprinkling or by Immersion?

Some baptize by sprinkling, but others say that immersion in water is the proper way to baptize. Which is the correct way?

Water baptism has been a highly controversial issue in the Christian church down through the centuries. One of the issues has to do with the subject of baptism. Should we baptize adults and infants, or should we baptize only believing adults? The other issue has to do with the mode: Is it by immersion in water or in some other way?

Regarding the mode of baptism, I believe that the Bible teaches that immersion is the proper mode. There are two reasons I believe immersion is correct.

The primary meaning of the verb baptizo is “to immerse.” The New Testament Greek language has words for “pouring” and “sprinkling,” but those words are never used in connection with water baptism.

Futhermore, the prepositions usually used in connection with the rite of baptism also support immersion. Acts 8:38, for example, tells us of Philip baptizing the Ethiopian, “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.” The next verse says, “And when they were come up out of the water. …” Going “into” the water and coming “out of” the water surely suggest immersion.

Those who support baptism by sprinkling claim that there was not enough water to baptize by immersion.

I don’t think that is a valid argument against immersion. We know that the ancient Jews practiced a kind of ritual in which people were immersed. It is likely that Jewish converts to Christianity—including the disciples who came out of Judaism—would have been baptized by immersion. If there had not been enough water for baptism by immersion then there would not have been enough water for the Jewish rite which involved immersion.

Archaeologists have found plenty of ancient pools in Israel that were used for the Jewish ritual of immersion. Moreover, the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee would have been ideal spots for immersion.

Baptism by immersion is a picture of our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6:4 says, “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.”

But if you baptize by immersion, aren’t you identifying with a particular denomination—with the Baptists?

Not really. There are several denominations that baptize by immersion. They baptize by immersion not because of their denominational affiliation but because of what they believe the Bible teaches.

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