Is Water Baptism a Requirement
Baptism is something that brings definite separation to the
Scripture is very clear that baptism is for believers only.
I will be looking at the method and meaning of baptism from
scripture, various church fathers and other theologians. I will go
over the different methods and meanings attributed to baptism.
There are various methods used to administer water Baptism. As an
infant in a Lutheran church water was sprinkled on my head. 24 years
later my body was immersed in water at a nondenominational church
that had strong Baptist ties. So which is it? Sprinkle or dunk?
Should infants or only believers be baptized? These are the
questions which will be answered.
The Word Baptize
The word Baptize is not really a translation but a
transliteration. The Greek work is
βαπτίζω (baptizō). It literally means to immerse. Gary Zeolla, the
translator of the Analyttical-Literal Translation gives us some
insight to the reason why many, but not all, English Bibles
transliterate instead of translate the word for Baptize (emphasis
“The lexical data definitely does favor “immerse
in,” and in its early
stages, such a translation was used in the
However, I later changed it to “baptize in” for the following
I did not want the translation of one word to hurt the
reputation of the
ALT as being a “bias” translation. But I did keep “immerse”
alternate translation. It is seen the first time verb
and the noun
occurs in a book. I’ve used the same pattern throughout. When
what I believe is the best translation differs from the traditional
and it affects an interpretation in favor of my own theological
I used the traditional translation in the text, and the “new”
translation as an
alternate (See for another example John 15:2).”
His list of reasons is long but the first two are mainly the same.
It is about the reputation of his translation. People would claim he
had a bias and not benefit from his translation. I find this as a
compromise that should not have taken place. I although will give
Zeolla credit for listing the word immerse along with the word
If you believe Zeolla’s fear is unfounded one only needs to look at
Baptist history. William Carey, a famous Baptist missionary to
India, ran into resistance. Here is Edward Brand’s account (emphasis
William Carey and his colleagues at Serampore made their Hindu
translation of the Bible,
they translated the scripture word "baptizo"
by a Hindu word meaning to immerse. Their only alternative
was to leave it untranslated. By and by the
began to discover that their people
objected to sprinkling
as a substitute for baptism on the ground that it was not in
scripture. But if it was not in scripture it ought to be! So about
1827 a protest was sent
to the British Bible Society against aiding in the
circulation of the Serampore versions. Through some of the
Baptist brethren pressure was brought to bear on Mr. Carey to induce
him to transfer the
offending word and let it alone, or to translate it by one of the
many words which it did not mean. But he steadily refused to
abandon his principle of translating every word of scripture into
the native tongue. He held that the command to baptize was the
command to do a certain act, that the act was defined in the word
used in the command, and that
his duty as translator
was to make the command as plain in the translation as it was in the
original. So in 1833
the British Bible Society declared that they would no longer aid
versions in which "baptize" was translated. They did not
realize that in so far as they succeeded in abolishing the symbol
they would abolish that
which the symbol stands for, viz: Death to sin and resurrection to a
So we have looked at what the Biblical word for Baptize means. So
how is it used in the Bible? Let us start with Phillip and the
eunuch. The eunuch confesses his faith so Phillip Baptizes him. Let
us see how this is done:
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.
39 And when they
were come up out of the
water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the
eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
Clearly Philip took the eunuch into the water and out of the water.
John the Baptist went to Baptize where there was a lot of water.
This wouldn’t have been needed if all he was going to do was
sprinkle water on the heads of people.
And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim,
because there was much
water there: and they came, and were baptized.
When John Baptized Jesus in the
river Jordan Jesus came
out of the water in which he was immersed.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway
out of the water:
and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of
God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
So are you can see anytime the mode of Baptism is given in the Bible
it is always by immersion. Nowhere in the Bible will you see Baptism
done by sprinkling.
Early Church Practices
The Didache is a late first century writing that contains
instructions on many things, from Baptism to fasting. Even though it
is not on the same level as scripture there is much we can learn
from it. On Baptism it states (emphasis mine):
1. Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught
all these things, baptize ye into the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
in living water.
2. And if thou hast not living water, baptize
into other water;
and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm (water).
3. But if thou hast neither, pour [water] thrice upon the head
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
4. But before Baptism let the baptizer and the baptized
fast, and any others who can; but thou shalt command the baptized to
fast for one or two days before.”
As we see here that the pouring of water for Baptism was used only
as a last resort.
Let us next read the words of the pedobaptists (emphasis mine):
"Their (the primitive Christians) general and
ordinary way was to
baptize by immersion, or dipping the person, whether it were
an infant, or grown man or woman, into the water. This
is so plain and clear by an infinite number of passages,
that as one can not but pity the
weak endeavors of such Pedobaptists as would maintain the
negative of it, so also we ought
to disown and show a dislike of the
which some people give to the English
Antipedobaptists, merely for their use of dipping. it was,
in all probability, the way by which
our blessed Savior, and for certain was the most usual and
ordinary way by which the
ancient Christians did receive their baptism. ’Tis a great
want of prudence, as well as of
honesty, to refuse to grant to an adversary what is
certainly true, and may be proved so. It creates a jealousy of all
the rest that one says. As for sprinkling, I say, as Mr. Blake,
first coming up in England,
‘Let them defend it who use it.’ They (who are inclined to
Presbyterianism) are hardly prevailed on to leave off that
custom of having their
children, though never so well, baptized out of a basin, or
porringer, in a bed-chamber,
hardly persuaded to bring them to church, much further from having
them dipped, though
never so able to
"The baptism of John the Baptist, which served for a preparative to
that of Jesus Christ, was
performed by plunging.
When Jesus Christ came to john, to raise baptism to a more
marvelous efficacy in receiving it, the Scripture says,
that he went up out of the water
Jordan, (Matt. iii : 16; Mark i : 10). In fine, we read not in the
Scripture that baptism was
otherwise administered; and we are able to make it appear, by the
acts of councils, and by
the ancient rituals, that for
thirteen hundred years,
baptism was thus
throughout the whole church,
as far as was
Finally two quotes from John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists
"Mary Welsh, aged eleven days, was baptized according to the custom
of the first church,
and the rule of the Church of England,
by immersion. The
child was ill then, but recovered
from that hour.”
are buried with him - Alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by
The method of Baptism is important but the meaning is even more so.
Forgiveness of Sins
Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believe Baptism forgives sin.
By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal
sins, as well as all punishment for sin.
In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would
impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor
personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is
separation from God.”
“He who is baptized is cleansed from original sin and from all other
sins that he
has committed up to the time of his baptism.”
How does the Bible say we are forgiven? Let us start with the Old
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath
whereof to glory;
but not before God.
3 For what saith the
believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
The Bible is clear that Abraham was saved by his faith in God. Not
by any works he did. What about New Testament cases?
For by grace are ye saved
through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of
Not of works,
lest any man should boast.
And he said to the woman,
Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight:
thy faith hath saved thee.
How was the woman saved?
By faith. How was the man saved? By faith. Neither was
Baptized. Faith alone saves. The thief that believed in Jesus was
not Baptized while dying on the cross yet he went to be with Jesus
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy
43 And Jesus said unto
him, Verily I say unto thee,
To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans and many others
Baptize infants. If Baptism is a testimony of how Jesus buried our
old man (Romans 6:6) and made us a new creature (2 Corinthians 2:17
and John 3:3) wouldn’t the testimony of an infant be false? Infants
have no way of making a conscious decision to accept Jesus as their
Lord and Savior.
A verse often used use to promote infant baptism and salvation
requiring baptism is Mark 16:16.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that
believeth not shall be damned.
One must look carefully at the second half of the verse. It is not
the lack of baptism that damns but the lack of belief. This brings
us the all important question. What then is the true meaning of
The True Meaning of Baptism
Paul and Silas where in jail and a jailer asked them the most
important question in life. What must I do to be saved? Read to see
how they replied.
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou
shalt be saved, and thy house.
Then after there was belief and salvation was there baptism.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed
their stripes; and
was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
So we see in the Bible that the meaning of Baptism is not salvation.
What does the Bible say is the meaning?
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with
him through the
faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Baptism is a symbol of what Jesus did for us. We are dead to our old
selves and are now new creatures in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be
in Christ, he is a
new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are
Third Edition 2007, Gary F. Zeolla
History of the
Baptists of Illinois 1930, Edward P. Brand, pg 128-129
by Peter Schaff 1885
History of Infant
Baptism, Part II, Chapter ii, p. 462, Dr. Wall (Episcopal)
In Mr. Stennett
against against Russen, p. 145-76, Bossuet (Catholic Bishop)
Extract of Mt. John
Wesley’s Journal, from his embarking for Georgia, p. 10
Explanatory Notes on Romans 6:4
The New Catholic
Basic Teachings of the Orthodox Faith, Metropolitan
Copyright (c) 2009 Matthew Christensen All rights reserved.