Is immersion baptism the ONLY way to be baptized? I assumed so, but it has become a point of contention among some fellow brothers and sisters. Therefore, I decided to delve into it personally to discover.

We must use scripture to interpret scripture, or we place ourselves at great risk of getting it all wrong. We must also seek the context of the book we’re reading if possible. When we dig into a subject like this I always like to make sure if we’re talking about a practice or a word that I find the “then” definition of the word.

Baptizo is the Greek origin of the word “baptism” in the English language Bible. I found a listing of many “baptizo” definitions and I grabbed them, but only after I chased each one to verify. Google is handy for such things. There were a couple of them I wasn’t able to research, so I left them off my list. Check this out and see if you find a pattern emerging:

  • Baptizo: “To make a thing dipped or dyed. To immerse for a religious purpose” (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, E.W. Bullinger).
  • Baptizo: Dip, immerse, mid. Dip oneself, wash (in non-Christian lit. also ‘plunge, sink, drench, overwhelm. . . .’)” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Arndt and Gingrich, p. 131).
  • Baptizo: “immersion, submersion” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Grimm-Thayer, p. 94).
  • Baptizo: “to dip, immerse, sink” (Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Abbott-Smith, p. 74).
  • Baptizo: “dip, plunge” (A Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott, p. 305).
  • Baptizo: “consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip)” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W. E. Vine).
  • Baptizo: “to dip, immerse; to cleanse or purify by washing” (The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, Perschbacher, p. 66).
  • Baptizo: “Bapto is the basic verb. It means ‘to dip in’ or ‘to dip under.’ It is often used of dipping fabric in a dye. Baptizo is an intensive form of bapto. From early times it was used in the sense of immersing” (Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Lawrence O. Richards, pp. 100-101).
  • Baptizo: Baptizo, immerse” (Word Study Greek-English New Testament, Paul. R. McReynolds, p. 907).
  • Baptizo: “Baptizo 77x pr. to dip, immerse; to cleanse or purify by washing; to administer the rite of baptism, to baptize” (Greek and English Interlinear New Testament, William D. Mounce and Robert H. Mounce, p. 1028).

Wowsers… Looks like baptism is irrevocably tied to immersion and also surrounding the idea of cleansing/purification. How many New Testament references to baptism are there? I ran across a site that had 80 separate references to baptism. Those should be self-evident.

I’ve been critical of church rituals more so recently than in the past. I believe I’m justified, if not obligated, to approach any church ritual with the proverbial, “Why” or “Who said that?” My personal favorite would be, “Where is that written?”

I came to understand that baptism is an act of obedience and not a prerequisite for salvation if I understood it rightly. My own church considers baptism by immersion a requirement of membership. I’ve gone back and forth on this necessity, but if the leadership of my church believes that immersion baptism should be in place to become an obligated, voting, and committed member of the church, I’ll leave that to them.

However, there are those among us who may take exception to this, for they have been sprinkled or something less than symbolic emergence from one’s former self – the rebirth if you will. Do I consider their devotion to God as somehow lesser than my own? I do not. But, the act of obedience through the physical baptism itself seems to be lacking what it could. And if one can’t muster the very best for the Lord in a planned and pondered act, we’re reminded of a story about two brothers, one of which didn’t appear to offer his best to the Lord. He lost his way and killed his brother, who apparently DID offer his best to the Lord. Don’t hear what I’m not saying… I’m not suggesting sprinkled folks have a proclivity toward becoming a sociopath.

But I am saying, we can and should offer the Almighty our best if we’re going to enter into an act of obedience, as that is the very core of baptism. Why would you decide to act obediently and then phone it in?

Don’t even get me started on the “I was sprinkled as a newborn, I’m good,” scenario… I think you could make an argument that there is an inherent sense of devotion by those witnessing that act, but a baby that hasn’t committed to Christ getting the green light through an act of obedience they were clueless about? Nope. Absolutely not. Those infants aren’t baptized in the “act” of obedience and they didn’t actually say yes to anything. That’s not biblical – that’s ritual being turned into something it was never intended to be in my estimation.

So, what did I learn? I learned baptism is a rebirth. Immersion is biblical. My former self is dead as I commit to Christ, which is a component of salvation. Baptism is an expression – the symbolism attached to being immersed and then emerging from the deep is as if we are reborn in Him. If at all possible, we should adhere as closely as possible to this biblical example. I can’t wrap my mind around why you’d bother with an act of obedience to our Creator, then knowingly fall short. It says something about not only the right understanding of the biblical text but ourselves, especially when we realize the difference.

I pray you to be salt & light. For if you’re reborn in Him as a persevering and preserving model, and you’re visible as a light on the hill, may you offer your very best. I know I need to pay heed to this, as you may yourself.

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