What is Bible baptism? According to Strong’s Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible, “baptize” in Acts 19 and elsewhere is derived from the Greek word “baptizo” which means “to make whelmed (ie. fully wet)”. It is derived (according to Strong’s) from “bapto” which means “to whelm, ie. cover wholly with a fluid”.
So, in Greek, baptism is an immersion or a full covering. But, we do not need to be Greek scholars to realize this. We can see how the word is used in the Bible.
Romans 6:4 refers to baptism as a burial:
“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, NKJV)
Paul used similar wording when writing to the Colossian Christians:
“…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, NKJV)
Suppose someone in charge of disposing of a dead animal simply set it beside the road and sprinkled a little dirt on it. He would be lying if he said, “I have buried it.” Even if the man poured dirt on the dead body, but only enough to partially cover it, he still could not say he had buried it.
Why should we, then, “baptize” someone by sprinkling or pouring water on him?
Paul said of the Israelites:
“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2, NKJV)
Were the children of Israel in the “midst of the sea” (Exodus 14:22) or sprinkled by it? Were they “in it” or was it poured over them?
Consider John the baptizer. The Bible says of him:
“Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.” (John 3:23, NKJV)
Why would John need much water? Because he was fully covering his subjects with water, he was immersing them.
“Why would it matter to God if a person is immersed or sprinkled?”
I do not know. I do not know why only specific incense offerings were allowed in the Old Testament, but they were. And Nadab and Abihu lost their lives when they departed from God’s pattern (Leviticus 10:1-3).
Neither do I know why Naaman was commanded to wash in the Jordan river (II Kings 5:10), but he was. And he was not healed until he obeyed the Lord’s command.
“But what makes immersion better than sprinkling or pouring?”
By itself, nothing that I know of. Yet God said “immerse” not “sprinkle” or “pour”. By the word of God immersion is acceptable, sprinkling or pouring is not.
I have a small piece of plastic I carry around. The type of the plastic is not remarkable. No special process was used to make it. The letters and numbers molded on it are just ordinary letters and numbers. Yet I can go to a store and purchase very expensive items just by presenting this piece of plastic. (Of course it is a credit card) Why would a store give me a computer, for instance, because I let an employee hold my card? Because there is a bank somewhere that has agreed to give that store money in exchange for the numbers on that card. The bank makes that card special, not the card itself. Without the backing of the bank, the card is worthless.
So now, suppose I reason, “It is just a piece of plastic. I will find another scrap of plastic somewhere, write a few numbers on it, take it to a nearby store and buy something with it!”
Why not? Because no bank has said that it will honor any purchase made with my “counterfeit” credit card. But a bank has said that it will honor the credit card that it gave me. So there is a big difference in those two pieces of plastic; the bank will honor one but not the other. It is not in the card, but in the word of the bank.
Immersion is an ordinance received from God, sprinkling or pouring is not. I should not expect God to “honor” sprinkling or pouring when He said to immerse. By the word of God, immersion is special to wash away sins (Acts 22:16).
Have you been immersed in the name of Jesus?