Is Water Baptism by Immersion?

Yes, New Testament water baptism is by immersion.

There are basically two ways of baptizing with water.  One is sprinkling or pouring [and these are not really the same] and the other is immersing.  We will look at the teaching on both methods to see which one is scriptural New Testament water baptism.  If you are interested in infant baptism, the answer to this question will not address infant baptism.  For an answer to that question see http://www.my3bc.com/index.php/1367/is-infant-baptism-scriptural/

Baptism by Sprinkling

The proponents of this method of water baptism look to the Old Testament and the Book of Hebrews, primarily, for instruction on how we are to baptize New Testament converts.  They see that water and/or blood were sprinkled under various ordinances

  • Heb 9:10; 9:13-21 – blood was sprinkled
  • Num 8:7, 19:19 – water of purifying and water of separation were sprinkled on people
  • Lev 14:7 – water and blood were sprinkled on a leper to be cleansed
  • Exodus 24:6-8 – Moses sprinkled people with blood
  • Exodus 29:21 – The blood was sprinkled on Aaron and his sons
  • Leviticus 8:11 – Oil was sprinkled on the altar
  • Leviticus 8:30 –Blood and oil were sprinkled on Aaron and his sons
  • Leviticus 14:51 – Blood and water were sprinkled on a house
  • Hebrews 10:22 – our hearts have been sprinkled
  • 1 Peter 1:2 – The blood of Jesus Christ is sprinkled

According to Isaiah 52:15 and Ezekiel 36:25 nations will be sprinkled in the future and Jews will be sprinkled under the New Covenant [Jer 31:31-34].

Apparently, Cornelius and the Philippian Jailer were baptized indoors (Acts 10:48; 16:33) and evidently, the only water the families would have had in their homes would have been in jars and pots.  Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Cornelius and his house (Acts 10:45) and will be poured out in the future (Acts 2:17).

Thus, proponents of sprinkling or pouring cite these verses for their scriptural authority.

Baptism by Immersion 

Proponents of this form of baptism use New Testament scriptures for instruction on how to baptize New Testament converts.  John 3:23 – John baptized “in Aenon near to Salim because there was much water there.” Much water would not be necessary for sprinkling or pouring. Acts 8:36-39 – Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch “went down both into the water” where the eunuch was baptized.  Then they came “up out of the water.”  There is no reason for them to get the lower half of their bodies wet if Philip was simply sprinkling water on the eunuch.

When people are sprinkled, they do not need to go to the water because the water can be brought to them.  Yet when John the Baptist baptized, the people came to him to be baptized “in”Jordan, not nearJordanor byJordan.  Again there is no reason to get wet in the water if the water is going to be sprinkled or poured upon the person.  No one in the Old Testament who was sprinkled went down into any water.  The water was applied to them.

In Matt 3:16, when Jesus was baptized, he “went up straightway out of the water.”  He had been down in it like the eunuch.

In Colossians 2:12 – we are “buried with him in baptism, wherein also [we] are risen with him…”  Since baptism pictures our death, burial and resurrection with Christ [Rom 6:3-5] immersion pictures this in a way that sprinkling cannot.  People don’t just throw a handful of dirt on a casket at an interment.  They completely enclose it in dirt, just as Jesus was completely enclosed in the earth, though he was buried in a rock tomb above ground.

In the New Testament, there is another water baptism mentioned that took place in the Old Testament.  It is the baptism of the Jewish fathers in theRed Sea[1 Cor 10:1-2].  This is Moses’ baptism.  Here the Jews were completely covered by water.  On either side of them they had walls of water [Ex 14:22; 15:8].  And on top of them they were covered by the cloud [1 Cor 10:2].  Sprinkling doesn’t picture this.

There is another New Testament passage that explains that baptism is a figure [1 Pet 3:20-21] and the type that is used to portray the figure is Noah’s flood.  Again, in that picture, the earth is totally submerged in water [Gen 7:20].  This is an immersion, not a sprinkling.

Remember that in New Testament salvation, every convert is baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, whereby each becomes a member “of his flesh and of his bones” [1 Cor 12:13; Eph 5:30-32].  And as such you enter his eternity and receive eternal life.  Therefore, you are literally baptized into Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection [Rom 6:3-5].  You are not just washed from your sins.

The only form of baptism that clearly demonstrates what the Spirit has done to you when you get saved is baptism by immersion.  Baptism by sprinkling typifies Old Testament and Jewish ordinances from which we have been freed [Col2:14].

Hope this helps,

Pastor Bevans Welder