Volume 2 June 15, 2003 Issue 9

Baptism — What Does It Require?

It's impossible to listen to very many religious programs on radio or television today without recognizing that there is much confusion in the religious world. There's confusion concerning not only whether or not baptism is essential for salvation but also — even among those who do consider it necessary — exactly how it is to be done. Preachers all over the world profess a variety of differing beliefs as to the way to receive the free gift of salvation. Many preach that baptism is not necessary at all. They may teach that an individual need only utter the "sinners prayer" or that "believers" need do no more than "ask Jesus to come into their heart." It's not the purpose of this article to discuss that particular subject. If you're interested in a more complete discussion concerning that subject we ask that you go to the web site listed at the bottom of page four of this issue and refer to Volume 1, Issues 18, 19 and 20. What we will be discussing in this issue is the question "what does baptism require?" Even those who agree that baptism is necessary for salvation differ on the method used to accomplish that act. For example, some denominations teach that it is sufficient to simply pour water over the forehead of the individual being baptized and that complete immersion is not at all necessary. While the Greek word used for "baptize" definitely indicates that immersion is necessary (rather than a "pouring over") there are still many who continue to teach otherwise.

Most of us already know that the Greek word used for "baptize" in the New Testament is "baptizo." Strong's defines this word in the following three ways:

  1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
  2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe
  3. to overwhelm

Just a couple of examples of the use of "baptizo" in the New Testament are:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," (Matt. 28:19 NIV)

"And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name." (Acts 22:16 NIV)

Throughout the New Testament any time the word "baptize," "baptizing," or "baptized" is used the Greek word is "baptizo." (At least this is true within what we might refer to as the "standard translations" of the Bible. We cannot say with certainty that some of the very modern translations do not deviate from that).

Since one of the definitions listed by Strong's of "baptizo" is "to dip repeatedly," let's also take a look at one of the Greek words translated as "dip" in the New Testament. We find that there are several different words used but one of them is particularly close to the word "baptizo." For example "dip" is used in Luke 16:24 and also in John 13:26. The Greek word used in both of these examples is "bapto."

"So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire." (NIV)

"Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish..." (NIV)

In our research for this issue we found an interesting note that is helpful in understanding the difference between the Greek word "baptizo" (most frequently translated as some form of "baptize") and "bapto" (translated "dip"). With that in mind the following note about "baptizo" is quite interesting.

"Not to be confused with...bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptized' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change."

As a result of "baptizo" the pickle is permanently changed. It's no longer a vegetable, but is now a pickle. There has been a true change of form that did not occur as a result of "bapto." "Bapto" has no permanent effect while "baptizo" does have a permanent effect. As a result of our "baptizo" (or our immersion in the water) we are changed into a new creature. Galatians 3:27 says:

"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (KJV)

Then II Corinthians 5:17 tells us:

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (NASB)

Having a better understanding now of how "baptizo" means an immersion that results in a permanent change of form, let's move on to a comparison of whether or not a simple pouring (or sprinkling) of water over the forehead of an individual would qualify as an appropriate form to use when trying to meet the qualifications required for "baptizo."

To make this study a bit less confusing let's put it in the form of a chart. On the left side we'll list the Scripture and what that particular verse(s) requires for baptism. Then on the right side we'll have two columns — one labeled "pouring" and one labeled "immersion." In each of the last two columns, there will be either "yes," meaning that it does meet that specific qualification or "no," meaning that the form of baptism listed at the top of the chart does not meet the specific requirement listed in that particular Scripture.

"As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?'" (Acts 8:36) WaterYesYes

"John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized" (John 3:23) Much WaterYesNo

"And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:38) A Going Down Into the Water YesNo

"When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing." (Acts 8:39) Baptizer And One Being Baptized Both In The WaterYes No

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death..." (Rom 6:4)
"Having been buried with Him in baptism..." (Col 2:12)
A BurialYes No

"Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God... Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:3 & 5) A BirthYes No

"After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water... (Matt 3:16)
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away..." (Acts 8:39)
A Coming Up Out Of The Water Yes No

It should be evident from this chart that immersion in a watery grave of baptism is the only method of baptism that can result in a new birth and meet all of the qualifications listed in numerous verses of the Scriptures. If you are reading this issue of Diligence and have been "baptized" in any way other than immersion, we invite and encourage you to call or e-mail us for further discussion and study of this most important subject. Souls are at stake when forms of baptism other than immersion for remission of sins are taught. Let us all clearly understand that burial in a watery grave is the only baptism sanctioned by the Scriptures.

"Diligence" is a privately funded publication of:
Dennis and Sherri Owens — Cincinnati, Ohio