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A Treatise on Believer’s Water Baptism

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Water Baptism’s Purpose

Water baptism is NOT for salvation but because of salvation, a picture of salvation and the newly saved persons identity with the Jesus Christ in conversion. Baptism is not for the purpose of “the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet 3:21). Justification (to be declared righteous forever) is received by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ apart from good works (Eph 2:8-9; Mk 1:15) and religious rituals, including those ordained by God (Gal 2:16), such as believer’s baptism (Rom 6:1-7) and the Lord’s supper (1 Cor 11:24-25), and all who’ve been justified are eternally secure (Jn 5:24; 10:27-30).

All the apostles rejected baptismal regeneration. Paul the Apostle made it very clear that his ministry was not about baptism but about preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 1:14-17), “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (v. 17).

Menno Simons also rejected this damnable heresy:

“We are not regenerated because of baptism, as may be perceived in the infants who have been baptized; but we are baptized because we are regenerated by faith in God's word, as regeneration is not the result of baptism, but baptism the result of regeneration. This cannot well be controverted by any man, by force of the Scriptures.” (Menno Simons, Complete Works, 1871, p. 201, read also p. 215).

God's Word is clear that faith alone through God's grace is what saves us, apart from any works, which would include water baptism:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boost.” (Eph 2:8-9).

The only requirement for water baptism is salvation and the only requirement for salvation is repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ at one instantaneous moment in time, not gradual (Ac 8:36-37; 2:38-41; 2 Cor 6:2). We see this exemplified in the account of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Ac 8:36-39.

Those who believe or teach a false gospel, such as one that includes baptism as a requirement or component of salvation will be eternally damned (Gal 1:8-9), and all heretics and false brethren must be rejected (Ti 3:10; Gal 2:4-5; 1 Tim 6:3-5).

Water Baptism’s Meaning

Baptism identifies the believer with his Saviour Jesus Christ and depicts salvation—died and buried with Christ and raised to newness of life with Him (Rom 6:1-6; Col 2:12-13). It’s called a “figure” [symbol] in 1 Pet 3:21. It’s a picture and public testimony of spiritual realities and identification with Christ. One who is baptized is “planted together in the likeness of [Christ’s] death” and “shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom 6:5), so baptism pictures the gospel of Christ—the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior and the death of the believer’s old life (which is crucified and dead, Rom 6:5-11; Gal 2:20; 5:24) and his resurrection to new life in Christ.

Water Baptism’s Mode

If baptism is not for salvation but a picture of baptism, would the method of baptism matter?

Yes it certainly would!

There’s only one mode found in Gods Word and only one that accurately and truly portrays the gospel/salvation: immersion. Regardless of the twisting and stretching of Scripture, there is still just one mode. We can’t call a dog a horse.

Baptism is obviously an extremely important doctrine, but also one that has been foundational for practically all cults and false religions. For thousands of years now the subject has largely differentiated between true and false churches, and has led cults like Roman Catholicism to pursue after, persecute and murder those who re-baptized new believers (such as the Baptists/ Anabaptists, the Mennonites). It wasn’t really re-baptism because there is only one true mode of baptism and only one condition in the reception of baptism.

If you received baptism before conversion, it amounts to nothing and has no value, because baptism proceeds from conversion. If you received the wrong mode of baptism, even as a truly regenerated believer, it also amounts to nothing, for baptism has a very specific picture it portrays (that of salvation, as the previous point elaborated) and if the mode didn’t portray it, it wasn’t baptism regardless of the label it is given.

How important is it to understand and then obey the proper mode of baptism? Firstly, if we seek to be faithful and true to God’s Word, obeying “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4), we would want to ensure the method of baptism is in line with what Scripture teaches. True believers obey God’s Word, proving they know Him and love Him, while false believers do not (read 1 Jn. 2:3-5 & Jn. 14:15-24; Lk. 16:13). When we ignore God’s Word and replace it with our own opinions, do we actually know and love Him? Secondly, since baptism is a picture of salvation and salvation is only through one way (Jn. 14:6; Ac. 4:12; Rom. 1:16-17), then the baptism should align with what that one way of salvation is. Thirdly, the Bible’s teaching on the method of baptism is in fact as clear as its teaching on the purpose of baptism (which, as explained, is a picture of salvation and identity with Christ, not salvation).

There is only one mode of baptism taught and practiced in the Bible and that is immersion/dipping. “Baptizo” does not mean several things, and even if it did, it only means one thing in the Bible. There is no basis for ambiguity here. I know that majority Mennonites take a position that allows for more than one mode, but we don't have a basis in the Bible for more than one mode.

We know this for the following Scriptural reasons:

1. Immersion/dipping is the meaning of the word. The word baptism transliterated from “baptizo” means “to dip; to submerge; to immerse” (Strong’s; Webster’s 1828). Baptizo is defined by Thayer as to “properly, to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge (of vessels sunk, Polybius 1, 51, 6; 8, 8, 4; of animals, Diodorus 1, 36),” by Liddell-Scott as “to dip in or under water,” and by Friberg as “strictly dip, immerse in water.” Even pedobaptists have consented to this definition. This is the word used in the N.T. when the rich man entreats that Lazarus may be sent to “dip the tip of his finger in water.” It is also the word used twice in Jn. 12:36 by Christ, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop,” and when, in Revelation, Christ is represented, as “clothed with a vesture dipped in blood.” (Rev. 19:13). The inspired penmen have used no other word, beside this and its derivatives, to convey the idea of immersion; nor have they ever used this word in any other sense. Baptism is called “buried” in Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:12.

The German word for baptism is sufficient evidence: “deepen” or “enducken” or “dunken” or “nenducken” or “taufen,” all of which literally mean “dipping into the water” and “dipping in the water.” (Plautdietsch Lexicon — Low German Dictionary). They're ain’t no “dunken” happening with sprinkling or pouring.

So baptizo is the Greek word for dip whereas rantizo is the Greek for sprinkle and cheo is the Greek for pour. The last two words are never used with regard to the church ordinance. Rantizo is defined by Louw-Nida as, “to cleanse and purify by means of sprinkling,” and by BDAG, “To sprinkle liquid on something.” If sprinkling were the mode, the transliteration rantize would have been used in fitting with the verb for “sprinkle,” rantizo.

2. Immersion/dipping is the examples of all baptisms in the N.T. They required “much water” (Jn. 3:23) and required the participant to go “into the water” (Ac. 8:38) and “come up out of the water” (Ac. 8:38-39; Matt. 3:16). Neither pouring or sprinkling requires “much water” (Jn. 3:23a) nor require going "into the water" or "out of the water.”

So we see this was the example of the early Christians. In Acts 8:38-39 the preacher and the candidate “went down both into the water” and “came up out of the water.” The only reason for this would be to practice immersion. Otherwise, the preacher would merely have dipped up some water and applied it without getting wet. The phrases “into the water” and “out of the water” in Matt. 3:13-18 and Ac. 8:36-38 do not technically denote the actual act of immersing the individual being baptized under water, but the fact that one who wished to receive baptism had to actually enter into a body of water to be immersed in it. Had sprinkling or pouring qualified as baptism in Ac. 8:36-38, there would have been no need for Philip and the eunuch to have left the chariot they were riding in and descended into a body of water. A cup of water from a jug in the chariot would have sufficed, and since they were riding through the desert, there is certainly no doubt they had a cup of water! Only if the eunuch was immersed is the narrative explicable and reasonable. Similarly, the Lord Jesus would not have needed to descend into the waters of the Jordan river with John the Baptist for baptism (Matt. 3:13-16) unless the Savior of the world was immersed.

3. Immersion/dipping is the only mode that accurately and truly portrays the picture or “figure” (1 Pet. 3:21) of the gospel (death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) and thus salvation (the death, burial and resurrection with Christ, death and burial of the old man and the resurrection of the new man to newness of life — Rom. 6:3-6; Col. 2:12). Paul included in his definition for baptism the likeness of a burial (Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:12) and of a planting (Rom. 6:5), and Peter likened it to the Flood (I Pet. 3:20-21). On the other hand, pouring and sprinkling modes corrupt the proper symbolism of the ordinance.

4. Immersion/dipping is the manner in which the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized (Mk. 1:9-11; Matt. 3:13-17) and “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” (Matt. 10:25a). So was the Eunuch (Ac. 8:35-36), and John the Baptist only baptized by immersion (Jn. 3:23).

5. Immersion/dipping was the only mode of baptism in the churches for many centuries. Many ancient baptistries testify to this. The most ancient baptistry in Rome, for example, is a large pool that was obviously used for immersions. I have stood in this baptistry and it comes up to my waist. The same is true for an ancient baptistry at a church in Ephesus.

Immersion is historically the first and recognized manner or mode of baptism. This fact is reported virtually by every historian and/or historical writing which bears upon the topic. Edward Hiscox in his book "Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches," reports a brief history on the deviant mode of pouring. He notes that the first incident of "aspersion" (or pouring) is that of Novatian in A.D. 250 upon his sick bed, hence it is called "clinic baptism." Sprinkling however is rather sketchy but one historian (Vedder) places it on A.D. 259 and adapted as a mode by the Roman Catholic Council of Revenna in 1311. Infant baptism, being motivated by the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration was recognized as early as A.D. 350. One can observe that convenience would be a motive of changing from immersion to any other mode. This change, however convenient it may be, is unjustifiable.

The very word for baptism itself, and the examples in Scripture, and the teachings regarding baptism within the Scriptures themselves tells us that immersion is the only Biblical mode for believer's baptism.

Baptism Types

It is essential to understand some baptismal texts do not refer to water baptism but to something else. E.g. baptism of Israelites “unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor 10:2); baptism Christ had to endure of suffering and death (Lk 12:50; Mk 10:38); “baptism of John … of repentance” (Mk 1:4; Ac 19:3-4); believers baptism by Holy Spirit “into Jesus Christ” (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27) & thus “into his death” (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12) which occurs at conversion (Rom 6); baptism by fire (Matt 3:10-11) not a blessing for the saved but a warning of judgment for the unsaved, an eternal immersion into the lake of fire (Matt 3:11-12); and water baptism for saved believers (Ac 8:30-39).

What does “One Baptism” Mean?

What does God’s Word mean in Eph 4:4-5?

There is . . . one baptism

Firstly, it doesn’t mean only one water baptism, like many Mennonites interpret it, so those who get immersed after being poured are allegedly eternally damned and must therefore be blotted out of the church book and then persecuted, exposing how unscriptural and dark their entire way of thinking is. That is actually a damnable works-gospel (2 Pet 2:1; Gal 1:8-9). As already clearly noted, neither pouring or sprinkling are water baptism, so those who have undergone such have never been Biblically baptized.

Secondly, the explanation is simple yet carries profound consequences: baptism of any kind occurs only once and is never repeated. In that sense then, there is only “one baptism.” Scripture knows only one baptism. All born again believers drink of one Spirit; they are all made partakers of one and the same Spirit. The seven baptisms mentioned above all occur only once, if applicable, in one persons life.

Thirdly, this passage in Ephesians is referring to true Biblical church unity (4:1-16), which is based upon truly saved people, who have been baptized by the Holy Spirit (it occurred at salvation) and then after followed with water baptism.

Have you been Scripturally baptized?

Are you even born again, the first requirement before undergoing baptism?

You can read here on how to be truly born again through the Lord Jesus Christ: Are You Saved?


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