The Meaning of Baptism
Question after question has been raised concerning the meaning of baptism from is it necessary or just a tradition to how a person is baptized correctly and does the method matter.
This section of information is dedicated to shedding light on what the bible actually says about baptism by separating the truth found in the word of God from the tradition of men and what some have been taught on this topic.
The word “baptize” is only found in the New Testament (which was written in Greek) and is derived from the Greek word “bapto” meaning: to make whelmed (that is, fully wet): – dip. (Reference Strong’s Greek Lexicon G907 βαπτιìζω/ baptizō/ bap-tid’-zo from a derivative of G911 βάπτω/ baptō/bap’-to A primary verb; to whelm, that is, cover wholly with a fluid)
In general, baptism is traditionally viewed as a necessary part of salvation. It reflects an ordained sacred act of cleansing and symbolizes a washing away of a person’s sins and the union of the believer with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Most Christian groups use water to baptize and agree that it is important, yet many strongly disagree regarding various aspects of this religious practice, such as:
- The manner or method of baptism
- Who may receive baptism?
- The types of baptisms
Early Christians, in trying to imitate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, preferred rivers for performing baptisms and this was also suitable for the baptism of large crowds. Later, since rivers were not always readily available or climate conditions made this impractical, the use of indoor baptismal pools became the preferred choice for those who practice submersion baptism and sprinkling (or pouring water over the head) for those who practice partial-immersion baptism.
NOTE: It is important to note that the Biblical use of the Greek word βαπτιìζω, (baptize) did not necessarily mean that someone was “literally” being submerged into water or a fluid. It is often found being used symbolically or in a metaphoric context (metaphor – a form of statement used to convey an implied resemblance often by comparing or identifying one thing with another) as seen below.
- (1 Corinthians 10:2) “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;”
- (Romans 6:3-5) “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”
- (Matthew 3:11) “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:”
Without challenging any one particular denomination, most will agree that individuals were not “literally” being submerged in the clouds above nor submerged into a burning fire. To eliminate confusion the next section will only address “water baptism” and some of the various misunderstandings between today’s Christian groups as they relate to the practice of water baptism.