How Should A Person Be Baptised?
In this increasingly lengthening series, I have described my testimony about being technically rebaptised; 3 different views about baptism; Five things the bible actually says about baptism; and finally that baptism is reserved for the believer. Now lets look towards the methodology, how should a person be baptised. What does the bible say?
First to say the bible does not say: “you shall baptize is such and such way.” So we need to dig a bit deeper before we can come to a conclusion. But before we do lets look at the two options that is out there. Just about every church on the planet falls into one of these two categories.
Aspersion is is not the same as affusion, but they fall under the same general category. Aspersion is where water is sprinkled on the candidate. Affusion is where water is poured over the candidate. Both practices are most typically done by those of a paedobaptist persuasion although among the mainline western churches aspersion or sprinkling is the most common method.
Immersion is the process where the candidate is dunked fully into the water, their body is fully submerged by the water. Creadobaptists ordinarily use this method.
In many churches the area or container that holds the water for baptism is called the font. This term is more typically associated with paedobaptist churches who would use a bowl rather than a pool. Some baptist churches would call their area the ‘baptistry.’ Paedobaptists typically use a small bowl or similar to hold their water. This is all that is required for sprinkling.
Those who take immersion use several different areas. Many churches will have a baptisty, that is a small pool embedded into the building. Others will borrow the use of a public or private swimming pool for baptisms, and some will even use the local river or sea. The idea is that there is a need for sufficient water and space to completely immerse the candidate in water.
Below are examples of various fonts:
On the left is a small font used by most paedobaptist churches. on the right is a baptistry used those who practice baptism by immersion. My church has a small pool which is hidden by a cover on the platform. On the day a baptism is to happen the cover is raised and the pulpit moved (just before the baptism) so that the baptizer and the candidates can be baptized. Otherwise the cover is lowered and you wouldn’t know it was there just to look at it.
What The Bible Says:
As I said before, the bible doesn’t provide a direct command about how baptisms should be done. This is because baptisms only ever happened in one way, there wasn’t ‘methods of baptism’, there was just baptism. So lets look at examples of how this happened. First we look at John the Baptist. The man would stand in the river Jordan. Now consider the following verses:
“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;” Matthew 3:16
“And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” Mark 1:10
Not much info is given as to exactly how the baptism took place, but we do have some clues. First, it was in the river, and as I understand it, a reasonably deep river. Second, from the text, we see that both Matthew and Mark record how Jesus went up or came up out of the water, this implies, that He had to have been down, in the water for the baptism to take place. The picture implied is very different to that of a small bowl of water, which is sprinkled on the candidate’s head. Lets think of another example, the Ethiopian Eunuch. In Acts 8 we have a story I have become more familiar with in the course of this series, Philip the Evangelist sees a chariot on the road containing this man who as providence would have it, is reading a scroll. This scroll is the book of Isaiah and he is reading about how Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter, Isaiah 53 in other words. Philip goes over, explains how this passage is fulfilled in Jesus and preaches the gospel to him. The man believes and the come to some water. He asks to be baptized. Now we don’t know yet how much water there is. But if we look act the following passages we see (Acts 8:38-39) that they went down into the water, and after they were done, they came out of it. This implies that they were standing in the midst of the water, and that it was at least somewhat deep. You don’t need to come up out of a puddle.
There is one particularly compelling reason why baptism by immersion is the biblical method of doing it. This is the symbolism that baptism represents.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12
Baptism has a specific symbolism. By going down into the water, it represents going down, dying to self and like Christ being buried. Then in coming up symbolizes being raised to life with Christ. Exactly as the verse above describes it. You simply loose the biblical imagery when you sprinkle, pour or do anything else similar as a form of baptism. Baptism by immersion is the only method I know of that covers this.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree. Feel free to do so, and on this blog, but I challenge you to use the bible in presenting your reasons. It is the only authority by which we live our life and faith. All that to say, thanks for reading and feel free to drop a comment.
The Doctrine Of Baptism Series
Part 2: The 3 Different Views Of Baptism
Part 5: How Should A Person Be Baptised?