Baptism: How Should It Be Done?

After His resurrection, Jesus and the Eleven were in Galilee when Jesus commanded baptism in His commission of the disciples:  “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).  Therefore, all evangelical churches that take Jesus’ words seriously baptize their people, but how it gets done is where the differences are.  Some (especially Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches) believe that all infants of believing parents ought to be baptized as they are part of the “covenant community” of God’s people.  Some baptize by immersion, others by the sprinkling of water; one group (the Greek Orthodox Church) baptizes their folks three times forward while naked!  Don’t worry; we’re not ever going to switch to that practice!

At Trail Fellowship, we immerse people in water after they have made a conscious decision to repent of their sin, trust in the finished work of Christ (His death and resurrection) and pledge love and loyalty to Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, their Savior (Rom. 10:9-10)!

We practice this mode of baptism for several reasons:

First, the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizo) literally means to plunge, submerge or immerse.  This is the commonly recognized meaning of the term in ancient Greek literature, both inside and outside of the Bible.[1]

Second, the representation of our union in Christ’s death and resurrection is best expressed through immersion.  The Apostle Paul writes, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?   We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:3-4).   As one theologian wrote, “One can hardly deny that baptism carried out as immersion—as it was in the West until well into the Middle Ages—showed what was represented in far more expressive fashion than did the affusion (pouring water on those getting baptized) which later became customary, especially when this affusion was reduced from a real wetting to a sprinkling and eventually in practice to a mere moistening with as little water as possible.”[2]

Lastly, we immerse people in water because the Scriptures suggest that baptism by immersion was the practice of the early church.  John the Baptizer baptized people at Aenon “because there was plenty of water (Jn. 3:23).  When Jesus was baptized by John he “came up out of the water” (Mark 1:10, emphasis added). In Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch they went down into the water and came up out of the water (Acts 8:36-39).  In light of these considerations, immersion seems to be the most adequate and faithful mode of baptism.  While it’s not the only valid form of baptism, it is the mode which reflects the meaning of baptism the fullest, and therefore at Trail Christian Fellowship it’s the model we practice.

We must remember that baptism is more than a simple rite that believers undergo.  As a sacrament it is a symbol of something far bigger.  Baptism is a declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit expresses our death to sin, burial of the old life, and resurrection to a new life in Christ Jesus!

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pg. 967

[2] Karl Barth, Teaching, pg. 9-10

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