BAP-01 - What is Baptism Mode?
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The Scripture records in John 3:23 that “John was baptizing in Aenon near
Salim, because there was much water there.”
We welcome you today to our study of the subject of baptism. Today
we're going to be thinking about the subject of the mode of baptism.
Why do some people baptize babies? Why do some people pour a
little water or sprinkle some water on some? What about immersion? What
does the Scripture teach on the mode of baptism?
Stay tuned as we're going to look to God's word to discover His
As we think today about the subject of baptism, we want to let the
Scripture teach us what God says on the mode of baptism. By mode we
mean, is baptism by sprinkling? Many people in various religious groups
when a baby's born and it's just barely old enough, they will take that baby
and sprinkle a little water on him and call that baptism. Others may take a
cup or a handful of water and pour it on someone's head. Then there is the
idea as well that baptism is immersion, full body immersion.
Today we ask the question: What does the Bible say about the mode,
the correct mode, of baptism? As we're going to look today at the evidence
from Scripture, the answer is overwhelmingly from the Bible that baptism is
always immersion in the Scripture and that God expects us to follow that
simple plan that He has laid out from the word of God.
Today we're going to offer three proofs to show that the word baptism
and the idea of baptism is that of immersion.
The first proof naturally is the Scriptures. What does the Scripture
say? Jeremiah 37:17 and Romans 4:3, is the overwhelming answer and the
authority of proof on this subject. Then we're going to look to the language
of the New Testament of which Jesus spoke in the New Testament was
written in, and we're going to see what does that word baptism mean?
Then a third proof will be that of church history. What did they do close to
the time of the New Testament? Now I understand as well as you that the
main authority is the word of God and that is first and foremost where we
want to direct our attention on this subject.
There are four major passages which will overwhelmingly teach that
baptism is by immersion. Those four passages show us from different
venues and angles how people baptized and what the mode of baptism
was in the New Testament. I want to direct your attention first of all to John
3, and I want you to look in verse 23 with me. Take your Bible and notice
what the Scripture records. As John is doing some precursory work to
Christ coming on getting the people ready for the Messiah, as his job was
notice what the Scripture says in John 3:23. The Bible says, “Now John
also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim,” watch this now, “because there
was much water there and they came and were baptized.”
Now let's think about this text, and let's asked some questions
relative to the mode of baptism. Why did John baptize in this region? He
could have gotten a little water from anywhere. Why did he go to Aenon
near Salim? Well the answer is, ‘because there was much water there.’
Now let's ask another question. Which of the three modes that are
most popular today sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, which of those three
requires or demands ‘much water’? Friend it doesn't take much water to
sprinkle a little on somebody's head or to pour a little on their body
somewhere. If I'm going to take a full grown adult and I'm going to fully
immerse him under the water, friend that takes ‘much water.’ The editorial
comment that ‘John was baptizing where there was much water’ there is no
significance to the idea of sprinkling or pouring. But it does, looking with the
rest of the evidence in the New Testament, affirm that Jesus did baptize as
well as John where there was much water because that is what was
demanded at the time.
Let's look at another text in Acts 8 and this is the baptism of the
Ethiopian eunuch. In the New Testament what did people do as the mode
of baptism when conversion took place? When someone became a
Christian, does the Bible indicate what the proper mode of baptism was? It
absolutely does! I want you look in Acts 8 and you'll notice beginning in
verse 36. “As they went down the road,” the Bible says, “they came to
some water a certain water and the eunuch said, ‘See here is water. What
hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all
your heart you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ
is the Son of God.’” Now notice, “So he commanded the chariot to stand
still and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he
Now here's a man on a long journey leaving Jerusalem, headed back
to Egypt, in an area of land in a time of day where there wasn't a
convenience store on every corner and where they naturally would've
brought water to drink as well. Why do they need to stop the chariot? Why
did they need to both get out of the chariot? Why did they both go down
into the water?
Now friend you think about this, if pouring or sprinkling was the
proper mode why couldn't one of them go down to the water? Why did they
have to both go down and get in the water? Hey somebody can go to the
water, somebody can stand on dry ground, and you pour a little water on
his head. Why'd they both get? Why'd they stop the chariot? Why'd they
both get out of the chariot? Why'd they both go down into the water and
they came up out of the water? Again, you see clear evidence that in the
baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch you have a picture of immersion and
what's going on in that context.
Two of the clearer passages that we see maybe even a little more
visibly relating to the mode of baptism are found in Mark 1:9-11 and
Romans 6:1-4. Would you turn in your Bible to Mark 1 with me? I want you
to notice what happened at the baptism of Jesus.
People are often asking the great question: ‘What would Jesus do?’
Friend let's ask that question as it relates to the mode of baptism. When
Jesus was baptized, He being our perfect example 1 Peter 2:21, He being
the one whom we follow in His footsteps, what did Christ do concerning the
mode of baptism? Notice Mark 1:9, “It came to pass in those days that
Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the
Jordan,” and notice verse 10, “And immediately coming up from the water
the spirit descended upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven
saying ‘You are My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’” Notice again
Mark 1 verse 9. “And immediately,” verse 10, “coming up out of the water,
from the water He saw the heavens parting and the spirit descending upon
Him like a dove.” The literal Greek word there in that text is the word 'ek'
which means ‘out of’ literally. So, ‘coming up out of the water the spirit
descended upon Jesus like a dove.’
Now here's the question for us to consider: For a person to come up
out of water what must he first do? Go down into water. Greek scholar
Kenneth Weust when he commented on Mark chapter 1:9-11 said this,
“Clearly immersion is in view here. In the next verse ‘ek out’ is used literally
out from within. Jesus was baptized into the river, and He came up out of
the water,” Greek scholar Kenneth Weust says relating to that context and
So when we think about Jesus and and what's going on there in the
context of our Lord being baptized, we can know that Scripture teaches
Christ was immersed.
Now friend here's the question we want to ask: If the mode of baptism
for Jesus was immersion, shouldn't that be good enough for us as well?
Shouldn’t that be good enough for us as well? What about sprinkling? What
about pouring? Don't find that in the New Testament that came later on in
history. But what Jesus did that's good enough for me and that ought to be
good enough for you, for anyone who's trying to please the Savior as well.
Let's then direct our attention to another illustration Paul uses relative
to baptism which helps us to learn about its mode. Would you look in your
Bible in Romans 6:1? Paul here in addressing the issue of baptism and its
relation to grace teaches us about an illustration gives an illustration which
helps us to learn about the mode of baptism as well. Notice Romans 6:1
the Bible says, “What shall we say then shall we continue in sin that grace
may abound? Certainly not. How shall we who died to sin live any longer in
it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ
Jesus were baptized into His death?” Now verse 4, “Therefore we were
buried with Him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised
from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
newness of life.” Listen to those words again in verse 4, “Therefore we
were buried with Him through baptism into death.” The process here is
death to sin, burial with Christ in baptism, and then resurrection like unto
Christ to walk in newness of life.
So you've got the death, the burial, and the resurrection. Friend the
burial directly relates to one's baptism. Would Paul choose a mode of
describing baptism an illustration of describing baptism that contradicts the
mode? Of course not. What does that illustration teach us about the mode?
Friend the illustration is that of a burial. Baptism is a burial with Christ.
Well let's think about that just a moment. You think about maybe the
last time you went to a graveside. You went to a funeral and there at the
graveside and you're standing and at the close of the funeral, what do they
do with that body when they bury it? Do they take it and lay it on the ground
and sprinkle a little dirt on top of it? Do they pour two or three shovelfuls of
dirt on top of it? No, we all realize that a burial is a complete encasing,
engulfing, or immersing of the body in the ground.
Let me illustrate. They take that body, they dig a hole in the ground 6
feet deep sometimes, and they place that body in that hole. It’s covered by
dirt on the bottom, covered by dirt on every side. What do they do next?
Then they take all the dirt from which they dug that hole and they cover on
top of the body until the last piece of dirt is covered. What is that body to do
then? That body is completely encased, engulfed. The picture of baptism
being a burial clearly shows that in the Bible baptism is engulfing or
immersing one in the water.
And so if we're going to let the Bible speak, then friend we can clearly
see that these four Scriptures John 3:23 ‘much water,’ Acts 8 Philip and the
eunuch both went down into the water, Mark 1 Jesus came up out of the
water had go down into first, and Romans 6:4 clearly teach that in the New
Testament the mode of baptism that was used was that of immersion.
Let's turn our attention to a second proof for a second source for
learning about of the idea baptism. Now again we understand the Scripture
is the main authority, but we can also learn about the mode of baptism from
the language in which our New Testament was written.
Now let me illustrate the difference. Today we say baptism and
someone might think of the word could mean sprinkling, pouring, or
immersion kind of has become that way in the minds of many people. What
does the word the Greek word ‘baptitso,’ what did that word mean in the
New Testament? Well the majority of Greek lexicons and scholars defined
‘baptitso’ simply as ‘to dip, to immerse, to plunge, or to submerge.’
However the most convincing evidence from the Greek is the everyday
word the everyday usage of the word ‘baptitso.’ Let me illustrate.
Greek scholar Marvin Vincent notes that in classical Greek. Here it is,
in classical Greek the primary meaning of ‘baptitso’ is to immerse. Thus
Polybius describing a naval battle of the Romans and the Carthaginians
said they sank ‘baptized’ many of the ships. Now you imagine this. Here
are the Romans and the Carthaginians, and they're at war and a scholar of
that day or a writer of that day describes what happened to one of the ships
and he says they ‘baptized’ one of their ships. What do you mean? They
did they sprinkled a little water? No. What happened? In that war they
sank, they fully submerged, one of the enemy ships and the word used to
describe that in the classical Greek day was the word ‘baptizon’ kin to our
Now another example, Greek scholar W. E. Vine says ‘baptitso’ was
used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment or drawing of
water by dipping one vessel into another. Thus, Plutarchus uses it of the
drawing of wine by dipping the cup into the bowl. How’d you get that wine
out? Dipped it in. What do you mean? Put it in the water; submerge the
ladle that's the idea to get the wine out. Dyeing of a garment you take that
garment and you submerge under the water, and you have to do it multiple
times was the idea of the dyeing. The word used was that of ‘baptitso.’ And
so in classical Greek when they used this word in their everyday language,
it related to the idea of immersion.
Friend just as the word ‘baptitso’ in the first century was used to
mean to sink, dip, plunge, or immerse it's got to mean the same thing for us
today. Let me give an illustration. The Catholic scholars even confess this.
They say fundamentalist are correct when they point out that the Greek
word used in the New Testament for baptism is ‘baptitso’ and that this
means immersion or dunking only. When you study the language of the
New Testament, when you study the Greek language, you're not going to
walk away saying ‘here is an example of where baptitso meant sprinkle or
pour.’ You don't find that. The majority of times the main usage of it and
probably the only is when we find it being used as immersion.
Now let me illustrate the difference. What's interesting about the
Greek language as used in the New Testament is this, the word ‘baptitso’ in
the New Testament and the Greek language meant to immerse or to
submerge. Now if God wanted to teach us that baptism is sprinkling there
was another whole word for that and it's the word ‘rhantitso.’ It's used in
Hebrews 9 of the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar. Here I've got a
word for baptism, and we've got a word for sprinkling, got a word for
immersion, have a specific word for sprinkling of things on the altar. God
chose the word ‘baptitso,’ immersion. So it wasn't as though God didn't
have another word to choose, that there wasn't a specific word for
sprinkling, there was and God chose the word immersion.
Now let's offer then a third source to help us understand what
baptism is and this is the testimony of those who were living close to the
time of the first century. We're not saying this is absolutely in and of itself
authoritative. Scripture is the language confirms that. History will also
buttress this idea up as well. During the first three centuries after
Christianity began there are no accounts of baptism being sprinkling. You
just don't find that.
For example Tertullian, a second century Christian, recorded that
‘baptism itself is a bodily act because we are immersed in water. It has a
spiritual effect, because we are set free from sin.’ So here we've got a man
living close to the time of the first century, second century writer, and he
affirms the idea that baptism is immersion.
I'll give you another example. Cyril of Jerusalem, a third century
follower of Christ, also gives insight to the mode of baptism when he says
this, “For as he who plunges into the water and is baptized,” now listen,
“and is surrounded on all sides by the water, so were they also baptized
completely by the spirit.” Now here's a graphic illustration from not too far
from the time of the first century. Cyril said that when one was baptized he
was surrounded on all sides by the water. What's that sound like? A burial,
Romans 6:1-4. So we can clearly see that baptism in the New Testament is
Now as we mention the Greek speaking people of that day did have a
specific word for sprinkle that's the word, not ‘baptitso,’ but ‘rhantitso.’ The
word is used several times in the New Testament to convey the clear idea
of sprinkling, but it's never associated with baptism. It’s used in Hebrews
9:13, Hebrews 9:19, and Hebrews 10:20.
Now here's what so interesting about that if the Greeks had a word
for sprinkling and the New Testament writers, the Holy Spirit, chose to use
a distinct word for immersion, how can we say there's biblical authority for
sprinkling as the proper mode of baptism today? So church history also
helps us to understand how sprinkling became an accepted substitute by
some for immersion.
So when we think about this if the Bible teaches, the Scripture
teaches, if the language affirms, if history coincides with that, where did
sprinkling and pouring come from? How did that come about? Well from
church history we learn that there are two reasons or two ideas from which
sprinkling kind of became a practice by some. First sprinkling began as an
option for someone who's may be bedridden or some paraplegic person.
So basically we have some writings a little while after the time of the New
Testament fourth or fifth century, we've got some writings of people some
man was a paraplegic and somebody who's bedridden and wants to be
baptized. And so somebody comes up with the idea of ‘Well let's pour a
little water on them.’
Friend is that what God wanted? Is that acceptable?
You know I've seen accounts, you may have seen accounts, where
people who could not physically walk up into a baptistery. People helped
them, and they got baptized. But regardless, does that example mean that
we should throw out all the evidence about baptism being immersion? Of
course not. Could they have found a way for that person to be baptized?
No doubt they could have, but regardless either way that doesn't change
what the Scripture teaches about baptism.
But then a more even telling reason for sprinkling to come about
takes us to the idea of that being an original sin. For example there are
many after the first century who believed in the doctrine of Original Sin, a
false doctrine which says we're born with sin. Ezekiel 18 clearly teaches
Ezekiel 20 that's not the case that we don't inherit the sin of our fathers.
But, that false doctrine became popular. So imagine this, babies are born
sinners. To be saved one must be baptized. You cannot, think about this, if
a baby's born a sinner, and they believed to be saved you had to be
baptized as the Scripture teaches. You've got a big problem. How are you
going to take an infant and baptize it without drowning it? Therefore
sprinkling came in as a substitute in some people's mind for the idea of
But friend based on a false doctrine, false ideas, and false
assumptions, that's not founded upon the Scripture. Jesus said in Matthew
1:8 “Bring the little children to me of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” The
Bible doesn't teach that we're born sinners but from a big part from that
idea sprinkling came in.
Friend here's what we consider today, the language and teaching of
the Scripture in the New Testament affirms that baptism is always by
immersion. The language of the Greek New Testament as you study that
teaches us that the major usage and definition for the word ‘baptitso’ was
immersion. The Scriptures teach us it's immersion. The language teaches
us it's immersion. History, close to the first century, teaches us it's
immersion, and we learn how sprinkling and pouring came about as false
Now here's what we want to consider relative to this, friend all here's
will we ask you today, we want you to consider your own baptism. Were
you baptized in the correct mode? Was your baptism by immersion into
Christ for the forgiveness of sins, Mark 16:16? If not then friend, we
encourage you to continue with us in this series of lessons as we further
delve into the ideas about baptism.
And if you know what you need to do, if you've heard the word of God
from the Scriptures and you've got faith in that message Romans 10:17, if
you believe Jesus is God's Son John 8:24, would you be willing to change
your life, repent of sin, make the good confession that Jesus is the Christ
the Son the living God? Would you, to have your sins washed away, be
baptized immersed into Christ for the remission of your sins?
Friend if you've never done that this is a serious matter. This is a
matter that the Scriptures are clear on. Out of love, compassion, and a
desire for you to go to heaven, we ask you today to get your Bible out
search the Scriptures. Look at the evidence; if these things are so, obey
them because God said so.
For He's the one we'll ultimately give an account to.
Study Questions for: “Baptism Lesson 1: Mode”
1. According to John 3:23, why was John baptizing in Aenon near Salim?
2. According to Acts 8:36 and following, what does the Bible say about the
water the eunuch saw? Did they get into the water?
3. Who’s our perfect example according to 1 Peter 2:21?
4. How is Jesus’ baptism described in Mark 1:9-10? Did He go down into
5. According to Romans 6:4, how are we buried with Christ?
6. What does Jesus say about children in Matthew 1:8?
7. What does Mark 16:16 tell us about baptism?
8. Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by _____________ and hearing by the
word of __________.”
9. What must we do according to John 8:24?
10. John 3:23 “John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was
much ______________ there.”