Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



Christ commanded baptism in Matt 28:19, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them...." It is to be the normal course of action as we are going. Baptism should be an integrated part of what we do in our ministry.

Every believer is to be baptized. Not there is danger of losing salvation, but there cannot be a proper walk with the Lord unless the believer has been obedient to the Lord in baptism.

Matt 10:32-33 mentions, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." How much we want to build here I'm not sure. The thought of refusing to identify oneself with Christ seems very serious however.

Since baptism is an outward sign of an inward change, it would be natural for the believer to want to be baptized. On the other hand, if there is no desire to give this sign, then one is left to wonder if there is an inward change.

Can we say that a person that is knowledgeable of baptism and is not baptized, is living in sin? Yes. What is the sin? The sin is disobedience, since the command is to be baptized.

The natural reaction when a person was saved in the New Testament, was to be baptized. It should be the natural thing in our own generation as well. If anyone reading this is not baptized, then I would encourage you to take that step of obedience as soon as you can.


Webster tells us, "Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community...a non -Christian rite using water for ritual purification...." (Webster, Merriam; "WEBSTER'S NINTH NEW COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY"; Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1986)

In general the term relates to the act in which a person is ritually sprinkled, immersed or poured upon for identification, purification or regeneration.

A little more to the point, from a fundamental view it is, the public testimony by which a new believer identifies with the universal and local church. It is an act which signifies his salvation experience.

"Baptize" is a transliteration of the Greek term "baptizo." All Greek words used of baptism in the New Testament come from this term. It means whelmed or covered wholly with fluid. It is used in Mark 7:4 and Lu 11:38 as a purification of the Pharisees. They dipped their utensils. Dipping into water is hard to change into "sprinkle" or "pour upon" to most theologians. The question of immersion versus sprinkle or pour is based on personal desire rather than a study of the Scripture. Scripture seems to teach immersion.

There are some questions concerning Baptism? Who is baptized? Who baptizes? What mode is used?

The who is, all knowledgeable believers. The ones baptizing are the representatives of the church. This may be the pastor, the elders, the deacons, or the janitor if he is spiritual. Anyone that is spiritual may be appointed to the task of baptizing by the church leaders.

Someone once asked me in a class, "Is it wrong for a woman to baptize?" I hadn't thought of it before. I don't know that it would matter whether a man or woman baptizes. The thought of a woman baptizing women has some possibilities tied to it. I suspect that through history the men have done the work due to the fact that if a small woman attempted to baptize a large man there might be some difficulty. There may also be a feeling that the church leadership should do the ministry of baptizing.

In looking at the book of Acts, we see that hundreds of people were being baptized. In such a situation it would seem that to accomplish such a massive operation might call for both men and women to have been involved. In considering the question, I can think of no scripture that would prohibit women from baptizing.


We want to look at the different modes of baptism so we can properly understand them.


Normally this is done over a basin of some sort and the head is sprinkled lightly as the baptismal formula is repeated.

The Roman Catholic Church practices this mode and the Evangelical Free, Methodists, and United Brethren in Christ allow it in their churches.


Again as in sprinkling a basin is used to catch the water and a pitcher is used to pour water upon the top of the head as the formula is repeated. Methodists, Evangelical Free, and the United Brethren in Christ allow for this mode in their churches.


Within immersion there are several variations. The idea in all of these is that the person baptized must go completely under the water, in order to properly signify the aspect of death and resurrection.

Among the methods are these: Some dip the person under three times in quick succession and one member of the trinity is mentioned each time the person is dipped. Some dip the person and use the formula as above only they take the person under water front wards rather than the usual backwards of most churches.

Many groups use immersion: Baptists, Independents, Brethren, Christian, Church of God, 7th Day Adventist, and Mennonite. There may be others as well.

In some communist countries where it is illegal to baptize the candidate is blindfolded and they use bathtubs. This way the one baptized cannot tell the police who baptized them.

Immersion examined.

1. The term used, "baptizo," has a primary meaning of immerse.

2. There are two prepositions which are used of baptism and they indicate the idea of immersion rather than pouring or sprinkling - "Into" and "out of."

3. Rom. 6:1-4 shows baptism as a picture of death to the old way and resurrection to the new. Immersion best pictures this. (In death you are buried and in resurrection you are raised.)

Some including myself question that this speaks of water baptism, however it indicates spirit baptism. It is a complete thing for the believer, thus since there is a close similarity between spirit and water baptism - immersion may be indicated.

4. The early church when baptizing could have used immersion. There is no logical reason for this not to have been the case. There is no idea of pouring or sprinkling hinted at in the accounts.

5. The Greek language has words for pour and sprinkle but they are not used of baptism.

6. John the Baptist went where there was much water to baptize. It would be illogical to go into the country side and use muddy river water when good clean water was available in the city. (Jo 3:23; II Ki 5:12ff shows the Jordan to be very dirty; Mark 1:15 shows that the Jordan River was used.)

7. The Ethiopian Eunuch and Phillip came up out of the water after the baptism. Coming up out of would indicate they were down in the water.

"And when they were come up out of the water...." Acts 8:39. For that matter if they were pouring why would it take two men to get a pitcher of water?

8. Christ is mentioned as coming up out of the water. Why would the Lord and John the Baptist get your feet and legs wet if they were going to pour or sprinkle? Matt 3:6

9. Matt 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:"

We have three baptisms mentioned here; one by water - John's, one by spirit - Holy Spirit, and one by fire - judgment. The final two would involve complete immersions (spirit involves the whole person and also judgment would involve the whole person), thus it would seem that the water baptism would also be a complete immersion as well.

10. Immersion was the order of the early church. The first indication from the church fathers of baptism other than immersion is that of pouring in the case of people that were sick and could not be immersed. This was called clinical baptism. The people, so baptized, were viewed as inferior. There is a possibility there was an element of baptismal regeneration in their thinking. Cyprian quoted an Old Testament verse that mentioned a sprinkling for purification.

Cyprian (A.D. 200-257) seems to be one of the first to introduce sprinkling.

The early Anabaptists were known to have sprinkled and poured in the early days. This was probably due to the fact they were just out of the Roman Cath. church. The fact some of them were in Switzerland in the middle of the winter affected their methodology a bit also.


There are a number of groups that practice infant baptism. This is viewed as an entrance into the church body and regeneration is definitely in their minds. We need to look at this topic for a moment. Others desire infant baptism for much less spiritual reasons. I recently heard of a young mother that wanted her baby baptized because she had heard that baptismal certificates were acceptable if you lost the child's birth certificate.

The suggested proof of infant baptism:

1. The rite of circumcision is introductory to the old covenant, so the rite of baptism is the introductory rite to the new covenant.

Since Circumcision is done on infants, then so should baptism.

2. The scriptures show that entire households were baptized. Acts 16:33. The assumption is there were children and infants in the households.

3. The New Testament shows that whole households can be saved if one parent is, thus we should baptize all members. I Cor. 7:14.

4. Since baptism saves, we must baptize immediately so the child will not slip into hell if it should die.

5. Matt. 28:19-20 tells us to baptize all nations. That includes babies and senior citizens.

Infant baptism refuted:

1. There are no New Testament references of babies being baptized. If it were important to them for salvation, the writers of Scripture would have told us about it.

2. The New Testament shows that baptism follows, repentance, believing, or accepting or some combination of these. An infant can do none of these things. (Acts 2:38-39 stipulates repentance before baptism)

3. The early church fathers rejected this thought. From the Didache we read, "Before the baptism, moreover, the one who baptizes and the one being baptized must fast, and others who can. And you must tell the one being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand." (125-135) You cannot tell an infant something, and infants do not fast.

4. Let us consider the baptizing of households. We have no indication that infants were present or indeed if there were, they were baptized.

In one of the household texts is Acts 16 and in verse 32 we see, "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." They spoke. If they were speaking then all that heard must have heard! That would mean understanding minds and not infant minds.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia raises a question that is probably tongue in cheek, yet very appropriate. They ask if we are going to press the thought of "household," if we should suggest that dogs and cats need to be baptized.

I Cor 16:15 mentions the house of Stephanas as serving God. Infants cannot serve. If the household idea is to be carried forth there is a problem in using this text.

5. Baptism is not related to salvation other than a picture. Mark 16:16 shows that disbelief is that which causes damnation.

Jo 1:12 mentions receive - you cannot do that as an infant.

Acts 10:47 shows they had the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. If baptism is needed before regeneration, then how could they have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit?

6. In the case of likening circumcision to baptism, we have a slight problem. If this is true then we should only baptize men, for only men were circumcised in the Old Testament. Indeed Gen. 17:12 mentions that it is to be done on the eighth day or older.

7. Matt 28:13-20 mentions discipling and teaching. This also is impossible with an infant.

8. Eph. 2:8-9 Mentions that salvation is of grace, and that works are not involved. Baptism is a work - something that man does and it can have nothing to do with salvation.

The whole thought of infant baptism is tied up in the thought of baptismal regeneration, the idea that baptism is an integrated part of regeneration. I would submit two more points to refute the idea of baptismal regeneration.

1. Paul mentions that he baptized few (I Cor. 1:17). If this is the case, and if it were the case that salvation was part of baptism, then wasn't Paul very remiss with his evangelism? If baptism is required for regeneration then Paul would have baptized those that he talked to.

2. A very clear proof that baptism is not a part of salvation is seen in the thief on the cross. The Lord told him he would be in paradise, yet the thief had not had the opportunity to be baptized.

I was in a class where a man from the Christian church was invited for a visit. We asked him about the thief on the cross and he said this was a special case. No other explanation was forth coming.

Some might wonder why people believe that baptism is part of salvation? Might I suggest a few possible reasons? a. The "tower of Babel syndrome." (Attempting to reach God by their own accomplishments.) They think there must be something they can do to help in the process of salvation. b. The "I'd rather do it myself syndrome." They haven't trusted Christ to take care of all there is to do. c. The "that's the way it's always been done syndrome." That is what they have been taught and that is the way it's been and that's the way it's going to be no matter what you say, and no matter what the Scriptures say.

My employers wife once asked me just before their grandchild was going to be baptized if I thought infants should be baptized. I told her that I did not think that the Scriptures taught that concept. I sat down that night and put down some references for her and took them in the next day. She did not listen to a thing, and felt that it was right and proper to have their grandchild baptized.

Baptism, to some, brings some benefit to the one that is baptized. The Roman Church sees the rite of baptism as a means of accepting grace and it is part of their salvation. "The sacrament of Baptism confers grace." (Morrow, Louis LaRavoire; "MY CATHOLIC FAITH"; Kenosha, WI: My Mission House, 1955, P 252)

Some Lutherans feel that baptism is part of their being saved. I'd like to quote from a Lutheran in Makoti, North Dakota. "Baptism is not merely a symbol. It is the means God uses: (1) to forgive sin, (2) to save us, (3) to create spiritual life through the giving of the Holy Spirit, thus beginning of formal membership in the church, (5) [not sure where 4 went - it was missing] to adopt us into His family wherein we become legal heirs of His Kingdom, and (6) to make us partners in Christ's death and resurrection." (from a church bulletin)

In considering baptism another question might come up. Is there any reason for an unsaved person to want to be baptized? In my childhood I was not well taught in the Bible though I was in Sunday School and church every Sunday. I had no idea what baptism was all about. The church I was taken to as a child, believed in baptismal regeneration. About ten or so my mother pushed me physically into the aisle to go forward for baptism. I returned to my seat though a few weeks later did ask to be baptized. I was taken into the church and all was proper even if I didn't know what it was about.

Others might be baptized because of popularity, or for an increase in stature in the community, however the scripture speaks to the thought of unsaved people being baptized. a. Matt 3:7-9 John The Baptist condemned some for wanting baptism when they were unrepentant. b. It is a picture of the death burial and resurrection, so why would any unsaved person want to identify with it? c. It is an identification with Christ and His church - why would a lost person be interested. It is only an empty work if they should be baptized. It would have no meaning to the world, nor to them.

Another question. Is there any reason why a person would, or should be rebaptized? Yes. This was what the anabaptists were all about. They were catholics that had been sprinkled or poured upon as infants. When they had understanding of salvation they were rebaptized as believers. This is also seen in the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-7. This by the way shows there was a difference between the baptism of John the Baptist and Christian baptism.

If a person was baptized before they were saved then the proper step would be for rebaptism. This was the case in my own life. When I was saved there came a time when I knew that my baptism had no meaning to me or anyone else, so took steps to be baptized again in the church where I was saved.

OCCASION OF BAPTISM: When should a person be baptized, after they are saved? Some Baptists desire and push for immediately. Some independents tell their converts whenever, and they do it as they feel they want to. The sad part of this approach is that some never do. Most independents feel that it is to be done as soon as the believer fully understands it. This may be awhile or it may be immediately.


1. Never baptize without talking with the person concerning their salvation, the purpose and intent of baptism, and the ramifications or responsibilities of being baptized.

2. Never push, but do encourage them - teach them the how and why soon after their conversion. For many years there was no real strong significance to baptism in this country, but more and more it is a real testimony of leaving an old life and beginning a new one. In other countries it is very significant and may be the act that solidifies your conversion to the world. In Ireland that is the last thing that the catholics will allow. They may allow going to the Bible Church, even maybe being saved, but the baptism is the BREAK with Holy Mother Church and the believer is in for ostracism from friends and relatives.

We have not discussed the baptismal formula that the Lord specified. Matt 28:19 "...baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" Just what is the implication of this formula? To the Jew they were making a commitment to a belief in Christ as the Messiah and a public recognition of his deity. God THE FATHER, God THE SON - the Messiah come, and God THE HOLY SPIRIT.

There is a difference between the baptisms that are mentioned in the New Testament. We will not go into detail on these aspects of our topic. There is a short listing of thoughts in Appendix five at the end of the book for further study.

In brief: Baptism shows the inward death of our sin nature and the creation of our new nature. It also shows our belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. These three are also pictured by the mode of immersion.

As in other topics we would like to apply the truth that has just been studied. The obvious application is to the believer that has not been baptized. The ordinance is something that comes under the thought of obedience. If a believer understands baptism properly and does not move toward being baptized, then they are involved in the sin of disobedience. May we encourage anyone in this position to consider moving toward a complete obedience to their Lord's command?

A side application might be that, as teachers of the Word, we should see to it that new believers understand the major doctrines of the faith and call them to obedience.

We trust the reader now has a complete understanding of the ordinances so that we can move on to the final portions of our study.