As most Bible dictionaries show, the word translated into English as “baptize” is the Greek word baptizo, meaning “to dip into” or “immerse”—to completely submerge. The Greek language uses different words to express sprinkling or pouring, none of which ever refers to baptism.
All biblical examples reveal that baptism was always performed in a body of water large enough and deep enough for immersion. John 3:23 John 3:23And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
American King James Version×, for example, tells us that John the Baptist “was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.” Matthew records that when Jesus was baptized He “ came up immediately from the water” (Matthew 3:16 Matthew 3:16And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him:
American King James Version×).
All other examples of baptisms by Christ’s disciples mentioned in the Scriptures follow this pattern.We read in Acts 8:38 Acts 8:38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
American King James Version×that “both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he [Philip] baptized him.” There is no biblical example of any other form of water baptism.
We find an important reason that immersion is the only proper form of baptism. In Romans 6 Paul describes baptism as a symbolic burial (Romans 6:1-6 Romans 6:1-6 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore 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.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
American King James Version×). No other form of baptism except full immersion in water can depict a true burial. Baptism represents the burial of the old self.
The Scriptures show us that baptism should be performed in water deep enough to immerse—to completely submerge—the new believer. Baptism done in this manner is profound in its meaning.
Romans 6 shows that it represents not only the burial of our old self, but our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as our Lord and Master. It also pictures our rising from a symbolic death to a new, converted life—by our coming out of the watery grave of baptism. And it represents our faith that, just as Jesus was resurrected from the grave, so will God resurrect us to immortality at Christ’s return.