The Linguistic Precedent for Immersion
The English word “baptize” is actually a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, which means, “to dip entirely.” There is no dispute over the rudimentary definition of this word. Some proponents of baptism by sprinkling or pouring argue that the use of the verb “baptize” in the Bible discloses nothing about the mode. But the assumptions of the mode were in the minds of the hearers. The dispute comes when non-immersionists claim that the word was simply an adaptation of the ceremonial washing of the Old Testament era. There was, for example, a washing ceremony for the Gentile male convert who was first circumcised and then underwent a ritual bath of purification. However, there is no indication that this was ever called baptism. Non-immersionists also point out that the word baptizo is used sometimes in the New Testament to carry the sense of sprinkling (Heb. 9:13,19, 10:22). However, in these references it is never associated with the ritual of baptism. Even proponents of sprinkling have to admit that baptizo means “to immerse.”
The Biblical Precedent for immersion
The most authoritative method of proving that immersion is the proper method of baptism is the Bible itself. While linguistics and history can provide a backdrop by which we can work the Bible actually provides the best case for baptism by immersion.
Mark 1:9-10 provides Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus. In this passage Mark says that Christ “came up out of the water.” It is clear from this passage that Christ was immersed since you cannot come up out of the water without first going down into it. In the context of this verse ek (out) is used literally. This could then be translated, “out from within” signifying that Christ was baptized into the water and then came up from out of the water.
Proponents of sprinkling or pouring indicate that the quantity of water does not matter to them. There should be a caution about such casual considerations of the water’s quantity. John 3:23 notes that “John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.” John Calvin, though not a Baptist himself, believed this was referring to immersion. He wrote, “From these words it may be inferred that baptism was administered by John and Christ by plunging the whole body under water . . . Here we perceive how baptism was administered . . . for they immersed the whole body in water.” This passage provides an incidental reference of the fact that baptism is immersion since that passage indicates that there was “much water.”
The account of the Ethiopian eunuch’s conversion in Acts 8:28 provides another reference to immersion in Scripture. Here we read that “both Phillip and the eunuch went down into the water.” If sprinkling were the mode being administered here there would be no need for both of them to go down into the water. This Scriptural account of Philip going down into the water with the eunuch stands in stark contrast to the sprinkling view of baptism.
Immersionists also look to Romans 6:1-11 and Colossians 2:8-14 to make up the essence of their position. In the context baptism is likened unto burial. Many immersionists confidently proclaim that if there were no other indication of how baptism was to be performed these texts would settle the matter once and for all. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Non-immersionists point out that these passages nowhere mention water. They claim that the text does not mention water because the symbol is not meant to teach us of our symbolic baptism by water but of our actual baptism of the Holy Spirit. They also point out a seeming inconsistency with the picture of water baptism being a picture of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Christ was never buried in a hole in the ground and covered with dirt and he certainly didn’t come up out of a whole in the ground.
 David F. Wright. Baptism Three Views (Downers Grove, IL; InterVarsity Press, 2009), 53.
 Ralph E. Bass Jr. Baptizo – A 500 Year Study in the Greek Word Baptism (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2009), 99-100.
 Peter Masters. Baptism the Picture and its Purpose (London: Sword&Trowel Metropolitan Tabernacle, 1994), 18.
 Kenneth Weust. Weust's Word Studies From the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1953), 23. (Weust 1953)
 Masters, 17.
 Ralph E. Bass, Jr., What About Baptism? A Discussion on the Mode, Candidate and Purpose of Christian Baptism (Naples, FL: Nicene Press, 1999), 48.
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