What is Baptism?

At first glance, the act of being baptized seems like an insignificant process to be a part of a church… but when you do some research, you will find that thousands of people have been killed over this issue of baptism.  So what is so special about it?  If it’s just a simple act of getting wet, why have people been willing to die for it throughout church history?

Some churches will teach that you need to get baptized to go to heaven, while others do not.  Some churches will completely immerse the convert while others are satisfied with sprinkling water on their head.  With all these different teachings… what’s right?  Let’s see what the Bible has to say about baptism!

Baptism is for Identification

“(3) Know ye 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.” – Romans 6:3-4

The act of baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When someone is baptized, they start by standing straight up in the water.  This is a picture of Jesus being alive here on this earth (their body and the surface of the water also make a cross at this point).  They are then lowered into the water as a picture of Christ’s death and burial.  After they are completely immersed, they are then raised up out of the water as a picture of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is a public profession of faith and God’s chosen method for saved people to identify themselves with Christ.

Baptism by Immersion

“And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” – Acts 8:38

Biblical baptism requires a good amount of water.  Here in the book of Acts, they both had to go into the water in order for the eunuch to be baptized properly.  You will find a similar recording in Matthew 3 when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:” – Matthew 3:16a

The Bible says that Jesus came straightway out of the water. This would imply that he was completely under the water which supports immersion baptism.  Additionally, the term “baptism” comes from the Greek word baptizo which means “immersion”.

Baptism by Sprinkling

Sprinkling (or pouring) officially started with the Catholic church around the 8th Century under Pope Steven II, with a handful of cases taking place before this.  At the time, this was only admitted in “cases of necessity” where the individual wasn’t able to be immersed.  Later, in 1311, the Catholic legislature determined that there was no difference in immersion and sprinkling baptisms and that sprinkling was no longer just for “cases of necessity”.

The main problem is, baptism by sprinkling isn’t found anywhere in the Bible!  The Catholic religion teaches that the Pope has the authority to change/alter Scripture, which is how sprinkling isn’t found in the Bible yet appears in Catholic doctrine 1,300 years later!  Brenner, a well-known Roman Catholic around the time of the reformation, said “For 1,300 years baptism was an immersion of the person under water.”  Baptism by sprinkling is straight from Catholic doctrine… not the Bible!

Baptism is not for Salvation

There are a few churches that teach baptism as a requirement for salvation.  Just like sprinkling, this false teaching originates with the Catholic church and was kept by some Protestants as they left their mother church.  They get this teaching by taking individual verses in the Bible out of context.  When studying the Bible, context is king!  Anyone can take a single verse and run with it… just look at cults.  But when you study the Bible as a whole, it is clear that baptism is to be done after salvation and is not required for eternal life.

“(42) And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

(43) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:42-43

Just one example… here we see the salvation of one of the thieves that hung beside Jesus.  He recognized who Jesus was and called on him for salvation!  Praise God salvation is that simple!  This man wasn’t allowed to get down from the cross and be baptized before his death… and yet Jesus said he wouldn’t be going to hell!

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:13

“For by grace are ye saved through faith…” – Ephesians 2:8a

Salvation is such a simple concept!  It is be faith in Jesus and nothing else! Salvation is often accompanied by baptism in the Bible, but there are also plenty of times where salvation is talked about where baptism is never mentioned.  The need for baptism in salvation is a Catholic doctrine and is not found in the Bible.


As always, it would be impossible to cover all the ins and outs of a topic in a single article.  Hopefully, this provided some answers and clarification on the issue of baptism!

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