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Greek Word Study βαπτίζω baptizo baptize.
Greek Word Study βάπτισμα
baptizma baptism.

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Introduction 1

There is a certain amount of disagreement in modern churches concerning the method of what is commonly called water baptism. Some believe in sprinkling water, some in pouring, some in putting water crosses on the head with a wet finger, and some believe in full immersion under the water. This is a bible study which examines scripture, and proves that the apostolic water baptism was by full immersion.


The Greek word for "baptize" is nearly identical to the English word; it is spelled "baptizo". It has several meanings, the most elementary of which are to soak, plunge, dip, or sink in water. "Baptizo" was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping one vessel into another, etc. Plutarchus used it of drawing wine by dipping the cup into the bowl (Alexis, 67) and Plato, metaphorically of being overwhelmed with questions (Euthydemus, 277 D). "Baptizo" can also be used of someone who is under severe pressure, and speaks of being emotionally overwhelmed. As far as Christian baptism is concerned, the word "baptizo" implies a full immersion, or total covering of the individual by water, before being pulled out. This word is also translated "wash" (Mark 7:4) and "had ... washed" (Luke 11:38), while the root word "bapto" from which it comes is translated "may dip" (Luke 16:24), "have dipped" (John 13:26), "dipped" (Revelation 19:13), and properly signifies dipping, immersing or overwhelming. In the Septuagint "bapto" is used of the the high priest dipping his finger in the blood of the sacrifice before applying it to the horns of the altar (Leviticus 9:9). "Bapto" is also used of the high priest dipping his finger in blood before before sprinkling it before Yahweh (Leviticus 4:6, 4:17), and of dipping hyssop in blood before sprinkling (Leviticus 14:6-7,  14:51). However, "bapto" does not refer to the sprinkling in these scriptures, only to the dipping in blood before sprinkling. None of these uses of "baptizo" indicate sprinkling, and the word-meaning indicates that a Christian baptism should be done by full immersion in water.


4 And the same John had his clothes of camel's hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then went out Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up immediately out of the water: and, behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

MARK 1:5 (The baptism of John the Baptist)
5 And there went out to him all the land of Judea and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

MARK 1:9
9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

JOHN 3:23 (The baptism of John the Baptist)
23 And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

Note: As well as the meaning of the word "baptize" indicating a full immersion in water (See #1.1), these scriptures, which show people being physically baptized, also point towards it. The fact that John the Baptist baptized in the river Jordan (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5), does suggest immersion, because they were actually in the river, which would not be necessary for sprinkling. Jesus himself was baptized "in Jordan" (Mark 1:9), and afterwards came up "out of the water" (Matthew 3:16), showing that he must have been in it to be baptized. John's baptism was not sufficient after Jesus came (Acts 19:3-5), but the same Greek word "baptizo" is used for both, and scripture reveals no difference between the processes of John's baptism and that done by Jesus' followers.


Greek - Acts 8:38 - English
καὶ ἐκέλευσεν στῆναι τὸ ἅρμα καὶ κατέβησαν ἀμφότεροι εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ ὅ τε Φίλιππος καὶ ὁ εὐνοῦχος καὶ ἐβάπτισεν αὐτόν 38 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.

Note: This seems to be the only scripture which indicates the process of baptism by the followers of Jesus. When Philip baptized the eunuch, "they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch" (Acts 8:38), again suggesting full immersion. If sprinkling was all that had been required, this would not have been necessary.


ROMANS 6:3-5 (Paul)
3 Do you not know, that as 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:

COLOSSIANS 2:11-13 (Paul)
11 In whom you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, in which you are also risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead.

Note: Conclusive evidence that baptism requires a full immersion under the water comes from its spiritual significance. Water baptism is symbolic of:

(1) Dying with Christ as we go down into the water.
(Romans 6:3) "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?"

(2) Being buried with Christ as we go down under the water.
(Romans 6:4) "we are buried with him by baptism into death."
(Colossians 2:12) "Having been buried with him in baptism."
This would certainly require the individual to go below the surface of the water (buried) at some point.

(3) Being resurrected with Christ as we come up out of the water.
(Colossians 2:12) "you are also risen with him through the faith of the operation of God."

Thus a full immersion below the surface of the water would be necessary to fulfil the typology of being buried below the surface of the ground. Sprinkling in no way signifies these things.


5 And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
6 Take the Levites from among the children, and cleanse them.
7 And thus you shall do to them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.

EZEKIEL 36:25 (God)
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you.

Note: These are the only two scriptures that refer to sprinkling with water only (KJV). There is one which refers to a ritual cleansing of people and objects which have contacted a dead body (Numbers 19:11-22), but this uses a mixture of water and ashes. The other references to sprinkling are to do with blood, or oil, or some mixture of components. None of them are referred to as baptism. The only New Testament reference that could be used (Hebrews 10:22) obviously refers to the spiritual heart, not the body, and indicates the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin (1 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 9:13 with Hebrews 13:12; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5). It follows that sprinkling with water is not a baptism, and should never be substituted for such.


Greek - Acts 8:12-13 - English
ὅτε δὲ ἐπίστευσαν τῷ Φιλίππῳ εὐαγγελιζομένῳ τὰ περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἄνδρες τε καὶ γυναῖκες 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
ὁ δὲ Σίμων καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπίστευσεν καὶ βαπτισθεὶς ἦν προσκαρτερῶν τῷ Φιλίππῳ θεωρῶν τε σημεῖα καὶ δυνάμεις μεγάλας γινομένας ἐξίστατο 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs that were done.

Note: This scripture shows that baptism is for men and women believers. Jesus and his disciples baptized more disciples (John 4:1), and Peter preached to men who had just become believers when he commanded them to be baptized (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Paul baptized people who believed his word at Philippi (Acts 16:30-33), and men who were already believers when he went to Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). There is no mention of small children or babies being baptized in the scripture, who have no knowledge of good and evil (Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:16), let alone of God or Jesus Christ. Dear reader, if you were sprinkled (or something similar) when you were a baby, you have not been baptized. This study has shown that baptism was always by immersion, and only for believers in Jesus Christ. This aught to be one of the first acts for every one of us when we first believe in Jesus, just as it was in the days of the apostles (Acts 8:12; 8:35-38; 16:14-15; 16:31-33; 19:4-5). If you have not been baptized yet, then please do it, because Jesus said:

(John 12:48) "He who rejects me and does not receive my words has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."
(Mark 16:16) "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned."
(Matthew 24:35) "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

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