A Complete Baptism (Immersion)?

A Complete Baptism (Immersion)?

A Complete Baptism (Immersion)?

Richard Hollerman

Various other articles on the True Discipleship website address the meaning, action, and importance of baptism. These are all important, especially since the religious world around us seems to either change, or minimize, or even distort this Biblical action (cf. 2 Peter 3:16).

Among the points that we could address is the matter of the action of baptism. Just what is the physical action required for a certain action to be a real baptism? While it could be argued that this is not the chief consideration of New Testament baptism, still it is an important one. After all, if an action does not comport with the true meaning of baptism, can it really be called a “baptism”?

As other articles make clear, baptism is actually an immersion, submersion, or dipping into water and out of the water. As one popular and generally-accurate work points out, “baptism” (Greek, baptisma) is an action “consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). William D. Mounce says that “baptize” (Greek, baptizo) literally means “to put or go under water” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Obviously, such quotations could be multiplied.

With this background, I might mention an advertisement for “The Voice of the Martyrs” that I recently received in the mail. Many of us receive their monthly magazine that focuses on the persecuted professing “Christians” around the world, particularly in Communist and Islamic countries. If you are like me, these interesting articles do show how much people are willing to endure suffering for Christ’s sake. This puts American, European, and many other professing Christians to shame.

The brochure that accompanied the organization’s plea to have our “wills, trusts and bequests” given to them, had a picture on the back that was not only interesting but dismaying. We include the photo so you can see what we mean. This unidentified and unlabeled photo shows a man with his hand on the head of a woman whom he must have “baptized” in some way. We don’t know what meaning that this organization placed on this action, but it does reveal the carelessness that often comes. The picture has a man and woman standing in a pool of water but we think that the water level is hardly deep enough to immerse this poor woman. While it is conceivable that a literal baptism (immersion) did occur, we are made to wonder if it actually did. (If it did, we apologize for the misunderstanding.) Here is the photo in question:

A Complete Baptism (Immersion)?

This leads us to encourage our readers to make sure that a literal baptism (immersion) actually happens if you are responsible for baptizing converts. Further, if a loved one of yours is coming for baptism, make sure to remind the baptizer to literally immerse the one baptized. Be sure that the water is deep enough and that the whole body is lowered into the water. We know that sometimes an arm or leg remains out of the water. If the action is to be a literal baptism, make sure that the whole body is placed under the water. Sometimes a person becomes unsure about his or her baptism and must request another immersion “to make sure.” This should not need to happen.

Scripture likens baptism to a burial into water and a rising from the water (Romans 6:3-5). As Paul the apostle writes, “. . . having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). This is the action that both Jesus (Matthew 3:16) and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:38-29) must have experienced.

In regard to baptism as a burial, consider an actual burial of a person who has died. Would we want to allow an arm or leg to protrude from the earth? Obviously not! Such a burial would require an actual covering of soil. Likewise, a burial in water would also require a covering of the water. In this way, it would be a burial and rising from the water.

Whether the picture we have supplied actually is witness to a partial burial or not, and whether you have ever seen a partial burial in your own life in an action that was purported to be a baptism, we encourage you to be mindful of this issue. Do all you can to be assured of a literal baptism. In this way, you will be fulfilling the New Testament requirements for the action. Further, with this issue removed, you and others will be able to focus your attention on the actual meaning and purpose of this significant act!

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