Baptism is a common way of showing faith in God, but should that faith be shown by the parents of a child or by the individual himself? This debate has gone on for many years between men older and wiser than myself. This paper is to help me solidify my own personal beliefs and to, hopefully, clear doubts in other peoples' minds.
This debate often occurs between Baptists and Presbyterians. On one hand, Baptists believe in Believer's Baptism. This means they believe only those who have made a personal profession of faith should be baptized. On the other hand, Presbyterians believe a child born into a Christian family which is in the covenant should be baptized into that covenant. Which is the way?
What does the Bible say about it? In the Bible, when were people suppose to be baptized?
38- Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
41 - Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Acts 2:38, 41 (KJV) -1
That verse tells us that Peter told the people to "Repent, and be baptized." So, it sounds to me like repentance is suppose to come before baptism. How is an infant to do that?
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: 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 3:3-4 (KJV) -1
These verses give us a perfect glimpse at what believers baptism is. We are "baptized into Jesus Christ." We are "buried" when lowered into the water "that like as Christ was raised" we are raised up from the water into "newness of life."
Baptism, as described in the dictionary, is 'the application of water to a person, as a sacrament or religious ceremony, by which he is initiated into the visible church of Christ. This is usually by sprinkling or emersion.' -2 So, we know what the Bible says as well as the definition given by the dictionary. But, if the New Testament was written in Greek, what do the Greek words for baptism mean? Well, baptism, in the Greek New Testament, is the word baptisma. Baptisma, in English, simply means baptism. Also, the Greek word for baptize(d) is baptizo pronounced baptidzo). Baptisma is taken from baptizo, which means 'To make whelmed (fully wet): used only (in the N.T.) of ceremonial ablution, especially of the ordinance of Christian baptism.' -3 If baptizo means to make fully wet, that would seem to imply that immersion is the baptism for, surely, a "sprinkling" would not be enough water to "make fully wet."
So, if we are to "be buried with him by baptism" and to be baptized requires us to become "fully wet", would a "sprinkling" sound like what was described?
When Philip is teaching the Ethiopian eunuch he is asked, "...See, here is water; What doth hinder me to be baptized?" Acts 8:36b -1 He obviously needed a lot more water than is used to sprinkle.
So, after all my studies, I believe we are to be baptized by immersion, after putting our faith in God, as a symbol of that faith. We should structure our lives after that of Jesus Christ. He was dedicated to God shortly after his birth by his parents. Jesus was not baptized until he was ready to start his life's work.
1. The Holy Bible (KJV). Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1976
2. Webster, Noah. American Dictionary of the English Language. Foundation for American Christian Education. 1989
3. Strong, James. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1990