Biblical Baptism
A Confession of Repentance and Faith.

Quotes from scripture are from the King James unless otherwise noted:

Mat 3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
Mat 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Mat 3:3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Mat 3:4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Mat 3:5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
Mat 3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Mat 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
Mat 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
Mat 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Mark 1:4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Mark 1:5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

John 3:23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

Note that John the Baptist did his baptizing in the river Jordan. Ever wonder why? A clue is in the definition of baptism. Here are the Greek words used in connection with baptism, from Strong's Greek dictionary:

G907. baptizo, bap-tid'-zo; from a der. of G911; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the N.T.) of ceremonial ablution, espec. (techn.) of the ordinance of Chr. baptism:--baptist, baptize, wash.

G908. baptisma, bap'-tis-mah; from G907; baptism (techn. or fig.):--baptism.

G909. baptismos, bap-tis-mos'; from G907; ablution (cerem. or Chr.):--baptism, washing.

G910. Baptistes, bap-tis-tace'; from G907; a baptizer, as an epithet of Christ's forerunner:--Baptist.

G911. bapto, bap'-to; a prim. verb; to whelm, i.e. cover wholly with a fluid; in the N.T. only in a qualified or spec. sense, i.e. (lit.) to moisten (a part of one's person), or (by impl.) to stain (as with dye):--dip.

Apostolic baptism was by full immersion, and that is why John the Baptist used the river Jordan. In other words, the one being baptized was fully dunked under the water, which is clear from the Greek and even acknowledged by the Catholic Church:

1214 This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to "plunge" or "immerse"; the "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death (628), from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as "a new creature."(6)

Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, published by Liguori Publications, English translation copyright 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana, bearing the Imprimi Potest of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, page 312.

So the New Testament only speaks of baptism by immersion. However, some may point to the book of Ezekiel to validate baptism by sprinkling:

Ezek 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
Ezek 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Sprinkling of water was part of Israel's ritual cleansing ceremonies (see Numbers 8:7, 19:13, 17-21), which Ezekiel alludes to, but not a single instance of baptism by this method can be verified anywhere in the New Testament. Baptism was only by full immersion. The common practice today of baptism by sprinkling or pouring is simply not supported by the New Testament. It is therefore, nothing but the tradition of men.

Yet, some may point to Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and use the following rational to justify baptism by pouring:

"At Pentecost, the thousands who were baptized could not have been baptized by immersion -- Jerusalem had no body of water large enough. (Water was [and is] piped in to the city.) The converts must have been baptized by pouring."

This makes you think that there were no large bodies of water in Jerusalem, that water was piped directly into homes, in sinks and bathtubs like today, which would make the task of baptizing 3000 by immersion impractical. Most any map of Jerusalem in New Testament times will show there were the following pools of water in the immediate vicinity:

The Pool of Siloam is mentioned in John 9:7-11 as the place where a blind man received his sight after washing there. Another, the Pool of Bethesda is mentioned in John 5:2-7 which was by the Sheep Gate and frequented by the sick and lame looking for healing.

In Palestine, water is frequently stored in very large cisterns cut into the rock, some large enough to have spiral staircases cut into them so that one could walk down to the water level to draw water. There would have been an ample number of such pools and/or cisterns in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem with which to baptize 3000 people by immersion in one day.

So why immersion? What is the reason for it?

Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4 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.

Col 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Baptism is symbolic of burial with Christ, which is the reason for full immersion, and coming up out of the water is symbolic of being raised from the dead to a new and eternal life. This symbolism is not effectively conveyed by sprinkling or pouring.

Another common practice is the baptism of infants soon after birth. Search the New Testament and you will not find a single instance of an infant being baptized. Here is what the Vatican Catechism says with regard to infant baptism:

The Baptism of Infants

1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called.(50) The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God where they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.(51)

1251 Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.(52)

1252 The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.(53)

50 Cf. Council of Trent (1546): DS 1514; cf. Col 1:12-14.
51 Cf. CIC, can. 867; CCEO, cann. 681;686, 1.
52 Cf. LG 11; 41; GS 48; CIC, can. 868.
53 Cf. Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16; CDF, instruction, Pastoralis actio: AAS 72 (1980) 1137-1156.

The Catholic Church teaches that the act of Baptism cleanses one of original sin, hence the perceived need to baptize infants, so that should they die, they will die in a state of sinlessness and enter heaven. The thought being that the infant that dies without baptism, dies still tainted by Adam's inherited sin, and so cannot enter heaven. This kind of thinking stems from a total misunderstanding of the purpose and function of baptism and how sin of any kind is forgiven by God. These then are the scriptural references cited above by the Catholic Catechism to support infant baptism:

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Acts 16:32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
Acts 16:34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

1 Cor 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
1 Cor 1:15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
1 Cor 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

These above passages are cited to "prove" infant baptism, but this is nothing more than sheer speculation. The fact remains that there is not a single incident recorded in the New Testament where infant baptism can be identified and really proved.

So what does baptism really do? Can anyone, by baptizing an unwilling participant, wash away sins and save them? Are forgiveness and salvation dispensed like a commodity through a ceremony or sacrament by any church? Just how are sins, any and all sins, washed away?

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Jesus Christ is the only one who can cleanse us of our sins. He took our sins to the cross, and died because of them. By our faith in His atoning death, we can be saved, because His blood was shed for the specific purpose of washing away our sins. Note the sequence in the above verse. Believe and be baptized and you will be saved. Belief comes first, and then baptism.

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Acts 2:38 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.

The act of baptism is not magical, and does not by itself cleanse anyone of sins. That is not what these verses mean. A confessed faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what really saves.

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Mark 1:4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

Luke 12:8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
Luke 12:9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.

Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Rom 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

1 Pet 3:21 (NIV) and this water [of Noah's flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
1 Pet 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Those with faith will seek baptism as an outward sign of repentance, an open confession before men and God of faith in Jesus Christ to cleanse them of their sins. An infant, or child younger than the age of reason, cannot repent of their sins or express their faith, so baptizing them does nothing to remove their sins, and is therefore quite useless.

Acts 8:12 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.
Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Note what a Roman Catholic Catechism of the 19th century had to say on the matter of infant baptism:

    Q. Can Protestants prove to Anabaptists, that the baptism of infants is good and useful?
A. No; they cannot; because, according to Protestant principles, such baptism is useless.
    Q. Why do you say this?
A. One of the Protestant principles is, that no human being can be justified, except by an act of faith in Jesus Christ; but no infant is capable of making this act of faith; therefore, upon Protestant principles, the baptism of infants is useless.
    Q. Can you draw the same consequence from any other principle?
A. Yes; their first principle is, that nothing is to be practised, which is not authorized by scriptural example; but it does not appear from Scripture, that even one infant was ever baptized; therefore Protestants should reject, on their own principle, infant baptism as an unscriptural usage.
    Q. How do Anabaptists treat other Protestants?
A. They boast that the Scripture is evidently for Anabaptist practice; that other Protestants hold traditional doctrines like Catholics. They quote Matt. xxvii., "Go, teach all nations, baptizing them," from which they say it is clear, that teaching should go before baptism; hence, they conclude, that as infants cannot be taught, so neither should they be baptized, until they are capable of teaching or instruction.
    Q. What use do they make of Mark xvi.: He who believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved?"
    A. They say it is evident that belief, or faith, must precede baptism; but, they add, children or infants are not capable of believing; therefore neither are they capable of being baptized.
    Q. What can Protestants reply to this Anabaptist reasoning?
A. They may give these passages another meaning, but [pg. 153] they can never prove that their interpretation is better than that of the Anabaptists, because they themselves give every one a right to interpret Scripture.
     Q. What inference do you draw from this?
A. That every Protestant has much reason to doubt whether he be baptized.
    Q. How do Catholics prove that infants ought to be baptized?
A. Not from Scripture alone, which is not clear on this subject, but from the Scripture which illustrated by the constant tradition of the Church, which, in every age, administered baptism to infants, and consequently the practice must have been derived from the Apostles.
    Q. Can Protestant use this triumphant argument of tradition against the Anabaptists?
A. No; they have no right to use it in this matter, where it would serve them, since they reject it in every question, where it is opposed to their novel and lately-invented doctrines.

Source: Controversial Catechism, by the Rev. Stephen Keenan, published in 1851 in Edinburgh; by C. Dolman, 13 South Hanover Street, and 61, New Bond Street, London, pp. 152,153.

The Rev. Stephen Keenan makes the point that if you are a Protestant, and hold to the principle of Sola Scriptura; the Bible only for doctrine; but you were only baptized as an infant, then you have reason to doubt that your baptism was valid, since infant baptism cannot be proved from scripture!

So, if you have faith in Christ, but have not yet been baptized, or if you were baptized as an infant, or by mere sprinkling, you might want to consider being baptized in the same biblical manner as Jesus was by John, as an adult by full immersion, as an open confession of your faith before God and man that you accept the death of Jesus Christ in your place to wash away your sins, and that you lay claim to the promise of eternal life because of that faith:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Mat 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 10:33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.