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Getting Dunked - The Significance of Water Baptism for Baptist Denominations


by Leslie Gabriel July 31, 2014

In Christian religions, baptism remains an important tenet of the faith. While some churches or denominations baptize infants and sprinkle new believers, Baptists practice immersion. Why does this denomination insist on "dunking" new Christians and what is the significance of this act?

The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo. It means, "to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet)." The Old Testament detailed ceremonial cleansing from sin and unclean things. In the New Testament, John the Baptist immersed disciples in the Jordan River and baptized Jesus into public ministry.  Later in the gospels, Jesus commanded his disciples to go to all the nations and baptize all new believers (Matthew 28:19).

Other baptism examples include:

  • Peter encouraged listeners to first repent and then be baptized (Acts 2:38–41).
  • Philip baptized a new Ethiopian believer (Acts 8:26–38).
  • Paul’s Philippi converts were baptized (Acts 16:11–14; 31–34).

As the Church grew and developed, third century and Middle Ages leaders embraced infant baptisms. Reformation leaders deemphasized baptism for all ages. However, Anabaptists reaffirmed rebaptism for adult believers who wanted to separate from their past and publicly confirm their commitment to Christ. Baptists of the time agreed and embraced baptism as an essential element of faith.

Immersion developed as a key principle of the Baptist denomination in the 1600s and remains important to this day. After child, teen and adult converts accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they attend catechism classes and declare their faith in public during an immersion baptism. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the pastor bends the converts backwards into a river, pond, pool or specially built baptisteries. The convert emerges from the water clean and filled with the Holy Spirit.

For the Baptist, the voluntary act of immersion baptism does not give the individual salvation or forgive sins. It does, however, symbolize a person's obedience to Christ's command and his or her belief in Jesus, commitment to follow Him, washing away of the old life, receiving of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of a new life. The believer is buried with Christ (immersed) and then raised into new life. Without water, the Baptist baptism would not be impossible.

 




Leslie Gabriel
Leslie Gabriel

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