Any word that plays a major role on the stage of religious controversy is a word which should interest and be understood by everyone. Baptism is just such a word. It is doubtful whether any word appearing in the New Testament has generated more discussion or caused more controversy in so many diverse doctrines than this word and its verb companion baptize.
What does it mean to be “baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29) What is the baptism of the “Holy Spirit and fire?” (Luke 3:16) What is baptism “for the remission of sins?” (Acts 2:38) Answers to the above questions can never be found without first knowing the meaning of the words used.
In Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary a word is defined as it is used currently and also as it was used originally. Of the current meaning of baptize he says, “To dip or immerse in water, or to pour or sprinkle water upon…” This is by common knowledge the use of the word in this twentieth century. Our interest, however, is not in its current meaning, but what its meaning was in the time the New Testament was written. In brackets, Webster states the original meaning of the word and traces changes in the word through French, Latin, and finally back to Greek. Concerning this Greek word from which we read baptize in our Bibles today, Webster records, “to dip in water.”
In the Lexicons of E. A. Sophocles, who himself was a Greek, and J. Henry Thayer, who is referred to as the “dean of lexicographers,” baptize is defined, “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, submerge.” W. E. Vine, in his detailed dictionary of New Testament words adds that, “baptism, consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip)…” is the proper definition for the term.
THE BIBLE ITSELF HAS ALWAYS BEEN ITS OWN BEST INTERPRETER. Notice what it says. Mark 1:9-10 states that Jesus “was baptized of John in (eis) the Jordan. And straightway coming up out of (ek) the water…” the Spirit came upon him. These two prepositions are precise and include entering into and coming out of the object.
Romans 6:4 reads, “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we might walk in newness of life.” Also, Colossians 2:12 repeats, “Buried with him in baptism wherein also ye are risen with him…”
These remarks might be noted by those who believe that sprinkling or pouring is included in the definition of baptize. The Greeks, just as we today, had different words by which they designated what action they had in mind. We have pour, sprinkle, and immerse. Each means a different thing and is not used interchangeably with the others. The Greeks had katacheo, rhantizo, and baptizo. Each meant a different thing to them and likewise was not used interchangeably with the others. The following chart shows the comparison:
It is significant that each of these words appears in the New Testament numerous times. Yet each time a word was used in connection with our salvation whether in the form of statements or commands, baptizo or baptism was used. Never were the words meaning pour or sprinkle mentioned in any way
The Bible itself plainly states the act accompanying our entrance into Christ where salvation is enjoyed.
IT IS A BURIAL (IN WATER)!
There is no sufficient evidence to offset this inevitable conclusion that in the days when the New Testament was written baptize meant “to immerse.” As you see, both secular and ecclesiastical scholars concur with the Bible definition.
Thus a burial must precede a new life with Christ; that burial is baptism.
(Apostolic Doctrine, February 1962) — By Norman Midgette
“After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized” (John 3:22-23).