The word 'christen' (to sprinkle with water as a baby) does not appear in the Bible. The practice stems from AD 753 when monks of Cressy in Brittany consulted with Pope Stephen III if, in a case of necessity, baptism performed by pouring water on the head of the infant would be lawful. Stephen replied that it would.
The word 'baptism' does appear in the Bible. There are many passages in the Bible that tell us how and why people were baptised. Nowadays the words sprinkle and baptism have almost become synonymous, but in the original Greek language of the New Testament, they have distinct and separate meanings. The Greek word for sprinkle is rhantizo, it is found in Hebrews 9:13:
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
and is not used in the context of baptism. The Greek word for baptise is baptizo and was originally used in the garment dyeing industry. The cloth had to be totally submerged in a vat to enable all of it to take the colour. So, baptise means to totally submerge.
As we read the Bible, we see that all the recorded baptisms were of adults being submerged. But, not only were the recipients dipped in water, they also believed the things concerning Jesus Christ. The implication is that to be saved, belief and baptism are both necessary:
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 8:12)
Let's look at two examples of baptism in Scripture. The first is the account of the baptism of an Ethiopian eunuch:
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)
In verse 37 he is asked if he believes with all his heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He does and is baptised by Philip. The following two verses show how he went down into the water to be baptised and came up out of the water afterwards - total submergence.
The second example is of Jesus. He was baptised as an adult by John the Baptist. We can read of this is in Matthew 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:
Note again the detail of coming up straightway out of the water. Why is total submergence in water so important?
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:3-6)
Just as Jesus died and was raised, the person being baptised goes down into the watery grave of baptism, and comes up out of the waters as a new person - into a new life in Christ. This full submergence in water provides a direct association with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Listed below are some useful references to baptism: Hebrews 6:1-2 Matthew 3:6, 13-16 Galations 3:16-29 Acts 2:37-38 Acts 8:12 Acts 10:47-48 Acts 8:26-39 Acts 1:38 Acts 9:17-18 Acts 18:8 John 9:22-23 Acts 22:16
If you have any questions about this article or any of the references given above then please get in touch with us. If you would like to find out more about baptism and other facts of the Bible, then please apply for our free Bible reading course, which is designed to try and help you read and understand the Bible.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)
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