What is baptism? What is the meaning of baptism?

Baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Christ found in the Great Commission. This command, involving baptism, is in Matthew 28:18-20, as well as in the other three Gospels and in Acts 1.

The Greek word for baptism, found 22 times in the New Testament, is baptisma. It is defined as immersion; submersion; a ceremonial rite of immersion in water as commanded by Christ, which identifies publicly the one being baptized as being in fellowship with Christ and the Church.

Some verses about baptism are listed below:

  • “Therefore we are buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
  • “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…" (1 Corinthians 1:17a).
    In this verse, Paul is distinguishing between the importance of his mission and the importance of baptism. Baptism naturally follows salvation but is secondary in importance.
  • “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So, he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38).
    These verses show that the act baptism comes after one’s faith has been put in Christ Jesus as Savior.

Biblical baptism is by immersion. However, there have been some other forms practiced through the ages such as sprinkling and pouring. These forms originated because of drought or were practiced in regions where water was polluted. Yet, when we look to Jesus, our perfect example of all things, we see that He was baptized by immersion.