There is a widely held view that baptism can be performed, especially on babies, by sprinkling water on their foreheads (i.e. ‘christening’). This is in stark contrast to the Biblical requirement for baptism.
The Greek word ‘baptizo’, which is translated ‘baptise’ in the English Bible, does not mean to sprinkle; it means to completely wash and immerse in a liquid (see the definitions in the concordances of Robert Young and James Strong). This word is used in classical Greek concerning ships sinking and being ‘baptized’ (i.e. submerged) in water, or a bucket being submerged in well water. It is also used with reference to a piece of cloth being dyed from one colour to another by ‘baptising’, or dipping it into a dye. To change the colour of the cloth, it is evident that it had to be fully immersed under the liquid, rather than have the dye sprinkled upon it. Jn. 13:26 uses the Greek bapto to describe how the Lord dipped a piece of bread in wine. That immersion is indeed the correct form of baptism is borne out by the following verses:-
There are several Old Testament indications that acceptable approach to God was through some form of washing.
The priests had to wash completely in a bath called the ‘laver’ before they came near to God in service (Lev. 8:6; Ex. 40:7,32). The Israelites had to wash in order to cleanse themselves from certain uncleanness (e.g. Dt. 23:11), which was representative of sin.
A man called Naaman was a Gentile leper who sought to be healed by the God of Israel. As such he represents sin-stricken man, effectively going through a living death due to sin. His cure was by dipping in the River Jordan. Initially he found this simple act hard to accept, thinking that God would want him to do some dramatic act, or to dip himself in a large and well-known river, e.g. the Abana. Similarly, we may find it hard to believe that such a simple act can ultimately bring about our salvation. It is more attractive to think that our own works and public association with a large, well-known church (cf. the river Abana) can save us, rather than this simple act of association with the true hope of Israel. After dipping in Jordan, Naaman’s flesh “was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:9-14).
It is worth noting that most of the early artistic descriptions of baptism in Roman catacombs and sarcophagi show the candidate standing in water, being baptized by immersion.
now be little room for doubt that ‘baptism’ refers to a complete dipping in
water after first understanding the basic message of the Gospel. This
Bible-based definition of baptism does not make any reference to the status
of the person who actually does the baptism physically. Baptism being an
immersion in water after belief of the Gospel, it is theoretically possible
to baptise oneself. However, because baptism is only baptism by reason of
the correct faith which one holds at the time of the immersion, it is
definitely advisable to be baptised by another believer of the faith, who
can first of all assess the degree of understanding a person has before
actually immersing them.