What Is Baptism?

It is always tempting for a preacher to pull out his Greek lexicons and linguistic authorities and just read the definition of the original word translated "baptism" in the Bible. But I have never been quite comfortable doing this. For, it seems to me, that going first to the original language intimidates and discourages the English-only Bible student. The impression might well be left that one cannot come to any certain conclusion about this or any other Bible subject by merely appealing to an English translation. We do not believe this is true. We believe our translations are accurate enough to enable us to understand clearly what Jesus was commanding when He said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Let's stick to our English Bible and see if we can't list some of the characteristics of baptism.

John 3:23 -- And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

#1 - Baptism involved water; much water.

Mark 1:9-10 - And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in the Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him:

#2 - Baptism took place in the water.

Acts 8:38-39 - And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing.

#3 - Baptism involved going down into the water and coming up out of it.

Romans 6:4 - We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.

Colossians 2:12 - having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

#4 - Baptism involves a burial and a raising.

All we ask is that you combine these characteristics of baptism and then draw your own conclusion as to what it is. And if you can get "sprinkling" or "pouring" out of those passages, please explain to me how. Let us always attempt to "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11).