Sprinkling Or Immersion?

By Larry Ray Hafley

(The letter below was written to answer the questions of a young, Catholic man who wanted to know if baptism was immersion or sprinkling.) 

Thank you for your kind letter. I am so happy to hear from you! I have appreciated the way you have listened and studied. I pray that you will continue to “search the Scriptures” and abide by what you find therein. It is not my word versus the word of some other man. It is not that the word of one church is above that of another church. No, the question is, “What saith the Scriptures?” What does the Bible teach?

With that in mind, let me simply direct you to some Scriptures with respect to scriptural, New Testament baptism. 

  1. When Jesus was baptized, he “went up straightway out of the water” (Matt. 3:16). Does that sound like he had water sprinkled on his face or dabbed on his forehead? If not, what does it sound like? In what action does one come “up . . . out of the water”?
  2. When John the Baptist was baptizing folks, he baptized at a certain place, “because there was much water there” (John 3:23). Does that sound like a reason one might use if he were sprinkling a few drops of water on people? Would one need “much water” if he were immersing people?  
  3.  Look at the language of Acts 8:36-39 — two men came “unto” the water (v. 36). In verse 38, two men “went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch,” the man being baptized. Daniel, when one is sprinkled or has water dabbed on his face, do both the baptizer and the one being baptized go “down into the water”?  Further, in verse 39, after the man was baptized, both men came “up out of the water.” Again, is this what happens when one is sprinkled? Or, is this what happens when men are immersed? 
  4. In Romans 6:4-6, the Bible says we are “buried with him by baptism.” Note the word, “buried.” What does that indicate — sprinkling or immersion? Too, the passage speaks of being “planted” and “raised up.” Does that sound like sprinkling or immersion — which? 
  5.  Colossians 2:12 speaks of being “buried with him in baptism.” It also speaks of being “risen” or raised with him. Again, observe the terms, “buried,” and “risen.” Does that best describe what occurs when one is sprinkled or when one is immersed? 
  6. Before Saul of Tarsus was baptized, he had been praying (Acts 9:11). When Ananias was sent to him, he said, “Arise, and be baptized” (Acts 22:16). Daniel, if Saul was simply to have water sprinkled or dabbed on his head and face, would he have need to “arise”? Could he have simply stayed in his prayer posture and received sprinkling?  However, if he were going to be immersed in water (“buried”), would he have to “arise” from his prayer position in order to be baptized? See the point? If we saw a man kneeling in prayer, we could sprinkle him without telling him to “arise,” could we not? However, if he were to be immersed, if he were going to have to come unto the water, go down into it, be baptized, and then come up out of it, he would have to get up or “arise” from his position of prayer, would he not? 

You will note, Daniel, that I have not told you what to think. Nor have I told you what I think. I have simply taken you to the word of God, to that word which will judge us in the last day (John 12:48). I have let the Scriptures speak. You have seen what the truth is with respect to the action of baptism. 

When one knows the truth, he needs to obey it. He needs to do what God would have him do. I urge you to study, but when you see what is right, and when you know the truth, then you need to obey it. Once you believe and repent of your sins, once you are willing to confess Christ, then you need to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If I can help you in any way, if I can answer any question, do not hesitate to ask. 

Take care, Daniel. Let me hear from you again with respect to the material presented above. Sincerely, Larry  

(Addendum: Daniel was baptized immediately after receiving this reply!) 

4626 Osage, Baytown, Texas 77521 LarryHafley@compuserve.com

Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 8 p14  April 20, 2000