by Chad Shaffer and Mike Stine
*This is a brief five part breakdown on the various views of baptism. For convenience sake, links to the other sections are provided at the bottom.
Now that we have looked at the forms of baptism we must look at the methods of baptism. This topic is a very hotly debated topic within the church. Many methods are used but which methods are the correct methods of baptism?
The Bible itself is silent on the methods of baptism. We know that Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River . Beyond this we know very little about the methods of baptism used in the New Testament.
The earliest statement of how baptism was performed came from the Didache. The Didache was a manual that was written around 70 AD. In the Didache it says this:
|“After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Didache 7:1 [A.D. 70]).
This is the earliest writing that we have on the method that baptism is supposed to take.
Let us look at the three different methods of baptism that are used. These methods are sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. So which one of these is the proper method? Let us look first at sprinkling. We can find no real explicit reference of this method of baptism. Those who adhere to this method of baptism note in the Old Testament that the priest sprinkled blood on the altar and see this as a foreshadowing of baptism. There is little to no reference to sprinkling being used as a method of baptism until the Middle Ages though.
The next method of baptism that we will look at is pouring. Here again there is no explicit reference to this in the New Testament. It is very likely though that in Acts 8 when the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by Phillip there would not have been enough water for him to be baptized by immersion. Pouring would have been more likely to have been used but we cannot be sure of this. We can see from the writings of the early church father’s that pouring could be substituted for immersion if the person was not able to be immersed on account of extenuating circumstances.
The third and final type of baptism is immersion. This method has the most scriptural basis of all the methods of baptism. It is probable that Jesus was baptized by immersion in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. As well as having scriptural support this method of baptism also has almost unanimous support from the church fathers. This method gives us the best picture of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
Surrounding immersion is also the debate concerning triune immersion. This is just as heated a topic as any surrounding baptism and churches have split over this as well. There is no indication from scripture one way or another as to whether a person should be immersed three times or one. What is plain is that a person is to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The question is whether a person should be immersed once in all three names or once for each name. From the records of the early church fathers, there would appear to be strong evidence that a person who was baptized was done so three times, once for each name.
Three Modes of Baptism