I have been thinking about the mode of baptism. While almost all
Christians agree on the importance of baptism, there have been divisive
views on the proper mode of baptism.
There are three mode of baptism which are,
(1) pouring or affusion
(2) sprinkling or aspersion
There is similarity on pouring and sprinkling so I shall consider there
together. The difference is the amount of water used.
One major passage to consider is John 3:22-26
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean
countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now
John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of
water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24 (This was
before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some
of John’s disciples and a certain Jew
over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and
said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the
Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone
is going to him.”
- If the mode of baptism is immersion, the Jordon river will be
better than Aenon. Aenon is more an areas of shallow springs. The
Jordon river will be deep enough for immersion.
- Why did John go to Aenon? Water is cleaner for ceremonial
washing. Jordon muddy this time of the year
- Baptism = ceremonial washing?
- Old Testament practices of ceremonial washings/purifications is
- John the Baptist preaches repentance. As a devout Jews, he would
be thinking of ceremonial cleansing which is by sprinkling in his
understanding of repentance.
OT ceremonial washings/purifications
Here are some biblical verses on Old Testament practices of ceremonial
washings/purifications by sprinkling
10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial
washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on
those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are
17 “For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned
purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. 18
Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in
the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people
who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human
bone or a grave or someone who has been killed or someone who has died a
19 When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the
people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool
and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.
Exo 24: 6-8
6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half
he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and
read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD
has said; we will obey.”
8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said,
“This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in
accordance with all these words.”
Heb 9: 21
21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle
and everything used in its ceremonies.
19 Then Moses slaughtered the ram and sprinkled the blood against the
altar on all sides.
14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle
it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of
it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.
Lev 14:6-7 – in the case of leprosy
Num 19:11-13 – defilement with a dead body
Lev 13:44 – defilement with leprosy
Ezekiel 36: 25-27
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will
cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I
will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove
from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I
will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be
careful to keep my laws.
Some other considerations
Another area I looked at is some Bible passages which seem to indicate
that Jesus and the eunuch were immersed. According to theologian Jay
Adams, one of the problems is the ‘misleading use of prepositions’ is
the Greek translation.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by
John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw
heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (NIV)
38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the
eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they
came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip
away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way
The Greek words “into” and “out of ” the water gives the impression that
Jesus and both Philip and the eunuch were immerged. Adams disagreed on
the translation of the words eis and ek. While eis and ek is used as
“into” and “out of,” it may also be used to mean “to” and “from”
(p.41-42). And interesting comment that Adams made regarding Philip and
the eunuch was the difficulty of finding a river deep enough to baptise
immerged in the dry Negev desert (p.48). Therefore, Adams suggested that
Jesus and the eunuch were baptised by sprinkling, not immersion. Another
Reformed theologian Robert Harbach argued convincingly for sprinkling in
The Biblical Mode of Baptism
Sprinkling, pouring or immersion
While I will whole heartedly defend the sacrament of baptism, I do not
find myself worked up over the mode of baptism. I always believe that
you may baptism a person while he or she is a frog, without a change of
heart, the person remains unchanged. It is the work of the Holy Spirit
on the inner person that makes baptism significant.
a Some manuscripts and certain Jews
 Wilbur A. Christy, A Modern Shibboleth (Louisville:
Pentecostal Publishing Co) p.82