Q102. How is Baptism rightly administered?
A102. Baptism is rightly administered by immersion, or dipping the whole body of the person in water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 3:16. “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him…”
John 3:23. “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized…”
Acts 8:38-39. “38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.”
In order to understand how baptism is rightly administered, the meaning of the word for “baptize” in the Greek language must be understood and the act of baptism itself must be understood.
The Greek word “baptízō” (βαπτίζω) means “to dip under, to submerge, to immerse.” For this to be true in reference to baptism, the person being baptized would have had to go down into the water, be immersed into or dipped under the water, brought back up out of the water, and, finally, walk out of the water.
One clear example is found in Matthew 3:13-17. John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan (Matthew 3:6), and his custom was to baptize where “there was much water” (John 3:23). In order to fulfill all righteousness, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River. In verse sixteen Matthew writes, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water…”
Another clear example is found in Acts 8:36, 38-39. The Ethiopian Eunuch through the witness of Philip was converted and sought to be baptized. He said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”… then… he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.”
So, the implication is that both Jesus and the Ethiopian Eunuch went down into the water, were immersed into or dipped under the water, brought back up out of the water, and, finally, walked out of the water. That they came up from the water indicates that they had been all the way into the water.
Then, the catechism moves to further explain how baptism is rightly administered “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
To be baptized “in the name” literally means to be baptized “into the name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In other words, in baptism, believers are pictured as being enveloped by or swallowed up by God. They are no longer their own because they belong to God.
Baptism also implies that the believer has sworn allegiance to God and by swearing allegiance, the believer now lives for the glory of God alone.
To parse it out, such an allegiance means that believers have pledged themselves to obey God. They have devoted themselves wholly to Him in heart, mind, soul, and strength. They have received, as the guiding principle of life, the Word of God. They have pledged to trust His promises no matter the situation.
Knowing what we know about redemption, who wouldn’t want to swear allegiance to Christ? Who wouldn’t want to follow him in the path of obedience in regard to this ordinance? The Father has adopted us and made us heirs of the kingdom, the Son has died in our place, washing away our sins with his precious blood, and the Spirit dwells in us and sanctifies us. Because these things are true, the believer should say, “I desire with my whole heart to be baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit!”
May the Holy Spirit continue helping to us to see baptism as both a real command from Christ and a precious reminder of our redemption in Him.