A photo capturing a serene moment of a person being immersed in water, symbolizing their commitment to their faith and the transformative power of water baptism as described in the Bible.

What Does The Bible Say About Water Baptism?

Water baptism is a sacred ritual practiced by many Christian denominations. If you’re wondering what the Bible says about baptism, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible teaches that water baptism is an outward expression of faith and repentance, symbolizing the washing away of sins and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is to be done after a person repents of their sins and puts their faith in Christ.

In this comprehensive article, we will examine numerous biblical passages about baptism, looking at the meaning, purpose, and method of baptism found in the Scriptures. We’ll cover topics like the connection between baptism and salvation, baptism by immersion, and who should be baptized.

With over 30 Bible verses and references, you’ll get a full understanding of the biblical foundation for water baptism.

The Meaning and Symbolism of Baptism

An Outward Demonstration of Faith

Baptism is an important outward demonstration of an inward commitment to follow Christ. When believers are baptized, they publicly proclaim their new life in Christ to the community. Baptism shows that a person has made a decision to leave their old life behind and follow Jesus (Romans 6:3-4).

It’s an initiation into the body of Christ and a visible sign to others that a person is now a Christian.

A Representation of Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection

Going under the water during baptism identifies the believer with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When they are lowered into the water, it represents Christ’s death and their dying to sin.

Coming up out of the water illustrates His resurrection and their new life in Christ (Colossians 2:12). Baptism visibly depicts the spiritual transformation that has already taken place inside the believer.

A Cleansing from Sin

Baptism doesn’t wash away sins, only the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7). However, baptism represents the cleansing of the conscience and the washing away of guilt that occurs when a person becomes a believer (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

The water doesn’t actually accomplish the cleansing but symbolizes the inner renewal that happens through Christ. Going under the waters of baptism publicly signifies being cleansed of sin by faith in Jesus.

The Purpose and Effects of Baptism

To Obey Christ’s Command

Jesus commanded his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Thus, baptism is a way for Christians to publicly declare their faith and obedience to Christ’s command.

When we get baptized, we follow the examples set by Jesus himself and also the early Christians.

For the Forgiveness of Sins

Baptism signifies the forgiveness and washing away of our sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). When we repent and get baptized in Christ’s name, we receive forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit washes our soul clean.

As Peter declared, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

To Receive the Holy Spirit

The baptism of a believer is also accompanied by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). There were visible manifestations of receiving the Spirit in biblical times, such as speaking in tongues or prophesying.

The Holy Spirit guides, teaches, comforts, and empowers believers to live the Christian life.

To Be United with Christ

Baptism unites us with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). Our old self dies with Christ on the cross, liberating us from sin’s grip. And as Christ was raised, we too are raised to walk in newness of life with the risen Lord.

This spiritual reality is pictured in the symbolic act of immersion baptism.

To Join the Church

Baptism also formally makes us part of Christ’s church body (1 Corinthians 12:13). By one Spirit, we are all united into one body through baptism. We become members of God’s family and Christ’s body – the church universal.

Local churches grew as people heard the gospel, believed, repented, were baptized, and were added to the Lord’s body (Acts 2:41).

Who Should Be Baptized?

Those Who Repent and Believe

The Bible teaches that those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior should be baptized (Acts 2:38). When a person recognizes their sinfulness, feels genuine sorrow over their sin, and turns to God for forgiveness and salvation through Christ, they become eligible for water baptism.

After Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, many people were “cut to the heart” and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This passage shows that those who repented and believed the gospel were baptized.

The Ethiopian eunuch is another example of someone who was baptized after coming to faith in Christ (Acts 8:26-40). After the eunuch confessed his faith in Jesus as the Son of God, Philip baptized him.

Baptism does not save a person or secure their forgiveness and justification before God. Rather, it is an outward testimony and symbol of the inward transformation that has already occurred in a believer’s life through repentance and faith in Christ.

People of Any Age or Background

The Bible indicates that water baptism is for people of any age or background who believe in Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).

Within these words, Peter suggests that baptism is for people of all generations and all nations.

In the book of Acts, both adults and entire households were baptized when they embraced the Christian faith (Acts 16:15, 16:33, 18:8). This implies that parents can have their children baptized as well when they are raised in Christian homes and taught about Jesus.

The examples in Acts also demonstrate that baptism transcends cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic barriers. From Jewish followers to Gentile God-fearers to prominent women to imprisoned slaves, a diversity of people were baptized.

This underscores the universal availability of baptism for all people who repent and believe the gospel.

However, although baptism has no partiality or prejudice against classes or groups of people, the prerequisite is still repentance and faith. The Bible does not support the practice of baptizing unbelievers against their will or without their consent, regardless of their age or background.

In the end, water baptism in the Christian faith is intended for anyone and everyone who willingly turns from sin and embraces Jesus Christ as Lord, including people of all ages and backgrounds.

Baptism by Full Immersion

The Greek Word Means “To Dip or Immerse”

The Greek word baptizo means “to dip, plunge, immerse, submerge.” This is quite different from rhantizo, which means “to sprinkle.” The Bible translators did not translate the word baptizo as “immersion” because they knew it was controversial in some churches.

When the King James Version was translated, the Church of England practiced sprinkling instead of immersion. But the Greek word itself means full immersion.

In Romans 6:3-4, Paul makes an explicit connection between baptism and burial: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.”

Just as Jesus was buried after his death, we symbolically participate in that burial through full water immersion.

Examples of Full-Body Baptism

There are several examples in the Bible that show baptism required full immersion, not just sprinkling of water.

When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, Matthew 3:16 says “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.” This implies Jesus was fully in the water before he came up out of it.

In Acts 8:38, Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch. “Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” Again, they went down into the water before Philip performed the baptism.

These and other passages make it clear that baptism in the early church involved full immersion in water, not sprinkling or pouring of water over the head.

Immersion Symbolizes Burial and Resurrection

Baptism by immersion beautifully and vividly symbolizes what happens spiritually when we are united with Christ. As we go under the water, it represents burial with Christ. As we come up out of the water, it represents being raised to new life, just as Christ was resurrected.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

Sprinkling or pouring water does not capture this rich symbolism of death to the old life and rebirth in Christ. Only full immersion – being lowered under the water and then rising up again – reflects this spiritual transformation. It is a powerful public testimony of one’s faith in Christ.

Some churches accept sprinkling or pouring as valid forms of baptism. But there is a strong biblical and historical basis for baptism by immersion as it was practiced in the early church.

Baptism and Salvation

Baptism Does Not Save, Only Faith Saves

The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Our salvation comes through what Jesus did for us on the cross, not because of any good works or religious rituals we perform, including water baptism.

While baptism is important and commanded by Jesus, it does not have the power to wash away our sins. Only Jesus’ sacrificial death can cleanse us from sin. Passages like Acts 16:30-31, John 3:16, and Romans 10:9 tell us salvation comes through believing in Christ, not being baptized.

Baptism is simply an outward display of the inward commitment to follow Christ that has already occurred at the moment of saving faith.

Baptism is an Act of Obedience for Believers

In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). So baptism is a step of obedience for those who have put their faith in Christ.

The New Testament shows baptism follows an individual’s decision to believe in Christ. Acts 2:41 says, “those who accepted his message were baptized.” Acts 8:12-13 also depicts belief preceding baptism, as do other verses.

Baptism does not cause salvation, but is a meaningful way for a new believer to publicly announce their faith.


In summary, the Bible provides abundant teaching about the method, meaning and purpose of water baptism. It is to be administered by full immersion to repentant believers as a public declaration of their faith.

While baptism does not impart salvation, it marks a vital step of obedience for those who have been born again by God’s grace.

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