apple plunging into water

What does the word "baptize" mean? That's the focus of this post.

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Welcome to part 3 of my series on biblical baptism.

Each post builds on those before it. If you need to catch up, here are links to the previous posts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Is Scripture Descriptive or Prescriptive?

Okay, let's look at what it means to baptize someone or something.

The English word "baptize" is actually a transliteration of the Greek word "βαπτίζω" (baptizó).

Its definition is quite simple.

The Greek word baptizó simply means to dip, submerge, immerse, to dip under. (The word does not mean "to sprinkle.")

Regarding this word, HELPS Word-studies says:

baptízō – properly, 'submerge' (Souter); hence, baptize, to immerse (literally, 'dip under'). 907 (baptízō) implies submersion ('immersion'), in contrast to 472 /antéxomai ('sprinkle').

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance defines the word as:

"baptize, wash—From a derivative of bapto; to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. Fully wet); used only (in the New Testament) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism -- Baptist, baptize, wash."

While it is true that there has been controversy over the meaning of baptizó, if you check any reputable Greek lexicon, you'll find this definition used.

Now, as Jeremy Myers correctly observes:

"Baptism means 'immersion'...but not necessarily immersion into water."

Jeremy points out that the word baptizó, in its various forms, is found in the New Testament referring to baptisms other than water (see Matt. 3:11b; 20:22-23; Luke 3:16, for example).

However, based upon this, Jeremy concludes:

"Therefore, whenever you see the word 'baptize' or 'baptism' in Scripture, it would be wise to stop and change the word into 'immersion' or 'identification'..."

I fully support substituting the word "immersion" for baptism, because that is precisely what the baptizó means, but not "identification."

I can see where, in certain places, baptizó could kinda sorta convey "identification," but that isn't what the word means.

Any time we trade the word the Spirit used for another, it's dangerous because the potential exists for us to reach a different conclusion down the road someplace. This is exactly what I think Jeremy has done in his series on baptism, and it's largely based upon this—what I believe to be—improper substituted definition of "baptism."

Just because the text may not be discussing water baptism, that doesn't mean the literal definition of "immersion" isn't a good fit.

In fact, the opposite is true.

We must, however, look at the context to determine what the immersion is into.

Download the series as a PDF ⬇️

download baptism series

Read Part 4 here:

Continue to part 4 entitled "John the Baptist's Baptism."

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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