Sprinkled or Dunked?
by Pastor Ricky Kurth
Just as some people believe that doughnuts should be sprinkled with sprinkles, and others believe they should be dunked in coffee, so some Christians believe they should be baptized by sprinkling, and others believe they should be dunked, or immersed. I personally believe the only mode of water baptism in Scripture is by sprinkling.
First, while it is popular to say that water baptism is a testimony that has nothing to do with salvation, the Bible is very clear that the purpose of water baptism is to cleanse men by washing away their sins(Acts 22:16 cf. Mark 1:4; 16:16; Acts 2:38). In Scripture, cleansing is often accomplished by sprinkling (Num. 8:6,7; 19:13,18-22), but never by immersion. In fact, God promised the Jews that after He gathers them back into their land for the kingdom,
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness…will I cleanse you” (Ezek. 36:24,25).
We know it is commonly taught that the Greek word baptismos that is translated “baptism” in our Bibles means to “dip” or to dunk, but that’s not so. It’s true that bapto, the verb form of baptismos, means to dip, for that’s how it’s translated in Luke 16:24. However, dipping is only the beginning of water baptism, as we see in Numbers 19:18:
“And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon…the persons that were there.”
“Hyssop” was a flowery bush that, when dipped in water, was capable of absorbing enough liquid to then sprinkle it on people (Heb. 9:19). So in water baptism, the hyssop was immersed, the people were sprinkled.
We know that those Old Testament sprinklings were baptisms, for baptismos is the word used to describe those “divers washings” (Heb. 9:10). Even the priests were washed (Ex. 29:4) with water from the laver (Ex. 40:11,12) that was not used for immersion (Ex. 30:18-21). We know John the Baptist washed people in the same way, for the Jews didn’t ask “what” he was doing, as they would if he were doing something new, they asked “why” he was doing it (John 1:25). He stood in the Jordan so he could easily dip the hyssop and sprinkle people. Baptismos is also translated “washing” in Mark 7:4, and few (if any) households in Israel had a receptacle large enough to immerse “tables.”
Of course, today our hearts are washed “by…regeneration” (Titus 3:5). But while your heart was cleansed in this manner, to cleanse your “way” (Psa. 119:9), you can only do so “by taking heed thereto according to thy Word.” Let’s take heed!