The words baptism and baptize’ originates from the Greek word ‘’baptizo’’ which refer to immerse, dip, or plunge under water. Baptism was not a Christian invention but was recognized and utilized by both Judaism and pagan mystery as a rite of initiation. In Christianity, the roots of baptism are found in the Old Testament laws of ceremonial washings. Ceremonial washings were highly regarded as there were washings of so many things, such as, child purification after birth, removal of mildew from walls(Leviticus 14:33-53), when lepers were accepted back into the community and for ensuring that a cleansed person does not in any manner impose uncleanness on property or its owners.
It appears in the New Testament in John the Baptists’ narratives ushering in the Messianic Age. There are four main purposes that revolve around baptism. The first is John’s baptism, whose purpose as directed by God the father was to identify Jesus to the Israelites as the Messiah. The second is Jesus’ baptisms who baptized people by fire with the main aim was to destroy corruption that was caused by sin and with the Holy Spirit who would give those who receive Jesus a new life. The third baptism was that of Peter and the other Apostles baptism which marked the end of the people’s life under the law as it provided closer to the previous way of life. The fourth and the last purpose of baptism was in Paul’s baptism who did not baptize with water but rather his message for the Gentiles was to accept the Holy Spirit who joins people together into one body. Paul did not want the Gentiles to leave their Mosaic law, but rather he wanted them establish an everlasting relationship with the living God.
In the Bible, there are recordings of Jewish performing many washing rituals (Luke 11:37-38). Jesus urged His disciples to wait for God’s promise and not to leave Jerusalem to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4–5). The book of Acts mentions in three instances about the Holy Spirit being poured out on the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17, 18, 33). Peter refers to the Holy Spirit falling upon them hence showing that the term baptizo has a very broad meaning.
Variation of baptism
In the Catholic Church, the sacrament of infants became a very vital element as Christianity grew. In this baptism, an ordained priest sprinkles a few drops of holy water on the child’s forehead . It is accompanied with a few scriptures from the bible and responses from priest, the child’s parents and the congregation. It is believed that it establishes a bond between God and the infant, leading to a new blessed life.
There is a great variation among protestant churches on the issue of baptism. Older denominations, such as Episcopalians and Lutherans perform child baptism as an act of sanctification. Full immersion adult baptism has been adopted by mainstream Baptists and Methodists and has, to some extent maintained infant baptism. In many charismatic churches, the importance of adult baptism is stressed as necessary for personal salvation as it follows the act of repentance in the form of spiritual death, burial and resurrection (Jungkuntz, 1968). Baptism can be regarded as actual supernatural transformation rather than just a mere symbolic burial and resurrection as clear references have been made by denominations such as Catholics, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists and Anglican traditions.
There are two main controversies over the baptism ritual. One arises from the original language of the New Testament. The original Greek translations used the word ‘’raptizo’’ which means sprinkle and hence the denominations that favor sprinkling or pouring. Those who believe the word was ‘’baptizo’’ meaning full immersion practice their baptism by dipping or plunging under water. The other one rises in considering the age of accountability. It is believed in some denominations that baptism of infants cleanses them from the stain of man sins and hence they live clean lives. Other denominations believe that baptism is only reasonable if a candidate reaches accountability age, which is usually 12 years. Full immersion baptism of adults is seen as an act of commitment by those who fully understand their sinful nature. Infants are believed to be protected by God since they have no understanding of their sinful nature.
Baptism is conducted in different ways; aspersion for instance is carried out in infants whereby water is sprinkled over their heads in many religions, immersion is conducted in other religions and the entire body is submerged under water while affusion baptism is when water is poured over the head.
Regardless of the form taken by the baptism ritual, it provides the recipient a sense of renewed dedication and purpose as it is an absolutely tangible act of contrition. It would also be rather dangerous if infants and bed-ridden adults were to be immersed in water. The most appropriate method would be pouring or sprinkling. Inward satisfaction is very essential for the recipients; it makes them fill closer and more attached to their maker. Baptism can be regarded as actual supernatural transformation rather than just a mere symbolic burial and resurrection as clear references have been made by denominations such as Catholics, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists and Anglican traditions.