Summary: Though the New Testament contains no explicit instructions on how to administer Baptism, the Greek word baptizo means "to immerse. Herein is a brief history of baptism before and after "sprinkling" became acceptable by many Churches.
Baptism is the public acceptance of Jesus and adoption into His fold, both by action of the Holy Spirit and by man's symbolic use of water. All too often Baptism is a stated requirement to join into a particular church denomination as opposed a public showing of a bond between a new believer and God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
Baptism has been called a sacrament, a ritual, and an ordinance of Jesus Christ. The Gospels report that even Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. That was a historical event recorded with absolute certainty in the Jewish, secular, and Christian world.
However, there are troublesome theological differences, even the splittings of many churches and congregations, based on opinions as to what Baptism does or does not accomplish and whether Baptism should be sprinkling, pouring or full immersion.
Lets dive into the discussion of these troubled waters. When someone decides to accept Jesus the Christ part of the external demonstration of accepting their savior is the act of being baptized. But there are important questions regarding Baptism that should be clarified because of the many conflicting ideas that have developed since the ministry of John the Baptist's centuries ago. These questions often come from a few fundamental concerns:
If I'm baptized does that mean I'll go to Heaven?
When should adults and/or children be baptized?
Where in the process of accepting Christ does Baptism fall
Why should someone be baptized?
What is the proper way to be Baptized?
Let's address each of these questions in order.
1. If I'm baptized does that mean I'll go to Heaven?
Can you go to heaven just by being baptized at a river, pool or church? No. Baptism alone does not save. People are saved and get to stay in heaven only by believing Jesus is the Christ and putting their faith in Him.
But conversely, as we'll delve in to later, not being Baptized by man does not prevent you from obtaining salvation but comes highly recommended. Being saved and Baptism are usually united. Are you totally confident in your eternal salvation?
2. When should adults and/or children be baptized?
Your next natural question might be, “does a new believer's age make a difference?” No! Once you accept Christ you should desire to be baptized as a public demonstration of your faith. Parents might ask, whether infants or young children should be baptized. To that regard it may help you to understand when the idea and practice of baptizing babies and infants came about. Around 400 AD, Augustine emphasized 'original sin' saying everyone inherits the sin of Adam at birth and children therefore are separated from God from the first moment of their life. Of course, this caused parents to become overly obsessed about the spiritual fate of their children. What happens if they die before “accepting the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God?” So parents decided to baptize babies and infant children to “remove original sin.” Since it is dangerous to fully immerse an infant, they elected to sprinkle them with water instead. Thus, both baptizing infants and baptizing by sprinkling came from human ideas. Not from the Bible.
In reading the Bible we never learn of children “accepting Christ.” Also interesting is that God never tells us what to do to safeguard a child's salvation. Did Jesus just forget this important issue? Was He allowing the young and innocent babies to die and endure Hell's eternal punishments? I believe No! I believe a child is safe in the arms of God until they can understand how to be saved by accepting Jesus as their savior. Is this known as a certainty? No. Even King David was not sure when he spoke in 2 Samuel chapter 12 verse 22, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live. So how can anyone be certain about salvation for young children? As I see it, only adults and older children, who can comprehend sin's separation from God, should be Baptized at their respective individual ages when knowledgeable acceptance of Christ is possible.
If you were Baptized before the “Age of Knowledge and Acceptance” should you consider being Baptized properly with a true believing heart?
3. Where in the process of accepting Christ does Baptism fall?
New believers often ask, “Should I get baptized immediately, when I first accept Christ; or later as a follower of Christ; or as I come to know the Bible better?” If you’ve been around different churches, you may hear different philosophies such as: “Baptism is just an outward sign of an inward grace, so it can be done later.” Or “You need to ‘grow in Christ’ (become good enough) before you are ready to be baptized.” Or “To join 'OUR' church, you have to be baptized into 'OUR' church.”