What is the Difference between Sprinkling and Immersion?
When it comes to baptism there are many traditions. Some rooted in Scripture and some not. Baptism by sprinkling versus Baptism by immersion is one of these examples. This is why it is important to take the time to evaluate each practice to make sure it aligns with Scripture.
The word for baptism comes from the Greek word ‘Baptisma’ which is the “process of immersion, submersion and emergence”. Immersion is defined this way, “to make fully wet, to cover wholly with fluid, hence to dip”. This is why in every example in the New Testament you will see that the person being baptized was fully immersed in a body of water.
Sprinkling on the other hand, came about by a tradition. Whether it was because of the lack of water or merely for convenience sake, this form of baptism has grown in popularity especially among liturgical churches. However, Jesus told the Pharisees that the word of God is made of none effect by the teachings and doctrines of men ( Mark 7:13 ).
Baptism symbolizes our death, burial and resurrection to new life in Christ ( Romans 6:14, II Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 2:11-12 ). In the case of an actual death you would never sprinkle a dead person with dirt, you would bury them. The body would need to be taken care of. The same is true in the spiritual realm; our old self is buried and gone so that we can live in the new way of the spirit ( Romans 7:6 ). The body of sin is done away with and we are freed from its control ( Romans 6:8-10, Romans 7:4; Romans 7:6, Galatians 3:26-29 ).
The act of baptism helps us to visualize the change that has taken place inside. It only makes sense with full immersion into a body of water. Christ was buried and raised again, how can we visualize our resurrection while water is being poured or sprinkled on us? However, rising up out of the water paints a wonderful picture of the beginning of this new life in Christ.
We too must follow in the examples set before us in every account of Scripture concerning baptism. We have died to sin; we have buried it with Christ’s death on the cross so that it is gone and holds no power over us. And we are raised to a new life in Christ to live out the remainder of our days celebrating this victory.
For further study on baptism please look at these passages: Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:36-41, Acts 8:5;12;14-15, Acts 8:35-38, Acts 9:3-6; 17-18, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 16:14-15, Acts 16:30-34, Acts 19:1-6, Acts 22:12-16.