Bible Question:

The Bible mentions baptism many times. The Greek wording and the Roman Catholic Catechism says that baptism means immersion. Why then does the Roman Catholic Church not baptise in this manner? When did they change to pouring water over the head? When did they begin to baptize babies? My son-in-law from the Church of Christ claims that since I was baptized as a baby and not immersed, I am not saved. Therefore I am not a Christian and cannot even pray to God who can not hear me. until I repent and be baptized.

Bible Answer:

The Greek word for “to baptize” is baptizo. The ancients used this Greek word in a variety of ways. For example, the word had the meaning “to dip,” “to immerse” and “to drown.” One example of its usage was to refer to a ship “sinking.” John 3:23 tell us that John the Baptist baptized where there was a lot of water. Why? So he could dip people down into the water. In short, “baptism” is immersion.

Roman Catholic Interpretation of Baptizo

Roman Catholics baptize in different ways. For example, Catholic Answers states,

Although Latin-rite Catholics are usually baptized by affusion (pouring), they know that immersion (dunking) and sprinkling are also valid ways to baptize. Fundamentalists, however, regard only baptism by immersion as true baptism . . .[1]

The Roman Catholic Church points out that the Greek word baptizo in Luke 11:38 is translated as stating the the Pharisees were “ceremonially washing” their hands. Then they examine the same event as recorded in Mark 7:3–4 and observe that the Greek text does not use baptizo but nipto for the same activity of “washing” in verse 3. Then they conclude that baptizo has a broad range of meaning, including immersion. But that conclusion assumes that their hands were not immersed into the water. Their goal is to change the meaning of baptizo by using another Greek word and claim that baptizo does not necessarily mean immersion into the water.[2] Their conclusion is that baptizo can mean “sprinkling” or effusion. But by their own reasoning, they actually admit that baptizo does not mean what nipto means. To immerse or dip does not mean ceremonial washing. The meaning of the Greek word baptizo clearly means to immerse.

Unfortunately, some Roman Catholics appeal to the Didache or the Teaching of the Twelve (A.D. 100-120) to support their claim that pouring or sprinkling of water is biblical.[3] However, there is no strong evidence that the apostles wrote the Didache. Further, since the Didache in not included in the canon of the New Testament, we should not consider it inspired or authoritative.

So, there are no strong passages in the New Testament which support the Roman Catholic Church’s concept of sprinkling or pouring water as an alternate method of baptism. However, this is a minor issue in the Christian faith. Some of the early church fathers seem to indicate that the early church did sprinkle when a small body of water was not available for immersion. The method in which a person is baptized is not a major doctrinal issue, except among those who believe that baptism is required for salvation and that the method is all important. The point of this section is that the Roman Catholic Church manipulated Scripture to make it fit their purpose. Historically, the meaning of baptizo is immersion. Why would John the Baptist be baptizing in the Jordan River if sprinkling could be performed in the comfort of his home?

Roman Catholic Heresy About Baptism

Consequently, in A.D. 1311, the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed at the Council of Vienne, also known as Council of Ravenna, that the faithful could be baptized by immersion or pouring, that is affusion. The highly regarded Greek scholar A. T. Robertson states,

Finally, at the Council of Ravenna (A.D. 1311), it was officially made law (human law) that the candidate for baptism be given his choice between sprinkling and immersion. [4]

But the purpose for the change is described in the following quote from the Council of Vienne which was summoned by Pope Clement V,

All are faithfully to profess that there is one baptism which regenerates all those baptized in Christ, just as there is one God and one faith. We believe that when baptism is administered in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is a perfect means of salvation for both adults and children.[5]

Here is a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”[6]

That is, the Roman Catholic doctrine now claims that baptism of infants can be performed by immersion or the pouring of water to cause infants to be eternally saved. But this is contrary to Ephesians 2:8-9 which states that we saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone and not by any works. Baptism is a work or an activity that is performed.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)

Romans 4:4-5 warns that if we work for our salvation we actually earn a trip to hell.


Forgiveness of your sins comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way to be forgiven and to go to heaven. To find out how you can be forgiven, read the study at “Searching for God.”



1. Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego. “Baptism: Immersion Only?” Catholic Answers. August 10, 2004. (
2. Ibid.
3. Didache, VII. Lines 1-4.
4. A.T. Robertson. “Baptism.” Unpublished Sermon. (
5. Council of Vienne 1311-1312 A.D., Papal Encyclicals Online. (
6. Paragraph 1213 from Chapter One, “The Sacraments of Christian Initiation.” Article 1, “The Sacrament of Baptism”, of “The Seven Sacraments of the Church,” Part 2 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Suggested Links:

Is baptism (immersion) essential for salvation?
Is Baptism Required For Salvation?
Do you believe that baptism is a part of salvation?
Is water baptism symbolic? — Meaning and Importance
Can I be saved and never be baptized? — Mark 16:16
Is the Roman Catholic Church the pillar and defender of the truth?
Is Mother Mary part of the Holy Trinity? — Worship of Mary
Should I have statues of Mary and Jesus in my home?