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Baptism refers to the sprinkling of, or submersion in, water of a new Christian. It represents the person's cleansing from all sin by the death of Jesus Christ.

Although the word 'baptism' usually refers to baptism by water, it can be used metaphorically, for example "baptism by fire".

Biblical passages

In the Bible, baptism is first mentioned in passages that talk about John the Baptist, who called on people to repent and be baptized. Jesus came to John to be baptized and his baptism was recorded in Mark 1:7-11

He preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen. I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit." It happened in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. A voice came out of the sky, "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

After his resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them. This command, recorded in Matthew 28:19, has become known as the Great Commission.

Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Later in the book of Acts, a number of baptisms are described that are associated with the initial conversion of a new believer.


The word "baptism" is derived from the Greek verb Βαπτιζω (baptizo), which means "to immerse" or "to baptize". The noun form βαπτισμος (baptismos) can mean "dipping" or "baptism".

Theological viewpoints

Most Christians agree on the importance of baptism, although a few denominations (such as the Salvation Army) do not practice baptism. Most agree that a Christian baptism requires three elements: water; it must be done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and faith.

There are a variety of opinions, however, regarding who should be baptized (must the person being baptized profess faith themself, or can parents of faith bring their children to be baptized?), how much water is required (is full immersion required or is a sprinkling sufficient?), and what baptism actually means (does it actually bring about forgiveness or only symbolize forgiveness?).

Infant baptism versus Believer's baptism

In many denominations (including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism), infants are baptized.

In some denominations (including Baptist), only an adult who believes in the death and resurrection of Jesus may be baptized.

Symbolism versus Baptismal regeneration

In Protestant denominations, baptism is generally regarded as an act that simply symbolizes forgiveness and new life. In Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, however, it is taught that God actually brings about forgiveness through the physical action of baptism, a teaching known as baptismal regeneration.



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