By Hannah Brzozowski
For many people, getting baptized is a major step in their faith journey. This multi-sensory experience represents rich theological and spiritual realities. It truly is beautiful and life-changing.
Maybe the sound of this powerful spiritual experience intrigues you. But, you have one hang-up. You are not incredibly interested in getting into a giant tub with a room full of strangers staring at you. The idea of a public baptism might even give you nightmares.
And so, maybe you've had the thought: "Can't I just baptize myself? I mean. I have gone swimming before. How different can it be?"
Could self-baptisms be the perfect solution to all the awkward and inconvenient moments of public baptisms? "I baptize me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." So those magic words and bam: you're in! Just don't say them while you are under water or you may not come back up.
Let's say you managed to do it. The question is: Does it count? What if you're alone, stranded on an island and you've never been baptized? Should you baptize yourself, then?
Well, that's what we're talking about today. Let's look at some basic verses when it comes to baptism and see what we can learn.
Mark 1:9-11 says, "At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'”
Matthew 3:13-17 says, "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"
Luke 3:21-22 says, "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'"
After reading all of these accounts of Jesus' baptism, what stands out?
I notice, in Matthew's account, John the Baptist tries to refuse to baptize Jesus. He doesn't feel worthy to do it. He knows that Jesus is a much bigger deal than him. Yet, he does it once Jesus insists. Why would Jesus insist that John baptize him publicly?
The Ethiopian Eunuch
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?" He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. Acts 8:36-38
In this story, we see Peter telling an Ethiopian Eunuch about the Good News of Jesus. The man then points out that there's water right outside the carriage they were riding. So Peter baptizes him right there.
Again, there are two characters at play: the baptizer and the baptizee.
Do We Have Any Examples of Self-Baptisms?
Nope. Not one.
Granted, the New Testament doesn't give hundreds of examples to compare. More like a handful. You'd also have a tough time finding clear instructions for exactly how to baptize.
However, it is worth paying attention to the patterns we do see. And it is clearly a pattern that you don't baptize yourself. Even Jesus didn't do that.
I think this is for a few reasons.
Parties Need People. Baptism is a celebration of new life. There are times for Me Parties, but not here.
Discipleship is a Team Sport. Matthew 28:18-20 says, "Jesus came and told his disciples, 'I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" Jesus wants us to pass on our faith to others. We aren't meant to experience our faith on our own. We need others to help us learn. So, another message of baptism is that we need others' help to follow Jesus.
Self-Baptisms Lose Some Symbolism. Being dunked into the water represents how you have been spiritually brought through the chaos waters of death and given a new, transformed life through Christ. Of course, the pastor is not the one who died for your sins. But, having someone else lifting you up does demonstrate the gift of new life.
Want to know more about baptism? We have another blog entitled: Why Do I Have To Get Baptized In Front of Other People?