What is Water Baptism? The Meaning and Symbolism

Water baptism is a Christian denomination sacrament that symbolizes the washing away of sin and the rebirth of the believer. It is one of the two sacraments recognized by most branches of Christianity (the other being communion). This article will explore the meaning and symbolism behind water baptism and why it is integral to the Christian faith.  

What is water baptism?  

Baptism derives from the Greek words baptizo or baptisma, which imply “to bath, wash, or immerse.”  

Water baptism is a frequently practiced religious rite for Christians. It is a metaphor for the washing away of sins and the start of a new life in the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost and Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, it is regarded as an opportunity to demonstrate one’s faith by participating in the community of believers.  

It is a public, outward testimony and personal, inward faith manifestation. It provides evidence of the new believer’s internal transformation when they were “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ. The religious rite was named after John the Baptist, who baptized people in the Jordan River. John also baptized Jesus Christ at the beginning of his ministry.  

A variety of Christian denominations practice water baptism. However, some Christian denominations do not practice it, while others do not practice it for the same reasons or in the same manner as other churches.  

What does water baptism symbolize?  

Water baptism is a widely practiced religious rite involving the immersion of a person in water. It is most commonly performed as an initiation or commitment ceremony and purification. It is also seen as a way of symbolically dying and being reborn, which is why water is often used as a metaphor for rebirth or new beginnings.  

The symbolism behind water baptism can be divided into three main categories:  

Washing away sin  

Water baptism is a powerful symbol of the washing away of sin. It is an outward sign of an inward cleansing that has taken place. When a person is baptized, they declare that they have been forgiven and cleansed of their sins. This act is a public declaration of faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.  


Baptism is also seen as a symbol of rebirth or new beginnings. It is an opportunity to start fresh and begin living a new life in Christ. This act represents the death of the old self and the beginning of the new life in Christ. It reminds us that we are new creations in Christ and that our old lives are gone.  

Commitment to Christ  

Water baptism is also a public declaration of faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. It is an opportunity to show others that we are followers of Christ and committed to living our lives for him.  

It is also a sign of membership in the community of believers. When a person is baptized, they are declaring their intention to be a part of the body of Christ. This act shows that they are committed to living out their faith with other believers. It is an opportunity to join together with other Christians and support one another in our faith journey.  

Scripture Verses 

Throughout the bible, many verses talk about water baptism. Here are a few of the most popular biblical examples of baptism: 

  1. “I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8) 
  1. “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:15) 
  1. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41) 
  1. “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16) 

Who can be baptized?  

According to most Christian denominations, baptism is a sacrament reserved for those who have made a personal commitment to the faith. In some cases, this can be done at any age. In others, it is only available to those who have reached the age of reason.  

Read more: Planning a Baptism for Your Baby 

Infant baptism, children and adult baptism   

Infant baptism is the practice of baptizing babies or young children who have not yet reached the age of reason. Parents choose to have their children baptized to publicly declare their faith and commitment to raising them in the Christian faith.   

Likewise, children of any age can be baptized. This is usually done when the child can understand what it means to follow Christ and make that decision for themselves. For instance, in the Mormon faith, the “age of accountability” (or “age of reason”) is considered to be eight years old — or the age that a child can make this decision (with parent approval). 

Adult baptism is the practice of baptizing adults who have made a personal decision to follow Jesus Christ. This is usually done after they have gone through a period of instruction and preparation. 

What happens during a water baptism?  

The act of water baptism involves the immersion of a person in water. This can be done in a river, lake, or pool. A clergy member or someone who is trained or has been given the authority to baptize performs the act. 

Methods of Baptism  

Baptism may be performed in immersion, affusion, and aspersion. Again, the techniques differ among the various religious groups. Those who practice immersion see the procedure as a kind of purification by Jesus’ death and burial and emerging from the water with a new eternal life. Affusion and aspersion are used by those who view it as an offering of cleansing and everlasting life from God above.  

  • Immersion: The person being baptized is completely submerged in water. This is seen as a symbol of death and resurrection.  
  • Affusion: Water is poured over the head of the person being baptized. This is seen as a symbol of cleansing and new life.  
  • Aspersion: Water is sprayed or sprinkled over the head of the person being baptized.  

How often should water baptism be performed?  

There is no set answer to this question, as it varies among Christian denominations. For example, some churches practice baptism regularly, while others only do it when someone joins the church or makes a public declaration of faith.  

What do you wear for water baptism?  

Typically, those who are being baptized wear white clothing. This is seen as a symbol of purity and new life. It is also a reminder that we are washed clean by the blood of Christ.  

For adults, wearing a dress, suit, or other nice clothing is appropriate. Christening clothes, baptismal gowns, or simply a white shirt and pants or dress are all acceptable for children.  

Depending on the method of baptism you are undertaking, you may want to wear clothing that can easily get wet. If you are being baptized by immersion, wearing a bathing suit or other clothing that can get wet is advisable. If you are being baptized by affusion or aspersion, any type of clothing is acceptable.  

Baptism Commemorations & Celebrations  

So, whether you are considering baptism for yourself or your child, know that it is a special moment to be celebrated. After the baptismal service, many churches host a reception to commemorate the occasion. In addition, this is often a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate.  

During the reception, many beautiful baptism gifts are given to commemorate this special day, such as christening gowns and outfits, blankets, bibs, and more. If you’re looking to provide a gift for someone who has recently been baptized, these are wonderful options.  

View our Bebe Couture collection today for all your christening and baptism clothing and accessories needs!  

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