Baptism is a hot topic in the world of Christianity. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the topic of baptism. Because of this, it’s natural to have questions about the proper way to receive baptism. Specifically, this article with answer the question of: Can you baptize yourself?
What is Baptism?
To start, let’s understand exactly what kind of baptism we are discussing, and the meaning. In the Bible, there are at least 7 types of baptism. For the question “can you baptize yourself” we will discuss specifically water baptism.
Often modern words do not accurately express the meaning of words in their original language. The word for baptism is one such example. The Meriam Webster definition simply says that the primary definition is “Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community”.
While this definition isn’t technically wrong, it doesn’t very well describe the meaning of the word in its original language. For a better definition, let’s look at the Greek word. A good source for that is the biblestudytools.com lexicon tool: Greek baptism meaning. Their primary definition is “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)”. A secondary meaning is helpful: “to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe”.
It’s clear that the Greek word ‘baptizo’ has a strong emphasis on immersion and washing with water to make clean.
Did anyone baptize themselves in the Bible?
Biblical examples aren’t always binding. Still, it’s good to pay close attention to them so we can better understand the principles and instructions about baptism. Every Biblical example of baptism I know of (that actually detailed the method) included two parties. That is, the recipient and the one performing the baptism going into a body of water, immersing the recipient.
Acts 8:35-38 says that Philip and the Eunuch went down into the water. In Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus received baptism by John the Baptist. In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul notes that various leaders of the church performed baptisms. Paul corrects them for over-emphasizing their ‘baptizer’. This denotes that there was always a person baptizing and a person receiving baptized.
These examples along with many others show that believing individuals were all baptized by someone else. We do not have any record of any person ever baptizing themselves.
Baptism is Passive
One critical understanding about baptism is that it is always described from a passive point of view on the recipient. In the eunuch’s example again in Acts 8, he asks “what hinders me from being baptized?”. In Acts 3:28, Peter said to his audience, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized”. Mark 16:16 says “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved”.
The phrasing of these is subtle, but a profound aspect of baptism. In other words, examples show that a person always receives baptism by another individual. This is because baptism is an act of acceptance by the believer. By accepting baptism you illustrate your faith in the promises of God and also accept the covenant of Jesus. By receiving baptism from another believer, its symbolism becomes more profound.
Furthermore, Colossians 2:12 indicates that baptism is not our work. Instead, it is entirely the work of God. This work he accomplishes through our faith raising us from our burial just as he raised Jesus from the dead.
Baptism is Personal but Also Kinda Not
You can’t ignore the emphasis that Jesus and the Apostles placed upon the community of believers, aka the church. Although baptism is personal, it is also the way you enter the body (church) of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
Can a person partake in the Lord’s supper alone? Sure, you can eat bread and drink wine and call it the Lord’s supper. However, it’s not really the Lord’s supper you are eating (1 Corinthians 11 is a good testament to this). Likewise, a person can have a dinner party all by themselves. However, a dinner party without guests is not really a dinner party.
How about building one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 14:9, Hebrews 3:13, and many others)? Can one perform this service all on their own? Certainly not. You cannot accomplish a Biblical commands in a vacuum. This includes even the most basic “supreme” commands to love God and your neighbor. Simply put being a Christian means serving one another and being part of a community.
Since baptism is how you enter this church relationship, it doesn’t make sense to enter by your own doing.
Why would someone want to baptize themselves?
There are a few reasons that I can think of why you would want to baptize yourself. It may be that you are extremely introverted, or suffer from a socializing disorder. These sorts of issues can make being in the presence of others extremely difficult or even impossible. Another person may have a severe illness that makes close contact with others impossible. I have even heard of a rare disease that makes a person’s skin react violently to water. Imagine that, an allergy to water!
Finally, you may simply have no availability for another person to baptize you. Think of a hypothetical person stranded on an island with only a Bible, food, and water. I’m not advocating for the validity of any of these claims, but simply stating that they may exist.
Do you honestly fall into any of these categories? Since you are reading this article on the internet, you are obviously not stranded on an island.
Focusing on the Heart of the Command Before the Method
Surely there are other reasons for wanting to baptize yourself. Regardless of the reason, however, you should desire first to understand what God wants. This is true for anything in your life, not just baptism. As your grow, your understanding of the spiritual meaning (heart) of Biblical principles and commands will (hopefully) deepen.
There are many commands that exist without logistical details. That is, with no information on how, when, and where. In these circumstances, it’s reasonable to conclude that God wants us to focus on the “why” of the command first. I don’t believe this excludes the “how”, but that the why or the spiritual meaning is of greater importance.
An Example of the Why Over the How
Recently, a disabled man decided that he wanted to put on Christ in baptism. However, due to the nature of his disability, a tube was connected close to his belly button. If any substantial amount of water came in contact with this area, it could cause serious complications. This could lead to potentially life-threatening infections.
We decided to “do our best” to immerse this man, leaving this part of his body above the water line. Was he fully immersed? No. However in my judgment, such a decision is justified in the eyes of God. This is because we recognized the command for baptism prominently means to immerse, and did everything possible follow that command. But of utmost importance was the faith of the individual and the submission to the act. God judges the heart first. For more consideration on this topic, read Jesus’ judgement against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 about the “weightier matters”.
Should we seek to “check the box” of all the logistical methodology of baptism by practicing immersion? Yes, most certainly we should (when and wherever possible). However, we can get all those things “right” but miss the heart of the baptism. That is, namely submitting to God’s command in faith, repenting, and accepting Christ as your lord. In such a case, all we’ve done is get wet. In this type of heart, I believe baptism cannot save because it was not received in faith.
For more biblical reasons for baptism, see our article on the 12 reasons for baptism.
Can you baptize yourself?
Yes, you can baptize yourself. However, baptism not from faith and repentance is nothing. First make sure that you understand the spiritual principle behind baptism (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Colossians 2, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 22:16, and many others). After you grapple with that you can worry about the method. Consider the logistics only after you understand the spiritual principle. Just because there are no specific instructions on the “how” of baptism, does not mean the method is not important. All the examples we have involve a baptizer and a person receiving baptism and are always immersion in water.
Now you need to become super honest with yourself. Determine if your desire to baptize yourself is because of an unavoidable “extenuating circumstance” or because it’s what you want. Someday God may ask you this very question and justly judge you accordingly. Only you can know if your decision is justified, or if you simply want to do things “your way”.