Perhaps the question might be better stated, “Should I baptize myself?”
Although you certainly can baptize yourself, you should know that there’s no biblical foundation for doing so. There are also no examples of it occurring in Scripture. Baptism in Scripture always occurs in the presence of at least one other person, as baptism is something that happens to you, not by you.
We can make all kinds of choices about things in our life, but we have to ask ourselves, “Just because I can, does that mean I should?” The Apostle Paul reminds us of how our spiritual freedom through Christ’s salvation actually has logical constraints:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (I Corinthians 10.23-24, NIV).
And just a little bit further along in his letter to the church in Corinth, he adds:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10.31-33, NIV).
Something as personal and impactful as baptism is fraught with considerations, depending on whether you are a part of a church already, or what denomination you belong to, or what your personal beliefs are about it. Although Christian churches and denominations have differences and disagreements in regard to how baptism is administered, they all agree that baptism should occur for a follower of Jesus Christ.
Read on as we discuss some essential background on the importance of baptism in a Christ-follower’s life and why it’s preferable that it not be done by yourself, but in the presence of others.
Baptism Is An Outward Sign Of An Inward Grace
Baptism is not salvation, but a physical sign that you have been saved. The physical act shows everyone that you have given your life to Jesus Christ, confessing your sins, and will follow him the rest of your life.
Baptism is considered a sacramental act, which means it is about God’s action, not ours. God is doing something deeply spiritual in the physical act of being baptized. God is at work there, not us. We are acknowledging the grace and mercy of God in the physical, tangible act of baptism.
You might consider it an outward sign of an inward grace. So, if you are saved, there’s really no reason not to be baptized. It is a vital part of your new relationship with Jesus Christ.
Baptism is not an end, but a beginning. By receiving baptism, we are physically testifying that we belong to Jesus. We are bearing witness to the fact that we will leave behind the sinful life and live out our faith in Christ, and grow as a disciple, a follower of Jesus.
We receive baptism, that is, we are physically baptized, by someone else. Even Jesus Christ didn’t baptize himself, but received baptism by John.
Grasping baptism as an outward sign of an inward grace (and therefore hard to administer to yourself), might be better understood by realizing that in countries closed to Christianity (or aggressively limiting its practice), the act of receiving baptism could have damaging effects on the new believer’s life. They could be ostracized by their family and community, imprisoned, or worse.
The very visible act of baptism signifies to everyone that the person is a Christian. It’s a physical happening with such deep spiritual significance that it needs to be witnessed by others, and celebrated. So, baptizing yourself is not recommended.
Personal Relationship But Not Private Faith
Many people may think that being a Christian, following Jesus is a personal decision, a personal way of living. It is indeed personal. When you confess your sins, you are welcomed into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9, NIV).
But personal does not mean private. Throughout Scripture, loving God and following Jesus is shown to be a public endeavor. It is done in the realm of community—with other people, through other people, because of other people.
So, then, it only makes sense for the very important act of baptism be done in public, in the community. Just as we cannot earn our salvation and are receiving grace from God through giving our life to Jesus, in baptism we are showing that we receive this salvation through no works of our own.
We receive baptism, we don’t do baptism. So, baptizing yourself is not recommended. But what about how you are going to be baptized?
Methods of Baptism (Sprinkling, Pouring and Immersion)
Across the history of Christianity, baptism has been central. And, because of its importance in a Christian’s life, people and churches have very strong opinions and practices surrounding baptism.
If you want to dig into the intricacies of the Greek meaning of the word baptism or argue about which mode of baptism is most correct or most biblical, you can do so by searching all over the internet or look here, here, and here, but I choose to focus on grace in this article.
As such, I am not going to get hung up on which mode is best. I urge you to focus on the meaning of baptism, not how it happens. I suggest that whatever denomination or church you are a part of, that you follow their protocol or doctrine on baptism and walk in peace with Jesus.
Depending on the church or doctrine or tradition you are a part of, you may see baptism by immersion (or dunking), by sprinkling, or by pouring.
Sprinkling is done when the person doing the baptism, typically a pastor, dips their hand into a bowl or font of water and sprinkles it upon the top of the head of the person receiving baptism.
Pouring usually happens as follows (but is not limited to this): The person receiving baptism sits in a chair and tilts their head back. A family member (or anyone else) might hold a bowl underneath their head to catch the water. The baptizer takes a pitcher of water and pours it on the head, the water flowing down the head and into the bowl.
Immersion occurs when the baptizer helps the person receiving baptism to submerge under the water (e.g. in a lake, pond, pool, baptism chamber) and rise up above the water.
All three methods are done in the name of the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three methods involve water. All three methods involve someone doing the baptizing, and someone receiving the baptism.
As a pastor I have baptized people in all three manners and for each person each method was significant and meaningful in their salvation journey. That is why I suggest that you focus on the meaning, not the method. The way it happens is less important than that it happens.
Immersion is a very memorable and physically tangible method. It shows the act of dying to self and to sin as you go under and rising to new life in grace as you emerge. Pouring is also unique because you hardly ever have someone pour water over your head. It shows the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit upon you and can be quite a powerful experience. Sprinkling is intimate and shows that we are cleansed from sin by the sprinkling of Christ’s blood for our salvation.
So, any of the three methods can be powerful in a believer’s life. Again, you see that someone else is doing the baptizing, so baptizing yourself is not recommended.
But, What About “Come Up Out of the Water”?
“And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8.38-40, NIV).
People may argue that the phrase, “came up out of the water” has to mean that the eunuch was baptized by immersion. But the subject of that phrase is “they,” meaning both Philip and the eunuch. Philip didn’t immerse himself in baptism along with the eunuch. And the sentence just prior says, they both “went down into the water.” This points to the two of them walking into the water and then the baptism occurring.
This same phrasing is found in Mark 1.9-10 (NIV), “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 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.”
Yet Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism doesn’t mention anything about going into or coming out of the water.
I have traveled to Israel and our tour group went to the Jordan River. I expected a wide and mighty rolling river but it was more like a creek–not very wide and not very deep. It’s depth ranges from two feet to 10 feet, and about 17 feet at its deepest. I’ve seen other estimates that it’s lowest depth is only five to six feet.
Sometimes we can read a phrase in the Bible and make assumptions as to its meaning based only on our experiences.
Location of Baptism (Can You Use A Pool?)
I was baptized in a pool at my pastor’s house because it was his way of making this personal in the midst of a gathered community of church leaders and family. I was a member of a massive church (8000+ members), and the senior pastor took baptism very seriously. It was a way to establish connection with newly saved people. I remember the chlorine smell to this day.
But it wasn’t the location of the baptism, or the method by which it happened that was of most importance to me–it was signifying to all those gathered that I belonged to God and I was following Jesus.
As a pastor, I have baptized people in a pool. I’ve witnessed a baptism in a cow trough because that’s what was available. I’ve baptized people in a creek nearby the church I served at the time. I also have baptized people mostly in the sanctuary of whichever church I served. Wherever it happened, though, it was always in the midst of community and gathered believers.
As mentioned above, baptism is best experienced in a community of faith, like a church. So, it is more likely that your baptism would happen in some type of sanctuary or chapel. If your church has a special day set aside for baptisms, it may occur somewhere else, like a local pool, or a nearby creek.
What matters is that you are surrounded by other Christians who stand in agreement with you and will pray for you and support you in your Christian journey. For this reason, it is not recommended that you baptize yourself.
Consider Grace Over Judging
If you have strong opinions on baptism and how it should be done, or when it should be done, or where it should occur, then I respect your position. As I mentioned previously, I am going to focus on grace here.
Since baptism is a sacrament and that means it is instituted by God, who are we to try and control something that is clearly God’s action in our lives? Who are we to put rules upon rules on how it happens, or at what age, or where it must happen, or by whom? Jesus warned against this type of thing.
And, while exceptions are not the rule, they do give us an idea that, maybe, being gracious toward people is more important than acting judgy towards them.
For instance, the thief on the cross was saved and joined Christ in paradise, but he wasn’t baptized. Do we then say, “Oh, see, that means we don’t have to be baptized.” No, we don’t. We see that instance and instead say, “Wow, what a great example of God’s grace towards someone.”
The same could be said for someone on their death bed who cannot be immersed for baptism but could be baptized by sprinkling. Or, consider people who have physical limitations to getting in and out of a body of water. Or, people who are deathly afraid of going underwater.
Other considerations might be where someone is geographically located. They may not be near a large body of water to go under, so pouring or sprinkling are good methods for them. I could go on and on with other examples, but the point here is that I urge you to focus on God’s grace as it pertains to baptism.
Focus on the truth that you have been saved by Jesus Christ and desire to signify that in a public act using water with other Christians there to support you and love you.