Baptism in the Likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ's Death with Head bowed
Which is the correct mode of baptism - forward or backward?
Since water baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the mode should reflect these aspects as well. Many churches administer baptism by complete immersion, and generally there are two modes of immersion. The most common one is to immerse the body in a horizontal position with the face looking up. This backward mode requires the baptist to support and lift the body from the water. The second one is for the person to immerse in the forward position with head bowed. In this mode the person does not need support or assistance from the baptist to come out of the water.
The Holy Bible states that baptism is to "have been united together in the likeness of HIs death." (Rom. 6:3) It does not say "in the likeness of HIs burial" which some churches wrongly assume. The Lord Jesus Christ died with His head bowed and not with His head looking up (John 19:30). The baptismal mode with head bowed in the forward motion is the correct way of Christian baptism.
Biblical Support for the Forward Mode of Baptism
There are a few scriptural points that support the teaching that baptism is administered with head bowed in the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death.
1. Romans 6:5 states: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, . . .” What is the likeness of the Lord’s death? John 19:30 gives us the description how Jesus died. “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” and bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit.” The Lord Jesus Christ died with His head bowed. To be united together with Jesus in the likeness of His death during the baptism would mean that the Christian is immersed in the water with “head bowed”.
2. Romans 6:6 states: “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Water baptism symbolizes the Christian’s crucifixion with the Lord Jesus Christ. The “old man” refers to the unregenerate or sinful person, who must be crucified with the Lord . How is a person crucified during the baptism? By being immersed with the Lord “in the likeness of His death”, that is, “with head bowed”. By being baptized in this mode, the Word of God says: “. . . that the body of sin might be done away with,”
3. Romans 6:7 states: “For he who has died has been freed from sin.” The mode of baptism with head bowed, that is in the likeness of the Lord’s death, enables a person to be freed from sin. In the New Testament there are three elements for the remission of sins. The first one is baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16). The second is to be washed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:5; Rev. 1:5). The third is to be baptized with head bowed in the likeness of the Lord’s death. The baptism that includes all these three elements is the most powerful mode for the remission of sins.
4. Acts 2:38 states: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is preceded by repentance. All the people who came to John the Baptist for baptism in the River Jordan were told to repent and they were “confessing their sins.” (Mt. 3:1-2, 5-6) What should be the attitude or posture of a repentant sinner who comes to receive baptism? The Lord Jesus Christ told the parable of the repentant tax collector, who “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven,” (Lk. 18:13). Because of sin the prophets of old would not lift their faces up to God in heaven (Ezra 9:6; Psm. 40:12). A person who comes to receive water baptism must repent and confess the sins with head bowed.
5. John 3:5 states: “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Our Lord further explained that “born of water” refers to water baptism, and “born of the Spirit” refers to baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5; 3:38).
Water baptism has many corresponding features with natural childbirth. The baby is placed inside a “bag of waters” that corresponds with baptism by full immersion. As the time of delivery approaches the baby’s natural position is with the head downwards. If the baby’s head is in the upward position there would be birth complications.
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Baptism in the Likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ's Death
The Lord Jesus Christ came up immediately from the water after His baptism
6. Matthew 3:16 states: “Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; . . .” Notice that Jesus went out of the water “immediately” by Himself. John the Baptist did not assist Him. The Lord came up by Himself. Jesus could not have come up immediately by Himself if He had been immersed backward with face upward. Just try it and you will agree that the backward immersion mode is impossible to come up out of the water by yourself. Our Lord definitely immersed Himself in the forward motion with head bowed. This forward mode had been the Jewish practice during the time of Jesus. In the film entitled “JESUS” the Lord was depicted as being baptized with head bowed facing downward. Based on the Gospel of St. Luke, the producers sought biblical accuracy in every detail. The script was checked and rechecked by more than 200 Biblical and historical scholars. They discovered the immersion with head bowed to be the correct baptismal mode. [Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus - page 136]
7. Mark 16:20 states that the Early Church “went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” Ever since this truth was revealed to the Church our Lord Jesus Christ had actually confirmed the word in different parts of the world. “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.” (Heb. 2:4) Many believers have seen visions of the Lord’s blood in the water where baptism was administered in this mode. The Lord confirmed that immersion with head bowed is the correct baptismal mode.