Within every faith there are major and minor differences. Some of these differences lead some to branch off and maintain the same basic ideas, only tweaked to their own thoughts and ideas. Baptism in the church is one of the practices that is done differently from one sect to another.
There are three main branches within the realm of the Christian faith. Obviously there are numerous other sects not to mention groups that separate from those. The belief organizations list is lengthy. We’ll stick to the three main branches which are the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Protestant Churches.
All three practice the sacraments of baptism. Sacraments are religious acts that are symbols of a spiritual reality. The Orthodox and Catholic churches have different ways of baptizing. The Orthodox church ritual is to completely immerse the body into water. The Catholic church pours water over the head of the person being baptized.
Some Christian churches baptize their babies while others believe baptism has to be an adult choice. Since baptism is a symbol for a person’s declaration of faith in Jesus Christ and a commitment to the repentance of sins, it seems to make more sense to baptize a person who knows why they are being baptized. In the early church, the fear of dying unbaptized led to infant baptism.
Baptism is a ritual usually performed in the name of the trinity. Water is used as a symbol of purification. Belief among many is that the baptized convert receives the various gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In most Protestant churches, they insist on adult baptism. This is because they believe only adults can be guilty of sinful acts, then repent and understand what salvation is all about. Most of the time it is done symbolically only as a symbol of one being a Christian and being a part of the church congregation. Baptism is done by a sprinkling of water on top of the head.
How was Jesus baptized? He was baptized by John the Baptist. He was immersed. He was baptized because he was committed to doing his Father’s will. We might not completely understand why Jesus submitted to baptism. If the Christian church intends to follow the Bible, I suppose baptism should be performed in the way Jesus instructed. The book of Acts is full of information on baptism.
The sprinkling of water on the head was not really done during this ritual until the 3rd century. It didn’t become official practice to do it in this way until A.D. 1311 when the Council of Ravenna, part of the Roman Church, allowed a choice between immersion and sprinkling. The ladies probably didn’t want to smudge their makeup while the gentlemen didn’t care to muss their wigs.
Baptism is not intended to “save”. Instead, it’s an ordinance, an outward symbol, an act of obedience.