Why relying on a dictionary definition of “Baptism” to mean “full immersion” is a Scriptural fallacy.
1) Taking a dictionary definition of a word, and then cramming it back into Scripture is not consistent. We would no longer be Calvinists, but Universalists in regards to the word “all” (Hebrews 2:9, 1 John 2:2). The hermeneutic used to define the word “all” as meaning the elect is the same that should be used for “Baptism.” However, our Baptist friends shift their hermeneutic to the literal/dictionary definition in order to preserve their full immersion views.
2) Dictionaries can be helpful in defining a word, but the word actually used in context can have a different meaning. Paul uses the term “flesh” to mean “sinful nature.” However, taking the literal definition of “flesh” some have argued that it is your “flesh” or physical nature that is sinful, and your soul is pure. This is the error of Gnosticism.
3) Context does not only define a word, but a word can be used figuratively. When the Pharisees say that the “whole world” is following Jesus (John 12:19), they do not mean it literally (obviously because the Pharisees themselves are not following Jesus).
4) The term “Baptism” is often used in Scripture not to mean full immersion, or, it is impossible to define it that way in context:
“…and his body was wet (baptized = LXX) with the dew of heaven,” Daniel 4:33.
“And when they come from the market except they wash (Baptize), they eat not (Do they “fully immerse” themselves before every meal?). And many other things there be which they have received to hold, as the washing (Baptism) of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables,” Mark 7:4. How do you “fully immerse” a table?
“…And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed (Baptized) before dinner,” Luke 11:38.
In Scripture Water Baptism illustrates the Work of the Holy Spirit:
“…He shall Baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” Luke 3:16.
“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence … And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them,” Acts 1:4; 2:3ff.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh,” Acts 2:16 (Pour out, not fully immerse).
“And as I began to speak the Holy Ghost fell on them,as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, “John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost,” Acts 11:15-16.
In Scripture the Spirit of God is being “poured out”, “descended from above”, “fell on” persons. Full Immersion is just the opposite: the person “falls upon” the water. In Scripture the Spirit is applied to the person. In Full Immersion the person is applied to the Spirit. One can almost say that “Full Immersion” in its illustration of water baptism is near next to blasphemy, and reeks of Pelagianism. Since there have been many godly men who have believed in Full Immersion, then it is clear that it is not blasphemy against the Spirit. However, it is a great error, and a wrong reading of Scripture.
John the Baptist, being the greatest of th OT prophets, baptized people as a matter of purification, (John 3:23-26). The Pharisees asked his disciples about why John is performing acts of purification. They recognized what John was doing as a rite of Purification.
Purification, in the OT, is accomplished by the Law in the sprinkling of water or blood upon the people, Numbers 19:13; Leviticus 14:49-51; Numbers 8:5-7; Psalm 51:7.
The baptism of Jesus, which is often pointed to by our baptist brothers, as an example of Full Immersion does not follow the Biblical context. Again, they define “Baptism” as “Full Immersion” and then claim that Jesus was Fully Immersed! Circular reasoning indeed.
Jesus’ baptism was an anointing to the office of a High Priest, Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; and 9:11.
Jesus says to John that he needs to be baptized by John, “…in order to fulfill all righteousness,” Matthew 3:13-17. In order for a High Priest to be consecrated he had to be sprinkled with water or blood:
“Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: sprinkle water of purifying upon them,”Numbers 8:6a.
“And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which was upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons’ garments with him; and sanctified Aaron and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him,” Leviticus 8:30.
“That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power,” Acts 10:37-38.
“And after being baptized Jesus went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, ” Matthew 3:16.
Baptists will say that “immediately from the water” indicates Full Immersion. Two problems with this view: 1) “After being baptized…” means that Jesus was already baptized when he “immediately from the water.” Jesus was walking out of the river Jordan after his Baptism, and not being pulled up out of the water. And, 2) John testifies as to seeing the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus, “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him,” John 1:32. If John the Baptist was busy pulling Jesus out of the water, then how could he see the heavens open and the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus’ head? However, if Jesus is walking away from John, “immediately from the water,” it would be easy for John to see this,and bear record to it.
So, John the Baptist was performing the purification rites of sprinkling required in the OT. Jesus at this time was being anointed to the post of High Priest, “to fulfill all righteousness.” And, finally, the whole context of Jesus’ baptism points to Him being sprinkled with hyssop by John the Baptist.
Conclusion, Jesus was sprinkled by John the Baptist in the Jordan river.
All of the Biblical evidence points to sprinkling as the means by which Baptism was performed in the New Testament. Stray passages like, “Buried with Him in baptism” are simply figurative expressions indicating the effectual work of the Spirit of God, and need not be taken to literally mean “Full Immersion.” This is especially true given the preponderance of the Biblical evidence against Full Immersion.