The idea of the sacraments, especially how, which and why to do them, has been an issue for the Church since the beginning. One of the most debated has been baptism, as it is perhaps one of the most ambiguous, yet obvious commands in Scripture. Baptism is described as “for repentance” (Matt. 3:11), for the removal of sins (Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5), purification “with fire” (Luke 3:16; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8), the act of being born again by the Spirit (John 3:5), the guarantee of being risen with Christ (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3-4), the act of being grafted into the body of Christ (Eph 4:5; 1 Cor 12:13) and being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). However, none of these really explain the way in which this occurs. If one is to go by Jesus’ example, then one must be baptized in the water of the Jordan by John the Baptist. Since these are unavailable to believers today, does this mean that they shouldn’t be baptized? Of course not, Jesus commands baptism in John 3:5, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Thus, the Spirit must also play a role. However, which role this is (whether the Spirit enters before, after or during baptism) has caused difficulties.

There are many verses that require the Spirit, as He is the guider and the inheritance of believers, but when does he enter the realm of baptism? Furthermore, given that Christ is to “baptize with the Holy Spirit” (Matt 3:11, Luke 3:16, Mark 1:8), then what is the purpose of water baptism? Eventually, many have come to the conclusion, at least within the Baptist denomination and many non-denominational churches and somewhat for the sake of unity, that both water and the Spirit are required for baptism.

The importance of this issue rests in the fact that it deals with one’s eternal salvation. No one wants to accidentally take a chance with their eternal destiny by mistakenly administering a sacrament. To be honest, I understand the desire for explanation, but the divisiveness of the issue is unsettling to the Church and Jesus’ call for unity. As baptism offers the possibility for absolution (Mark 1:5), fills one with the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), offers admittance into the Kingdom of God (John 3:5), washes away sins (Titus 3:5), and offers safety from death (Rom 6:3-4), wouldn’t one want to take all precautions necessary for this rather than divide the Church over what are and are not necessary? If faith alone is the mantra of the Protestant movement, there is no reason for an act, commanded by God to be both by water and by Spirit, to be such a divisive issue.

Just as the thief on the cross was not able to receive baptism, he was still assured of his salvation by Christ. Likewise, those who were in the desert, unable to reach water sufficient for baptism, were not denied this sacrament (so far as one can be certain). The importance of the act lies within one’s faith in the Spirit, baptism acting as an outward showing of what has already occurred within the believer’s heart: a death to this world, and a renewal of life in Christ.


3 thoughts on “Baptism?

  1. I commend you for your pursuit in understanding baptism and for the sake of unity and salvation. I hope to challenge you to a more complete study.

    Notice that John’s baptism different from the baptism in Jesus’ name (Acts 19:1-7). There is only one baptism for the Church (Eph. 4:5).

    Jesus instituted His baptism after His resurrection (Matt. 28:19-20). This baptism is either to be saved or not to be saved. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” It makes since that Jesus would institute His baptism after His resurrection. When are we resurrected with Christ, when are baptized into His death (Rom. 6:3-7). Was this water baptism? Jesus instituted His baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the name of Jesus is in Acts and described in Acts 10:47-48 as being baptism in water, “‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Did the receiving the Spirit save before baptism when Peter stated, “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Baptism is of faith (Gal. 3:26-27).

    Baptism in Jesus’ name is either when one is saved or it is not. Acts 2:38 says that these believers we baptized in Jesus’ name. Acts 2:47b states, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved”, and Acts 2:40-41 states, “‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Notice that those baptized were added and those added were saved. This adds to Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the forgiveness of sins”. “Arise. Be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16, cf. 1 Pet. 3:21). Christ washes us with water (Eph. 5:26).

    The Holy Spirit had a place in Jesus’ one baptism in water. Jesus said that His baptism was in the name of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Corinthians were baptized in the name of Christ (1 Cor. 1:13, 15). First Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” This is the baptism into the one body by one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), which is the Church (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18). In the baptism in Jesus’ name, the Spirit sanctifies and justifies (1 Cor. 6:11) as Titus 3:5, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”, which agrees with your reference to John 3:5, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The Spirit is at work in baptism with water in Jesus’ name. It is Jesus that washes us with water (Eph. 5:26). The blood and the water meet in baptism (Heb. 10:19-22, cf. John 19:34, 1 John 5:6ff)

    The baptism of the Holy Spirit is only depicted twice and this is in Acts 2 and then Acts 10-11. This is not the one baptism or those between Acts 2 and Acts 11 would had this baptism. Instead, those baptized from Acts 2 into Acts 10 were baptized in Jesus’ name, which does not exclude the Spirit’s work, but this is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Acts 11:15-17 says, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” The gifts of the Spirit were only passed on by the Apostles of Christ (Acts 8:14ff). By which, the Church was founded by the revelation of the Apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20, 3:3-5).

    Baptism means immersion, dip, dunk, submerge in Greek (Strongs and Thayers lexicons). Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12 shows that baptism is the burial. Acts 8:38, “And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” This is as John’s baptism needed “much water” (John 3:23).

    Lastly, the thief on the cross could not have been baptized in Jesus’ baptism since it had not been established yet. The thief had most likely been baptized by John (Luke 7:29). Yet, this was before the death of Christ by which Jesus established His covenant apart from Moses covenant (Heb. 9:15ff).

    Please consider these scriptures as I am willing to consider those that you remind me. May God bless you in your studies.

  2. How can there be only one baptism for the church when the Apostle John was part of the church and he, at the time Ephesians was written, still had a baptism to undergo in reference to his death (Mark 10:35-39)?

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