In many religious circles there is the common belief that when a person comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, then the next thing he is to do is to become sprinkled with or fully immersed in water. Usually the reasons given are as follows:
It is what the Lord has done, therefore, we are to do this also.
(If this is the case, then should we all become circumcised and enter the synagogue on the Sabbath day too? Also, the Lord kept the feasts of Leviticus and the Passover. Should we also keep these things?).
Other reasons are:
Baptism is a sign to unbelievers.
It takes the place of circumcision.
It is a confession to Christ.
It is the initiatory ordinance of Christianity.
It is an outward sign of newness of life in Christ.
Though these arguments may seem to be right, is it what the Scriptures teach for those who are a part of the Church of the One body? If we believe that “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”, then isn’t it our responsibility as believers to depend upon the Word to teach us the truth concerning the subject of Baptism, apart from the traditions of men? In order to understand the subject of Baptism, it is imperative to set aside our traditional learning on this subject (Col. 2:8). Through this short study, it is our hope to find the answers to the following questions:
How did Baptism originate in the Bible?
What does Baptism mean?
Is water Baptism for us today; the Church of the One Body?
The Washings of the Old Testament
Baptism did not begin in the New Testament, but has its roots in the Old Testament.
The first occurrence of the Hebrew word for ‘Baptism’ is found in Job 9:31, but it is translated ‘plunge’. It is also found in the book of Kings when Naaman dipped (Hebrew word for baptized) himself 7 times in the river Jordan. In Exodus 12 we read of the hyssop which was dipped (Hebrew word baptized) in blood.
In Deut. 33 there is an interesting reference concerning Asher, ‘let him dip his foot in oil’. ‘Dip’ is the Hebrew word for ‘baptize’, which means literally to let him baptize his foot in oil. This is highly figurative language, meaning that Asher is going to be rich in oil and olives.
Baptism in the New Testament
When we come to the New Testament, reference is made to John the Baptizer. John is the first person known in Scripture to baptize someone other than himself, with the exception of Moses who consecrated Aaron.
The Lord’s Baptism
In John chapter 1, the Pharisees came to John and asked him –
‘Why baptisist thou then if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?’
John points to the Lord and says in verses 29-31 ‘I knew Him not; but THAT HE SHOULD BE MADE MANIFEST TO ISRAEL, therefore am I come baptizing with water’.
John was a forerunner of Christ to prepare Israel for their long-awaited Messiah, the True King of Israel. Therefore, the Lord was baptized in water in order to MAKE HIM MANIFEST TO HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE ISRAEL.
Israel’s Baptism by John
In Mark 1:3 we read of John as ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight’.
John was the forerunner to prepare Israel for their King. When John baptized the Israelites, this Baptism was an outward sign of their inward repentance and a change of heart to God. Those who repented submitted to John’s Baptism admitting their condition of being a sinful people. In God’s sight, Israel had gone “away backward”. Isaiah spoke of her condition in his day and that condition persisted until John the Baptist.
“Ah sinful natin, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters! they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” (Is.1:4,5)
Those who submitted to John’s Baptism admitted their condition by-
CONFESSING THEIR SINS”.
4. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
John’s Baptism identified the repentant part of Israel, and as such, they made up a separate company within Israel. They were identified with Israel by birth. They were identified with Israel’s covenants by circumcision. Then with John’s Baptism, they became identified with the repentant ones in Israel. The repentant ones formed the company that was to be the new nation through whom Christ would govern when the Kingdom was set up.
Their repentance would usher in the prophetic Kingdom, with the promised Messiah upon the throne of David. In turn, they would become a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation in order to make known to the world the salvation of God.
The King was upon the earth, the Kingdom was at Hand; all that was needed was for Israel to turn to their Messiah. With their repentance, the long awaited millennial reign would usher in upon the earth and Israel would finally be a Kingdom of Priests and holy nation. (see Ex.19)
The majority of Israel did not accept Christ as their King or Savior, even after given a second chance to repent during the period covered by the book of Acts.
The Baptism After John’s – Baptism of the Holy Ghost and With Fire
In Matthew chapter 3 there is another mention of a Baptism:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:’
This Baptism is associated with ‘power from on high’ when the Lord gave gifts to men as outward evidential signs that the Kingdom was at hand. These gifts were also shared with the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom.10:9; 11:11), but ceased once the Kingdom was postponed. This was the Baptism after John’s Baptism. It was linked with powerful enduement to the twelve Apostles, the Jews, and the Gentiles during the Acts economy, but ceased when the final pronouncement of blindness in Acts 28 came upon unbelieving Israel. All the way up to Acts 28, Paul was able to use those gifts of the fiery Holy Ghost when He cured a man of a bloody flux and became unharmed from the bite of a snake. (Acts 28:3-8)
Peter, the apostle to the Circumcision, namely the Jews, also preached a Baptism similar to John’s. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38, Peter, being filled with the Holy Ghost tells Israel to repent and to be baptized. ‘Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins’. This fulfills the Lord’s statement in Mark 16, ‘He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved’. This is in fulfillment of what the Lord told them in Acts 1:4.
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
5 – For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
This is in harmony with Luke 24:49 when the Lord was speaking to the eleven Apostles:
Luke 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
So, this power from on high was connected with the Holy Spirit. What was its’ purpose?
It was the powerful equipment of spiritual gifts for the twelve to make known to Israel the proclamation that the long-awaited Kingdom was at hand.
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, also wrote of those same gifts to the Corinthian Church. But the purpose was to provoke Israel to jealousy so that they would repent and turn to God, so that “the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you” (Acts 3:19,20).
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, these evidential signs given to Jews and Gentiles were for the purpose of bringing the nation of Israel to repentance.
Yet, the Kingdom was postponed because some Jews “believed not”. (Acts 28:24)
Acts 28:24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
With the pronouncement of Israel’s blindness, the gifts of the fiery Spirit ceased. The “power from on high” was put on hold. But at some future time, the miraculous will resume and all prophecy concerning Israel will be fulfilled.Baptism – Part 2
Baptized Unto Moses
In 1 Corinthians 10:1 Paul writes about a Baptism not associated with water at all.
“Moreover brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all of our fathers were under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
The Israelites were sent through the sea on dry land as the Lord led them in the cloud. The Baptism through the sea identified Israel with all that Moses stood for; redemption from the bondage of Egypt, the ceremonial law, and set apart from the rest of the world as the chosen people of God. This is the first great teaching concerning Baptism in the Scriptures. The first occurrence of the word is in Job. But the first Baptism mentioned in Scripture is Israel passing through the Red Sea on dry ground. After that, they went through another Baptism by crossing the river Jordan on dry ground. These Baptisms separated them from the world. Passing through the Red Sea represents the passing from the bondage of darkness into the light of the redemption associated with their salvation. The Lord was with them in the cloud. The Lord led them throughout their journey. Much can be learned from these Baptisms and their symbolism.
Paul’s Ministry – Did It Include Water Baptism?
When we “rightly divide the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), we learn that Paul was appointed by God to be an Apostle to us Gentiles. If we follow this Truth then everything will fall into place concerning our understanding of the subject at hand, Baptism.
Gal. 2:7. But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles) was committed unto me (Paul), as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8. (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:
9. And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision.
1 Tim. 2:7. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
Error gives way to understanding when we don’t rightly divide the Word of Truth. Before we can apply Scripture to ourselves, we must understand to whom the passage was written.
Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write to us Gentiles just as the other New Testament writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Second Timothy 3:16 teaches us that “ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God…” What Paul wrote was just as inspired as any other N.T.writer.
In Corinthians 1:17, Paul writes: ‘Christ sent me NOT to baptize but to preach the gospel’.
This statement alone should cause the seeker of Truth to sit up and take notice. If Paul were alive today, would he be called a gainsaying and disobedient servant of God?
There are those who say that the commission of Matt. 28 belongs to the Gentiles and that we, as Gentiles should baptize the nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost. If you agree with this, then I ask you; where is it in Matthew that the Gentile is so commissioned? Could it be possible that this commission belonged to believing Israel who as a Holy Nation was to witness the salvation of God to the nations?
Baptized Unto His Death – The Preaching of Paul
After Israel was set aside (Acts 28:24-28) and the Mystery revealed, we are told to keep the Unity of the Spirit which includes the ‘One baptism’. This Baptism is revealed to us in Colossians 2:21 where it is written that the believer of the Church of the One Body is ‘buried with Him in baptism’. This cannot imply water Baptism of any kind. This Baptism is so closely identified with Christ in His death that we are to consider ourselves as having been buried with Him also. An examination of the context of Col. 2:10-21 speaks volumes:
10. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Notice one important point concerning our Baptism. It is NOT MADE WITH HANDS. In other words, man has nothing to do with this Baptism. It has been done. It is complete. To be complete in Christ means that there is no need for anything else as far as our close identification with Him. To be complete in Him means that there is no need of anything else as far as our standing before God.
We are closely identified with Christ’s death. Nothing in the preceding verses teaches that this is the operation of man. Christ has done it all on the cross. To understand this is strong meat. If the old man is involved with rites, washings, and decrees, then it cannot discern the things of the Spirit concerning our Baptism unto His death. Because we are buried with Him in this baptism therefore we are raised with Him. This is our identification with Christ. When He died, then we died with Him. When He was buried, then we were buried with Him. This close identification with Christ’s death is the Baptism of the Church of the One Body. This Baptism unto death also represents the death of the old man, the old nature in the believer. (See Two Natures in the Child of God).
Eph. 2:1. And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
We were once dead to sin, but now, through the operation of Christ’s death on the cross and our identification with Him, we are alive unto God in newness of life.
Eph. 2:4. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
1. I Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2. With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
We are not called upon to make a unity; it is already made. We are called upon to “keep the unity”. To do so is to “walk worthy” of our calling. Failure to keep the Unity of the Spirit results in a walk that is unworthy. The question of baptism would clear up if believers would recognize PRESENT TRUTH and insist upon keeping the Unity of the Spirit. Ephesian 4 states emphatically that in this Dispensation, there is but ONE BAPTISM. One Baptism is certainly not two. To allow for two or more Baptisms betrays a Divinely given trust.
Christ has done it all for us. We are truly COMPLETE in Him. Would a demand for a water baptism as a part of our salvation, doctrine, or conversion, demonstrate our belief that we are complete in Him?
Let us be faithful and believe that there is but ONE Baptism and that Baptism is our close identification with Christ’s death on the cross. Through Christ our Lord we have passed from death unto life. Praise His Name!
The previous study was made possible by the exemplary writing of Stuart Allen’s “Baptism” study as well as Tom Ballinger’s Plainer Words study on the “Unity of the Spirit.” I borrowed a few of their words simply because I could not improve the manner in which they were presented. D. Earnest