For the vast majority of Christians, the terms “baptism” and
“water” are virtually inseparable. It is ironic, therefore, that
throughout the centuries they have fought among themselves
about this issue, sometimes violently. It is sad to say that
Church history is rife with such disputes.
It seems that none of the views expressed by the various
denominations thoroughly satisfy the majority of Christians
today. There are so many questions about baptism? Just to
list a few, some of these are: do I need to be baptized to be
saved? Is it really necessary? Is it just symbolic? Should we
sprinkle? What about infant baptism? How many baptisms
are there? What if I get baptized more than once? When I join your church do I need to get rebaptized? And there are many more questions. Now when it comes to any spiritual matter, the question that should always be asked, and then answered, is “What does the Word of God say?” To derive from Scripture the meaning originally intended by the Author, we must come to the word of God without ANY preconceived ideas from any set group or denomination.
But can we really find the answer to this difficult and seemingly confusing question? I believe we can and I believe it’s simpler than we think.
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
There is such simplicity in Christ and we will see the once we establish God’s plan and purpose for baptism, we will see the simplicity in Christ shine through.
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Notice the simplicity in this verse that we have in Christ. We must be careful not to put an extra burden on people when it's not necessary.
So we see here that it says that there’s one baptism for us today, not two or more. We can’t say that there’s a water baptism and believer’s Baptism and infant baptism and Spirit baptism and so on. There must only be one. So what baptism is this referring to? What is the one and only baptism that applies to us?
Before we can answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning. The first thing we need to know is the meaning and purpose of the word.
-The meaning: The Greek word baptizo simply means “to dip” or “to immerse.” The word itself has absolutely nothing to do with the element into which something or someone is immersed. In other words, it is possible to be “baptized” into things other than water.
-The purpose: The purpose is vital to understanding anything in scripture and everything God does has a purpose. And the purpose does not change. When we understand the purpose then we have a much easier time understanding what it is and what it isn't. The original purpose of baptism was for washing or cleansing all sin so that the priests would be holy before God and would not die.
Acts 1:4-5 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
It is clear that Acts 1:5 mentions two baptisms; one in water, and one in the Holy Spirit. This is important because Ephesians 4:5, which is specifically speaking to Christians, says there is only one baptism.
The question we must now answer is: Which one of the two baptisms Jesus spoke of in Acts 1:5 is relevant for us today as Christians, and which one has been canceled? Again, Acts 1:5, and similarly, what John the Baptist himself had said in Mark 1:8, make it clear that the older baptism was in water, and that would be replaced by baptism in the Holy Spirit. That understanding fits well with the following verses:
Hebrews 7:18-19 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
Hebrews 9:9-10 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and the sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings (baptismos: water baptisms) external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
The old, ceremonial, outer washing in water prescribed in the Mosaic Law for Israel pointed toward, and has now been superseded by, the new, actual, inner cleansing in the Holy Spirit.
The beginnings of baptism
Exodus 30:19-21 For Aaron and his sons will wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the Lord, they will wash with water, lest they die. So they will wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it will be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.”
We see from the very beginning that the actual reason for baptism was for the remission of sins. And this continues all the way until John the Baptist.
Matthew 3:11 it says, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.
John, being under the law, baptized the Jews with water unto repentance for the remission of sins. And while still under the law, this is why Jesus was baptized with water, so to fulfill all righteousness. Many Christians think that it was John the Baptist who introduced the idea of water baptism. No, the truth is that it was part of the Mosaic Law, and deeply ingrained in every Jew. What John actually did introduce was the phrase “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” showing that water baptism was only a shadow to the greater reality of an internal cleansing via the Holy Spirit upon salvation.
The original baptism under the old law for the priests and later the baptism of John were for the same purpose, the remission of sins for all. Did it change afterwards with the baptism of Jesus Christ? No, the purpose of baptism remains the same, to remove our sins and make us clean before our God. But this time we are now baptized by faith and not works and with the Holy Spirit and not with water. And now, as Christians, we are all a holy royal priesthood and we all can come boldly before His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We now walk without sin, not in our works or righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ by faith. As for water baptism, it holds no spiritual purpose for us today.
Baptism in water was one of the Old Testament “shadows” cast by the approaching light of Christ. Bringing into reality the real cleansing that required Jesus’ sinless life, sacrificial death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that he did it all—for us! That is the simplicity that is in Jesus Christ. When we accept Jesus Christ, we are baptized into the body of Christ and become Christ followers.... Christians
The missed commission
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of it all, we have this command that WE are all to go and to baptize others. in other words, preaching the gospel into all the world, saving as many as we can and bring them into the kingdom of God.
Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.
In the same way as water baptism, we lead others to Christ but it is Him that washes us all clean. Matthew 28:19 is all about saving the lost at any cost and discipling them to completely follow Christ.
The Acts assumption
There neither was nor is any command or requirement from God to practice water baptism. Prior to Pentecost, there was such a command—for Israel. But as Jesus said, that command was superseded by a new kind of “baptism,” one specifically for those who would believe on him as “Lord” and by way of it, be born again.
But what about when it mentions water baptism in the book of Acts? Between Acts 8-10 there are three events that have confused many.
Acts 13:46 It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you (the Jews) first; but since you reject it … we turn to the gentiles”.
Until this time, the gentiles used water baptism after Pentecost because the gospel had not gone out to them yet except for a few, the gospel was first sent to the Jews. This explains why the gentiles (such as the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, the household of Cornelius, Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas) still used water baptism while the Jews never used water baptism after Pentecost. After Acts 11:18 you won’t see any mention of water baptism again for either Jew or gentile since "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."
Freedom in Christ
Many churches love to lean on old and cherished Christian traditions. But regardless of tradition, our foundation must be built on the Word of God, the only valid standard for separating truth from error. We need not cling to the complexities of tradition but rather embrace the simplicity of that is found in Christ. And only through the Word of God may we be able to find true unity in the body of Christ. There is a growing list of ministries and churches that have come to the same understanding, and as wonderful as that is, we must remain steadfast solely on the only anchor that will keep us safe, the Word of God.
You may find that what we set before you is true, and therefore more spiritually invigorating and liberating than the position held by traditional churches. Our hope is that you are enlightened to reach for the greater freedom in Christ, the awesome spiritual reality of the Holy Spirit baptism, that is, the new birth and all that is contained in this glorious gift. You need not seek after a “shadow” when you already have the real thing.