Study on Christian Baptism
The first Scripture we’ll look at on baptism is Matthew chapter 3:
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 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: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. 13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
To the people their baptism was a statement that they had been unclean and going in the wrong direction, but now they are turning to God, getting in line with Him, and are intent on demonstrating that by their deeds. Getting baptized was the initial deed to show their intent on obeying God and getting right with Him. Obviously baptism without such an intent is a meaningless show. And obviously one must bear the fruit of righteousness in their life after baptism- or their baptism is a display of hypocrisy. Yet the act of baptism itself cannot be neglected since that is how God had arranged it by John’s time, and has arranged it since then, that men are to publicly declare their repentance by this. Getting baptized is meant to basically say “I’ve been walking contrary to God, but in confidence of His promises I turn back to Him in submission to His Law in hope of His mercy and cleansing.”
It’s interesting how the people in John the Baptist and Jesus’ time understood baptism. It must be because of its relation to how Priests were set apart for service under the Old Covenant. And though obviously baptism had come to be applied to repenting sinners, and not just Priests for entrance or consecration for ministry, God evidently didn’t contest this but instead rather sent John to baptize men with water unto repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The practice of water baptism to proclaim repentance and a new life of obedience to God have also carried over as a Christian ordinance in the New Covenant. People are to get baptized in water now for the same basic reason that the people should have got baptized in water through John the Baptist’s preaching. Consider:
1 Peter 3:16-22: “Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”
With Jesus’ baptism by the way, obviously that had to do with the principles in which the Levitical Priests entered into ministry. Jesus, though He had never sinned and always lived in line with the Law of God, was now leaving His father and mother (probably just His mother at this point since Joseph was probably dead, but leaving His father’s household anyways), to serve in full-time ministry. In God’s wisdom there had to be a point where He went from living a common man’s life to entrance into public life as a Minister of God’s Word (to say the least). That point was at His baptism.
So the only differences in Christian baptism compared to John’s baptism have to do with the fullness of revelation of God, and the fullness of redemption now offered, due to the appearance and completed earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Hence Christians are to identify with Jesus Christ in baptism; and they are promised the Holy Spirit in relation to a true baptism through faith in Christ- since He has now been revealed to be the Messiah who has suffered and died as the Perfect Lamb of God to make an atonement for sins; and He has risen from the dead and shed forth His Holy Spirit to live in those that obey Him.
So as the Baptism of John was intended to be a declaration that one has been out of the way, but is turning to live under the teaching of the Law of God in hopes of a part in the Messiah’s kingdom. Christian baptism then is confessing one is out of the way, but is turning to live under the teaching of the now revealed Messiah who upheld the righteousness of God’s Law and fulfilled its promises of redemption through His shed blood -and has thus shed forth His Holy Spirit. Thus a true baptism now is identification with the Messiah whom John said that men should believe in. And the one who is baptized now can receive the Holy Spirit through the Messiah’s full redemption which they have become a partaker of. The time between Jesus’ resurrection and the Day of Pentecost was the only time in this transition where things would have been murky and very hard to sort out. Jesus thus specifically told His disciples after His resurrection to tarry in Jerusalem until they would be endued with power from on high. And as we’ve talked about in other studies, the arrival of the Holy Spirit upon those disciples was practically the birth of the Christian church; and is why the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, when that arrival happens, is so significant.
Acts 2:32-39: “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Men are now called to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to receive the Holy Spirit in the present. And this is not a formula, it is a matter of an obedient, living faith in Jesus Christ where one believes in Him as the Son of God with the basic understanding that the authority of the Father and the witness of the Holy Spirit, the other two persons of the Trinity, abide in Him.
John 5:22-24:”For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
1 John 5:7-12: “ For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
Thus there is no contradiction between being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and being baptized in the name of all three persons of the Trinity. They all agree in one!
We read in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
So not only then is Jesus God as the 2nd person of the Trinity who represents the Godhead as the Judge of all mankind, note also that baptism is indeed a declaration that one has come under His authority and is committed to keep His Word (all that He has commanded in His Word).
It’s amazing to me that so many professing Christians will contest the Christian’s obligation to keep God’s commandments. They see Biblical terms like faith in Christ and the grace of God through a lens which is not derived from the Bible! From a Biblical lens there is no faith in Christ which does not submit to His authority and live by His Word; and the grace of God in Christ is only for those who do so! God expects us to acknowledge our just damnation and inability to atone for our sins through our own efforts WHILE doing whatever it takes to come into line with His authority and receiving His grace as help to overcome sin, rather than as a license to enjoy the pleasures of sin!. Everyone who has some concept of the grace of the God believes in one or the other, though the ways belief in the latter of the two can be expressed are numerous and can look as different as the leaders of Israel who plotted Jesus’ crucifixion looked from the openly heathen soldiers’ lives who actually crucified Him (if they had professed to be Christians, I mean)
Scriptural baptism is actually a contract whereby one commits to learn and walk in God’s ways while shunning all the pleasures of sin in the hope of all the mercies, spiritual blessings, and exceedingly great promises which God has guaranteed to those who take hold of His covenant in Christ. Anyone who has been baptized with what they consider to be a valid Christian baptism has already essentially vowed, or you could say signed at least an oral contract, that they would strive to walk within the boundaries of Christianity and to walk in all that God has commanded in His Word for a Christian to walk in! A proper Biblical Baptism is signing up to learn to observe whatsoever Christ commanded! And it is ironic that one group of people who frequently fight against the thought that Christians actually need to live holy, avoid sinning, and overall walk worthy of God are those who are called Baptists!
And though many also think that they do in truth live by the Bible, note that it is one thing to pick certain things in the Bible which you like, which you think agree well with how you’ve chosen to live, which maybe you think you ought to emulate to be a better version of yourself, etc- yet it is quite another thing to let go and submit to all of God’s Word’s verdicts and instructions, whether you like it or not, whether it seems it helps you or hurts you in your present circumstances, whether you feel better about yourself for it, etc. That is being a true Christian disciple and doing that is denying yourself, taking up YOUR cross, and following Jesus as He said we must do to inherit eternal life. That IS the strait and narrow way that leads to life! And only those who do this can truly be said to keep the Word of God- and thus to do the will of God.
Matthew 12:49-50: “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Luke 8:20-21: “And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. 21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.”
John 8:51: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”
Along that same line of thought, we read in Romans 6:1-4: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The whole of Romans chapter 6, and the train of thought in the Book of Romans, shows how the grace of God is given for no other purpose but to make people servants to God who are free from sin’s dominion. Obeying the Gospel of Christ is dying to sin with Christ in order to, through the promises of God, walk in new life as servants to God. Christian baptism represents agreement and alignment with this purpose! There is no grace offered otherwise and no everlasting life promised otherwise, but rather the guarantee of death. Remember John 8:51 above “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”
Along with that, we read in John 8:31-36: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
So baptism is supposed to be the declaration that we are under His authority that henceforth we should not serve sin through the life He offers to those who serve God under His authority.
By the way here: Those who believe in baptism by immersion, and I believe baptism by sprinkling and immersion both are acceptable, but just as a side note, those who believe in baptism by immersion should consider that baptism by immersion does not literally illustrate death and resurrection with Christ- for Jesus was not buried at sea! If baptism was supposed to literally picture this, you would have to be wrapped in linen put in a tomb, have a stone rolled to the tomb, have the stone removed, you unwrap the linen, fold it up, and exit the tomb. Obviously that is ridiculous and I think it’s obvious that death and new life with Christ is pictured in a different way than that through the water of baptism. And I believe sprinkling and immersion both get that point across and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone who has been baptized for the right reasons with a true heart in line with those reasons get re-baptized because they have come to now think that sprinkling or immersion is better when they had been baptized the other way before.
Consider then more Scripture relating baptism with coming under authority:
Leviticus 19:36-37: “Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 20:26: “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.”
God brought Israel out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership that they might be a holy people unto Him. Thus Israel as a nation was baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea as they left Egypt. And yet God was displeased with those who didn’t live up to the purpose of their baptism- and destroyed them in His wrath! And look also in this passage from 1 Corinthians chapter 10 how this is applied directly to baptized Christian church members.
1 Corinthians 10:1-12: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Titus 2:11-14: “11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
In baptism one professes receiving the true grace of God that brings salvation by heeding its instruction. And we are warned what happens if we turn away from this instruction, especially since there are so very many who deny this instruction and twist this instruction!
Jude 3-7: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old (i.e. in the Old Testament) ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
So like we saw from 1 Peter 3:21, baptism is virtually essential, not due to the cleansing of the water itself, but in order to have a good conscience towards God. It’s intended as an initial act of obedience in entering into the whole package of Christianity. Things like infant baptism are evil because infants cannot have a repentant attitude and obedient, ready mind towards Christ- so baptism cannot represent to them what God intended it to represent! It is no different than with the little children who get coached into saying the sinner’s prayer, and then into baptism, in the evangelical and Protestant churches. It becomes a ritual that has a strong tendency to serve as a substitute for the entire package of Christianity rather than as a knowledgeable, willing entrance into the whole package of Christianity like it should be regarded as. It is no different than misusing the holy things in the Temple!
Those who would enter into the whole package of Christianity need to get baptized as a declaration of this, both in making the declaration ,as well as in doing the ordinance whereby God has commanded that this declaration be made. And if they die before they can do it like the thief on the cross, while exercising a good conscience towards God in the ways they are able like he came to do, then they’ll yet be saved by the true grace of God (who knows the hearts and knows all things). But you cannot be a faithful Christian and knowingly disregard getting baptized!
Mark 16:15-16: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Consider the implications of Acts 8:35-38: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
So those who haven’t been baptized OR those who have been baptized but not for the right reasons, should get their heart right and get baptized for the right reasons! And anyone who won’t be baptized for the right reasons is basically saying that they will have this man to reign over them (that is, Jesus Christ- see Luke 19:27- His enemies who get slain before Him at His 2nd coming said that, at least in their hearts). And if you have been under His rule, seeking to obey His Word and deny yourself the pleasures of sin as your ultimate aim, yet for some reason you have not been baptized yet to publicly declare this (maybe related to how you were baptized before when you shouldn’t have been and it didn’t occur to you that you ought to do it in accordance with the Biblical reasons to do it), then certainly get baptized ASAP! There is no point putting it off any longer; and it would be disobedience and backsliding to put it off any longer in your case. I’ve known of people whose refusal to surrender and walk in all the truth was pretty obviously demonstrated by their neglect to get baptized as a Christian. And vice-versa. And that is how it is supposed to be when the lines of Christianity are drawn properly and understood, without counterfeit baptisms and confusion over counterfeit baptisms, in the mix.
In Psalm 2 we are told: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
To baptize someone outside of genuine repentance in laying down their arms of rebellion against the Lord and His Christ to welcome and trust Christ’s benevolent reign; or to baptize with a manipulated or shallow understanding of this, is irresponsible and wicked! Yet to baptize someone who truly is obeying His Gospel, and thus is truly eligible for Christian baptism, is cause for great excitement and rejoicing! The baptized has truly shown up ready to run the Christian race. They are not finished, but they have truly begun!
In general, Spirit baptism will accompany a genuine water baptism, though there are cases, even right in Scripture, where God chose to give Spirit baptism before or after water baptism for reasons known to Him. In general though, one who is water baptized in obeying Christ from the heart will receive the witness from God’s Spirit that He has accepted them in Christ. But the Holy Spirit will come as a fire to them, whereas with Christ the Spirit came as a dove. His race was run to save us. For the rest of us the Christian race, though it will involve helping others to find Christ’s salvation too, is necessary to purify and save our own souls. And we just need to go forward in obedience to get a glimpse of how we need to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. In other words, to get a glimpse of how He must increase in us and we must decrease. He has a finished product that He is after. Only those who run the Christian race to the end will be the product that He is after. We cannot finish right if we do not start right. That is why baptism and its significance is such a critical topic.
Malachi 3:1-3: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. 2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
Note: The Book of Malachi was specifically directed at Israel’s Priests, but what is said here applies to Christians and His work in them; and His work in the Christian church to separate the wheat from the chaff.
For any questions or clarification on this study, contact bro Aaron at [email protected].