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Introduction to Baptism

Baptism, as it is known today in the Christian Church, was never practiced in the Old Testament. Baptism comes upon the scene in the New Testament, but there are some things that were done in the Old Testament in which washing was used to symbolize spiritual purity. When a Gentile became a Jew, a proselyte, the male had to do three things. He had to be circumcised and come under the Abrahamic Covenant, he had to bring an offering to the priest, and he had to baptize, or wash himself, before he came.

In the Old Testament there was a cleansing of the leper, where the leper had to go through a cleansing ceremony before being allowed back into society. There was a purification process for a person that had touched a dead body, where the defiled person went through a purification by the use of a ceremony that used the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19). Then there was the hand washing traditions the Pharisee's established, which symbolized spiritual purity, Leviticus 14:2, Numbers 5:2, Mark 7:3.

The Priests, in preparation for the priestly ministry, would wash themselves at the Laver before they could go into the Holy Place to minister, Exodus 30:18, Leviticus 16:4.

When Israel had escaped from Egypt and arrived at Mt Sinai, they were to cleanse and separate themselves and prepare, as a solemn occasion, to enter into covenant with God. This is exactly what we have in the New Testament with John the Baptist. He suddenly comes upon the scene with the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, Exodus 19:6, Exodus 19:10.

"Let them wash their clothes," was a Jewish expression at the time that meant they were not only to wash their clothes, but their bodies in pure water, the clothes washing and body washing always went together. This symbolism was not only a Jewish symbol but was well known throughout all the nations. This was to be done before they performed any religious act and was an emblem of their spiritual purity.

When John the Baptist came preaching, God was ready to enter into a covenant with the people. The kingdom of God was at hand, the kingdom that was promised to Israel. John the Baptist preached, to "repent and be baptized" and this baptism was a symbol of their spiritual purity and their belief that God was ready to enter into a new covenant.

Of course, Christian baptism, as known today, is different than the baptism of John the Baptist. The baptism of John the Baptist was not in the name of the trinity. Christian baptism is in the name of the trinity. The apostle Paul re-baptized those who had been baptized by John the Baptist, Acts 19:3-5.

In John's baptism, the people were acknowledging that they were ready to enter into a new covenant, and believed that the kingdom of God was at hand. Their baptism was a preparation for this new covenant and a symbol of this belief, similar to the Israelites washing prior to receiving God's promises at Mt. Sinai.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus, but this baptism was different. Jesus was sinless and he came as Prophet, Priest, and King so He was anointed by the Spirit of God at His baptism. Remember that this cleansing that was done before a priest entered into ministry, that in old times the kings and some of the prophets, and also the priests, were anointed before they begin their ministry.

Old Testament priest ministered by evidence of the blood, a sprinkling of the blood, where it is placed upon the ear and the right toe and the thumb of the priest. Jesus was going to minister by virtue of His own blood and His own life, because He was sinless. His baptism was His initiation, or anointing, into His three-fold ministry as Prophet, Priest, and King.

At Pentecost, they identified Jesus as the King that suffered, died, and rose again from the dead, and purchasing their salvation, they identified Him as the Messiah. Peter preached to the people on the day of Pentecost, informing them they had crucified their Messiah, and the people were pricked at the heart. Peter told them to repent and be baptized, Acts 2:38. Repentance means a change of mind, away from sin and toward God. One has to look at the context and this context says that, "He is not a blasphemer, He is the Messiah, now change your mind." There are two promises that are given here. If they repent, they will have the remission of sins, and the Holy Spirit. These are two elements of the New Covenant that God had promised.

This reference begins in the plural and switches to the singular so it could literally be said "You repent and those of you who repent, you should be baptized". The baptism was to follow repentance and remission of sin.

When we put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ, we are identified with Him, we are identified as having been crucified with Christ. As many as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death, His burial, and His resurrection, and identified with Him. If we have put our trust in Jesus Christ, we are identified with Him, and told that we are going to be Kings and Priests with Him unto God. Immersion in water fully portrays and carries out the symbolism of our identification with Christ, Romans 6:3-6.

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Why be Baptized?

A believer is commanded to be baptized by immersion in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Believers are baptized because they are commanded to be baptized and to be baptized a certain way. One is not baptized simply because a church requires it, Matthew 28:19-20. This verse is referred to as the "Great Commission." It was given to the apostles who were responsible for setting up churches and teaching doctrine. Therefore, it is not just for the apostles, it is for you and I today and applies to all nations and will be required till the end of the world. This commission requires not only baptizing but teaching

Baptism is an act of obedience which also symbolizes the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour and shows the believer's death to sin, the burial of their old life, and their resurrection to walk in newness of life in Jesus, Romans 6:4. Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the Church and depicts the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and is a picture of what happened to the believer when he first believed. His old man died, was crucified in Christ on the cross, was buried and arose a new person, one born again from above. Baptism tells the story of the death, burial and resurrection in a beautiful picture. The key to the following verses is the words "like" and "likeness" meaning that baptism is symbolic of that death, burial, and resurrection, Romans 6:3-6. The new believer goes down into a watery grave, which pictures the burial of Christ and his own death to sin which is the crucifixion of the old natural man. He is planted in the likeness of the death of Christ and when he arises it is in the likeness of His resurrection. He has now made a public statement of his belief in Christ and his intent to live his life for Christ.

In the book of Acts we can see that baptism was an open profession of faith in Jesus Christ as ones Saviour and was done publicly. Thus baptism comes after repentance or faith. The Bible uses the word repentance and sometimes belief but there is no instance in scripture where one was baptized that did not already claimed salvation. This repentance or belief is referring to a change of heart from the world to Christ in faith and comes before baptism. Repentance gives us a new worldview, a biblical worldview and our faith will be seen as we act on this new worldview. Everywhere in the scriptures repentance and faith in Christ were put ahead of baptism. For example Philip made sure the eunuch believed in Christ with all his heart before he would baptize him, Acts 8:36-37.

Since it is a command to be baptized after believing, it should be obvious that if one is truly saved then one would desire baptism. Baptism is the first step in our obedience to God. A Christian "CANNOT" be in the will of God without obeying God's command to be baptized, unless they are providentially hindered. There are some that are prevented from being baptized, such as children whose parents refuse to allow them to be baptized. We also have the example of the thief on the cross, who was saved and Jesus affirmed that he would be in paradise with Him that day, Luke 23:42-43.

Baptism is symbolic in nature and is not necessary for salvation nor is it a part of salvation. The idea of baptismal regeneration did not appear in the New Testament Church until late in the second century. It then came to be accepted by the group that later became known as the Roman Catholic Church. Some few churches continue this teaching outside the Catholic Church today.

There are churches in existence that claim one cannot go to heaven unless they have been baptized in their particular church. The reasoning for this is they consider their church the body of Christ and, therefore in the kingdom of God. The body of Christ is composed of all true believers and is an organism and not an organization, and therefore includes members of different denominations. A church can be a part of the kingdom of God but cannot be the kingdom of God. No one can be in the kingdom of God unless they have trusted Christ as their Savior. Many church members are professors of salvation but not possessors of salvation. The professors of salvation are destined for hell while the possessors of salvation are a part of the body of Christ and destined for heaven. According to the parable of the wheat and the tares, Matthew 13:24-30, we will have these professors with us till Christ returns. This is one reason no church can be the kingdom of God on earth.

Every believer should be baptized because Jesus commanded it, Matthew 28:19. This baptism demonstrates obedience and Jesus Himself set the example, Mark 1:9, and His followers also obeyed his command to be baptized, Acts 2:41; 8:18. This baptism is a public testimony of our faith, Acts 2:41 and represents a picture of our breaking from the past and entering into a new life with Christ, Romans 6:4.

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Who is to be Baptized?

Baptism is only for those who have been born again. Once saved the next step of obedience is baptism. Jesus commanded Christians to make disciples of all nations and baptize them. A disciple is a learner, one who agrees with the instructions of the teacher and one who follows those teachings, Matthew 28:19.

Since an unbeliever cannot understand the spiritual things of God, the unbeliever cannot be a disciple. Therefore, a disciple is a believer and according to Matthew 28:19 they are then to be baptized, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

All the references to baptism show that belief was first and then came baptism in water Acts 10:47-48. (Acts 2:41, 8:36-38, 10:48, 16:14-15, 16:33, 19:4-5) For example in Acts 10:47-48 we see that belief came first and then came water baptism.

Another reference follows but there are many others. Notice that Philip would not baptize the eunuch until he was saved, Acts 8:36-37.

In the revival at Samaria when the people believed they were then baptized by Phillip, Acts 8:12.

In addition, baptism is for all people today. The "Great Commission" tells the apostles, who were responsible for setting up the churches, to go into all the world baptizing believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Matthew 28:19.

Then in Acts Peter makes it clear that baptism is for all that are afar off, meaning as many as God calls whether they are local or in another land. It is for "all" meaning that it doesn't make any different whether they are Jews or Gentiles, Acts 2:38-39.

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When to Baptize

As seen in the references in the following topic "Who Should Be Baptized?" believers were baptized as soon as possible after belief. This remains true today, one is to be baptized as soon as possible after they accept Christ as their Saviour, as soon as they are born again, Matthew 28:19. At Pentecost those that believed were baptized that same day, Acts 2:41.

Phillip baptized when people believed and soon thereafter, Acts 8:12.

You will note first belief and then immediate baptism over and over throughout the book of Acts. (Acts 8:38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15; 16:33; 18:8.)

Paul, was the apostle to the Gentiles (meaning all nations other than Israel) as well as Israel, Acts 9:15, Acts 22:21.

Paul also explained that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel. If baptism were to come before belief then it would only make sense that Paul would have been sent to baptize. Even though Paul did baptize some few people he preached the gospel and those that believed were baptized but not necessarily by him, 1 Corinthians 1:17.

As explained in the next topic "Who Should Be Baptized" one cannot be taught without they first become a believer. When one believes, we have the command in Matthew to baptize. Baptism is the first command a new believer must follow. Without baptism one cannot walk in fellowship with God.

In closing, one should note that a new believer can not be happy as a Christian until they are baptized. A Christians fellowship with God depends on how the Christian obeys God's commandments. If one rejects baptism they are being disobedient to God's commandment and are out of fellowship with the God. A Christian cannot experience the joy of being a Christian while out of fellowship with God.

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How to Baptize

The word for baptize in Greek is baptizo, which means "to dip, plunge, submerge, or immerse." Therefore baptism is by immersion. The word baptize in the New Testament is never translated sprinkle. It means to be immersed in water. Look at our short study on Why be Baptized and you will see that sprinkling does not present a picture of the death of Christ and neither does it show a picture of the resurrection of Christ.

When Phillip baptized the eunuch there was "much" water. We don't need much water to sprinkle. Notice also that they "both" went down into the water, Acts 8:38. Note that when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River He went down into the water, Matthew 3:16.

The literal meaning of the word baptize is immerse. Instead of translating the word immerse they simply translated the letters into English and used those letters for the English word. There was no English word baptize until that time. When the translators were working on the King James Bible they were given instructions by King James. If the literal translation of a word would cause controversy or cast reflection on the state church of England they were to Anglicize the Greek word. They were to spell it with English letters and not translate it. The word baptize wasn't the only word that was Anglicized; another word for example, is the word deacon which literally means servant.

Baptism by the early Church was by immersion but in the Catholic Church sprinkling for baptism gradually replaced immersion. When the Catholic Church divided into the Roman and Greek branches the Greek branch retained immersion as the proper method of baptism and the Roman Catholic Church used sprinkling. Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the Church and depicts the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and is a picture of what happened to the believer when he first believed. His old man died, was crucified in Christ on the cross, was buried and arose a new person, one born again from above, Romans 6:3-6.

Looking again at the verse above we can reconstruct the picture of baptism. In verse four we can see the burial in water and verse five speaks of a planting in the likeness of His death.

Also the book of Colossians tells us that baptism is a burial. Pouring on of water or sprinkling of water does not present this picture of burial in Romans. It isn't possible to represent the burial of Christ by sprinkling or pouring but it can't be misunderstood when one disappears beneath the water being immersed, Colossians 2:12.

When one comes up out of the water it is in the likeness of His resurrection. If one is baptized by pouring on of water or by being sprinkled with water it isn't possible to come up out of the water and this does not present a picture of the resurrection. However, where one has just been buried or immersed in the water and is now coming up out of the water gives a beautiful picture of the resurrection to a new life. Sprinkling nor pouring can never portray a picture of burial and resurrection.

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Is Baptism Essential?

Is baptism essential to salvation? No. We can have peace with God or salvation by grace through faith plus nothing, minus nothing. While baptism is extremely important, it is not a part of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith and not of works, Ephesians 2:8-9.

One of the first commandments for a new believer, one that has just been born again, is that of being baptized. Matthew 28:19-20. A disciple is first of all a believer. One must be a believer to understand the word of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14. Those that are lost are spiritually blind and cannot understand the spiritual things of God. For one to be a disciple one must believe and live the teachings one is being taught. Therefore a disciple must be a believer. We are then to baptize the disciples (believers).

Is baptism necessary for salvation shouldn't even be a question. The question should be if you are saved, and you know what baptism means and that it was commanded by Christ, why would you not be baptized? So we are told by the Bible to make disciples and baptize them. It is clear from the following quote that baptism comes after salvation, Matthew 28:19. Then Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 1:17 said he was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel. The meaning should be clear that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, the gospel, Romans 10:17. When we are saved we receive the indwelling Holy Spirit and we receive the Spirit by the hearing of faith, Galatians 3:2

Another verse used to attempt to prove baptism is a part of salvation is Mark 16:16. This verse refers to two kinds of people, those that believe and are baptized and those that don't believe. But there are three kinds of people that must be considered. This verse does not refer to those who believe in Jesus but have not been baptized. In John 6:47 we see what the Bible says about such a person. Notice that the word "hath" is present tense meaning when one believes he presently at that very moment has everlasting life. This occurs before baptism so there is no room for baptismal regeneration here. Neither is there room for baptismal regeneration in John 3:15. On the contrary, we are saved when we trust on Jesus for our salvation, John 3:36. It is belief that saves or lack of belief that condemns.

Now as we go back and read the first part of Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; it is obvious that those who believe and also get baptized are indeed saved. But this does not command baptism to be saved. Look at the last part of Mark 16:16, he that believeth not shall be damned. Unbelievers are already condemned and believers are forgiven. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1 that there is now no condemnation to those in Christ. So the last part of Mark 16:16 is just another statement of that fact. But note that it does not say that those who have not been baptized are damned. Only those who do not believe are damned and therefore the most important thing for salvation is belief and baptism is not a part of it. The Bible never states one is condemned because he is not baptized. The Bible tells us over and over that one is condemned because they do not believe.

Look now at Acts 2:38, a passage used to attempt to prove baptism saves. This passage first says repent. When one first believes they will have a change of mind and turn away from their sins and to the things of God. Matthew 28:19 has given us instructions to baptize disciples. Once these have believed in Christ and repented they are saved and will then follow the commands of Jesus to be baptized for (not in order to obtain but because of) the remissions of sins. If I tell you to take a Tylenol for your headache it isn't so you can obtain a headache it is because you already have a headache. Likewise, one is baptized because they already have salvation, not to obtain salvation. In the book of Acts it is always Faith, Repentance and then baptism. One can see in Ephesians 2:8-10 that it is faith that saves us and not baptism.

Baptism is essential to salvation only in the sense that if you don't want to go through with it, and there is no barrier to your understanding, then it is clear that you do not possess salvation. Being saved and baptism are two separate events that are sometimes treated as one, not because being baptized is required for salvation, but because baptism, in the light of salvation, is expected.

Let's look at the example of the Apostle Paul - The Apostle Paul was called to preach the gospel, not to baptize. If baptism was essential then Paul would been required to baptize, 1 Corinthians 1:7. Then if this verse is true, and it is, then the gospel of salvation can not include baptism. This should tell anyone that it is impossible for baptism to be included in the Gospel. It gets better! The Gospel of salvation preached by Paul did not include baptism and yet Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 that the gospel he preached saves!

So just what was the gospel Paul preached? Paul continued and explained this gospel and you will find no mention of baptism in the gospel preached by Paul. Here is the gospel Paul said he preached, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, but I would encourage you to read the entire chapter for a better understanding. You will not find baptism mentioned in the gospel preached by Paul. Yet, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Paul makes it clear that this is the gospel he preached to them.

Paul's gospel is a gospel of salvation but did not include baptism.

In the book of Acts we find what Jesus actually sent Paul to do, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God that they might receive forgiveness of sins, Acts 26:16-18, God did not send Paul to baptize. No mention of baptism here. This means we receive forgiveness of sins without baptism. And in fact as was noted above Paul told the Corinthians that he was not sent to baptize. If baptism for salvation was necessary God would not send Paul to preach the gospel and save people without giving him a command to baptize. Baptism is clearly not a part of salvation.

Salvation has been the same throughout the Bible and there is not one person saved by baptism in the Old Testament. There is only one plan of salvation in the Bible and that is through faith. Salvation has always been the same throughout the New Testament and the Old Testament, belief and not baptism, Hebrews 10:4, Acts 10:42-43. Read the faith chapter, Hebrews 11. There you will find many of the Old Testament saints mentioned and all saved by faith.

Next the NT Salvation without baptism- This woman was saved without baptism her sins were forgiven and she went away saved, Luke 7:47.

In Luke 18:42-43 we see the salvation of faith but without baptism.

John 1:12 is not referring to a particular person but clearly salvation on belief, otherwise John is a liar but fact is he told the truth.

No baptism mentioned John 3:14-15 but eternal life is for whosoever believeth.

John 3:36 explains that he that believeth hath (present tense) everlasting life - this is salvation.

John 5:24 explains he that believeth hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death to life. This sounds like salvation with no mention of baptism.

Romans 4:5 doesn't mention works of baptism but only believe on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (not baptism) is counted for righteousness.

One cannot turn their mind or heart to God in repentance without faith in Christ. To have faith in Christ one must first believe in Christ, Romans 10:14.

The only plan of salvation that God has is stated in John 3:16.

Many other verses could be added to show that salvation does not include baptism but this should be enough to clearly see that fact.



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