Doctrine Of Baptisms
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. (Matthew 3:11)
The third foundational principle listed in Hebrews chapter 6 is the doctrine of baptisms.
In Hebrews 6:2 the word "baptism" is plural. It is "the doctrine of baptisms" [plural], not "the doctrine of baptism" [singular]. This means the complete doctrine of the Christian faith includes more than one baptism.
The New Testament mentions four different baptisms. These are:
-Christ's baptism of suffering
-The baptism of John
-Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The word "baptize" used in the Bible means to entirely immerse or submerge in something.
CHRIST'S BAPTISM OF SUFFERING
There is one baptism in the New Testament which we will call the baptism of suffering.
This baptism is spoken of by Jesus:
But I have a baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened till it be accomplished. (Luke 12:50)
This baptism is also mentioned in Mark 10:38 where the sons of Zebedee asked for the honor of sitting with Christ on His right and left sides in Heaven. Jesus answered: "Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Jesus was speaking of the suffering awaiting Him through His death for the sins of all mankind. He was to be immersed in suffering, buried in the tomb, and resurrected in a new body.
THE BAPTISM OF JOHN
The baptism of John the Baptist was baptism in water connected with the message of repentance. John the Baptist was born miraculously to Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1).
God had a special plan for his life. He was to serve as the "forerunner" of Jesus Christ:
For thou child shalt be called the prophet of the highest for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins. (Luke 1:76-77)
The word "forerunner" means one who goes before and prepares the way. John was to preach the message of repentance and baptism to Israel to prepare them for the coming of their Messiah, Jesus Christ:
I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I...He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. (Matthew 3:11)
The ministry of John the Baptist was the beginning of a new spiritual age: The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16)
Before the time of John the people lived under the law. Prophets and priests served as spiritual leaders and interpreters of the law. Only the priests had access to the presence of God in the temple. They served as mediators between the people and God and offered sacrifices for sin as God had commanded. This all changed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made access to God possible for all men. Jesus now serves as the mediator between sinful man and a righteous God.
John made two demands on the people:Repentance and public confession of sins. Those who were willing to meet these God-given requirements were baptized in the Jordan River as a public testimony. It was an outward sign that they had repented of their sins.
When some of the religious leaders came to John to be baptized, he refused to do it. He demanded that they show evidence of real change in their lives before he would baptize them:
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? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. (Matthew 3:7-8)
Repentance and remission of sins was required by John before he would baptize.
The phrase "baptism unto repentance and remission of sins" does not mean that these two experiences followed the act of being baptized in water.
Baptism was a visible confirmation that those being baptized had already experienced repentance and forgiveness.
The passage which best introduces what we will call "Christian baptism" describes the baptism of Jesus:
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to be baptized of him. But John forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 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. 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: And lo a voice from Heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:13-17)
Jesus was not baptized by John as evidence that He had repented of sin because He had no sins for which to repent. Jesus was baptized to "complete all righteousness.” He was setting a righteous example of behavior which He wanted all believers to follow.
BAPTISM OF BABIES
Jesus was not baptized as a baby. When He was an infant His parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, but He was not baptized (Luke 2:22).
Babies should not be baptized. Children can be presented to the Lord for dedication and blessing by the laying on of hands. But they should not be baptized until they understand the meaning of the act and have met the Biblical requirements. There is no set age at which this understanding comes. It depends on the mental and spiritual development of each child.
SPRINKLING OR IMMERSION?
When Jesus was baptized He went down into and then came up out of the water. Considering this and the Biblical meaning of the word "baptize", we must conclude He was fully immersed in the waters of Jordan.
In allowing Himself to be baptized, Jesus showed us the example of outward obedience to the will of God.
Through this act of obedience He fulfilled the plan of God. When believers are baptized, this outward act symbolizes the inward righteousness which they have received by faith.
REQUIREMENTS FOR BAPTISM
There were spiritual conditions to be met by those who sought baptism from John. There are also requirements to be met by those seeking baptism.
The first requirement for baptism was given by Jesus:
Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of theFather, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you... (Matthew 28:19-20)
Christ's command to teach new believers is given twice. They are to be taught before and after baptism. Sinners must first hear and receive the Gospel to become true believers:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized. (Acts 2:41)
When they heard this, they were baptized... (Acts 19:5)
A certain woman named Lydia...attended unto the things that were spoken of Paul...and she was baptized. (Acts 16:14-15)
Before baptism, believers should receive enough teaching to understand its meaning.
After baptism, they should continue to receive instruction in order to become mature Christians. Paul calls this "going on to perfection" (Hebrews 6).
The second condition for baptism is repentance from sin. Peter stressed this during his sermon on the day of Pentecost:
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? (Acts 2:37)
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. (Acts 2:38)
Note that conviction of sins is not enough. Action must be taken. The two commands Peter gave were repent and be baptized. Repentance comes before baptism.
The third condition for baptism is believing [faith]:
And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)
This requirement of believing is illustrated by the story of Philip and the Ethiopian man who he met on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8). Philip heard the Ethiopian read from the book of Isaiah. He joined him in his chariot to explain the Gospel. As they continued on their journey the road led past water. Upon the Ethiopian's request and his confession of faith, Philip baptized him:
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? 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. 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. (Acts 8:36-38)
Philip said to the eunuch: "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest be baptized."
The eunuch replied: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son God." A person who desires Christian baptism first must confess to faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE TOWARD GOD:
A fourth condition for Christian baptism is a good conscience toward God. Peter compares Christian baptism in water to the experience of Noah and his family who were saved from judgment as they entered into the ark:
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. (I Peter 3:21)
Peter dismisses any idea that the purpose of baptism is any kind of cleansing of the physical body. He says the condition of Christian baptism is the inner relationship of the believer's heart toward God. He calls it "a good conscience toward God."
THE TIME OF BAPTISM
To be eligible for water baptism a person must receive proper instruction, repent, believe, and have a good conscience toward God. The length of time it takes to meet these requirements will differ depending on the individual.
Some churches require those who desire baptism to take long periods of instruction lasting weeks or months. But the Bible says that on the day of Pentecost three thousand people were baptized. A few hours before they were unbelievers who rejected Jesus to be either the Messiah of Israel or the Son of God. From the end of Peter's sermon to their baptism, the time required to give necessary instruction could not have exceeded a few hours:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)
Philip baptized the Ethiopian the same day he preached the Gospel to him.
The practice of the early church in relation to baptism was as follows:
1. Before baptism they taught the basic facts of the Gospel centering on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. They related these facts to the act of baptism.
3. They verified understanding, repentance, and confession of faith in the new believer, then baptism in water followed immediately.
4. After baptism the new believers received further instruction for spiritual development.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM
The following text reveals the spiritual significance of Christian baptism:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? 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. (Romans 6:1-4)
When you repent and accept Jesus Christ as Savior, death to sin and the old life occurs.
There is creation of a new life of righteousness lived for God:
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof... For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11,12,14)
Christian baptism in water is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It symbolizes death to sin as you are immersed in that "grave" of water and resurrection into a new life lived for God in righteousness as you come up out of the water.
The believer who is raised up out of the water to live this new life does not do this in his own power. The new life is lived by the power of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. The effect of water baptism depends on the repentance and faith of the one being baptized. Without this, baptism is of no value.
True Christian baptism means we are baptized into Jesus Himself, not into a particular church or denomination:
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
BAPTISMS: A CONTRAST
Both John's baptism and Christian baptism occur by immersion in water, but there is a difference between the two. When Paul visited the city of Ephesus he found a group of people who were disciples of John the Baptist. They had heard John's message of repentance and been baptized, but had heard nothing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:1-5)
After Paul explained the Gospel, these people accepted it and were baptized again. This time they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. This example shows that the baptism of John and Christian baptism are different. John's baptism was no longer accepted after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Those who had received John's baptism were baptized again in Christian baptism.
John's message prepared the hearts of the people of Israel for the revelation of their Messiah, Jesus Christ. By baptism they outwardly confessed repentance of their sins and their belief in the coming Messiah.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, people were then baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. By doing so they outwardly demonstrated their acceptance of the Gospel message and the fact that it had changed their lives. Jesus commanded this baptism:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19)
The difference between Christian baptism and the baptism of John is that Christian baptism is to be done in the full authority of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
John's baptism could not be done with this same authority. It was only a baptism of repentance and confession of belief in the coming Messiah. Christian baptism is a baptism confessing acceptance of the completed redemptive plan of God.
WORDS SPOKEN AT BAPTISM
We have discussed the requirements to be met before baptism and confirmed that it is to be total immersion in water. One question remains: What are the words that should be spoken at the time of baptism?
Jesus said to baptize in the name of "the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Bible records that the disciples did this:
...They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:16)
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. (Acts 10:16)
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:5)
Jesus did not command His disciples to baptize in the names [plural] of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but in the "name" [singular] of the persons of the Trinity of God.
The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is the name for "Lord Jesus Christ" because...
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9)
The Bible teaches we are baptized into Christ:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death. (Romans 6:3)
FOR FURTHER STUDY
To expand your knowledge of doctrine of baptisms study the following Scriptures concerning baptism:
Matthew 3:6,7,11-16; 11:11-12; 14:2; 16:4; 20:22-23; 21:25
Mark 1:4,5,8,9; 10:38-39; 11:30; 16:16
Luke 3:3,7,12,16,21; 7:29-30; 12:50; 20:4
John 1:25-28,33; 3:22-23,26; 4:1-2; 10:40
Acts 1:5,22; 2:38,41; 8:12,13,16,36,38; 9:18; 10:37,47-48; 11:16; 13:24; 18:8,25;19:3,4,5; 22:16
I Corinthians 1:13-16; 10:2; 12:13; 15:29
I Peter 3:21