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DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMS: PART I 

MEMORY VERSE:

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11 NASB)

INTRODUCTION

The third foundational principle listed in Hebrews chapter 6 is the doctrine of baptisms.

In Hebrews 6:2 the word “washings” in many of the modern translations can also be translated as “baptisms”. Notice this is a plural word not a singular word. This becomes a “doctrine of baptisms”, not a “doctrine of baptism”. This refers to multiple baptisms.

FOUR BAPTISMS

In the New Testament we find four different baptisms mentioned. These are:

  • Christ’s baptism of suffering
  • The baptism of John
  • Christian baptism
  • Baptism in the Holy Spirit

This chapter discusses the first three baptisms. In the following chapter we will discuss the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

DEFINITION

The word “baptize” means to entirely immerse or submerge. Most of the time we think in terms of water baptism in which every believer submits to in obedience to the faith. That is, to repent and be baptized.

We will discuss this baptism in a little while. For now, we will be looking at one of the other types of baptism.

CHRIST’S BAPTISM OF SUFFERING

In the Gospel according to Luke we find Jesus speaking of a baptism that is unique to Him.

But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!  (Luke 12:50 NASB)

This baptism is also mentioned in the Gospel according to Mark.

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38 NASB)

This baptism is an analogy for the death in which Jesus was to undergo. He was to be fully immersed into the pain and suffering He needed to go through to take upon Himself the sins of the world when He died on the cross.

THE BAPTISM OF JOHN

Several of the Old Testament prophets foretold of the coming of John the Baptist. He was to usher in the doctrine of repentance and baptism. He was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah and prepare His way.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, (Luke 1:76-77 NASB)

Although the people had not yet known who the Messiah was to be they were looking for Him to make His appearance according to the prophecies.

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11 NASB)

Until this point in time the Law of God existed to teach and guide man in the ways of the will of God. But man could not live up to the expectations of the Law. For this reason Jesus came down from heaven and bring man deliverance from the Law by fulfilling it Himself.

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. (Luke 16:16)

John preached repentance from sin and called the people of Israel back to God. Do demonstrate their desire to get right with God by their re-dedication through repentance they were to be baptized with water. This became an outward sign of an inward change.

Some of the religious leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees, came to be baptized but John told them to prove they had truly repented before he would baptize them.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; (Matthew 3:7-8)

Many misunderstand the baptism of John as a cleansing of sins. When you here the phrases “baptism unto repentance and remission of sins” you could easily think this. But baptism is a visible confirmation of the repentance and forgiveness of sins that has already transpired.

CHRISTIAN BAPTISM

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

This passage best introduces what we call “Christian baptism”. When John baptized Jesus it was not because Jesus had repented of any sin. Jesus had no sin to repent from. Rather, as Jesus had stated, it was to “fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus was setting an example of behavior which He wanted His followers to do.

In today’s Christianity we find a few questions about baptism that people struggle with. In the remainder of this chapter we will look at these and see what God has to say about them.

BAPTISM OF BABIES

Nowhere in the Bible are we told to baptize infants and babies. The only recorded instance of any religious custom as a child with Jesus was when they took him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord at the age of twelve. He was not baptized.

There is nothing wrong with dedicating children to the Lord. Present your children, whether infant or older does not matter, give them to the Lord by the laying on of hands. But do not baptize them.

Baptism comes when a person has the mental and emotional maturity to understand the sins in their lives and how they affect their spiritual existence. They must understand the meaning of baptism and meet the Biblical requirements of baptism.

It can be difficult to see whether a child is ready or not. Sometimes we just need to have faith that God knows more than we do. If a child has determined they truly believe in Jesus and profess their full belief in Him, who are we to stand in the way of their baptism if they decide to do so?

SPRINKLING OR IMMERSION?

Baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by being fully immersed in water. When we see this and understand the Biblical meaning of the word “baptize” then the conclusion is full immersion.

I would argue that full immersion is definitely the way to go. But also understand that baptism is a sign to others of your decision to follow Christ and your repentance from sin. This sign could just as easily be the pouring of water over the head of a person or the sprinkling of water.

I had done a baptism of a woman and her family one day. They did not have a church home but want to be baptized. At first I was hesitant because they were unchurched. But they were insistent they needed to be baptized and I saw their faith. I was astounded at their faith and knowledge of God’s Word.

I gave in and baptized them in their apartment complex swimming pool. This woman was handicapped and in a wheelchair. She could not get down into the water as the rest of her family did. So we lowered her enough so I could cup water in my hand and pour it over her head.

Did this act void her baptism? I do not believe so. God knows the hearts of men.

Again, baptism is an outward sign of an inward choice. If a person chooses to follow Jesus but does not get baptized, do they not get into heaven? What gets us into heaven is what is in our hearts not the pins on our lapels.

REQUIREMENTS FOR BAPTISM

John looked for spiritual conditions to be met before he would baptize them. These spiritual conditions are to be met by those who wish to be baptized today.

INSTRUCTION:

The first requirement for baptism is that there must be someone who has been empowered by Jesus to preach the Good News, baptize in His name, and to teach others to observe everything Jesus commanded them.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Jesus taught that new believers need to be taught the Gospel before and after they are baptized. Before baptism they must hear the Gospel that Jesus forgives sins and that through faith in Him we have eternal life. Once they hear this and believe it they are baptized.

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 19:5 NASB)

After baptism comes instruction in the faith that leads to spiritual maturity and perfection.

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, (Hebrews 6:1 NASB)

REPENTANCE:

The second condition for baptism is that we repent from sin. On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and boldly proclaimed the good news of Jesus to everyone there. The people heard, believed and repented.

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

Peter then told them exactly what they needed to do to receive forgiveness of their sins.

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NASB)

When Peter said this he had told them two things they must do. The first was to repent. And the second thing was to be baptized. Repentance must come before baptism.

BELIEF:

The third condition for baptism is having faith.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)

The Apostle Philip once met an Ethiopian man on the road to Jerusalem who was experiencing a faith challenge. He found this man reading from the book of Isaiah

But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

“He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
“In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who will relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth.”

The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:26-38 NASB)

Note how Philip responded to the man’s question, “What prevents me from being baptized?” Philip told him, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

Nothing more needed to be said after the man confessed his faith. Philip did not hesitate but baptized the man in the water.

THE TIME OF BAPTISM

Many churches elect to have control over whether a person is ready for baptism or not. They will need to attend classes and study. They will need to express their faith openly. They will need to prove they have repented. Then they will need to schedule a day to be baptized. All of this can take weeks or months.

Looking at the examples we read of in the Bible we see this to not be true. We just talked about the Ethiopian man whom Philip baptized the same day.

Then there were the three thousand who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. The process of this baptism could not have taken more than a few hours. Just prior to Peter preaching these very same people had rejected Jesus as Christ. After his preaching they believed and were baptized.

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41 NASB)

No long classes were given. Nobody checked to see if they truly repented or not. They heard the word, accepted it as truth, believed it and acted on it.

TO SUMMARIZE…

The early church practiced baptism as they were taught.

  1. The Gospel of Jesus was taught explaining the life of Jesus, His death and resurrection and how through His resurrection we receive forgiveness of our sins.
  2. The act of baptism was explained to be an outward sign of their inward decision.
  3. Verification of their understanding, repentance, and confession of their faith then lead to baptism.
  4. After their baptism the new believers received further instruction for their spiritual development.

SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4 NASB)

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:

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14 NASB)

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. (We will learn more about living the new life in Chapter Eleven). 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 all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27 NASB)

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:

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:1-5 NASB)

Paul found it necessary to deliver the gospel to these disciples because they lacked some foundational understanding of what they claimed to believe. There was a clear distinction between the baptism of John and that of the baptism we are called to in Jesus Christ. Although John’s message of repentance was still a valid aspect of baptism, the baptism of Jesus called for a belief in Him and His teachings.

John’s baptism was needed to “prepare the way” for Jesus. He was to fulfill prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah.

Just before Jesus left this world He commanded His disciples through what is called “The Great Commission”. He instructed us to baptize in His name for the remittance of sin.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NASB)

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

Some have made quite the ritual of baptism. In some churches there is a very specific way to baptize and very specific words to say for the baptism to be “correct”. The fact is there is no doctrine from Jesus other than what was said in Matthew 28:19.

Luke accounts for us in Acts a number of times the disciples had baptized and in each case it was reported that the people were baptized “in the name of the Lord” or “in the name of Jesus”.

For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:16 NASB)

And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. (Acts 10:48 NASB)

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:5 NASB)

Jesus commanded we baptize in the name [singular] of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the trinity, the triune nature of God. Thus, if you baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus you are also baptizing in the name of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as well as God the Son.

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9 NASB)

The Bible teaches we are baptized into Christ:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3 NASB)

Do not get caught up in the rituals of anything but give into the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide you as intended by God. Spread the “Good News”, the gospel to all the world and baptize them in the name of Jesus, calling them to repentance until we are caught up with Him in glory forever.


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