Water Baptism through Scripture
Many Christians fail to realize that there are a number of different kinds of baptisms taught in scripture. Not every baptism talks of water. Hence, we need to consider the following verses.
Eph.4:4-6 "One body, and one SPIRIT, even as each of you are invited in one expectation of your invitation; One ADONAI, one faith, one baptism, One ELOHIM and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
We see from these verses that there is only one faith - that being the faith of the Son of God (Gal.2: 20). How far we err when we talk of a Catholic faith and a Protestant faith! There is but one faith. It is not a Baptist faith, a Methodist faith, or a Presbyterian faith. It is not an Independent faith, an undenominational faith, or an interdenominational faith. It is the faith once for all delivered unto the saints. God never distinguished believers into different camps, and when people do separate themselves into separate groups, God rebukes them! (Read carefully 1 Corinthians 1:11-13). I, myself, am blessed to be a Christian, with no allegiance to any man-made organizations. In this way, I can allow the Word of God to be my authority not some man -- made denomination.
Eph.4:5 states there is only "One Baptism." It is on this point that most Christians often break the Unity of the Spirit and fail most miserably in keeping that unity in the bond of peace. Believers, for centuries, have been hopelessly divided on the question of Baptism; there are differences as to the proper mode, the proper purpose, the proper subject, and the proper authority. Some immerse, some sprinkle, and some practice effusion. Most denominations use some adaptation of the formula of Matthew 28:19, "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit" (which none of the apostles ever used as far as the Acts record is concerned); others use the formula of Acts 2:38, "in the name of Jesus MESSIAH." Some immersionists are satisfied to place the candidate under water but once; others practice "trine immersion," once for each member of the Godhead.
Many groups insist that the purpose of baptism with or in water is the remission of sins (just like Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, and Jesus commanded in Mark 16). Of these groups, some such as Roman Catholics believe that sins are remitted when the water is sprinkled upon the candidate- whether he is an infant or adult. Others, such as the churches of Christ, believe the sins are forgiven only if the candidate is an accountable believer who has repented of his sins and confessed his faith in Christ. The baptism, in order to be valid, must, according to them, be complete immersion with both the baptizer and the baptized in the water. The Greek Orthodox church practices immersion, but they immerse babies as well as adults. Baptists, on the other hand, insist that water baptism has nothing to do with salvation. To them, it is a witness to the world, or a door to church membership. Mark 16, which is used so frequently as a proof text by members of the Church of Christ, "he that believes and is baptized shall be saved," is interpreted by Baptists and others to mean, "he that believes and is saved should be baptized" (even though the verse is clear that baptism is for salvation). It is interesting to note that the remainder of Mark 16 promises miraculous healings, speaking in tongues, and other signs as proof of salvation. If our marching orders for today are in Mark 16, where are the signs?
Views are just as diversified on the proper subject and the proper authority for water baptism as they are on the proper mode and proper purpose. The examples of our differences, cited above, are given objectively, not to criticize or to stress our divisions, but to call attention to the great need that we face --- a need to go back to the Bible and reevaluate its message on baptism. We have seen from Eph.4:4-6 that ELOHIM would have us recognize only one body, the ecclesia; only one Spirit, the holy Spirit; only one expectation, the blessed expectation of His appearing, only one ADONAI; our ADONAI Jesus MESSIAH; one faith; the faith of the Son of ELOHIM. There is just as surely one baptism. Since there are so many differences on this subject, we must approach it with humility and reverence, trying in a spirit of love to find ELOHIM's truth for His ecclesia of this dispensation, the Body of MESSIAH. Let us note some of the baptisms recognized in the scriptures at different times. The Bible very clearly talks of 12 various baptisms. They are as follows:
1.) MESSIAH baptizing with the holy SPIRIT(Mat.3:11; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 11:15-16)
2.) The holy Spirit baptizing into the Body of MESSIAH
(Col.2:11-12; Rom.6:3-4; 1 Cor.12:13)
(Luke 12:50; Mat.20:22-23; Mark 10:38)
5.) the typical baptism of Noah's Ark
(1 Peter 3:13-21). Note that the occupants of the ark did not get wet.
(1 Corinthians 15:29). Note this is the verse Mormons use to support their view on baptism for the dead.
(1 Cor. 10:2). Note again, these who were baptized "in the cloud and in the sea" went across on "dry ground" according to the Exodus account; their baptism was apart from water. This is obviously not a "water baptism" for Israel crossed the Red Sea on "dry ground" (Exodus 14:22). Pharaoh and his army, were the ones dipped into the water as it crashed down on them in divine judgment. However, it was Israel who was said to have been baptized. Hence, this was a dry baptism!
8.) Various baptisms of the law
9.) Traditional Jewish baptisms (not part of the law, but became man made law)
10.) Johns baptism of Israel for the remission of sins
(Mat.3:6-16; Mark 1:4-9; Luke 3:3-21, John 1:23-28; etc.)
11.) MESSIAH's baptism by John to fulfill all righteousness
(Mat.3:14; etc.). Note, the Lord states it was necessary, not that it was for a testimony.
12.) Pentecostal baptism for the remission of sins
This list should help to clarify the true meaning of the term "baptism." The word itself is simply an Anglicized form of the Greek word, "baptizo". Regrettably, denominationally influenced lexicons have defined "baptizo" as "to dip", or "immerse." That this cannot be an adequate definition is easily seen from the above list. Consider number 4 on our list, "fire baptism". In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said MESSIAH would "baptize with the holy SPIRIT and with fire." Was He to dip people in the holy SPIRIT, and fire? In Luke 12:50, MESSIAH called His death, a baptism. Was He dipped into death? In 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read:
"For in one SPIRIT we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one SPIRIT."
The answer to these questions, is a resounding no. Hence, the traditional denominational definition is a totally inappropriate definition.
Therefore, it is from this unsound definition that the whole idea of baptism as a burial with MESSIAH in water has evolved. But the fact remains that MESSIAH was not buried in water. No one buries people in water, except perhaps at sea as an expedient.
While it is beyond the scope of this paper, it is interesting to note how few of these 12 baptisms could possibly be water. If you are honest with yourself, it is clear that baptism is not always synonymous with water. In fact, only numbers 8-12 have water, and one of these is a man-made baptism! Out of those that do contain water, it is accepted by almost all Christians that numbers 8-10 do not apply to anyone but Old Testament Saints, or those who made the Word of ELOHIM of no effect. Therefore, we need to trace the doctrine of Water Baptism in scripture.
The Basis for Water Baptism
Water Baptism was not a New Testament innovation. This fact will be something new to many people, and may even shock some. Many baptismal ceremonies were prescribed in the Mosaic Law. The following verses should be enough to show this irrefutable fact: Exodus 29:4, Exodus 30:17-21, Numbers 8:5-7, Numbers 19:1-22 (pay close attention to verses 7-9, 13, 20-21), and Numbers 31:23. The King James Bibles, and many other Bibles do not use the word "baptism" in any of these passages because that word is a transliteration of a Greek word and not an English translation, as we have already seen.
In John 1:25 John the Baptist was asked, "Why baptize you then, if you be not that MESSIAH, nor Elijah, neither that prophet?" Visibly these inquirers were not shocked by Johns practice of water baptism as though it were something innovative to them. Rather they anticipated the practice of water baptism in connection with the coming of Messiah. Where could this expectation have come from except the prophecies found in Old Testament Scriptures? Furthermore, we need to keep in mind the Mosaic economy was still in force during the ministries of both John and Jesus. Hebrews 9:17 declares a testament is of force after men are dead. Thus the new covenant could not possibly replace the old until after the death of MESSIAH.
Hence, Johns baptism was not something new, rather it was a ceremony thoroughly understood by those to whom he ministered. Therefore, water baptism did not begin with John the Baptist. When we permit scriptures to be our authority rather than a denominational bias we quickly learn that water baptism is a ceremonial cleansing that pertains to the kingdom promised to the nation Israel.
In Exodus 19:5-6 at the very giving of the Mosaic Covenant, YAHWEH tells us what His intention in giving birth to the nation of Israel was.
Exodus 19:5-6 And now if listening you will listen to My voice, and will keep My covenant, you shall become a special treasure to Me above all the peoples, for all the earth--Mine. And all of you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These--the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
YAHWEH's avowed purpose regarding the nation Israel is that she is to be a "kingdom of priests and an holy nation," through whom the Gentile nations will draw nigh to YAHWEH. Think about the words of Isaiah:
Isaiah 61:6 But you shall be named the priests of YAHWEH; men will call each of you the ministers of our ELOHIM: you will eat the wealth of the nations, and you will boast in their glory.
In due course this will be accomplished during the kingdom reign of MESSIAH when Israel is dwelling in her land and the nations find salvation and blessing through her instrumentality.
All of this awaits Israel's redemption. The "If all of you will obey then all of you shall be" principle of the law assured that the knowledge of sin would abound. Because of Israel's failure, she soon found herself in need of a Redeemer. Thus while the expectation of Israel looked to the promised coming kingdom, the need of the nation for cleansing must first be faced. With this in mind it is imperative to remember that of all the people or things to be baptized it was the priest who stood foremost. Exodus 29 sets forth the formula for induction into the priests office. Two very important steps of consecration are incorporated:
First must come cleansing or purifying, done by a washing with water.
Exodus 29:4 "And you shall take Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of congregation. And you shall wash them in water."
Second there was the anointing with oil:
Exodus 29:7 "Then shall you take the anointing oil, and pour it on his head, and anoint him."
Exactly as the sons of Aaron were the priests through whom the people of Israel could draw near to YAWEH, so the nation Israel itself will one day be " a kingdom of priests and an holy nation," through whom the Gentiles will draw near to YAHWEH (Gen.12:1-3; 22:17-18; Isa.60:1-3, Zech.8:20-23). It is in this light that John the Baptist appears on the landscape preaching his "abaptism of repentance to all the people of Israel" (Acts 13:24).
To state it another way, John's "the baptism of repentance for all remission of sins" (Mark 1:4) was a mechanism of national repentance and readiness to be the kingdom of priests YAHWEH intended that favored nation to be.
Matthew 3:1-2 "In those days came John the Baptist, proclaiming in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent all of you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
How were they to prepare for the arriving of the kingdom?
Matthew 3:5-6 "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, acknowledging their sins."
John's baptism was the means of fleeing from "the wrath to come" (v.7). We have no doubt as to what this "wrath to come" involved:
Matthew 3:8-12 "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And do not think to say within yourselves, We have a father, Abraham. For I say to you that ELOHIM is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and put into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water to repentance. but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the holy SPIRIT, and fire:"
Pay attention to the choice set before Israel: there was a judgment coming and if they wanted to be the "wheat" that is safely carried into the barn and not the "chaff" that is to burn with the fire of judgment they must be identified as the believing remnant through the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Exactly as in Numbers 31:21-24, if they wanted to avoid the fire they must "go through the water." Thus they would be "purified with the water of separation" and recognized collectively as the believing remnant in Israel set apart as "an holy nation."
John's baptism became a break through issue for Israel.
Luke 7:29-30 "And all the people having heard, and the tax-collectors, declared ELOHIM righteous, having been baptized with the baptism of John, But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected ELOHIM's counsel as to themselves, not being baptized by him."
This is the underlying principle involving water baptism, and how it was associated with salvation and the remission of sins. Salvation was by faith, but the only way they could articulate their faith was by doing what ELOHIM required. What ELOHIM mandated, was the nation of Israel to prepare itself to function as a "royal priesthood. First must come the purification; then the service.
Ezekiel 36:25 promises Israel that they would be cleansed by the sprinkling of water. This was the necessary first step of faith in forming the nucleus of the coming kingdom, the group of Jewish believers, which our Lord called His "little flock."
Luke 12:32 "Awe not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
The next stage in preparing this believing remnant was Matthew 3:11's baptism with the SPIRIT. This baptism would correspond with the second rite of consecration to the priesthood (the anointing). The baptism with the holy SPIRIT would impart the needed empowering for the nations impending service.
Hence, this explains why Jesus post-resurrection ministry ties these two things the baptism of repentance and the anointing of the holy SPIRIT so intimately together. One need only to read Mark 16:15-17, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:4-8, etc. to see this.
Following the coming of the holy SPIRIT at Pentecost, Peter's plea to Israel is unmistakably a further development of Johns call to repentance (Acts 2:38). Those who think the role of water baptism somehow changed after Pentecost should notice that the pre and post resurrection baptisms were identically the same. "Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins" is exactly what John proclaimed in Mark 1:4. Nothing had changed. More exactly there had simply been the historical development of the crucifixion and resurrection of MESSIAH, followed by the outpouring of the holy SPIRIT. The kingdom was no longer merely "at hand" as it had been with John; now the time had come to in fact offer it to Israel. Furthermore, even after Pentecost those who refused to be baptized stood as condemned before ELOHIM as did those in Luke 7:30, for Peter declares such in Acts 2:39-40.
This indispensable issue of assembling collectively the believing remnant of Israel the "little flock" of Luke 12:32 runs all the way through the ministries of John, Jesus, and the twelve in early Acts. This "little flock" represented the core of the governmental authority for the approaching kingdom. Those in Israel who refused to "repent and be baptized" to identify themselves as those who had changed their minds about Jesus being their Messiah through the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins were to be "destroyed from among the people." (Acts 3:23). Hence, it is very clear in scripture, water baptism is a ceremonial cleansing that pertained to the kingdom promised the nation Israel.
Since water baptism is associated with cleansing the nation of Israel for its ministry in her kingdom, where does the baptism of Gentiles under the commission of Matthew 28:19 fit in? Once more, water baptism is again demonstrated to symbolize cleansing and again clearly associated with Israel's kingdom. Remember that the priests were not the only people to be baptized. In connection with the cleansing of lepers, Leviticus 14:9 instructs:
"Also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean."
The "nations" of Matthew 28:19 were of course considered "unclean" by Israel and thus must be baptized be cleansed in order to gain access to Israel's kingdom and acceptance into ELOHIM's favor. Both Israel and the Gentiles needed to be acknowledging their need of cleansing; the former in order to be worthy to minister the things of YAHWEH; the latter to be the recipient of those things.
(The early Acts period; Peters ministry to Israel)
When Peter preached his Pentecostal sermon as recorded in Acts 2, he addressed it to Israelites (2:36). When these men of Israel were convicted of their sins and asked what they could do to be saved, Peters reply was, "repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus MESSIAH for the remission of sins, and each one of you shall receive the endowment of the holy SPIRIT." (Acts 2:38). If language means anything, this was a baptism with water that was required for the remission of their sins. This was in perfect harmony with the commission given to Peter and the eleven in Mark 16:16. Upon receipt of this water baptism, they experienced the baptism of the holy SPIRIT promised by John the Baptist in Mat.3:11. MESSIAH was the baptizer; the holy SPIRIT was the "element." The signs promised in Mark 16:17-18 followed! Read any chapter in Acts to see these signs. This pattern of two baptisms characterized the ministry of the 12 to the Jews. In fact, when the believers were scattered after the stoning of Stephen, they went everywhere preaching the Word "to none but unto the Jews only." (Acts 11:19)
In Acts 10, we find a most unusual account. The Apostle Peter, who received the commission of Mark 16 to "proclaim the evangel to every creature," had never preached to anyone but the Jews. ELOHIM gave a miraculous threefold vision to him to persuade him to go to the house of an ELOHIM-fearing Gentile, Cornelius, a man who was earnestly seeking the truth. But when Peter went to his house, he did not give him an invitation to salvation. On the contrary, he made apologies for entering a Gentiles house, and rehearsed the blessings of YAHWEH to Israel. As he was in the midst of this, he said, "To this One all the Prophets witness, so that through His name everyone believing into Him will receive remission of sins." This is the message Cornelius was waiting to hear! As soon as they heard this message, Cornelius and those Gentiles with him believed it and were baptized with the holy SPIRIT and began to speak in languages! Peter then remembered the words of ADONAI (see Acts 11:15-16) and identified this experience of Cornelius and his household as the baptism with the holy SPIRIT promised by MESSIAH. He then required them to be baptized with water. This was still a time of 2 baptisms, but this time, the baptism with the holy SPIRIT was first, followed by baptism with water! This seems to be the pattern during the remainder of the book of Acts.
Two Baptisms Replaced by One
(Pauls Post-Acts ministry)
As long as ELOHIM dealt with Israel as a nation, he continued the sign program, for the Jews require a sign" (1 Corinthians 1:22). The very last account of water Baptism in the Bible occurs in Acts 19, and the same believers who were baptized, spoke with languages. Paul as well as Peter, practiced water baptism during this period, but he baptized only a few and thanked ELOHIM that he had baptized no more, "for," said he, MESSIAH sent me not to baptize but to proclaim the evangel (1 Corinthians 1:17). Had Israel been willing, as a nation, to accept the Messiah, the commission of Mark 16 would have been used by these believing Jews to reach every creature, beginning at Jerusalem, extending to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the world. MESSIAH would have returned in the lifetime of that generation, according to the promise made in Acts 3:19-21, a promise conditioned on Israel's conversion.
But the Jews rejected the ministry of the holy SPIRIT. Just as their fathers rejected EL the Father, they rejected the Son in His earthly ministry, and they rejected the holy SPIRIT. Stephen made this plain in his sermon in Acts 7:51-52. In 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, the Apostle Paul charged his nation with this same threefold sin, but he added another, "forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."(KJV)
With the close of the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul pronounced this divine judgment upon the nation Israel and turned to the Gentiles (Acts 28; 25-28). From that time forth in his ministry, as a prisoner of ELOHIM for the Gentiles, he never gave Israel priority; he never performed a miracle or a sign. On the contrary, he left a young fellow worker sick and prescribed medicine for young Timothy. See 2 Timothy 4:20, and 1 Timothy 5:23. He never engaged in external rituals or ordinances; and he preached only One Baptism - the work of the holy SPIRIT that identifies or baptizes the believer into the very death of MESSIAH (see Romans 6:3-4 with Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:11-12).
This act of the holy SPIRIT (the Baptizer) baptizing the believer into the death of MESSIAH (the "element") and thus so identifying the believer with his ADONAI as to make him a member of the Body of MESSIAH, takes place the moment one believes the evangel of the Favor of ELOHIM; this is the One Baptism (and only) for today. (Note Ephesians 4:5 with 1 Corinthians 12:13). It is an operation of ELOHIM, not of man (Colossians 2:11-12). Thus, we stand complete in MESSIAH, apart from the works of men, either our own or anothers. This one baptism that identifies us with MESSIAH as members of His Body was a part of a revelation received by the Apostle Paul, which he calls "the mystery"-- a secret that had been kept hidden in ELOHIM before the foundation of the world, never made known to men of other eons. See Ephesians 3:1-10, Colossians 1:25-29.
1 Corinthians itself is, of course, a transitional book, written during the Acts period. It told its readers clearly that the sign program was to cease (1 Corinthians 13:8-11). It told them that while Paul had baptized a few and spoke with languages (more than all of them), he was not sent to baptize (1 Corinthians 1:17) and languages would cease (13:8). Peter could never have made this statement, for he was sent to baptize with water, and speak in languages (Mark 16:16-19). In fact, anyone who labors under the so-called "great commission" could never make that statement with Paul. By his conveying "MESSIAH sent me not to baptize," he is also telling us that the "great commission" is not the commission he, nor we, in the Body of MESSIAH are to follow.
While I steadfastly maintain that the Scriptures are our sole authority in this as in other matters, and I do not base any doctrine on ecclesiastical history. We find many Christians who are disturbed because they feel that the doctrine of the one baptism, (a SPIRIT baptism apart from water), is a 19th or 20th century innovation with none of the earlier believers holding such teaching. I am mindful that not only this truth, but also many other truths of the Scriptures were corrupted and lost, even in the first and second centuries. But my heart rejoices when I find on the pages of ecclesiastical history a group of believers who were very active in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean area some one thousand years before Martin Luthers reformation, who preached and practiced completeness in MESSIAH, and stressed the one baptism of the SPIRIT, with no water baptism. They preferred to be called "Christians" only, but they emphasized the ministry of Paul so much that their enemies called them "Paulicians." The Quakers, or Society of Friends, have from their beginning preached the one baptism of the SPIRIT. Roger Williams, who was for a number of years a Baptist evangelist and who may have established the first Baptist Church in America in Rhode Island during colonial times, in his later years left all denominations and became what he called a "seeker" for truth; he gave up water baptism and preached this one baptism. He also called the "great commission something God never intended for the Body of Christ." These cases are cited only as proof that many of ELOHIM's children down through the history of Christianity have maintained this position.
Today there is no priestly nation or class high-ranking above others. ELOHIM is now reconciling Jews and Gentiles to Himself in one body purely through faith in the completed work of the ADONAI Jesus MESSIAH at Golgotha (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Ephesians 2:13-18). The very instant a believer trusts the Evangel (1 Cor.15:3-4), he is "by one SPIRIT baptized into one body" (1 Cor.12:13) and thus "baptized into MESSIAH" (Gal.3:27). There is no opportunity for a water ceremony here. No human rite or ceremony can consign the believer "into MESSIAH." No, the "one baptism" (Eph.4:5) of the "one Body" is performed by "One SPIRIT" not by preacher or priest.
The working of positional truth of being "in MESSIAH" is this SPIRIT baptism. So absolutely adequate is our position in MESSIAH by virtue of this SPIRIT performed baptism that we are told:
Colossians 2:10 "And ye are complete in Him" (KJV)
Ephesians 1:3 "Blessed be the ELOHIM and Father of our ADONAI Jesus MESSIAH, who having blessed us with every spiritual blessing among the epouranian (literally-the heaven far above the heavens), in MESSIAH;"
In light of such completeness in MESSIAH afforded to even the simplest believer the very moment of salvation it will soon be apparent that not only does water baptism have no place in ELOHIM's program today, but to practice it is to cast an insult on the glorious, all sufficient, finished work of the ADONAI Jesus MESSIAH (Col.2:20).
I thank ELOHIM that "by one SPIRIT are we all baptized into one body." ELOHIM forbid that we should add to that "one baptism" which makes us complete in Him.