- Rick LoPresti
There are a lot of ideas out there about water baptism. Some say it is not part of salvation, but rather a public demonstration of faith. Some say it is done by sprinkling, and some by immersion. Some say it is to be done in the "name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost", and others say it should be done in the name of Jesus Christ. Some say it doesn't matter. What doesn't matter is what any man says about it. It only matters what the Bible says about it. This subject cannot be exhausted in a blog. You can purchase "Back to the Basics" through this website to get a more thorough examination of this subject. You can also get "Faith and Works" to study further. However, let us briefly look at three aspects of water baptism, and what the Bible says about them.
The first is the reason for baptism. There are no scriptures that state water baptism is an outward sign of an inward belief, that it is for joining a particular congregation, or that it is for the sin of Adam and Eve. The Bible says it is for the remission of sins (Lk 3:3, Lk 24:27, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16). Remission means forgiveness, pardon, or release. As such, it is part of salvation (Mk 16:16, 1Pet 3:21). Jesus shed His blood for the remission of sins (Mt 26:28, Heb 9:22). In the Old Testament, people and things were cleansed from uncleanness by blood (Heb 9:18-22). In the New Testament, the blood of Jesus cleanses our sins through water baptism (Heb 9:14, Heb 11:28, Heb 12:24, 1Pet 1:2, 1Pet 3:21). This is why the apostles included water baptism in their preaching to those yet to be converted. Peter did (Acts 2:38 & 41, Acts 10:48). Philip did (Acts 8:12 & 35-36). Ananias did (Acts 9:17-18). Paul did (Acts 16:32-33, Acts 19:1-7, Acts 22:16). In Acts 16 Paul and Silas had been whipped repeatedly and thrown into the stocks. They had been up all night. When they were miraculously freed from jail, the jailer believed. Paul taught him right then about water baptism, and baptized him and his whole household right there in the middle of the night, even before they ate any food. They didn’t say, ‘Let’s eat, get some rest, heal up, and straighten out these legal matters. Then we’ll have an extensive series of lessons after which you will be considered as a candidate for baptism”. It was important and urgent. It still is.
The second aspect is the formula. Each reference to a formula of words to be used in baptism in the book of Acts involves the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5, Acts 22:16). Paul’s question to the Corinthians implies they were baptized in the name of Jesus (1Cor 1:13). We are buried with Him in baptism (Rom 6:4, Col 2:12). When Paul went to Ephesus he found certain disciples (Acts 19:1-7). He asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost. They had not. Paul then asked them how they were baptized. These are 2 very interesting questions which reveal important points about the apostles’ doctrine. Paul wanted to know right away if these disciples had received the Holy Ghost. This tells us he did not assume they had just because they called themselves disciples. He inquired about it right away. When they said they had not, he asked how they were baptized. This implies that if they had been baptized correctly, they should have received the Holy Ghost. Some people do not receive the Holy Ghost because they have not been baptized into the correct belief. They are not taught it. These Ephesians answered Paul that they had been baptized by John. Then Paul understood the problem. He explained to them that John baptized with the baptism of repentance, and told the people to believe on him who was coming, that is Jesus Christ. When they heard that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands on them, and the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spoke with tongues. They had already been baptized by immersion unto repentance by a prophet. In fact, Jesus said there was no greater prophet than John (Lk 7:28). Yet Paul found it necessary to re-baptize these people. The only difference between their first baptism and their second one was that the name of Jesus was called over them the second time. God honored what Paul did by giving the men the Holy Ghost. This shows that those not baptized in the name of Jesus have a scriptural precedent to be baptized again.
The third aspect is the mode. The mode of water baptism in the New Testament is total immersion in water. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek word baptizo is what is translated baptize. It means to plunge, dip, immerse, or submerge. John baptized in the Jordan River because there was much water there (Mt 3:6, Jn 3:23). Jesus came from Nazareth to this site to be baptized (Mk 1:9). This was a journey before any modern transportation was available. He probably walked it. There would be no reason for Jesus or anyone else to travel to the site John was at to be baptized unless it was to be by immersion. After Jesus was baptized he “went up straightway out of the water” (Mt 3:16). When Phillip “preached Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch in the Gaza desert, he apparently said something about water baptism by immersion because when they came to a certain water, the eunuch asked, “See, here is water. What doth hinder me to be baptized?” They both went down into the water, and after the baptism came up out of it (Acts 8:35-39). We are baptized by immersion to symbolize burial of sin and the old life before repentance (Rom 6:4, Col 2:12). No one would be considered properly buried unless they were placed completely under the ground. There is no evidence of anyone being baptized in the Bible in any other mode.
If you have never repented of your sins and been baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, you should pray, study the Bible, and contact the nearest United Pentecostal Church (upci.org) to make arrangements to do so.