Water Baptism

BAPTISM is derived from the Greek word Baptisma, “baptism” denotes the action of washing or plunging in water, which from the earliest days (Acts 2:41) has been used as the rite of Christian initiation. It’s origins have been variously traced to the OT purification, the illustrations of Jewish sects, and parallel pagan washings, but there can be no doubt that baptism as we know it begins with the baptism of John. Christ Himself, by both precedent (Matt. 3:13) and precept (Matt. 28:19), gives us authority for it’s observance. On this basis it has been practiced by almost all Christians, though attempts have been made to replace it by baptism of fire of the Spirit in terms of Matt. 3:11.

In essence the action is an extremely simple one, though pregnant with meaning. It consists in a going in or under the baptismal water in the name of Christ (Acts 19:5) or more commonly the Trinity (Matt. 28:19). Immersion was fairly certainly the original practice and it continued, in general use, up to the Middle Ages. The Reformers agreed that this best brought out the meaning of baptism as a death and resurrection, but even the early Anabaptists did not think it essential so long as the subject goes under the water. The type of water and circumstances of administration are not the important issues, though it seems necessary that there should be a preaching and confession of Christ as integral parts of the administrations (Acts 8:37).1

This ordinance is one of recognition of what Jesus Christ has done within the believer, by His grace, and it is not an act that brings salvation to us (Eph. 2:8-9). Baptism is showing outwardly what has already taken place within us. We are saved and are showing our death and His resurrection in us. Col. 2:11-12 says “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in Baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.”

In the Old Testament, circumcision was an act which separated Israel from the rest of the world. They were required, by God, to perform a type of surgery and alter a very personal part of their body. This required a lot of faith and belief that this was commanded by God as opposed to some pagan work to obtain spiritual power of favoritism. This was the sign of the old covenant of Abraham and his people that they would serve God and He would be their God alone. The covenant is now made within your heart, without hands, it in no longer done on the outward man. Christ surgically removes the sins that were attached to our heart, by His death on the cross. Baptism is recognizing His death for ours and accepting the death of what we were before His work in us. We are raised by the belief that He has the power to live within us and make us a new creation. (II Cor. 5:17). It is by believing in Jesus that we receive the remission of sins.

Peter was preaching this message in Acts 10:43-48. While he was preaching this truth, Cornelius and his family received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Peter immediately taught and practiced the ordinance of baptism. An individual must be saved in order to receive the Holy Ghost, therefore this household must have been saved before they were baptized!

The Apostle Paul in 1st Cor. 1:11-17 saw the preaching of the Gospel as more of a priority than baptism in water especially as it was an area of division (as it continues to be in some churches today) regarding the prominence of one’s baptism. Jesus himself did not baptize anyone in water but did baptize with the Holy Ghost regarding Matt. 3:11, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4–8, Acts 2:1–4. After this had taken place people continued to be baptized with water but it had not been considered how you are saved or receive the Holy Spirit.

God commands us to be baptized. (Matt. 28:19) and to baptize believers. It is not a requirement for salvation. It is an outward demonstration of what God has done inwardly. It is a demonstration of your submission to who you are baptized into, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of the God head bodily, “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” (Col. 2:9).

The specific statements that are used during baptism are for the purpose of proclaiming what the baptism is, they are not an incantation. There is not a required wording during baptism. If we had to follow the exact wording given in the New Testament, our baptisms would be done in the Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew language. In Matt. 28:19 Jesus commands us to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the Greek the reference to name infers the authority, and what it represents. That is why in Acts we find the baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not a contradiction, but the same name holds all the authority of the Trinity. The importance of baptism is what you are showing (you are dead and Jesus lives in your place) baptism’s importance is not what name you invoke to have Him come in, since you must already be saved in order to be baptized. Anyone who desires to be baptized must be saved.

In our church, when a believer is baptized they will be required to make an open confession of their faith. After the confession is made, then the person performing the baptism will share that because of this confession of faith, that they are being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Then as they are fully immersed in water, it will be proclaimed that they are “buried with Him in baptism,” as they are lifted out of the water that they are “raised with Him from the dead.”

If you have not been baptized in water, expect God to touch your life when you are baptized.

1. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology by Elwell