The Good News, in conjunction with the Correspondence Course Department, presents brief monthly excursions into the study of the Bible, delving into topics relevant to-the development and increased understanding of future members of the God Family. Bible study is one means by which Christians are renewed daily (II Corinthians 4:16), so let's refresh ourselves with more of the precious truths of God's Word!
Instructions: The format of these ministudies is similar to that of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. Look up and read in your Bible the scripture references given in answer to the questions. Comments following the questions elaborate on the scriptures just read. That's all there is to it! (These studies are based on the King James Version of the Bible, unless otherwise stated.)
The religious world is in great confusion regarding the various baptisms mentioned in the Bible. We hear about baptism by immersion, sprinkling and pouring. There is the baptism by the Holy Spirit, which John the Baptist spoke of, and the baptism mentioned in Matthew 28:19. Last, but not least, is the baptism with fire. Let's begin this study by examining water baptism as it was practiced by the original New Testament Church.
The most common method of baptism practiced by professing Christianity today is sprinkling. Yet when we study the Bible, we find that the word sprinkle occurs only a few times in the New Testament and always in connection with the blood of Christ — but never referring to baptism. The word pouring is also mentioned several times in the New Testament — but not once in regard to baptism!
The word baptize is not an English word per se. It is a Greek word. And the New Testament was written in the Greek language. In translating the Bible into English, the translators left this word untranslated. Literally, in the Greek, the word is baptizo.
The definition is "immerse." It means "to plunge into" or "put into." It does not mean "to sprinkle" or "to pour." The Greek word for "sprinkle" is rantizo and': to pour" is cheo.
Therefore, sprinkling or pouring are not forms of baptism. Immersion — being placed completely down underwater — is. Water baptism symbolizes the burial of the old carnal, sinful self. Only total immersion can properly symbolize death and burial; sprinkling or pouring are not symbols of a burial by any stretch of the imagination!
Let's notice what the Bible teaches concerning the proper mode or method of water baptism.
1. Why was John baptizing in Aenon near Jerusalem? John 3:23.
John would have needed only a cupful of water to sprinkle, or a pitcher full to pour — but baptizing requires" much water."
2. How does the baptism of Christ prove that He was immersed? Matthew 3:16.
Jesus had to be put down into the water, for He "went up straightway out of the water... "It is ridiculous to think He could have come "up... out" of a sprinkle or a pour!
3. When Philip baptized the eunuch, did they both go into the water? Acts 8:38.
There was no purpose whatever for Philip to go into the water, except that there was no other way he could plunge the eunuch into the river. Had sprinkling or pouring been the proper method of baptism, Philip would have needed only to bend over and scoop up the water.
The above biblical evidence clearly shows that immersion — being placed completely under water — was the only method of baptism practiced by the original Holy Spirit-inspired and — led Church of God.
Water baptism is an outward sign of inward repentance. It demonstrates to God one's willingness and desire to permanently put away his or her old life of sin and begin living a new life of obedience to God. Its meaning is strictly symbolic in the sense that water baptism itself has no mystical or magical effects on the person who is immersed. Its only physical effect is to get the person thoroughly wet! Nor is the Holy Spirit given by water baptism. Yet baptism is commanded by God for salvation (Acts 2:38).
Surprisingly, there are several other distinct baptisms or immersions mentioned in the Bible!
4. Did John the Baptist speak of other kinds of baptism? Matthew 3:11.
John had just been warning the hypocritical religionists to demonstrate some fruits or results of their alleged repentance (verses 5-8). Notice again what he said: "I baptize [immerse] you with water for repentance, but he [Jesus] who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize [immerse] you with the Holy Spirit and [immerse you] with fire" (verse 11, Revised Standard Version). Here John referred to two other kinds of immersion — neither of them in water.
First, let's understand what it means to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
5. Did Jesus promise His disciples that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Acts 1:4-5. When did the Holy Spirit come? Acts 2:1-4.
On that day of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ's resurrection, Jesus' promise and the prophecy of John the Baptist were fulfilled. God began His spiritual Church on earth by putting the Holy Spirit within His disciples. Notice how this was the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
6. Is God's Church the "body" of Christ? I Corinthians 12:12, 14, 27; Colossians 1:18.
7. How do we become members of that Body? Can we join it? Or must we be "put into" it by God's Spirit? I Corinthians 12:13.
Notice that this scripture does not say we are baptized in the Holy Spirit — but by it! The receiving of the Holy Spirit in our minds as a spiritual begetting actually puts us into the spiritual Body of Christ, which is His Church!
So just being physically baptized in water does not put you into God's Spirit-led Church. You must be put into the Church by the Spirit of God.
In Romans 8:9, Paul tells us plainly that unless the Spirit of Christ dwells within us, we do not belong to Him. Also, each "member" of Christ's "body" — His Church — is joined to the other by the common bond of God's Holy Spirit residing in them. So when we become Christ's by receiving His Spirit, we are then "put into" His Body — the Church of God — by the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures plainly show that it is the receiving of the Holy Spirit that automatically plunges us "into" the Church of God. This immersion into the Church by the Holy Spirit is termed by the Scriptures as "the baptism with," "the baptism by" or "the baptism of the Holy Spirit."
8. Another "baptism" referred to in the Scriptures, and directly connected with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is mentioned in Matthew 28:19. Exactly what does this verse say? Be sure to read verse 19.
The key expression in verse 19 is the phrase "in the name of." In Greek it is eis to onoma, an expression nowhere else used in the New Testament. Other literature in Greek from that time period has been found with this expression and shows its full meaning: "This phrase... is frequent in the papyri with reference to payments made 'to the account of anyone'... The usage is of interest in connection with Matthew 28:19, where the meaning would seem to be 'baptized into the possession of the Father, etc.'" (J. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, page 451).
The Bible teaches that our receiving of the Holy Spirit following water baptism and the "laying on of hands" of God's minister (Acts 8:14-18), begets us as the literal "sons of God" (Romans 8:14; I John 3:1), finally to become His born again sons at the resurrection.
Matthew 28:19 further illustrates that when we receive the Spirit of God, we automatically (through this miraculous begetting) become the unborn children of the divine family called God. This becomes our baptism or immersion into the Family of God, thus enabling us to imbibe of their spiritual nature. (At present, the literal spiritual Family of God consists only of the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the divine nature and power of the God Family, not a third person as so many have erroneously assumed.)
9. But what about the baptism with fire? Should a Christian seek it? What did John the Baptist prophesy concerning it? Matthew 3:11.
The populace came in great crowds to see John — mostly out of curiosity. But John was speaking in particular to the unrepentant religionists, as well as those who did repent. Notice carefully that some of those to whom John spoke — the repentant — were to be baptized with the Holy Spirit later.
But the others present — among them many hypocritical, unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees — were going to be baptized with fire — immersed in hell fire — unless they repented. They would be burned up as chaff (Matthew 3:12). This fire is the ultimate fate of all the incorrigible wicked (Revelation 21:8; Malachi 4:1-3).
Surely no one will seek the baptism with fire once he or she understands what it really is!