When we are baptised we enter into a covenant, an exceedingly serious commitment, spoken of by Christ and carried out throughout His Church. Many churches teach baptism in various forms, but how did Christ practise and explain it? At baptism what exactly did we say? What did we mean? What did we do? After baptism are we saved? Why are we immersed in water?
When we are baptised we enter into a covenant, that is a contract or agreement, an exceedingly serious commitment, spoken of by Christ and carried out throughout His Church. Many churches teach baptism in various forms, but how did Christ practise and explain it?
At baptism what exactly did we say? What did we mean? What did we do? After baptism are we saved?
Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.
In some translations the word teach is translated make disciples.
Clearly when people in those nations believe the gospel they become disciples, and should be baptised into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and a great deal is involved in that. Jesus himself was baptised, and wherever His disciples went they taught the things Christ had commanded, and accordingly baptised others.
Hebrews 6:1-2 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection [or maturity]; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
These six doctrinal items stated here are to be foundational to our beliefs. They are to do with change, a forward and upward movement which is critical to what we are to become, not simply a declaration or affirmation of what we believe.
Without these foundations a person lacks direction, has no course to follow. Once these foundational teachings are laid correctly and solidly for each of us, we are able to move on, not dismissing, but building on that foundation.
Acts 8:36,38 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And he ordered the chariot to stop. Then they both went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
This baptism was not a sprinkling with water, but a total immersion. John is the first person recorded in the Bible baptizing others.
Hebrews 9:8-10 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
Knowing that a time of reparation was to come, the sacrifices looked forward to Christ's true sacrifice, at this time still in the future, which was the only sacrifice that could actually forgive our sins. The washings referred to, which were also a part of the ritualistic law and generally a sprinkling, represented a purification of the flesh, water being associated with cleansing, an outward not an internal thing. There are some exceptions, such as Numbers 19, where the priest would actually bathe, but that itself was not a complete immersion. It was a matter of cleansing the flesh, and had little to do with the conscience. God wants to get deep down inside a person, and the conscience, not the flesh, to be purified. Washing was a type of spiritual purification symbolizing baptism, a thorough cleansing, a total purification, represented by total immersion.
Where did John get this teaching on immersion, where did he get the authority to do so?
John 1:24-27 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. They asked him, Why are you baptizing people, if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet? John told them, I use water to baptize people. But here with you is someone you don't know. Even though I came first, I am not good enough to untie his sandals.
John 1:33 And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, 'Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost'.
This is one of the first indications that something else was to happen, that is the giving of the Holy Spirit.
John here is answering the question of the basis of his authority, that it was God who told him to baptise people and gave him that responsibility. The one who told him he would see the Holy Spirit descending on Christ was the same one who told him to baptise others.
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Outward washings did not solve the problem of sin. Continuance in sin remained a problem to be dealt with.
Baptism is likened to a death, a burial, and a resurrection. It represents our being buried with Christ. Our sins, the old person, the old way of life must be buried, in order that we might become a new person. Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father, we too are 'raised' to walk in a new way of life, the very life of Christ.
Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Acts 2:37,38 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
People were asking "What shall we do?" They were seeing their sins in a new light. We also, if we repent, can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ, that is baptism, is for the remission of sins.
Hebrews 10:1-4 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Ritualistic laws did not take away sin, the sacrifices could not bring perfection or maturity.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
One of those foundations was the doctrine of baptism. He is saying that all they were doing before could not lead to that perfection, that spiritual maturity, where a person is truly led by God and His Spirit. If the ritualistic laws could have dealt with sin the worshippers, once purified, would no longer have been guilty of sin. Christ, through these foundational principles, would deal with sin and the consciousness of sin. In the sacrifices is a reminder of sin every year, because sin is continually committed. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, could not atone for it, nor inspire people to overcome it. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ takes away sin, leaving a person sinless.
Luke 3:3 And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,
John's baptism led people to understand that sin had to be dealt with. Was the baptism of John the same as the baptism of Christ? No, it was not. It was a forerunner, even a transition, from the purification of the washings of the Old Testament. The sacrifice of Christ was required to accomplish the forgiveness of sins.
Acts 19:1-5 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? So they said to him, We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. And he said to them, Into what then were you baptized? So they said, Into John's baptism. Then Paul said, John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
All the time John was baptising he was pointing people to the one who would come after him, opening the way for the baptism of Christ. At that time they had not heard of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
Acts 19 shows a case for re-baptism, [this was] the first time they had been baptised in the name of Jesus, the first time they had had hands laid upon them. The previous baptism had been sufficient at the time, but now they knew more, had more understanding.
Acts 8:14-16 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 8:9-11,13,19 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. ...Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. ...saying, Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.
Simon the sorcerer had been baptised but shouldn't have been, and his insincerity became apparent in his intent and his purposes. He wanted to perform miracles, to be great, to have a following for himself. Although he had been under the water he had not repented of his sins, and repentance has to occur before sins can be forgiven. Belief in Christ is not enough. Sin must be recognized and repented of, there must be a determination to come out of sin.
Sin is the transgression of the law, and Christ died to satisfy the penalty of that law. He paid that penalty for us.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
John's baptism was for the remission of sins, a forerunner to the baptism of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
John's baptism was not the same as the baptism of Christ, but a transition from the purification of washings in the Old Testament, when the people felt their sins were covered by the blood of bulls and goats, though they were not. That still required the sacrifice of Christ.
These disciples had received John's baptism, which was all right at the time, but which directed them to Christ and His baptism, when hands were laid upon them for the reception of the Holy Spirit. They had not previously heard of the Holy Spirit. Here was a case for rebaptism. When they knew more they needed baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
Sin is the transgression of the law, the breaking of God's law. Sins truly are remitted at baptism, but repentance must occur first. To simply believe on the name of Christ, to want a relationship with Him, is not repentance. A knowledge of sin, a sincere determination to come out of it, is necessary. We can only repent if we know what sin is, and have already turned from sin as much as we are able, showing in good faith as much as we can our determination to come out of sin.
Baptism is more than a legal requirement, it has to do with something between us and God. Requiring more than accepting or believing in Jesus Christ, repentance has to do with understanding sin, turning from it, and having the intention of not going back into it. Christ died to satisfy the penalty of the law of God for us. We have to understand what we individually did to cause this, and that He personally paid that penalty for us, that we ourselves caused His death.
Luke 3:7,8 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Luke 3:9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 3:7,8 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,
Some asked Him what shall we do?
Luke 3:11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
Jesus expects change, that a person recognize his failings and show the fruits of repentance.
To the tax collectors - don't take more than you should - it's a sin to extort more than is due. To the soldiers - don't intimidate or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages. Christ was very specific.
People didn't understand God's law and were refused baptism because they had not shown any intention of changing. Repentance has to do with changing direction, and they were not repentant. They needed a more thorough washing, as it were, repentance and remission of sins, more than just the outward observance of God's law, a change all the way through.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
'be converted' - that is have the intention of changing direction. We can't change if we do not know what to turn from, no matter how sincere we are.
We are baptised because we are looking forward to the time when the whole change is going to occur, to a time of conversion. We can only repent if we know what to turn from, so we have to be instructed in what sin is.
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
The body of sin is to be rendered inoperative. More is needed than an outward conformation, we must have a deep down understanding of what we are, not just what we have done.
Paul acknowledges that he hates what he does and thinks, doesn't like the way he is.
Romans 7:18-19 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
What in us has to be changed? We have to understand not only what we have done, but what we are. Our whole object is to become a new person, a different person, and so we must understand what is in us that needs to be changed.
We have an example of one man who, though outwardly obedient to God's law and totally sincere, had not reached a level of repentance that God wanted him to attain.
Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Job eventually saw himself at a deeper level, and was then able to repent of what he was, not just what he had done. Without this insight how can there be a complete transformation, how can we see the need to change, to totally surrender to God? One who is baptised prior to knowing the spirit and the intent of God's law and what it means has not repented, so how can a complete transformation occur?
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
A new man, a new creation all the way through. We do not need to know every sin we have committed, but must be able to first see in some measure our own capacity for sinfulness (although we can't see it all, even yet), and second to understand that we are incapable, of ourselves, of turning from that sinfulness, and from whatever else is revealed to us in the future. We have to understand that Christ is asking of us, not a cosmetic change, but a total and complete change.
God gives His Spirit at a certain point, we may learn more later, proving that He was with us all the way. The disciples were not given God's Spirit until the day of Pentecost.
John 14:15-17 If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
The Spirit has to be with you to lead you to an understanding of what it is all about, and the Spirit in you is when the actual change comes, a conviction in the heart. The proof of repentance is what happens then, the changes that follow.
1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
This is to people in the church. The Greek word translated 'born' of God is sometimes translated as begotten. This is saying that a person who has truly got that seed in him doesn't sin, not that he is unable to sin, but that he doesn't practise sin, doesn't go back into old sinful ways.
1 John 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
One born of God does not practise sin, does not go back into old ways of sin. A change takes place because Christ's seed is in him, and sin no longer reigns in the mortal body. The proof of repentance is what happens afterwards. People change, and sin is dealt with. It is not possible to be born without first being begotten, the Bible simply uses one term.
We are not baptised into a church or organisation, but into the divine family of God, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in embryonic form. We become that child, that embryo, by receiving that spirit, which shapes the mind and character of God in us.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
We're put into that body, not into a church, by God's Spirit. If God doesn't give you His Spirit you can't be a part of that body.
Romans 8:14-15 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
Certain fruits have to be born by one receiving the Spirit, that upward movement must continue. True repentance is determined by what happens afterwards.
Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
God's Spirit becomes the dominant force in one's life, and continues to be so because of the understanding of the commitment made at the time of baptism.
Baptism is the single most important covenant relationship you will enter into. We take the Passover every year, going back to the fact that we are under a covenant, and renewing the agreement we made. In Old Testament times they were sprinkled with blood whenever they entered into a covenant with God. At baptism we are covered by the water and, as it were, sprinkled, or covered by the blood of Christ. Our covenant at baptism is based on the blood of Christ. He will do His part. The relationship continues to grow and develop, and we come face to face with what we agreed to at the time of baptism.
Passover is a good time to reflect on that agreement, that covenant, and to ask ourselves if we are fulfilling it. If our repentance was right and true, we must continue to do so.