Baptism is not a difficult command to obey. In fact, it’s a very simple one. Therefore one should be able to openly and fairly survey God’s teaching, seeking for the truth, with the sincere intention of doing exactly what the Bible tells him to do.
Every time the word “baptism” occurs in the New Testament, it does not necessarily refer to the same baptism, since there are several mentioned. Therefore, let us examine each one mentioned.
The Baptism of John the Baptist
John’s baptism was one that was preached to prepare the people for the reception of Christ, His kingdom and baptism. When one responded to the preaching of John, he was baptized unto the remission of sins. Matthew says, “Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about the Jordan; and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mt. 3:5,6). The purpose of the baptism administered by John was to get the people to repent, and to receive the remission of their sins by being baptized in order that they might be ready to flock to the Lord at the appropriate time. It might be worthwhile to point out that when these men were baptized they confessed their sins, and not their righteousness. When men are baptized today, they are asked by denominational preachers if they have had their sins remitted. They must testify that they have already been saved, and then if they have, they may be baptized. Men under John’s baptism confessed their sins, and were then baptized in order to have their sins remitted, and not because they were already saved.
The baptism of John was not something that one could participate in or not’, and still please the Lord just as well. Today, denominations say that one can be baptized if they want to, but if one should decide that they don’t want to be baptized, all is as well. To them, baptism is optional. With the baptism of John, it was a matter of obeying, by being baptized, or perishing. There was no option to it. Luke speaks of certain ones that refused to be baptized like this: “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him” (Lk. 7:30). Luke says that when these men refused baptism, they were not rejecting John, but they were rejecting God. If one can be saved while he rejects God, then he can be saved without being baptized. To reject the baptism of God was equal to rejecting the counsel of God.
From the baptism of John, one further can see the nature of baptism. The Gospel according to John says, “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized” (Jn. 3:23). The act of baptism required much water, and therefore John did his baptizing in an area where this much water could be accessed.
Baptism of Jesus by John
Another baptism mentioned in the New Testament is the baptism of Jesus at the hand of John the Baptist. The record reads: “Then comes Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and come you to me? But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were. opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17). Jesus was baptized, though reluctantly, by John the Baptist. Sometimes we think that Jesus was baptized just like all the rest that were baptized of John’s baptism, but instead of receiving John’s baptism, Jesus received an exception of it. Our Lord is described as having been “tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15), and as Him “who did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:22). Since Christ couldn’t have been baptized for the remission of sins for He had no sin, and John’s baptism was for the remission of sins, then it follows, that even though the immersion was performed by John the Baptist, Jesus did not receive the same baptism as did the others baptized by John. He received an exception of John’s baptism.
It may also be seen by implication from Christ’s baptism, that baptism is immersion, for He came up straightway from the water. Christ was immersed, even as we are commanded today.
The Baptism of Fire
The baptism of fire. is found in Mt. 3:10-12: “And even now the axe lies at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.” If one will notice the statement in Matt. 3, he will see that the Lord promised two baptisms, one of the Holy Spirit, and one of fire. On the day of Pentecost when the apostles were baptized of the Holy Spirit, one finds a partial fulfillment of the prophecy, but what occurred on Pentecost was not a baptism of fire. The tongues that appeared unto the apostles, and that sat upon them were not of fire, but they were “like as of fire.” If one will but study the context of Matt. 3, he will see that John was making two classifications. He spoke of the tree that bore good fruit, and of the tree that did not bring forth good fruit. The useless tree is hewn down and is cast into the fire. Then he also speaks of the wheat’s threshing. The wheat is good, but the chaff is to be burned with unquenchable fire. This baptism of fire is the punishment of hell, or the casting into the lake of fire, and is therefore a baptism that each should seek to avoid.
The Baptism of Suffering
This baptism is not called the baptism of suffering in the Scripture, but his certainly is that to which it refers. Jesus Christ had long since been baptized of John’s baptism, and then He referred to another baptism that would come upon Him. He was thinking about the things that were before Him, in the way of physical pain and suffering. “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshiping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She said unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, You shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and one my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given by them for whom it is prepared of my Father” (Mt. 20:20-23). Christ was about to endure the pain and suffering of a death on the cross, and he told these two disciples that they may also be baptized with the same baptism with which he was to be baptized. So we see that there is another New Testament baptism which refers to the sufferings and agonies of our Lord on the cross.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Denominational preachers refer to this kind baptism more than any other. This was the promise of Christ unto His disciples. It should be remembered that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always a promise, and is never a command. It is impossible to find one single individual who was ever commanded to be baptized of the Holy Spirit. Some where told that they would be, but none was ever commanded to be baptized of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire” (Matt. 3:11). While the Lord was yet on earth, but was preparing for the ascension, he promised the apostles that he would send them a comforter. “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (Jn. 14:26). Further Christ said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (Jn. 16:13). The Holy Spirit baptism was a special gift of Christ to the apostles, that was to help them in their deliverance of His teaching to the whole world. The Holy Spirit was to guide them in all truth, and to bring to their remembrance all that he had said unto them. The apostles were not to begin their preaching until they receive power from on high (Lk. 24:49) and they were to receive the power “after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you” (Acts 1:8), and so when the Holy Spirit came upon them on the day of Pentecost, they all began to “speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The Holy Spirit, promised to them by Christ, before His ascension, had come and was doing the very thing for which He had been sent. Holy Spirit baptism was restricted to the apostles, and possibly to the household of Cornelius. The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was never to save anyone. People who claim to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit completely misunderstand His mission and that he was exclusively for the Apostles.
The ONLY Baptism Commanded by Jesus Christ
Now let us examine the baptism which was commanded by Christ. Christ was baptized by John, but then He later gave a baptism of His own. After His death, and just prior to His ascension into heaven, Christ charged the disciples that they were to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to all the world. A commission which was performed in the days of the apostles. (Col 1:23) He then informed them what they were to preach, and what they were to do. Matthew says, “And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:18-20). Mark reads, “And he said unto them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieves shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:15, 16). Christ commanded that they preach to every man, baptizing all those who believed for the remission of sins.
Who should be baptized? Is baptism to be administered indiscriminately upon all men, or are there certain prerequisites to being baptized? God does not know us by race, for men of every nation, and every language have an equal right to heed the call of Christ. John recorded, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears, say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). But even though all men have a right to obey the gospel, still there are certain moral and mental conditions that must abide within them before they may pleasingly be immersed into Christ, or before they may be baptized.
One trait that the candidate for baptism must possess is the mentality to be taught. Teaching must precede his baptism, and then after he is baptized he must be further taught the ways of the Christian life. One who does not have the mind capable of being taught is subject to baptism, for one must be taught before he can be scriptural baptized. This requirement eliminates the mentally deficient and infants.
One must also be a confessed believer before he can be considered a candidate for New Testament baptism. In Mark’s account of the Great Commission, Christ said, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but be that disbelieves shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). In the records of conversions found in the New Testament one sees that before men and women were baptized, they were believers in Christ. When Philip went down to the city of Samaria. and proclaimed to them the Christ, the Scripture says, “But when they believed Philip, preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). The next verse of this same chapter records the account of another man’s obedience. “And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles worked, he was amazed” (Acts 8:13). One could not be baptized until he had believed. Before Ananias would baptize the Eunuch, he required belief first. It was upon his confession that Jesus was the Christ that Ananias baptized the Eunuch. (Acts 8:36-39)
One must also be penitent of his sins before he can be baptized into Christ with the sanction of Christ. Once again we refer you to the day of Pentecost in which three thousand Jews heard the word of the gospel preached to them for the first time, believed it, and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” These Jews realized and admitted their guilt, and therefore they wanted to know what they must do in order to be saved. Peter answered their question as to what they were to do, by telling them to “repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Before they could be baptized they were to repent of their sins.
Once one has heard and understood the gospel preached; (1 Cor 15:1-4) Once they have believed with the heart and confessed with the mouth that Jesus is the Christ; (Rom 10:9,10) Once they have repented of their sins, one is commanded to be baptized. (Acts 2:38) Then is one “…buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Rom 6:4