In the divine pattern, baptism follows believing. Baptism is the threshold of the path of discipleship involving subjection to the Lordship of Christ and separation from a sinful world. It is a test of loyalty and allegiance to Christ.
The Different Kinds of Baptism
John’s baptism (Matt 3:4-6; Mark 1:4; Acts 18:25; 19:3-4): Baptism unto repentance. Those baptized acknowledged the justice of God, that death was their righteous portion, and confessed that they were totally dependent upon God’s mercy, which was provided in the coming One Who alone could forgive their sins.
The Lord’s baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:9-10; Luke 3:21): This was identification with those who repented, showing that they alone were the righteous ones. It was also the identification of themselves with Him before God in an act that foreshadowed the work that He would accomplish at Calvary. This work would lay a righteous foundation for God to forgive those who acknowledged their guilt and embraced the Savior.
The Lord baptizing disciples (John 3:22, 26; 4:1): This identified the disciples with the message He proclaimed. It was an association of others with Himself and with His claims.
The baptism at Calvary: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished” (Luke 12:50). He was engulfed or immersed in the judgment of God on account of sin (Psa 42:7). “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26). “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12).
The baptism of suffering: “Ye shall indeed drink of My cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” (Matt 20:23). He was immersed in suffering for righteousness sake. “For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (1Peter 2:21).
The baptism in Spirit (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11-16, and 1Cor 12:13): In the first six passages the preposition “with” is translated from the Greek preposition “en” which really means “in.” The expression “Baptism of the Spirit,” used by some Christians, is never found in the Scriptures. Baptism in Spirit has to do with the Church, which is the Body of Christ (1Cor 12:12-13). It took place at Pentecost when the Church was formed; we came into the good of it when we trusted Christ. It is linked with the first advent of Christ and blessing is in view.
The baptism in fire (Mat 3:11; Luke 3:16): Judgment is in view and is linked with the second advent of Christ. “Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The baptism unto Moses: “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1Cor 10:2). This indicated the identification of the nation with their leader, Moses.
The baptisms in Hebrews 6:2: This refers to the ceremonial washing of the past dispensation of law.
All these baptisms are now past leaving one other that is still applicable today:
The baptism of believers: “Then they that gladly received His Word were baptized” (Acts 2:41).
The expression “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5 refers to believer’s baptism, water baptism.
The Distinctive Features of Baptism
There are four things relative to every baptism: (1) The agent who baptizes; (2) The subject – the person baptized; (3) The element into which a person is baptized; (4) The purpose, or reason for baptism.
The Doctrine of Believers Baptism
The authority for baptism: “All power (authority) is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt 28:18). “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). This indicates authority.
The practice of baptism: “They that gladly received His Word were baptized”(Acts 2:41). Note the baptism of men and women (Acts 8:12), the eunuch (Acts 8:38), Cornelius (Acts 10:47-48), Lydia and her household, the jailor (Acts 16:15, 33), and “many of the Corinthians” (Acts 19:5).
The mode of baptism: Total immersion, not sprinkling. The Greek word baptisia means “to dip” or “to dye.” It indicates immersion, submergence, and emergence. “John also was baptizing … because there was much water” (John 3:23). “And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38-39).
The Significance of Baptism
It is an act for believers. “Baptizing them” (i.e., disciples – Acts 2:41). “They that gladly received His Word were baptized.” There is nothing in the water to take away our sins; baptism never fits a person for heaven. Baptism is for believers alone.
It is the answer of a good conscience toward God. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1Peter 3:21). Salvation here is in regard to the believer’s relationship with God; thus what is symbolized in baptism gives the believer a good conscience before God. It could also symbolize putting off the old man and putting on the new man (Col 3:9-10). The old life is finished and we should now walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-4). However, we could apply this to a believer’s obedience – being baptized gives the believer a good conscience as to obeying the Lord’s command.
It also proclaims the fundamental facts of the gospel. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1Cor 15:3-4).
It is a testimony to salvation, an outward declaration of an inward work, a confession before men of having trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. It speaks of identification with Christ in a world that continues to reject Him. This involves separation from the world.
It shows subjection to the Lordship of Christ and is a demonstration of loyalty and love. It is an act of surrender to the will and Word of God.
It ministers pleasure to God and brings joy to other believers. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).