core studies : baptism

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15


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God appointed water baptism to wash away man's sins (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38). When we are baptized, all of our past sins are removed (Colossians 2:12-14, Romans 6:6). Our sins are not physically washed away by the water, but spiritually our sins are removed by our obedience to the words of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16, Matthew 28:19, 1Peter 3:20-21). In the first message ever preached by the Apostles after Christ arose into Heaven, the Apostles taught that everyone needed to be baptized (Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:14-16, Acts 10:47-48, Acts 19:1-5).

When we accept that we need to be baptized, we are accepting the need to turn away from (or repent of) our sins, which marks our spiritual death. When Jesus died on the cross, he who was without sin died in the place of each of us. So his blood was shed as a covering for our sins (Hebrews 9:22-28, Hebrews 10:18-22). This blood is applied to our life, through belief, when we are baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:10-15). Now, because of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, we have the victory over sin. When we are totally submerged under the water, we are following Christ's burial by burying our former life and its sins. When we come up out of the water, we are rising to live a new life in Christ, just as Christ resurrected (Romans 1:4-6, Romans 6:1-6, Philippians 3:8-11, 1 Peter 3:20-21). All of the above points show that baptism is essential for salvation. Without it, we still have our sins.

When a man baptizes another person, it is essential that the baptism is administered in the name of Jesus and not in the titles "Father," "Son," and "Holy Ghost." Doing so acknowledges the association of the baptism to Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-6, Galatians 3:26-27). The Father and the Holy Spirit did not die, get buried, then raise from the dead. Jesus Christ did. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). To baptize in the titles "Father," "Son," and "Holy Ghost" is not obeying what Jesus commanded. His words in Matthew 28:19 tell us to baptize in the one name that represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. That name is Jesus. Those that call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved from the wrath of God to come (1 Corinthians 1:12-16, Colossians 3:17, Matthew 28:19, Romans 10:9-13, Acts 4:12), and Jesus is Lord.

Every account of an actual baptism in the New Testament references the name of Jesus Christ. Baptism using the titles started in the early Fourth Century, in 325AD. There is no reference in the Bible of any person being baptized in the titles "Father," "Son," and "Holy Ghost," but rather in the name of "Jesus." The difference is important to understand: God has many titles, but only the name of Jesus has been given for salvation, and baptism is certainly a part of salvation (Acts 8:12-16, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 4:10-12, Colossians 3:17, Philippians 2:9-11, Acts 8:35-39, Acts 16:14, Acts 19:1-5, 1 Corinthians 1:13-16, Acts 16:32-34).

Baptism without belief and repentance towards God is not baptism; it is just getting wet. As long as a person believes the gospel, there is no time requirement before he or she can be baptized (Mark 16:16, Acts 8:35-39). What matters to God is that the person being baptized is putting their faith in operation (Luke 24:47, Acts 2:37-38, Colossians 2:11-14, John 14:15). Some people state that the Bible's reference to baptism is merely a figurative reference to a spiritual cleansing, and is not referring to physical water at all. But Jesus said to be "born of water and of the spirit" (John 3:5). We see from scripture that water baptism, when done in faith, is bringing water and spirit together (Hebrews 10:22, Colossians 2:11-12, Titus 3:5). The Bible also refers to spiritual baptism, which is the overwhelming of the Spirit that God gives to us. This is not what the Bible is referring to when it commands us to be baptized. Only in water baptism can we obey the commandment by choice. Spiritual baptism is an act of God which we receive through faith, not our own act of obedience as water baptism. (See the study titled "The Holy Ghost" for information on spiritual baptism).

Biblical baptism is total submersion in water. The word baptize comes from the Greek word baptizo, meaning "to make whelmed, fully wet." The word sprinkle comes from the Greek word rhantizo, meaning "to render besprinkled, aspersed." The mode of baptism in the religious world was changed in 1311 AD, to allow the sprinkling of water to substitute for baptism. No man has the right or authority to change God's word and judgment. We didn't have the right or authority to do it in 325AD, nor in 1311AD, nor will we ever. Yet many people do believe and accept these changes because they put their trust in man's understanding and not in God's word. Only those who put their trust in God's word will be able to stand before God in judgment.

The significance of water in baptism is better understood when one sees the historical use of water in the Bible. In several places throughout the Bible, water is used to signify renewal, sanctification/separation from sin and evil, and even birth/rebirth, which are all elements of baptism (Genesis 1:6-10, Genesis 6:5-8, 12-22, Exodus 1:22-2:10, Exodus 14:15-17, 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, 2 Kings 5:10-14, Ezekiel 36:24-25). We can see by this that the water of baptism is the spiritual fulfillment of all these other uses of water (John 3:3-7, John 19:32-35, 1 John 5:5-8).

For Frequently Asked Questions about Baptism, or for an exhaustive study, click here

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