One Baptism Versus the Many?

Last time we discussed baptism we offered up brother Rory’s
contention that salvation is impossible without the rite of baptism. One of the
texts he used in support of this baptism being salvific was {{Ephesians 4:4-5}}
illustrating this point of One baptism being for the forgiveness of sins. My
first post started to question the usage {{Ephesians 4[NASB]}} as this defense and in
this post I will explore the different baptisms mentioned in Scripture.

Why look at different baptisms?
Well, I think it’s important
to rightly divide what the Scriptures are saying. Not in the sense that we
decide where the division is by putting numbers down, but God has decided to
have each of these forty something authors write with a purpose and a burden on
their heart. We study looking at the intent of the writer and we start to
garner and understanding of where God draws lines in Scripture. Be that as it
may, baptism is covered broadly throughout the New Testament and if a person
truly wants a course on the practice, they can study the book of Acts.

Baptism was not brought by Christians.
Yep, that’s right,
Christ told His disciples to go and baptize but His followers were not the
originators of the concept of baptism. In fact the writer to the Hebrews (chapter 6) would
warn his readers, professing Jews no doubt, were told to move onwards,
progressing from what they knew: the teachings of the Messiah, the teachings of
repentance from dead works and of faith towards God, of instruction about
washings (the word is the one for baptisms) and of the laying on of hands, the
resurrection of the dead and the eternal judgment. These are all things that
weren’t brought newly by Christians but were long established and taught in Judaism.
The point in Hebrews is that the Christ had come…He was no longer a teaching but
was physically manifested…progress from the shadows and move on to the reality.

Baptism of John
John was baptizing long before Christ’s disciples
were and this is where I would actually like to start looking at these
different baptisms in detail. Matthew 3:5-8 tells us that John was baptizing
folk with water in Judea in the district where the Jordan passed through. This baptism
is described as being done with several seemingly disparate purposes. Verse 6
tells us that the people did this while confessing their sins. Luke 7:29 would
tell us that the people (in this case including tax collectors) were justifying
God—or the NASB would say “acknowledging God’s justice”. One purpose completely
Man focused and the other completely God focused? No, for John explains what
the people were doing back in Matthew 3:11. He was baptizing with water for
repentance. There’s the connection then. The confessing of sins wasn’t merely
letting loose the conscience but it consisted of saying “God you are completely
right about me…I’m a sinner and I am sorry.” A baptism of water for repentance.

Well that’s the gospel right? Repent and be baptized? Well
not really because in the book of Acts 19:3,4 we have a case of some folk who
have partaken of the baptism of John, this baptism specifically of repentance
which justified God—but who had as of yet not received the Holy Spirit. Why?
We’ll have to hit on that at a later date, but if anything this should
establish in our thinking that Repenting and Baptism doesn’t make a person a Temple of the Living God.

Baptism With Fire
Interesting that in Matthew 3:11 we hear mention of two
other baptisms. He mentions one who is coming after him who would baptize with
the Spirit and with fire. We’ll deal with the later first.

What is this baptism with fire? I submit to you that it is
the very fiery indignation of God by which He would judge the world. Who was
condemnation given over to? Why the very Son was given that power and He would
return, as the rightful ruler of this world and would come to trample the
winepress. A point that Peter makes sure to establish in Acts 2 when he
preaches on the prophecy of Joel and the Last Days. Thankfully, John kept the
order of the baptisms and God has decided to record that for our comfort (and
for the sake of the listeners during Pentecost). Baptism of the Spirit is to
come first. You can also check out Romans 8 and the book of Revelations to see Christ as judge and executor.

Baptism With the Spirit
Here I may have some disagreement with (countless) others
over the actual baptism. The theologian (who knows much more than me) will say
that the baptism is done by the Holy Spirit by placing believers in Christ and
so forth. I say that Christ does the baptizing with the agent of the Holy
Spirit. In other words John would baptize folks by dipping them in water,
Christ would baptize folks by dipping them in the Holy Spirit which was poured
out on Pentecost, specifically. I base my reasoning for this on those
comparative statements by John and Christ (Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John
1:33, Acts 1:5). A nitpicky distinction, I guess.

Be that as it may it still occurred during Pentecost (Acts
2) as a prequel to the baptism by fire that would come at a later date. (Read
the book of Joel for more info.) What’s interesting about this baptism with the
Spirit is that it seems to have little to do with water. For instance, in Acts
2 the believers who were there were surely all baptized in water—but that was
some time ago. When they were baptized earlier it wasn’t with the outpouring of
the Spirit as on this day. In fact, in Acts 10 (v 44 – 48 specifically) we’ll
see Peter preaching to some Gentiles and him and his circumcised crew witness the
Spirit being poured out on them as well, hearing them exalt God in tongues.
When he realized what had just happened he quickly asked for some water to
baptize these people. We’ll see why he was so eager to do this inthe next post, but for now
it’s safe to say that the water had nothing to do with the being put into the
One Body and the One Spirit mentioned in Ephesians 4.

The Full Series
1. Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
2. One Baptism Versus the Many?
3. Baptism and Big Problems
4. Baptismal Regeneration (Acts 2:28)
5. Deluge of Baptism Questions (Acts 1-22)
6. Baptism and Romans (Rom 6:1-11)
7. Noah and Baptism (2 Peter 3:20,21)
8. Paul On Baptism (1 Cor 1:14-18)

9. The Error of Infant Baptism

10. Remember Your Baptism (Rom 6:1-11)


Russ On Baptism

Baptism of Linkage

This has already gone longer than expected but God willing
you’re already noticing what role water is playing (and not playing) in the
previous examples. In the next post we’ll still be looking at some more Biblical
baptisms and likely the questions that some of us may be asking might start to get bigger question marks. :)


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