The scriptures mention several types of baptism including: John’s baptism of repentance (Act 19:3–4), water baptism done in Jesus’ name (e.g., Act 10:48, 19:5), Holy Spirit baptism (Act 11:16), Jesus’ baptism of suffering (Mark 10:38-39, Luke 12:50), and baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29). But in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said there was only one baptism (Eph. 4:5), while Peter referred to the “baptism that saves” (1 Pet. 3:21). Both were referring to the baptism done to every believer by the Holy Spirit when they first turn to the Lord in faith. The moment you came to Jesus, you were baptized or placed into his body by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12–13, Gal. 3:27).

Two New Testament words are commonly translated as baptism and baptize. Baptizo (G907) is a verb that means to dip, submerge or overwhelm while baptisma (G908) is a noun that means immersion or submersion. There is also another noun (baptismos, G909) which is translated as pot washing (Mark 7:4, 8), ceremonial washing (Heb. 6:2, 9:10), and in some Bibles is sometimes translated as baptism. All three words connote immersion. To be baptized means to be dipped or immersed. To use an archaic word, it is to be whelmed.

To whelm something is to bury it in dirt or sink it in water. It is what happens when a ship goes down in a storm or a skier is hit with an avalanche. To be baptized or whelmed is a dramatic event. “You have been baptized (whelmed) into his death” (Rom. 6:3). This did not happen when you were water baptized; it was done to you by the Holy Spirit the moment you said yes to Jesus. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).

This is good news for the believer. Your old self had issues that you could never resolve. The Holy Spirit’s solution was not to patch up your old self but to whelm him or bury her in the ground with Jesus (Col. 2:12). To be baptized into his death means your old self is history. He’s done and dusted, dead and buried.

But that is only half the story. “We have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). The Holy Spirit didn’t leave you in the ground. Just as he raised Jesus, he raised you (Col. 2:12). Because of that one baptism you are now free from sin (Rom. 6:6–7).

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Because of the baptism done to you by the Holy Spirit, the old has gone and the new has come. The life you live, you live by faith in the risen Son of God. This revelation will free you from the curse of trying to rehabilitate the old self (he’s dead) and liberate you from your struggle with sin (reckon yourself dead to it). When you know you have been baptized and raised by the Holy Spirit, you will truly live.

What about water baptism?

If you wish to start an argument among a group of Christians, all you need to do is ask, “Is water baptism essential for salvation?” Baptism has historically been one of the big controversial issues debated in the church. Is water baptism essential? The scriptures are clear: You are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). You are not made right with God by water; only the blood of Jesus makes us clean. If water baptism were a mandatory requirement for entry into the kingdom, Paul would not have said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17).

So why get water baptized? The early Christians got water baptized in droves (e.g., Acts 2:41). They did so for three reasons: (1) Jesus did it (Matt. 3:13), (2) he said those who followed him would do it (Matt. 28:19), and (3) because water baptism is a public demonstration of our faith in God.

When John the Baptist baptized people in the Jordan River, he was foreshadowing the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). John was looking forward, but Christians are looking back. When Christians get water baptized, they are responding to what the Holy Spirit has done. Water baptism is an outward act testifying to a supernatural reality. It is saying, “I have been buried with Christ and by his Spirit I have been raised to new life.”

Salvation is a faith issue that is settled in your heart, not in water. The one who has called on the Name of the Lord is well and truly saved (Rom. 10:13). But not getting water baptized is like not getting married when you’ve found your soul mate. In the words of the Ethiopian, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36).

What are the requirements for water baptism? There is only one: Believe in Jesus (see Acts 2:41, 8:13, 16:14–15, 18:8, 19:4–5).

Is water baptism just for Israel?

No. John’s baptism was Jewish in the sense that it was done in the River Jordan by Jews who confessed their sins (Matt. 3:6). Jesus and his disciples initially baptized people in Judea (John 3:22, 4:1–2). But after he rose from the dead Jesus instructed his disciples to baptize people anywhere and everywhere (Matt 28:19), and they did. The early Christians baptized Samaritans (Acts 8:12), Romans (Acts 10:47–48), Thyatirans (Acts 16:15), Philippians (Acts 16:33), Corinthians (Acts 18:8, 19:5, 1 Cor. 1:14, 16), and at least one Ethiopian (Acts 8:38).

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