[Eph 4:4, “There is One body, and One Spirit – just as you were called to One hope, when you were called – One Lord, One faith, One baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all.”]
Baptism as an inherent part of the new way of life was introduced to the Church through His servant John the baptist. Like that of Jesus Christ, the birth and ministry of John the baptist was foretold, particularly, through prophet Isaiah. Read Isa 40:3-5 (nkjv), ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”.’ Also refer Mal 3:1, 4:5. Therefore, the Bible tells us, all Israel eagerly looked forward to the fulfillment of these prophecies. And when the time came they responded in great numbers to the ‘Voice of one calling in the desert’ and received baptism.
THE ‘CALLING’ OF JOHN THE BAPTIST:
It is only appropriate at this juncture that we understand the special nature of John’s Calling before going ahead on the topic of baptism.
- To preach repentance and baptism. Acts 13:24.
- As a messenger, to herald the coming of the kingdom of heaven. Matt 3:1-2.
- As a forerunner, to prepare the way for Jesus, the Son of God. Matt 3:3, Mk 1:1-3, Lk 3:4-6 etc.
- As a prophet, to testify and proclaim the Identity of Jesus the Messiah – “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world”. Please read Jn 1:6-7, Jn 1:31, Jn 1:32-34.
- To preach the good news of salvation. Lk 3:18.
- To confess and testify to the difference between himself and Jesus, both in their respective identities and work (Matt 3:14, Mk 1:8, Lk 3:16, Jn 1:6-7, Jn 1:15 etc.). For eg., Matt 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come One Who is more powerful than I, Whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” We read that, initially people were found wondering. Lk 3:15, Jn 3:26-36 etc.
- Finally, to exhort and warn the baptized to produce fruits in keeping with their repentance. Matt 3:8, 10; Lk 3:8-9, 17.
THE COMMANDMENT OF BAPTISM:
As the forerunner of the Messiah, John preached baptism to symbolize the baptism of death Jesus would undergo to bring salvation to the believing. And, he did not do this on his own. Read Jn 1:33, “I would not have known Him, except that the One Who sent me to baptize with water told me….” Thus, since the coming of John into the foray of God’s REDEMPTIVE WORK, the commandment of baptism has been brought into effect.
Jesus reiterates as He pronounces the Great Commission in Math 28:19, ” Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you……”.
Baptism is a pledge of a good conscience toward God (1 Pet 3:21). It should not be treated as a ritual or as a ‘ceremonial washing’. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and repents of his or her sins is ready to receive baptism. Eg. Acts 8:26-38 – baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip.
Baptism, therefore, follows the ‘born again‘ experience. How close? It is worthy of reconsideration because children raised in christian homes are also usually raised in faith. Their confession of faith may not suffice as precedence to prompt baptism because they are usually unable to handle the enormity of their spiritual responsibility, or rather, to fulfill their pledge of good conscience, toward God. In full knowledge of its implications only can one grow to spiritual maturity and fruitfulness, which should ensue baptism.
When one is baptized, one is baptized into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:16, Rom 6:3-4). One becomes a member of God’s household (Eph 2:19).
Rom 7:6 describes the new life as the new way of the Spirit.
The immersion into water denotes death or burial. And the coming up out of water, resurrection. So, just as Jesus died and rose from the dead, baptism with water can best be allegorically explained as a burial of one’s old self, to begin anew – clothed with the resurrected Lord (Gal 3:27). Thus, by baptism, one proclaims the death and resurrection of Christ in one’s life.
Gal 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me……”.
John’s baptism with water by immersion is the One Baptism for the Church. Like all works of God, it unites the Church. Reverting to Isa 40:3-5, “…. Prepare the way…make straight in the wilderness a highway……..every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed………”.
The oneness of the Church is unmistakable! There shall be neither high nor low. But, a level and plain pathway of the Lord. This is the Holy Highway being prepared for the Lord. Let us look into Isa 35:8, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those that walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it…..only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads…..”.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LORD:
We learn that Jesus also received baptism from John even though He had no sin in Him (Matt 3:16, Mk 1:9, Lk 3:21). The reason in Jesus’ own words as He replies to John when the latter tries to deter Him, is found in Matt 3:15, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
Thus, by receiving baptism, Jesus set an example for us of complete obedience to the Father in everything. And indeed, how well pleased was God the Father! Refer Matt 3:17, ’And a Voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased”.’ Also, Mk 1:11, Lk 3:22, 2 Pet 1:17(b), Jn 5:36, 37(a).
BAPTISM WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIRE
There are two kinds of baptism to be had from Jesus – one with the Holy Spirit and the other with fire. Often the two are misconstrued as one because of the manifestation by tongues of fire that accompanied the baptism of Holy Spirit in Acts 2:3.
Let us revert to Matt 3:11-12, “…….He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand. And He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Also read, 2 Pet 3:7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.”
Baptism with the Holy Spirit has been made possible after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand side of the Father. Refer Acts 2:33. (Read the article titled The Holy Spirit posted on this website and get a complete understanding of baptism of the Holy Spirit.)
But, baptism with fire is the Judgement to come. Read Lk 12:49, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” 2 Pet 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” Also refer 1 Cor 3:13-15.
Read 2 Pet 3:5-7. We learn that John’s baptism with water is a prelude to Christ’s baptism with fire. Just as judgement on earth by water (of Noah’s time) preludes the judgement by fire (at Christ’s Second Coming). For the earth we live in was created out of water and by water, and it preludes the new heaven and new earth to be created out of fire and by fire. And just as this water (2 Pet 3:6) deluged and purged the world of Noah’s time and destroyed all its inhabitants save for the eight who survived (1 Pet 3:20-21, 2 Pet 2:5), we who have been baptized in water testify to and prepare ourselves for the day of purging of this world with fire for the eternal salvation of the righteous. 2 Pet 3:10-14, 2 Pet 2:6.
SURMISING ON BAPTISM
1. It is a public confession of faith. Acts 8:12.
2. It is a sign of repentance. Matt 3:11, Mk 1:4, Lk 3:3.
3. Through the act of immersion, we become One with Christ in His death. Rom 6:3-4.
4. Christ rose again. So, by baptism, we proclaim that we will unite with Him in life eternal. Rom 6:8, Col 2:12.
5. It calls for a life dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Rom 6:11, 13.
6. It is known as the Way of the Spirit – Rom 7:6, Rom 8:13-14, Rom 8:26(a).
7. It demands that we produce fruits in keeping with our repentance. Matt 3:10, Rom 7:4.
8. It calls for complete obedience to God, in everything. Matt 28:20, Heb 10:26-31, 1 Cor 11:32.
9. It prepares the Holy Highway for the Second Coming of the Lord. Isa 40:3-5, Isa 35:8-10.
10. It proclaims the broader picture and testifies to the soon coming baptism of the world with fire. Lk 12:49.
[REMEMBER : FAITH CALLS FOR REPENTANCE – REPENTANCE
CALLS FOR BAPTISM – BAPTISM CALLS FOR
NEW LIFE – AND NEW LIFE CALLS FOR
May God bless you!