because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
I prayed throughout the day and I included the desire to understand more about baptism. And He spoke to me, revealed things to me that I had been asking recently regarding baptism, and led me to verses which answered those questions for me through Himself. I first want to point out that baptism is immersion in water, it not metaphorical. The meaning of the word is “to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet)” So when I am talking about baptism, this is what I am talking about.
There is another passage in the Bible that had me asking questions about baptism. Acts 18:18-28 talks about Apollos who became a great figure in the formation of the early church. But when he began, he didn’t have the whole story.
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Verse 25 says, Apollos only knew about the baptism of John, although he taught accurately about Jesus. So, I asked the Lord what that meant, what was Apollos missing? A little later the baptism of John comes up again, this time Paul comes across some believers who had not received the Holy Spirit because they had only been baptized with John’s baptism. Acts 19:1-7 reads,
And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
John’s baptism was one of Jewish tradition, it declared a person’s repentance of sins. When John baptized, God had not yet revealed Jesus as the Messiah, people being baptized just to repent from sins were not being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They were being baptized to say, “I repent from my sins and will live a new life.” John was baptizing to prepare the way for Jesus. He told people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) Repentance was laying the groundwork for Jesus, making the paths straight so that the person would more easily believe the Messiah was here Matthew 3:3 says it this way,
For this is he [John] who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
But until Jesus was revealed as Christ, no one could believe He is the Lord, no one could be baptized in His name and believe His message; He had not yet given His message or died and resurrected. He had not even begun His ministry as the Messiah.
John’s baptism was a statement of belief in John’s message to repent and prepare for the Messiah, it was not a statement of belief in The Gospel. When Jesus commanded baptism after His death and resurrection, He said to baptize “ in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The baptism of Jesus, in His name declares, “I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am a disciple, also called follower, of Jesus.” It identifies the believer with the triune God, and it is the first act of obedience that declares the person will now obey the rest of what Jesus taught us to observe. The entire command is known as The Great Commission, it was Jesus’ assignment, His command to us given before He ascended to be at the Right hand of the Father. Matthew 28:16-20 reads,
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
John had more to say about the difference between his baptism and the baptism that would come later. After preaching repentance John said,
“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Jesus’ baptism would indeed be with the Holy Spirit. It is not the water that cleanses us, forgives, and saves in Jesus’ baptism, it is the confession as Jesus as Lord and belief in who He is, raised by God. (Romans 10:9). The Holy Spirit enters in and He sanctifies us, cleanses us with His fire. He is often compared to fire (Acts 2:3-4, Isaiah 4:4,). And the fire of the Holy Spirit is in direct contrast the unquenchable fire of hell. Either way there will be fire, one is part of eternal life, the other eternal death.
Jesus’ baptism is not without water, but it is not about the water, it is about God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is depicted in Jesus baptism by John. Jesus did not have to repent from sins, yet He still went to John to get baptized when it was time to begin His ministry on earth. Although John performed the act of submerging Jesus into the water, it was not the same as his other baptisms. We can read an account of it in Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
First, John immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah. He very rightfully said, “I need to be baptized by you.” Jesus did not refute the fact that John needed to declare his belief in Jesus as Messiah, but said, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, ‘You’re right, I am the Messiah, it’s not time for you to be baptized yet, right now, it’s time for my baptism, I need to satisfy my Father’s righteousness and do His will. I need to start my new life as the Son of God.’ Jesus Himself declared, He was being baptized not in John’s name or message but in His Father’s name and Righteousness. At the moment Jesus came up from the water three amazing things took place. Heaven was opened to Him, He stepped fully into the role of the Christ. The Holy Spirit descended and rested on Him, He stayed, marking Him as Christ and empowering Jesus with all the authority and power of God. His Father spoke to and acknowled Jesus as His Son who pleased Him.
This is what the baptism of Jesus Christ does for us. We acknowledge Jesus is the Christ in public. We are anointed with His Holy Spirit sealed as belonging to Christ and given authority and power. And we are claimed as sons and daughters of God who is pleased with us. When we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are saying, “I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We are identifying with the worldwide church as a son or daughter of God and disciple of Christ. And we are performing a ritual of obedience to the command as a symbol to us and the world that we will continue obeying, learning, and identifying with Jesus.
Jesus’ baptism is also symbolic of His death and resurrection. We die with Christ to our old selves and are resurrected with Him to our new selves, born again. Those verses which began our journey today state that baptism corresponds with God bringing Noah safely through the water, out of the certain death that the rest of humanity experienced to new life and salvation. It is an appeal to God for discipleship under the Holy Spirit through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those verses again read,
because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Paul also taught that baptism is symbolic of our dying to sin and resurrecting to new life in Christ. Romans 6:1-6 reads,
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
Baptism also identifies us as members of the family of God, the Church. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 reads,
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Baptism is the act which allows the believer to receive the Holy Spirit. After Peter taught the Gospel in Acts 2, many people were convicted and believed what he said. Acts 2:37-39 reads,
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Baptism does not save, confessing with your mouth and believing with your heart that Jesus is Lord is what saves Salvation is by grace through faith, (belief to the point of action) and not by works at all. Baptism is our assertion our affirmation of our faith, our belief that Jesus is Lord and Christ.
Baptism is a commandment from Jesus and He included baptism naturally as a testimony to one’s belief. In Mark 16 when Jesus was giving us His commission, He said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” But that is not all He said. Baptism includes certain signs, Jesus continued saying “ And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” Mark 16:15-18[i]
In other words, believers will be filled with the Holy Spirit and He will manifest and prove Himself in the Believer through His gifts. Such as speaking in tongues, the gift of healing and casting out demons in Jesus’ name; the believer is given supernatural protection against the enemy and persecution will not be able to hurt him. As believers, we choose to walk in faith and enjoy these gifts or deny them, quench the Spirit, and even give permission for injury from the enemy or persecution. Jesus said that baptism is a natural partner to belief and as we acknowledge Him before men, He will acknowledge us and the manifestation of His recognition and acceptance of us is being filled with the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 10:26-33 Jesus said,
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
In one of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies the Messiah is connected to baptism and forgiveness of sins, guidance and protection by the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 4:2-6 reads,
In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. 3 And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,4 when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. 5 Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. 6 There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
I hope this has answered some questions about baptism for you. It has for me. What is baptism? What is the difference between the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus? Why do we get baptized and what does it mean? I am so excited about the things the Holy Spirit has revealed to me and I am thrilled to have a deeper understanding of Jesus command to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
[i] These verses are not in some early manuscripts and their authenticity is questioned, but research convinces me that they are authentic. For my research notes on the subject please feel free to email me.