As you read and study what has bee written here, do not just blindly accept it.  Please check the Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you His truth.  The Scriptures quoted are from the King James version with the words of Jesus in red.

What is Baptism and what does the Bible say about it?

Baptism as it is defined in the College Edition of Websterís New World Dictionary of the American Language is "a dipping in," "immersion," "to plunge or immerse." It goes on to state "a baptizing or being baptized; specifically, the ceremony or sacrament of admitting a person into Christianity or a specific Christian Church by dipping him in water or sprinkling water on him, as a symbol of washing away sin. It also is any experience or ordeal that initiates, tests, or purifies."

Nelsonís Illustrated Bible Dictionary states it in a slightly different way. "A ritual practiced in the New Testament church that is still used in various forms by different denominations and branches of the Christian Church, Baptism involves the application of water to the body of a person. It is frequently thought of as an act by which the believer enters the fellowship of the church. Widely differing interpretations of the act exist among Christian groups. They have different views on the nature of baptism, who should be baptized, and the appropriate method by which baptism should be administered."

The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo, which means "to be put into or buried into, made a participant or partaker." It does not mean being poured upon, as some have interpreted it to mean.

Much controversy exists because of, as is stated in the above paragraph from the Nelson Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "Widely differing interpretations of the act exist among Christian groups." It is, without a doubt, no exaggeration to say the subject of baptism not only has differing meanings for each group of individuals within, but perhaps is also one of the least understood of the rituals practiced in, the church world. Because of this, baptism is a very controversial subject. Much of what is taught by the various church groups is based upon tradition and custom rather than Scripture. Tradition and custom, while meaningful to many people and therefore important to them, can often incorporate elements not supported by the Scriptures. The intent here is not to put forth my view but to encourage you to study the Scriptures asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His truth to you.



Most people think there is only the one baptism which is defined in the statements above. Actually, there are eight differing contexts of baptisms mentioned in the New Testament. They are Johnís baptism, repentance, water, into Christ, into the Body of Christ, into death, salvation, and Holy Spirit. These eight differing contexts can be divided into two groups. The first three, Johnís baptism, repentance, and into water, all were occurring prior to Christís death, burial, and ascension. The remaining five occurred only after Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father. Many believe this distinction is important because when Paul discovered that the disciples which he encountered at Ephesus had been baptized only unto Johnís baptism they were then baptized again in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost then came upon them, or they were baptized by the Holy Spirit, when Paul laid hands on them. This, many say, indicates three differing baptisms.

John baptized people into the water of the river Jordan and he called for repentance with the baptism. This is why some think Johnís baptism, repentance, and water, are all one baptism called by three names or three differing descriptions of the same activity .



This verse of Scripture noted above is speaking of John the Baptist as the one who was baptizing unto repentance. He was not the "Christ", in fact he said there was one mightier who would come after him whose shoes he was not able to bear. Mark 1:7-9, Luke 3:16, and John 1:26-27 also relate this same story about John and Jesus but without the reference to repentance.

These five verses of Scripture all speak of Johnís baptism unto repentance.

Baptism into water is mentioned in Matthew 3:5-6, Matthew 3:13-16, Mark 1:8, and John 1:26-27.

There are nine verses where Scripture mentions Johnís baptism or the baptism of John.

We are told in Matthew 3:2 that John the Baptist came preaching repentence because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew went on to say, in verse six, that those whom John baptized also confessed their sins thereby linking baptism and confession.

Jesus also preached repentance after He heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison.

From these Scriptures it is clear that baptism, confession and repentance are all tied together. The act or ceremony of baptism by itself will accomplish nothing more than the wetting of a person by water. It must be accompanied by a confession acknowledging the sinful state of the one being baptized along with repentance. As such, it would seem to indicate that only those who have come to a conscious, personal decision to believe and follow Jesus is a proper candidate for baptism. These would be ones who have already experienced the new birth based upon their personal faith and who give evidence of this salvation in their lives. Most people who desire to be baptized have realized the need for confession of their sins and repentance and have already fulfilled these requirements.

John W. Kennedy, a long time missionary to India, had this to say about baptism: "The conversion experience of today, where people pass from a denial to an acceptance of the work of Christ, is first and foremost an entry into a new life of which the revelation is but a part. The proof of the reality of the experience is a consistent walk, and it is only in the light of a life which is obviously ordered by devotion to Christ that the testimony of baptism has any meaning."

Baptism into Christ and into the Body

As a believer in Jesus, who has confessed your sins and repented, you are a member of the Body of Christ. You have been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27) and into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). This baptism is thought by many to be associated with becoming a believer rather than the act of immersion in water. When you consider that one of the definitions of baptism is "to be immersed into something" then when you become a believer you are "immersed into Christ, or the Body of Christ", or "baptized into Christ, or the Body of Christ."

Into Salvation

We have been commanded, by Jesus, to go, teach and baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Jesus set for us the example by commanding John to baptize Him in the River Jordan that it might "fulfill all righteousness."

This was also taught later by Peter when he, speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit, commanded the new Gentile converts to be baptized in the name of the Lord. As believers in the name of Jesus who have repented of our sins it seems to me that we have no choice but to be baptized.

Public proclamation is not something that is necessary, but it does serve to reinforce any decision we have made. Not all of the Scripture passages referring to baptism indicate those being baptized were witnessed by others. One in particular is recorded in the eighth chapter of Acts when Phillip baptized the eunuch. There may have been others besides Phillip and the eunuch there but if so, Scripture is silent on that point.

Baptism is also symbolic wherein it identifies the believerís baptism with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

When you are baptized it is not into a church, but into the Body of Christ. Your name may appear on the list of those belonging to a group of people who call themselves by some church name, but you must remember you are first a member of the Body of Christ.

The Baptism of the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit)

The last baptism from the list of eight is of the Holy Spirit. Some make a distinction between the terms "filled with the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost" and "baptized in the Spirit." They insist "speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives them utterance" is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

There are also numerous accounts in the Old Testament where individuals who are "filled with Spirit" have exhibited abilities well beyond the natural human ones. We have witnessed a number of individuals in our present day who also have been mightily endued with a power to proclaim the word of God who donít "speak in tongues." Billy Graham is one that comes immediately to my mind but there are many others.

John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), Johnís mother Elisabeth, (Luke 1:43), and Johnís father Zacharias, (Luke 1:67) were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Scripture says they prophesied but there is no account of speaking in tongues associated with it. There are eight verses of Scripture, in the New Testament, where the term "filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost" occurs. There are two accounts, Acts 10:45-46 and Acts 2:4, where "speaking in tongues" is associated with "being filled or baptized with the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit." Both of these events occur after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. All eight, however, are associated with being endued with boldness to proclaim Godís Word.

Joel prophesied of this long before it was first experienced in Luke 3:22 by Jesus and again in Acts 2 by those in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.

Whether or not these two terms speak of the same or different operations, the effect of both is to be endued with power for service and to witness. This is only one of many changes which occurs when you have been and are being baptized by the Holy Spirit. Notice the phrase "have been and are being." Some believe this baptism is not a one time event but is a continuing experience. They suggest that being filled with the Holy Spirit should be a continuing experience rather than a one time event. Their logic is that we are a "leaky wineskin" which must be constantly refilled with the "wine" of the Holy Spirit. While my own experience leads me to agree with that premise, I have not found Scripture to support the belief.

A. J. Gordon, a Baptist Minister who lived from 1836 to 1895, in his book "The Ministry of the Spirit" written in 1894, writes about the enduement of power from on high and I quote:

It is through this baptism we are endued with power from on high. This power could be defined as giving us the ability to have the desire, strength, and power for service, and as witnesses for Christ, to become the functioning part of the Body of Christ who is the Bride He will return for.

 Bill Liddle
January 28, 2001

 If you desire additional information you may contact me:  Bill


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