At our recent Ministers’ Convention, I had the privilege of baptizing a young man in water. In doing so, it reminded me of how many Christians do not understand the purpose and significance of baptism generally and water baptism specifically.
Christian water baptism is not a baptism of repentance, like John the Baptist preached, but rather a baptism into the Body of Christ. The Christian baptism of repentance, also known as the baptism of blood, occurs when a person recognizes that he is a sinner in need of a Saviour and believes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At that moment, God the Father washes the new believer’s soul in the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ and the believer is forgiven of all sin – past, present and future. The believer’s flesh remains unchanged. It is still under the curse of sin, which is why we all die, for the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23.
This distinction between man’s cursed flesh, which is sold under sin and returns to the dust from whence it came, and man’s soul, which came from and will return to God, is foundational to understanding the purpose behind the operation of God that occurs at water baptism. Specifically, God recognizes that you cannot please Him in or with your flesh because your flesh is the body of sin, cursed and contrary to God in every way. Romans 6:1-7, Romans 7:14 to Romans 8:8 and Ephesians 2-1-10. That is why God, in the First Commandment, does not ask us to love Him with our flesh, but rather with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. See Mark 12:30 and Matthew 23:36-38. You see, the Lord knows something that many Christians today do not, namely He knows that your soul needs a new, incorruptible home. That new home is in the resurrected Body of Jesus Christ. It is only in your new, incorruptible home that you can do the will of the Father on this earth just as Jesus did when He was here. The importance of this cannot be overstated, for Jesus said that it is only those who do the will of the Father that enter into Heaven. Matthew 7:21-23.
With that foundation, it is easy to understand the operation of God that occurs at water baptism, which Paul described in detail in his Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 6:
1 ¶ What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. Romans 6:1-7.
In essence, Paul is saying that while I may have had the privilege of dunking the young man in water at our recent Ministers’ Conference, it was the Holy Spirit of God that translated the young man’s soul out of his cursed flesh and into the resurrected Body of Jesus Christ. Paul confirms this understanding in many other passages, most notably in Colossians 1:13 and Ephesians 2:1-10.
The third Christian baptism promised to all believers is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is this baptism which empowers believers to walk in the Kingdom of God on this earth, just as the early Church did, as described in the Book of Acts. Doctrinally, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is imparted by the laying on of the hands of an Apostle of the Lord. Acts 8:14-22 and Acts 19:1-6. Still, while an apostle may lay hands on a believer, it is Jesus Christ who baptizes the believer into the Holy Spirit of God. Matthew 3:11 and Mark 1:7-8. As with all things, believers are to trust in the power of God and not in man.
By these three baptisms, God enables believers to walk in the new life that God has for us in Christ Jesus. Without them, we cannot. It is that simple. For a more detailed teaching on baptism, I recommend that you read my friend and minister Richard Eutsler’s teaching, entitled Baptism – One, Two or Three? It is available here. May the Lord bless you as you seek Him.