THE ONE BAPTISM OF THE BIBLE
The Bible clearly affirms that there is “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). Yet students of the New Testament know that it speaks of several baptisms. For instance, there was “John’s baptism” (Acts 19:3), referring to the baptism administered by John the Baptist, a baptism which served its purpose and passed away, so much so that those who received it after it had been superseded by the “one baptism” had to make a second trip to the water and be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).
The Bible also speaks of Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 1:4-5, 8). There are two recorded cases of this in the New Testament: 1) the apostles on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), qualifying them to speak the word of God by divine inspiration in the various languages of the people gathered on that occasion, and 2) the Gentile household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-45; 11:15-18), to show that the gospel was for Gentiles as well as for Jews. Note: It is important to understand that Holy Spirit baptism is not to be confused with Christians receiving the Holy Spirit as a deposit/guarantee of their eternal inheritance and as a seal (emblem of ownership) that they are God’s children (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; Galatians 4:6; et al).
The Bible likewise speaks of “fire baptism,” with the context indicating that it refers to the “immersion” or “overwhelming” of the wicked in eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 3:11-12; cf. Matthew 13:41-42; Matthew 25:46; II Thessalonians 1:7-9, Revelation 20:14-15, et al), a “baptism” that no one wants to receive. Metaphorically, Christ spoke of a “baptism” that He was to endure, speaking of His “immersion” in the excruciating and overwhelming suffering of the cross (Matthew 20:22-13; Luke 12:50).
But when the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians in c. A. D. 62/63, he declared that there is but “one baptism.” What is the “one baptism” of which he spoke? Simply put, it is the baptism that Jesus authorized in the great-commission baptism “in/into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-20 [cf. ASV]; Mark 16:15-16), the baptism we see being administered to penitent believers in the book of Acts.
As to its action and element, a study of the New Testament shows this one baptism to be immersion in water. Christ Himself provides us with an example of how baptism is to be performed. Jesus came to John the Immerser (the literal meaning of “Baptist”) at the Jordan River to be baptized (Matthew 3:14). It is more than significant that John did not bring a thimble full of the Jordan to Jesus! “And Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water,” showing that He had been down in the water (Matthew 3:16). When the eunuch from Ethiopia was baptized “both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. And when they had come up out of the water . . . he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:38-39). By divine inspiration, the apostle Paul described baptism as a burial, a burial in a watery grave, from which one is resurrected to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:11-12).
Therefore, the one authentic baptism of the Bible is not having a few drops of water sprinkled or poured on a person. By Biblical standards, the person who has only been sprinkled or poured or “christened,” has not been baptized at all with the one baptism of the Bible, no matter what he or she may have been told by some pastor or priest, or regardless of how satisfied he or she may be with what they received as an infant! The more important question is, “Is God satisfied with my baptism?”
Further, the one acceptable baptism authorized by the Scriptures is the baptism of a person old enough to personally be taught the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-19), old enough to personally hear and believe the gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 16:31ff; Romans 10:17), old enough to be conscious of his or her own sins and repent of them (Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30), and old enough to confess with his or her own mouth his or her own faith in Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37 [KJV]; Romans 10:9-10). Infants are unable to meet any of these prerequisites of Bible baptism, there is no instance of infant baptism in all the New Testament, and, therefore, all who have had what was called baptism administered to them as babies have not been baptized with the one baptism of the Bible!
The one baptism of the Bible is not a stand alone, incidental, legalistic requirement, with no relation to our being saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). That fact, however, does not change any of the sobering truths set forth above concerning baptism. Death is too certain, eternity is too long, heaven is too wonderful, and hell is too horrible for anyone to fail to comply with what the Bible teaches concerning the “who” and the “how” of the one legitimate baptism of the Bible!
(To Be Continued Next Week)
April 19, 2016
April 20, 27: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN
May 1-4: Center Hill Church of Christ, Florence, AL