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Welcome, Rick David Introducing The Bible Study on the One Baptism!
There are different kinds of baptisms in the Gospel
One of the very first things to learn about the Christian faith is its teaching on “baptisms”. The writer of Hebrews said that “baptisms” are one of “the elementary principles of the doctrines of Christ... the foundation... the doctrine of baptisms” (He 6:1, 2 KJV), plural. Yet, how can there be “one baptism” (Eph 4:5), singular, of the Christian faith when there are also “baptisms,” plural?
In this study, you will find out the answer to this question. You will learn the meaning and purpose of each of the six different kinds of baptisms in the New Testament. You will find out about the ones which men have added to it (which are not actually listed in it). Then, you can be even more sure and certain to discern, experience, and maintain among yourselves the “one baptism” of the Christian faith. For even though there are different kinds of baptisms in the gospel, evidently only one of them is to be experienced by everyone who believes in Jesus.
The Six Baptisms
Next, I list them chronologically, in the order in which they appear or are first mentioned in the New Testament. This will help you to understand their exact meaning and purpose in comparison to one another. The specific way in which they differ from each other. And ultimately, it will help you to discern with certainty the “one baptism” of Christianity, experience it, and rejoice in it.
1. John’s Baptism (Mt 3:1-6)
In the New Testament, John the Baptist was the first one to baptize. He said “I baptize you with water for repentance” (Mt 3:11). So, specifically, his was a water baptism linked to “the forgiveness of sins” (READ Mk 1:4). It was done to prepare the people who experienced it for the Messiah. For John, the relative of Jesus (through Mary), was sent before the Christ, to prepare the way of the Lord (Lk 1:76).
Reasons why John’s baptism was ultimately not the one
(a) The Lord had arrived
John was sent to prepare the way of the Lord (Lk 1:76). And since the Lord had arrived, as John said, he was to decrease, and the Lord was to increase (Jn 3:30). So, it is readily understood, that John, his teachings and baptism, though valid and righteous in his time, were temporary. Yet, Christ the Lord and his teachings and baptism would be permanent (Dan 7:14; 27).
(b) The Lord had commanded a new and different baptism
For example, subsequently, after Jesus died and arose from the dead on the third day, and before he returned to heaven, he commanded a new and different baptism (Mt 28:6, 18, 19; Also recorded in Mk 16:14-16). For this baptism was to be done in his name, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and for the purpose of being baptized into his death (Ro 6:3, 4).
(c) John’s baptism was not into the death of Christ
While John was still living, and shortly thereafter, Jesus had not yet died. And yet we read that when we are baptized with the baptism that Christ commanded “we have been buried with him through baptism into death” (Ro 6:4). Even more we read that you have “been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col 2:12). Therefore, in Christian baptism, we are not only buried with Christ, but also raised up with him in the sight of God. In a profoundly meaningful way, Christian baptism imitates, experiences, or reenacts the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord.
(d) John’s baptism was into his name
For example, when Paul met some men who believed in Jesus as Lord and Christ, but had only experienced John’s baptism, he asked them: “ ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Ac 19:3-5). So, then these who had received John’s baptism, were re-baptized in connection to the name of Jesus Christ, specifically into his death.
Note: Likewise, when Aquila and Priscilla noticed that a powerful teacher of Christ was only familiar with John’s baptism, they taught him the way of the Lord more accurately. Obviously, he needed to learn the one baptism of the Christian faith (SEE Ac 18:24-26).
So, clearly, John’s baptism was not intended to be the “one baptism” (Eph 4:5) of Christianity. In the time of John, his baptism was legitimate and effective and necessary. Even Jesus approved of John and validated his baptism, causing those who experienced it to rejoice, and putting to shame those who had not (SEE Lk 7:29, 30). But, for the reasons given, it would no longer be needed or valid. It was a temporary baptism (without reference to the name of Christ, without reference to his burial) to be replaced by Christ’s baptism, that is Christian baptism.
2. Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 3. Baptism with Fire
(Mt 3:11, 12; Ac 1:5; Re 20:10, 15)
Even though John the Baptist was baptizing in water, he spoke about two more baptisms, saying, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt 3:11, 12). And so we can see that there is a baptism with the Holy Spirit and also a baptism with fire.
What Is the Baptism with Fire?
Now, when John said “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11), with “He” meaning the Messiah, Jesus Christ, John then defined what he meant by baptism with fire. For example, in the very next verse, John explained that the chaff (which is figurative for unbelievers) would be burnt up in the “unquenchable fire,” meaning hell (SEE Mt 3:12). He added that key adjective to further describe the fire about which he was specifically talking, that is a baptism “with unquenchable fire”.
So, contextually, the baptism with fire to which John was referring is hell. For hell is a baptism. It is an overwhelming kind of thing for the soul! Hell is a lake, in which there is a lot of fiery brimstone. Lakes are where people get baptized. So, hell is a fiery, not watery, lake where Jesus will baptize, eternally, the evil ones (SEE Re 20:10, 15).
Notes: When John said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” he was speaking to the hypocritical Jews who came to see him. Yet, he did not at all mean that these hypocrites would be baptized both with the Holy Spirit and with fire, two baptisms. Neither did he mean that we would have both of these types of baptisms, even the baptism with the Holy Spirit. For as we read in the gospel, specifically the book of Acts, only some who believed in Jesus (and were baptized with a Christian baptism, that is a water baptism for Christian discipleship / SEE Mt 28:18, 19), were also secondly, baptized with the Holy Spirit (SEE Ac 8:12-17). These are two different baptisms.
And obviously, those whom God considers unbelievers will be baptized eternally with the fire of hell, where “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night” (Re 14:11). So, John was speaking generally about two types of baptism, not that everyone would have both. Indeed, who would want the baptism of fire, hell? Even so, some preach a different baptism of fire! Later in this study, I point out to you that some Christians are misinterpreting what John meant about baptism with fire, and instead preach a different kind of baptism of fire, that they have had and experienced it, and it cleaned out and burnt their sin all away, or something like that (for I personally heard a visitor say this, in a meeting, during church, to the whole church!). But, this is not the baptism with fire of which John spoke. For John defined the baptism with fire as the “unquenchable fire,” meaning hell (SEE Mt 3:12). Hell is the baptism of fire. There are no other kinds of fire baptism in the gospel. There is only one fire baptism, and it is referring to hell. Even more, as you should see next, some are misinterpreting the baptism with the Holy Spirit by calling it a fire baptism, like when the Apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit, signified by tongues of fire from heaven. Yet, Jesus seemed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove (Lk 3:22). Do you understand that this is not called dove baptism? Likewise, neither should we call the apostle’s baptism with the Holy Spirit a baptism of fire.
What Is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?
Now, about being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Ac 1:5). Specifically, this baptism is referring to the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28, 29), where it says that the Lord will pour forth his Spirit in the last days, and in connection to this, men and women shall prophesy. John the Baptist (Mt 3:11, 12), Jesus (Ac 1:5), and the apostles (Ac 2:14-21) all spoke about it.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit would prophetically mark or indicate the beginning of the last days, or that is, the last revelation of God (which is the gospel of Jesus Christ) before the Judgment Day, as Joel said, before the great day of the Lord, when, eventually, “the sun would be turned into darkness” (SEE Ac 2:20: Joel 2:31).
The First Example of It
In Acts 1 and 2, starting with the twelve apostles of Christ, we see this prophecy of Joel being fulfilled. For Jesus had told them to wait in the city until they were clothed with power from on high (Lk 24:49). As Joel said, the Spirit of God would be poured forth from heaven upon men. Later, Jesus then told them, “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Ac 1:5).
Then, it happened like this:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.’ And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others were mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.’ But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:’ ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind’ ” (Ac 1:1-17).
So, we can see that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is related to Joel’s prophecy concerning God pouring forth his Spirit in the last days. We can also see that this kind of baptism was done to enable the apostles to speak in all of the languages (tongues) of the different people gathered in Jerusalem, so that they could hear the story of Jesus, without an interpreter. This was miraculous, and got the attention of all who were listening. It also aided the spread of the gospel, without hindrance, without the need for an interpreter.
Notes: Therefore, the meaning and purpose of the gift of tongues (1 Cor 12:10), that is languages (for tongues means languages, language talent), is to be enabled somehow by God to preach the gospel in the language of a foreigner so that he can hear about the good things of Jesus without hindrance, in his own language, without an interpreter. This is exactly what happened with the apostles on the day of Pentecost. They spoke in the different languages (tongues) of the foreigners who were assembled there. Indeed, this definition of the gift of tongues is exactly what Paul said is the meaning and purpose of it. For example, Paul quoted an Old Testament verse to the church in Corinth to prove that the gift of tongues is to be used with unbelievers, not with those who believe, that is not around those who already believe in Jesus Christ.
He said, “In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers” (1 Cor 14:21, 22). For it is understood from this greater context that foreign languages are not to be used in church, during worship, or around believers. They are forbidden (SEE 1 Cor 14:28). We are to speak in the language of the listeners. For Christian edification comes from clear spoken words (SEE 1 Cor 14:9), that is spoken in the language that people use and understand. Edification does not come from listening to words of which we do not know the meaning, that is the language. Now, since the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire, in that kind of manifestation of the Spirit of God, some may be misinterpreting this as a baptism of fire. Yet, it was simply the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Later, I explain this more carefully in the point about a man made baptism of fire.
Reasons why baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire are not the one
The baptism with fire means the unquenchable fire of hell (Mt 3:11, 12). So, clearly, because of this, the baptism with fire is not the one baptism of the Christian faith. Christians are destined for heaven, not hell. Now, about the baptism with the Holy Spirit, I personally know that some are confusing this with the one baptism of the Christina faith. Yet, for the reasons given next, it clearly is not.
(a) Only God can administer the baptism with the Holy Spirit
First of all, it is evident that only God “from heaven” could do it, not men (SEE Ac 2:2; 10:44-48). So, it could only be administered by God, not any of us. Christians were commanded to administer a different kind of baptism (Mt 28:18, 19). Yet, we see that the apostles of Christ could appeal to God in prayer and the laying on of their hands on an individual so that they would receive this baptism from heaven (SEE Ac 8:14-18).
(b) It did not happen to everyone who believed
It happened infrequently, and was not a regular occurrence upon belief or discipleship. For example, even during the time of the first baptism with the Holy Spirit, when the apostles experienced it as recorded in Acts 2, the 3,000 people who believed their message that day were not baptized with the Holy Spirit. Instead, they were instructed by the apostles to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (SEE Ac 2:38). So, they were not baptized with the Holy Spirit, but with the baptism related to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ (Mt 28:18, 19). [Even more, in doing so, they were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:38), not the baptism with the Holy Spirit. These are two different things of the Spirit which I explain next in reason (f).]
Indeed, throughout the whole book of Acts, which records the first conversions to Christ, of all the many conversions in it, only some of the Corinthians, Cornelius and those with him, and some Jewish men were listed as being baptized with the Holy Spirit (Ac 8:14-18, Ac 10; Ac 19:1-7).
(c) It was not required for discipleship
Besides the evidence that many disciples were not baptized with the Holy Spirit from heaven, for he had not fallen on everyone of them, we can also see that a different kind of baptism was required for discipleship, not the baptism with the Holy Spirit. For example, as noted before, in Acts 2, Peter commanded those who believed their message about Christ to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. As noted next in reason (d), baptism with the Holy Spirit was not done in a name. So Peter was requiring a different baptism, not the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
For example, when Cornelius and those with him were listening to Peter preach the message of Jesus Christ, they were baptized from heaven with the Holy Spirit (Ac 10:44). Then Peter noticed this and said, “ ‘Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’ And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Ac 10:47, 48). So, even though they were first baptized from heaven with the Holy Spirit, without the control or initiation of Peter, an apostle, Peter still required a different baptism, specifically as he said, a “water” (Ac 10:47) baptism in the name of the Lord, obviously for discipleship.
Likewise, when Paul met some men who believed in Jesus Christ, yet were only baptized with John’s baptism, they then received Christian baptism, in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then, afterward, Paul, an apostle, laid his hands on them and they also received the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Ac 19:1-7). And so here we can see that there were two baptisms, one for discipleship with Christ, the other to further fulfil and give evidence to all concerning Joel’s prophecy.
(d) It was not in anyone’s name
In one sense, it was not a baptism into anyone or anything. Even more, it was not a baptism into the death of Christ, as is Christian baptism (Ro 6:3, 4). The baptism with the Holy Spirit has a different meaning and purpose connected to it.
(e) It was not directly connected to Christian baptism
For example, once it happened well before Christian baptism (SEE Ac 10). Another time it happened well after Christian baptism (SEE Ac 8:16). So, again, it was not a direct occurrence, a given, upon entering into discipleship with Christ. And with many, many thousands of others (SEE Ac 2:38), in connection to their Christian baptism, a baptism with the Holy Spirit did not happen to them. Yet, they did receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As you should see next, the gift and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are two different things.
(f) Disciples are confusing this with the gift of the Holy Spirit
For example, in Acts 2, Peter promised those listening to the message of Jesus Christ, that if, when they believe, they would repent and be baptized, God would then forgive them of their sins, and also give them the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:38, 39). Now, the gift of the Holy Spirit means the deposit of the person of God in the form of the Holy Spirit inside a person, in his heart (SEE 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13), not the baptism with the Holy Spirit. These are two different things or subjects.
Notes: Yet, there is confusion among disciples about this, since there are many things related to the Spirit of God, things which are specifically stated in the Scriptures as being “of” or “with” the Spirit or Holy Spirit. For example, there is the baptism with the Holy Spirit (for the purpose of fulfilling Joel’s prophecy), the gift of the Holy Spirit (for the purpose of indwelling and guiding the believer), the gifts of the Holy Spirit (spiritual talents, abilities given to believers to help the church grow more like God, holy, spiritual, not sensual, not fleshly), and the fruit of the Spirit (Godly nature or character traits, virtues, qualities). In my Bible Study on Spiritual Gifts, specifically the one on The Greater Gifts, I explain these things in more detail. So, do not confuse all of the things related to or connected to the Spirit of God, but understand their different purposes. Then you will not confuse the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Holy Spirit, or confuse these with the one baptism of the Christian faith. For these are three different things of God.
4. A Baptism of Suffering (Lk 12:50; Mk 10:38, 39)
Sometime after Jesus was baptized with John’s baptism, he said that he had a another baptism to experience or undergo. He meant a life experience baptism, specifically that he would be overwhelmed with suffering a miserable death for our sins on a cross, a crucifixion. And he indicated that some of his apostles would suffer a similar fate (Mk 10:38, 39), but of course, not for our sins.
The Reasons why suffering is not the one
First, not all of us are called by God to die on a cross. Second, whether one is a Christian or not, in life everybody suffers. But, we know that everyone who suffers is not a Christian. So, dying on a cross, or suffering in general is not the basis for being a Christian. Yet, Christians are called to suffer with Christ (Ro 8:17; 1 Pe 3:9; 4:13). “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).
5. Christian Baptism (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15, 16)
This is the “one baptism” (Eph 4:5) of the Christian faith, for discipleship. For example, a risen Jesus said, “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). For a very good reason, Jesus commanded it for discipleship, after he arose from the dead (Mt 28:6, 18-20).
For example, at this time we could clearly understand, believe, and announce to others the “one hope” (Eph 4:4) of the gospel, namely that God raised Jesus from the dead, and he will also raise us in like manner to give us everlasting life through him (SEE 1 Cor 6:14; Ac 4:2; 23:6; 24:15).
Note: Indeed, to be saved, one first must hear the story of Jesus, specifically that God raised him from the dead, and believe this very thing in his heart (SEE Ro 10:9, 10). Before Christian baptism, one must have this kind of hope, that is confidence in the resurrection of the dead, through Christ.
The unique reason why this is the one
The meaning of Christian baptism is profound. For example, in it we are imitating Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (SEE Ro 6:3, 4; Col 2:11, 12). So, in order for Christian baptism to be experienced, first Christ had to die and be buried and be raised from the dead. Fittingly then, in the N.T. Greek, baptism means “to bury” “to immerse”. Therefore, to become a disciple of Christ, when someone believes in the story of Jesus, especially that God raised him from the dead (SEE Ro 10:9, 10), he then is to be water baptized (that is, immersed or buried with Christ) in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as Jesus said to do for discipleship (SEE Mt 28:19).
For example, when the treasurer of Ethiopia heard the story of Jesus, and obviously believed it, he responded to it and said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Ac 8:36). So, it is evident that Christian baptism is a water baptism. Without a doubt, no other baptism in the Bible (or added by men) is truly a baptism (an immersion) into Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, an imitation of it.
6. Moses’ Baptism (1 Cor 10:2)
When the Jews went through the Red Sea, it was considered by God a kind of baptism into Moses. Obviously, Moses’ baptism is not Christian baptism, for it was into a different name, covenant (religion), with a different mediator (Moses, not Jesus). So, this type of baptism has a significantly different meaning and context.
Baptisms which have been added by men!
There are several “baptisms” being practiced which have been added to the Christian faith by religious men. Yet, under careful scrutiny they are not found, validated, or substantiated or corroborated by the evidence in the Bible. Therefore, without a doubt these altogether are not the “one baptism” of the Christian faith, especially since men have added them to the gospel, not God. They might be baptisms of certain faiths, but not the true and verifiable Christian faith, the “one faith” (Eph 4:5) written about and found in the New Testament.
1. Pouring for Baptism! (Gk. Cheo)
In every water baptism passage, when someone was to be baptized to become a disciple of Christ, we find the specific Greek word “baptizo,” meaning immersion, not “cheo,” meaning pouring, to pour. The New Testament was written in the Greek language of the day of Jesus. Therefore, baptism in the Greek means to fully dip, to immerse, to bury. This is exactly what the Scriptures call it, a burial, “we have been buried with him in baptism” (Ro 6:4), and again in another place “having been buried with Him in baptism” (Col 2:12). Therefore, the “one baptism” is a burial, not a pouring. Indeed, Christ was buried. He was not poured.
Alert! Some are confusing the pouring of Holy Spirit baptism with Christian baptism. For Christian discipleship, instead of immersing a person, some pour water over his head. For example, some are reasoning that since in Acts 2:17 the apostles were poured for a Holy Spirit baptism, we can pour for Christian water baptism. Yet this is incorrect for several reasons. First of all, these are two different kinds of baptisms, with two different contexts, two different meanings or purposes, and two different applications. They are not exactly similar. So, it is understood that in every passage which records the baptism with the Holy Spirit, it was a pouring out from heaven from God, as Joel predicted it would be. Likewise, in every passage where a person was baptized in the name of the Lord, for discipleship, it was an immersion in much water.
Second, they are taking a verse out of its context (a pouring out) and applying it to a different context that does not refer to a pouring. Therefore, they are transposing, transferring, or interchanging one verse and imposing or inserting it (mentally) on another. This is what is called a contextual error, a misinterpretation, and therefore a misapplication of a command of Christ. We could errantly do this with any form of baptism, such as Christ’s life experience baptism, and make disciples by having them suffer something, instead of immersing them in water. This is contextually absurd!
Third, pouring does not reenact the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. Finally, it is only fitting for God to pour forth his Spirit from heaven, not have a lake or river for his Spirit in which men are to baptize those who desire it. For it is understood that only God can baptize with the Holy Spirit from heaven, not men.
Therefore, this is most puzzling that men teach pouring for water baptism, for Holy Spirit baptism and water baptism are two different baptisms. One is administered by men, in water, and is a burial, an immersion that imitates Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. The other one is administered by God, from heaven, to fulfill Joel’s prophecy. These are not the same thing. For God does not create a lake for his Spirit, and then expect men to get buried in it. He must pour the Spirit out from heaven. Even more, the one is done in the name of the Lord, yet the other one is not done in a name.
2. Raining or Sprinkling for Baptism! (Gk. Raino)
I do not know from where men get this concept. I do not readily recall anything in a context in the New Testament which relates to literally sprinkling water, especially in a context about water baptism. Now, in the Old Covenant, there are places where people or things were sprinkled with water (and blood) for purification related to the tabernacle of God (Lev 14:51; Nu 19:13). Yet, even so, sprinkling (or raining) is a different Greek word (raino) than the Greek word for Christian baptism (baptizo). Raino is not used in the context of any water baptism passage for Christian discipleship, to further describe it. Sprinkling does not represent Christ’s burial.
3. Infant Baptism!
An infant cannot yet understand and believe in his heart the one hope of the gospel, that God raised Jesus from the dead. So why men “baptize” infants is beyond me and the Scriptures. For before calling on the name of the Lord in water baptism for discipleship (Mt 28:18, 19), a person must first believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and also be able to admit to others who is Jesus (SEE Ro 10:9, 10; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:36-38). He must be able to communicate his beliefs to others. Baptizing a baby would be like baptizing an unbeliever. For he cannot yet believe. So, we see that men are making this up for some reason to please themselves.
4. Fire Baptism! (man’s version, not God’s)
Some teach that one can be baptized with some other fire, not the hellfire. But, they are simply misinterpreting two passages in the New Testament concerning two different baptisms, (1) the baptism with the Holy Spirit and (2) with fire.
For example, first, they are misinterpreting what John the Baptist said about Jesus baptizing people “with... fire” (Mt 3:11). He then qualified it by saying “with unquenchable fire” (Mt 3:12), meaning hell. So, the only baptism of fire being spoken of here is the hellfire, being judged worthy of hell, not heaven. So, some are misinterpreting this passage and therefore subsequently misapplying a verse in it to mean some other form of fire baptism.
Second, they are misinterpreting the baptism with the Holy Spirit, calling it a fire baptism. For example, in Acts 2, when the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit, it was signified by tongues of fire from heaven resting on each one of them. Even so, this was not another form of fire baptism, no! It was a baptism with the Holy Spirit. No one should call this a baptism with fire, for the context is related to Joel’s prophecy concerning the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is different than a baptism with fire (hell).
Likewise, third, when Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit from heaven (SEE Lk 3:22), it was signified by a dove coming down and resting on him. No one calls this “dove baptism,” does he? Likewise, no one should call the baptism with the Holy Spirit, as experienced by the apostles, a fire baptism. Neither is it a “wind baptism,” even though there was a mighty rushing wind that occurred at that time as well. So, some are confusing two of the six baptisms in the New Testament, the details surrounding them; namely the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the baptism with fire.
5. Baptism in Jesus’ Name Only!
Some refuse to make disciples of Christ by baptizing them as Jesus said, “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). Instead, they will only baptize them in Jesus’ name alone.
Why do they do this? Do they have a new and better baptism than the one Jesus commanded? Certainly not! They do this because they do not yet understand who is God, specifically the three everlasting persons of God. They believe that now only Jesus exists, not also the Father and the Holy Spirit. In my Bible Study on the One God of the Christian faith, I explain the three everlasting ones and the problem with baptism in Jesus’ name only. So, for the details, refer to that study. But, in short, they are misinterpreting certain passages about Christian baptism, Jesus, and God the Father.
Notes: For example, because Peter said to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Ac 2:38), they think that Jesus must now only exist, not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, in the same passage, Peter talks about the Father and Holy Spirit as still existing, with the Holy Spirit (as an indwelling person) being given as a gift to those who would repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Similarly, when Jesus said if you have seen me you have seen the Father (Jn 14:9), they think he meant that he is the Father. Yet, in this passage, Jesus is talking about being one with the Father, unified in nature, not that he is the Father. [As Hebrews 1:3 says, Jesus is the exact representation of the Father’s nature or character. So, he is not the Father, but his representative.] Also, in this context of John 14:9, Jesus said that if one loves him, that both he and his Father “we” will come and make “our” dwelling with you (SEE Jn 14:23). These are plural words, indicating more than one person for God. In the same context He also said that the Father sent him (Jn 14:24). Jesus is not the sender. So, evidently even Jesus does not believe that he is the Father!
Furthermore, since some believe that Jesus returned to heaven to be the Father, let me alert you to this passage. In 1 Corinthians 15:24, 27, 28, it specifically states that after the judgment, meaning into eternity, Jesus, the Son, will hand the kingdom back to our God and Father, and also himself be subjected to the Father. And so without a doubt, we see that there will always be a Father and a Son in heaven, into eternity. Therefore, we must not dishonor the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by incorrectly handling the Scriptures regarding Christian baptism, Jesus, and God. We must not teach a baptism in Jesus’ name only. That was never anyone’s intent in the New Testament. But warped men have made it so, not true men of God.
6. “Proxy” Baptism!
This practice means to water baptize a “living” person in place of or for a “dead” person who never was baptized in his life, somehow obtaining for the dead person, where ever he is, some sort of religious benefit. This concept is erroneously called by the Mormon religion being “baptized for the dead” (1 Cor 15:29). Yet, they are taking this verse out its context. For example, this passage is talking about if Jesus is not raised, but dead, then why be baptized for a dead person, him? Hence, baptizing them for the dead, with the dead meaning Jesus.
Notes: the subject of this passage or context is the resurrection of the dead, not baptism. Some in the church in Corinth were saying that there was no resurrection of the dead, meaning no hope of being raised from the dead, which in truth is the “one hope of our calling” (Eph 4:4). So, Paul began to rhetorically question and ponder out loud to them this false idea that if the dead are not raised, meaning Jesus was not raised, then why are people baptized for the dead, meaning Jesus? For why would people be baptized in the name of a dead person, namely Jesus, if he has not been raised from the dead? So, He did not at all mean or command us to baptize a live person in “proxy” for a dead person to get him some sort of benefit for him from God in the afterlife. So, you can see that the Mormons are taking this way out of its context and misapplying it, creating and adding another baptism and commandment to the Christian faith. For this passage is not commanding us to baptize a living person for the dead. Nor do we see any examples of this in the holy Scriptures.
7. Threefold Baptism!
I once visited a church of about 1,000 members. I noticed that they had a display in the hallway indicating how many times they baptize a person. For example, they baptize him once in the name of the Father only. Second, they re-baptize him in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ only. Third, they again baptize him in the name of the Holy Spirit only. For some reason, they do not wish to baptize only once. But, Jesus died only once, was buried only once, and was raised only once. Indeed, this practice is puzzling to anyone who truly knows why Jesus died only once for our sins.
Even More Baptisms
There could be other “baptisms” which men add to the Christian faith, but I am not aware of all of them. For example, self-baptism. In the movie “Bamboo in Winter,” (not in real life), I once saw a self-baptism. A young Chinese woman who believed in the story of Jesus, for some reason, baptized herself, without a baptizer. Once a woman told me that she was baptized. I asked her, by immersion in water? And she said, no, I felt it in my stomach. Even more, in the Old Testament, Naaman dipped (baptized) himself seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:14). Jonah was in the belly of a fish, a type of “baptism”. Even more, death, in a sense is a like a baptism, for a person is “buried” (baptized) in the grave, the ground, a tomb, etc., we are overwhelmed with dirt!
God saves us by his grace, through the “one baptism”
He saved Noah through the water, and wants to save you through it as well!
The Scriptures compare our salvation experience to Noah’s. In certain ways, they are alike. For example, in the story of Noah’s salvation experience, notice the similarities.
1. God condemned the world!
The whole world was evil. So, in his wrath, God planned to destroy it with a flood (Ge 6:5-7). Likewise, God, in his wrath, is planning to destroy our evil world with fire (SEE 2 Pe 3:3-13).
2. Noah was saved by the grace of God!
God favored Noah. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Ge 6:8). By definition, favor means grace. In some Bibles, this passage is translated as such. So, Noah escaped the wrath of God, and was instead saved by God’s grace. Likewise, we are saved by the favor of God, his grace. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Eph 2:8).
3. Noah was a righteous man!
God saved Noah because he said, “For you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time” (Ge 7:1). Likewise, we have been told that only the righteous will be saved: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Cor 6:9). In Noah’s day, God did not save all who were unrighteous. Neither will he in our day.
4. Noah was saved through the water!
God told Noah to build a boat to save his whole household, through the water of the flood (Ge 6:13-22). Likewise, we are saved by God’s grace through the water of baptism. For example, Peter said “God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you... through the resurrection of Jesus Christ... this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” (1 Pe 3:20, 21, 5:12).
So, from this passage we can easily see that God favors a baptism in water that saves you. Like Noah was saved from the wrath to come “through the water,” he wants to save you from the wrath to come through the water of Christian baptism. How does baptism save you? Peter said, “Baptism now saves you... through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pe 3:21). So, it saves you through the “one hope of your calling” (Eph 4:4), that is your faith in how God raised Jesus from the dead, and will in like manner raise you from the dead to give you everlasting life (SEE 1 Cor 6:14; Ro 10:9). In this Peter said you must “stand firm” (1 Pe 5:12), meaning believe with certainty, because he said it is “true grace”.
5. Only a few were saved!
For example, “God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Pe 3:20). Likewise, today, God is patiently waiting in order to save a few people from the wrath he is about to bring on the whole world (SEE 2 Pe 3:9, 15). Yet, even so, Jesus predicted that only a few would be saved, saying “many... will not be able” (Lk 13:23, 24). Additionally, he wondered out loud, saying, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8). Peter said, “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (1 Pe 4:18). Noah was a righteous man (Ge 7:1), but it was hard for him to be saved. Likewise, even if you are right, it will be difficult for you to be saved.
Notes: For example, even though the Jews were baptized into Moses’, God was not pleased with almost all of them, and so he destroyed them in his wrath (1 Cor 10:1-12). So, after you rightfully experience the one baptism of the Christian faith, you must really aim to please God (1 Thess 4:1; Eph 5:10). Otherwise, he will not save you as well, but destroy you in his wrath (Ro 11:21, 22). So, Christian baptism is not the one and only thing or teaching that works to save you.
Notes on being saved through water
1. It would be false grace to conclude otherwise!
Because of these things (how God said that Noah was saved by grace, through the water, and likewise you by grace through the water of baptism) it would be false grace to teach, say, or experience a baptism which does not save you. It would be like denying Noah’s salvation experience, through the water. Unheard of! Obviously, he was saved through the water. One cannot remove the water from Noah’s salvation experience. You must not remove it from yours.
2. Good works are different than the saving work of Christ!
When it says “For by grace you have been saved... not as a result of works” (Eph 2:8, 9), it then immediately clarifies this to mean “good works” (Eph 2:10), such as giving to charity, helping the poor and needy, etc. It does not at all mean belief, repentance, baptism, or any other teaching which Jesus has said works to save us. Good works and getting saved are two different things. Yet, Christians are saved to do good works.
3. One cannot earn salvation, but you must obey to be saved!
There is a difference between earning one’s salvation and simply obeying the gospel to be saved, as we are required to do (SEE 2 Thess 1:8, 9). No one can earn his salvation, since Christ earned it for him by his blood, on his cross. Yet, Jesus will only save those who obey him (SEE He 5:9). So if the gospel says you must do or obey something to be saved, you must do or obey something to be saved. For example:
4. You still have to do something to be saved!
By faith, Noah still had to “do” something to be saved. He believed he had to build the boat, and get in it to be saved from the wrath of God. Likewise, there are things we “must” “do” to be saved from God’s wrath, including the “one baptism” (READ Ac 2:37, 38; 16:30-33). Do you believe this? For in those passages, when the people first heard and believed the gospel, they asked the apostles what they “must do” to be saved. They replied to “repent” and “believe” and “be baptized,” then and there, that very day!
5. We are saved by faith, but not by the faith of demons!
Someone will say, “We are saved by faith alone!” But in answer to this, the Scriptures say, you are saved “not by faith alone” (Ja 2:24). Rather, in context, it means not by the faith of demons, which many so called Christians had at that time. For they were saying they did not have to do anything to be saved or justified in the sight of God. That, my friends, as James said, is not the obedient faith of Abraham (Ja 2:18-26), but the belief of devils! And the Scriptures correctly rebuke people for this kind of “faith”. For it is not the “one faith” (Eph 4:5) of the Christian religion. It is the belief of religious devils!
6. Advice about your baptism experience
(a) Have you been baptized?
If not, and yet you believe in Jesus, I encourage you to make arrangements to experience the one baptism of the Christian faith.
(b) Have you been “baptized,” and yet it was not the one, such as by pouring, sprinkling, or infant baptism?
If so, I encourage you to be rebaptized with the one baptism. Why not arrange for yourself to experience it?
(c) Finally, were you baptized separate and apart from being saved?
For example, were you told that baptism had nothing to do with your salvation? Were you led to believe that you were saved before you were baptized? If so, are you willing to be baptized for the reasons given by Jesus and the apostles, namely for salvation and the forgiveness of your sins (SEE Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38; 1 Pe 3:21)? “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jn 3:7). “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 Jn 2:29). In baptism, why not practice the right thing? Of whom are you born?
We call on the name of the Lord to be saved, in the “one baptism”
“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” Ro 10:13
The gospel makes it clear that the power to save is in the name of Jesus Christ. For example, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12).
“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philip 2:9-11).
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). So, even his name means the Lord saves, Savior.
Therefore, fittingly, as Peter said, “And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ac 2:21), meaning the name of Jesus. But, how must we do this, in prayer or in baptism? Is there “one prayer” of the Christian faith? Obviously many are calling on his name in prayer for salvation.
Yet, Jesus commanded it to be done in this way
He said, “make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). So, Jesus told us to make disciples by calling on the name of the Lord in baptism. Now, Jesus did not say to make disciples, praying with them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For again, in another place, Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mk 16:16). He did not say he who has believed and has prayed will be saved.
Note: Even so, many are teaching and commanding others to call on the name of the Lord in prayer for their salvation, a so called “sinners prayer” of repentance. Yet, baptism and repentance are two different things. For there is no commandment or example to make disciples by praying with them.
So, at a person’s baptism, the baptizer is supposed to call on the name of the Lord, by saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of your sins”. Then, he is to baptize the person.
This is how the apostles did it
Soon after Jesus gave the command to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Lord (Mt 28:18, 19), the apostles went and did so. They started calling on the name of the Lord in people’s baptisms.
In the very first example of this, when some believed in the story of Jesus Christ and asked what they must do to be saved, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’ ” (Ac 2:38). He did not lead them in prayer for salvation. He did not teach them to repent and pray for salvation.
Likewise, Ananais told Paul to: “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Ac 22:16). “And he got up and was baptized” (Ac 9:18). So, Paul, an apostle, was directed to call on the name of the Lord to wash away his sins (to be forgiven), in water baptism, not in prayer (the so called “sinners prayer”). Indeed, Prayer for salvation has not been commanded by Christ or the apostles.
Search the Scriptures, there is no “one prayer” of the Christian faith. Yet, “There is... one baptism” (Eph 4:4, 5).
So, if you were led to call on his name in prayer for salvation, I encourage you to instead to call on the name of the Lord in the one baptism. Let the baptizer do it. Now, if you were already baptized, yet thought that your own prayer saved you, I encourage you to be rebaptized for the right reason, to call on the name of the Lord to be saved.
WHAT ABOUT THE THIEF ON THE CROSS?
Clearly, the thief on the cross was saved without the “one baptism” (Eph 4:5) of the Christian faith. Next, consider the reasons for this.
1. The thief could not yet be buried with Christ in baptism
The gospel of Jesus Christ could not yet be preached until after Christ died, was buried, and arose from the dead. For in this is the “one hope” (Eph 4:4) of the gospel, that since God raised Jesus from the dead, to eternal life, he will also raise us who believe and give us everlasting life. For Romans 10:9, 10 says that to be saved a person must first believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.
So, no one could be a “Christian,” via baptism into Christ, until after Christ died and was buried and was raised from the dead! The Christian faith was not yet established or started until after Christ shed his blood, and then arose from the dead. For Paul said, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel... that Christ died for our sins... and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day” (1 Cor 15:1, 3, 4).
So, at the time of the thief, no one could yet fully or with confidence preach the finished and final gospel, and experience a form of it in Christian baptism.
2. Christian baptism was not yet commanded
Likewise, at the time of the thief, Jesus did not yet give the commandment to baptize in his name (the “one baptism” Eph 4:5 of the Christian faith). First, he had to die and arise from the dead. For Christian baptism is a burial into Christ’s death (Ro 6:3, 4), and also a resurrection up with him (Col 2:12).
So, the thief could not yet do these things, since Christ had not yet done them! But, now we can do them!