Grace Evangelical Society
Long Beach, CA
Recently, Bob Wilkin wrote a book that looked at how many words in the Bible are misunderstood.1 Perhaps another Bible word that is often misunderstood is baptism and its cognates: baptize and baptist. We will look at the use and meaning of this word group. The discussion will begin with a review of the meaning of the underlying Greek words and examine their usage. Afterward, I will classify and examine the various kinds of baptisms presented in the New Testament (NT). Finally, some of the more difficult passages in the NT which contain these words will be considered.
II. THE BAPTISM WORD GROUP
As the title of this article suggests, when many people think of baptism they immediately consider it to be a reference to water baptism. However, the NT presents a somewhat different and more varied picture. While many consider the word baptism only in reference to a rite or ritual using water, the NT presents the subject in a much broader manner.
There are five words in this word group and each one requires discussion.
A. Baptō (and Embaptō)
First, is the verb baptō, which means to dip, to dip into dye, to dye, to color or to stain.2 It is used only three times in the NT. In each case it refers to dipping something in a liquid. In Luke 16:24, the rich man who is in Hades cries out to Father Abraham begging him to have Lazarus dip his finger in water to cool his tongue because of the agony he was experiencing in the fire. In John 13:26, Jesus identifies his betrayer as the one whom he gives a morsel that was dipped in oil or drippings from the meal. In Rev 19:13, Jesus’ robe is dipped in blood indicating the robe had been dyed or colored red. In each of these instances, baptō is used to describe something that was dipped briefly into something. Despite being part of the word group, baptō does not have much bearing on the subject of baptisms in the NT.
The second verb is baptizō, which has generally been transliterated (i.e., baptize) in most Bible translations. This is unfortunate since it has caused many to think of water baptism in the majority of its occurrences. But the verb is a flexible one with two primary meanings. First, it means to immerse, to submerge, to dip, or to cleanse by washing.3 The second meaning is to identify something with something else.4
Baptizō was used to describe a submerged ship or one that had sunk,5 or clothing that had been soaked.6 It was also used by Homer in the Odyssey to describe the tempering of a sword. When the hot metal was plunged into water, the sword was “baptized” so that the soft molten metal cooled and became hardened.7 The Greek poet Nicander (c. 200 BC) used both baptizō and baptō in a recipe for making pickles. According to the recipe, to make a pickle, the raw vegetable is first dipped (baptō) into boiling water and then immersed (baptizō) into a vinegar solution.8 Both verbs suggest dipping something into liquid. However, the first dip is quick while the second one is lengthier. Over time a change results in the vegetable. By soaking in vinegar the vegetable becomes a pickle. One thing that should be clear from these ordinary uses of baptizō is that it refers to an immersion of some kind, usually into some kind of liquid.
In the NT, the idea of immersion is prominent in a host of passages. The most common example of this usage is water baptism: e.g. Matt 3:6, 11, 13–14, 16; 28:19; Mark 1:5, 8–9; Luke 3:7, 12, 16, 21; 7:29–30; John 1:25–26, 28, 31, 33; Acts 1:5; 2:38, 41; 8:12–13, 36, 38; 9:18; 10:47–48; 11:16; 16:15.
Baptizō was also used in a figurative sense to describe identification with something or someone. The Spartans used the verb in this manner. They would “baptize” their spears before a battle by dipping them in blood. This process did not change the physical characteristics of the weapon, but it served to identify it as a battle spear or one that had tasted blood and was ready for battle.9
This identification motif is also used frequently in the NT. The most prominent examples are: the baptism of Moses (1 Cor 10:1–2); the baptism of the cross (Matt 20:22–23; Mark 10:38–39; Luke 12:50); the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Rom 6:3–4; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12); and finally the baptism of fire (Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16). These will be discussed later in this article.
The next word in the group is baptisma. This noun describes the act of baptizing or immersing, hence, baptism or immersion.10 Like the cognate verb, the word is also used for an identification.11 While it has been mostly transliterated as baptism, we can only wonder why translators have not translated the word as immersion, soaking, submersion, or by some other synonym. In the NT, baptisma is used in reference to the baptism of John the Baptist, Christian water baptism, the baptism of the cross, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As we will see, the baptisms of the cross and Holy Spirit are real identifications. In the first instance, Jesus is identified with the cross and His substitutionary death for the sins of the entire world. In the baptism of the Holy Spirit, every church-age saint is identified with Jesus Christ by being placed into permanent union with Him, which includes being placed into His body. It should be obvious that these two uses of baptisma describe identifications or immersions of a kind that is completely different than being immersed in water!
Another noun used in the NT is baptismos. This noun describes washing or cleansing.12 It was used to describe ritual purification washings under Jewish law and tradition.13 The word is used in this manner in Mark 7:4, 8, and Heb 9:10. It is also used in Heb 6:2, although this usage may not necessarily refer to ritual purification, but rather fellowship cleansing received for confession of sins. These are the only uses of the word in the NT.14
The final word in our group is baptistēs, which describes one who performs baptisms. Hence, a translation would simply be “baptist” or “immersionist.” This word is used only to describe John the Baptist (Matt 3:1; 11:11–12; 14:2, 8; 16:14; 17:13; Mark 6:24–25; 8:28; Luke 7:20, 28, 33; 9:19). The verb baptizō was also used to describe John (i.e. John the Baptizer; Mark 1:4; 6:14).
John’s role illustrates well the identification aspect of this word group. After all, John was “John the Identifier.” John’s role was the prophesied forerunner of Messiah. It was his job to identify the Messiah for the nation Israel. John identified Jesus as the Messiah when he pointed out Jesus as Israel’s Passover Lamb (John 1:29). This identification was consummated with the water baptism of Jesus, which John performed (John 1:30-34).
What should be obvious is that baptism is more than a ritual whereby a person is immersed in water. Likewise, to baptize someone means more than immersing him or her in water. If our understanding of baptism is confined to water baptism, then our understanding is all wet! There are baptisms in the NT that involve things other than water (e.g. Holy Spirit; fire; the cross; and Moses). These baptisms do not involve water, but nevertheless are real and indicate identifications that have genuine significance. When one reads the Bible and comes across the words baptize, baptism or baptist, he or she should consider reading the text by replacing those words with identify, identification, or identifier. In many instances, it will help in understanding the passage.
III. KINDS OF BAPTISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
There are two kinds of baptisms presented in the NT. One is ritual baptism. This is the kind most people think of when the subject of baptism arises. In a ritual baptism, a person is identified with something (e.g., water), but the event itself is only a rite. For example, when someone is baptized in water, the person is immersed in it. The identification is with water and the immersion means nothing by itself. The significance of the rite is based upon what it represents.
In contrast, there are baptisms presented in the NT where a person is identified with something or someone and the identification is real. It is not a ritual, rather it is attached to a real person or event.
There are four different real baptisms presented in the NT. To make identification easier, names have been ascribed to each real baptism based on the respective NT text. We will also review the various ritual baptisms as well.
A. The Baptism of Moses (1 Cor 10:1-2)
In the Baptism of Moses the children of Israel (i.e. the Exodus generation) are identified with Moses and become united with him. As a result, they passed through the Red Sea from slavery into freedom. It is important to note that not one of them got wet! Over two million Jewish slaves were identified with God’s deliverer (Moses) and became free men.
In Heb 11:29, it says that “By faith they passed through the Red Sea…” It was the belief of Moses that made the passage possible. Their union with Moses made possible their deliverance. So here we see a real identification that carried real consequences with it. Paul cites this example for the Corinthians to urge them to consider their identity with their deliverer, Jesus Christ.
B. Baptism of the Cross (Matt 20:22–23; Mark 10:38–39; Luke 12:50)
This baptism refers to the death Jesus would experience through scourging and crucifixion on the cross. Jesus was identified with God’s will to suffer and die on the cross for all the sins of mankind. So in this baptism, Jesus is immersed in death and identified with the work He must do on the cross to resolve the sin problem once and for all. Jesus expressed distress about this baptism. For Jesus, this baptism was an ordeal that He was about to undertake. It was a real event that Jesus endured.15
C. Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Rom 6:3–4; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12)
The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at the moment a person believes in Jesus Christ for everlasting life. In the baptism of the Holy Spirit, every believer is baptized, immersed, or placed into union with Christ and becomes a member of His body (1 Cor 12:13). All who have been placed into the body of Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit are clothed with Christ and His righteousness (Gal 3:27). Believers are now in Christ. Believers have been taken, as it were, from the common group of humanity, that is, who they are in Adam. They are separated from that group and placed in Jesus Christ. This is unique and special. We are no longer in Adam, but in Christ.
Consequently, every church-age saint is identified with Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit so that he or she can walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3–4). There is unity produced by the baptism of the Holy Spirit because there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one belief, one God and Father, and one baptism or identification (Eph 4:4–6). In other words, NT saints are only identified with Christ one time. God only needs to do it once!
In addition, the baptism of the Holy Spirit introduces something new: Jews and Gentiles together in one body. Thus, this baptism applies only to church-age saints. Old Testament saints were never placed into union with Christ. We know this because both John the Baptist and Jesus predicted the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16). It was not a reality at the time their predictions were uttered.
D. Baptism of Fire (Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16)
The Baptism of fire identifies those subject to it with judgment and destruction. It is found in only two passages (Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16), which are parallel accounts. John the Baptist is speaking to the crowd as well as to the Pharisees and Sadducees. John says, “as for me I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
There are three baptisms in view in John’s statement. One is his water baptism for repentance; the other two are predictions about coming baptisms (with the Holy Spirit and with fire). Interestingly, these last two baptisms appear to be set in contrast to each other. Also, it should be noted that John is speaking to a Jewish audience. Those Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah for everlasting life will experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit once it becomes operative after Jesus’ resurrection.
In contrast, the Baptism of Fire alludes to judgment and destruction. This is the judgment of the nation Israel for rejecting the kingdom offer by Jesus the Messiah. Consequently, the nation will be identified with judgment and destruction. This is clear from Matt 3:12 in which an agricultural illustration is given. John says that Jesus, in regard to His kingdom, will “gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”16 The implication is that if the national Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as Messiah and His kingdom offer, Israel would be destroyed and the Jewish people scattered. It turns out the Jewish leadership, in fact, rejected Jesus as Messiah and His kingdom offer when they attributed His attesting miracles to Beelzebub (Matt 12:24). Consequently, the nation was destroyed in AD 70.
There are some who suggest that the Baptism of Fire is an identification of unbelievers with eternal punishment for rejecting Christ. While possible, this view seems to conflict with the context of the Gospel accounts. John the Baptist was addressing a Jewish audience concerning Jesus the Messiah and His kingdom offer that was being made at that time. It seems unnatural to extrapolate eternal punishment from that setting.
E. Ritual Baptism
In the NT, all of the ritual baptisms are water baptisms. However, there are three distinct water baptisms so we will examine each one separately.
1. Water baptism for repentance and forgiveness of sins.
The water baptism for repentance and forgiveness of sins was performed principally by John the Baptist (Matt 3:6–14; 21:25; Mark 1:2–8; 11:30; Luke 3:3–18; 7:29-30; 20:4; John 1:23–34; 3:23; 10:40; Acts 1:5, 22; 10:37; 11:16; 13:24; 18:25; 19:1–5). The water baptism that John the Baptist performed was to and for the Jewish people. It was a call for the nation to turn from their sins in preparation for the coming Messiah and His kingdom. The OT law mandated such a confession since the kingdom brought with it fulfillment of the four unconditional covenants to Israel (e.g. Lev 26:40–45).
So this water baptism was to prepare the Jews for the coming King and His kingdom. It was a picture of identification with the kingdom and Messiah’s reign. John the Baptist was the forerunner tasked with pointing out the Messiah to the Jewish people. John baptized so that the Jewish people would recognize the Messiah and be ready for His coming. For example, in John 1:31 John the Baptist said, “I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” This baptism was a visible confession representing identification with Messiah and His kingdom.
2. The water baptism of Jesus Christ.
This baptism is found in Matt 3:13, 16; Mark 1:9; and Luke 3:21. The water baptism of Jesus was unique. It was a picture of the Lord’s identification with God the Father’s will and plan for His life. Jesus came as Messiah to Israel and to die for the sins of the world. Jesus’ baptism points to Him as the “Coming One” (Mark 1:7). Even though Jesus had no sins to confess, He was baptized by John in order to identify Himself with the sins of the Jewish people (c.f. Matt 1:21). He was also anointed by the Holy Spirit and identified with the nation Israel as the promised Messiah (John 1:31).
3. The water baptism of believers.
This baptism is found in Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38 41; 8:12–13, 16; 8:36; 9:18; 10:47–48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; and 1 Cor 1:13–17. The water baptism of believers is a ritual which portrays the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is exclusively for church-age saints. This baptism is a public declaration and identification with Jesus Christ. It signifies becoming part of His body and being in union with Him forever. As noted, most of the data for this baptism is found in the Book of Acts, which describes many accounts of this particular ritual.
There are some who suggest that this baptism is not a required ritual. However, the command found in Matt 28:19 is clear. Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is clear that this baptism is a water baptism because that would be the only type of baptism the eleven disciples would be capable of performing. This is also validated by their obedience to this command as witnessed in the Book of Acts.
There are several observations that should be considered about water baptism. First, water baptism occurred during a transitional period. The nature of the Book of Acts is transitional and many accounts of water baptism are mentioned therein. It records events that were pre-church-age and events that happen during the church-age. It describes the situation for the Jewish people and the nation Israel who had just crucified their Messiah. These Jewish people were under the judgment of the unpardonable sin in which the nation and Jerusalem would be destroyed. The Book of Acts also describes the church becoming one body made up of both Jews and Gentiles. So the descriptions of water baptism in Acts must take these transitional things into account.
Another observation is that there is a transition from the baptism of John the Baptist (for repentance) to the church-age saint’s water baptism. As Acts 19:1–5 attests, there were believers who were baptized by John the Baptist but who had not received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They were subsequently baptized again. The point is that John’s baptism was temporary. Once the nation of Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah, the baptism of John lost its significance. With the introduction of the church-age, a new water baptism was instituted.
Taking into consideration the transitional nature of Acts, the reader can more clearly understand baptism in the book. There is a general progression for water baptism. Belief in Christ for everlasting life is followed by the reception of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This, in turn, is followed by water baptism. It should be noted that in accounts associated with Gentile believers, there was no requirement to repent of sins prior to baptism. That was required for Jewish believers only. Once again, this shows the transition from Israel to the church and from John’s baptism to the church-age saint’s baptism.
Finally, we observe the manner in which water baptism was performed. In the many NT examples, immersion completely into water was the only method employed. Immersion is also consistent with the meaning of the primary words used to describe water baptism: baptizō and baptisma.
IV. SELECTED NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES
There are several passages dealing with baptism that warrant separate discussion due to their unique nature or circumstances.
A. Acts 19:1–5
This passage is best understood in light of the transitional nature of the book of Acts. The account begins with the Apostle Paul coming to Ephesus where he finds some disciples. Paul asks them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered that they had not “heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” Paul then asks “Into what then were you baptized?” Paul wants to know about their identification.
Their reply was they were baptized by John the Baptist. At this point we can make a few observations. First, these disciples are most likely Jewish. Also, they had missed or forgotten what John had predicted about the Messiah (i.e. that He would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire). Paul summarizes succinctly the baptism John performed in Acts 19:4 when he says, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” We can see from Paul’s statement that John’s baptism was designed to orient the Jewish people to the coming Messiah. They needed to believe in Messiah for everlasting life and needed to repent of their sins in order to be in harmony with God in preparation for the kingdom.
However, as Acts 19:5 shows, John’s baptism lost its significance after Messiah was rejected by the nation Israel.17 Accordingly, these disciples were then baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. This was necessary so that as Jews they could be publicly identified with Jesus as Messiah. Consequently, it is illegitimate to use this passage today either to teach that water baptism is necessary to receive everlasting life or to receive the Holy Spirit.
B. Acts 2:38
Peter is speaking to a Jewish crowd. These Jews needed to repent and be baptized as a public confession (identification) with Jesus Christ, whom they had previously rejected as Messiah and crucified. This was unique to that particular generation of Jewish people. Luke highlights this for us in Acts 2:40 when he records Peter’s exhortation, “Be saved (escape) from this perverse generation.” The manner in which these Jews could escape the coming judgment on their nation was to believe in Jesus for everlasting life and then to publicly identify with Him through water baptism.18
The water baptism of the Apostle Paul (a Pharisee) was similar (Acts 9:18; 22:16). When Paul tells of his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, the comment in Acts 22:16 has a strong Jewish tinge to it. He is instructed to be baptized, wash away sins, and call on the name of the Lord. It is clear in Acts 9 that Paul had eternal life prior to his water baptism.
In a similar manner, the Jews in the latter days are to call on the name of the Lord for deliverance or rescue from Gentile persecution (Matt 23:39; Zech 13:9). When they call upon Him for rescue they will already have believed in Jesus as the Messiah and received eternal life.
C. 1 Corinthians 1:12-17
This passage shows that, like any ritual, water baptism can be abused. The Church in Corinth managed to abuse both NT rituals: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians manifested division and quarrelling by claiming spiritual superiority based on the person who baptized them. They had placed emphasis on church leaders instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were following a messenger instead of the One who sent the messenger.
Needless to say, Paul rebukes them for this erroneous attitude and reveals his gratitude for not having baptized very many of them. He then tells them that he did not come to baptize, but to proclaim the good news. At least two things are clear by Paul’s statement. One is that water baptism, a ritual, is not necessary to obtain eternal live. The other is that the word of God is more important than pride in one’s water baptism.
D. Mark 16:16
In this verse Jesus is instructing His disciples about their mission to evangelize the world. Jesus then says, “He who has believed and has been baptized will be saved, but he who has not believed will be condemned.” There have been many who use this verse to support the view that water baptism is a condition for receiving everlasting life. However, there are several reasons why that is not true.
A person only receives everlasting life by belief alone in Jesus Christ alone for it. There is overwhelming Biblical support for this. For example the Gospel of John describes many instances of Jesus evangelizing and not once does He mention water baptism as a condition for receiving everlasting life. Water baptism is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible as a condition for receiving everlasting life. In the passage, Jesus mentions that condemnation results only from not believing. Thus a person is not condemned for failing to be baptized.19 Finally, those who import water baptism as a condition for receiving everlasting life do so by assuming that the verb “will be saved” refers to “eternal salvation” or everlasting life, which it does not.
There are two questions that must be answered in order to understand what Jesus says in Mark 16:16. First, what baptism is in view, and second, what does Jesus mean by “will be saved?”
It is best to understand baptized as referring to water baptism since its lack is not a basis for eternal condemnation. That would not be true if it was a reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, that assumes eternal condemnation is meant when Jesus mentions condemnation. If condemnation includes both temporal and eternal aspects, then water baptism is still the best understanding. This is apparent when we compare Mark’s reporting of the great commission (Mark 16:15) to Matthew’s (Matt 28:19). In Matthew’s version the disciples are instructed to baptize those whom they evangelize.
The verb “saved” is in the future tense (i.e. “will be saved”). Likewise, the verb for condemned is also a future tense. The use of the future tense suggests a future realization of being saved or condemned. Everlasting life is a present possession so that would eliminate saved and condemned as references to eternal salvation or eternal condemnation. After all, when a person believes in Jesus for everlasting life, he or she has it!
Jesus likely had Jewish people in mind when He uttered the words of Mark 16:16. Water baptism would have been a visible and public declaration by a Jewish person of belief in Jesus as Messiah whom the nation Israel had previously rejected. Such a Jewish believer would have been saved from the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in AD 70. This corresponds well to what happened approximately 40 days later at Pentecost and Peter’s sermon to Jews in Jerusalem (c.f. Acts 2:1–40). Peter’s warning (“Be saved from this perverse generation”) in Acts 2:40 is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16.
E. 1 Corinthians 15:29
This verse says, “Otherwise, what will they do who are being baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for the dead?” This is perhaps one of the more obscure passages in the Bible. Many explanations have been offered for its meaning.
Perhaps the best explanation for this verse is as follows.20 At the time Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, there was fierce persecution against those who took a public stand for Jesus Christ. This persecution was especially vicious at the time of a person’s water baptism. It often happened that those who publicly proclaimed their belief in Jesus Christ through water baptism were killed shortly thereafter. However, did this stop others from receiving everlasting life and taking their place in water baptism? Not at all! There were always new converts coming along to fill the ranks of those who had been martyred. As they stepped into the waters of baptism, they were being baptized for (or in the place of) those who had been martyred. Thus, the dead refers to those who died for their bold stand for Jesus Christ. As a result, Paul argues that it would be foolish to be baptized to fill the ranks of those who had died if there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead. It would be like sending replacement troops to fill the ranks of an army that is fighting a lost cause. Why then be baptized for the dead? Paul’s comment in verse 30 seems to support this since he mentions being in danger all of the time.
F. 1 Peter 3:21
In looking at this verse we must keep in mind that Peter is writing to Jewish believers in Jesus the Messiah. Peter begins by associating baptism with the experience of judgment of the flood and Noah’s ark, which he had just mentioned. Peter tells us that baptism is not washing the dirt off of our bodies or the removal of sins from the flesh, but that it now saves. He clearly draws an analogy of baptism to Noah’s ark, not the flood.21 Noah’s ark was immersed in water during the flood, but those in it were saved from its destruction. So Peter is drawing an analogy to water baptism for these Jewish believers as it also saves in a temporal manner.
The baptism that Peter has in mind is water baptism. It corresponds to the situation in Acts 2:1–40. These Jewish saints can be saved from the judgment and destruction of AD 70 if they publicly profess belief in Jesus as Messiah by being baptized. As a result, they would no longer be identified with the nation (Israel) under judgment, but would be identified with Jesus and thereby saved from the destruction. They would, as it were, be like Noah and his family who were saved from the ravages of the flood.
These Jewish believers had a choice to make. Do they want to be identified with Jesus Christ or the nation of Israel that had rejected her Messiah? One identification leads to destruction and loss, while the other being delivered from it.
In case we become all wet in our understanding of baptisms, it is imperative that we consider a few applications. Once a person is identified with Jesus Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that person is forever in union with Jesus Christ. That union is permanent and cannot be lost, forfeited, broken, undone, or destroyed. It is a work of God the Holy Spirit and He does not make mistakes! Consequently, the believer is eternally secure in the most vital relationship in life. Our eternal security should free us to live lives free from insecurity.
Being identified with Jesus Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit means we have a new identity. Thus, Christians who grasp this truth need never have an identity crisis! In addition, this new identification enables one to live a new life apart from God’s wrath (Rom 6:4). This union provides great potential for living.
As we learn from the Corinthian example, believers should place emphasis and value on real baptisms and realize that ritual is only ritual. Hence, ritual should not be given greater weight or significance than it deserves. Christian baptism is not a condition of everlasting life. The sole condition for regeneration is faith in Christ (John 3:16). Christian baptism is an aspect of discipleship. Water baptism is a first step in following Christ (Matt 28:18–20).
Also, believers should not place any special significance on the person who baptizes them. The focus should be on God, Jesus Christ, and God’s infallible message, not on a messenger. As the Corinthian example also shows, too often the messenger becomes more important than who the messenger is supposed to represent.
Finally, this brief study of baptisms attests to the Jewishness of the Bible. We should not forget that the culture, customs, and authors of the Bible were Jewish. In fact, our Savior was a Jew in His humanity. We should not forget these factors as we read and study the Bible.
1 Robert N. Wilkin, The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2012).
2 BDAG, electronic via Bible Works 9.0.
4 Gene Cunningham, The Basics (Hot Springs, AR: Basic Training Bible Ministries, 1990), 82-83; W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words; via Logos Libronix Digital Library System 3.0.
5 Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament via Bible Works 9.0
7 Cunningham, The Basics, 82-83.
8 James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996, via Logos Libronix Digital Library System 3.0.
9 Cunningham, The Basics, 82–83.
10 Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon.
11 This noun is peculiar to Christian writings according to BDAG, Thayer, Kittel, and Moulton and Milligan. In fact, Moulton and Milligan observe that the peculiarity to the NT and church writings is natural due to the manner in which the cognate verb baptizō was used in the NT. See James H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930), via Logos Libronix Digital Library System 3.0.
12 BDAG, 165.
14 These are the only uses according to the Majority Text. The Critical Text omits the word in Mark 7:4 but includes it in Col 2:12.
15 This is a unique baptism just as Jesus’ sufferings and death were unique!
16 This statement suggests that Jesus will regather Israel for His kingdom when they will universally believe in Him as Messiah, to which numerous other passages attest.
17 Alberto S. Valdes, “The Acts of the Apostles,” The Grace New Testament Commentary (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), 1:579.
18 Ibid., 493–94.65
19 Barry Mershon, Jr., “Mark,” The Grace New Testament Commentary (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), 1:218.
20 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 1807.
21 Gary Derickson, “The First Epistle of Peter,” The Grace New Testament Commentary (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), 2:1161.