How True is Baptism? - Pastor Johnny Nidhiry
Baptism is the one of the few words in the Bible which though not found in the Old Testament is seen as a predominant teaching in the New Testament as a corner stone for a faithful disciple of Christ. Baptism is one of the most simple biblical truths and also one which has been controversial for some reason or other yesterday and today.
John the forerunner of Jesus was called “The Baptist”.
Before the First Coming of Jesus Christ, John preached a message of repentance and baptism as symbolizing repentance and cleansing of sin. Even after the First Coming and Ascension of Jesus Christ, baptism still remains a central theme among the biblical principles.
Today many people enter or have entered into the baptismal waters without having a revelation of the reason behind it. Some believers get baptized:
•Thinking it is as an easy way to reach heaven or out of fear of judgment
•To fulfill the desire of a church
•To receive material blessings and spiritual gifts
•For other personal reasons
The baptism for a disciple of Christ does not end once he comes out of the baptismal waters. Life after Baptism is equally significant in that “the life that He lives, He lives to God”. Romans 6:10
Though John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance; he spoke about yet another baptism. In Mathew 3/11 & Luke 3/16 he mentions “ I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire. “
This message as Hebrews 6 /1 says “is not to lay down the foundation of baptism again” but to build on the foundation which Jesus himself demonstrated at the river Jordan before the Holy Spirit descended upon Him to empower Him for His public ministry. While John’s baptism was limited to water baptism, Jesus opened the way for the baptism in the Spirit and later spoke about another baptism which will be expounded in detail later in this humble message as we go further into this truth of the Gospel .
During the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth there were different sets of people seen around Him as seen today among the Christian population across the globe. They were the:
1. Blessing seekers - People who came to Jesus only seeking either a healing or other material blessings in life and never came back after getting what they needed.
Example: The ten lepers who received healing from Jesus. Nine out of the ten never came back to Him later to thank Him for the healing or to hear His soul saving messages (Luke 17/11:17)
2. Hearers - People who followed Jesus to hear his preaching and teaching and believed in Him seeing the healings and miracles. They believed in Him but during times of persecution and the times when he bluntly spoke truth in the Word of God, they left him with itching ears.
Example: When Jesus talks about Himself being the Bread of life, many left him except Peter and few others who were still ready to follow him (John 50/68)
3.Disciples - Another set of people to whom the Scriptures were revealed and they passionately and zealously followed him till the cross and even till their last breath.
Example: Peter and other disciples who loved him more than anything in their lives and followed him even till His death and afterwards stood faithful until the last breath in face of persecutions & trials.
The truth about Baptism is revealed and obeyed by one who desires to be a true disciple, while to others this may not be relevant revelation to lead a God ordained true spiritual Christian life .
Baptism in the Old Testament
Though there is no mention of Baptism in the Old Testament, we see this in the Old Testament as a shadow of the reality to come. Peter compares THE FLOOD during Noah’s time to water baptism which is symbolic of the “removal of the filth of flesh”.
This is stated in 1 Peter 3/18:22 as “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us-baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”
In THE RED SEA CROSSING the community of pilgrims was immersed and identified along with Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 1 Corinthians 10/1 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
BAPTISM IN THE WATER
The word Baptize comes from the Greek word “Baptizo” which in accurate translation includes the idea of “totally enveloping one substance in the other “.Hence in water baptism, he is immersed or enveloped in a watery grave as a public testimony and in the baptism of the spirit, the believer is immersed or enveloped in the body of Christ. This means that baptism cannot be sprinkling of water or any substance & rather complete immersion.
Nicodemus a Prominent Jewish Pharisee comes in the night to Jesus to understand the truth behind the saving grace of God. He questions Jesus asking “How can a man be born again when he is old ? (John 3 / 4). Jesus answered to his question saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Once a believer repents for his past sins, accepts Jesus Christ as his personal savior and decides to obey His commandments ; the first thing he is expected to do is to witness Jesus Christ publicly before heaven and earth by taking water baptism which is mentioned in Mark 16/16, Acts 8/12, 13, Acts 18/8 and other places . This marks the beginning of a new spiritual journey with Christ.
Romans 6/4 says “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
A candidate for baptism confesses in a public declaration that he believes that Jesus died and rose again in history to purchase the sinner’s redemption. This DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION of Jesus he pictures through his own burial in the baptismal waters.
- A candidate for baptism bears beautiful witness to his own experience of regeneration where he has died to an old life.
Burial of Jesus
- When he immerses his body completely in the baptismal waters, it pictures his own burial with Christ in the watery grave.
- When he arises from the baptismal waters ,he is resurrected to walk in the newness of life in Christ.
Finally, the baptismal experience has a futuristic dimension in that the disciple declares his confidence that though he may die and be buried, at the return of Christ he shall rise to be with the Lord. Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water .”
The washing of the body in pure water is doubtless an allusion to baptism. However, there is no indication in the verse that baptism has saving efficacy. The sprinkling of the heart with the blood of Christ accomplishes spiritual cleansing. All true believers then bear testimony to that cleansing by following Christ in the public witness of Baptism.
Romans 10/9 says “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” . Baptism is the initial public confession of faith in Christ, a consummate picture of the experience of salvation. Baptism is an individual, voluntary act of faith and not one that is inherited from ancestors. Only a regenerate individual, one who has exercised saving faith in Christ, can be the proper subject of baptism. In the case of Infant baptism, the infant is unaware of this saving act which needs a personal decision to lead a holy life in Christ Jesus .
For example a doctor’s son does not necessarily become a doctor or a priest’s son become a priest. The decision to become a doctor, engineer, architect, priest or pastor is left to the individual when he becomes of age. The truth is that when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, a godfather or godmother who speaks for a child during infant baptism cannot answer before God in place of the child since this is an individual’s decision to follow Christ.
Water baptism of a new born baby is not commanded or requested anywhere in the Bible whereas a child can be dedicated by his parents to God as we find in Luke 2 / 22 “Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord”.
Many people after the experience of salvation shun this act believing that they do not need to do as they have already been baptized as an infant. The simple fact is that Jesus Christ who was sinless was willing to humble himself under the hand of John the Baptist though John tried to stop him. If this was to be done as an infant I am sure God would have allowed Joseph and Mary to do this through a priest in the temple.
This act of humility and public witness on the part of Jesus brought forth a heavenly presence which is seen nowhere else in the Scriptures. We witness the presence of the Trinity(Father, Son and Holy Spirit ) manifested for the first time in the bible on the shores of the river Jordan.
The Bible states that the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus like a dove (not in the appearance of dove as many imagine) to begin his glorious public ministry and we hear the voice of the Father in Heaven saying publicly “This is my dear Son with whom I am well pleased.” This clearly states that the God our Father witnesses a true believer during this simple, humble and glorious act and God the Father would say the same to whosoever is ready to follow the footsteps of their Savior.
BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT
We find in Mathew 3/11 that John the Baptist says “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”. A person needs not only to be baptized in the water but also needs to be filled in his spirit, mind and body with the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Spirit for Jesus could be seen immediately after the water baptism when He was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days of fasting and prayer before he started his public ministry. A true disciple of Jesus should follow in his Master’s footsteps in taking water baptism, getting baptized in the Holy Spirit and fasting and praying to strengthen the spirit man before being used as a vessel in His Master’s hand.
The Spirit baptism is seen visibly first for the disciples on the day of Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus to heaven as we find in Acts 2 / 1 -“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance “. The infilling of the Holy Spirit followed many times to the disciples afterwards though not in the intensity of the day of Pentecost which was visibly seen like tongues of fire.
Apollo’s was a devout man of God who preached Christ but had not received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit though he was baptized in water as taught by John the Baptist. When he meets Paul he realizes the fact that this was a requirement for a disciple of Christ as we read in Acts 19/1:5.
Paul here 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.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. “
The verse in Acts 19/8 says that “And he (Apollo’s) went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.” If you want the boldness to confess Jesus and preach His Word of God, a disciple of Christ needs this baptism of the Holy Spirit. This baptism is an anointing or a divine appointment by God with the authority from heaven to do the work ordained for a faithful minister of God.
Sometimes we find that people receives the Baptism of the Holy Spirit before taking a water baptism. In Acts 10/44:48 we read that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit while Peter opened his mouth and spoke the Scriptures. But he later commands them to be baptized in the water in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus while speaking to Nicodemus In John 3/5 says clearly that “One has to born of water and the Spirit.”
Apostle Paul who was called Saul of Tarsus was baptized in water after Ananias lay his hands on him for the Holy Spirit baptism as we read in Acts 9/17:18 - “ And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized”
Joel 2/8 the prophet of God proclaims “ And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
BAPTISM OF PERSECUTION
Jesus talks to his disciples about a coming baptism in his life which was not revealed to them at the point when he talked to them. In Luke 12/50 Jesus says “I have a baptism to be baptism to be baptized with and how distressed I am till it is accomplished”
Here Jesus was mentioning the physical, mental and spiritual suffering he would have to go through before his death on the cross for the redemption of the world . When you see Jesus going through the physical agony , painful humiliation and separation from the Father we understand that he was immersed in this baptism of persecution.
Isaiah gives a picturesque depiction of the coming Messiah when he prophesies in
Isaiah 52/13&14: “Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” and written in
Psalm 22/14 & 15 : “I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. “
When Stephen who was a man of mighty faith and a Spirit filled disciple of Jesus ( Acts 6/8 & 10) who became a martyr while going through this baptism of persecution. He was cast out from the city and brutally stoned before he gave up his life for the true faith he professed before a mob of unbelievers .
Once again the presence of Trinity is revealed for the second time as we read in Acts 7/56 - “But He (Stephen) being full of the Holy Spirit gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said “ Look I see the heavens opened and Son of Man standing before the right hand of God” . “
We see the witness of the Holy Spirit as the Word of God says “Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit” and Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father, now seen standing (waiting to receive Stephen back to heaven) in this baptism of persecution.
Most of the disciples of Jesus went through the persecution in various ways as mentioned in Hebrews 11/35&36: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection, Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”
As mentioned earlier I believe the heaven is opened for a believer in all the three baptisms in the spiritual realm though this may not be seen with the naked eyes or even in a vision. Water baptism is an act which Jesus commands his disciples to do as we see in Mathew 28/19 and Acts 10/48. This is commanded to do only once in a life time for a repented sinner and by his own will and desire.
What happens in the baptism according to scripture?
Few of the biblical truths of the reason of baptism according to the word of God are mentioned
1. Sign of repentance and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit
Acts2/38: “ Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
2. Newborn life with Christ
Romans 6/5 - “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
3. Saving assurance for a human soul from hell
John 3/5: Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”
4. Good Conscience towards God in a Sinful World
1 Peter 3/20:21: “Here is also an antitype which now saves us-baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”
5. Joined to the UNIVERSAL Body of Christ on earth
1 Corinth 12/13: “ For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
(Other Reference Galatians 3/26:27 & Ephesians 4/5 )
6. Preparation and hope of joining with Christduring his Second Coming
Romans 6/4:5 - “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection”
If this brief message on baptism still does not make a meaning look at the question which Jesus asked the chief priests and elders of his time which rings even in our today’s age. It is mentioned in Mathew 21/23:24 -“ But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John-where was it from? From heaven or from men?”
As we read in 2 Kings 5/1:15 NAMAN commander of the army of the king of Syria came to the prophet Elisha for a divine healing for the leprosy on his body. Elisha asked him to immerse himself in river of Jordan rather than laying his hands on him and praying. Though this looked like foolishness to him he submitted to the voice of God , humbled himself and got immersed in the river Jordan. This act of obedience & humility brought a miraculous healing, joy, freedom from a life of curse not only to himself but to the coming generations also.
Today if you are still waiting for a confirmation from God on this act of faith to step into the waters of baptism, I pray that you will take a decision right now in your heart to be separated for a holy life to your Savior Jesus Christ who died, buried and resurrected more than 2000 years for our sins and transgressions. The days of His coming are imminent as each day passes and as the Bible says in Hebrews 3/7: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion”
After reading this humble message If you still feel that you need to know more about this heaven ordained subject, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us through telephone, email, fax or post and it will be our privilege and joy to assist you with our time and energy which will help to move a step more closer to the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ..