Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:
Write the Key Verse from memory.
Identify four baptisms mentioned in the New Testament.
Define the word “baptize.”
Explain the importance of Christian baptism.
List qualifications to be met by those seeking Christian baptism.
“I baptize you with water to show that your hearts and lives have changed. But there is one coming after me who is greater than I am, whose sandals I am not good enough to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – Matthew 3:11
The third foundational principle listed in Hebrews chapter 6 is the doctrine of baptisms.
In Hebrews 6:2 of the King James Version of the Bible, the word “baptism” is plural. It is “the doctrine of baptisms” [plural], not “the doctrine of baptism” [singular]. This means the complete doctrine of the Christian faith includes more than one baptism.
The word “baptize” used in the Bible means to entirely immerse or submerge in something.
The New Testament mentions four different baptisms. These are:
Christ’s baptism of suffering
The baptism of John
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
This chapter discusses the first three baptisms.
The following chapter concerns the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
There is one baptism in the New Testament which we will call the baptism of suffering. This baptism is spoken of by Jesus:
“I came to set fire to the world, and I wish it were already burning! I have a baptism to suffer through, and I feel very troubled until it is over.” – Luke 12:50
This baptism is also mentioned in Mark 10:38 where the sons of Zebedee asked for the honor of sitting with Christ on His right and left sides in Heaven. Jesus answered:
“You don’t understand what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I must drink? And can you be baptized with the same kind of baptism that I must go through?”
Jesus was speaking of the suffering awaiting Him through His death for the sins of all mankind. He was to be immersed in suffering, buried in the tomb, and resurrected in a new body.
The baptism of John the Baptist was baptism in water connected with the message of repentance. John the Baptist was born miraculously to Zacharias and Elizabeth according to Luke 1. God had a special plan for his life. He was to serve as the “forerunner” of Jesus Christ:
“Now you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High God. You will go before the Lord to prepare his way. You will make his people know that they will be saved by having their sins forgiven.” – Luke 1:76-77
John was to preach the message of repentance and baptism to Israel to prepare them for the coming of their Messiah, Jesus Christ:
“I (John the Baptist) baptize you with water to show that your hearts and lives have changed. But there is one coming after me who is greater than I am, whose sandals I am not good enough to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – Matthew 3:11
The ministry of John the Baptist was the beginning of a new spiritual age:
“The law of Moses and the writings of the prophets were preached until John came. Since then the Good News about the kingdom of God is being told, and everyone tries to enter it by force.” – Luke 16:16
Before the time of John the people lived under the law. Prophets and priests served as spiritual leaders and interpreters of the law. Only the priests had access to the presence of God in the temple. They served as mediators between the people and God and offered sacrifices for sin as God had commanded. This all changed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made access to God possible for all men. Jesus now serves as the mediator between sinful man and a righteous God.
John made two demands on the people: Repentance and public confession of sins. Those who were willing to meet these God-given requirements were baptized in the Jordan River as a public testimony. It was an outward sign that they had repented of their sins.
When some of the religious leaders came to John to be baptized, he refused to do it. He demanded that they show evidence of real change in their lives before he would baptize them:
“Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to the place where John was baptizing people. When John saw them, he said, “You are snakes! Who warned you to run away from God’s coming punishment? Do the things that show you really have changed your hearts and lives.” – Matthew 3:7-8
Repentance and remission of sins was required by John before he would baptize. The phrase “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” of Mark 1:4, does not mean that these two experiences followed the act of being baptized in water. Baptism was a visible confirmation that those being baptized had already experienced repentance and forgiveness.
The passage which best introduces what we will call “Christian baptism” describes the baptism of Jesus:
“At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River and wanted John to baptize him. But John tried to stop him, saying, “Why do you come to me to be baptized? I need to be baptized by you!”
Jesus answered, “Let it be this way for now. We should do all things that are God’s will.” So John agreed to baptize Jesus.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven opened, and he saw God’s Spirit coming down on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with him.” – Matthew 3:13-17
Jesus was not baptized by John as evidence that He had repented of sin because He had no sins for which to repent. Jesus was baptized to “do all things that are God’s will.” He was setting a righteous example of behavior which He wanted all believers to follow.
Requirements for Baptism
There were spiritual conditions to be met by those who sought baptism from John. There are also requirements to be met by those seeking Christian baptism.
The first requirement for baptism was given by Jesus:
“So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
Christ’s command is to teach new believers. They are to be taught before and after baptism. Sinners must first hear and obey the Gospel to become true believers:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized. (Acts 2:41)
When they heard this, they were baptized… (Acts 19:5)
A certain woman named Lydia…attended unto the things that were spoken of Paul…and she was baptized. (Acts 16:14-15)
Before baptism, believers should receive enough teaching to understand its meaning. After baptism, they should continue to receive instruction in order to become mature Christians. Paul calls this “going on to perfection” (Hebrews 6).
The second condition for baptism is repentance from sin. Peter stressed this during his sermon on the day of Pentecost:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37)
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
Note that conviction of sins is not enough. Action must be taken. The two commands Peter gave were repent and be baptized. Repentance comes before baptism.
The third condition for baptism is believing [faith]:
And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)
This requirement of believing is illustrated by the story of Philip and the Ethiopian man who he met on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8). Philip heard the Ethiopian read from the book of Isaiah. He joined him in his chariot to explain the Gospel. As they continued on their journey the road led past water. Upon the Ethiopian’s request and his confession of faith, Philip baptized him:
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And He commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Philip said to the eunuch: “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest be baptized.” The eunuch replied: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son God.” A person who desires Christian baptism first must confess to faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE TOWARD GOD:
A fourth condition for Christian baptism is a good conscience toward God. Peter compares Christian baptism in water to the experience of Noah and his family who were saved from judgment as they entered into the ark:
The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us [not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 3:21)
Peter dismisses any idea that the purpose of baptism is any kind of cleansing of the physical body. He says the condition of Christian baptism is the inner relationship of the believer’s heart toward God. He calls it “a good conscience toward God.”
THE TIME OF BAPTISM
To be eligible for water baptism a person must receive proper instruction, repent, believe, and have a good conscience toward God. The length of time it takes to meet these requirements will differ depending on the individual.
Some churches require those who desire baptism to take long periods of instruction lasting weeks or months. But the Bible says that on the day of Pentecost three thousand people were baptized. A few hours before they were unbelievers who rejected Jesus to be either the Messiah of Israel or the Son of God. From the end of Peter’s sermon to their baptism, the time required to give necessary instruction could not have exceeded a few hours:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)
Philip baptized the Ethiopian the same day he preached the Gospel to him.
The practice of the early church in relation to baptism was as follows:
- Before baptism they taught the basic facts of the Gospel centering on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- They related these facts to the act of baptism.
- They verified understanding, repentance, and confession of faith in the new believer, then baptism in water followed immediately.
- After baptism the new believers received further instruction for spiritual development.SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM
The following text reveals the spiritual significance of Christian baptism:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?
Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; That like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)
When you repent and accept Jesus Christ as Savior, death to sin and the old life occurs. There is creation of a new life of righteousness lived for God:
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof…
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11,12,14)
Christian baptism in water is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It symbolizes death to sin as you are immersed in that “grave” of water and resurrection into a new life lived for God in righteousness as you come up out of the water.
The believer who is raised up out of the water to live this new life does not do this in his own power. The new life is lived by the power of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. (We will learn more about living the new life in Chapter Eleven). The effect of water baptism depends on the repentance and faith of the one being baptized. Without this, baptism is of no value.
True Christian baptism means we are baptized into Jesus Himself, not into a particular church or denomination:
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
A Couple Questions
What about Baptism of Babies?
Jesus was not baptized as a baby. When He was an infant His parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, but He was not baptized. Jesus was not baptized until He knew what He was doing and the reason why He was doing it.
Babies should not be baptized. Children can be presented to the Lord for dedication and blessing by the laying on of hands. But they should not be baptized until they understand the meaning of the act and have met the Biblical requirements. There is no set age at which this understanding comes. It depends on the mental and spiritual development of each child.
Sprinkling or Immersion?
Some churches baptize by sprinkling with water. Others totally immerse in water. When Jesus was baptized He went down into and then came up out of the water. Considering this and the Biblical meaning of the word “baptize”, we must conclude He was fully immersed in the waters of Jordan.
In allowing Himself to be baptized, Jesus showed outward obedience to the will of God. Through this act of obedience He fulfilled the plan of God. When believers are baptized, this outward act symbolizes the inward righteousness which they have received by faith.
Hebrews chapter 11 lists the names of many people who were great examples of faith. But there is one man in the Bible who is called “the father of all those who believe” in Romans 4:11. His name is Abraham.
Christians are those “who live following the faith that our father Abraham” according to Romans 4:12, and are spoken of as “the true children of Abraham” in Galatians 3:7.
Because of his faith toward God, Abraham was justified:
“This shows the full meaning of the Scripture that says: “Abraham believed God, and God accepted Abraham’s faith, and that faith made him right with God.” And Abraham was called God’s friend.” – James 2:23
When Paul wanted to illustrate faith toward God, he used Abraham as an example:
“Those words (“God accepted Abraham’s faith”) were written not only for Abraham but also for us. God will accept us also because we believe in the One who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.” – Romans 4:23-25
Paul said that the record of Abraham’s faith which resulted in justification was not kept just for him. The record was kept so that we also, by believing the Gospel message, could be justified.
The reasons Abraham was an example of faith are as follows:
He Heard the Word:
Abraham listened to the promises of God:
“Abraham and his descendants received the promise that they would get the whole world. He did not receive that promise through the law, but through being right with God by his faith. … Abraham felt sure that God was able to do what he had promised.” – Romans 4:13,21
He Believed the Word:
He not only heard the promises of God, he believed:
“There was no hope that Abraham would have children. But Abraham believed God and continued hoping, and so he became the father of many nations. As God told him, “Your descendants also will be too many to count.”” – Romans 4:18
“You have not seen Christ, but still you love him. You cannot see him now, but you believe in him. So you are filled with a joy that cannot be explained, a joy full of glory. And you are receiving the goal of your faith–the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:8-9
He Turned from His Hopeless Condition:
Hearing of the Word of God resulted in a change in Abraham’s life:
“There was no hope that Abraham would have children. But Abraham believed God and continued hoping, and so he became the father of many nations. As God told him, “Your descendants also will be too many to count.” Abraham was almost a hundred years old, much past the age for having children, and Sarah could not have children. Abraham thought about all this, but his faith in God did not become weak.” – Romans 4:18-19
Just as men and women lost in sin, Abraham faced a hopeless condition in the natural world. The promise to become the father of many nations could only come through God because Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children.
Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. There is no other way you can receive the promise except by faith in His plan of salvation:
“I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love.” – Ephesians 3:17
He Accepted the Promise as a Fact:
“He never doubted that God would keep his promise, and he never stopped believing. He grew stronger in his faith and gave praise to God.” – Romans 4:20
This is faith toward God.
He is an Example for Us:
The faith toward God demonstrated by Abraham is an example for you to follow:
-Hear the Word of God.
-Believe the Word of God.
-Turn from your hopeless condition (change through repentance from dead works).
-Accept God’s promise as fact. His promise is that you are justified by repentance and faith toward God through Jesus.
(Answers to tests are provided at the conclusion of the final chapter of this study.)
“Trust” is another word for faith. David wrote much about trust in the book of Psalms. Use the following study to continue learning about faith toward God which David calls “trust.”
Study the following references. What did David say NOT to trust?
Psalms 20:7, 41:9, 44:6, 49:6, 52:7, 115:8, 118:8-9, 135:17-18, 146:3
Well Placed Trust
Throughout the Psalms David encourages trust in God. He also encourages trust in things related to God. Study the following references. What did David say he would trust in?
Psalms 33:21, 36:7, 13:5, 52:8, 57:1, 61:4, 78:22, 91:4, 119:42
When to Trust
There are many examples of times when David trusted in the Lord. When does he say he trusts in the Lord?
Benefits of Trusting
David listed many benefits of trusting or having faith toward God. Study the following references. What are the benefits of trusting God?
Psalms 2:12, 5:11, 7:1, 9:10, 16:1, 17:7, 21:7, 22:4, 22:5, 22:8, 25:2, 25:20, 26:1, 28:7, 31:1, 31:6, 31:19, 32:10, 40:4, 56:4, 56:11, 57:1, 64:10, 71:1, 73:28, 84:12, 86:2, 112:7, 119:42, 125:1, 141:8, 143:8, 144:2
Results of Not Trusting in God
David identifies the results of not trusting God in the following verses. What are those results?
Psalms 32:10, 55:23, 78:21-22
David’s History of Trusting
For how long has David trusted God
The following passages are additional references David made to trusting God. Study the references. Summarize each verse in your own words.
Psalms 4:5, 11:1, 31:4