What is Bible baptism for? The short answer… Baptism (immersion) is “for the remission of sins”. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Yet many sincere people have misunderstood it. Perhaps you have heard or read some who said baptism is not what Peter said it was for in Acts 2:38, ie “for the remission of sins”. A good principle is ‘THE PLAINEST THING IS THE MAINEST THING.” This should not be hard to understand. Just read Acts 2, and the picture is clear on this subject.
There are many other passages of course on the subject of salvation. Not all truth is contained in one passage. There are verses on FAITH (John 3:16), REPENTANCE (Luke 13:3-5), CONFESSION (Romans 10:9-10), as well as BAPTISM (Mark 16:16) and the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:39). All are important to the process of being saved, and being sealed as one of His children. You cannot separate any of them from the ‘plan of God’. Yet each have a different reason for ‘being there’… Some passages do not mention all these things. Context determines why.
Having said this, which is all too obvious when one reads the ‘salvation accounts’ scattered throughout Acts… there is more to the study. Jesus Himself, refers to it, but not just to the water aspect of it. He knew very well, that ‘just water’ is, well, just water. When he spoke of ‘grape juice’ and bread (Matthew 26) He made some very special connections in referring to these as his blood and body. More than just grape juice and bread… It involved ‘remembering’, ‘examining’, ‘communion’. It also speaks of relationships, both ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ for the Christian.
Baptism (immersion in water) is powerless in and of itself when divorced from Jesus’ blood on the cross.. Jesus gives it meaning and purpose and brings it to an even ‘higher level’ when combined with the work of the Holy Spirit in the process… and calls it ‘being born again’. He said it, and it should be enough for us… Remember this good principle: ‘THE PLAINEST THING IS THE MAINEST THING.” (Not good English, but good Bible!)
3 “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8).
Here Jesus himself says water and Spirit are involved in this marvelous new birth. I believe the “Spirit” mentioned here refers to the Holy Spirit (Greek ‘pneumatos’ which can mean ‘wind’, ‘spirit’ or Spirit’). I do not believe translators made a mistake in capitalizing “Spirit” here. My opinion is that it means what the context demands….the HOLY SPIRIT, and according to the text it is Jesus who ‘baptizes’ or gives the Holy Spirit (that’s what John says).
There is no contradiction with Paul saying there is ONE BAPTISM (Ephesians 4:3-5), because there is only one. It is simply composed of TWO ELEMENTS…. ‘water’ for the remission of sins (which is a command …Acts 2:38) and the ‘Spirit’ (a promise mentioned in Acts 2:39) done/given by Jesus. Without the Holy Spirit’s involvement, it would be confusing indeed since in Titus, it says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 2:4-7). Here we have terms “washing of rebirth” (immersion in water) and “renewal by the Holy Spirit” (which takes place when one is immersed in water)… When the Holy Spirit was “poured out” on Pentecost…the apostles are given ‘power from on high’ as promised (Acts 1:4) and they were empowered to speak in other languages and perform miracles. The Holy Spirit however, is for all who submit to Jesus and by faith repent and are immersed into Christ. Luke records, ” John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16ff). Context reveals that the “fire” was to burn up the ‘chaff’ (contextually referring to the unbelieving Jews (not just a few), and refers to the AD70 event, and can indeed refer also to the final judgment of hell fire for all who reject Jesus… The Holy Spirit in this text refers to what Jesus Christ gives to the ‘wheat’. I believe this happens when one is born again. The ‘wheat’ mentioned in Luke 3:16ff refer to those who are being added to the church. This began on the day of Pentecost. This is the gift of the Spirit promised in Acts 2:39, and this differs from receiving gifts FROM the Spirit (speaking in different languages, miraculous powers etc…) Again, the powers which the Apostles received were special and limited, but the ‘baptism’, ‘outpouring’, ‘gift’ (all referring to the same thing) of the Holy Spirit is the gives one ‘new life’ in Christ.
We are commanded to be immersed (in water). We are not commanded to be immersed in (receive) the Spirit….we are just promised that the Spirit would be given to all Christians. My understanding of scriptures is that when we are baptized in water for the remission of sins, we receive the Spirit of God in our lives (in that order)…. we come up out of the water a ‘spirit-being’, alive, and a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4ff).
Without the Spirit…. we do not belong to Him (Romans 8), are not sealed (Ephesians 1).
It is simply true, that a ‘waterless Spirit baptism is as powerless as a Spiritless water baptism’. Jesus said “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5).
One can take any truth, and push it to an extreme and make it false, or contradict other passages. Considering the various passages, and their contexts, makes it plain to me… ‘renewal of the Spirit whom He poured out on us’, is what happens when one is immersed for the remission of sins. Note: We need to quit worrying about “eis” (“in”) when studying with those who insist on “salvation before immersion” and start pointing out that if salvation is received before immersion (which is not so), then we miss the NEW BIRTH OF WATER AND SPIRIT spoken of by our Lord Himself in John 3 as well as what John spoke of in Lk. 3:16f.
To study more about what I believe regarding the gifts FROM OR GIVEN BY THE SPIRIT, you can look at the articles written which deal with this. To me there is a huge difference between the gift OF and gifts FROM the Spirit. One does not receive the Spirit as a GIFT, A SIGN OF SONSHIP OR BELONGING TO GOD THROUGH JESUS before being immersed INTO CHRIST, nor does one receive the SPIRIT long after being immersed BY PRAYING AND PRAYING ‘through’. Nor does the indwelling of the Spirit mean one receives the miraculous powers given the apostles. The Spirit of God is given (now available) for any who by faith repent of their sins, and when they are immersed into Christ for the remission of sins…. and are RAISED UP A NEW CREATION.