This book is intended to show what the Bible actually teaches.
We must follow the Bible and its true meaning.
We dare not follow our own ways and ideas.
The subject of baptism has produced many different ideas.
The manner of baptism is carried out in different ways.
The meaning of baptism often is lost in the traditions, theology and sometimes ignorance of those who teach it.
Water can never cleanse us from our sins or our sinful nature. We read about water baptism particularly in the book of Acts. Water baptism in the Scriptural sense is baptism by immersion. It is for believers in Jesus Christ. Some churches christen or sprinkle and call it baptism. A baby is not able to repent or believe, as commanded in Acts 2:38. Therefore according to the Bible it is not right to “baptise” infants.
Note Acts 16:31 where Paul said to the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household”. It was that belief of mind and will that brought salvation and not water baptism.
The older denominational churches do not generally practice baptism by immersion. Rev. Gordon Moyes, of the Wesley Methodists, Sydney, produced a booklet showing that the Early churches for the first few centuries practiced baptism by immersion. During the dark Middle Ages of the European church’s ignorance, most of the evangelical and Bible truths were lost.
Christening was introduced in the case of sick persons who believed on Jesus Christ on their death beds and were unable to get up to be immersed in water.
Water baptism by immersion is a symbolic experience and a proclamation of something spiritual that has already happened in the life of the person. Although baptism is a spiritual and inward experience of obedience and witness, the spiritual experience of the new birth has already occurred. It is a type of something spiritual that has already happened. That took place when the person placed complete faith in Christ. He became spiritually a part of the baptism of Jesus Christ on the Cross into death and then resurrection, Galatians 2:20.
Water baptism is not part of salvation. A person can go to heaven without baptism by either sprinkling or immersion. The bible meaning of baptism is never by sprinkling. Baptism by immersion has importance to someone who has known the Lord Jesus for a long time and who may even be baptised in the Holy Spirit, speaking in other tongues. This importance lies for them, only in the matter of obedience.
Jesus submitted Himself to John’s baptism, in order to “fulfil all righteousness”. This was still under the Law and the Old Covenant. We do not follow the example of Jesus and submit to John’s baptism. The baptism we are required to have is different. John’s baptism was a baptism “to repentance”. Our baptism takes place after our repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith alone in Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection that has given us salvation and redemption, Ephesians 1:7, “In Whom we have redemption through His blood”. We are not saved by any kind of water baptism. That would be works and we are saved by grace through faith, and not of works.
Peter tells us that our baptism is “the answer of a good conscience towards God”, 1 Peter 3:25. A good translation of the Bible says, “It means the ability to face God with a clear conscience”. Hebrews 9:14 tells us that our “consciences” were made clean when we believed on Christ. At that time we were saved and “purified” by His Blood.
For the new convert, water baptism will have a far more important meaning than for someone who has been a believer for some time. It shows obedience. It is a public declaration of his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. It will indicate to the rest of the world, to the unbelievers and to the heathen, that the person has made a break with his past life. He or she is now a believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus is now Lord of the life. No longer will that new convert follow sin, the world or Satan who is the god of this world.
According to the Bible, the new believer in Jesus should be baptised by immersion in water as soon as possible after his or her belief in Jesus and confession by mouth of Jesus as Lord. The immediate baptism in the Holy Spirit with a whole new supernatural language of the Spirit should also be ministered. A believer is a believer, even when he is not baptised in water.
Water baptism is material. A person on earth performs it. The new birth is different. It is a spiritual experience with the person’s spirit. The waters of the Word and of the Spirit of Christ do a miracle within him.
If a person has not been baptised in the Spirit before he takes water baptism, an ideal time for him to receive is as he comes up out of the water.
Baptism comes from the Greek word, “baptizo”, which means to “plunge, dip or immerse”. It is taken from the actions of dipping a cloth in a bucket of dye. John the Baptist performed baptisms in the River Jordan. Jesus Himself submitted to being placed underneath the water. We therefore know that to be baptised will mean we must be immersed or plunged into a body of water.
Peter preached as in Acts 2:37,38 “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins”. Wuest, a converted Jew and a Greek scholar translates it, “Let each one of you be baptized upon the ground of your confession of belief in the sum total of all that Jesus Christ is in His glorious Person, this baptismal testimony being in relation to the fact that your sins have been put away”.
The need for water baptism, meaning by immersion, is found in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. This passage speaks of the experience of the fathers of Israel who “were under the cloud and all passed through the sea; And were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea”, verses 1,2. Other translations read – “And were all immersed unto Moses” or “All underwent baptism as followers of Moses”.
This occurred when God performed the miracle of piling up the waters of the Red Sea so that they went through safe from Pharaoh and his army. Perhaps water splashed on to them, typifying water baptism. The whole of chapter 10 is then made relative to the Gospel believer. There is meaning in these verses about baptism. We are to be immersed in baptism as followers, not of Moses but of Jesus Christ.
The Children of Israel were baptised unto Moses by the waters of the Red Sea. This was not a literal baptism into his person. When we are baptised in the waters unto Jesus Christ it does not mean a literal baptism into His person. It is typical only, of something that has already happened in a spiritual way we experience. Nevertheless, the act of baptism within the person’s inner being, is something he experiences and happens once in the life of the believer. The spiritual experience of having died with Christ and having been raised with Him, happened at conversion and has an ongoing effect.
It is “believer’s” baptism. This means the person has already believed.
BAPTISM IN WATER IS AN IMMERSION.
a. Baptism Means Immersion. It comes from the Greek word, “Bapto”, to “dip, plunge or immerse, as cloth is immersed in a vat of dye”. Sprinkling is not baptism.
b. Also, it is the believer who is to be baptised. A baby is not able to believe.
c. It is an act of obedience.
d. It is also a public confession of faith, which is where its importance lies. Matthew 10:32, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before My Father in heaven.”
e. It is Because He Now Has a Good Conscience. It is done because the person knows he is right with God and has been born again and washed in the blood of Jesus. He has experienced the experimental meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
f. The Believer Becomes Publicly, Part of the Fellowship of Believers. It is in respect to the believer’s connection with the believers as a whole.
The question one asks a new believer wanting to be baptised is, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, that he is Lord?” On the confession of his faith he is baptised and the removal of gold and ornaments has no part in this.
THE REQUIREMENT FOR A CANDIDATE FOR WATER BAPTISM
In Acts 8:38,39 there was one requirement that Philip asked of the Ethiopian before he baptised him. He questioned him as to whether he believed with all his heart. That remains the sole requirement of a candidate for water baptism. He must believe on Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour with all his heart. Thus he must already have the born again experience. This means he is already born of the Word, 1 Peter 1:23 and of the Spirit. Being born of the Spirit has nothing to do with speaking in tongues. It means he is “born from above” by the supernatural action of the Spirit of Christ coming into his heart, Romans 8:9, John 6:47,63,64; 1 John 3:23. Notice that it is God’s Spirit who gives life and not any so-called baptism whether by sprinkling or by immersion.
After believing in Jesus he should be baptised in water. There is nothing in the Scriptures where new converts who wish to be baptised in water or baptised in the Holy Spirit, Acts 10:44,47, are to be told to remove their gold jewellery.
This means that our salvation is totally by grace through faith. We cannot add works, or the legal actions of removing gold or ornaments. It becomes a rite.
That makes salvation to be through the “sacraments” of the so-called Christian Church, whether it is by baptism, confirmation or the Mass. The Mass was introduced as a continuation of the Pagan Roman “sacrifice” that was eaten. This was required to be done by all citizens or else they would be put to death. Gradually the Mass crept in to the church.
Another thing is that it is impossible that the “old man”, which is part of the inner man and not material, can be left behind in the waters of baptism as is taught in some circles. It is impossible that on rising up out of the water, a person can “put on newness of life”. That new man is a “spirit‘-ual man and not material. The material waters of baptism have no effect on either the “old man” or “newness of life”.
Romans 6:4 says, “We were buried therefore with him through “the immersion into His death”. His death occurred on the Cross and that is where we were “immersed into His death” and not in the waters of baptism. A translation reads, “Our baptism in his death (NOT WATER), made us share his burial”. Romans 6:6 shows we are not buried with Him in the waters of baptism.
We “were sanctified” by Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:2, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all,“ Hebrews 10:10; and “sanctified in Christ”, 1 Corinthians 1:2; and in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “whom (Christ) God made our sanctification”. This had nothing to do with the waters of baptism.
The power of a walk dead to the flesh or old man, is by the Spirit, Romans 8:9, “You are not in the flesh (old man) but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you” and Romans 8:10, “by the Spirit you put to death the lusts of the flesh”.
The baptism that was of real spiritual significance to us was not baptism in water but a spiritual baptism with Christ on the Cross, in his death. Then we shared, spiritually, with Him in his burial in the tomb. The grave or tomb, were not the waters of baptism but the actual grave or tomb in which the body of Jesus lay those centuries ago.
Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been put to death on the cross with Christ (not in the waters of baptism)”. The “I” that was crucified with Christ was “the old man”. Then when Christ arose out of the tomb, we rose with Him in newness of life, His life that we have within us. Christ is not crucified in any water of baptism. Therefore we cannot be crucified with Christ in the baptismal waters. It happened on the Cross.
Ephesians 4:4,5 speak of there being “one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you” before mentioning the word “baptism”. The one body is the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 shows we were baptized into that body by “one baptism”. All members of the body are connected to become one, by the Holy Spirit. The one Spirit is the Holy Spirit. He is in all who believe. The one hope is the resurrection of the dead, as explained in Romans 6:5,8. “By being raised to life as He was”.
We must keep in mind “one body, one Spirit and one hope”. Now we look at “one Lord, one faith, one baptism“ and then in verse 6 “one God and Father of all”. The “one Lord” is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is everywhere by His Spirit, living within believers to whom He is Lord. The “one faith” is the faith in Him and truth of the Gospel. It is shared by all and its message is within all who believe.
To follow the thought of Paul, when he mentions experiences that are not material, “one baptism” cannot be material. The “one baptism” can never be a baptism in water or even in the Holy Spirit, the latter being internal affecting the material body in speech.
If we think “one baptism” is about water baptism we miss the continuity of Paul’s thought. One reason we can prove this is that water baptism does not have content that is shared by all. The water of baptism is in many places on the earth. It can be in a single tank, a single river or in a single lagoon that is used only by a small number of believers.
Then we have the fact that as well as being “one Lord” there is “one God and Father”.
IS THERE A FORMULA?
The words of Matthew 28:19 were not originally meant by the Lord as a baptismal formula. He was not giving instructions about the actual words to be used in the service of baptism. He meant that the person being baptised would show he was owned by the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost in a public way.
Matthew, when he wrote what Jesus said, did not intend it as a formula to be spoken as a Trinitarian phrase at the time of baptism. Instead, “In the name” of means “with fundamental reference to”. It distinguishes Christian baptism, demanding allegiance to the triune God from John’s baptism, that required only repentance.
According to Vine’s dictionary, “Name” means, “in the authority of”. As Matthew wrote to Jews whose conception of God was One, with no Son, he included Jesus’ words showing baptism was to be in the “authority of” the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. All three were Three Persons in the One God (Trinity in Unity).
Matthew wrote his gospel for the Jew. He emphasised the Trinitarian God, without using the word “Trinity”. The Jews knew there was One God but they were blind to the fact that the Holy Spirit Who was also (and is) God in the Old Testament is a distinct Person.
It was not until the second century, that the formula accompanying baptism has been recorded as Trinitarian. Until that time there is no record. However, in the book of the Acts, it was “in the Name of Jesus” etc. and that appears to have been a description of the meaning of the act or a reference to the confession accompanying the baptism and not a formula said at baptism. Nowhere in Acts is it shown to be a formula.
It is not the formula that counts. It is the act of water baptism itself and its meaning. Whatever is said does not alter that.
Many people are in heaven today, who were never baptised by immersion or spoke in tongues. Look at the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise”. He was near death, never baptised in water.
“BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT”
“Born of water and of the Spirit”, John 3: is explained as follows:-In John 4:10 Jesus said, “I have given you living water”. This living water has nothing to do with ordinary water. It is of the Spirit of God. It is a spiritual teaching by Jesus in a manner similar to His use of language that believers eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Water is a type of the Word in the new birth. This is clear from Ephesians 5:26, that reads “having cleansed her by the washing of water of the Word”. This is stated in Greek and in all English translations that says, “by the washing of the water by the Word”. It is not as in the Tamil or Malayalam Bibles, where it is wrongly translated, “water of baptism”. We are born again by the Word, 1 Peter 1:23, “born anew through the living and enduring word of God”. In John 3:5, the Spirit is likened to “water”.
We should note that water is a symbol. Water cleanses from filth. In the Bible, this is the water of the Word. The Spirit works regeneration through the water of the Word within and cleanses by the blood of Jesus. Psalm 51:2; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:25; Zechariah 13:1; John 15:3; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17. Water does not wash away sins. The Blood of Jesus washes away sins.
“Water” in the Word often means “The Spirit”, as Jesus showed in John 4:24, when speaking of the living water of salvation. Also this is shown in Isaiah 44:3,4; Revelation 22:17,1; Psalm 46:4.
It is further explained about the new birth in Titus 3:5, “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”. This verse has nothing to do with water baptism or baptism in the Spirit with speaking in tongues. As well, it is spirit-ual only. It is a washing in regeneration and a work of the Holy Spirit.
We are born of the Spirit. This also can be understood by the meaning of the type, “water”. John 3:6 says, “born of the Spirit”. It is Spirit that gives birth to spirit. We are born “from above” in the new birth. Water is not spirit. Water is not from above. Spirit works like water but in a spiritual sense, in working this change of regeneration. As water cleanses the filthy, so the Spirit applies the blood of Christ for cleansing the polluted nature and renews it in true holiness.
It is in the spiritual realm, that he who is “born of the Spirit is spirit”. It does not have any material element. John 3:4; 7:38,39; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 34:26; 39:29; 36:26, show the Spirit moving in the spiritual realm. Nicodemus thought he would have to return to the “womb and be born”; an impossibility.
It is the Work of the Holy Spirit, as shown in John 3:3-6. We are born of the Spirit. It has nothing to do with baptism by christening or by immersion. It is a secret, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit upon our spirits the second we believed.
Paul explains being born again in Titus 3:5 as “By the washing of regeneration” (or “laver of regeneration” or “through means of the bathing of a new birth” or “through the ‘spiritual’ water of rebirth”). The key word is “regeneration” and not “washing”. Regeneration occurs within. That rebirth is a washing and it is within. This cannot be by or in or through water baptism.
Being “born from above”, as in John 3:3, shows it is not by natural means. “Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above’.” Being a supernatural act from heaven (from above) it can have nothing to do with “natural” water. It is totally an act of God through the Holy Spirit.
Also, it is “spirit”, as “what is born of the Spirit is spirit”, John 3:6. This means when a person is born again there is a new spiritual being. Ephesians 2:1,5 shows He “Made us alive together with Christ.”
For the believer, the old life of being controlled by sin, the flesh, world, satan and darkness has gone. Believers now share His resurrection newness.
Let us look at Galatians 2:19-21. These verses show that to believe in Christ is “to die”. It is the death of the carnal man, the old man, the sinful nature, the “I”. This “death” gives rise to a different kind of living.
It refers to the act of God introducing a believing sinner into vital union with Jesus Christ. This is so that the believer might have the power of his sinful nature broken and the divine nature implanted through his identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. That alters the condition and relationship of that sinner regarding his previous state and environment. It brings him into a new environment, the kingdom of God. God legally places us in Christ when He died so that we might share His death. We then come into the benefit of that identification with Him. This is part of the salvation He gives us when we believe. Our new environment is Christ.
We are new creatures, 2 Corinthians 5:17,18. The new creation with the newness of life is not referring to a new kind of life the believer is to live but to a new source of spiritual life put within him by God. By this he is enabled to live the new life of the new creation in the resurrection life of Christ. It has nothing to do with acts, legalistic or otherwise. It does not refer to outward change of behaviour or habits. It is not following laws and regulations. However, a new conduct proceeds from this new life in due course.
It does not happen when he comes up out of the waters of baptism. It happened the time he believed in Jesus.
BAPTISM AND CIRCUMCISION
Let us look at water baptism in 1 Peter 3:21 “In answer baptism now saves you (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. John 4:14; Isaiah 12:3; Revelation 1:5. The outward baptism which is material, is not an actual washing of the inward man. Neither does it wash the body. The Apostle distinguishes between the outward ordinance of baptism and its typical meaning and the work of regeneration itself in “baptism” is spiritual and does not mean water baptism.
The natural condition of the sinner is uncircumcision of the sinful nature. In Colossians 2:11, the meaning is “the condition in which the corrupt desires rooted in the flesh were not yet extinct”. Verse 13 reads “You were dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh (sinful nature)” and is taken from the circumstance that the foreskin in the body was the sign of impurity. It was the sign for the Jews that as sinners they were far from God. We were all born in sin. When we believed, “God made us alive with Christ”. The Jews had to be circumcised. Believers must have a circumcision and they have it in the circumcision of Christ.
We see that the “flesh” in the Greek Dictionary means “mere human nature,“ the earthly nature man apart from divine influence and therefore it is prone to sin. Natural circumcision means a cutting off of the foreskin. The whole organ is not cut. In the circumcision of our hearts in actual experience, the Holy Spirit, silently, crucifies the flesh with its lusts, affections and deeds. He removes the enmity, carnal prejudices and depraved inclinations. He does not do this totally as typified by natural circumcision. We still retain the carnal nature. However its power is broken and He replaces within us, in our recreated spirits, a spiritual love, joy and inclination towards God.
Because of our being circumcised with Christ’s circumcision, this means that the carnal nature (soul) we still have can be overtaken by the holiness and uprightness of the “spirit’ual nature. This latter nature is that part of us which is born again. Within it, is the life of Christ Himself by His Spirit. There we have been made partakers of the Divine nature. In our spirit is the eternal life and righteousness that will be our portion throughout eternity. Within our spirits, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is all that is needed for the manifestation of the Divine life of holiness and glory that is ours forever. When we get to heaven our changed bodies will not be an impediment any longer. There will be no carnal nature.
Colossians 2:11-13. Verse 12 reads “In whom also you were circumcised when you threw off your sinful nature in the circumcision of Christ” also reads “by being set free from the sins of the flesh by virtue of Christ’s circumcision” or “in the circumcision of Christ you were set free from your sinful nature.“ Verse 12 shows that “in baptism you were buried with Him” or “united with His burial and raised to life with Him through your faith in the power of God who raised Him from the dead”. The sinful nature was “cut off” from the spirit that received the life of Christ.
Verse 13 “Yes, although you were dead through your sins and your uncircumcised nature” or “were physically uncircumcised” or “dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh” declares the state of unsaved mankind. The spiritual circumcision took place “when we were buried with him in baptism”. “Baptism” is not referring to water baptism. Jesus’ death was a “baptism”, Mark 1:38; Luke 12:50; Romans 6:3; Galatians 2:20. We were buried with Him in the baptism of His death and “were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead”. That takes place for a person when he believes in his heart and confesses Jesus as Lord or Jehovah, with his lips, Romans 10:9.
Jesus’ baptism and circumcision for us were on the cross. In Luke we learn about His physical circumcision. We note Luke 2:21-24 where Joseph and Mary took Him to the Temple. It was done when he was eight days old. Galatians 4:4 shows “He was born under the Law“.
Paul in Colossians 2:11-13 was not speaking about Jesus’ circumcision as a baby. He was not speaking about the water baptism of Christ. He wrote, “In Whom also you were circumcised with circumcision not made with hand, in the putting off of the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ, buried together with Him in the baptism.” Christ’s circumcision was His death and burial. Then “God raised Him from the dead”. This circumcision of Christ was at His death on the cross.
The “body of the flesh” is the corrupt nature of every man. It was dealt with on the cross. This is when and where the “body of sin” was disposed of. It was not left behind in the waters of baptism. What Jesus did on the cross was for us. As with every part of our redemption, which is done in and by Christ, we were circumcised in Christ on the cross and our sinful nature was dealt with. It happened because in reality we died with Christ and were buried with Him. Paul spoke of the baptism of His death and said it was His circumcision. Christ’s circumcision, His baptism, i.e. His death and burial, are ours. When we were circumcised in Christ, it happened because we were placed under the power of His death. This was so real that we were buried with Him, lying in the same grave. The believer was also raised together with Him. We took part in His resurrection from the dead.
Therefore, our circumcision and baptism in Christ cannot be our water baptism. We were circumcised not in water baptism but in the baptism of our death with Christ on the Cross. This is clear from Romans 2:28,29, “nor is true circumcision something external and physical” or “real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal”. An act of water baptism can never produce such circumcision of the heart. It is an act by the Spirit of God, without any material assistance or any physical action on our part except the confession of our lips, Romans 10:9. This confession is the result of an inward spiritual experience. The meaning of “spiritual” in the Scriptures is always “Spirit-ual”, “of the (Holy) Spirit”. The Father through the Holy Spirit has drawn us to Christ.
We are “buried together with Him in the baptism”, showing that we were circumcised in Christ when we were buried in the baptism of His death. It is “the circumcision of Christ”. It is ours “in Him”. It was not done by any efforts of our own. Water baptism is an effort. Our baptism or circumcision in His death was not by any effort of ours. It was done by Christ Himself.
BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD
Regarding 1 Corinthians 15:29, that mentions baptising for the dead, Paul has already proved the resurrection. He now questions the consistency of the readers. He convicts them of inconsistency when he says “Otherwise, what will those people do (excluding himself and his own beliefs) who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” There actually was a custom in the Early Church. It would not have been prevalent at the time of Paul but it could have existed and apparently did. He does not condone it or accept it. It is contrary to all of his teaching but he uses it to prove how illogical believers are to say there is “no resurrection” when they baptise for the dead!
EXPLANATIONS OF CERTAIN SCRIPTURES
1 PETER 3:18-21. “In which eight souls were brought safely through by means of the intermediate agency of water, which (water) as a counterpart now saves you (namely) baptism; not a putting off of flesh but the witness of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
All the very early manuscripts and translations, both into Latin and into old style English, make the above meanings clear and correct.
They were saved “from” the water is the more correct translation. They were saved from the real danger before the coming of the flood, i.e. destruction and judgment as the result of the corruption, wickedness, enmity and violence of evil men. The righteousness of Noah saved him from this evil that had as its end, the judgment of the flood to exterminate the wicked race. The wicked met with destruction and the righteous with salvation. Faith brought salvation to Noah and faith brings salvation to us, that water cannot bring.
We also are saved from sin and hell before baptism through waters of death of the Cross, Noah’s flood of destruction being the type. The cross of Christ is the place of judgment typed by the flood. The actual judgment of God and the destruction of the power of sin happened through Christ’s dying on the cross, not in water baptism. The death of our carnal nature is accomplished in Christ on the Cross at the time of God’s judgment on Him instead of on us. The waters of God’s judgment swept over Christ and us in Him. By faith we receive salvation. This is then typified in water baptism even though this portion of scripture evidently does not actually refer to water baptism.
When we consider baptism in the sense of being plunged into water, from the point of view of Peter, it reaches no further than washing away the dirt of the body. In a metaphorical sense the same thing applies if we consider it a cleansing for the soul. Water itself or being plunged into it can never produce regeneration. Neither body nor soul can receive any spiritual change and water contacts the body only.
There is a belief concerning “baptismal regeneration.“ This belief means that baptism is added to the finished work of Christ on the Cross. What Christ did on the cross secured our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins and regeneration. That work is sufficient and needs nothing added to it. On the Cross, Jesus said, “It is finished”, John 19:30. Our redemption was secured.
With regard to the conscience, no ceremonies can affect it. “The answer of a good conscience toward God” is accomplished by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 3:16. In line 2, “vindicated” (justified in spirit). Romans 1:4, here it says “by the resurrection from the dead”.
This is the legal basis for our consciences being cleans by the blood of Christ, as in Hebrews 9:14. “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God”. The dead works of religion have gone. We should not try and do any more works of religion. This means all efforts that include religious praying, fastings, good works and any thing in our religious activities, for our Christian walk.
Noah was a preacher of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:5. By the Spirit of Christ he preached to the spirits in prison. Peter continues referring to the time of Noah by mentioning typology. By the ark, God saved the family of Noah from the judgment of the flood. They were saved “through” water.
In the two epistles of Peter, he often mentions suffering, judgment, Noah and the flood. We should understand the following portion taking those things into account.
1 Peter 3:18-21 can never mean that Christ in His death descended into hell and preached there. It cannot mean that He went into the place of the departed saints and took them up to heaven. These are articles of faith in the Roman Catholic Church. Why should we follow such errors?
It does not mean that the “spirits in prison” were there when Jesus died. It does mean that the men of Noah’s day, spoken of as “spirits” as in Numbers 27:16, had a proclamation made to them through Noah. Christ, in His divine nature, spoke through Noah by His Spirit for one hundred and twenty years.
During that time, those people, judged guilty by God already, were kept in prison as it were, under sentence of judgment. However, “God who is longsuffering, rich in mercy and not willing that any should perish”, waited all that time, giving them opportunity to repent. They did not. This meant the judgment of the flood had to come. It came.
Then Peter explains it in the light of Noah building the ark, preaching to the unbelieving world, the patience of God waiting for their repentance and then the judgment of the flood. Through it they received judgment. Then he likens this judgment to the baptism of Christ on the cross as judgment for our sin. That is what saves us from judgment. It is the cross of Christ. The eight who were saved were saved “from or through the” water, by being in the ark of safety.
Mark 10:38, Luke 12:50 speaks of Jesus having to undergo the baptism of death on the cross. Isaiah 54:5 shows “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him” and Isaiah 53:4, “we considered him stricken by God and afflicted”., verse 8, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away” and “for the transgression of my people he was stricken”.
“Not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God” is explained by Hebrews 9:13,14, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are outwardly clean, How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death”. Not the connection in these verses to “the body” (outwardly clean) and “cleanse your conscience” to the “pledge of a good conscience“ in 1 Peter 3:21 He uses Old Testament ceremonial Law to explain the gospel.
a. This shows there is no need of the ritual of circumcision, as taught by false teachers, in Galatians, Colossians and Timothy etc. Paul showed them they had the spiritual substance of it in Christ. In Him, believers are so filled by Him that they possess all that was symbolised by the rite. See Romans 2:28,29. This has nothing to do with water baptism.
b. The circumcision of the believer is not made with hands. It is a spiritual thing. It is a circumcision of the heart. It is the real substance of the physical rite of circumcision or of water baptism. The spiritual experience is the “putting off of the body of the flesh”. Water baptism can never do this.
c. The circumcision given as a rite to Abraham symbolised this. Through the Cross, the corrupt nature is put off. It is ruined and is put off in Christ. The believer thus died. It is by the circumcision of Christ and not done by rites, water baptism or efforts of our own. It is done in what Christ has provided and confirmed. Man, not Christ performs water baptism.
2. Let us examine closely Colossians 2:11-14.
a. Verse 11 “In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ.” We were circumcised “in Him”. It was a spiritual circumcision. We put off the body of flesh. Where? In the circumcision of Christ – not in the waters of baptism.
b. Verse 12 (Colossians 2) “When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” “We were buried together with Him in the baptism”. This means we were circumcised in Christ when we were buried IN the baptism. What baptism? Not of water. The circumcision on us is spiritual and so the baptism must be spiritual. Romans 6:4 shows us it is the baptism into death.
c. The meaning of “being baptized into anything” is to be “brought under it and saturated with its influence and power”. It is a “Spirit-ual” happening. This cannot be by baptism in water because water is a material element, not “Spirit-ual”. We were circumcised in Christ by means of being under the power of His death so really and thoroughly that “Spirit-ually” we were buried with Him, lying in the grave, Romans 6:4 “Our baptism in His death made us share in His burial”. Also, Galatians 2:19 – “For under the Law, I died”.
d. Was Christ in the waters of baptism when we had water baptism? Of course not. Yet we were buried “together with Him”. His burial was not in our water baptismal tank. It was at His death on the cross. That was His baptism. Matthew 20:22,23 “Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” We are able to be baptized with the baptism that He is baptized with, that is His death, when we believe on Him. It is then we are crucified with Christ, Galatians 2:20. The correct translation is “I am (continually) hanging on the Cross with Christ”.
“Cup” is a familiar image for great suffering and judgment, Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 49:12. Mark 14:36 “Father…take away this cup from me; not what I will but what you will.” (In the Garden of Gethsemane). This is what the cup and His baptism were, suffering, judgment and death with burial in the tomb.
See Luke 12:50 “I have a baptism to be baptized with”. Mark 10:38, “or endure the baptism of agony that I am to endure?”
e. Verse 13 (Colossians 2)
“When you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses.”
i. The fulfilment of the symbolism of circumcision in us is in our dying with Christ whereby the body of our flesh was put off. We cannot “die daily” or “crucify our self” again. It is an accomplished act, done by the Spirit of God when we believed in Christ. It did not happen when we were baptized in water. It had already happened. In actuality it happened on the Cross. In our experience it happened the moment we believed on Jesus Christ. We were spiritual babies just born but it happened when we received Him as Saviour and Lord. We must treat our “self” as dead and crucified. We cannot pander to “self” (e.g. self esteem).
ii. At the same time the believer was circumcised and put to death in Christ, he was also raised together with Him. We now are to live in the power of the resurrection life of Christ. Romans 5:17 “those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion (reign) in life through the one man, Jesus Christ”.
d. Verse 14 (Colossians 2)
“He set this aside nailing it to the Cross”. It is obvious that the past three verses have nothing to do with water baptism. The scene is the scene at the Cross and not in the waters of baptism. Verse 11 clearly states “circumcision is spiritual”.
Water baptism as explained elsewhere is the symbol of all this actuality.
e. We Are the True Circumcision.
According to Philippians 3:3-9, we are the true circumcision who worship in the Spirit and have no confidence in the flesh, as Paul originally did. It is by the abundance of grace and not through works of any description.
These works may be following rules and regulations of any Church, giving alms, doing good deeds, removing gold and ornaments, fastings, observing days and years, eating particular foods etc. It has nothing to do with the act of being baptized in water.
IN CONCLUSION, we can say that although water baptism has spiritual significance, it is not to be looked at as a spiritual experience that produces anything of salvation. It is not part of a person’s salvation experience but follows on from it as obedience. It is performed by man and in a visible and finite element. Salvation is from heaven, not of earthly things. It is a spiritual experience in that it denotes the believer’s confession of Jesus, his obedience to His command, his showing forth of his union with Christ on the cross through believing in Him and confessing Him as Lord. It also shows forth the believer’s resurrection with Christ when God raised Him from the dead.
The believer’s baptism manifests to the world that he is a believer in Jesus Christ. It publicly separates him to the Church of Jesus Christ. It is a declaration to God that he knows he now has a good conscience because of the power of the blood of Jesus that has already washed away his sins. Finally, it reveals publicly to heaven and hell that he belongs to Jesus Christ. The angels rejoiced when he was born again. Perhaps there is another rejoicing in heaven at his baptism. The Scriptures do not tell us about the latter but about the former. Whether right or wrong, there is indeed rejoicing in the believer’s heart, in the hearts of the saints and we dare believe in the heart of Jesus.
Taking water baptism does not make anybody a Christian. It does not change a person from being what he was before. Baptism does not effect a change in religion or alter any such designation of religion. It does not make him a believer, a saint, a child of God and neither does it cause a person to be born again. At the moment he or she receives Jesus Christ into the heart salvation is given by God. This occurs before water baptism takes place. The Bible clearly teaches that it is by faith in Christ Jesus and not by works (even of water baptism) that a sinner is transformed into a believer, a saint, a Christian, a born again person and a child of God.
Water baptism will show to the rest of the world that the believer is a follower of Jesus Christ and of no other person. It publicly shows he was separated by faith in Christ from his past life, when he called upon the Name of Jesus as his Saviour and Lord. Christening is not the Bible way of baptism. Those already christened would need to obey the Bible way and be baptized by immersion. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep My commandments”. He ordained water baptism (“a dipping”) in Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16.
Every believer in Jesus Christ should obey the need for water baptism, which is only by immersion.