What is Baptism According to the Bible?
Baptism is a common word in the Christian world. It comes from the New Testament into our language. Let’s look more completely at what is Baptism according to the Bible.
Jesus’ public ministry begins with his baptism. The Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus’ baptism and ends with the empty tomb. Somehow baptism has a big place.
6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[a] water, but he will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
John the Baptist here tell us there are two kinds of Baptism. One with water which is a small thing and one by the Holy Spirit which is of infinite importance.
Jesus Got Baptized With Water
When Jesus was baptized, the Trinity appeared in what can be seen as a proof that the Father did not turn into Jesus, but they are three separate persons.
More importantly, Jesus ministry started here. Somehow this physical act of obedience opened Jesus work. The water has some place.
Let’s look at what happens in Acts 11.
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
So, we see that baptism by the Holy Spirit means life, meaning eternal life. Water baptism cannot do this.
Why do we baptize with water if the main point is the Holy Spirit?
Let’s see Jesus famous command:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
What About Baptism According to the Bible?
Jesus here commands believers to baptize, and we can understand this is water as we cannot baptize with the Holy Spirit. That is the Holy Spirit’s work. The Bible has no command to be baptized with water. It commands believers to do it to those they reach out to.
The Bible does not list any requirements to be baptized with water. In Acts, it is common that people who come to faith immediately get baptized with water. It is certainly not wrong to baptize someone immediately after they come to faith.
Some people say Jesus was baptized by immersion into the water of the Jordan. The Bible says Jesus came out of the water, but he might have been only knee deep in the water. Orthodox Christians who live in the region where it happened baptize by pouring water on the person. Catholics and some other Protestants baptize by the pastor putting a little water on the person’s forehead three times.
All are reasonable as the Bible never specifies the details. Jesus in the Bible could have been super specific if he wanted to be specific. For example, the Bible has no trace of teaching that Baptism should be a public declaration. Yet you hear that taught.
So once again, Jesus did not do much to create a clear system or even a command for water baptism. It does command us to baptize those who believe. We should do that. However, take note that Jesus went into no detail on the practice of water baptism though He could have. I do not dare to add a command where Jesus did not.
The clear emphasis is on Baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s talk about the Holy Spirit, faith and eternal life next week.