The topic of baptism has had volumes written about it and to attempt
to address it in a simple paper is certainly doomed to fall far short
both in terms of breadth and depth.
So, treat it as a summary or overview.
Jesus the Christ radically revolutionized and simplified the
way believers were to live in worship and respect for the Lord God
He made it clear that He Himself was God incarnate: God who became
human in order to physically exhibit and declare the plan of God for
He became one with us that we might become one with Him.
During the first part of human history, those who worshiped God
thought of God as external.
The good news Jesus proclaimed was that it had always been God's
intent to dwell WITHIN human beings and us within Him. [Colossians
The fulfillment of that concept is the answer to a prayer Jesus
offered during his time on earth. [John 17:21-23]
The Hebrew Old Testament does not use the word.
The New Testament, written in Greek, uses two words: "Baptisma" [noun]
and "Baptizo" [verb].
The street language during the time of Christ would use this word to
describe a piece of cloth that had been dyed.
Fabric placed into a vat of dye would emerge a different color and be
Literally it was placed together with the dye in order to be
identified with the color of the dye.
At other times, baptism would describe a sunken ship, once sailing and
identified with the wind, now submerged and identified with the water.
Additionally, the term "baptism" also meant to be overwhelmed.
In fact, "overwhelmed" was its most common definition in the Greek
We still use the idea in English in expressions like, "I am immersed
in work" and "I'm up-to-here in email".
These aspects can be summarized as "a placing together in such an
overwhelming (radical?) way that we are identified with what we are
Baptism; consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and
emergence (from bapto, "to dip"), is used
(a) of John's "baptism,"
(b) of Christian "baptism," see B. below;
(c) of the overwhelming afflictions and judgments to which the Lord
voluntarily submitted on the cross, e.g., Luke 12:50;
(d) of the sufferings His followers would experience, not of a
vicarious character, but in fellowship with the sufferings of their
Master. Some mss. have the word in Mat 20:22,23; it is used in Mar
10:38,39, with this meaning.
The Israelites escaping Egypt were placed together with Moses to be
identified with deliverance.
While not called baptism, the ceremonial washing and anointing of the
levitical priests were a means of identification with God and His
service. These aspects are reflected in John's baptism of Jesus.
John baptized individuals in water as a ceremony that would publicly
identify them with their sins and need for repentance.
John argued with Jesus when Jesus asked to be baptized.
John, knowing Jesus was without sin, was confused why Jesus would
request John's baptism of repentance.
However, upon Jesus' insistence, all who witnessed the ceremony heard
and saw that Jesus was identified with his Father [voice] and
identified with the Spirit of God [descending "like" a dove].
This was Jesus' identification with all of our sins (talk about
overwhelming) through death.
John prophesied that Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit (Luke
3:16) and Paul writes that we were baptized by one Spirit into one
body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
In these verses, the Spirit is described as the agent of baptism and
interestingly, what we are identified with is the body (the Church)
with Jesus as the head and other believers as the members.
1 Peter 3:21 clarifies that the ceremony of washing is not
the significant part.
This is a large topic (too big for this humble paper) and the reader
is directed to examine [XXXX] for further reference. [clean up]
A crucial part of understanding baptism is to differentiate
between the CONCEPT of baptism and the CEREMONY of baptism.
Ephesians 4:4-6 anchors the concept of baptism by mentioning seven
"exclusives" in God's reality: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.
Notice that there is only ONE baptism.
This is the one baptism that has not been mentioned until now, and is
indelibly documented in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit we
were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether
slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."
- 1 Corinthians 10:2 - the baptism of Moses
- Matthew 3:11 - the baptism of John the baptist
- Matthew 3:16 - the baptism of Jesus
- Luke 3:16 - the baptism of the Holy Spirit
- Luke 12:50 - the baptism of Jesus' crucifixion
- Matthew 28:19 - the baptism for Jesus' disciples
- Romans 6:3 - the baptism of association
- 1 Peter 3:21 - the baptism that saves us
In this verse, 1 Cor. 12:13, three of the exclusives from Ephesians
4:4-6 are mentioned.
It is obvious that the One Spirit places us together with One Lord in
order to be identified with His Body [One Body].
This is the essence of baptism the one and only baptism that
qualifies one for eternal acceptance in heaven.
It was a spiritual transaction that you may not have been aware of,
that moment you reached out to God and he reached into you and placed
His Spirit within you!
The verse states emphatically that ALL true believers have experienced
this act of God.
This is the spiritually true CONCEPT of baptism.
It is customary worldwide for a bride to wear an object or mark that
identifies her as a bride.
In our culture the wedding ring given at the ceremony is a symbol for
all to see and know of her relationship.
That ring is a symbol of a much higher value and truth than the ring
A bride is married [baptized] or placed into a relationship and
remains married with or without her ring.
Similarly, when we were placed into a relationship with our Lord God,
Jesus the Christ, we experienced the spiritual marriage of that
Subsequently, believers elect to experience a public ceremony of
baptism as a symbol of that relationship.
It is a way to express the reality of your relationship with your
You might say it is your ring to display to the world.
It is also your affirmation of the faithful relationship you agreed to
and became one with your lover, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe that the higher calling of God is to belong to the Body of
Christ, referred to in the scriptures as THE Church, classless and
There is no need to offer or require formal organizational membership.
The Christian's obligation is to follow Jesus as one's personal Lord.
The leadership of a particular church's organization does not usurp
God's authority or the authority Jesus left for us, which is recorded
in the scriptures.
The most widely held belief that diverges from the one mentioned
previously is that the ceremony of baptism is actually the means by
which the concept of baptism is realized. For example, in the Roman
Catholic church the ceremony is required in order to be unified with
Christ in heaven. Anyone who does not go through the ceremony is not
saved. It follows that infant baptism is acceptible since any parent
would want to baptize their child as soon as possible in order to
The argument for this belief is based on a comparison with Jewish
God ordained this for male children as a way to identify them with
The difficulty with this argument is that Paul goes to great lengths
to argue that the ceremony of circumcision was of no value and that
what God required was a circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit
See "The New Unger's Bible Dictionary" for a more detailed
While the vital aspect of baptism is the concept of baptism by the
Holy Spirit, there is still a place for the ceremony and that is the
topic of this section which discusses the who, what, how and when of
Anyone who confesses Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The Bible does not specificly lay down any requirement but the New
Testament examples all describe an official who performs the ceremony
(John, Jesus, his disciples). Given this, someone in a position of
leadership or authority in the church (an elder or pastor) is
The ceremony of baptism follows from the concept of baptism.
Once the concept is realized, the ceremony symbolizes it.
In fact, the cermony might be the first act of practically realizing
We recommend a public ceremony presided over by a pastor or elder,
consisting of full immersion in water (a pool, a lake, a river, the
ocean) and accompanied by a confession of faith.
However, the specific form of the ceremony does not make it more or
Since an infant cannot choose to make Jesus his Lord, he is not able
to realize the concept of baptism and so there is no impetus for the
ceremony of infant baptism.
There is value in a ceremony of infant dedication but this is not
The ceremony is no more or less valid due to its particular
method. However, a more radical ceremony such as full immersion is
more in keeping with the "overwhelming" aspect of baptism than just a
few drops of water sprinkled on the head.