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Water Baptism
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Water Baptism

I.       The Origin Of Water Baptism

A.     Baptism in the Old Testament

1.        The Israelites washed their clothes and took a bath after they were defiled (Lev 15:5–13, 16:26, 28, 17:15–16). This cleansing ritual is a type of baptism in the Old Testament.

2.        The Old Testament records a few specific instance where Gentiles were brought into the Israelite community, e.g., Rahab the Canaanite (Josh 6:25), Caleb the Kenizzite (Josh 14:6), and Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 1:22). The Bible states that Gentiles must be circumcised in order to participate actively in God’s community (Gen 17:12–13; Ex 12:43–44, 48–49). Traditionally, in some rabbinical texts, proselytes were immersed in water as a sacrament.

B.     The Baptism of John

1.        The Lord Jesus inquired of the scribes and chief priests, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” (Lk 20:4). Jesus regarded the baptism of John as coming from God. The purpose of John’s baptism was to urge repentance as well as to prepare for the coming of the Savior (Mt 3:1–12; Lk 3:7–17, 7:29). The mode of his baptism was immersion (Mt 3:15–16; Jn 3:23).

C.     Baptism by the Church in the New Testament

1.        Whether the baptism of John the baptist was influenced by the cleansing rites of the Old Testament or by the ritual washing of Jewish proselytes does not really matter. Again, it does not really matter whether the baptism performed by the early church was or was not influenced by the baptism of John. What we should consider is that the baptism of John did not come through human will (Lk 20:4). We must also emphasize that the Lord clearly commanded his disciples to perform baptism (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15–16). Also important, we must recognize the difference between the baptism of John and that of the early church. John preached a baptism of repentance, before the Holy Spirit came down; on the other hand, Jesus breathed upon the disciples and authorized forgiveness. The difference between the two baptisms, therefore, lie in the fact that John’s baptism did not have the witness of the Spirit, nor did it have the power to forgive sins (cf. Mt 3:11; Jn 20:21–23; Acts 19:3–5; 1 Jn 5:6–12). Again, we must emphasize, John’s baptism was devoid of the Spirit and was therefore only a baptism of repentance, not forgiveness.

II.    The Effects Of Baptism

A.     Rebirth

1.        The Lord Jesus said, “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3).

2.        To be reborn from water and Spirit is the indispensable step of entering the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5).

3.        To be baptized is to be born again. Paul referred to baptism as “the washing of regeneration” (Tit 3:5).

4.        Adam is a type of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 15:45). God made Eve from the rib of Adam while he was asleep (Gen 2:21–25). This prefigures the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, whose side was pierced, and from which flowed blood and water. Through baptism in our Lord’s precious blood, we can become a new creation and establish the church (Jn 19:10–35; Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25–27).

B.     Remission of Sins

1.        The remission of sins comes only from the precious blood of the Lord Jesus (Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:18–19).

2.        The precious blood of Jesus Christ purges the baptized from their sins through the medium of water. This is mysterious and amazing, yet the Spirit testifies to its efficacy (Zech 13:1; Heb 9:13–14, 10:19–22; 1 Jn 5:6–8).

3.        Therefore, baptism has the effect of remitting our sins and washing them away (Acts 2:38, 22:16).

4.        Paul explained that baptism into the death of the Lord Jesus is to crucify the old self with the Lord. The body of sin is destroyed and we shall not be slaves to sin again; for through baptism, we are saved from the law of sin (Rom 6:3–7). Thus, the destruction of the sinful old self is effected through water baptism.

C.     Justification and Salvation

1.        “Salvation” means present redemption from the sins of this world and, in the future, delivery into the heavenly kingdom. Baptism has the effect of remitting our sins so that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16; Acts 16:30–33).

2.        Peter spoke of baptism as corresponding to the salvation of Noah and his household through water. This baptism now effects our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which we are justified (1 Pet 3:20–21).

3.        Since the precious blood of Jesus has cleansed our sins, we are justified in the sight of God (Rom 3:25, 5:9).

D.     Put on Christ

1.        We were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise (Eph 2:12).

2.        By the precious blood of the Lord, God redeemed us from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Rev 5:9–10).

3.        Through baptism, we put on Christ, belong to Christ, and are within Christ. And in baptism we become Abraham’s offspring and heirs to the heavenly heritage (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27–29).

4.        Eve was created from Adam’s side, which is symbolic of husband and wife being one flesh. Eve was Adam’s flesh and bone, and she joined Adam in marriage to become one flesh (Gen 2:22–25). In the same manner, the children of God, reborn through the precious blood of Jesus, are also the bride of Christ. In this way, the church today must be united with the Lord in both love and deeds; just as the Lord gave his life for us, as his bride, we too must honor and obey the Lord as our husband (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:29–32).

E.     Adoption as the Children of God

1.        People were originally children of God (Lk 3:38), but they lost this honorable position because of disobedience (Jn 8:44; 1 Jn 5:19).

2.        “God sent forth his Son ... to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4–5). We are redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:18–19). Jesus’ precious blood has brought us back to God (Heb 10:19–22) and has adopted us as children of God (Eph 1:4–5).

3.        After Jesus came out of the water, the Spirit descended upon him, and there came a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:16–17). If we undergo the proper mode of water baptism, our sins and iniquities will be washed away. We shall be adopted by God as his children and received the promised Holy Spirit, which testifies that we are the children of God (Rom 8:15–16; Gal 4:6).

III. The Mode Of Baptism—Baptismal Formula

A.     Immersion

1.        Types of baptism

 a.      Noah and his household were saved by water. This water prefigures baptism (1 Pet 3:20–21). During the deluge, the heavy rain and tremendous waters covered the land and the ark completely (Gen 7:17–20).

 b.      The people of Israel passed through the Red Sea. Passing through the Red Sea typifies water baptism. God opened a way in the sea for Israel. They walked upon dry ground, and the waters, divided beside them on the right and left, were high above their heads (Ex 14:21–22; Isa 43:16; 1 Cor 10:1–2).

2.        Baptism in prophecy

 a.      “Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic 7:19).

 b.      “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zech 13:1).

 c.      The depths of the sea are a way for the redeemed to pass over (Isa 51:10).

3.        The cleansing ceremonies of the Old Testament.

 a.      The ceremonial cleansing of uncleanness in the Old Testament was connected with the baptism of the New Testament. For the Jews, the bathing of the whole body in water was a means of restoration from a state of ceremonial uncleanness. Leviticus 15:5–8, 10–11, 18; Numbers 19:19, which read, “bathe his body in running water”; Leviticus 15:13, 16; 16:4, 24, 26, 28; Numbers 19:7–8, which reads, “bathe his body in water”; and 2 Kings 5:10, which reads, “wash,” all use the same word: rachats. Rachats, a Hebrew word, means “to wash or bathe,” that is, “to dip.” Moreover, it is clear that the term “baptize” also means “to immerse or dip,” which corresponds to the practice by the early church.1

4.        Exegetical scholars generally agree that “to bathe,” “baptism,” and “to baptize” in the Hebrew and Greek texts denote “to dip,” “immerse,” or “sink” (the Greek verbs also include words such as “pour,” “wash,” “sprinkle,” “cleanse” and so on, but they are not used to denote baptism in the Bible). For baptism, to completely dip or immerse one’s self in living (i.e., moving or active) water is thus the right mode of baptism.

5.        The Greek Orthodox Church, which uses the Greek Bible, understands that the correct mode of water baptism, as recorded in the Bible, requires full immersion, and she performs her baptism of members accordingly.

6.        The example of the Lord Jesus and the apostles.

 a.      “And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water” (Mt 3:16). “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water...” (Mk 1:9–10). “John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there” (Jn 3:23). We can attempt to infer that John would not have baptized people in a place of “much water” had his mode of baptism not required much water. Only full immersion requires much water. Later, when the custom of sprinkling became popular for the sake of ease, much water was not necessary. Thus, the mode of baptism the Lord received was by full immersion.

 b.      Philip baptized the eunuch of Ethiopia: “And they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water...” (Acts 8:38–39). Had Philip baptized the eunuch with pouring or sprinkling the water on the head, why then, would both of them take the trouble of going down into the water? Again, how could they come out of the water had they not been fully immersed in the water?

7.        Apostle Paul commented upon baptism. Paul explained that by baptism, one is buried and resurrected with the Lord Jesus (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). Since it is a form of burial, one must be fully immersed in water. The pouring or sprinkling of water over the head cannot serve as a proper signification of burial and resurrection. This relates the importance of symbolic action in the sacraments; while many Christians feel the method is not important, it is God who relates what is or is not important. We cannot use our own methods or thinking in the sacraments or we will end up in the way of disobedience (1 Sam chap. 15). Just as Ezekiel’s prophecies had to be symbolically “acted out” in obedience, we too must obey. Ezekiel could not just say, “I just want to say it! I don’t want to act it out!” (Ezek 4:1–17).

8.        Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, (Edinburgh, New York, 1930), Vol. 2, p. 406.

B.     Face Downward

1.        In the likeness of the death of the Lord, one faces downward when they are baptized (Rom 6:5, 8). The Bible records the likeness of Jesus’ death: when the Lord Jesus died on the cross, he bowed his head (Jn 19:30).

2.        The proper expression of a sinner’s attitude toward repentance, and the correct manner in asking God for his forgiveness of sins is shown with a bowed head which faces downward.

 a.      Our iniquities have gone over our heads (Ezra 9:6; Ps 38:4).

 b.      Iniquities have taken hold of us, so that we are not able to lift up our heads from under its burden (Ps 40:12; Lk 18:13).

 c.      Sinners should not be stiff-necked, rather they must be humble (Job 10:15; Acts 7:51).

C.     In the Name of Jesus Christ

1.        To baptize people in the name of Jesus Christ is the Lord’s command.

 a.      The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is Jesus (Mt 28:19). We must take note that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not names. Moreover, the name is singular not plural. The name, therefore, is Jesus (cf. Acts 4:12).

 b.      The apostles knew the meaning of Jesus’ commission, so they baptized converts in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5).

 c.      Through the name of Jesus one receives remission of sins (Acts 4:12, 10:43, 22:16).

IV.  The Baptist And The Baptismal Candidate

A.     Requirements for the Baptismal Candidate

1.        Believe (Mk 16:16).

 a.      Believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior (Acts 4:12, 16:31–33).

 b.      Believe that Jesus Christ died and resurrected on the third day for your sake (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:3–4).

 c.      Believe that Jesus’ precious blood cleanses your sins through baptism (Zech 13:1; Jn 19:34; Rom 3:25; Heb 9:13–14, 22; 1 Pet 1:18–19; 1 Jn 5:6–8).

 d.      Through the grace of the Lord, the True Jesus Church has oftentimes witnessed miraculous signs in the baptismal waters, which often become blood red during the baptism. These signs testify that, through baptism in the name of Jesus, the water becomes the precious blood of the Lord through the working of the Holy Spirit. Many cripples have begun to walk after baptism, many demoniacs and those with fatal diseases have been cured after coming up out of the water.2  Praise the Lord! These facts have been witnessed by innumerable believers and non-believers alike, which testify that water baptism is not simply a ceremonial check-mark on the list of things to do. God’s power is present during water baptism, where he gives the grace of forgiveness of sins (Mk 2:5–13).

 e.      Believe in the True Jesus Church, in which the Holy Spirit dwells and works. Be sure to serve the Lord actively, receive spiritual blessings, and receive the truth preached in the church (Jn 15:1–6; Rom 8:9; Gal 4:26; Eph 1:23, 4:4; 1 Jn 2:19).

2.        Repent (Acts 2:38).

 a.      Confess one’s own sins (Ps 32:3–5; Mt 3:6; Acts 19:18–19).

 b.      Shun wickedness (Ps 37:27; Jon 3:5–10; Acts 3:26).

 c.      Turn to God (Isa 55:7; Acts 20:21, 26:20).

 d.      Determine to follow righteousness and do good deeds (Mic 6:6–8; Lk 3:7–14).

3.        Be determined.

 a.      Bear one’s own cross and follow the Lord (Lk 14:25–33).

 b.      One must pass through many tribulations before entering the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22; 1 Thess 3:3).

 c.      “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62). Therefore, we must determine to be steadfast in our faith and march forth courageously toward the heavenly kingdom (Mt 24:13; Acts 20:24). If someone has a sincere faith, repents soberly, and strongly desires to be in Christ, their request for baptism should be accepted (Acts 2:37–41, 8:36–38, 16:15, 30–33).

B.     Qualifications of the Baptist

1.        The baptist must be one whose sins have been purged (cf. Num 19:19). Those who officiate baptism must already be baptized in the proper mode (Acts 2:38). The baptist must be baptized in order to be clean and thus qualified to baptize others. The priests in the Old Testament washed themselves before they performed the holy work (Ex 29:4). Before his ministry, the Lord Jesus was also baptized—he was sinless and committed no sins, but his baptism was to set an example for us (Mt 3:13–16).

2.        The baptist must be commissioned by God. “And how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:15). Anyone who is ordained and commissioned by human agency alone is not entitled to partake in the holy mission of God. The Lord Jesus said, “As my Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on the disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21–22). The heavenly Father sent Jesus by the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:18–19; Jn 1:32–34), and similarly, Jesus sent his disciples by the Holy Spirit. Those who have not received the Holy Spirit are not sent by Jesus Christ. Consequently, they do not have the authority from the Lord’s divine commission to remit the sins of a baptismal candidate (Jn 20:22–23). Before his ascension, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In addition, he also requested them to preach the gospel after they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4–8). The efficacy of baptism, for the remission of one’s sins, depends on the precious blood of Jesus Christ, one’s faith, the name of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 3:25; 1 Cor 6:11). Therefore, if anyone performs baptism, yet does not have the infilling of the Holy Spirit, then God neither sent him nor is he with him if he baptizes (1 Jn 3:24). As a result, the baptism administered by this person would be invalid.

3.        One receives baptism only once in a lifetime. But if the baptismal candidate already received a baptism in an unbiblical manner, he should be, like the believers in Ephesus, baptized once again in the proper mode approved by God. This is the only way in which a baptismal candidate’s sins can be cleansed. Additionally, the baptismal candidate will then be able to receive the abidance of the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, 19:1–7; Eph 4:5).

4.        One should not commit sins after their baptism, for they are cleansed by Jesus’ blood (Jn 5:14; Heb 6:4–8, 10:26–29).

V.     Infant Baptism

A.     Babies have original sin (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:13–14).

B.     The Israelites passed through the Red Sea, a type of water baptism, without leaving the babies behind in Egypt (Ex 10:10; Num 14:31).

C.     The Israelite boys were circumcised eight days after birth according to the covenant. Circumcision is a prefiguration of baptism (Gen 17:9–14; Col 2:11–12).

D.     The Scripture records a few cases of “baptism of the whole household” in which babies would inevitably be included (Acts 16:15, 32–34, 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16).

E.      The grace of God extends to little children (Ps 115:13; Acts 2:38–39).

F.      The Lord Jesus does not refuse children (Mt 18:13–15; Lk 18:15–16).

G.     Baptism for infants depends upon the faith and conviction of the baby’s parents (Mt 15:28; Jn 4:49–51).

H.     After baptism, the parents are responsible for educating and guiding their children to walk in the steps of the Lord Jesus (Gen 18:19; Deut 6:6–7; Prov 22:6; Eph 6:40)

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