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Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

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Question #1:

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus:

Bob, I just read your essay on Water Baptism, You are very much in line with everything I have been saying about the subject. I too and working on a comprehensive exposition, to head up my new website, not yet published. I spent some time talking to other ministers who are single-minded in their need to baptize in water. I recently discussed the Messiah’s meeting with Nicodemus in John 3, to illustrate the spiritual awakening undergirding the New Testament, that Nicodemus simply couldn’t quite grasp. You have done a truly inspired work on this subject.

With your permission I would love to add a link of your exposition on Water Baptism my web site, with all due credit in your name, of course. If you would prefer I didn’t, I understand — no problem. Either way, I want to commend you as being a breath of fresh air concerning a divisive subject that seems so obvious. Thanks.

In His Service,

Response #1:

Good to make your acquaintance. Feel free to link – there are, however, multiple postings on this subject at Ichthys (and new ones appear from time to time). The latest offering on this subject is:

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

Thanks much for you good words – keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Hello,

I just wanted to reach out to you. I came across your doctrinal webpage why searching the web and it is titled "Is water baptism required for Christians?". I agree with what you wrote and it appears we share similar beliefs. Refreshing to see others that have a grasp on the truth. Anyways, I was looking for information like this because my Church here in Dallas is hung up on that all Church aged believers are commanded to be baptized and preach it on a daily basis. The whole sermon from Sunday was on baptism. I felt motivated to send them a message through facebook that again expressed my thoughts concerning believers and baptism today. They are a big social media and technology church so this is how I send them questions. Here is a link to a copy of my re-posted message on my own facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/freelanceshots/

If anyone answers me it could be good for you to post an educated, biblical response. Thanks for your time.

Regards,

Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your encouraging words. I'm not much a FB user, and never respond to other people's posts. Also, you should know that the file you mention is one of the older postings on this topic, and that I have written extensively about this subject since. Here are some of the main links that may be helpful to you:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Best wishes in your fight for the truth!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

The guys at the church where I attend in Dallas made a facebook post maybe because of the messages I've sent them concerning your posts. Their link is titled "Confused about baptism? If you have the time, see what you think. http://www.watermark.org/media/series/351/

This is a very important topic for me Bob. I've started to read your other links and I feel you are spot on.

Response #3:

I appreciate your interest in the truth. Apologetics is neither my gift nor my forte. I also don't feel it's "my job". The Lord has blessed me with this ministry – for which I am very grateful – and it has always been my policy to help anyone who is interested in growing closer to the Lord through the truth. For those who go their own way, well, that's their business. It only becomes mine when they approach me personally and ask for a defense of the positions this ministry espouses. At least that is the way I see it, and the policy has stood me in good stead for many years.

Water-baptism is greatly misunderstood by the modern day church-visible, but I suppose that is understandable. When Christians are not much interested in the truth, ritual always seems to seep in and replace it. Many Protestant churches these days look, as a result, as if they could be Roman Catholic – judging by the ritualization of the things they do on Sunday morning in lieu of teaching the scriptures. In the end, both anti-nomianism and legalism are repugnant in every way; some may feel the former worse, but at least it may have in its favor the fact that no true Christian can really believe in his/her heart of hearts that gross sinning is not really a problem for our relationship with the Lord. Legalism, on the other hand, self-righteously substitutes its own necessarily false standards for God's true standards – a much more subtle way to suffer spiritual shipwreck. If water-baptism is "obedience", well and good. But if in fact it is indulging in a ritual whose symbolism is misunderstood, misapplied, and actually insulting to the Lord (because the Messiah has already come), then those who preach and teach it are guilty of bad judgment in the very least. Embracing it as a central tenet of the faith and condemning those who have another point of view is merely following the Pharisees footsteps.

On a personal note, I do admire your courage in trying to change things "from the inside out". In my experience and observation, however, that is a tricky business which rarely succeeds. Those who do it the old way usually do it the old way because they like the old way (irrespective of the actual truth).

Then He spoke a parable to them: "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better.'"
Luke 5:36-39 NKJV

Incidentally, in the analogy used by our Lord here, the old wine is equivalent to the Law with its shadows which those who are comfortable with pronounce "excellent" and regard as superior to the new, while the new wine is the powerful and potent Spirit-filled pouring out of truth no longer veiled. Legalism prefers rites and rituals, but the way of the Spirit is to prefer the unobscured truth. How fitting then for those who want to continue with the ritual of water-baptism in defiance of the truth of scripture that they are preferring physical water to the Spirit both in their interpretations and in their actions.

Best wishes in your quest for the truth no matter the consequences. That is really the only way to be truly obedient – and the only way to please the Lord.

In our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4:

Robert,

What's interesting is the last time I heard anyone mention tithing was at Teen Challenge, I went through their Minnesota program in the past. I don't think it was necessarily a great experience but I was saved there and for that, I will always be grateful. At that time, they were only associated with Pentecostal churches, it wasn't the church that mentioned tithing but the pastors at TC. I need to read the New Testament again.

My relative's church is Lutheran and I don't believe they do water baptism; very Bible-based for a Lutheran church but unfortunately I now live an hour away and the church is even further. Have you written a book, have you ever thought about it? You're an excellent author/writer. As always, thanks for your words of wisdom and for your timely response, as I mentioned before, some Christian websites simply don't answer questions. In one case, I think I received a response nearly 2 years after I asked a question.

In Jesus Christ

Response #4:

I'm not crazy about the Lutherans (not even the conservative branch); I had some experience with them some years ago and they seem to me to be just another standard old-line non-evangelical Protestant organization – but they do some very odd R.C.-like things (including, I believe, infant baptism).

On books, well, any one of the major studies I've produces is, arguably, book-length. It's just that I have never been willing to put these things out there for profit. I have published two secular books (as a part of the necessary "publish or perish" part of my day-job). You can find the details on my C.V. (see the link).

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

I think they still do infant baptism, where did that idea come from anyway, that it was necessary to baptize infants? I believe there are some good churches out there, as I said, when I was at Teen Challenge I was disappointed in some aspects of their program. For instance, they said that everyone can speak in tongues and if you couldn't, you didn't have the Holy Spirit in you. I don't think this was necessarily what was taught at the Pentecostal churches they attended but this was nearly 20 years ago, I believe the program has changed a lot. Although not nearly as physically demanding, it was a bit like a mild version of boot camp. Rise at 6:00 am, my job was chopping ice off the sidewalk in -30 degree weather, you were ordered around by what seemed like sergeants and punitive measures were taken for slight infractions. At any rate, all Teen Challenge programs are different, they certainly have helped a lot of kids.

Yes, you are certainly correct about that, much of what you've written on your website is book-length and I still have a lot to read! No, I couldn't imagine you publishing for profit, maybe for charity but that raises the question, what charity is deserving?

In Jesus Christ.

Response #5:

You're welcome.

Hope you are doing well. Yes, there is a good deal on water-baptism at the website. The idea of infant water-baptism goes back a long way in the church-visible, notably in the Roman Catholic church, and the practice greatly predates the Reformation. It is part and parcel of the trend to make the church-visible a new Israel (with its own priests, temples, miters, censers, altars, etc.), with water-baptism for infants replacing circumcision in the list of legalistic rituals.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your ministry and bible study series. I have spent many hours going through them in my daily bible study time.

I have recently been struggling with confusion and anxiety regarding water baptism. I was saved as a young child, and the tiny church I grew up in did not have water baptism services. I was aware of a few families being baptized at the local park, etc. but it was never emphasized in that church, and in studies I had understood water baptism to be a Jewish ritual that some Christians choose to use as a method of displaying the inner reality of their salvation (although not a requirement of obedience or for salvation, etc.).

Throughout growing older and maturing as a Christian, I have publicly shared/proclaimed my faith and salvation in Christ. The idea that many Christian groups would see me as disobedient for never being water baptized never even occurred to me. Since moving out on my own after college, I have been attending a church that does hold water baptism services (though it is not required for membership or used a guilt-tool, etc.). It got me thinking more about water baptism. Lo and behold, I was recently reading some commentary by John MacArthur and was shocked to read his assessment of a Christian not being water-baptized as an act of disobedience. I found that John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Billy Graham, etc. all also emphasize water baptism as a crucial act of obedience to Christ. As a young man who has professed my faith and salvation in Christ since being saved as a young child, I am confused/concerned and desire to understand God's will on this issue (whether it "jives" with what I had previously understood or not).

I have read everything on your website which I can find regarding water baptism, and have found much of it to be very helpful in prayerfully considering my situation. I think you make some good points, and a lot of it seems to come down to interpretation of baptism verses (translated vs. original untranslated text) and tradition. There are so many opposing viewpoints, though, from many of the most respected Christian leaders in the nation. Do you have any thoughts on why/how all of them could be wrong on this issue?

Thank you for your time.

In Christ,

Response #6:

Very good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your email. To begin, I think the fact that you are a good and a strong Christian without having been water-baptized, and that you have not been troubled in your conscience about this issue or led by personal reading of scripture to even imagine any necessity of being water-baptized – before having your application called into question by groups and individuals who practice it – speaks volumes . . . in the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of the early gentile believers in Antioch who were not troubled a bit about not being circumcised – until some legalists from Jerusalem showed up and told them they needed to be or they weren't saved (Acts 15:1ff.). Legalists have been trying to ensnare grace-oriented believers into doing things their way from the beginning of the Church (e.g., Gal.2:11-16).

Most of the groups and individuals who teach believer-water-baptism are viscerally opposed to infant water-baptism, but as far as I have been able to discover from Church history, with the exception of converts as in the early days of the book of Acts the practice of only baptizing adults mainly dates back to the Reformation and only in a minority of groups. For well over a thousand years of the Church, it is doubtful if even 1% of believers were baptized with water --after they were old enough to know the difference, at any rate (this sets aside the practice of confirmation et al.).

Given the wide variety of opinion and the great disparity of practice today in this ritual, even among those who proclaim its necessity, in my opinion the shoe is really on the other foot; that is to say, those who indulge in this practice ought to have to provide a solid defense of it. And it is not enough to refer to "obedience". We all know we should do what Jesus wants us to do. That common statement you report begs the question of whether or not Jesus really wants us to do it. Tradition seems to me to be the true driving force here. Groups which water-baptism do this because this is what they do. They have always done it and so they are not about to question it. That being the case, whenever questions come up, theology is invented to defend the practice – which is something quite different from approaching scripture in an objective way with an open mind, trying to find out what the truth really is.

It is understandable how that people coming to scripture for the first time (and remember that at the start of the Reformation it was a serious crime for anyone not of the cloth to be reading scripture), might get the impression from the book of Acts and from Matthew 28:19 that water-baptism was necessary. Of course even at this early stage such a conclusion would have to disregard the central importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (which of course is the true baptism of the Church Age). No doubt the success of the Charismatic movement owes something to the disconnect today – although I note with some amazement that most of those groups also water-baptize.

The truth as you seem to have understood from very early on is that water-baptism was a special cleansing ritual for the Jewish nation designed by God to prepare them spiritually for the coming of His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It was understandable, and to some extent expected, because physical water was used as a means of cleansing under the Law (cf. Jn.1:25). Now that Christ has come, the ritual is no longer necessary; in fact, as with the case of the letter to the Hebrews where we see that continuation in Jewish ritual foreshadowing the Messiah is actually an affront to the Lord (since it portrays Jesus – who has now died for us – as not yet come; see the link: John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit), water-baptism is equally problematic. No doubt almost no one who water-baptizes understands that they are insulting Christ; one would hope that if they did they would immediately cease. However, the fact that no two groups or even individuals ever seem to give the same explanation for what water-baptism means and why it is necessary (apart from the "obedience" dodge) is a clear indication that there are problems with the continuation of this ritual.

As things stand now, water-baptism is a good litmus test for the church visible, both for groups and individuals. Groups which practice it are by definition more interested in tradition and ritual than with the Bible; individuals who gravitate to such groups likewise cannot be as concerned for their personal spiritual growth as they are with belonging to some group which meets their social requirements. In this we see the great irony of the "obedience" argument. What does Jesus want? He wants us to grow spiritually, make progress in our walk with Him, and then help others do the same through the proper and mature exercise of the spiritual gifts we have been given. That is true obedience. Sacrificing true obedience for ritual, tradition, and (false) community, then giving that the name "obedience", can only compromise the eternal reward our Lord would have us to win with our time here on earth.

I hope this answers your question. Please do feel free to write back about any of the above. In the meantime, keep fighting the good fight of obedience to the truth and to Him who is the Word of truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7:

I've questioned the church that I visit with many of your points that I've pulled off your website pages discussing the matter is water baptism a requirement/commandment for Church Age believers. They still seem to think so and they keep coming back to the Great Commission. One individual doesn't mention commandment in his message below, but the two lead pastors teach it on Sundays to many. I need your help to look at what he wrote me because I still don't see eye-to-eye with his interpretation. Am I and are we correct or is the church staff correct? I don't think that baptizing with water is what makes disciples has he points out or even guarantees were a person actually stands in their faith at the time of the baptism. It's a person's faith and their ability to grow past a carnal believer's status to maturity which also includes studying the word that makes a true disciple. Does the act of people seeing someone get baptized on Youtube change a non-believers mind to become a believer really?

1st Response:

Thanks for your post on our Facebook page. Sorry for the delay in answering it. I help respond to emails sent to the pastoral office. My short answer to your question is that we encourage people to get baptized because of Jesus’ example in being baptized and His command in the Great Commission. Matthew 28:19-20 indicates that the way we are to make disciples of Christ is, once they have trusted in Him alone for their salvation, to call them to be His disciples by teaching them all the things He commanded us and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is Jesus’ commission to His followers. As you point out, baptism has nothing to do with our salvation, but it is an opportunity to proclaim our trust in Christ to a watching world. And that’s what our Baptism Sunday does. Earlier this month, we had the chance for 300+ ministers of the gospel to proclaim their trust in Christ to a watching world.

I would enjoy the chance to visit further with you to address the numerous points raised in the article you attached, if that would help you work through this issue. Happy to meet you at a convenient time. I see from our records that you have been through our membership class. Way to go. Have you been able to find a community group and a place to serve? I would be happy to help you with those things, too, and will ask a leader of our connecting team to join us. Let me know if you would like to get together.

2nd Response:

Appreciated your thoughts on baptism and would be happy to visit in person if you would like to chat more about baptism. The one point I would add to your thoughts is that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is not optional for the church age. Rather, it is a command the Lord gave His followers to carry out until He returns. The main verb of the Great Commission is to "make disciples" of Christ, and the participles translated as go, baptizing, and teaching help explain the action of the main verb of making disciples. Here’s what Dan Wallace, a Greek prof at Dallas Seminary, recently wrote about the Great Commission on his blog:

There are two participles that follow the lone imperative ("make disciples") in this passage: baptizing, teaching. These participles function in a different way than the first participle ("having gone"—which is idiomatically and appropriately translated "go"). They describe the means of making disciples. That is, they give a key part of what disciple-making should involve. They don’t necessarily give the whole of it, but they do give some key ingredients. The word order is also important: baptizing comes before teaching. I take it that, in light of how the apostles practiced this commission, baptism was done at the front end, right after someone confessed Christ. And I take it that we should follow the same posture today: baptism needs to be soon after conversion.

You can read the rest of at:

http://danielbwallace.com/2014/02/26/the-great-commission-part-3-application/.

As you have pointed out, baptism has nothing to do with salvation, but it is an opportunity for the person who has trusted in Christ to proclaim publicly his allegiance to Christ. Hope to meet you some day at church. You can look forward to some follow-up from our pastors.

Response #7:

Good to hear back from you. This is a pretty typical sort of response. The main evidence for a continuing need to be baptizing with water is indeed Matthew 28:19-20. I have always found the blind acceptance of the proposition that our Lord is speaking of baptizing with water in this context – after the resurrection and just days before the first Pentecost – somewhat amazing, especially in light of other scriptures such as these:

"I baptize you with water (i.e., physically) for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 NIV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:8

Given that the future of the Church was prophesied by both John and our Lord to be Spirit baptism, doesn't it seem just a little unusual that water would be the focus of the so-called Great

Commission, and that the Holy Spirit's baptism would not even be mentioned (especially in light of the connection between the Spirit's baptism and evangelism in the last passage cited above)? It would be quite unusual – if that is what "baptizing" in Matthew 28:19-20 meant. In fact, the baptism there is indeed Spirit baptism, not water baptism. First, the presumption for anyone who has read the gospels ought to be prima facie that Christ would be talking about the Spirit and not water (which He is). Secondly, water is not actually mentioned here (and there are plenty of non-water baptisms in scripture: cf. Lk.12:50; 1Cor.10:2). Third, water cannot place a person INTO the Persons of the Trinity. That is a supernatural act which is accomplished, in fact, only by the baptism of the Holy Spirit; Spirit baptism is what makes us "one" with Christ, what places us "in Christ". Translations which render the phrase here "in the Name of" instead of "into the Name/Person of" are absolutely incorrect, and as someone with some credentials in Greek, I can tell you that the justifications used by commentators to make this deceptive swap are groundless from a purely linguistic point of view. In point of fact, those who take this passage as "in" instead of "into" do so entirely because they wish the passage to refer to water and not to the Spirit; in other words, they are allowing their own traditions and prejudices to trump what the Bible actually says.

Finally, since, as even your correspondents here realize, the construction of Jesus' words relate "making disciples" to "baptizing and teaching"; i.e., in Greek, we are to "make disciples" BY "baptizing them and teaching them". Thus, the two participles have to be the means to becoming a disciple initially and to becoming an effective one over time thereafter. Teaching clearly accomplishes the second goal, but what sort of baptizing would make a person a disciple in the first place? According the "water logic", no one is truly a disciple of Christ until they are dunked. As you know from your own experience, that is ridiculous. The logic of reading the verse in this way is that no one is even saved until dunked, and that dunking is what is important, not believing in Christ (and then how much less the baptism of the Spirit). But if, as is actually the case, Spirit baptism is in view, then there is no such problem: all are baptized into Christ by the Spirit at the point of belief. For the eleven/twelve (with Paul), there were indeed occasions where the Spirit was imparted by laying on hands; for everyone since those earliest days of the apostles (and even for them throughout the bulk of their ministries), we mediate the Spirit by giving the gospel; whenever someone believes, that person is "baptized into Christ" – by the Holy Spirit. That is what is important, obviously, as even most evangelicals who practice water-baptism would admit.

Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [with the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., "name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you."
Matthew 28:18-20a

The above is a very brief rendition of what may be found at various links at Ichthys. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to have a look at the following links (which lead to others as well):

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

In my experience, there is no greater evidence of the Presence of the Holy Spirit than that which manifests through humble, heartfelt prayer. If I don't have the answers, am in a quandary, or if I need clarification, I will consult this divine informing principle; our Holy Counselor. My experience has also taught that I am "filled" with understanding according to my capability, capacity, and willingness to make my heart and mind available to Divine Presence. For me this has meant emptying myself out of all that I think that I know in favor of being filled with the essential truth that He desires for me to know. This is always a deeply humbling journey into truth. The word *essential* is the key. Reducing my mind to a blank canvas that He may allow His beautiful truth to be manifested is also key.

After several conversations with my Christian brothers and sisters regarding the issue of water baptism, I abandoned the conversation and entered deeply into meditation and prayer. The "meditation and prayer" thing is churning silently in the background as I go about the day. All along, I'm waiting upon the Holy Spirit for guidance while reducing the input of my ego to nothingness. I want to know His most excellent truth without the bias of my own conditioning.

And His most excellent truth echoed throughout my mind in the form of three words right before noon. The Penitent Thief. I was taken aback, and entered into deep contemplation to grasp the significance.

The entire experience of the Penitent Thief crucified to the right of Jesus is the greatest scriptural evidence of the non-necessity of water baptism. The Penitent Thief met all of the criteria for his salvation within a matter of minutes during a grueling crucifixion. He professed faith in Jesus as God, was aware of his sin, confessed his sin and his desire for eternal life with Christ. Christ, in return, told him on that day that because of his faith, he would be with Him in Paradise. There was no time for his salvation to be qualified in any other way, and Jesus was clearly demonstrating that all other ways but His were unnecessary. It was as simple as that. The thief had confessed His belief in Jesus as the Son of God, confessed his sin, and his desire for eternal salvation in and with Jesus Christ.

I wanted to share my experience with you and state while I don't feel that my water baptism was wrong in any way, it appears as though it was altogether unnecessary. I accept that it may have served the greater purpose in bringing others to Christ, but this was part and parcel of my testimony associated with the baptism.

So, according to The Holy Spirit, as I have heard today, you are correct. Water baptism is unnecessary.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Response #8:

Thanks for the well-reasoned and in-depth email. It's a good argument I will try to remember myself. Of course, there are many who understand that water-baptism is not necessary for salvation who still teach that Christians "should do it". I am happy that your experience was apparently positive for yourself and others (cf. Mk.9:40; Phil.1:18).

With your permission, I'd like to post this (absent identifying features) when I do my next post on baptism.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Dear Pro Robert,

Many churches are in practice to baptize people on confession made accepting Christ as their personnel savior. Most of them being unsaved go back in their own ways in just a matter of time. I believe Baptism without ‘Salvation’ amounts to a sin. But where could I find Biblical reference or proper explanation conforms baptism without salvation is a sin.

Appreciate your advice

Blessings

Response #9:

Water-baptism was a Jewish ritual signifying repentance among God's people (as opposed to new converts), and was designed to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk.1:17):

"Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel."
Acts 13:24 NIV

Jesus has already come. More than that, He has already died for the sins of the world, Pentecost has taken place, the Spirit has been poured out, and the gospel has now been spreading beyond Israel to the gentiles for the better part of two millennia. It is true that in the book of Acts one finds water-baptism in the very early days (not, as is often assumed, in the latter period the book covers), but then Acts is the book of transition between Israel and the Church, and many things of a transitional and therefore transitory nature took place which are not meant for the Church today (having all things in common, speaking in tongues, continuation in the temple rituals, just to name three obvious examples). Nowhere in the epistles is water-baptism even mentioned – except only in the first chapter of 1st Corinthians where Paul regrets that he participated in the ritual.

The true baptism of the Church is not water-baptism but the baptism of the Holy Spirit (please see the link):

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and [with] fire".
Matthew 3:11 NKJV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
Acts 11:16 NIV

All believers have the Holy Spirit, are endued with Him (indwelling), and are placed into union with Jesus Christ by Him. This cannot be "faked" and the Holy Spirit cannot be fooled – so there can be none of the problems you discern when it comes to this baptism – which is the only one that really counts.

Since water-baptism is not required of believers today, I suppose it makes little difference whom churches which participate in this process choose to baptize. Your testimony about reversion is to the point: no humanly conducted ritual can possible have any spiritual consequences. On the contrary, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is tremendously important, and the benefits of His indwelling and His pouring out of spiritual gifts upon the true Church cannot be over-emphasized (please see the link: part 5 of Bible Basics: Pneumatology: the Study of the Holy Spirit).

There is also a sense in which water-baptism is wrong. I refrain from calling it a sin (so much ignorance is involved here, generally speaking). But what does it say when Christians continue to participate in a ritual which proclaimed a Messiah about to be revealed to the Jewish people when said Messiah has already come and fulfilled all the prophecies of the first advent?

There is a good deal to say about this topic – much of which has already been said; please see the links:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

I was interested in your article about baptism with water verses baptism with the Holy Spirit. My view is that the righteous purpose of John's baptism with water has been fulfilled with the identification of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah at the Jordan River - like all of the other laws, ordinances and prophecies of the Old Covenant that came before his incarnation and establishment of the New Covenant baptism with the Holy Spirit. The scriptures clearly point out the transitional period in the book of Acts where the disciples of Christ under the Jewish influence and expectation were still using it in ceremonial rites and prerequisite to the Holy Spirit and at least one of the disciples of John (Apollos) was also teaching his baptism with water.

So the question #1 is, why would the church that now has access to identity with the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit without being subjected to the teachings of Judaism need to have a Jewish rite conferred upon us for any reason?

Question #2 is, whose baptism establishes compliance to Ephesians 4:4-6?

Question#3 is, why has the church been divided over the proper way of using a baptism that has nothing to do with the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20?

Question #4 is, if baptism with the Holy Spirit is the baptism of Jesus and is available why would Jesus command the church to use John’s baptism with water?

Question #5 is, why aren’t New Covenant preachers committed to ending the confusion and division in the church by following the New Covenant teachings of Jesus in the baptism with the Holy Spirit inherent in his word and conferred by preaching and teaching his word?

Sincerely,

Response #10:

Good to make your acquaintance. I entirely agree with you. As to your questions:

1) Continuation of this obsolete ritual is not only unnecessary but also problematic. Rightly understood as John's baptism (which is really the only water-baptism in the New Testament), it suggests that the Messiah hasn't yet come; wrongly understood, it is a confusing rite which means many different things to many different people and groups (but nothing to God).

2) Ephesians 4:5 is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the "one baptism" of the Church (since the Spirit forms the Church by placing the new believer "into Christ").

3) As Paul remarks, "No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval" (1Cor.11:19 NIV). There are all manner of falsehoods and falsities afoot in the church-visible. This is, after all, the era of Laodicea (see the link). Answering the question "why?" is always difficult. Christians learn early on (or should) that God has everything in hand, no matter how terrible things may appear. The short answer would be a failure on the part of the leadership of the church-visible (especially its teachers) to teach the truth, responding to a failure on the part of contemporary Christians generally to desire and demand the truth as they should.

4) He did not do so. Jesus said, "'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5; cf. Acts 11:16). Matthew 28:19 is in fact speaking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit (see the link), not water-baptism. Water cannot place a person "into" the Trinity (as in "baptizing them into the Person of the Father and [the Person] of the Son and the [Person] of the Holy Spirit"); union with Christ is accomplished by the Spirit's baptism alone – human rituals have nothing whatsoever to do with that great miracle. The apostles mediated the Spirit in the early days; later on, we "baptize" unbelievers, so to speak, when we give them the gospel which results in their baptism with/by the Spirit when they believe. This is written up in detail at the link in part 5 of Basics: Pneumatology at "Baptism".

5) See answer #3. Everyone will have to answer for their own failings before the judgment seat of Christ. Our job as individual Christians is to seek, hear, believe and live the truth, come what may. That is the goal to which Ichthys is dedicated. Here are some other baptism links you may have missed:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your timely response and I was very encouraged by your answers. I didn’t want to identify myself initially as a fellow pastor because I wanted to hear from you as if I were a babe in the word of God which would allow you free access to give uninhibited instructions to the humbled pupil. I came from a Baptist religious background and I have been preaching and teaching the truth about baptisms for almost 30 years. Needless to say I have had many difficulties with conveying this truth within the "church". Almost all churches everywhere consider baptism with water to have significance to righteous relationship to Jesus. I have been treated very badly in those religious circles with many adjectives replacing my name and character in those "churches". People are afraid of the truth verses their erroneous belief systems of religious traditions and customary ceremonies especially family.

I have a small congregation with 2 other ministers and I would like to know if you have a congregation and where you are located for a possible future visit? It would be a blessing to meet you in person to talk and break bread over the word of God. To know that there are other believers of the truth is refreshing and comforting. It is no surprise to have finally located you because it is the work of the Holy Spirit to unite believers in the spirit who seek the kingdom of God through his truth. It is the revealed truth at work to fulfill the course of us being baptized into one body by the one spirit inherent in the word of God that makes all things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to his purpose.

Preachers are tasked with spreading the gospel which is the truth according to the word and works of Jesus Christ and it is a privilege to have linked up with you in his word and name. My motto is freedom from religion and that if Jesus didn’t practice and command it, it should not be done with reference to his name. I don’t know how busy you are, but would love for you to consider a visit. I will look at the associated links that you sent as well as the other things that are available on the web site.

Sincerely,

Response #11:

You're most welcome.

To answer your question, this ministry, while it did grow out of a face-to-face Bible teaching group many years ago, went "online" after I moved away here to Louisville. My day job takes up a good deal of time, but, blessedly, allows me enough to spare to tend to Ichthys (and so I have about all on my plate at the moment that I can handle). There's more at the link: About Ichthys.

Thanks for your good words and good testimony!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Good evening Sir,

You answered a question, which I want you to look into that's Is Baptism Necessary for salvation. You said it is absolutely No! The Bible confirms it that Baptism is very vital for salvation. I love studying the Bible and I don't go out of the Bible what the Bible says that I follow. In the Book of Mark 16:16 makes it clear that he who believes and his baptized will be saved. Colossians 3:12 as well. In the book of Act 2:37-38 makes it clear also. I want you to shed more light on that. Baptism saves not as removal of filth from the body 1 Peter 3:21.

Response #12:

Good to make your acquaintance.

I certainly stand by words. Here is what scripture says:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

and

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Clearly, faith is what saves . . . by grace. Whereas adding the idea of a ritual being necessary is a clear addition of works – and whatever is of works cannot be of grace (by definition; cf. Rom.4:2).

The one verse you include here which does seem to indicate that water-baptism is necessary is actually not part of the Bible (see the link: The erroneous longer ending of Mark).

Colossians 2:12 is speaking of Spirit baptism; that is THE baptism of the Church (not water-baptism), as scripture makes abundantly clear:

"I baptize you with water (i.e., physically) for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 NIV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:8

Water-baptism was meant as an exclusively Jewish rite "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk.1:17). But now the Lord has come (1st Advent), and has died for the sins of the world; as a result of His victory, we, the Church, now have the Holy Spirit (whereas water-baptizing proclaims a Messiah not yet come . . . a questionable message at best, a blasphemous one at worst). Peter's words in Acts chapter two add water-baptism as permissible ("let each of you be baptized" NKJV – it is not a direct imperative form in Greek as "repent" is), but Peter says this 1) to a completely Jewish audience, and 2) in the time of transition where the Spirit's baptism was still being mediated by the apostles by laying on the hands (which would take place in water-baptism) – which is why he immediately says thereafter "And [as a result] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (v.38b).

As to 1st Peter 3:21, this verse has nothing whatsoever to do with water; the comparison is between being 1) baptized with the Spirit into Christ so as to be saved and 2) being saved from the destruction of the flood by being in the ark – which is why Peter says in verse 21 immediately after mentioning baptism that he is talking about "not the removal of the filth of the flesh" but instead "the answer of a good conscience toward God" (i.e., faith in Christ resulting in the baptism of the Spirit: cf. Rom.8:9).

Here are some links where these questions are discussed in much more detail than in the link you were reading:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, though faith in whom alone we are saved.

Bob Luginbill

Question #13:

Thanks for your prompt reply! John The Baptist Baptism was for repentance (Matt 3:11) not for taking away sins. Water baptism takes away sins (Act 2:38) In the book of Romans 6:1-4 talks about water baptism, that's immersion, as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus as put on Christ. Water baptism wasn't the Jews ritual. Christ was baptized not that he has sins but to fulfill as righteousness. Yes we are saved by grace through faith but the works mentioned in the book of Romans mean the Law of Moses, also the book of Galatians talks more about the WORKS, that we christians are not under the Law of Moses but we are under the law of liberty.....The baptism of the Holy spirit as came and gone that happened on the day of Pentecost. You said the book of Mark 16:16 was not actually part of the Bible, then is the Bible inspired? The Holy writ makes it clear that the Bible is sealed and nothing can be change from it. The book of Mark 16:16 clarify all what we are saying.

Response #13:

You're most welcome – but you are not a very good listener! You seemed to be asking for answers, but instead you have ignored them entirely, have not read the links, have not read the verses, and have not considered the arguments. You are merely repeating here you mis-impressions of what scripture actually teaches. The Law has been superseded – for believers:

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:4 NKJV

But if you stand on the Law instead of faith, you cannot be saved.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Galatians 2:16 NKJV

John came to Israel before the Messiah was revealed, before the cross, before the resurrection, and before the giving of the Holy Spirit and the commencement of the Church. His water-baptism is thus very much of the Law – it is given exclusively to Israel. Were any gentiles every water-baptized by John? No.

Acts 2:38 actual connects repentance with remission of sin, not water-baptism (read the previous links).

Romans 6 is speaking about Spirit baptism: Paul only ever mentions water-baptism one time, namely in 1st Corinthians chapter one where he expresses regret for every engaging in this ritual (read the previous links).

Christ was indeed water-baptized. But the Messiah is a Jew, after all, and His water-baptism had an entirely different symbolism since He is sinless (see the link: "The baptism of Christ by John").

All who are genuinely believers today have the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:9). I think you would profit greatly by reading the link: Bible Basics 5: "Pneumatology: the Study of the Holy Spirit"

Finally, the Bible most certainly is perfect. The problem with the long ending of Mark is that it is NOT part of the Bible. That is explained at the link previously provided, but any good study Bible will also get you started on seeing that this passage was added well after Mark wrote the gospel, apparently to "improve" on his (what seems to us to be an) abrupt ending.

These are all important matters. If you believe you are saved by believing in Christ, well and good. If you believe you are saved by being splashed with water, then you are not saved because you have relied on your own fleshly efforts instead of on the grace of God: you are believing in what you do in such a case and not in what Christ did for you. If you tell me it's "both", my reply is that it cannot be both. A person cannot be drunk and sober at the same time; a person cannot be putting his faith in any ritual and putting his faith in Christ at the same time. The "magic" water ritual has been a big part of the downfall of the Roman Catholic church for centuries, as well as of all manner of groups who want to add to salvation (and who in the process shut the door on those who otherwise might find it).

Yours in the Son of God, true man and true God in one perfect person forever, through whose work on the cross alone we are saved – by grace (irrespective of anything we could ever "do").

Bob L.

Question #14:

God bless you, Bob; and thanks. Btw, thank you for your insights on baptism. I noticed, people who believe in the physical water never mention the reason our Lord was baptized in the first place – which is found in John 1:31-33.

"I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
John 1:31 NIV

Also, the fact that John 3:5, "born of water and the Spirit", is cross-referenced in all of my Bibles to Ezekiel 36:24-27 ("I will put my Spirit in you"). This reference is perfectly in line w/John 3:3 about being "born again", etc.

In Jesus,

Response #14:

You're very welcome. Thanks for the excellent points on water-baptism. I'll be sure to include these the next time I take up the topic.

In Jesus our dear Lord.

Bob L.

Question #15:

Please, please, please! take care in the wording of your bible study. Especially since it is online for all to see. You make some very distressing statements in regards to baptism (water) that are demonstrably incorrect and in fact are contrary to scripture. Water baptism is integral to the born again experience (Death, Burial, Resurrection). Water baptism is the burial of the old man (sinful nature/character). 1 Peter 3:21 - The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us...

I'm not sure where the tradition of discounting and changing water baptism comes from but as it is in the scripture - New Testament in particular - it has EVERYTHING to do with our salvation. The obedience of baptism is a fruit (product) of faith. As James said (I paraphrase) You may express your faith in words but my faith is manifest in my actions. By the way Baptism is both water and spirit (being born of the water and the spirit). Baptism is not just water and not just spirit - it is both. We need both. Normally I wouldn't express my disagreement if this is a personal opinion or belief but you are misdirecting others that are seeking salvation. I know it is natural to get defensive when someone disagrees with you but please just sincerely pray about it and see what The Lord's answer to you is.

Sincerely,

Response #15:

According to scripture, we are saved, "by grace through faith . . . not of works" (Eph.2:8-9). If a person keeps the Law to be saved, then they are not saved, because they sought salvation by works (e.g., Gal.2:16). Likewise, if a person is relying on doing charity, or going to church, or joining a church, or speaking in tongues . . . or being water-baptized for salvation, the very fact of that reliance will mean that said person is not saved at all, on account of having sought salvation by works rather than through putting his/her confidence and faith in the work of Jesus Christ instead.

You adduce only one passage for the dangerous position of works salvation through water-baptism, but you are misunderstanding it. To be fair, the Greek is difficult and most people who have rendered this into English have missed Peter's point (which has nothing whatsoever to do with water). Here is an expanded translation that will, I hope, explain this:

(21) And it is [this true] baptism [of the Spirit] which saves you (lit. as an "antitype" or analogy to the ark's bringing of "salvation through the water": just as they were saved by being "baptized" into the ark, we are saved by being baptized by the Spirit into Christ). Not any [literal] washing away of filth from your flesh, but instead an appeal to God for a clean conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (i.e., repentance and faith which result in Spirit baptism, union with Christ, and resultant salvation).
1st Peter 3:21

The main point for our purposes here is that Spirit baptism, not water baptism, is, of course, what Peter is talking about. Remember what Peter said many years earlier:

"Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' "
Acts 11:16 NIV

Water-baptism is John's baptism, the Jewish ritual to prepare Israel by spiritually restoring them (since they were already assumed to be believers) for the coming Messiah. Now that the Messiah has come (and suffered and died for us and been resurrected and has ascended), He has sent us His Holy Spirit. That is the baptism of the Church, the one we all receive upon faith in Christ. Water-baptism is, like many other things often done in the church-visible, a throw-back to the Law, unnecessary and often spiritually damaging. But teaching that this ritual is essential for salvation . . .

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

If a person believes that water-baptism saves them, how is that person really relying on Christ's work on the cross in dying for all of our sins?

In Jesus Christ through faith in whom alone we have life eternal.

Bob Luginbill

Question #16:

Dr. Lugenbill,

You are creating a circular argument. You are saying that "doing anything" (works) is unnecessary, you are saying to "do anything" diminishes God's grace. I do not have to read beyond the first two sentences to see how you are the one selectively "cutting out" or re-defining scriptures that do not agree with your opinion (baptism doth also save us). I know it is symbolic, but it is also an act of obedience. No one needs to be a Greek scholar to understand the scripture. We just need the Holy Ghost. These three things will ALWAYS be required for redemption: Blood, Faith, and Obedience. Obedience is the product of faith and will never diminish God's grace. Your interpretation of baptism is incorrect. I believe that the infilling of the Holy Ghost is Spirit baptism as you say but it is differentiated all throughout the gospels, acts, and the epistles by referring to it as the infilling (sometimes the gift) of the Holy Ghost. The term baptism is used almost exclusively in relation to water. The very Greek word implies a submersion in water. See Acts 8:36-38 - Philips baptism of the eunuch. See Acts 10:45-47 - The gentiles receive the spirit and are baptized. Both of the aforementioned scripture specifically refer to baptism in relation to water. I highly doubt that the Lord would inspire the apostle to relate these positive examples of evangelism if the apostle and evangelist suggested the institution of an Old Testament Law. The Holy Ghosts "baptism" is usually associated with the term anointing or filling. Water baptism is acting on faith for the remission of sins. It is the application of the blood of Christ. A cure doesnt do you any good if you dont apply it. Spirit baptism is God breathing the breath of life once more into us - spiritual regeneration, a living soul. We are born in sin and shapen in iniquity. We still need remission of sins! John's baptism is one of repentance which is still required to be saved... Or... is repentance a "work" too? When it is an act of faith, baptism is NEVER spiritually damaging - on the contrary, it is a sublime healing experience. It is a step in becoming a part of the church family, taking on the name of Jesus Christ as the head of our family. In my 20 + years of pastoring I have never found baptism to be spiritually damaging. In simple terms, God commanded us through the Apostle Peter to be repent, and be baptized and promised us that in so doing we would receive the regeneration - gift of the Holy Ghost. Remember, being born again is our death, burial, and resurrection - Repentance = death, Baptism is burial, and The infilling of the Holy Ghost is our resurrection. The infilling of the Spirit is never used as a type of death or burial whereas we are "buried with him in baptism". Baptism (both water and spirit) is not a suggestion, it is a command and a foundational doctrine of the church. Even secular history (during the apostolic ministry) tells us that this was an accepted practice of the early church. I would caution you to avoid presuming that you know better than the Apostles or are in some way more enlightened in regards to the scriptures then they are - this is the impression that I received from your original article on water/spirit baptism. Who would know better than those that heard from him first hand, saw him as he arose from the dead and received additional teaching from him before he ascended. The early church immersed supplicants in water in the name of Jesus. I couldnt explain the mechanics of how water baptism is a part of our salvation but I know beyond any doubt that He commands it and I trust him - who knows better how to save me than the one that formed me. God bless! And thanks for responding!!! I appreciate you taking the time and do enjoy discussing scripture/doctrine.

Sincerely,

Response #16:

Since it is obvious from your response that you didn't bother to read my email, with all due respect I'm going to delay reading the rest of yours unless and until you reply to the substance of mine.

Question #17:

I did read and respond to most if not all of your points. My point is that you are overly focused on your definition of works - as indicated by the first couple of sentences to the exclusion of many scriptures that define both baptism and works. Most people don't "depend on water baptism for salvation"; We depend on God who commands us to be baptized. Therefore, baptism is absolutely necessary. Again, baptism is an act of faith in and obedience to God.

Sincerely,

Response #17:

You contacted me. If you want to have this discussion, it has to be kept to one point at a time. Of first importance, the question of whether or not water-baptism is necessary for Christians – or even a good idea – is fundamentally different from the claim that it is necessary in order to be saved. Before discussing any other matters, it will be necessary to discuss this false view – because anything I have to share with you will be of no account if you continue to cling to that false doctrine.

So please let us start there, and let me make sure I am understanding you aright. Is it your opinion that participating in the ritual of water-baptism is necessary for salvation, and that those who are not water-baptized are not saved?

Question #18:

Actually, in regards to false doctrine let me make this clear. My position is clearly based on the Scriptures - several of which I referenced. Yours is based almost entirely on speculation.

Necessary for Christians and necessary for salvation are Not fundamentally different. I think all aspects of salvation are pretty necessary for Christians.

Sincerely,

Response #18:

Wouldn't it be nice if all we had to do was say something like "my position is clearly based on scripture but yours is based on mere speculation" and have it be true? I think if you would take the time to read all of the postings on this issue at Ichthys you would at least be challenged in regard to seeing all this as "simple".

Many Christians participate in water-baptism because it is an accepted ritual of their denomination or local church, but few Christians, and few groups (historically or contemporaneously) see the ritual as necessary to be saved. That is a very esoteric position which the vast majority of Christians today (and even more so historically) would reject outright. This fact alone should give pause before dismissing the majority view out of hand.

Also, it seems you didn't understand my question, so I'll have another try. What I want to know is, because you seem to have waffled here and also in your other emails, do you personally believe that the Bible teaches that all who are not actually water-baptized are going to hell? And if so, it would be nice to know what you consider to be a water-baptism which is "real" and therefore "hell-avoiding" (after all, the vast majority of Christians in the history of the Church who have been water-baptized at all were sprinkled as infants).

It's not an unimportant question or distinction. And it should be "simple" enough to answer.

In Jesus Christ our Lord through whom alone we are saved by grace through faith.

Bob L.

Question #19:

Bob,

Many thanks brother for your kindness and your valuable time. After reading all of your articles concerning baptism, I clearly see what you're saying.

I should begin at the start I guess...

One day I felt in my heart to learn all that I could on the basic biblical principles so that I would be "instant in season and out of season" and prepared to "provide a defense of the faith." For some reason my mind first went to baptism (I don't really know why this was the first to come to mind). I honestly did not go into this study to disprove what the church believed, and myself for that matter, but more to learn the basis for their teachings so that I could share it from the bible as well. It's much better to be equipped with specific scripture than it is to tell someone "the bible says..." One of the very first things I came across was your articles. I was amazed at what I had read and how well you had articulated it, so much so that it actually affected my beliefs on the subject of water baptism.

I've learned to set aside all presuppositions and honestly evaluate the text of scripture for what it is saying, in context, to the extent of the setting, who is talking to who, why and for what purpose. In other words, proper exegesis and hermeneutics.

Sorry about the rambling, so now on to the questions:

In Acts 19 we read about Apollos and the Apostle Paul. As you know, even from the text in this particular passage, it appears as if two different, yet consecutive, things took place here. In verses 5-6 it reads: "when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying." (NASB 1995)

With that in mind, I venture to 1 Corinthians 1:14-16 "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other." (NASB 1995)

At first I looked at this passage and said okay well Paul specifically listed all that he had Baptized as two specific people and the family of another and of those people, Apollos was not mentioned. Therefore, I interpreted that passage as saying that there was no way that water baptism occurred in Acts 19:5 and then this thought occurred to me.

If I were talking to a room containing lets say 10 people and one of them I had baptized, I could address this specific group and state as a fact, "I only baptized one of you," even though I may have actually baptized others that were not present in that group. Now that I have explained the setting of my questions, here are my questions:

1) What is going on in Acts 19:5? Did a water baptism and holy spirit baptism take place there, or was that one baptism (baptism of the Holy Spirit) there?

2) Is my concern about 1 Corinthians 1:14 legitimate? Could Paul have baptized Apollos with water and Apollos just wasn't among the people that Paul was addressing with 1 Corinthians?

I really don't want to understand this wrong and teach God's word wrong. I hope these aren't silly questions. While I think about scripture, I try to dismantle my own understanding with other scriptures (the Text Test) and if I can't, then I know I have seized some truth.

Water baptism to me does seem to be a physical ritual / ceremony (work) and that just doesn't coexist well with most of the other New Testament teachings, which brings me to other questions: What does this say for the church's understanding of the Lord's Supper? Is this a physical ritual / ceremony (work) that needs to be carried out once a month, biweekly, or however often by the church? Or was this something that we were to do as "often as we eat and drink" in our hearts? Basically a continuous spiritual state of remembrance for what Christ did for us? Concerning the baptism, the physical ritual / ceremony (works) aspect was one of the causes in my mind that made me lean away from ceremonial water baptism (works), but then I had the thought concerning the Lord's Supper. Then I wondered, how can I apply that to one and not the other?

I sure hope the settings to my questions, my questions, and my concerns were clear to you. Any insight you can provide will be of great importance to me and will be carefully reviewed and considered in my faith.

May the grace of Lord Jesus be with you,

Response #19:

Good to hear back from you, and thank you for your thoughtful questions (I'm very happy to respond).

To take the last first, the communion ceremony is only authorized ceremony for the Church Age. Paul describes it in essentially the way our Lord describes (compare Lk.22:19 with 1Cor.11:24-25), and what to me is the most important part is "in remembrance of Me". The cross is the foundation of all things, and our acceptance of it, of our Lord, who He is and His work in dying for our sins, is the beginning of our new life. Remembering Him, therefore, is what communion is all about. As you rightly point out, this should be an "all the time" sort of thing for us individually. Making a habit of remembering Him whenever we eat and drink – since He gave us His body to eat and blood to drink that we might be saved – is a very good idea, in my opinion. Clearly, we cannot do this with a large assembly of other Christians every time we eat, but we can remember, and in the company of others we can express that remembrance. To the extent that these truths get lost in church settings where "communion" – which really means celebrating our fellowship with Him and each other in Him – to that extent the practice falls short of the biblical purpose our Lord intended for it. Here are some links on that:

Communion and the Spiritual Death of Christ

The Communion Ceremony outside of the Local Church

The Meaning of the Communion Ceremony: To Remember Christ

Communal Worship in Acts

Communion and the Blood of Christ

The Last Supper

The Leftover Baskets of Bread and Fish in John 6

The Lord's Supper and Confession of Sin

On Apollos, he was not from Corinth, so for that reason (and on account of the fact that Paul could not have known whether he would or would not be present when the epistle finally arrived), leaving him out is certainly appropriate. Also, I don't find in scripture that Paul water-baptized Apollos. It was Priscilla and Aquilla who "taught him more accurately", and the baptism of the brethren in Ephesus in Acts 19 happened "while Apollos was at Corinth" (Acts 19:1).

As to Acts 19:5, here is how I translate the verse at the link ("Spirit baptism in Acts"):

(5) When they heard [Paul's explanation of the gospel in Acts 19:4] they were [immediately] baptized [by the Spirit] into the Person of the Lord Jesus, (6) for when Paul placed his hands upon them [to mediate the Spirit], the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Acts 19:5-6

So as you can see, I take this to be a "dry" baptism, Spirit baptism, from start to finish – that is, after all, why Paul was concerned for them (Acts 19:2: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"). The key is, as explained in the link, the tenses of the participles which begin both verses; they indicate that the hearing and the [Spirit] baptism were simultaneous with Paul's placing of his hands on them to mediate the reception of the Spirit (covered in BB 5: Pneumatology at the link: "Progression" [go down to part "C": Mediation).

I admire your determination for the truth and also your spiritual perspicacity. Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Bob,

Excellent explanation there. That was how I understood it to be from all your other public correspondences, but I just needed that little extra assurance to those few thoughts that I had. I can't tell you how much I appreciative you spending your valuable time responding to my emails and how much I value your insight. It is obvious to me that you have been "diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB)

Here's one more thought. Why did the phrasing change concerning water baptism from the gospels to Acts 2:38?

It started with "baptize with water for repentance (Matt 3:11)," "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin (Mark 1:4)," "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3)," to being "baptized IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38)." I believe that all of these are strictly referring to water baptism, but please correct me if I am wrong.

"Baptized into Christ Jesus (Romans 6:3)," " baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27)," and "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:6)" are all clearly referring to spiritual baptism; hence, the change is wording.

If Peter's revelation concerning baptism in the Holy Spirit did not come until Acts 11:16, what was his reasoning for changing the phrasing to being "baptized IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the forgiveness of your sins" in Acts 2:38? Was he indeed speaking of spiritual baptism there or was that his way of complying with the "great commission" (Matt 28:19 "...baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,...") with water baptism based upon his understanding of the "great commission" at that moment? I ask because Pete's wording concerning water baptism in Acts 2:38 is nearly identical to Paul's wording for spiritual baptism in Acts 19:6.

I also have other controversial questions concerning the gifts of the spirit as well and would absolutely love to have your input. Is this an area that you wouldn't mind discussing as well? If not, I definitely understand and respect that.

Also thank you ever so kindly for your kind remarks concerning my perspicacity. I'm nothing special though. I just want the texts of scripture to be accurately embedded into my mind and to my soul, through my spirit.

I sure hope I am clearly presenting my thoughts and questions. If something that I write is unclear or confusing, please don't hesitate to let me know so that I can make another attempt to possibly state it in a different manner. I am definitely not a writer nor was I gifted as one.

Again, thank you so much for your time brother.

With love in our Lord, Jesus Christ,

Response #20:

You're welcome. I don't mean to "swell your head". It's just that with your obvious facility with these things I had wondered about what your assessment might be of your own spiritual gifts and any plans for implementing them.

As to your current questions:

1) In truth, all these formulae are the same. Yes, water-baptism is in view, but "repentance for the forgiveness of sins" is the key to salvation in each case. For those who belong to the covenant nation of Israel during the time of writing of all these passages, it is assumed that they are already believers – because all Israel is, positionally, the people of God. Of course "not all Israel is Israel", so that in many cases turning to God in faith (repentance) leads to salvation (rather than fellowship restoration, the purpose of the ritual). Water-baptism is a Jewish fellowship-restoration rite, a revival to prepare the people of God for the coming of their Messiah. Even after the cross in the early days of Acts, when this ritual was temporarily continued, its meaning remained the same – because the message came "first to the Jews", and to those closely connected with them (proselytes, Samaritans). It is only later when the gentiles proper begin to be evangelized that water-baptism starts to fall by the wayside (at least with Paul who understood the true meaning and symbolism).

2) Good point on the change of wording regarding Spirit baptism in the epistles. It should also be clear that water cannot make us one with Christ.

3) Peter did understand as early as Acts chapter two that Christ was the answer, the only One who could save, and the reason for the gift of the Spirit. You are correct that "in the Name of" is different, and critically so, from the use of eis with the accusative: "into Christ" (found at, e.g., Matt.28:19). On Pentecost, Peter was speaking to a Jewish audience who associated John's water-baptism with the claim of Messiahship for the one "coming" – so continuation of the ritual was appropriate for these individuals who had been present for the ministries of both John and Jesus (and who were "of Israel" so as to rate the fellowship-restoration ritual). One should actually credit Peter for making it clear in this event of water-baptism that Christ was the point and the purpose of their repentance and belief. As you correctly discern, Peter did not understand all the ins and outs of these distinctions yet, especially not the incipient flooding into the Church of the gentiles, nor the gift of the Spirit without water or mediation, until his experience in Acts 10 (explained in Acts 11), an event which was carefully superintended and guided by the Spirit at every stage (a point that is made repeatedly in the text of Acts).

I would happy to discuss spiritual gifts. There is quite a lot on the website about this as well (and please don't overlook BB 5: Pneumatology in that regard; link: "Spiritual Gifts").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Regarding difference on doctrine, if someone, for example, believes that baptism is necessary for salvation does that mean you should stop fellowship with them? Because there's this website:

http://www.the-highway.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/
46448/Re:_Is_water_baptism_to_be_pra.html

Where a person asks another about baptism being necessary for salvation, and some of his statements from the argument were:

a. Perhaps I should get this one thing out of the way at the beginning and get done with it. grin It is in regard to one of your sources, Dr. Robert D. Luginbill. He is a professor at Talbot Seminary. The seminary’s doctrinal position is antithetical and antagonistic to the Reformed churches and their theology, expressed in its various Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms. I cannot help but assume that the school and Dr. Luginbill are ‘Dispensationalists’. Therefore, his paper holds very little weight for not only this reason, but it is evidenced in the paper itself, i.e., his approach to Scripture is not in accord with what I deem to be sound biblical exegesis. Yes, I read his paper completely and carefully.

b. Your approach, unfortunately, is similar in kind to that of Dr. Robert D. Luginbill, i.e., a ‘Dispensational’ hermeneutic, not necessarily in the matter of its narrow definition commonly associated with the locus of Eschatology, but rather methodology. What I mean by that is that you clearly make radical distinctions and bifurcations of different parts of Scripture. This is evident in your determination that the book of Acts as a whole is ‘transitory’ in nature, thus concluding that nothing in the book of Acts can be taken as paradigmatic or normative for the Church as it developed thereafter. You simply state this as fact without offering any substantial proof of its verity. That there are things that occurred in the book of Acts which were temporary in nature is certainly true, e.g., the ecstatic gifts of the Spirit whose main purpose was to show that Gentiles were to be admitted to Christ’s Church no less than their Jewish counterparts. But the practice of baptism cannot be shown to be a temporary practice due to its very meaning and purpose, which I shall expand upon below in the next section.

but what disturbed me is this statement:

e) The person who refuses baptism and declines the reproach of Christ, which it entails, cannot be received as a member of Christ’s body. And the organization which discards baptism and thereby evinces its rejection of the authority and Lordship of Christ cannot be accounted a branch of the true Christian Church

and these:

I shall say no more other than to once again impress upon you severity of your view. Am I, or anyone else for that matter, to seriously believe that the Church has been totally ignorant on this matter of baptism and has taught millions false doctrine... UNTIL you and a perhaps a few others came along with the truth? Do you seriously believe that Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli, Tertullian, Owen, Edwards, Nettleton, Swinnock, Goodwin, Brown, McCheyne, Ursinus, Hodge, Warfield, Shedd, Kersten, Bavinck, Strong, Gill, Fuller, Hoeksema, Berkhof, Lenski, Hendriksen and countless others, all theological giants representing their respective and varied denominations totally failed to grasp the significance and perpetuity of water baptism? How could this be? And, of a much lesser significance is my own study on the subject in English and the original languages of Scripture and of Church history. But nonetheless, what I came to understand is in full accord with 2000 years of scholarship.

The comparison Peter is using is crystal clear and has been for 2000 years of Church history as recorded in its confessions and catechisms. WATER is referred to in Peter's reference to Noah and compared to the WATER of baptism. This 'water' of water baptism Peter says is not to be seen/understood as some ceremonial external washing but internal. Water baptism has a spiritual significance to it, which you and Luginbill and perhaps a handful of others have totally missed.

He sounds very defensive (and rude).

Response #21:

Yes, this is very defensive, and rude. That is reason enough in my book to give such a person a wide-berth (even if it's not absolutely necessary for conscience sake). Some people it's better to "love from a distance".

As to his points, they are condescending but not sound.

1) I am not nor have I ever been a professor at Talbot. I went there many years ago (earning a M.A.B.S) after completing my second B.A. and before doing my M.A. and Ph.D. work in Classics at UC Irvine. Nor am I a dispensationalist as this person understands it, and I certainly do not use the canons of traditional dispensationalism for my position on water-baptism.

2) This person's reference to "my paper" (as if there were only one) is proof that he hasn't, in fact, given due consideration to the views expressed at Ichthys. That is because there are over a dozen major postings at the site which deal with this issue. Given how wrong he got my self-evident C.V., I suppose that it is not surprising that he has this confused as well.

3) The essential basis for the position is what scripture says, not some "theological lens". Quite the contrary, that is in fact what proponents of water-baptism do, especially those who outrageously proclaim it's necessary for salvation (! – let them read John 3:16-18, e.g.).

4) There is plenty of "proof" at Ichthys about how the book of Acts needs to be interpreted. It's not a matter of ignoring the book – far from it. However, interpreting something wrongly is wrong; all scripture must be properly interpreted for its truth to be understood. To take Peter as the example, we know for certain that he did not understand the implications of Pentecost and the expansion of the Church to the gentiles at first – all a person has to do to get that is to read Acts chapter ten in English. Peter had to be shown a very dramatic vision by the Spirit twice, and had to be told that it was OK to enter into a gentile household, and had to be told to do it by the Spirit Himself, before he was willing to do so. So anything he said about water-baptism prior to that was clearly coming from his perspective that salvation was from and for the Jews almost exclusively. When Cornelius and his household believed and received the Spirit, Peter then let them be water-baptized . . . as a concession. As he says, "Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have" (Acts 10:47 NIV). Why is this a concession? Because they are not Jewish. And we note that when he is reproached at Jerusalem for entering Cornelius' house, his explanation does not even mention water. And we further note that this is the last time Peter has anything to do with water-baptism in scripture (see point #9 below). A person does not have to be a dispensationalist to understand that the way things worked for ancient Israel is not the way things work for the Church today. We do not, for example, follow the dietary code of the Law (to take just one thing). Since water-baptism was a Jewish ritual ordained by God that anticipated the coming of the Messiah and was for repentance of those belonging to His people all ready to be prepared for the Lord's arrival, there are very good reasons why it is never enjoined as necessary for the Church today. When the crisis over circumcision came to the Jerusalem church, the letter written to Antioch said nothing about water-baptism. There is much more to say about this important point that "all water-baptism is John's baptism" and that "for the Church today Spirit baptism is the 'one baptism' of Ephesians 4:5", but I will leave correspondent to read that in the files he missed.

5) We do not refuse baptism. Baptism is automatic since Pentecost for all who put their faith in Jesus Christ – the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the one and only baptism of the Church since Pentecost.

6) It's beyond presumptuous for this person to say he/she has the power to say who will and will not be accepted into the Body of Christ (Rom.14:4; 2Tim.2:19b)! No doubt he/she has the mistaken idea, typical of all who are trusting in belonging to an organization instead of trusting in Christ, that earthly churches determine who belongs to Him. In fact, earthly organizations mean absolutely nothing, be they led by popes or bishops, or well-paid preachers. The only register that counts is the one in heaven wherein our names reside by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Anything else smacks of legalism of the most dangerous sort. By seeking to establish salvation through earthly ritual all these people are doing is closing the door to heaven for themselves and anyone else who is foolish enough to follow them (please see the link: Aspects of the False Doctrine of Institutional Security).

7) No one who has ever read a shred of Church history would be so imprudent as to suggest that everyone in the history of the Church has believed the same thing on this point. For example, there is some evidence of some water-baptism by immersion in the early days; however, water-baptism, when it is reported in the sources, became from very early on mostly a thing done by aspersion (sprinkling a little water on the head), and also during the early middle ages began to be performed on infants – and so they were "saved". "Confirmation" comes later (and may or may not be accompanied by more sprinkling) in some traditions. During Augustine's day, it was customary to have new members wait until Easter to be water-baptized. It was not until the Reformation that some traditions (a minority) began fully immersing believers in water. The one trend which is consistent in what we do know about the ritual is that the precise method, the time of its performance, the age of the person being baptized, and the meaning it was supposed to have has never been consistent throughout the history of the Church – and that certainly is the case today as well. Even among those few who proclaim water necessary for salvation, the reasons they give always differ. And they also cannot answer key questions (the most prominent being where in the world these things are found in the Bible), as, for example, "if a person dies before he/she can be immersed, is he/she saved?" This is why in the R.C. tradition we find the "last rites", and the "water" being magical and "holy". Unfortunately, while the Reformers managed to separate from Catholic tradition in many areas, they didn't get rid of this non-biblical ritual (non-biblical since the expansion of the Church to gentiles, that is, after the coming of the Messiah).

8) The impressive list given here only shows how ridiculous correspondent's position is, for he/she would be hard pressed to produce writings from any two of these individuals whose views on the rationale, method, proper time, proper age of the recipient, and meaning of water-baptism were precisely the same. That fact alone ought to give anyone on the point of being persuaded of its necessity sufficient pause to re-think.

9) The last paragraph you include is perhaps the most disturbing – for correspondent's reason and spiritual status. How can a ritual affect us spiritually? Isn't it the other way around? We grow spiritually by the truth. What we do with our saved status and our growth in the Lord affects how we act, how we speak, and what goes on in our hearts, including what we get out of communion (for example). Communion itself does not impart any special grace. Likewise for water-baptism. Even if it were legitimate, even if it were mandated, even so it would only have the meaning we attributed to it from our inside. It cannot affect our inside from the outside. If it could, it would be magic. If it could, then the R.C. church would be right and baptizing a baby would save it – before it had even heard of Jesus. In any case, correspondent completely misunderstands 1st Peter 3:21 – the "baptism which now saves us" is the baptism of the Holy Spirit of course, the only "one baptism" for the Church which puts us "in Christ", without which we do not belong to Him (Rom.8:9).

Finally, I am sure the Lord has something special for you down the road! You are becoming well-versed in the truths of the scripture to the degree that most Christian in Laodicea never attain their whole lives long. I say this not to give you a swelled-head (your humility is blessed), but to encourage you to persevere with the truth. At the proper time, the Lord will put you into service – herein is great reward.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, the Master we serve in faith and truth.

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hello sir Robert.

I have been continuously reading the Scriptures and I am wondering why Jesus' apostles baptized believers in Acts in Jesus' Name only? Seems like they violated Matthew 28:19 that served as the Great Commission. What do you think about this? I think baptizing in Jesus' Name only and in the Name of the Three Persons in the Godhead are both fine. After all, this ritual does not matter but faith in Christ only. But just would like to ask from you about this. Thank you so much doc. God bless you!

Response #22:

Always good to hear from you, my friend!

I think you have hit upon a very good point and a strong argument for Spirit baptism being the baptism of the New Testament and the Church rather than water-baptism. In Matthew 28:19, our Lord is speaking as He often did about Spirit baptism, not water-baptism. We know this because He says "into" not "in", and the only way we can be baptized "into" God's Person is through the Holy Spirit, becoming one with Him "in" Jesus Christ as a result. Whereas in Acts, when water-baptism was still being employed in the earliest days as a sort of a "bridge" between the ministry of John to Israel and the new realities of the gospel expanding unto the gentiles, they never use the words found in Matthew – because they at least understood that those words were not a formula for water-baptism but a promise of the coming of the Spirit which the Bible emphasizes whenever this subject comes up.

"I baptize you with water (i.e., physically) for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 NIV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:8

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

In your email response (http://ichthys.com/mail-Baptism following Jesus.htm) you wrote:

But I have never heard of a group that water-baptizes that has that symbolism clear, i.e., water washes away sins as the coming sacrifice of the Messiah would do (and that is that).

A question appeared to me - why did John baptize in water which was a symbol of washing away of sins, if our Lord's sacrifice would do exactly this? What is the specific purpose of it? I know that preparation for the coming of our Lord and genuine repentance on part of those being baptized explain John's ministry, but I'm also trying to look at it from the perspective of the person being baptized. If someone was baptized by John and showed repentance for their sins, then these sins are still not paid for until our Lord completes His work - so what specifically, in spiritual terms, does John's baptism here mean?

Response #23:

I have suggested the following symbolism: Water can only cleanse if God empowers it to do so. Those who came to the Jordan to be baptized, washed and were restored to fellowship because of the cleansing power of the water. To make it clear that such forgiveness was only possible through the sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus went down into the water and symbolically absorbed all the sin, making the water powerful for washing away the sins of those who washed them off. This is all symbolic, of course, for only the cross expiated sins, and it is the actual turning away from the world/sin and towards God/Jesus Christ that brings salvation. God provided the actual means of grace for forgiveness, but it has to be followed up by the actual choice of heart to accept His Gift in order for salvation to occur. Also it is important to keep in mind that Israel is symbolically composed of only the people of God, so that all are considered to be, positionally speaking, "believers" (even if they are not), so that the baptism in question is one of repentance first and foremost – the repentance of believers being restored to fellowship with the Lord – rather than that of unbelievers first coming to Him through Jesus Christ. For that reason the symbolism is sin-focused rather than focused on Christ directly as the One who washed away our sins (another reason why water-baptism is confusing and not helpful for us now that the age of the Church has begun).

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