An essay donated by Mahlon Wickey
Water Baptism or Spirit Baptism?
Water Baptism or Spirit Baptism?
I want to start out by saying that I was baptized many years ago and I truly believed that it was required for salvation, and to this day I continue to truly believe that baptism is indeed required for salvation. But which baptism? The following few paragraphs will explain what I mean by that question, and how I personally believe on the subject of baptism as I understand the Holy Scriptures. As most believers know, the Bible talks about baptisms (plural), and in the past several years I have come to believe in the ONE and only baptism that is VALID, spoken about in Ephesians 4:4. Hebrews 6:1 states that IF we are to go on to "perfection" then we are to LEAVE the (beginning) principles of the doctrine of Christ, and not AGAIN lay the foundations of certain doctrines, and one of those doctrines was the doctrine of baptisms (Heb 6:2). I happen to believe that these certain baptisms were "divers washings" along with carnal ordinances spoken of in Hebrews 9:10, and these "washings" and carnal ordinances were imposed on Israel only UNTIL the "time of reformation" (to straighten or to rectify). It is the time when the old covenant given at Mt Sinai was to be "straightened and rectified" into a spiritual NEW covenant written on the heart. I believe water baptism was a part of these "divers washings" imposed on Israel at that time, and temple service with the ordinances of the old covenant was a major part on how the Israel people served and worshipped God. I believe water baptism was practiced simply because Jesus Christ did NOT come to abolish temple service at that time, and even after Christ’s death temple service still functioned, as we all know. Therefore water baptism was still IMPOSED on Israel, and it was indeed commanded by the apostle Peter since the "reformation" could NOT be a reality while the temple was still standing.
Generally people have no problem believing in one Lord, and one faith (Eph 4:4) but when it comes to ONE baptism then a choice must be made. Which baptism is the ONE valid baptism; is it water baptism or Spirit baptism? You cannot have BOTH baptisms being the ONE, and I want to now explain why I believe the ONE valid baptism is the "baptism of the Spirit". But I would never try to convince anyone to NOT get water baptized if they are convinced to do so. In the same manner I also would not try to convince any man from getting circumcised if he is convinced to do so. Water baptism in the book of Acts was always done with the expectation of an earthy kingdom with an earthy rule. The Israel people generally had no concept of a spiritual kingdom ruling in the heart, and in some cases they never heard of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2), and there were examples in which they received the Holy Spirit BEFORE they were water baptized (Acts 10:44-47). The preaching of the apostles was designed to cut to the heart to cause repentance, and then they received the Holy Spirit. The point is, it was NOT dependant on them to be water baptized FIRST in order to receive the Holy Spirit. Water baptism was carried over into the events of Acts simply because John the Baptist had a profound effect on the people of Israel in "cleansing" them to receive this earthy kingdom. Even Paul was told by Ananias "a devout man according to the LAW" to get baptized and to "wash away" his sins (Acts 22:12-16). In other words, Ananias was very FAMILIAR with the LAWS of the temple and considered water baptism very NECESSARY to wash away sins, and then "calling on the name of the Lord". The laws and ordinances of physical symbols of temple service were always used to PICTURE the spiritual REALITIES, but the faith of the early believers was NOT YET centered on the spiritual realities! Christ spoke of the TWO baptisms to the apostles in Acts 1:5 and He compared John’s symbolic water baptism (1) to the REALITY of Spirit baptism (2) which TRULY washes away sins!
I believe water baptism was slowly phased out even before the temple was destroyed, and Paul thanked God he baptized only three times (1Corinthians 1:14-16). He did not want his name identified with water baptism, and he understood that carnal symbolic washings had nothing whatsoever to do in receiving God's Spirit, and so did the apostle Peter. (Carefully read 1Peter 3:21). Peter explained that the LIKE FIGURE (representative) of baptism DOES save us, but it was NOT the kind of baptism that symbolically puts away (washes) the "filth of flesh". Peter referred to what water baptism REPRESENTED (Spirit baptism) that comes in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is HOW the baptism of the Spirit clears the guilty conscious for believers. As Peter explained; we are saved by "the answer of good conscious toward God". If we are honest, there is only ONE way to symbolically "put away the filth of the flesh" and that HAS to be water baptism. The truth is, the symbolism of water baptism can ONLY "cleanse" (wash) the physical flesh; it CANNOT "cleanse" the carnal heart and mind. Only the baptism of the Spirit that Christ gives can truly cleanse the heart, and the point is, that was the true message that John the Baptist preached ANYHOW! John understood his work of water baptism in preparing Israel to receive their King was only a temporary work. He made it very plain that the one to come after him (Christ) was the one that was to give the ONE true baptism of the Holy Spirit and with FIRE (Mat 3:11). The Holy Spirit of God is the "fire" of God simply because God is called a "consuming fire" (Heb 12:29).
I never in all my life really considered what Christ told John when He himself was water baptized. "Suffer it to be so NOW" were Christ's words (Matthew 3:15). The word "now" was used, and again it only proves the temporary nature and purpose of water baptism. In other words, Jesus Christ himself accepted to get baptized by water for NOW (at that time), and to me it is very obvious that "NOW" really meant ONLY at that time in history during temple service, and was NOT meant to apply in all the history of the Church for 2000 years. There was a logical reason why Christ himself DID NOT water baptize (John 4:2), and there was also a logical reason why Christ did NOT send the apostle Paul to water baptize (1Corinthians 1:17). It would have been a spiritual CONFLICT or a sort of contradiction for Jesus Christ (as God manifested in flesh) to water baptize since He HIMSELF (not water) was the actual spiritual agent believers were to be "WASHED" with. Paul was sent to people generally outside of Judea (Israelites known as "Gentiles" that were dispersed to all nations) who were people NOT under the ordinances of temple service, and therefore were never compelled or desired the ceremonial "washing" known as water baptism.
The word "baptize" can be traced to simply mean to "make whelmed" or to "overwhelm". I believe Christ's instructions to the apostles to "baptize all nations" (Matt 28:19) was simply preaching the gospel which CONVERTED and then "overwhelmed" believers with the Spirit. Keep in mind water baptism was always done on an individual basis, therefore it would have been physically impossible in the lifetime of the apostles to WATER baptize believing individuals of all nations of that known world. Christ’s instructions were to baptize INTO the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; which implies that when believers responded to the gospel they were baptized (overwhelmed) INTO the complete Godhead; which is what salvation is truly based on. The word "INTO" in Matt 28:19 was the original Greek word; it was NOT the word "IN" as mistranslated in our KJ Bibles. But the commanded baptism by Peter in Acts 2:38 was done "IN" the name of Jesus Christ. Obviously there is a difference in baptizing "INTO" the complete Godhead as opposed to baptizing only "IN" the name of Jesus Christ. The many water baptisms done in Acts only pictured the REAL baptism in being "overwhelmed" INTO the complete Godhead. But water baptism was still done "IN the name of Jesus Christ" simply because it was one of the (beginning) principles of the doctrine of Christ, and the "doctrine of baptisms" was one of these principles. But we are to LEAVE this principle (not teach it or practice it) in order to go on to perfection (the maturity of Christ) by NOT AGAIN laying a foundation of faith on the doctrine of baptisms (Heb 6:1-2). The point of the "great commission" was that Christ used the agency of the preaching of the apostles to baptize (overwhelm) believers INTO the complete Godhead. Today Christ uses (not necessarily PREACHED words) but the agency of the original inspired PRINTED words of scripture to baptize (overwhelm) believers INTO the complete Godhead IF THEY STUDY the original inspired words and are CONVERTED by them.
We in this modern day "enlightened" Christian world seem to seek and put the emphasis on symbols such as the ceremonial washing of baptism instead of seeking and setting our affection on the spiritual things above. Thanks to our so-called Christian upbringing we would rather try to "copy" what happened in the book of Acts, and strangely we never consider that the temple was still standing with all the various physical ordinances still in effect. We have got to get REAL with the fact that we are NOT living in the era and history of the book of Acts! What happened during the events in Acts was simply a matter of the record of history, and NOT necessarily spiritual instructions for us 2000 years later. The point I’m making is that the events of Acts were ONLY meant for the Israel people living in that generation. The answer that should settle this whole crux of baptism is that if water baptism WOULD NOT have been an ordinance of temple service the people of Israel would have considered John as a false prophet and maybe even as "loony toons", and would never have listened to him! The crucial point is this; John did NOT decide on his own to INVENT this "unusual" ceremony of him standing in the river of Jordan "washing away" the sins of Israelites! Do we really want to religiously obey a carnal ordinance of "holy washings" associated with a physical temple located in Jerusalem 2000 years ago? In conclusion, some people are made "victims" of this world’s church system, and water baptism is something very PERSONAL to them and their minds are generally SETTLED on how they believe. Therefore they no doubt will reject the way baptism was explained in this article. Please understand, this article was NOT written to change the theological views of certain people, and it was NOT written as a point of contention to expose others in how they happen to believe on baptism. It was ONLY written on the premise of how I personally happen to believe. We are ONLY ABLE to understand what is GIVEN us to understand; based ONLY on the wisdom, sovereignty, and grace of an All-Powerful God! Let us give God the glory! Finally, I want to say that the act of water baptism of itself is HARMLESS, but we should NOT put any faith in it as a valid point of salvation.
The author, Mahlon Wickey, can be Emailed at [email protected]. He is the webmaster of:
Originally posted: 2010-OCT
Latest update: 2010-NOV-15
Author: Mahlon Wickey