The Christian ordinance of baptism is a physical enactment of our spiritual death, burial, and resurrection into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reinforcing our conscious understanding, and creating a firmer foundation for our spiritual testimonies to receive the blessings of the cross.
The Christian ordinance of baptism follows a new believer’s confession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and acceptance of Him as their Saviour and Lord. In the early church, the recommended procedure was to fully immerse the new Christian in running water into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The symbolism of baptism has its basis in the baptismal water being a symbolic grave into which our ‘old man’ and past life are submerged, reckoning them as being now spiritually dead and buried. Our emergence from the water of death symbolises being resurrected into a new life, grafted into Jesus Christ. “For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal 3:27. Newly baptised Christians have become new creations, reconciled to God, and potentially partakers of the fullness of the Godhead.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ…” 2 Cor 5:17-18.
In the Old Covenant there were “various washings and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.” (Heb 9:10). Knowing the frailty of man and his propensity to forget his spiritual blessings, God imposed these physical ordinances as a perpetual reminder, so that the spirit of the people would be maintained in a right relationship with Him.
The physical ordinance of baptism creates the basis for a constant lifelong remembrance of our deliverance from the ‘old man’ who was held captive by the power of Satan, and our new life in Jesus Christ in His kingdom, partakers of “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.”(Eph 1:3). In spiritual warfare our obedience to be baptised and our faith in its spiritual significance in delivering us from the power of Satan, becomes the basis of testimony as we obey God’s command that, “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places…” Eph 3:10-11.
Baptism was ordained by Jesus, who before His ascension commanded His followers to make disciples, and further, to baptise them.
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matt 28:18-20.
Ananias to Paul -- “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'” Acts 22:14-16.
“When they heard this [from Paul], they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts 19:5.
“…they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptised.” Acts 8:12.
From these readings we can conclude that it was the will of the Lord that all who accepted Him as Saviour and Lord, should be baptised into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptised by You, and are You coming to me?" But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he allowed Him.” Matt 3:13-15.
Since Jesus Himself asked John to baptise Him “to fulfil all righteousness,” and enjoined it upon His disciples, it should be seen as a perpetual obligation to all new believers, as an act of obedience, commitment, and proclamation.
The standard lexicons uniformly give the meaning of ‘baptizo’ as "dip, "or "immerse." They do not give ‘pour’ or ‘sprinkle’ as alternative meanings, nor has anyone advanced evidence where this verb could mean ‘pour’ or ‘sprinkle.’
In the sixth chapter of Romans, Paul declares that our ‘old man’ dies and is buried in the water of baptism, and we are resurrected from this ‘grave’ to “walk in newness of life.” The full significance of Paul’s account of baptism would have been lost had immersion not been practiced.
The oldest ecclesiastical manual of discipline which has descended to us, the ‘Didache,’ a manual of Christian instruction written in 110 AD—120 AD, says that the water to be preferred is "living," i.e. running water, water in a stream or river, or fresh flowing from a fountain; "But if thou hast not living water, baptise in other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm"
It was common when immersion was used that the head of the recipient was plunged three times beneath the surface of the water at the mention of each name of the Trinity.
There were some exceptional cases where full immersion was not practised, as in where the persons to be baptised were too frail, or there was no water. In these cases dipping or pouring water over the head and body were permitted. However, where there was water, and the person was able, full immersion was practiced.
A third method of administering baptism by sprinkling the person was sometimes used, but was exclusively reserved for sick and infirm persons too weak to be submitted to immersion or dipping. The method of baptism by sprinkling has a different history from the methods of immersion and dipping, in that it was sparingly used in the early centuries, and it was not until the 13th century that it commended itself to ministers and people as a general practice.
Baptism of Infants
It was out of a perversion of the practice of baptism by sprinkling that infant baptism, or Christening as it has become known, became an accepted ordinance. Another reason for its acceptance was the mistaken belief that baptism is necessary to salvation. Reasoning followed that infants must be baptised in case of their premature death.
Baptism followed instruction, belief, and repentance, things beyond the capacity of infants to understand and practice. The following readings illustrate this point.
“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptised.” Acts 18:8.
“Then Philip … preached Jesus to him…” Acts 8:35.
“when they believed Philip …both men and women were baptised.” Acts 8:12.
“He who believes and is baptised will be saved…” Mark 16:16.
"Repent, and let every one of you be baptised…” Acts 2:38.
“who gladly received his word were baptised…” Acts 2:41
“The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” Acts 16:14
Believing parents [particularly those bereaved of an infant], may be somewhat comforted by Paul’s statement that children of even one believing parent are sanctified, and are in God’s hands due to their own consecration. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy [or sanctified].” 1 Cor 7:14.
Dedication of infants has legitimacy in presenting them to God, and vowing to nurture them into the knowledge and saving grace of the Lord. Jesus was dedicated to God in the temple at Jerusalem. However this should be viewed as a dedication, rather than a baptismal ceremony.
Whole Households Were Baptised
“Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptised.” Acts 16:29-34.
“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptised.” Acts 18:8.
“The Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptised…” Acts 16:14-15.
These readings are often used to justify the baptism of children, but notice that Paul presented the doctrine of salvation to “all who were in his house.” First Paul answered the jailor’s question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul’s reply was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Then “they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” It was because the entire household believed that they were saved and baptised. Similarly Crispus and his whole household believed, and were then baptised.
There is no evidence of whether or not there were infants in Lydia’s household, and although there are references to households being baptised, the New Testament contains no explicit reference to the baptism of infants.
What is Meant by Being Baptised “in” or “into” ‘The Name of’…?
In the command of Jesus, “baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the Greek word, ‘eis,’ is translated “in” by most translators. However it would have been just as legitimate to translate ‘eis’ from its common meaning, ‘into,’ which is more correct when associated with baptism.
Vincent’s definition: [‘in the name’] [eis]. The English Revised, correctly, "into the name." "Into," is the preposition commonly used with baptise. See <Acts 8:16; 19:3,5; 1 Cor. 1:13,15; 10:2; Gal. 3:27>
Strong’s definition: [eis] a primary preposition; to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time.
“For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal 3:27.
"Were ye baptised into the name of Paul?" (1 Cor 1:13).
“…they had simply been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 8:16. (N.I.V).
The Greek word for ‘into’ means to progress from one point or state or time into another point, state, or time. We were of the world, under Satan’s control, without hope of eternal salvation. In being baptised, we progress from that state to the state of being translated spiritually into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Into the Name
The name in this case is not identification as God, or Jesus, or Holy Spirit, but the expression of the sum total of the attributes and characteristics of the divine Being.
The name of God the Father as, ‘Our Father,’ ‘He who heals,’ ‘He who provides,’ ‘Our Fortress,’ ‘Our Strength.’ ‘Creator and upholder of all things,’ Creator and upholder of all life.’
Jesus Christ: ‘Saviour,’ ‘Our Advocate,’ Our High Priest,’ ‘Our Mediator, ‘Our Peace,’ ‘the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls,’ ‘Our Deliverer,’ ‘Lord of lords and King of kings,’ ‘the Lamb of God,’ ‘Our Passover,’ ‘Our Redeemer,’ ‘Our righteousness,’ ‘the Resurrection and the Life,’ ‘the true Vine.’
The Holy Spirit: ‘Our Sanctifier,’ ‘Comforter,’ ‘Our Guide,’ ‘Our Teacher,’ ‘Spirit of Adoption,’ ‘Spirit of life,’ ‘Spirit of grace,’ Spirit of prophecy,’ ’Spirit of holiness,’ Spirit of the Father,’ ‘Spirit of Christ,’ ‘Spirit of counsel.’
Speaking generally, in being baptised into the name, we are baptised into the position of having the right to appropriate the fullness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as illustrated in these readings.
The father, [a picture of God] in the parable of the prodigal son, says to his eldest son, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” Luke 15:31.
Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians, “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that [they] may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:19.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Eph 1:3.
“But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” John 1:12.
Baptism is a sign and seal of our engrafting into a full relationship with the Godhead.
Because Mark seems to include baptism as a condition for salvation, many have concluded that baptism is a necessary requirement for salvation. But note carefully that Mark’s emphasis is on those who believe.
“He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16-17
The answer to the jailor’s question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” Acts 16:30-31.
We do not have to be baptised in order to be saved. Consider for instance, the thief on the cross. Jesus’ response to his statement of belief was, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:43.
Eternal salvation follows our belief and confession of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Baptism opens the door to the continual salvation and sanctification of our souls here on earth.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free -- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” 1 Cor 12:13-14.
When we are baptised into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we become one with all true members of the body of Christ, baptised into the fellowship of believers.
Who May Perform Baptism
As soon as a body of believers had received anointed ministries in their midst, the elders, or other office-bearers, as representatives of the body, generally performed the act of baptism. However, the Scripture nowhere describes or limits the qualifications of those who are entitled to perform the ordinance of baptism. In Acts we find baptism performed by apostles and evangelists, but also by an ordinary “disciple at Damascus named Ananias,” who baptised Paul. (Acts 9:10). In the ongoing church we find the same liberty of practice. What has been called lay-baptism was not forbidden in the New Testament and had the sanction of the early church.
The recipients of Christian baptism are all those who repent of the sins of their past life, who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to pay the debt for the sins of mankind, and that He was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father. Furthermore, they choose to receive Jesus as their Saviour, and the Lord of their lives.
It is clear that some instruction is necessary before undertaking baptism. After preaching the gospel truth to the unbelieving Israelites at Pentecost, Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38-39. To repent is to make a decision to forsake their former way of life, and to accept a new life in Christ Jesus, honouring Him as their Lord. It is not necessary for recipients to be fully aware of all the truths and blessings of baptism before being baptised, but as they become aware of them, to receive and walk in them.
OUR UNION WITH JESUS IN HIS DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION
There are two realms of truth -
1. Spiritual Truth - Although spiritual truth is unseen and not recognised by the natural mind, it is accepted in the spiritual realms of both God and Satan, as absolute eternal truth. The most important spiritual truth is that when we accept in our hearts that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has paid the debt for our sins, we are made eternally righteous, and are eternally saved. Spiritual truth is discerned by our spirits.
2. Conscious Truth - Conscious truth is the natural truth we perceive in the physical realm, discerned through our senses, and recognise as truth by our intellects.
To illustrate the difference, the spiritual truth that we are saved and made eternally righteous, is not registered as truth through our senses, but by our spirits. The physical evidence is that we still sin, and we have no concrete evidence of our salvation. That is why spiritual reality has to be received by faith.
Despite the hard evidence of reality confronting us through our senses, the apostle Paul tells us that it is the unseen spiritual things that are the true eternal reality. “…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor 4:18.
In our spiritual life, we either walk after the Spirit, accepting and receiving spiritual truth with its blessings, or walk after the flesh, or discernments of the natural man, rejecting spiritual truth as foolishness. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor 2:14
Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” Eph 1:3. All of these blessings were procured for us by Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. They are spiritual and unseen to the senses, but they are eternally real. To possess them as living realities, we have to believe that they were procured for us personally, and like righteousness and salvation, be claimed by faith.
In the case of baptism, Paul presents a spiritual reality that has a profound influence on the course of our spiritual walk. He declares that we were in Jesus Christ when He was crucified, buried, and resurrected to the right hand of the Father.
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of [‘likeness of’] was not in the original translation - it should read, “we also shall be in His resurrection”] His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 6:3-11.
This truth was repeated in His letter to the Colossians.
“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [the cross].” Col 2:11-15.
How can this be? In the day of Christ’s judgment and crucifixion, in the grace and wisdom of God, Jesus was seen by Him to be mankind - not just the representative of mankind because Jesus Himself was sinless. Jesus was mankind itself, facing God’s judgment for its sin and wickedness. It follows that if Jesus was collective mankind, then we were incorporated with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.
In our baptism, our ‘old man,’ or unredeemed bodies of sin, was incorporated in Christ’s crucifixion, death and burial. This is a spiritual truth ordained by God. Consequently, Paul says that we are to reckon our ‘old man,’ or “body of the sins of the flesh,” put to death in Jesus on the cross, and that we are now “dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul goes on to say that our ‘old man’ was buried in Christ, or taken out of Satan’s captivity.
Furthermore, Paul says that if we were crucified with Christ, then assuredly we were resurrected with Him as new creations. We were raised in Him, sharing in His triumph over the powers of darkness, with every legal claim of Satan against us, “nailed to the cross.” Even more, spiritually we were raised in Jesus Christ that we might receive “…every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Eph 1:3
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Eph 2:4-6.
Our baptism is a physical enactment of these spiritual truths, bringing conscious truth and spiritual truth together, thereby setting a firm foundation for our future spiritual testimonies.
The spiritual truths unfolded by our baptism have profound implications in our Christian walk. We may walk in the Spirit, accepting each spiritual truth and applying it to our walk, or reject its reality and try to accomplish all things by our ‘flesh,’ or own natural abilities. The first way is a way of spiritual life and triumph. The second way is a way of failure and spiritual death.
Suppose for example, that we hunger and thirst for righteousness, and are constantly trying to overcome the temptations and sins that enslave us. The first and most common way of attempting to overcome is through our own self-efforts; by exerting our will power to hold our sin-nature in check. This is the path usually adopted by new Christians. Paul graphically records the absolute failure of this pathway.
“…we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do… For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice… O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Rom 7:14-16, `19, & 24-25.
Our victory is to walk in the light of the spiritual truth that Jesus Christ delivered us from “this body of death.” In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he tells us “we were baptised into His death,” that “our old man [or “body of the sins of the flesh”] “was crucified with Him,” and “buried with Him through baptism into death.”
How do we apply these spiritual truths to overcome in our battle against sin? Revelation 12:11 says that, “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Rev 12:11. In this case the word of our testimony is of primary importance. The Father and the Holy Spirit always bear witness to the word of our testimony when we believe and claim what the Word says, and that it applies to us personally. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” 1 John 5:7.
Suppose for example you have a besetting sin like lust, and you haven’t been able to control it with your natural willpower. Of course the first step is to repent, praying for forgiveness, and choosing to walk in the purity of Christ.
Next, to gain victory you must stand on the spiritual grounds provided by your baptism. The word says “we were baptised into His death,” that “our old man [or “body of the sins of the flesh - including lust”] “was crucified with Him,” and “buried with Him through baptism into death.”
Therefore, put off lust, reckoning it crucified in Christ and buried in the waters of baptism. Satan does not capitulate immediately, so you must stand firm. Every time lustful thoughts appear, put them off immediately, declaring lust of your old man crucified in Christ. Do so in rest, knowing that Satan initiated these thoughts, and that you can easily reject them because your heart is set against lust. The power of lust will be weakened with every testimony until you have a complete victory. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors -- not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die [be spiritually dead and defeated]; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live [spiritually alive and victorious].” Rom 8:12-13.
The illustration above is the spiritual way to gain victory over any besetting sin.
Just as our being submerged in the baptismal water symbolically portrays our union with Christ in the likeness of His death, coming out of the water portrays our union with Christ in His resurrection. Again this physical demonstration gives added spiritual enlightenment, and weight to our testimonies of our new life in Christ, partakers of His victory over the powers of darkness and death, and receiving our spiritual blessings in heavenly places.
Can you use the grounds of you being crucified and resurrected in Christ without being baptised by full immersion? Yes, but baptism forms a link between conscious truth and spiritual truth, and when your spiritual understanding is strengthened, your spiritual grounds are firmer, and your testimony is stronger.
This reading in the letter to the Hebrews tells us that there is more than one type of baptism. “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms [plural], of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.” Heb 6:1-3. E.g.
The mother of James and John said to Jesus, “…‘Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.’" Matt 20:21-23.
Jesus was referring to His crucifixion as a baptism of suffering. “But I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” Luke 12:50-51
It is an unpopular truth, but anyone who submits to God’s refining hand must inevitably suffer, for suffering is the catalyst in cleansing and purifying our souls. That is why Peter wrote, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2.
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-13.
Paul presented the same truth.
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Tim 3:12-13.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Rom 8:16-17.
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Phil 1:29-30.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom 8:18.
There is little doubt that the disciples had already been baptised with water, for according to the disciples of John the Baptist, all who came to Jesus were baptised by Him. “And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified -- behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!’" John 3:26.
But as they assembled with Jesus before He departed, they were promised a further baptism, this time a baptism with the Holy Spirit. “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:4-6. This was to be a fulfilment of the promise of John the Baptist, “I indeed baptised you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit." Mark 1:8. This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4.
Salvation is the first step in which we are made eternally righteous, sanctified, and reconciled to God. We receive the Holy Spirit who regenerates our spirits, and as the representative of Christ, becomes our teacher, guide, comforter, and helper.
This is followed by baptism in water, as physical evidence of the spiritual truth of our salvation.
Baptism in the Spirit is a further empowering for ministry, in which gifts of the Spirit for service to others are imparted. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10. The gifts of the Spirit are detailed in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians.
The baptism of the Spirit is usually imparted by the laying on of hands, but this is not essential, as the manner of their administration is up to God. The Holy Spirit fell on the first Christians and Gentile believers without human involvement.
The Gentiles were baptised in the spirit first to convince Peter that God had accepted them. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord”. Acts 10:44-48.
The following account of the baptism of the Samarians illustrates the two baptisms, by water, and by the Spirit.
“Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14-17.
Baptism of the Dead
Baptism of the dead is mentioned only once.
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Otherwise, what will they do who are baptised for [or ‘on account of’] the dead, if the dead do not rise at all?” 1 Cor 15:20.
Paul is directing his attention to those who are being baptised for the dead, and not the dead themselves. The term, “for the dead,” can alternatively be translated “baptised on account of the dead,” which could mean on account of, or as a result of, the witness of the lives of those who had preceded them. This is only one of the many theories about the meaning of Paul’s words. Paul is primarily speaking about resurrection, and there is no evidence concerning his approval or disapproval of the practice of baptising for the dead, and because there is no other biblical evidence that allows us to make a decisive conclusion, there are insufficient grounds to make the practice a doctrine.