Water Baptism a Precursor to Spirit Baptism
by Dan Therrien
Today there is controversy among various Christian denominations as to whether water baptism is required for the forgiveness of sins and or for salvation. In a nutshell, I believe the answer to both is no but water baptism is still important which I will explain.
The basis for the controversary is Acts 2:38 where Peter says, "Repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Let's look at the word "for" from the original translation and what other scriptures say regarding forgiveness of sin and salvation.
In Acts 2:41 the Greek word "els" is translated to "for". In Matt. 12:41 the same Greek work "els" is translated "result" or the result of or because of. So, it could be possible that Act 2:38 is communicating that they were baptized as the result of or because they already had believed and in doing so had already received forgiveness of their sins. This interpretation is consistent with Peter's next two sermons to unbelievers where he associates the forgiveness of sins with the acts of repentence and faith in Christ without even mentioning baptism. (Acts 3:17-26, Acts 4:8-12)
In Luke 24:47 Jesus states, "...and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations." So repentance and forgiveness of sins has nothing to do with water baptism and Peter was told not to preach and lay low until Pentecost when he was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Because you see, Jesus went on to say in Luke 24:49 for the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they receive power from on high. Here Jesus was speaking of Pentecost when Christ would send down the Holy Spirit.
Mark 16:16-18 tells us "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." It goes on to say, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils... lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." These signs cannot be accomplished without the Holy Spirit so it's pretty clear the baptism being talked about is the Spirit baptism which is right in line with what Jesus told Nicodemus, "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus then asked how someone could enter a mother's womb and be born again. Jesus essentially told him He wasn't speaking of that kind birth but a spirit birth when he answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water (where the unborn child is immersed in water within the womb and given life when coming out from the water at birth) and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." This is the second birth being spoken of and makes everything fit together. We need the Spirit baptism to enter heaven not the fleshly one although you need the physical birth in order to received spirit birth. Some say the statement born of water is referring to water baptism but why would Jesus answer a question that wasn't asked. Nicodemus never asked about water baptism. He asked about child birth and Jesus answered accordingly. To declare otherwise would be taking the scripture totally out of context.
In Acts 10:43 Peter tells Cornelius that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. Nowhere in the bible does it say that if a man is not baptized in water that he will not be saved.
Water baptism is symbolic of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. This tradition is conducted today as an outward display to other believers of your commitment to follow Christ but has nothing to do with any requirement to be saved.
Some preachers today teach that water baptism is necessary for the remission of sins and for salvation but Heb. 10:15-18 tells us that the Holy Spirit was key to the new covenant by whom "I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more and there will be no more offering for sin. That includes water baptism which was replaced by Baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Eph. 2:8-9 states, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves and not of works (which includes water baptism.) Jesus made it clear that rituals of the past would no longer be required once He sent the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 9:10 tells us that ceremonial washings (baptimos meaning immersed) were external regulations that applied until the time of the new order which began on the Day of Pentecost when Christ sent the Holy Spirit. So the old, ceremonial outer washings in water or baptism has now been superseded by the new, actual, inner cleansing in the Holy Spirit. The old water baptism could not, and still cannot change the heart of a man, but the spirit of the Holy God can revolutionize a person from the inside and enables him to be more Jesus-like.
Blood sacrifices and water baptism were shadows of things to come and was perfected when Christ fullfilled the law and sent his Holy Spirit. Acts 1:5 states, "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost." Mark 1:8 also made it clear that the older baptism in water would be replaced by baptism in the Holy Spirit when John said, "I indeed baptized you with water; but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." He didn't say Christ shall baptize you with water and the Holy Spirit. In fact, Christ never baptized anyone with water. The only reason Christ was baptized was part of His fulfilling all the requirements of the old covenant.
Heb 7:18-19 says, "For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope."
Baptism in water was one of the Old Testament "shadows" cast by the approaching light of Christ. Bringing into reality that greater cleansing, which water baptism only symbolized, required Jesus' sinless life, sacrificial death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of the gift of the Holy Spirit. He did it all for us.
In John 3:3,4 Jesus said, "No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again. No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water (by man) and the Spirit (from God). Whether you believe 'born of water' is referring to water baptism or child birth John is stating that isn't enough. We are not born again without the Holy Spirit. Water baptism doesn't give us the Holy Spirit but one's repentence and faith does.
Christ puts full emphasis on the filling of the Holy Spirit and with good reason. Without the spirit we are on our own with hell looking you in the face. Gal. 5:19-21 tells us, "Without the Spirit we are working in the flesh" and explains that "the works of the flesh are adultery, fornication uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like:... they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God."
The good news is that with the Spirit we are guaranteed a place in heaven. Gal. 5:22,23 states, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness and temperance." Who wouldn't want that.
To summarize, the bible is very clear that we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. For you see, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) In Romans 10:9 we read, "That if you confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."As we've already learned, we must repent of our sins, have a desire to live the life Christ would have us live and ask for the infilling of the Holy Spirit to come and guide you. Then just continue to pray and ask yourself, What would Jesus do in every aspect of your life. The Holy Spirit will guide you because as we learn in 2 Cor. 5:17 "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
So don't put your hope in man-made church doctrines as they will not benefit you. Place your faith in Christ alone.
So, should water baptism be done away with? I never said that and believe it's a good outward display to other believers that you believe in Christ's death, burial and resurrection, that you've been saved and made a commitment to follow Christ just as the disciples did with new believers.
Blessings to all.