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Navigating the Waters of Baptism

Thursday, January 31, 2013 | Comments (25)

by John MacArthur

Many unbaptized Christians are simply ignorant when it comes to baptism. They’ve never been taught about baptism—what it signifies and why it matters. And what little teaching there is on the subject—you might find a random book chapter here or there, but little else—usually just further confuses the issue.

For example, many believers today have been taught that if they were baptized or christened as a baby, that is sufficient to fulfill Scripture’s command. Think about the confusing message that sends—that a passive act as a newborn has anything in common with the public profession of faith and identification with the risen Christ and His church. Most Christians today could rightly claim ignorance when it comes to baptism, but that’s not a valid excuse to ignore it altogether.

Other believers might be avoiding baptism out of pride. Many have allowed a long period of time to elapse since their conversion. They repented and believed long ago, and they are faithfully involved with the church, active in ministry, and submissive to the authority of God’s Word, but they have never been baptized.

It’s understandably a little embarrassing to acknowledge that kind of failure—that you’ve been disobedient on something so fundamental for so long. But better to humble yourself than to further extend that disobedience by remaining unbaptized.

Indifference is another reason professing believers might not be baptized. There are plenty of people in the church today who simply can’t be bothered. It doesn’t fit into their busy schedule and they’re not willing to sacrifice something else—their work, their ministry, their leisure time, or whatever it is—and make the command of the Lord a priority for their life. Obedience simply isn’t that important to them. They’re apathetic. They might want to do it; they might even plan to do it. But until obedience is their first priority, they’ll never finally get around to being baptized.

For others it goes a step further into defiance. Some people in the church haven’t been baptized because they are just rebellious. They brazenly refuse to obey. Usually people like that are living in active patterns of sin, and any public confession of their faith in Christ would only elevate their hypocrisy. They won’t surrender their sin, so they charge further into rebellion against the Lord.

In addition to ignorance, pride, indifference, and defiance, there is one other reason people in the church aren’t baptized—they’re unregenerate. They’re simply not saved. They have no desire to publicly identify with Christ because they know in their hearts they don’t truly belong to Him. They might be familiar with the Bible and the church—they might even attend regularly, hanging on at the fringes without ever fully committing. But they won’t—they can’t—take a public stand with Christ because they’ve never truly submitted their lives to Him in the first place.

The New Testament has no concept of an unbaptized Christian. When people repented and believed in Christ, they were baptized—often immediately—as a public profession of their faith and to identify with the body of believers. The two were inextricably linked throughout the early church (cf. Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 2:38).

Likewise, the New Testament has nothing to say about many of the modern methods of baptism. Sprinkling, pouring, or dabbing people with water makes no biblical sense. Only immersion paints an accurate, biblical picture of the transformation that takes place in salvation.

The believer’s baptism by submersion in water is consistent with the metaphor the apostle Paul used in Romans 6:3-7.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

He wasn’t referring to the ordinance of baptism, but the spiritual reality of union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Water baptism is the outward symbol of that unity—your physical baptism signifies the spiritual baptism that’s already taken place. It’s the public, ceremonial depiction of your death to sin and your new life in Christ.

However, that rich truth isn’t celebrated or even taught in many churches. And because the theology and practice of baptism are so muddled, today we likely have more unbaptized believers than at any other time in the history of the church.

If you’re a professing believer who hasn’t been baptized, you fall into one of those categories—your disobedience is the result of ignorance, pride, indifference, defiance, or it’s an indication that you’re not truly saved. It’s critical that you carefully and biblically examine your life and determine what’s keeping you from publicly identifying with Christ in His resurrection and with the local gathering of believers. You don’t want to live in open disobedience to the clear command of Scripture, regardless of the excuses you might be clinging to.

You need to repent and be baptized.


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#1  Posted by Randall Brookhiser  |  Thursday, January 31, 2013at 5:50 AM

Right on teaching about baptism! Some additional issues that I have seen in the past include: 1) Christians who read the passage about the command to stop performing "baptisms" (really means washings) and believe it is against God's Word to be baptized. 2) Christians who arrange to be baptized privately at someone's home using swimming pool, with only the pastor and a few friends and relatives in attendance rather than at church. 3) Christians who downplay the important of the public testamony of believer baptism saying such things as the criminal on the cross who was converted was not baptized. (In a way though this new convert was baptized by making a public confession of faith identifying with Christ's dealth burial and ressurection.) 4) Church bylaws do not require a believer to be baptized to join the church only need to make a profession of faith to an elder which is normally done in private.

#2  Posted by Lysandra Figueroa  |  Thursday, January 31, 2013at 6:58 AM

What do you do when your church does not believe you need to be baptized? I was told by them once you have accepted Christ that you are automatically baptized with Him , so to speak and you receive the Holy Spirit. They do not believe in public confessions of your faith or any public testimonies of any kind. They kind of shun away from anyone who tries to open up about their past sins and believe in not confronting sin in the church. Don't ask me why they came to this belief? But I have been attending this small church for a year now and it seems to me that no one wants to be involved in anyone's life including the leadership.

I love my church and fellow believers and I pray for God to change certain things that may be wrong. They are biblically sound and definitely teach the Word several meetings a week which I love , but that's all they commit to. There are very little ministries and member edification from my perspective. But I could be wrong. God works in His own perfect way.

#3  Posted by Chris McCarthy  |  Thursday, January 31, 2013at 8:25 AM

Thanks John your comments are timely. Just last night one of the FOF students asked if baptism was necessary for salvation. The resources we have on the GTY website are a blessing. Thank you for your defense of the gospel.

#4  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Thursday, January 31, 2013at 9:34 AM

I am now 55 years old. At age 19 I joined a Church of Christ. That is the cult that claims to be the only true church. I was baptized in that church. Over time I became disillusioned and fell away from that group. After that,I lived a horrible debauched life for many years. joined an Assemblies of God church. The leaders were of the word faith movement. I had no clue at that time. I then dropped out again. I have since finally come to know the truth via John Macarthur, RC Sproul and others of the reformed faith. My question is,should I be baptized again?.

#5  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Thursday, January 31, 2013at 11:08 AM

How does saving faith and the role of progressive sanctification after one's confession of faith and baptism relate to the question asked by Greg (4)?

Lysandra (2), Please consider how the church one attends can be biblically sound and at the same time not believe in public confessions of any kind, especially indifferent leaders.

Jeremiah, Fred, help please?

#6  Posted by Greg Begemann  |  Thursday, January 31, 2013at 4:49 PM

Thank you pastor John for this timely address. It is crucial for the church to be reminded of the great importance of baptism. Baptism is important not because it has any saving power, it doesn't. It is important not because it is an event that holds some spiritual or mystical significance, it doesn't. Baptism is important because it is a first obedience as a new believer to the LORD we just confessed and submitted to! It is a first witness, a public announcement of our new identity with Christ so it is an identifyer. It identifies, stands witness to, publically announces the regeneration that has taken place in us the moment we were saved -- the moment we repented from our sinful, Godless, condemned life; the moment we believed and embraced Christ in faith; the moment of obedience to the Gospel; the moment we cried out to Him in humble confession that He is LORD, Master, our only possible Savior, the moment we submitted to Him, and committed to follow Him. At that moment there is was a spiritual death. Death has died! There is a spiritual resurrection. New life has come! The former lost soul who was condemned to eternal death no longer exists. It is dead--buried--gone. A newly transformed soul is recreated into a new spiritual being with eternal life (2Cor 5:17). This is salvation and is a work of God in us (v.18). We are brought into the eternal Kingdom of God, permanently adopted into His family and given eternal inheritance! Biblical baptism identifies that work. As it pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, it publically announces the spiritual death, burial, and resurrection that has taken place in us. Moreover, the eagerness of a new believer to be baptized is testimonty in itself of a newly transformed life ie: the Ethiopian Eunich (Acts 8: 26-39). Sadly, the growing complacency toward baptism, the popular idea that it is some sort of optional or unecessary sideshow seems to be futher evidence of the growing population of tares among the wheat in the church. Today's false believers are often driven by pride and self-serving motives to make "professions of faith" so it is understandible they would never want to be inconvenienced or humbled to the point of being dunked under water in front of a crowd. In contrast, obedience to the LORD is the top priority a truly transformed heart. Anyone who is a believer who has never been Biblically baptized for the purpose of obedience and the public testimony of identity with their LORD should do so. It is a command and a wonderful witness for Christ!

#8  Posted by Judy Iversen  |  Thursday, January 31, 2013at 9:16 PM

Greg: You say the "church" that baptized you is a cult. Was your baptism truly a believer's baptism in Jesus Christ? That you are asking these questions suggests to me that at this time there is a spiritual prompting by the Holy Spirit for you to give a clear, public proclamation to your faith in Jesus Christ. May you walk in the truth you have found more recently.

#9  Posted by Keith Heapes  |  Friday, February 01, 2013at 8:07 PM

I originally posted this question on the GTY Feedback section, but realize this is probably a better place to post it.

I listened to a recent Q & A (Part 60) with Pastor MacArthur and something he said reminded me of something I have wrestled with for quite some time concerning water baptism. Whenever I have brought this up I'm usually referred to Romans 6:3-4 as the answer to my question, just as in this blog. My question is why is water baptism a symbol, a remembrance of the resurrection of Christ?

Regarding Romans 6:3-7, Pastor MacArthur teaches that this text and several others (Colossians, Galatians, 1 Peter, et al) are what he calls "waterless baptisms." I've heard him say the word baptize (Gr. baptizo) doesn't always mean "to dip or immerse into water," but according to the context, can also mean "to be joined, immersed or placed into union with" something or someone, such as our union with Christ in I Corinthians 12:13. The aforementioned texts would not refer to water baptism but rather reveal a spiritual union completed by the Holy Spirit.

Knowing this, I've always applied Titus 3:4-7, "He saved us,...by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior" as the symbolism depicted by water baptism. Therefore, trying to connect the dots between a symbolic water baptism to the death and resurrection of Christ have sincerely been difficult to understand.

In the same way I wouldn't associate being baptize into Moses by those who passed through the Red Sea as a water baptism either, simply because the word baptized was used. It was something complete different.

I agree with Pastor MacArthur concerning the importance of water baptism. However, understanding the actual biblical reason we submit to believers' baptism is just as important. As you can probably tell, right now I can't say that I do.

#10  Posted by Thomas Clabaugh  |  Friday, February 01, 2013at 10:37 PM

In response to Greg Tegman about whether he should be baptized or not: I asked the same question at my church before becoming a member because I wasn't saved after all the other times I got baptized. They said "absolutely". It makes sense since the testimony to the church is truthful this time. And what a joy it is to be baptized with confidence and joy of your salvation!

#11  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Saturday, February 02, 2013at 10:52 AM

Keith (9), I genuinely appreciate your post. As a former member of a PCA church in central Alabama, I loved the leadership and wheat in that local body. My wife, children, and I matured as believers under their loving care and oversight.

Greg (4), John states in the blog above, "If you’re a professing believer who hasn’t been baptized........" By your own admission, you were able to break ties with two "cults", (John 8:32), you confess that you willfully sinned for a time against the Lord who purchased you (Luke 22:32), and you have since come to know the truth (Hebrews 4:2). Praise the Lord (Luke 15:7)! Who, according to God's revealed will, as a professing believer, was ever commanded to be baptized by immersion a second time? When I asked myself the same question you asked in your post, I went to Romans 11:6,11,18,20,22,23, and especially 29-36. I eagerly anticipate what the Lord is going to reveal to us, as I'm sure you do, as the series continues.

#12  Posted by Tim Hill  |  Sunday, February 03, 2013at 10:13 AM

Trying to be concise, I agree with the importance of baptism. The Great Commission calls for baptizing and teaching as the means to the command – go make disciples (Matt. 28:19). The Bible shows baptism for believers (Acts 8:12-13) and the process is by full immersion (Acts 8:38-39); I cannot find any clear exceptions. I find a few clear reasons given for the function of baptism:

1) Connecting believers to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-4) – through immersion

2) Making an appeal to God for a clear conscience (1 Peter 3:21)

3) Putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27)

4) Forgiveness (Acts 2:38), washing away sins calling on his name (Acts 22:16)

5) Along with belief, baptism is connected to salvation (Mark 16:16) – no, I’m not saying that baptism, or belief, pays the debt of sin. Only Christ’s blood made that possible (Heb. 9:11-28). Salvation is not our own doing, but scripture does make a connection (1 Peter 3:21).

6) For repentance – to believe in Him who was coming (Acts 19:4) – this was John the Baptist’s baptism

7) Perhaps even unity of the Church (“baptized into one body”) (1 Cor. 12:13) – following a discourse on divisions that baptisms created (1 Cor. 1:11-17)

What I cannot find is any clear reason given for public proclamation. In fact, I find the Jailer and his household being baptized in the middle of the night (Acts 16:33). If for pubic proclamation, wouldn’t they wait till daytime? Philip baptized the eunuch while traveling along a road, and only the two are specifically mentioned to have taken part (Acts 8:38). Communion is clearly said to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26), but where is this said of baptism? Please show me if you know of scriptural references. I hope this isn’t by tradition that has developed over the years. Thank you for your help.

#13  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Sunday, February 03, 2013at 10:18 AM

If water baptism is a one-time event to publicly identify with Christ with the local gathering of believers, should you be baptized again if you move to a new church so those believers can witness your public confession?

Many place a false sense of security in the symbol and it divides many denominations. Only God knows the heart, and how we live our life everyday certainly says more than if we were baptized in water. If water baptisms are commanded, Believer's Baptism would seem the most appropriate. Is water baptism in any form are a command of Christ? Jesus repeatedly says John baptizes with water, BUT Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

It is our responsibility to search the Bible, pray and follow our conscience in such matters.

How can we determine if Matthew 28:19 refers to actual water baptism or a baptism into Christ? Which Bible verses state that we are to be baptized with water AFTER we receive the Holy Spirit?

Jesus commanded the followoing to his disciples after his resurrection. Are all of these not the great commission?

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

Luke 24:46-49

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

John 21:15-17

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. ”He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Acts 1:4-5

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 10:42-43

And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

#14  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Sunday, February 03, 2013at 10:32 AM

John the Baptist said the one coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit spiritual “living water” – gives the promise of the Father. John contrasted his baptism with the baptism that Jesus would perform after he was glorified

(Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:26, John 1:33, John 4:10-14, John 7:38-39, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16, Acts 15:8, Romans 6:3-4, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 Corinthians 12:13.Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:4-6, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5-6, Colossians 2:8-12, Hebrews 10:22, 1 Peter 3:21)

John baptized with physical “living water”

(Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:31-33, John 3:23-24, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16)

John said he was not the Christ

(John 1:20, John 3:28)

John came baptizing in water so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel

(John 1:31, John 10:40-42, Acts 10:37:38)

John said he baptized to bear witness that Jesus is the Son of God (He on whom the Spirit descended on and remained baptizes with the Holy Spirit)

(Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-34)

Jesus’ authority was established at his baptism

(Matthew 21:23-27, Mark 11:27-33, Luke 20:1-8, John 10:18, Acts 1:22, Acts 10:42-43)

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S BAPTISM

• John baptized with water. John said his was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

• John said he was not the Christ

• John came baptizing in water so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel

• John bore witness that Jesus is the Son of God (He on whom the Spirit descended on and remained)

• Jesus’ authority was established at his baptism

• John said the one coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit

• John contrasted his baptism with the baptism that Jesus would perform

• John’s baptism took place before Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection

JESUS’ BAPTISM (THE ONE HE GIVES)

• is with the Holy Spirit spiritual “living water”

• is with fire

• gives the promise of the Father

JESUS WAS BAPTIZED:

• to fulfill all righteousness

• so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel

• so that John could bear witness that Jesus is the Son of God

• shows that he on whom the Spirit descends and remains is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit

How do we know if this means baptized in water?

Acts 2:38

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“In the Name of” is more than a baptismal formula:

John 14:26

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

1 Corinthians 6:11

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

#15  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Sunday, February 03, 2013at 10:47 AM

I found interesting this recipe for pickles that uses bapto and baptizo. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

Only baptism with the Holy Spirit can produce that permanent change.

Acts 3:1 says Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour (3 p.m.). They healed the lame man and then Peter began to speak in Solomon’s Portico about Jesus. Next in Acts 4 it says it was already evening, but that many of those who heard the word believed and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Would Peter and John have been able to accomplish water baptisms in the mikvehs for a few thousand people between 3 p.m. and evening before Peter and John were arrested? If the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees arrested them, would they have even allowed the earlier baptism of 3,000 at Pentecost?

In John Chapter 3 Jesus discusses being born again with Nicodemus and then John and the disciples are baptizing. Next, in John Chapter 4, a discussion arose with John the Baptist and a Jew over purification and states when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, he left Judea and departed again for Galilee and talked to the woman about living water. Did Jesus not baptize, but only his disciples, because Jesus was not yet glorified and it regularly states John baptizes with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and that would not take place until Pentecost? The Jewish mikvehs where they performed tevilah (immersion) are required to contain “living water” that must be in contact with the groundwater of a stream, or rainwater caught in a cistern. Immersion in a stream or ocean is also acceptable. The Jewish purification rituals reference tevilah and mikveh, as well as “living water”.

John 7:37-39

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

#16  Posted by Jennifer Mc Farland  |  Sunday, February 03, 2013at 11:51 AM

I too have to question whether I should be baptised again (whenever I find a church - not many teaching the truth here but that's another story in itself). I always thought I was saved, since I was about 7 and went to a VBS. I just always believed in Jesus as God and Saviour, but I don't think I had the whole idea and truth pulled together. When I was about 25 I was baptised in my church (an Assemblies of God church) with my first husband (we were married in the church). I remember giving a testimony of all that Jesus had done in my life (such as giving me my husband) and then we were immersed in the water. Eventually, we became disillusioned with the church, left and I drifted so far from the Lord, I can't even now say I was saved with any confidence. I divorced my husband, lived the most debauched life I could, got remarried to someone I never should have married (but he is now a Christian at least) and then one day about 2 years ago I said to the Lord, "I am a terrible Christian. In fact, I don't even think You would recognize me as one". I started reading the Bible, praying and listening to GTY sermons. My life now is one of careful obedience to the Lord, trust in Him in every area of my life and total commitment and love to Him. But when me and my husband do find the right church, should I be re-baptisted? I don't know.

#17  Posted by Greg Begemann  |  Monday, February 04, 2013at 6:33 PM

Jennifer(16), countless people have lived, and are living similar stories. Many times believers cannot pinpoint the exact moment in life when God truly saved them and transformed their heart. You may be one. Perhaps God did His saving work in your life 2 years ago when, as you say, there was a spiritual change you maybe can't fully explain. For a believer, it matters not when God did His saving work in them, what's important is that He did (1Cor 1:30). Today we are a changed person (1Cor 5:17). We have been transformed with newness of life (Rom 6:4,11) in Christ. When we are at the end of ourselves with guilt, emptiness, disgust, & conviction over sin & failure, it is the Holy Spirit drawing us, calling us to the Savior at that time in our life. As Jesus describes in Matthew 5:3-6, it is God bringing us to the place of lostness, brokenness, helplessness, and grief from being powerless to overcome the sin that condemns us. It is the "poor in spirit" He describes in verse 3 and the "mournfulness seen in verse 4. It is humbling to be helpless and undeserving of help--especially when we realize the only One who can come to our rescue is Holy God who we have offended. That's the spirit of humility in verse 5. There is a great sense of spiritual emptiness that brings about a longing for God to save you from that hopeless condition and change your life. That's the "hunger and thirst for righteousness" in verse 6 that God puts in us because sinful man does not have a natural want for righteousness. Then, in all that disparity God reveals to us for the first time the reality of the Gospel (no matter how many times we may have heard it). The Gospel suddenly becomes meaningful. In your heart and mind, you, for the first time, see and understand Christ for who He really is--The Living God of the universe--your Lord--your Master--the only One who can save you. In that moment He grants you the ability to repent, turn away from your sin and unto Him. And by faith you do. In obedience to the Gospel you call out to Him in to save you. You embrace Jesus Christ, confess Him as the Omnipotent LORD, fully believing in His finished work on the cross and trusting Him for eternal life because He rose again and lives to give you that life (Eph 1:19-21; 2:1-7). God accomplishes that work in everyone who is truly born again (1Cor 5:18). People including children make "professions of faith" for many reasons. Then later are tortured with doubt trying to think back to their sincerity in some particular event--a prayer--a baptism--a tearful trip to the so-called "altar". God doesn't wait for man made events or programs. If you are a believer today it is because He chose you to choose Him at some point in your life. You may know exactly when that is, you may not. The important thing is what you know now. Baptism is a witness of God's saving work in you. If you know now that you are truly saved, obey Him now in the witness of baptism

#18  Posted by Gary Schell  |  Monday, February 04, 2013at 8:29 PM

I currently attend a church that believes in baptism regeneration. We are taught that baptism is necessary for salvation and that one can only receive the Holy Spirit after baptism by immersion. This is throwing the church into confusion and the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ is blurred. I agree with baptism by immersion, when it is put into the proper perspective. However, my heart sinks with sadness every time a person comes forward and is baptized in my local church. I recently resigned by position as a deacon in my church over this issue. I currently teach two bible studies and have been teaching the proper meaning of baptism and salvation in Christ alone. My heat grieves for the people in my local church and for the deception that is taking place. I know my time at this church is coming to an end and my concern for their salvation tears at my heart.

#19  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Tuesday, February 05, 2013at 12:36 PM

To all of you in this blogroll, I want to thank you so very much for your help. Actually all of you here in this blogroll for that matter. The questions,answers and conclusions I read from every one of you are very good. A person can become confused regarding baptism. Water baptism is not work. It is a public testimony for what has already come about. I don't need to weed through all the confusion over the many lost years. It is when I examine myself through scripture today. Assurance does evade me still. It is that in which I pray the Holy Spirit will guide me.

#20  Posted by Ray Bean  |  Tuesday, February 05, 2013at 12:59 PM

Baptism is necessary for salvation .Tim Hill gave several passages that do not need to be repeated. And it is not a work of merit but a response of obedient faith. When a person is baptizzed that person is trusting in the blood of Jesus to save.

#21  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson  |  Tuesday, February 05, 2013at 3:17 PM

Ray (20),

Could you please explain how baptism is "necessary for salvation" but "not a work of merit." It can't be a response of obedient faith unless that faith already exists, meaning that baptism isn't necessary for salvation, but a response to it.

I want to make sure I understand your position.

#22  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Tuesday, February 05, 2013at 4:23 PM

John MacArthur’s study bible says of John 3:5: Jesus referred not to literal water here but the need for “cleansing” (e.g. Ezekiel 36:24-27). When water is used figuratively in the Old Testament, it habitually refers to renewal or spiritual cleansing, especially when used in conjunction with “spirit” (Numbers 19:17-19, Psalm 51:9-10, Isaiah 32:15: 44:3-5; 55:1-3, Jeremiah 2:13, Joel 2:28-29). Thus, Jesus made reference to the spiritual washing or purification of the soul, accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the word of God at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, ), required for belonging to his Kingdom”. (This is from John MacArthur’s ESV Study Bible, page 1540).

John MacArthur’s study Bible states of Hebrews 10:22: The imagery in this verse is taken from the sacrificial ceremonies of the Old Covenant, where blood was sprinkled as a sign of cleansing, and the priests were continually washing themselves and the sacred vessels in basins of clear water. Being “washed with pure water” does not refer to Christian baptism, but to the Holy Spirit’s purifying a person’s life by the means of the word of God (Ephesians 5:25-26, Titus 3:5). This is purely a New Covenant picture (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:25-26). (This is from John MacArthur’s ESV Study Bible, page 1864-1865).

I listened to all of the Grace to You sermons about baptism. I completely understand the justification for believer’s baptism over sprinkling and adult instead of infant, but am unsure if water baptism is a commandment or just church tradition. I know what believer’s baptism represents and it sounds reasonable and makes sense to me. I have witnessed many baptisms and they are a beautiful symbol, but I know people who did it just to comply with membership into a particular church. Do churches have a higher standard than God who has already baptized true believers with the Holy Spirit apart from any ceremony? Are Holy Spirit baptisms the New Covenant, and was John the Baptist’s baptism part of the Old Covenant pointing to Christ? Holy Spirit baptism is the only baptism that saves, and it occurs without water baptism taking place. I believe it is an act of God done immediately upon faith and repentance in the life of a believer - something we don’t feel or are even aware of.

If baptism were only by the Holy Spirit, there certainly would not be division among denominations arguing what a valid baptism really is, and then no one would be concerned with the mode of sprinkling or immersion if someone needs re-baptized. Have we taken church tradition, and made it a command of Christ? I really believe all the disagreements about water baptism actually take away from God’s Glory. Many people give equal weight to water baptism being able to accomplish what only Christ’s death could have done.

#23  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Tuesday, February 05, 2013at 4:36 PM

Many of my questions about water baptism came up after listening to many Grace to You sermons and reading some Jewish history regarding mikvahs and tevilah, and that the mikvah must contain living water. There are mikvahs that are available today that Jews can visit. There are 365 in the United States (http://www.mikvah.org/directory). Chabad.org states: “The primary uses of mikvah today are delineated in Jewish Law and date back to the dawn of Jewish history. They cover many elements of Jewish life. Mikvah is an integral part of conversion to Judaism. Mikvah is used, though less widely known, for the immersion of new pots, dishes, and utensils before they are used by a Jew. The mikvah concept is also the focal point of the taharah, the purification rite of a Jew before the person is laid to rest and the soul ascends on high. The manual pouring of water in a highly specific manner over the entire body of the deceased serves this purpose. Mikvah is also used by men on various occasions; with the exception of conversion, they are all customary. The most widely practiced are immersion by a groom on his wedding day and by every man before Yom Kippur. Many Chassidic men use the mikvah before each Shabbat and holiday, some even making use of mikvah each day before morning prayer (in cities with large populations of observant Jews, special mikvahs for men facilitate these customs). But the most important and general usage of mikvah is for purification by women.”

I've read the passages in the Bible regarding baptism and can't help but wonder if there is a correlation being made between the living water contained in these mikvahs for Jewish purification rituals and the living water (Holy Spirit) that Christ gives believers. John the Baptist contrasted his baptism regularly with the baptism Christ would give after He was glorified.

These are some Grace to You sermons from the 1970s. They are all excellent.

John the Baptist’s Testimony to Christ - Sermon 1503B - March 15, 1970

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1503B

From John to Jesus - 1506B - May 10, 1970

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1506B

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Part 1 Acts 2:1-4 – 1703 - May 21, 1972

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1703/the-baptism-of-the-holy-spirit-part-1

From Judaism to Jesus, Part 1: Paul in Transition Acts 18:18-23 - 1768 - January 13, 1974

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1768/from-judaism-to-jesus-part-1--paul-in-transition

From Judaism to Jesus, Part 2: Apollos in Transition Acts 18:24-28 - 1769 - January 20, 1974

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1769/from-judaism-to-jesus-part-2-apollos-in-transition

From Judaism to Jesus, Part 3: Have you Received the Holy Spirit? Acts 19:1-7 - 1770 - January 27, 1974

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1770/from-judaism-to-jesus-part-3-have-you-received-the-holy-spirit

#24  Posted by Tim Hill  |  Tuesday, February 05, 2013at 7:36 PM

Ray (20),

Though I do find a connection between baptism and salvation, I am not implying that it is "necessary" for salvation. The reason I don't hold that comes from the example of the robbers on the cross. Both (plural) started out reviling Christ (Matt. 27:44). That makes me believe that neither had previously been baptized. Neither of them had previously held belief upon Jesus. Some time later, the one robber had a clear change of heart (Luke 23:39-43), and Jesus said to him, "Today you shall be with Me in Paradise." Now what exactly is meant by "Paradise" is another discussion, but I do believe that this robber was saved without having been baptized. However, scripture does connect the two in several places.

I think 1 Peter 3:21 makes this connection clearest by saying baptism is "an appeal to God." I have extreme respect for John MacArthur, and I know he says that this verse in 1 Peter is not talking about a water baptism but a dry baptism. He makes this claim because the passage says this is "not the removal of dirt from the flesh." However, why would a physical washing even be an issue of possible misunderstanding needing to be clarified if it were not describing a water immersion? Thus I think it is a water baptism. Maybe I'm wrong.

Still, I keep reading it said that baptism is about giving a public testimony. I'm certainly not opposed to public testimonies. But please show me Biblical support for why this is the function of baptism. I just can't find it.

#25  Posted by Ray Bean  |  Wednesday, February 06, 2013at 8:19 AM

Tim , I totally agree with you about the public confession concept. Several examples like you gave prove the point . Like the Ethiopian , the jailer , etc.

I have witnessed public baptisms during a worship assembly as have all who are on this blog. Also those of a private nature , especially after a study with someone and they want to immediately

obey the gospel and be saved ( Mark 16 : 15 and 16 ) , and receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit ( Acts 2 : 38 , 39 ) , to wash away sins ( Acts 22 : 16 ) and to be united with Christ ( Gal. 3 : 26 and 27).

And like you , I cannot get a dry baptism out of I Peter 3 : 21. and it does say " that now saves you..." and yes " by the resurrection of Jesus Christ ..." .

#26  Posted by Ray Bean  |  Wednesday, February 06, 2013at 8:26 AM

Jeremiah ,

All I know from the study of scripures is that we are saved by faith and faith involves obedience . If not then all anyone ever must do is just have intellectual assent to the fact of Jesus as Savior and that is it. Nothing else and everything else is optional.