PDF Version

The Essence of True Baptism

Paul writes to Lee on his question of water baptism:

Hi Lee, back from the visit in Canada.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect” (1 Corinthians 1:17 MKJV).

I think that sums up what we think about water baptism, according to what the Lord is doing today, and has done in our lives. We are not here to water baptize, but to preach Jesus Christ, according to the Spirit of Truth, that people might be baptized into His Spirit and come to know Him.

What are your thoughts, and why do you ask?

Lee’s response:

I have considered my self one in Christ for a very long time and have yet to be baptized which also means I can not join anyone’s church club. My problem is that I have never found the person I found worthy for the occasion. I am told I have an attitude problem and I think I have a problem with there unclean spirit moving toward me. Or something like this.

Paul’s reply:

Hi Lee,

I think I understand what you are saying about being baptized by men. Perhaps you can say more about how one qualifies as being worthy to baptize others. If those who were to baptize you are there to represent their works (church organizations), baptizing you into their “clubs,” as you say, why would you expect them to be representatives of Christ and His Name? Are those who represent sectarian interests sent by Him? If so, they would be worthy, and you could be the one with the problem. If they do not represent Christ, why would you seek the living amongst the dead?

Paul the apostle did say that those who are sectarian are carnal, and in need of teachers, rather than being teachers themselves. And he was talking about true believers that were behaving in a sectarian manner. There are those who are sectarian who have never known the Lord, nor have they received anything from Him.

But I am still not sure why you want to be baptized. Can you tell us?

Paul also said that he was not sent to baptize, and thereby, whether intentionally or not, contrasted himself with John (the Immerser) who was sent for that purpose. Apparently something had drastically changed from the time of John. What was it? Even Jesus was water baptized, “to fulfill all righteousness,” as He put it. Yet Paul was not sent by God to water baptize even those he evangelized. If water baptism was so crucial for the new believer, as many think and act, one would have to ask, “Why didn’t he?”

What we see with the baptism of John was that the Savior was announced and introduced to the children of Israel, whom He came to save. Those who came to be baptized by John at the river Jordan were given to identify with the work of God that pointed to Christ through repentance and confession of sin. Water baptism, a demonstration of death to self, pointed to the life that would follow through the forgiveness of sins and resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

After the Lord was glorified, and His Spirit was given to men, men of God were no longer sent to water baptize (as Paul said), but to preach repentance and the receiving of the Spirit, which brings the actual fulfillment of what was foreshadowed and symbolically portrayed by water baptism. Death to self was (and is) not possible without the power of God from within. The disciples were not able to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ until after they received the Spirit. Until Christ was glorified and His Spirit poured out from on high, no man could follow Him through the flaming sword to partake of the Tree of Life. It was for this purpose that He came.

When the Substance came, the shadow was no longer necessary. Water baptism was a sign given for a historical transition that preceded and heralded the Substance to come, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit, as John prophesied:

“And he was preaching, saying, There comes One after me Who is stronger than me, of Whom I am not worthy to stoop down and to loose the strap of His sandal. I baptized you in water, but He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:7-8 EMTV).

John also showed the temporal nature of his work by how he reacted when Jesus came to him for water baptism, recognizing that it was he who had the need for the baptism of the Spirit from Christ. Here is what happened:

“But John tried to prevent Him, saying, I have need to be baptized by You, and You are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14 EMTV)

But that time had not yet come because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Jesus spoke of the coming promise of eternal life within, and the apostle John explained the fulfillment of this promise:

“He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ (But He spoke this about the Spirit, Which they who believed on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified)” (John 7:38-39 MKJV).

The Spirit was not given until after Jesus was offered up and resurrected from the dead. That was when He was glorified. That initially took place at Pentecost, the second great Feast of God. That was the beginning of Jesus’ glorification in mankind. Until then, He could not baptize the disciples with His Spirit. He expressed this in various ways, such as this:

“I came to send a fire on the earth, and it may even now have been lighted. But there is a baptism which I have to undergo; and how am I kept back till it is complete!” (Luke 12:49-50 BBE)

How else could He send fire on the earth, except in and through those baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire?

And He promised the disciples that they would partake of this baptism:

“Jesus said, You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive? We can, they told Him. Jesus told them, You will drink the cup that I’m going to drink. You will be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive” (Mark 10:38-39 GW).

So we can see that the baptism in the Spirit did not come before Christ was raised from the dead, even on the greatest of prophets, John the Baptist. The one sent to baptize needed His baptism. But first things have to come first. Repentance and identification with the work of God, the place where He put His Name, are needful components of the preparation to receive His Spirit. Then, at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, comes the fulfillment of that which was symbolized by the baptism of water:

“Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin” (Romans 6:3-6 LITV).

This is not speaking of water baptism (which is symbolic), but of the baptism of His Spirit (which is the Substance), for it is only through the Spirit of Christ (He that overcame death) that men can be raised from the dead and thereafter empowered by His Spirit to walk in newness of life, no longer the servants of sin. This is His promise to us, in the here and now, and forever after. Glory Hallelujah!

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and having been filled, you are in Him, Who is the Head of all rule and authority, in Whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made by hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, being buried with Him in baptism, in Whom also you were raised through the faith of the working of God, raising Him from among the dead” (Colossians 2:9-12 LITV).

The only baptism that raises the dead is the one that came after Jesus was glorified, being raised from the dead Himself. Water baptism was a necessary sign and work of God for the time preceding His resurrection, indicating what was to come, historically by Jesus, and individually by Christ coming in His saints. Jesus alluded to this in His answer to John’s question about baptizing Him:

“But Jesus answered him, Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall do all that God requires. So John agreed” (Matthew 3:15 GNB).

And when did He complete all that God required, fulfilling all righteousness? There are two answers. The first is:

“And when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, taking Him down from the tree, they laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:29-30 MKJV).

The second is:

“For what was impossible for the Law to do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 EMTV).

The sign of water baptism began to fade away upon arrival of that which it pointed to, according to the principles of God:

“But when that which is complete is come, then that which is in part will be no longer necessary” (1 Corinthians 13:10 BBE).

This explains how Cornelius and the Gentiles received the Spirit without water baptism. They had met the qualifications of repentance and obedience, receiving and believing the men of God sent to them, and God, knowing better than man what was required, baptized them with His Spirit. There was no need for water baptism. They got the Real Thing, which is what John the Immerser had wanted of Jesus. The time had arrived, and is now here also.

Yes, the apostle immersed the Gentiles in water after they had received the baptism in the Spirit, but that was, I believe, unnecessary. I do not consider it a mistake; it was simply a time of transition. We all undergo such things, and God does not condemn us for this or expect it would be otherwise. In fact, by acting according to conscience and faith, Peter and his companions did the right thing by acknowledging God’s acceptance of the Gentiles through the act of water baptism. It had to happen this way.

Consider also that though the Ephesian disciples were baptized in water (Acts 19), they still fell short of what Cornelius and his household had without water baptism, though the Ephesians had walked in repentance for many years, having known only John’s baptism of repentance.

Another point to think about: If water baptism is so important, why has God not provided someone to baptize you, Lee? And you look for someone “worthy.” What man is worthy? Jesus said:

“So He said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17 EMTV).

And Paul said:

“Just as it is written: There is none righteous, no not one, There is none who understands; there is none who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11 EMTV).

Again, this leads us to conclude, as John said to Jesus, “I have need to be baptized of You.”

Even now, we are not against water baptism and will baptize those who believe they must be water baptized, but we have not been led to baptize any that the Lord has brought to us. The Lord has not made it a requirement or issue. Worship of God in spirit and in truth is not in the physicality of ordinances or rituals. If that were so, all of those baptized in water would be living righteous, faithful lives, and the Catholic Church would be the most holy entity on earth. As it stands, it is the vilest, with all its dedication of sacraments, not to mention its many other physical forms of worship in His Name. (Some say the Catholics do not truly baptize because they sprinkle, but these “protesting” ones who fully immerse do not produce the fruits of righteousness and faith either.)

Here is the issue regarding God’s intention and purpose for the saints:

“There is one body and one Spirit, even as you have been marked out by God in the one hope of His purpose for you; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 BBE).

Water has never brought anyone into unity with God, but His Spirit has. This is the one baptism of which Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spoke:

By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether we are Jewish or Greek, slave or free, God gave all of us one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13 GW).

Let us further consider what God has said about the day of Christ in order to see what is happening, something which angels long to look into, which day is now here:

“Concerning this salvation the prophets have sought out and inquired carefully, having prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching for who or what kind of time the Spirit of Christ in them was revealing when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories which were to follow: To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to you they were ministering these things, which things were now announced to you by those who proclaimed the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:10-12 EMTV).

There is the testimony of the pains and the glory to follow. Is this not the death that was signified by water baptism, and the glory to follow in His resurrection and the pouring out of His Spirit? And do we not undergo tribulation to enter into the Kingdom, just as the King had to do, and promised we would, too? Jesus asked this question after His resurrection:

“Was it not necessary for the Christ to go through these things, and to come into His glory?” (Luke 24:26 BBE)

Peter spoke specifically of His glory being made manifest to men, when the disciples received His Spirit:

“God raised up this Jesus, of which we all are witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33 MKJV).

Paul also spoke of these things in another way:

“And we proclaim to you the good news of the promise which was made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise for us to their children, when He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm: You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (Acts 13:32-33 EMTV).

Paul says the promise was fulfilled for us when Jesus was raised up, and Peter shows how it came to be manifested at Pentecost. The goods paid for, now delivered. But how is it that only at the resurrection, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God? For we know that before the resurrection He was already the Son of God:

“The men in the boat bowed down in front of Jesus and said, You are truly the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33 GW).

“And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 EMTV).

“Then they all said, Are You then the Son of God? So He said to them, You rightly say that I am” (Luke 22:70 EMTV).

So if He were already the Son of God, what is this talk about Him being begotten when He was raised up? How was He begotten after His resurrection? The answer is the key to our consideration of water baptism, and what is truly at stake for the one who would hear His voice today and follow Him. Listen to what He said:

“Jesus replied to them, The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain” (John 12:23-24 GW).

Even the Son of God could not produce anything without dying first. Jesus had to go first, making the way for us. Without death, there would be no Body, and the Head needs the Body. Only by the death and resurrection of the Son of God could there be a new birth for us and a Body for Him. For this is not only life in Him, but life for Him. This was the testimony of the prophets, which Paul said was:

“...Concerning His Son, Who came of the seed of David according to the flesh, Who was declared Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom we received grace...for obedience of faith among all the nations for His Name” (Romans 1:3-5 EMTV).

He was the Son of God, but He became the Son of God with power after His resurrection. He was no longer straitened. He baptized us with His Spirit, and gave us grace and truth by which to live. He brought His Body to life. By the taking up of the cross through faith (His faith), being identified with Him in His death, His resurrection power raises us from the dead, that we may live without sin. By this means He will prevail over all things. By the baptism in His Spirit, we are born again as part of His Body, and the Son of God is empowered, as it is written:

“And He subjected all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him filling all things in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23 EMTV).

This was all prefigured in the act of water baptism. He signified the way - brought down into death and raised again into new life. That is what happened to Him. That is what happens to us, not in a figure, but in reality.

There is a similarity in the purpose of water baptism with the animal sacrifices of the first Temple. These sacrifices foretold the coming of Christ, teaching the remission of sins by the shedding of blood. When the sacrifice that takes away sins once and for all was accomplished, the holy place made without hands, the second and eternal Temple, was opened to mankind. There was no longer a need for the first Temple. Within a generation, it was taken away.

So likewise water baptism was given to teach spiritual Israel of the laying down of the life followed by the resurrection. When the second baptism, the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire, had come, the first and symbolic one was no longer necessary. It was fulfilled. When that which is glorious has come - Christ in us, the hope of glory - that which heralded the glory fades away. This is according to the Scripture:

“For this is the agreement which I will make with the people of Israel after those days: I will put My laws into their minds, writing them in their hearts: and I will be their God, and they will be My people: And there will be no need for every man to be teaching his brother, or his neighbour, saying, This is the knowledge of the Lord: for they will all have knowledge of Me, great and small. And I will have mercy on their evil-doing, and I will not keep their sins in mind. When He says, A new agreement, He has made the first agreement old. But anything which is getting old and past use will not be seen much longer” (Hebrews 8:10-13 BBE).

John the Baptist indicated this would happen:

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 EMTV).

The whole purpose of God taking on human flesh was so all might decrease, that He might increase. He came to produce a lot of grain. He didn’t need to become God, because He already was God. But He needed to die to make us one with Him. That is the way, the only way, that humanity will be saved. If there was an easier way, He could have done it, but there was not. This is the way every soul will come to know Him - His greatness, His mercy, the glory of His work of creation - and all will rejoice with joy unspeakable, having praise of Him.

That is why it is said, “This day have I begotten You.” God always was, and could never be begotten. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). But man being born in Him was a new thing, which commenced with the resurrection of the only begotten Son of God. There is no other purpose or reason for the only begotten Son than to beget us as His children.

“By this the love of God is manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, in order that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9 EMTV).

“Because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 LITV).

Malachi, the last prophet before John, prophesied of these things when he spoke of John being sent to Israel, to make the way of the Lord. Hear what the Lord said:

“I’m going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way ahead of Me. Then the Lord you are looking for will suddenly come to His temple. The Messenger of the promise will come. He is the one you want, says the LORD of Armies. But who will be able to endure the day He comes? Who will be able to survive on the day He appears? He is like a purifying fire and like a cleansing soap. He will act like a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify Levi’s sons and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will bring acceptable offerings to the LORD” (Malachi 3:1-3 GW).

There is no talk of water baptism here, but there is talk of coming to our ends by the baptism of fire. That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That is the baptism that remains. That is where He changes the heart and nature. Water baptism changes nothing.

John came to show the way. The way is repentance followed by death. It is humbling, then ultimate humbling. Today people gladly embrace external signs, some of which were once ordained by God, including the dead shell of water baptism from the first century, whose purpose has long been gone. Now it is an empty ritual that is used by many as substitution for the Substance.

What do you think “Baptists” are all about? Why do they name themselves after a physical ordinance, which only represents the Reality, Jesus Christ? People have cast off the Substance, Who comes with the fire that redeems, thinking that by their dead works they might have something. They choose to remain in their sins. They are deceived. They have been willing to play games, but are not willing or able to be baptized with His baptism. We are here, by the grace of God, to shine the light so that men might see, know, be judged, and repent, and then go on to be baptized of Him.

The Lord requires obedience to His present direction, and not to our slavish interpretation and re-enactment of past events. He is ever present, living, and leading His Body. Our interpretations and self-leading go nowhere and may deceive us into thinking we have something when we do not. But His Word is sure, and His direction leads to life, so we make certain to speak faithfully all that He gives us. He has made known His grace and truth to us, for which we are most thankful. The will of the Lord Jesus Christ be done. We must decrease, that He might increase.

Paul

Victor’s reply:

Lee,

I would like to share with you some experiences concerning water baptism. I was first baptized in the Alliance Church, months after repentance. I then went to a Southern Baptist Bible school and there they insisted I be water baptized again because I had not been “baptized into a local church.” Then Pentecostals came along and told me I needed to be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38) and not in the mere titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as I had been. I agree with the Pentecostals that if one is going to be immersed, the Name and not titles ought to be used.

Now I was always looking for something to happen to me when being baptized. It never happened, and I came to understand why. Simply, it is not in the water baptism. Within five years of having received the Spirit, I baptized Pat Pellerin, Sheila Ahenakew, Marj Harris, Deloris Molnar, Lois, Trevor, and Mark Benson, Archie and Cathie Hafichuk, Bob Hafichuk, Marilyn Robak, Ann Doucet, Mark Archer, Dave Grier, and Paul Cohen, who wrote you.

I saw no change in anyone I baptized, not during or after, as a result of water baptism. They did not find a change in themselves. Of all those baptized, only Paul, Lois, Mark, and Trevor remain. Most have gone away, simply leaving us, some even condemning us. As for others with us now, they believe, yet have not been water baptized. Sara is an example. God gave her the essential baptism, being immersed into His Spirit, by His Spirit, and she now serves well in her calling with us, with thankfulness and joy.

Of all those evangelicals we left behind, most opposed the baptism in the Holy Spirit, though most were water baptized. What does that tell you? As Peter says:

“For Christ also suffered once to atone for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring you to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit, by Whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly disobeyed, when the longsuffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah, when the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water; which as an antitype, baptism now also saves us--(not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who having gone into heaven, is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:18-22 EMTV).

Again, we do not have a problem with water baptizing anyone for sake of conscience. It is Scriptural, not disallowed, though it was meant for another time as have been many things recorded in Scripture. The only problem would be one’s trust in, or dependence upon, it. It is ever within, and never without, be it the Tabernacle, the stone tablets, the ark of the covenant, Aaron’s rod, the manna, the brazen serpent, the Temple, the sacrifices, the Levitical priesthood, the Torah, circumcision, the “Lord’s Supper,” marriage, the “Holy Land,” water baptism, an altar, a pulpit, a church building, pictures, images, or any persons, even including Jesus Christ in the flesh.

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16 EMTV).

The Kingdom of God is within. Jesus Christ, the One Who is alive forevermore, is Who it is all about. To Him, and Him alone, be all the glory. Amen.

Victor has another thought for Lee:

Hi Lee, Victor here,

I have no doubt that we addressed this matter in former correspondence but as I was digging dandelions out of my lawn the other day, I recalled how you said there was no man you thought worthy to baptize you (words to that effect). I believe Paul responded that no man is worthy, but that if baptism is needed, someone must do it, though there is no point in being baptized by charlatans who pose as Christ’s ministers. On the contrary, why should they have the privilege?

The thought that came to me as I reflected on your statement, out of the blue so to speak, is this: “Was John the Baptist worthy to baptize Jesus?” That is all that came to me.

Lee’s response:

At times I think John the Baptizer and I have a lot in common, but that is another story. So was it not John’s mission as a shadow of the set a part spirit to do this and Jesus said he was as Elijah.

May the one true Elohim bless you

Lee

Paul’s reply:

Hi Lee,

I wrote this letter before your latest note came in. I think it answers your question, but you can elaborate if not, and let us know what you see.

Yes, John was sent of God, as the one crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, calling people to repentance. On account of this the Lord called him the greatest of prophets born of woman. But here is what happened when the Lord came to John to be baptized:

“But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and You are coming to me?’” (Matthew 3:14 EMTV)

The point of this is that if there was no person on earth worthy to baptize Jesus, and yet He was baptized as required to fulfill all righteousness, then the thought that there is no one worthy of baptizing you should not stop you from being baptized if it is a matter of obedience and of fulfilling something required of you. Do you understand? If Jesus had to wait for someone worthy to baptize Him it never would have happened!

Can you say what God is requiring of you? Has He shown you? If you were not obedient when required, it may be that you need to repent now. It may have only been your conscience that moved you to want to be baptized, but even there you ought not to offend. Regarding this matter I believe the words of Paul apply, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Are you persuaded?

It is true that none of us is worthy of God’s attention, but because He has decided to make us the object of His love, we do have a solemn responsibility towards Him. We owe Him everything. He became a servant and suffered death on our behalves, and by doing so He made us worthy:

“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; and Your right hand holds me up; and Your condescension has made me great” (Psalms 18:35 LITV).

But I speak not as a matter of historical fact, but experientially. Each person must enter in, in his or her own order, by faith, enduring to the end.

Paul

Click HERE to go back to “Water Baptism.”


How We View and Use the Scriptures

Copying & Linking

 How One Is Saved

 Healthy Living Advice
in Everyday Things

Site Search:


Authors: Victor Hafichuk & Paul Cohen

Webmistress & Editor: Sara Schmidt

 

© The Path of Truth - 2005