Regarding Baptism

Some time back I received an email asking about what I believed on baptism, and while I had already started studying for this article months previous to that email, I hadn’t completed it yet.  The question was regarding a certain ministry’s strong push for baptism through use of scriptures like 1 Peter 3:21 (ESV), “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” and the concern was raised that the teaching of baptism from these scriptures sounded like “gospel plus”.  I intend to address those concerns and describe how I reached my conclusions about baptism in this article.

My response follows:

Ah, the issue of baptism. Some 8 months ago I studied out the occurrences of baptism in the Bible, and coming from my background of baptism being called “an act of obedience” baptism was being regarded as optional. In short, I found that there was not a person who had been saved/converted/born again in the New Testament without being immediately baptized after the New Covenant was fully sworn in through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the thief on the cross being immediately previous to the completion of those events. There had not been the Great Commission up to that point, for that was about 40 days later which was given just before Jesus ascended to Heaven. It seems that every time there’s a scripture like Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”, there’s an immediate context of baptism.

I would really like it to not be this way, because it is quite inconvenient to have to so strongly encourage baptism, finding warm water in the cold of winter, etc. I think that the ambiguity is somewhat summed up in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned,” as to not answer the question of the one who believes but is not baptized, and the passages just seem to assume that the one who believes will be baptized.

I have seen the power in baptism to set people free, and I have seen people set free and hearing from God before they are baptized. I have seen people healed in baptism, and I have seen people healed before baptism. I have also seen people healed who believe as well as those who don’t accept the Gospel (yet at least).

It seems that the general direction of the scripture is that baptism is part of the Gospel, or at least a natural outworking of the power of the Gospel in the individual’s life. […]

I understand your hesitance to fully accept this teaching on baptism, but pursue the truth, whether I am right or wrong from the Scripture, and see where Jesus leads you.

Things to address: God did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel

Peter at Cornelius’ house baptism after receiving spirit

On the way to get baptized, and killed in accident (contrast with rebellion of years unbaptized?)

Baptism as only a party, a celebration

Jesus saves, who saves vs. water saves, what saves

Thief on the cross

As short and readable as possible, possibly with tags so I can link to various parts of the article

Testimony: how I got where I did

What started all this?

While attending a Conservative Baptist church, then a Grace Brethren church, then a Foursquare church, I heard things said like, “Baptism is God wanting you to feel on the outside what has already happened on the inside,”


Scripturally, what is it? I know that we have many traditions, and coming into this I have a minor annoyance and a conviction that I have personally been part of the same (partly due to convenience) of following certain unscriptural traditions such as: baptizing after some time, only seeing baptism as something to be done at an established church building and by an ordained minister, and seeing baptism as a sacrament, being a symbol without power. I also need clarity on how baptism sets one free (I think the Word tells us something about this, but certainly this is the case with people with whom I’ve spoken), and also the work of the Holy Spirit and whether this baptism in water ought to be viewed as necessarily connected to the work of the Holy Spirit (doing a work separate from the one-time salvation act of making the dead sinner alive as a saint in Christ) or to welcome a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit second to the baptism in water.

How is baptism to be taught, and with which Scriptures should I present it? Which are the most relevant passages to show what baptism means to us today, and what does that mean to those in conservative traditions, vis. whether they baptize or be found in rebellion.

To investigate:

Biblical context: What does the Bible say in English about baptism’s practice (persons baptizing and baptized, location, time after repentance, ubiquity), power (demonstration in receiving HS or freeing from sin), purpose, ,

Historical context: original language word(s) as well as practice by both Jews and Gentiles.

Current context: how are people today working with the Scripture, and how are they practicing or rejecting the commands of Jesus as presented in the New Testament?

Conservatives (“Evangelical”)

Generally only ordained pastors baptize, else one must be in water with the one doing (according to Jeff Amann’s experience pre-ordination by men)

Various Baptist

John Piper set it synonymous with a wedding ring: “With this ring, I thee wed.” Is a ring necessary for a marriage? Is a ring necessary if that’s what the rules are? Then yes. (my notes)


Ev Free




Assemblies of God

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, State Church, Lutherans…

Infant baptism (all?)

Priests only baptize?

The Last Reformation

Don Blizzard “proof of repentance”

Same day or very soon, necessary- maybe not salvation, but a definite command

Anyone can baptize, generally having been baptized first themselves

Current Sayings:

“Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk a new life” (Rom6:4)

“In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”

“In the Name of Jesus”

“Die with Christ, raised with Christ” (Rom6:4, 1P3:18)

“It’s God wanting you to feel on the outside what has already happened on the inside” (none?)

“Following Jesus in Baptism” / “Step of obedience”

“Bringing proof of repentance” (none that I can find, A26:20,M3:8 deeds in keeping with R)

“Both a bath and a burial” (H6 washings, R6:4 burial)


Does the Scripture state that baptism saves, and is that baptism that saves the act of immersion in water that we would refer to as baptism, or symbolic of Christ’s death and resurrection (L12:50) without reference to water baptism? (Mk 16:16, 1P3:21)

Interesting question. Many would differ on this particular issue, and clearly the water itself cannot save, just like the gold of the wedding ring alone cannot make someone married. The passage in 1 Peter is already “wet”, having been just discussing the flood narrative. The context is one of righteous living, and along with this 1P3:21b, “an appeal to God for a good conscience”

Big question: is there any scripture that states that a NT believer can be saved without, or while rejecting, baptism, or anything in soteriology that implies the same?

Scripture is fairly silent on the subject. There’s no explicit, “if one is not baptized they are not saved,” but the explicit is in the form of, “the one who believes and is baptized will be saved,” in Mark 16:16.

Is baptism powerful or sacramental?

  • The evidence in the text is that there’s more going on than merely a dip in the water to show people that there is an intention of a life-change. A2:38 seems to state that it is for the putting away of sins, or the forgiveness of sins, or living free from sins. This comes from the Greek.

Is there any record of words spoken at baptisms in Scripture?

  • M 3:7 is an example of John the Baptist: “You brood of vipers…”
  • M28:19 implies the name of trinity
  • Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, Romans 6:3, (?Mk10:38-9) implies name of Jesus
  • The Name of the Lord, the name of the Lord Jesus, in the name of Jesus Christ…

Was baptism practiced by other religions, Jews for Hellenists (define) becoming Jews, or for some other commitment of the Jew to perform certain vows?

Is it appropriate to “baptize someone on their own faith”? (define)

E 4:5 and C2:12 may be relevant

Not the profession of faith, but “bringing proof of repentance” so that they die with Christ, not having the old man hold their breath and come back out of the water, but the old man die and the new one being free to live for Christ. and Acts 26:20, M3:8 “deeds in keeping with repentance”

In M3:11, Mk1:8, Lk3:16, J1:33 Jesus is said to be baptizing with the Holy Spirit (and fire in M, L). When did this happen, in his ministry on earth, or after the ascension at Pentecost, and is that continual to mankind or the believer?

Why did Jesus not baptize, and did he always not baptize, favoring to rather have his disciples do so, or did he baptize at some other point? J4:1-3

I’m guessing that Jesus may have been careful not to appear to fulfill John’s prophecy with the water baptism, having favored to have his disciples baptize (J4:2, L3:16); this was just as he had told Mary that his time had not yet come in John 2:3-4, referencing prophecy at Amos 9:13-15.

John is baptizing in all four Gospel accounts.

How did John’s baptisms reveal Jesus to Israel (J1:33)?

Jesus came to be baptized by John

The harvest was prepared through repentance from sin and the people were made ready to receive

How scriptural is it to be literally burying sin in the water? (Rom6:4?, In light of 1C5:21, our sin is already buried, and baptism is a turning away from the verb as Acts 2:38, as evidence or cause that the noun be dead as Christ died to sin, R6:4)

On how many occasions were people baptized in Acts?

Is there any evidence for a believer being saved without being baptized in NT times?

Does baptism set one free in scripture? (Acts 2:38)

The word is “αφεσιν”, which means release or forgiving, possibly turning away from “αμαρτιων” (sin), seems to be in a transitive sense, where the sinner turns from the sin rather than having it be a passive removing of sin by God or the water– it’s more of an intentional burying.

The heavens were opened to Jesus in M3:16. Does this imply that the same happens for each believer at baptism, or that the heavens are now opened, not to be closed again?

Acts 7:55-56 Steven saw the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This brings up the question, “were there any such occurrences in the OT?

Came short (M3:7) or long distance (Jesus in M3:13, Mk1:9)

Confessing (think of TLR burying sin in water)

M21:25,Mk11:30,L20:4 Jesus implies that the baptism of John was from heaven… God sent him

Mk 1:4 John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

Confessing Mk1:5

Mk 1:8 states that water and HS baptism were different then. Are they separate now?

J1:25 John’s baptism was less than Jesus’ baptism with HS and fire

Mk10:38,L12:50 Jesus’ baptism likely his death and resurrection

maybe we’re baptized into his baptism

Mk16:16 baptism saves?

Luke 3:3,12 baptism of repentance

baptism of water/ baptism of repentance/ baptism of HS/ baptism of fire

L7:29-30 defines groups as those baptized by John and those not, aligning righteous and unrighteous

John 1:25 The Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet were expected to baptize, but John wasn’t expected. I guess in a way he was Elijah who was to come

The rest of the references in John may apply, skipping for the moment.

A1:22 Baptism of John was seen as important to Peter pre-Pentecost

A2:38 comes the command after the HS was poured out, “be baptized”

A 2:41 “those who received his word were baptized” without any exceptions noted

___________Below section in references down to line_______________

For this section, see

___________________________Above section is in reference list___

I’d like to elaborate on John 3:5 in the context of John 3:6, so that it doesn’t sound like the verse is referring to baptism in water, but rather the birth of flesh, that is, of the water of natural birth.

Torben points out that God didn’t tell Abraham to be baptized but something else [circumcision].

Concern after all this I’ve studied is that others may see that they know less than I do on baptism, and rather than seek the knowledge for themselves, their ministry will be untouched and their blessing unreceived, assuming rather that I would do all the work. This would namely in this case be baptism, so they would say, “I don’t know how to baptize someone like a pastor, or like Timothy, or …” Yes, they should learn the biblical history behind the practice, but it’s not all about teaching in the sense that we know teaching. Yes, it is written, “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” in Acts 11:26, but let’s remember that the command of Jesus in “The Great Commission” was not merely to teach, but to teach “them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” There’s a difference here, and it’s an important one. In one case we are inside a school, inside a room, inside a church where there is a person giving instruction, but with neither impetus nor stimulus to walk out of the class and do the command, but rather to merely understand the command; but understanding is not obedience.

This could logically be followed with a how-to on baptism, which would go along the lines of, make sure that they state that they desire to repent of their sins and be free from them, find water available at the soonest time possible, and baptize them in the Name of the Lord, and specific words are not important. Next, teach them to do the same and get them plugged into a place where they will be spurred on to drink of the Living Water that Jesus offers.

Previous to baptizing I might want to give a short summary message on Romans, explaining what faith is and what …

Hear it from Hebrews:

Hebrews 1:3-4 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Jesus already made the purification for sins, and that was before he sat down at the right hand of God!

And again John 3:25-30 says, Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness[who is Jesus]—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Jesus has his bride! This is the purification for the marriage of Revelation 19:7!

Jesus’ blood is the purifying force in Hebrews 9:21, and it is THAT BLOOD with which he entered into the heavenly temple, and that BLOOD which purifies US!


Born of water and the Spirit (John 3)

Believe and baptized (Mk 16)



baptized rise up with Christ

What God does and what baptism is all about

Testimonies of baptism changing lives:

Anorexia freedom

n-So do we follow results?

Heal the sick and preach the Gospel

n-That includes baptism

Define “enough”

“Does baptism save you? Yes and no”

Adam sinned

Noah was a restart

Noah sinned, and God said “I will put my law in their hearts” in Jeremiah 31:33

Israel forgot God and after 400 years God rescued them from slavery through the water of the Red Sea

Jesus left us with the instructions, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”

Will we eat of the tree of life?

It mattered to reformation Christians to death, but we do so little today about the real baptism

John 3

I see where he’s coming from using the context of the whole of Scripture in the NT, but the immediate context of the next verse shows us that we’re speaking of being born in the flesh.

Works vs faith alone / faith works

put on Christ / baptized into Christ

If you abide in me you will be free (j8) sinner is a slave to sin

law of gravity/ law of sin/ the law of Moses

R7:14 no longer I who do it, but sin dwelling in me

No longer a slave J8 / There’s a conflict here

Sin shall no longer have dominion over you. You were a slave, but are now free and a slave of righteousness

freedom experienced: oh, it’s sin. I don’t need to do that any more.

Pedobaptism: there’s no need to baptize those with no knowledge of sin

Baptism is a command; not only be baptized, but also to baptize others

Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (not a name! WOW.) always to Jesus

July 2 @ 17:32 on one of Torben’s posts:

If they are dying to the evil ways of the flesh through baptism, then they are raised with Christ to walk a new life. If they are dying to the flesh through physical death, they will be raised to life in the presence of God apart from the body. The danger I see is one who lives in the body without having buried the dead works of sin, for that death and corruption, as with a decaying corpse, will kill the new life in the person as this person will fall back into the sin, not having buried through baptism the old ways of evil and been raised with Christ’s life as we see in Romans 6.