Learning Activity 77A – Water Baptism

In the previous Learning Activity a foundation was laid for the topic of baptism in the Scriptures. In this Learning Activity I will attempt to present to you conclusive proof that in the New Covenant there is but one baptism and that baptism is Spirit Baptism. Water baptism having been a type or shadow in the Old Covenant and Spirit Baptism being the anti type or fulfillment of Old Covenant water baptism.

  1. John 1:33

2. From the passage above how many baptisms does the Bible say there are?

3. Name the two baptisms that the passage above says are contained in the Bible?

4. Ephesians 4:4, 5

Since the passage in Ephesians is speaking of conditions in the New Covenant and NOT the Old Covenant you will notice that there is ONLY ONE baptism in the New Covenant!

5. What baptism do you think the above passages are identifying as being the ONLY baptism in the New Covenant?

The above sequence clearly indicates that water baptism, being a physical act and perhaps even a program of works, along with physical rites and rituals are part and parcel of the Old Covenant and performed and perpetuated by man and NOT by God! We have already learned that what I cannot see is spiritual and a fulfillment of an Old Covenant type or shadow performed by God. Such actions are found in the New Covenant. I must conclude from the above there is only one baptism in the New Covenant and I must renew my mind to that biblical fact.  (Answer #2 is two, answer #4 is water and Spirit baptism, #5 is Spirit Baptism.

I will now complete this Learning Activity by adding a paper I have written on the topic of baptism. I think you will benefit by working through this additional material as it contains additional details on the topic.

If you have been working along sequentially on this web site, by now you have noticed that there is an overriding truth in Bible interpretation that is a major help in understanding and interpreting the Scriptures. That truth is that the Old Covenant consists of physical types and shadows, while the New Covenant consists of the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Covenant types and shadows. What this results in is that all types, shadows and symbolism of the Old Covenant pointed to the reality or fulfillment in the New Covenant, and when that reality arrives there is no longer a need for types, shadows and symbols any longer because the thing or event is now present! This means that when reading and understanding New Covenant passages we must be alert to the fact that the true meaning will be in the supernatural realm and not to be manifested in the physical realm in a taste, touch, smell, feel and sight (with the physical eyes) manner. In this paper we shall be looking at the practice of baptism and how that practice may or may not be a part of the New Covenant.

A thorough study of the Scriptures will reveal that the Bible contains two types of baptisms: water baptism and Spirit baptism. In this paper I will be focusing on Spirit baptism as there are numerous sources both in print and via the Internet for the reader to become familiar with what organized Christianity has to say about water baptism. I will only refer to water baptism to illustrate its non-relevance during the New Covenant in which we live today. There were some water baptisms that took place during the transition period when the two covenants overlapped and I will use that as my starting point.

John (John the Baptist) answered them all, I baptize you with water; but he (referring to Jesus) who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie; he (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).

John the Baptist was one of the last prophets of the Old Covenant. More than likely he knew prophetically that there was a New Covenant to come in the future; however, it was not part of the message he was to preach.

“…he (John) went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).

Notice in the Luke 3:16 passage that John is stating that the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus would bring is in sharp distinction with the water baptism that John was advocating. Jesus availed Himself of John’s water baptism an account that may be read in Matthew 3:13-17. Notice in that passage that Jesus stated He wanted John to water baptize Him “to fulfill all righteousness,” that is to say, to fulfill the requirement of the Old Covenant law. At that point in time both John the Baptist and Jesus were living at the beginning threshold of the transition period where the Old Covenant was to begin phasing out and the New Covenant would be phasing in as Jesus began His formal earthly ministry. It is also interesting to note that Jesus NEVER water baptized anyone during His time of ministry!

There is no doubt that water baptism was a necessary part of the Old Covenant. Using the Noahic Flood as a type, Peter writes: “…Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…” (1 Peter 3:20, 21). The passage is clearly referring to water baptism. The question we must ask is whether this passage is referring to Old Covenant or New Covenant times? If we continue reading the passage the context will be established for us.

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).

“For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God…” (1 Peter 4:17).

The last two passages clearly establish the Old Covenant as the context for the water baptism statement. Both the “end of all things” and the “time….for judgment” are referring to the ending days of the Old Covenant that was just a short time in the future from when Peter wrote these things.

On the other hand we have Spirit baptism.

“for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

“…Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus….Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?….We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. And he (Paul) said, into what then were you baptized? They said, into John’s baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance….And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:1-7). We have already written about the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit on this web site so that part is not a event that is relevant to today’s baptism.

                                          Click your mouse on graphics to enlarge them.

Both of the passages above portray a definite contrast between water baptism and Spirit baptism.

At the instant of our believing in Jesus Christ in the New Covenant the Holy Spirit baptizes us (immerses or places us) into the spiritual body of Christ. This action has nothing to do with water of any kind!

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (the body od Christ of which Christ is the head) Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all are made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

For the New Covenant believer there is but one baptism, and that baptism is a Spirit baptism!

“one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).

Paul gives us additional insight.

“I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius….I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else” (1 Corinthians 1:14-16). These were clearly water baptisms as this activity was done by man unlike Spirit baptism, which is performed by God. But notice how the language attempts to distance Paul from the practice. Listen to Paul as he additionally speaks about water baptism!

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel…” (1 Corinthians 1:17). Paul is clearly distancing himself from water baptism.

“These (questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath, see verse 16) are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17).

In the verse above the Apostle Paul is telling the church at Colossae in the summer of AD 58, that it was Christ, and Christ alone, that was to fulfill all of these Old Covenant practices. In effect what Paul is saying is that if you are in-Christ you have already been baptized into His (Christ’s) (spiritual body) so why would you want to abandon the reality of Spirit baptism and return to the type/shadow of water baptism?

Paul also uses the words “of what is to come” because the Parousia was yet about twelve years in the future to his writing of this letter.

All types and symbolism were to point to the reality, and when the reality came and was manifested there was no longer any need for types and symbols. The book of Hebrews shows that once God had revealed that the Old Covenant was fulfilled in Christ, something new (the New Covenant) was to take precedence over the old and the old was to give way to the new (Hebrews 7:18, 19; 8:6, 7, 13; 9:1, 15; 10:9).

From my study of the Scriptures It is my view that the most significant claim that totally removes water baptism from the New Covenant is the following.

Question: How many baptisms does the Bible include in the texts?

“I baptize with water, John replied…” (John 1:26a).

“The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain (that’s Jesus of Nazareth), is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33b).

Answer: The two passages above clearly indicate that John the Baptist baptized with water and Jesus Christ baptized with the Spirit! The Bible includes two baptisms: water and Spirit baptism. But the decisive question is what baptism is proper for the New Covenant believers which is what we are today?

“There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – 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).

Understanding this passage first requires deciding whether this passage is Old Covenant or New Covenant. I’ve been doing this sort of rightly dividing for many years and to me it is more than obvious that the Ephesians passage is a New Covenant passage. The more you force yourself to make such determinations during your study of the Bible the easier it becomes to decide.

After concluding that the passage is New Covenant now we must tackle which one of the two baptisms we identified above is the one baptism this passage is requiring?

I have concluded that the answer is not water baptism because it is a physical act (I might add I see water baptism as a “works” program when doing it in the New Covenant) and physical rites and rituals (which is what I view water baptism being if practiced today) are part and parcel of the Old Covenant and performed by man! The New Covenant is identified by what I call unseen, spiritual fulfillment of Old Covenant types and shadows and performed by God. So Spirit baptism, being an action of God and not man, is actually an anti type or fulfillment of the Old Covenant type! There are no types or shadows in the New Covenant only the fulfilling of those given in the Old Covenant.

Therefore: if the Scripture says there is only one baptism, which it does, I must allow my mind to be renewed to this biblical fact that the baptism being spoken of is Spirit baptism and can never be water baptism any longer since the Old Covenant passed away!

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