I find it a little disconcerting when good Christian folks don’t understand there are different kinds of baptisms. This ignorance causes misinterpretation of scripture. Misinterpretation causes wrong thinking. Wrong thinking causes wrong believing. And wrong believing can cause us to miss out on the best God has for us. It also causes division among immature Christians. Major riffs between believer’s have occurred over the doctrine of baptism.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the end of the world and our salvation isn’t in question if we don’t know there are different baptisms, but wouldn’t it be better, and shouldn’t we strive to walk in greater understanding of God’s word? I believe so. And, by the way, stop fighting. Fighting never changed someone’s beliefs, and God’s isn’t going to bless you for doing so (1 Corinthians 3:1–3).
Read this scripture with me. “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrines of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2; emphasis mine).
Note that “baptisms” is plural. Paul writes that the doctrine of baptisms is an elementary doctrine. In-other-words, even newer believers should know about baptisms. Paul also says if we want to go on into a deeper spiritual life in Christ, we need to understand the “elementary principles of Christ.”
To start with, even in the Old Testament, the washings that the priests would do are referred to as baptisms. The writer of “Hebrews” in chapter nine states that temple worship consisted of offering gifts and sacrifices and was concerned with foods, drinks and various washings (Hebrews 9:9-10). The word “washings” is (GK) “g0909. βαπτισμός baptismos; from 907; ablution (ceremonial or Christian): — baptism, washing.” When we read of priestly duties in Exodus 30:17-20, the word “wash” is “h7364. רָחַץ râḥaṣ; a primitive root; to lave (the whole or a part of a thing): — bathe (self), wash (self).” The point is, even the washings in the Old Testament were considered a form of baptism.
When we get in the Gospels, the first baptism we read about is the baptism of John (the Baptist). John’s baptism was about repentance from sin, getting straight with God, and dedication to the Almighty (Luke 3:3; Acts 19:4).
In Christ or In Water?
The biggest confusion seems to be the difference between being baptized into Christ and water baptism.
Water baptism is an outward demonstration and confession of an inward working. Without the inward working of being spiritually baptized into Christ, water baptism means nothing. Consider this mystery: “[I’m a minister of] the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints…which is Christ in you” (Colossians 1:26–27; emphasis mine) and “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17; emphasis mine). The mystery is Christ in us and, at the same time, we’re in Christ.
If we’re not in Christ and Christ in us, then water baptism is just getting wet.
Of course, a person can get water baptized and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior at the same time. The point is without Jesus on the inside, whatever we do outwardly doesn’t save us.
In The Spitit
Boy, this causes a lot of strife in the Church, and it shouldn’t. But there’s also an experience other than the New Birth (being baptized into Christ) that Jesus refers to as being “baptized with the Holy Spirit”: “‘For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:5).
We know that the disciples had already received the Holy Spirit in the New Birth before Jesus spoke in Acts 1:5: consider this scripture: “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Did they receive the Holy Spirit at this time? Of course. They were born again at this time. It was after this that Jesus said they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Being born again is really very easy: (NKJV) “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 10:9–11). If we believe in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross and resurrection, and confess Him as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved.
When we’re saved from our sins, God gives us His Holy Spirit: (NKJV) “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16), and
(NKJV) “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
All believers have the Holy Spirit. Yet, there is a subsequent experience to the Holy Spirit in the new birth, and that is being baptized in the Spirit.
Remember, Jesus gave us two examples of having the Spirit. One’s a spring and the other’s a river. A spring and a river are two different things.
The first example is for personal salvation and spiritual growth — eternal life: (NKJV) “But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). That life will bare the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). People can, and should, experience the fruit of the spirit in our lives, but that fruit comes from our spiritual development: it is an outward manifestation of an inward working. The Holy Spirit doesn’t bear fruit — He is the Life. We bear the fruit that His life gives.
The next example is for others to partake of the power of God. It’s for ministry, for witnessing with power: (NKJV) “Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” (John 7:37–39). Jesus is comparing us being able to come to Him and find living water to drink from His life, and us having the same living water so others may drink from our lives. It’s to be His water flowing though us for others to partake of.
Go back to the book of Acts: (NKJV) “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Notice when when we’re baptized in the Holy Spirit, we will have a greater ability to witness; in-other-words, a river of living water that others may drink from.
Of course, all believes are to witness. We don’t need a special anointing to tell people about Jesus. God’s word will always work. Not being baptized in the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean we can’t witness. Of course we can and should, but Jesus said that we would have a greater power to witness if we’re baptized in the Spirit. This sheds more light on this scripture: (NKJV) “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
Jesus wants us to share in His anointing to deliver others from the oppression of the devil.
Sometimes we need help to help others. For instance, sometimes we don’t know how to pray for someone even though we know we need to pray for someone: (NKJV) “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26; emphasis mine).
We know we ought to pray, but we do not know what to pray. But God helps us by His Spirit. We see this help come in the form of speaking in an unknown language, and it started after the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
We also see the gifts of the Spirt (1 Corinthians 12:7–11) come into operation after the disciples were baptized in the Spirit; from the apostles, to Stephen, to Ananias who prayed for Paul. We also see this phenomenon in church history.
So we see, there are different baptisms. When reading our Bibles, knowing there are different baptisms can help us understand what the text is saying, give us greater understanding what God has provided for us, and prepares us to be more effective for Christ in His kingdom.
Stay strong and prepared!