The English word “baptism” comes from the Greek “BAPTISMA”, which means to “immerse, submerse, dip, plunge, etc...” No religious subject provokes more controversy than baptism. Feelings run deep, and with many, there is no room for discussion. This controversy is not due to a lack of Bible teaching, for the Bible has much to say about the subject. The problem seems to be a failure on the part of many to properly apply Bible teaching.

One such area of misunderstanding is brought about by a failure to distinguish between the different baptisms of the Bible. In the New Testament, we read of six baptisms. It should be noted that baptism is exclusively a New Testament word. If there are six baptisms mentioned, how do we harmonize that with the statement by Paul in Eph 4:5, “...there is one baptism” ? This apparent problem is solved when we realize that of six baptisms, four have already served their purpose, one is yet future, and one, “the one”, is currently in force.

1. THE BAPTISM OF MOSES. The account of this baptism is recorded in Ex. 14:5-30. New Testament mention is made in 1 Cor. 10:1-2. In these verses Paul affirms that our fathers were under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. This was a historical event. It happened only once. Today we have no relationship to it, except in a typical way. In verse eleven Paul stated that, “...it happened unto them for ensamples”, or by way of example. Today we are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27). Since this is a typical baptism, it could not be the one commanded by Christ or the one spoken of by Paul in Eph. 4:5.

2. THE BAPTISM OF JOHN. The baptism of John is recorded in Matt. 3:1-11. John prepared the people for the coming of Jesus (Luke 1 :17). Israel was in great wickedness when John came, hence the necessity for someone to come and make the people ready for Jesus. John’s mission, as well as his baptism, was preparatory in nature. The baptism of John differed from the baptism commanded by Jesus in that those baptized by John had to believe on Him (Jesus) that was to come, whereas those baptized by Christian baptism had to confess their faith in Christ (Acts 8:36-38), who had already come. After the great commission was given by Christ, people were baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20). John never baptized in this name. John’s baptism was for Jews only. Not so with Christian baptism, it was for all mankind (Mark 16:15-16). A study of Acts 19:1-5 makes it clear that John’s baptism is not in force today, since Christ has come. Thus, we may conclude that John’s baptism became invalid after the death of Christ.

3. THE BAPTISM OF SUFFERING. We read of this in Matt. 20:22-23. Jesus often referred to His future sufferings as a baptism, i.e. a burial or immersion in those sufferings. This is a figurative baptism in that it is a reference to the pain and anguish with which Christ was overcome (submerged) when he died on the cross for our sins. Thus we can say that Christ was buried or baptized in suffering. This, however, cannot be the baptism commanded of all men by Christ.

4. THE BAPTISM OF FIRE. In Matt. 3: 11 we read, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire”. John was speaking to a mixed multitude, some of whom would later become the disciples of Christ and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Others would reject the Messiah and be baptized with fire. Hence they were called a generation of vipers in verse seven. The baptism of fire, therefore, refers to the punishment awaiting those who reject Christ. It is the final abode of the wicked in “hell fire”. It is being cast into everlasting fire (Matt. 25:41). It is to be “...cast into the lake of fire and brimstone...” - Rev. 20:10. The baptism of fire is yet future, yet to be fulfilled. (Matt. 13:41-42).

5. THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. In this same verse (Matt. 3:11), Jesus promised to baptize some with the Holy Spirit. To whom did Christ make this promise? The answer is found in John 14:16-17; 16:3. In both passages, it is clear that the apostles were the ones to whom the promise was made. God has said in Joel 2:28, “...1 will pour out my spirit upon all flesh...” In this reference, there are only two kinds of flesh - Jewish and Gentile. In Acts 2:1-4 we have an account of the Spirit being poured out on the Jews (Apostles) on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 10:44-48, we have the account of the Spirit being poured out on the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius. It should be noted that the baptism of the Spirit was a promise and not a command. No one was ever commanded to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and only certain ones received the promise. Today there is but one baptism and it is not Holy Spirit baptism. On Pentecost, Peter witnessed two baptisms, the Holy Spirit baptism of the Apostles, and water baptism on the 3,000 converts (Acts 2:1-4; 38-41). About ten years later, Peter again witnessed two baptisms in the house of Cornelius, Holy Spirit baptism and then water baptism (Acts 10:44-48). But in AD. 64, Paul wrote that there is one baptism (Eph. 4:5). When Paul so wrote, the Holy Spirit baptism had served its purpose and passed away. (For further study of Holy Spirit baptism, see page 32).

6. CHRISTIAN BAPTISM or BAPTISM OF THE GREAT COMMISSION. That leaves us with one baptism to discuss. None of the five we have studied thus far are the baptism with which we are to be baptized today. After Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, He gave the Great Commission in Matt. 28:19-20. It reads, “ Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, 10, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” In order to help us understand Christian baptism or baptism of the Lord’s Great Commission, we have some well-worded questions that will pinpoint what this baptism does.

A. DOES THE BIBLE MENTION BAPTISM? Yes. There are over 100 references in the New Testament to the words baptism, baptize, and baptized.

B. DOES THE BIBLE DEFINE BAPTISM? Yes. In Co!. 2:12 it reads, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Also Romans 6:3-4, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Baptism is a burial, an immersion in water. Sprinkling or pouring will not do. (For reference to one’s walking in newness of life, see 2 Tim. 2:19 and Titus 2:11-14).

C. DOES THE BIBLE GIVE EXAMPLES OF BAPTISM? Yes. In Acts 2:37-41 we have an example of about 3000 being baptized. In Acts 8 we read of the Nobleman from Ethiopia.

Again, in Acts 16 we read of the conversion and baptism of the Philippian Jailer. In fact, if you will read the book of Acts you’ll be given a very vivid picture of many people being baptized in harmony with the Lord’s commands.

D. DOES THE BIBLE SAY WHAT BAPTISM IS FOR? We will let Acts 2:38 answer that question, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Thus, baptism is performed in order that we might receive the remission of our sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. (For further study on this subject, see page 32).

E. DOES THE BIBLE SAY WHAT BAPTISM DOES? Let us consider the following scriptures. In 1 Peter 3 :21 it reads, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Acts 22:16 reads, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” In Mark 16:15-16, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” In Gal. 3 :26-27 it reads, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” From the above scriptures, we can see that baptism saves, washes away sins, and puts one into Christ. With such testimony, who would say that baptism is not essential?

F. DOES THE BIBLE INFORM US WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED? Yes, it definitely does. Note the following outline:
THOSE WHO BELIEVE-- Mark 16:15-16

Anyone who can meet the above requirements can be baptized. Those who cannot meet them are not ready for baptism. But someone says, “What about babies?” That is a good question, for there is no scriptural basis for baptizing infants. The Bible does not teach such. Infants are incapable of believing, repenting, confessing, and receiving the word. Because of this they cannot be baptized scripturally. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and infants have never sinned. Therefore, they do not need baptism. Please see Matthew 18:1-4 and Matthew 19:14.

G. DOES THE BIBLE SAY WHEN ONE SHOULD BE BAPTIZED? Indeed it does. The answer is-NOW. Saul was asked in Acts 22:16, “Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized...” In Acts 8:12 it is said that, “when they believed they were baptized.” The Jailer in Acts 16 was taken the same hour of the night and was baptized, verse 33. It is something that should not be put off. Death is too certain, and eternity too long for one to gamble with his soul. For this reason, when one understands his duty, baptism should follow as soon as possible.