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Baptism: Water and Spirit VII

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Question #1:

When writing about baptism (and I know Thiessen's teaching on it are not in accordance with yours and I disagree with most of what he says as well), Thiessen makes a following point:

In baptism the believer testifies that he was in Christ when Christ was judged for sin, that he was buried with him, and that he has arisen to new life in him.

Do you think that such a supposition is scriptural?

Response #1:

I think it is beyond obvious that somewhere between 99.99% and 100% of those baptized testify to no such thing – and mostly would not understand much of what T says here. In any case, water-baptism ceased to be legitimate with the passing of the apostolic generation, so whatever a believer thinks he/she is "testifying" when being dunked is of no account; what they are doing is submitting to a legalistic ritual under pressure from older (in the faith) believers who ought to know better but clear do not. T's comment is a typical rationalization of what is already being done, trying to find a reasonable rationale for what one is already doing and pretending "that's the reason". This is the reverse of how things ought to work. We ought to go the scriptures to be instructed, not to find justifications for we are already doing or what we want to do.

Question #2:

Dear Robert,

Is water baptism part of "... the gospel of the grace of God." ? (Acts 20:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul summarizes his preaching of the grace gospel of God (1 Corinthians 1:17) as inerrant without water baptism, "... lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect."

Encourage you to have the mind of Christ,

Response #2:

Let me assure you that I am most definitely not a proponent of water-baptism (you seem to have misread one of the postings . . . or perhaps you read a reader's comments rather than mine).

Here is the most recent posting on this subject (of which there are many at Ichthys):

Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello again Dr. Luginbill,

I write these emails as I run into questions or comments, so that I can remember them. If I read too much, I would have a tendency to forget the questions I want to ask. So, I apologize for the emails. But, I need your clarification on this statement of yours:

"The special focus our Lord places on the baptism of the Spirit, and especially His contrasting of Spirit baptism with the water baptism of John, should be noted carefully (particularly as many churches continue to baptize with water as if these verses meant little or nothing)."

Are you referring to the verse?

Acts 1:5.
"For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Are you saying that the special focus of the church should be the baptism of the Spirit, and that the church should no longer do water baptism?

Thanks so much for your help.

Response #3:

That is heart of the passage quoted vis-ΰ-vis this issue. As to water-baptism, you are correct that I am not in favor of it because the only legitimate water-baptism, scripturally speaking, is John's baptism – and that water ritual was meant for the Jewish nation (who were supposed to be believers) and anticipated the coming of the Messiah (who has already come); it was a baptism of repentance, whereas the way churches use it today is to associate it with salvation of unbelievers rather than to represent the coming back to the Lord of members of the community of faith so as to pay attention to the Messiah among them. There is a great deal about this written at Ichthys. Here is the latest link which will lead you to many others: Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello Professor,

Thank you, all your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Since the issue of baptism came up through one of my friends, I thought I would forward to you a couple of questions on 1 Corinthians 1:14-17.

1 Corinthians 1:14-17 (NASB)
I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

I) I'm not clear about Paul's wording here. On the one hand he says that he baptized some people in Corinth, but not many, and on the other he says "so that no one would say you were baptized in my name", as if the fact that he baptizes someone was equal with that person being baptized into him rather than into our Lord?

II) You explained that verse 17 makes clear Paul is referring to water baptism, that's why he can say that "Christ did not send me to baptize". But doesn't this mean that the baptisms referred to in previous verses were water baptisms?

III) Why would cleverness of speech make the cross void?

In His service,

Response #4:

On 1st Corinthians 1:13-17:

1) You are of course absolutely correct. This is the false position – or, actually, a reductio ad absurdum of the false position – being adopted by those Paul is criticizing here: "the logic of your position is that you have been baptized into the person who water-baptized you and that is horribly wrong and blasphemous!" Apparently some in this church were making distinctions between themselves and others based upon who it was that had water-baptized them: "Apollos baptized me [in water] so I am better than you", e.g. Paul draws the obvious logical but horrific conclusion that this can only be a valid conclusion if the person is being baptized "into Apollos", e.g., and is therefore glad for that reason that so few can say this about him since he didn't water-baptize many; that was not his job, as he tells us clearly, and it was at about this point, in seeing over time what havoc the continuation of Jewish rituals now defunct was playing on this and other largely gentile congregation, that Paul began to back out of such practices (leaving off any further continuation of John's water-baptism, for example, or making vows and shearing the hair, etc.).

2) The contrast is between the truth – being baptized into the person of Christ by the Spirit on salvation – and the gross misapplication being committed by these Corinthians guilty of confusing/conflating the (defunct) ritual of water-baptism with the reality of Spirit baptism . . . and then, in effect, assuming a greater or lesser level of spirituality based upon who it was that did the dunking. Water can't accomplish anything in the first place, and Paul could have made that point; but the even greater abuse here that he is trying to correct is the division in the church at Corinth based on factions built on "who [water] baptized you?" That is why he sets up the issue in this way, namely, broaching the subject of water-baptism (vv.14, 16, 17) in contrast to Spirit baptism (vv.13, 15).

3) This is again a hypothetical. If, hypothetically, Paul had used fancy rhetoric of the sort that the Corinthians and many Greeks of that and earlier eras were so enamored of, and if some persons had declared themselves "Christians" because of this rather than from a true conviction by the Holy Spirit, then we would only have a sham play going on and this would have the effect of making the cross pointless for that person who was not really saved. This is in fact the case for anyone who is a traditional "Christian" but not actually born again (for whatever reason). In fact, of course, all believers are saved, while unbelievers are not, and God can use any presentation of the truth to bring a willing party to salvation. But Paul, able speaker that he was, wants to make it clear here that he is relying on the power of the Spirit to bring the truth to the hearts of those he ministers to, not resting on his own human abilities. This is an important point to make for the Corinthians in this context because they are clearly more impressed by such worldly things than they ought to be in preferring others to Paul . . . based upon what, if not a fleshly evaluation of their presentations? Paul is not egotistical – far from it – but he is zealous for the truth, for the Lord, and as we see here for the spiritual well-being of those he has ministered to in the past. No doubt there were and would continue to be others around who would victimize the congregation, gaining a hearing and influence by just such rhetorical methods (e.g., Acts 20:29-30). Just as the Corinthians were making false distinctions based on personalities who did the [water] baptizing, so they were too impressed by the (in their minds) greater or lesser speaking talents of those who ministered to them (compare fancy "sermonizing" today as opposed to actual teaching of the truth of scripture). So this is all part of the same exact problem they have in their false evaluation of ministers (leading to divisions whereas the Church ought to function as one), and Paul ties the two things together here for that reason.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello Professor,

As to other questions we've talked about, it seems best to leave it in God's hands.

As for 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 - thank you for your prompt and in-depth replies. I just wanted to ask - how should we understand the fact that he did water baptize in the first place? That's the last question that bothers me. He does understand that Christ did not send him to baptize and he does refer to the baptism of the Spirit in his letters, so I'm not sure why he engaged in the ritual previously.

In our Lord,

Response #5:

I'm happy to leave it in God's hands as well:

For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.
But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.
Psalm 75:6-7 KJV

I have certainly seen in my life that the above is true. In the case of the righteous, promotion comes from the Lord and "He adds no trouble to it" (Prov.10:22). In the case of the wicked, such promotion only tests them to show how foolish they are about what is really important in this life (Ps.47:5-20). And there is also the case of non-believers being promoted on account of what they think of as their own merits, but really because God is using them for the benefit of believers (Is.45:4). I will certainly keep you in prayer on this, my friend.

On baptism in 1st Corinthians, Paul along with the other apostles and early evangelists did water-baptize at first, and both he and they did many other things which were really appropriate for Israel but not for the age of the Church – as well as many other things which were appropriate for the Church but not for Israel. The time of the apostles, especially the early days, was an age of transition wherein a large gentile group was being called out but was being built upon a Jewish stock and a Jewish system of synagogues, being accomplished mostly by Jewish men who were following Christ. Of necessity and very naturally then they continued at first with many Jewish traditions and customs. Paul always went to the synagogues first, e.g. In terms of water-baptism, John had been Jesus' herald, and accepting the water-baptism of John had meant accepting his witness to Jesus. For that reason, it was natural enough for contemporary Jews upon turning to Christ to want to express their fidelity with John's ministry and mission and also natural enough for the apostles and evangelists of that very early day (this epistle being written as early as only a dozen years following the cross and resurrection and therefore the water-baptizing mentioned in context had been done some years even earlier than that) to do so as well as a means of demonstrating the connection between the Messianic prophecies fulfilled by John and the Messiah now accepted as such. But even before the era of the apostles was over, the old had completely fallen away. Paul is the first to express his misgivings with continuing in Jewish practices and we see some of that here in context. By the time of the book of Hebrews, the distinction being drawn by him is absolute: no more looking backward now . . . except to the cross. Everyone was given time to adjust to the massive changes the gift of the Spirit and the influx of the gentiles with the coming of the Church Age brought – but not forever. After the generation of Jews who had known about John contemporaneously had passed, there was no further justification at all for water-baptism – anymore than for continuing with the temple rituals which Paul so vehemently warns against in Hebrews.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I am currently reviewing your study on "Hamartiology, The Biblical Study of Sin". In this study you reference Romans Chapter 6 verse 1 and 2. As I began pondering these scriptures, I also noted what Romans Chapter 6, Verses 3 and 4 as follows:

3 "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

I have not reviewed your studies on Baptism as yet, but I have a few comments about these verses and others.

1. I believe that many Christians are taking this Baptism referenced in these verses as "Water Baptism". I am not in agreement with this interpretation, but believe that this is a baptism into the Body of Christ, or into Christ. We are immersed into Jesus Christ when we are Born-Again and not by the works we do such as Water Baptism.

2. We are " Born from above", from God, upon our confession of faith in Jesus Christ our Savior, not by any works we do such as the so-called doctrine of Water Baptism. Many in the church today still practice Water Baptism.

3. Acts 2:38 is another Scripture that is erroneously referred to by many as Water Baptism; I have never believed that this interpretation was correct. Again, I believe it is an immersion into Jesus Christ, that is, being Born-Again.

"38Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

In The Name of Jesus Christ: That is the power and authority that is in His Name (Savior). believing in and accepting His authority, and Sacrifice He paid for our sins, not Water Baptism.

4. There are also additional verses such as 1 Peter 3:21.

"21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,"

This cannot possibly be referring to Water Baptism because that we be a work on our part, but some Christians? think that.

The more I study from your material, the more I realize that the Church has been teaching false doctrine, and it is truly amazing that these so-called church scholars are leading so many astray by their false teaching.

I am truly appalled at what is being taught today for Biblical doctrine.

The biggest problem in Christianity today I believe, is a lack of following what is says in the following scripture:

2 Timothy 2:15
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

I have by no means arrived, I still have much, much to learn. Many thanks to My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to you for your review and comments. Your friend,

Response #6:

Good to hear from you, my friend. Thanks much for your encouraging comments. I certainly agree with your interpretations of these verses and also with your general understanding of the importance of Spirit baptism as the "one baptism" of the Church (Eph.4:5), not water-baptism. Water-baptism is John's baptism, and as such for a short period of time – the transition from the dispensational mechanics of the age of Israel to those of the age of the Church which took place in the apostolic period as chronicled in the book of Acts – there did continue to be some water-baptism after the resurrection. But it was still "John's baptism" and only served the purpose of linking Jesus to John (His herald) in the minds of Jews and Jewish proselytes who were contemporaries of that "baptism leading to repentance" which they had previously ignored.

So the one place I would say on your list where there was probably water-baptism also included as a ritual is on the day of Pentecost. However, Peter rightly understands as you understand that repentance – a true change of heart towards faith in God and in His Anointed – is what results in salvation (and that is what his words express, rightly understood); but these individuals he was addressing on that occasion were Jews or proselytes of Judaism who knew well of John, while this gift of the Spirit and the commencement of the Church Age was not yet a day old. So it was natural for Peter to commend doing what he had been doing all along for years, and anything else would have seemed odd to the multitude. But I note that in Acts 2:38 he does connect the salvation to which he calls his countrymen directly with the reception of the gift of the Spirit, no doubt recalling what both John and Jesus had had to say: 

"I baptize you with water (i.e., physically) for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 NIV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:8

Peter had a "learning curve" to climb as well (remember that he required a miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit before he was willing to go and give the gospel to the gentiles in Acts chapter ten which was some time later). He continued as did the others before Paul to engage in Jewish rituals and rites which had been superseded. It took a minute for everyone to "get the message" (the entire book of Hebrews is part of that same "message"). By the middle of Acts – which is by no means close to the end of the apostolic period – there are no more recorded instances of water-baptism. As the Church became largely gentile and the generation who knew John died away, there was no further profit in a ritual which proclaimed solidarity with a coming Messiah now that the Messiah had already come and died for the sins of the world . . . and returned to heaven. If only the church visible which came later had followed suit!

Here are some pertinent links on some of these issues treated rather briefly above:

Acts and issues of dispensations

Misinterpreting Acts

Apostolic learning curve

Historical and Transitional Nature of Acts

Peter's "Learning Curve" in the Time of Transition

More on the Transitions in Acts

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38

Baptism:  Water and Spirit VI

Thanks again for your good words, my friend! Keep fighting the good fight of faith.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Professor,

I was responding to a friend on the issue of baptism, who believes there is still a place for water baptism today. When I was reading Titus 3:5 again, it occurred to me that this verse can be used as a strong argument to support Spirit baptism only in today's church.

Titus 3:5 (NASB)
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

If we take "the washing of regeneration" as water baptism, then it conflicts not only other passages which speak of our salvation only coming through faith, but the teaching of this very verse - "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness". It seem we could take the Holy Spirit here as the agent not only of the "renewing", but also of "the washing of regeneration".

What do you think?

In our Lord,

Response #7:

That is absolutely correct. Nice job. And the principle is a sound one too: it's really impossible to reconcile the position of water-baptism as in any way necessary for salvation with the biblical principle of salvation by grace through faith alone – and even seeing water-baptism as required is inextricably related to that extreme position, even for the many denominations with a foot in both camps (even if they refuse to see it).

Your friend in Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Dr. Bob,

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for being able to relate to a Christian situation that other believers label as "isolationism/aloofness". Such accusation is false, careless, offensive. Feeling like a vessel that is "shelved" (as Apostle Paul would call a useless vessel), I feel lost (my children and wife stayed with the group, it being of family and relatives). Anyway, I trust that God's eyes are everywhere beholding the evil and the good, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. At least, there is joy that the daily family devotions at our home continues.

Sir, I find it difficult to answer the issue of Spirit baptism as a fulfilled prophecy in Joel, not repeatable, and therefore, the logical "one baptism" in Ephesians 4 is water baptism.

As English is not my mother tongue and Greek is a mystery to me (no serious Greek study when I was in bible school - parsing only), I cannot truthfully and ably evaluate the pdf sent to me to be "enlightened" by. If it is not a demanding request to you, please take a look at this document, which I enclosed here because written in it is the Baptist interpretation of "one baptism" and Spirit baptism (aside from some paragraphs supporting the "local church only" position on the church that Jesus built). It is also an exegesis of the Greek of pertinent passages. Being an expert in Greek and knowing your position on this, which is the opposite, I would like to know your explanation of these passages that the pdf claims support water baptism as the "one baptism".

Thanks again for your acquaintance and your patience with me.


Response #8:

I don't think I'd have recognized you as a "non-native speaker" if you hadn't mentioned it. I would like to encourage you to keep standing up for the truth. It is always a terrible strain when one's family is not content to follow one's spiritual lead – especially when one is heading in the right direction and out of spiritual danger. But I pray that this is not the end state and that they will eventually respond to the truth and your good witness.

With that said, I'm afraid that with my full time day job, this ministry, and the demands of life, I'm not able to give you a detailed critique of this 127 page document. But I can tell you that its thesis – to the effect that there is no "Spirit baptism" today – is wildly incorrect. I went to seminary with many Baptists, and I can tell you that while this person makes a claim for his position being the "historic" one, none of the Baptists I have ever met would agree that it is correct. Part of the problem lies in this person's mis-appreciation of the fact that the "baptism 'of' the Spirit" actually has two parts, namely, being baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ and being baptized with the Spirit which means being indwelt by Him.

Indeed, we were all baptized by [the] One Spirit into one Body (i.e., the formation of the Church by the Spirit), whether Jews or Greeks (i.e., gentiles), whether slaves or free men, and we have all been given to drink of [the] One Spirit (i.e., the pouring out of the indwelling Holy Spirit to all believers: baptism "with" the Spirit).
1st Corinthians 12:13

Scripture is very clear that the indwelling of the Spirit is a fact now (since the earliest days of Acts) for all believers:

(9) But you are not under the control of the flesh, but under the control of the Spirit – if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that person does not belong to Him.
Romans 8:5-9

Seems pretty clear. All believers have the Spirit (i.e, have been baptized with the Spirit), otherwise they would "not belong to Him". And all believers are "in Christ" as the NT says repeatedly (e.g., Rom.8:1; 2Cor.5:17) – which means all believers have been baptized by the Spirit so as to be part of His Body. These are simple matters which "theology" of the sloppy sort evidenced by the conclusion of this piece only serves to make unnecessarily complicated.

This person has essentially confused spiritual gifts with Spirit baptism. While it is true that in the days of Acts there was sometimes an overt demonstration of certain gifts when said baptism occurred, that is, when a group of people believed (as in Acts 10), that is not the same as being placed into Christ or being indwelt by the Spirit, the two essentials of Spirit baptism which have always obtained (e.g., Saul "prophesied" on more than one occasion under the Spirit's influence but not permanent indwelling: 1Sam.10:11; 19:24).

I think a big part of the reason for such vigorous nonsense on this person's part is a desire to refute the Charismatics who want to claim, also wrongly, that they have special sign gifts (such as tongues), and base as their reason for having them that they got them in a "Spirit baptism" after salvation which is somehow different from the universal baptism of (= both by and with) the Spirit which all believers receive at salvation. But just because they are wrong does not make this person right. If he had merely read 1st Corinthians chapters 12 and 14, he would have seen that there are many spiritual gifts, not all of which are "overtly miraculous" or "sign" gifts, and that all believers are given gifts; and if he had read the chapter in the middle, 1st Corinthians 13, he would have seen that the "overtly miraculous" and "sign" gifts were on the point of cessation (and now have ceased to be given) – but not the gift of the Spirit.

(8) Love never falls [into inactivity]. But whether [we are talking about gifts of] prophecy, they will cease, or about [gifts of] tongues, they will come to a stop, or [about the gift of] knowledge, it will be done away with. (9) For when we exercise the gift of knowledge, its results are only partial. And when we exercise the gift of prophecy, its results are only partial. (10) But when what is complete shall have come on the scene (i.e., the completed Bible available to a mature Church), all partial measures shall be done away with.
1st Corinthians 13:8-10

Finally, as to Ephesians 4:5, since there is only one Lord and only one faith – and I can't see anything more important than these two – so then how can the baptism mentioned here, the "only one", not be the one which occurs as a result of our faith and which places us "into" our Lord for salvation? Seeing as how if water were meant here, we could not then be "in Christ" at all and would not have the most important gift of all, the gift of the indwelling Spirit, it would seem that we would not in that case even saved . . . if it were water meant here; which blessedly and clearly it is not and cannot be.

I am happy to address any specific aspect of this question or further specific questions you may have. I can tell you, as a Professor of Greek and Latin, that many erstwhile "theologians" hide behind the original languages when standing up for bad causes. In my estimation of the issues as discussed in the paragraph above, this is not a problem of exegesis. But, as I say, I'm happy to comment further if you have questions. What I would really recommend is for you to have a look at the following study posted to Ichthys where all of these questions are addressed in very great detail at the link: "Bible Basics 5: Pneumatology: the Study of the Holy Spirit".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Is water baptism necessary? The Bible teaches the baptism of believers (see Mark 16:16, Acts 8:36-37). And in the early centuries, Christian baptism was by immersion.

Response #9:

The early church did many things which were unbiblical. They lost their way very early on, almost immediately after the passing of the apostles, and abandoned "their first love" (i.e., attention to the truth of the Word) as Christ tells them in Revelation 2:4 (see the link: "Ephesus").

Mark chapter 16 ends with verse 8; everything else is an erroneous, later interpolation (see the link).

Acts 8:37 is also not a part of scripture but a later addition. It is true that Acts 8:36, where the Ethiopian eunuch asks to be baptized in water, is a part of scripture. Acts records accurately what really happened. This man did ask for water baptism. Why? Because Philip in telling him the gospel told him about the Messiah's herald, John, and his ministry wherein water baptism was the sign for the Jewish race of their repentance and return to the Lord – note, repentance and return, because Jews are God's people and their "default setting" is "believer". Now not all Jews at that time were believers, nor has that ever been the case since the early days of the patriarchs, but that was the basis upon which God gave them this repentance ritual (cf. Lk.1:76-77). John's water baptism heralded the coming of the Messiah who would "baptize you with the Holy Spirit" instead of the water, which water-baptism represented the Jewish believer's return to God in anticipation of the coming of Christ (Matt.3:11).

Christ has now come, so that anyone, especially anyone who is not Jewish, engaging in this ritual is saying, in effect, that Christ is yet to come. The ritual was continued very briefly in Acts while the apostles et al. were learning about the new covenant (Peter, after all, in Acts 10, required a very detailed lesson from the Spirit before being willing to treat with gentiles). Acts is a time of transition between Israel and the Church (see the link), and it made sense that a generation of Jews who knew about John and who were in fact his contemporaries would want to be part of that group who had accepted his testimony. Water-baptism has no spiritual benefit, however, and by the time Paul got around to instructing the Corinthians, he could tell them plainly "Christ did not send me to baptize (in water), but to preach the gospel" (1Cor.1:17).

The above is a very quick and selective summary of a detailed topic. More will be found at the following links (and others linked therein):

Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

One thing I like to point out to people who have been given a guilt-trip by someone on this issue is that no two churches or groups can agree on what water-baptism means or is supposed to accomplish – that speaks volumes about the fact that it is not legitimate.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob. I have many many questions to ask you. And I am a man who would most likely overwhelm you at once if I was to put it all in just one email. So I figured I would make it easy for you. In 1991 I became acquainted with the "church of Christ". Studied with them and was baptized into the Lord for the remission of my sins. Before being even aware of this church I was a "truth seeker" and was confounded by the fact that there was so many denominations and differences in the interpretation of the bible. Any way . I felt that they had the most humble and right approach to Gods Word. My question is what do you think of the "Church of Christ"?

Response #10:

I try to avoid weighing in on denominations. Cults are another issue. So for example I can't recommend the Roman Catholic church or the Mormons or any other absolutely false church that does not proclaim salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone (Eph.2:8-9).

As to the Church of Christ, I've never attended one. Most of what I have heard has not been particularly positive, but then I hear mostly from readers who have found out that denominations in general exist mainly for self-propagation and not really for spreading the truth of the Word of God. That is to say, these organizations are all more concerned about growing numbers and increasing revenues than they are about teaching the truth (so you can't grow spiritually there because the Word is not actually taught). As to odd, legalistic, and illegitimate practices (such as water-baptism), some, no doubt like the denomination about which you ask (again, I'm not speaking first hand here) proceed from the base of a traditional template which has "worked in the past" – and, besides that, changing "the way we've always done things" would alienate most long-time members who believe they have "institutional security", that is, that they are saved because they belong to the "right church" or at least to a "good church" and that this alone guarantees their spiritual safety (especially if they give money, do work, bring in new people, etc.).

The problem is that most such denominational churches have codified the limited understanding of the truth possessed by their founders (much of which was incorrect as well), and are in any case not really interested in committing these principles of truth (such as they may be) to their hearts by faith and then advancing spiritual beyond them. Their doctrines are essentially "team colors" with not much inherent meaning. They are happy sitting on their hands, "nodding to God", and not wishing to be much disturbed in their worldly lives. It doesn't mean they're not "good people" or even "Christians"; but it does mean that, if the shoe fits, they are characteristic of the lukewarm era of Laodicea in which we find ourselves on the cusp of the Tribulation (see the link).

One indication of all this in the denomination you ask about is the practice of and reliance on the misunderstood ritual of water-baptism. John's baptism was one of water given to Israel that they – all believers in theory – might repent of their backsliding and prepare for the coming of their Messiah. But we are not Israel, and the Messiah has already come, died for our sins, been resurrected, and returned to heaven . . . until the time of His return (very close at present). John himself and also of course our Lord were very specific about the fact that while John used water in a ritual, the Messiah was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matt.3:11; Acts 1:5; 1:8); and that is precisely what happened on the day of the first Pentecost of the Church. Since that time, the only reason for using water in the earliest days of the incipient Church was to connect Jesus to John in the minds of those Jews who knew of John's ministry as legitimate but were only coming to be aware of and accept our Lord. Nowadays, no one knows of John apart from the gospel of Christ, so there is no longer any legitimate rationale for water-baptism – in fact it sends a false message of a Messiah not yet come. The fact that no two groups can agree on the symbolism, significance and effect of water-baptism is further proof of the fact that it is not legitimate. There is in fact only "one baptism" for the Church (Col.2:9-10), the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:5).

There is a lot written about this at Ichthys, but if you check out this link it will lead you to most of the other: "Baptism: Water and Spirit VI".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Your views on water baptism/Spirit baptism is a view my husband and I have been considering for many yrs. We now lean toward your view and commend you on your well written article. We like most were water baptized as children when we believed in Jesus. I have a brother who says he is a Christian but never was water baptized. I have been very concerned in one way but in looking at it as you do I am more at peace about him. Thank you.


Response #11:

It's good to make your acquaintance. Thanks for the info and for your encouraging words.

It's almost always the case that good, genuine, born-again Christians have family members about whom they care deeply but whose salvation, while hoped for, is not 100% certain in their own minds. But God knows who are His (2Tim.2:19), and He surely knows how we love those He gave to be part of our families as well as our concern for them. I take that to be an encouragement for confidence in doubtful cases. One thing we can say for certain is that the lack of water has nothing to do with faith.

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

As to water-baptism, as I often say, the fact that no two groups agree about the details of water-baptism, including the supposed symbolism behind it, is a real "tell" that they have misunderstood this Jewish ritual – a preparation for the coming of the Messiah – entirely. One would think that crystal clear scriptures from the man given to conduct that water ritual (Matt.3:11) and from our Lord Himself (Acts 1:5; 1:8) about the fact that water would yield to Spirit – which happened nearly 2,000 years ago after all – would have caught the attention of groups who insist on this previous ritual. But then there are many important doctrines of scripture which are (deliberately) ignored and misunderstood by all manner of denominations.

Thanks again for your kind words!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Thanks for your kind response to my email, a very nice surprise. From our relationship to other believers, there have been very few along the path (we are now in our 70's) whom we can really discuss any 'real' differing viewpoints or even Scripture to any degree for that matter. It's a blessing to be able to converse over email.


Response #12:

You're most welcome!

Please feel free to write any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Question on Matthew 28:18-29:

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

I looked in one of the Bible commentaries by John Barnes, I think that is his name, and here is what he says about Matthew 28:19-20:

In the name ... - This phrase does not mean, here, "by the authority" of the Father, etc. To be baptized in the name of the Father, etc., is the same as to be baptized "unto" the Father; as to believe on the "name" of Christ is the same as to believe "on Christ," John 1:12; John 2:23; John 3:18; 1 Corinthians 1:13. To be baptized "unto" anyone is publicly to receive and adopt him as a religious teacher or lawgiver; to receive his system of religion. Thus, the Jews were baptized "unto Moses," 1 Corinthians 10:2. That is, they received the system that he taught; they acknowledged him as their lawgiver and teacher. So Paul asks 1 Corinthians 1:13, "Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" - that is, Were you devoted to Paul by this rite? Did you bind yourselves to "him," and give yourselves away to "him," or to God? So to be baptized in the name of the Father, or unto the Father, means publicly, by a significant rite, to receive his system of religion; to bind the soul to obey his laws; to be devoted to him; to receive, as the guide and comforter of the life, his instructions, and to trust to his promises. To be baptized unto the Son, in like manner, is to receive him as the Messiah - our Prophet, Priest, and King - to submit to his laws, and to receive him as a Saviour. To be baptized unto the Holy Spirit is to receive him publicly as the Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide of the soul. The meaning, then, may be thus expressed: Baptizing them unto the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by a solemn profession of the only true religion, and by a solemn consecration to the service of the sacred Trinity.

Another commentary by Gill's Expository says this

"Christ's orders are to "baptize": "dip" them, as Munster's Hebrew Gospel renders it; that is, in water, which, though not expressed, is implied; for with no other baptism could the apostles baptize: not with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; for this was Christ's peculiar prerogative; but with water, which they in obedience to this commission practised, Acts 8:36, and which was to be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; by the authority of these three divine persons, who all appeared, and testified their approbation of the administration of this ordinance, at the baptism of Christ: and as they are to be invocated in it, so the persons baptized not only profess faith in each divine person, but are devoted to their service, and worship, and are laid under obligation to obedience to them, Hence a confirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity, there are three persons, but one name, but one God, into which believers are baptized; and a proof of the true deity both of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and that Christ, as the Son of God, is God; since baptism is administered equally in the name of all three, as a religious ordinance, a part of divine instituted worship, which would never be in the name of a creature.

Comment and then a question: Comment: The text above says: "with no other baptism could the apostles baptize: not with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; for this was Christ's peculiar prerogative. Question: Are you saying that "In the Name" means that Jesus gave them authority to baptize them in the Holy Ghost" or? That is the first thing I thought; a man cannot baptize anyone in the Holy Ghost, but maybe Jesus does give His disciples the authority to do so? Can you provide further clarification.

Blessings and Grace be yours in the name above every name, Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

Your friend,

Response #13:

Matthew 28:19 has the Greek preposition eis which means into, and never "in" such as "in the name of love"; in Matthew our Lord says "baptizing them into the Name" – to be explained by "name" meaning "person", a very common biblical meaning (as in hashem in Hebrew); through this baptism "into" we believers are now "in Christ" having been baptized "into Him", that is, into His Person, through the Holy Spirit. Do the apostles have the power/authority to do this? As the case of the Bible's description of Moses' performance of miracles, scripture often presents things as done by the human agent even though God is the actual Agent. The Spirit does the actual supernatural "baptizing" of course, but human beings are generally part of the process, specifically, by giving the gospel message to which the person responds and results in Spirit baptism – that is what our Lord is commanding in this passage:

(18) Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, (19) so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [by the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., "name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, (20) and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you".
Matthew 28:18-20a

Through giving the gospel, the apostles "produce" the Spirit baptism (even though of course God is the One doing it) – and in the early days there were examples of the reception of the Spirit accompanying the laying on of the apostles' hands, of course: they were given a (temporary) special gift of mediation whereby they placed hands on new believers who then received the Spirit. That interim measure was made unnecessary by the time of Acts chapter ten, but it was yet another blessing the Lord provided to establish the authority of the apostles in the earliest days of the Church Age.

So, yes, this is Spirit baptism in Matthew 28. Note that water is not even mentioned in this passage (that is a mere assumption and an incorrect one too), and there is no way anyone can baptize someone "into" the Persons of God through sprinkling or immersion or any other human means involving mere water.

The thing which fundamentally differentiates the Church Age from what went before is just this Spirit baptism (having two aspects: being placed "into" Christ/God and being gifted "with the Spirit" whereby He now indwells us). Our Lord told the eleven just before His ascension that this Spirit baptism was soon to come (Acts 1:4-5; 1:8), and indeed it did soon come very soon thereafter (Acts 2:1ff.). Given that Matthew 28:18-20 relates to this very same period, namely, our Lord's brief time on earth following the resurrection but before the ascension, a time when He was preparing the eleven for the new things to come – of which the baptism of the Spirit is the most critical part – it would therefore be powerfully odd if the Matthew passage were not speaking of Spirit baptism – but it is indeed.

If our Lord ever did direct anyone to baptize with water, that is not recorded in scripture, and this passage in Matthew cannot be made to say that He did so on this occasion – at least not without adding the word "water" and doing violence to what the Greek actually says. I note that in the passages you include that there is no cross-reference to any verse where we find "baptize" plus "into [a person]". So these are not valid parallels.

This is a very short synopsis of an issue you will find written up in a variety of places on the website. Here are a couple of links to get you started:

Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

The Baptism of the Spirit (in BB 5)

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

Baptism in Matthew 28

John's baptism

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

In Acts 8, why was Philip carried away like Elijah "after" the water baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch?

Does the Eunuch's statement, in Acts 8:36, indicate that he and Philip were not aware of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

The Angel of the Lord told Philip what direction to go and the Spirit told him to go to the chariot. It does seem strange that water was in a desert place. So I'm wondering if the water baptism was done because the Eunuch was Jewish or was this another misunderstanding of the concept of spirit baptism? How does this mesh into one receiving the Spirit when they believe?

Hello Friend,

Response #14:

It seems that the Spirit had pressing work for Philip to do elsewhere (Acts 8:40), and this is a good example of how the Lord uses any and all means to accomplish His perfect plan, sometimes mundane, but sometimes undeniably and visibly supernatural.

Acts 8:36 indicates that Philip had told this man about John the baptist, the herald of Christ, in his presentation of the gospel. As a part of the community of faith at that time (associated with Israel though not technically Jewish – he had gone up to Jerusalem to worship and was reading a copy of the scriptures), it was understandable that he wanted to demonstrate his willingness to repent (John's water-baptism was a ritual of repentance for members of the community of faith); that is to say, he was reading Isaiah and was most likely a believer (though as with all OT believers he did not know with specificity about the incarnation, life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ: cf. 1Pet.1:10-12), but he was in any case a proselyte – which for our purposes is very different from a gentile unbeliever with no knowledge of the Bible. So this incident is part and parcel of the original dispensation of the truth by the apostles to the wider community of faith (such as also the Samaritans) prior to the expansion to the gentiles beginning in Acts chapter 10 and then exemplified first and foremost by the ministry of the apostle Paul.

While the passage does not say that the Ethiopian received the Spirit at the time Philip gave him John's water-baptism, I would be incredibly surprised if he did not (that seems to be a big part of the underlying mission Philip is given). In earlier days, Philip was the one who had ministered to the Samaritans, and it is true that on that occasion he was not given to mediate the Spirit to them – that required Peter and John coming from Jerusalem; but this disjunction between faith and the gift being a means of establishing the apostles' authority, a very necessary thing in these first years of the Church. For very shortly after this, moreover, we find all who become believers for the first time receiving the Spirit when they believe (Acts 10), so that Paul can say with assurance some years later that anyone without the Spirit is not a believer (Rom.8:6).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Robert,

I notice from your section on Baptism and your comments/views, that you seem to have omitted the account in Acts 8:26 onwards. Here we have Phillip who is sent by God to explain the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, he clearly taught the Ethiopian about baptism and he clearly baptises the Ethiopian in water.

Why do you think he did that? The Ethiopian was most certainly convicted about his need to be baptised in water? If baptism in water isn't, necessary why would Phillip who was sent by God and speaking through the Spirit, concede to the Ethiopians request. Why would the Ethiopian insist (as he did) on being baptised in water?

I would appreciate your thoughts.


Response #15:

Good to make your acquaintance. I have written a lot on the question of water-baptism (see the link for the latest file which will lead to other links), and only do so from the standpoint of answering readers' questions on the subject. I.e., I don't pretend to have approached this in a comprehensive, apologetic way with the purpose of covering all possible passages, etc. That said, I did treat the passage briefly at the link in BB 5: Pneumatology: the Study of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit guides Philip to the Ethiopian (v.26), directs Philip to approach him (v.29), and takes him away miraculously once his divinely directed task is complete (v.39). In the process, Philip water-baptizes the Ethiopian, but the purpose of this act and indeed of the entire encounter is widely misunderstood: the Ethiopian was already a believer – as a good many individuals were before the coming of our dear Lord Jesus Christ. What he lacked was: 1) a proper understanding of who the Messiah was, since he had not been in Jerusalem for the events of recent years and was proceeding from an Old Testament appreciation of what the shadows of the Law meant (and very understandably too); and 2) the gift of the Spirit (since he had not been in Jerusalem for the first Pentecost, either in the room with assembled disciples or in the crowd who accepted Peter's testimony and were likewise water-baptized for the purpose of mediating the Spirit). Thus, the Ethiopian represents that class of godly person who, for various reasons, were not privy to the events that transpired under John's preparatory ministry and our Lord's ministry, crucifixion and resurrection – the "good news" which Philip immediately shares with him.

The Spirit's gracious and miraculous filling in of what was lacking in this case demonstrates that for all such individuals who were willing to accept that Jesus was indeed the true Messiah and the visible face, so to speak, of fulfillment for all of the Old Testament shadows of salvation, were not to be left out nor deprived of the gift of the Spirit – provided they did not harden their hearts once Jesus was revealed to them as the one and only Son of God (as, sadly, many in Jerusalem did).

I would add here that a better question might be why, if water-baptism were necessary for salvation or even something all believers ought to engage it, was it left to the Ethiopian to request it from Philip? Suggesting strongly that Philip did not tell that it was necessary, even though he included John's water-baptism as part of his gospel presentation. Any place I am aware of where they think water-baptism is important (for whatever reason), they practically hit you over the head with it and insist on it in no uncertain terms. Not so here. Here, it is apparently not thought to be important by Philip, and he only agrees on request.

The symbolism will be same as for all water-baptized by John, namely, a turning back and turning to God by the community of faith in anticipation of the Messiah's coming. Now at this point, the Messiah had already come, had already died for ours sins, had already been resurrected and ascended to heaven. But all those who were of this generation and contemporary to the earlier events had a right to have a share of that earlier witness – and that is the reason why the apostles continued it . . . to Jewish believers and proselytes . . . in the very early days of Acts. It made no sense (and ultimately was very counterproductive) to continue it to the gentiles – as Paul makes very clear (1Cor.1:10-17), and as all subsequent history of the church-visible affirms.

All water-baptism is John's baptism (biblically speaking). See the link.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

I don't want to bother you but I have two small articles about baptism required to salvation. Please look at them. It takes small moment; there are answered arguments against our views : http://www.bible.ca/baptism-objections-refuted.htm

and there is history : http://www.bible.ca/H-baptism.htm

Response #16:

These are very silly articles. To sum up their approach, it's a bit like a person saying he's a prophet and "prophesying" all manner of weird things in the distant future; then when someone objects that his predictions are improbable replying by saying "you cannot prove they won't come true". That is still no reason to believe him. The fact that we cannot "prove", e.g., that the thief on the cross who was saved on the cross was not water-baptized previously is no reason to believe that he was (nor are any of the other specious arguments used here in any way credible). More to the point, the fact that he is not water-baptized while on the cross and yet our Lord tells him that he will be in paradise with Him "today" is actually an argument that water-baptism is unnecessary.

Blessedly, we are not required to answer all of the objections that perverse people have in order to believe what the Bible teaches in a positive way. E.g., you can't "prove" to any atheist's satisfaction and agreement that God exists – even though said atheist couldn't exist without Him and even though the Bible assures us that everyone, even atheists, actually know very well that God exists, despite what they say (Rom.1:18-32). Simply put, our faith is not in the hands of others: the doubts of others do not have to be answered for us to believe that what the Bible clearly teaches is true. And if we make the grave mistake of suspending our belief in the truth until all skeptics are satisfied, we will never believe anything and will quickly be plunged into spiritual despair. I pity such skeptics, but I don't yield to them on matters of truth and faith one single iota.

Were there any scripture requiring water-baptism for the Church today, we would embrace it. There is not, because water-baptism was a ritual of return / repentance for the community of faith, namely, the Jewish nation of Christ's day. It has nothing whatsoever to do with gentiles – nor Jews today either, now that the generation of Christ's contemporaries is long since gone.

I'm happy to answer any specific questions you have about these waste-of-time websites – or better yet about the positive things the Bible has to say about the truth on this or any other subject.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Thank you and do you read that history link too?

Response #17:

These are all references to certain "church fathers" and not to the Bible. There is no argument about the fact that the early church strayed from the truth as soon as the apostles departed – just as the generation that entered the land of Israel strayed from the truth just as soon as the previous generation passed away. It's an all too common phenomenon (and in this case was prophesied by Christ Himself; see the link: the era of Ephesus). If Christianity were a worldly religion these early writings would be a good argument. But Christianity is being born again through faith in Jesus Christ (no water), and the Bible is inspired by God Himself. There is no profit whatsoever in reading or worrying about these early writing. But reading the Bible is very profitable – especially if you believe it. Please believe it.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello again Dr. Luginbill,

Additional comments on the subject of Act 2 Verse 38 and 41. I believe the following verses in Romans chapter 6 verses 1-4 conform my deductions about being "baptized" not being of water in verses 38 and 41, rather they point to, in my opinion to what I stated previously, a baptism into Christ.

Romans 6:1-4 NASB
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

Again, I would very much appreciate your observations and comments.

Blessings to you brother in the Name of Jesus,

Your friend,

Response #18:

Very good to hear from you as always, my friend. I hope you and yours are doing well.

As to your question, first let me say that all of your observations on Romans I would agree with wholeheartedly. Indeed, baptism in the New Testament epistles is always "dry", mostly referring to the baptism of the Spirit (but rarely on occasion to other types of "identification with" as in 1Cor.10:2).

As to Acts chapter 2, I have to say that you made a persuasive case, and that if one reads the chapter with that point of view, namely, of Spirit vs. water, it does "work"; whereas if one reads it expecting a water baptism, that "works" as well. Peter's language in verse 38 ties baptism and repentance together (and that is the same linkage we find in John's baptism), and splits them in terms of sequence from the reception of the Spirit. Not that there had to have been any significant time lag. However, given that this is a Jewish audience and that the automatic reception of the Spirit at salvation had not yet come into being (the apostles mediated the early receptions by believers until Acts chapter ten), and given the understandable benefit of having the apostles mediate the gift here (placing their hands upon the new believers as they water-baptized them), it seems to me that this is more probably an example of the transitional continuation of John's baptism to the generation that knew of him and his witness to Christ – a ritual soon to become entirely defunct as that generation passed and as the Church became more and more gentile. The important things about this passage in this regard are 1) repentance is the key – which especially to Jewish audience means returning to the Lord through faith in Christ; and 2) the gift of the Spirit being the result of salvation (not water-baptism). One last thing that leans toward water here: Peter tells them to be baptizing "in the Name" – not "into the Name/Person". The former is a water formula; the latter is entering into Christ through the Spirit's baptism.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Baptism was for the Jews and was originally called a Tvilah. Even in Israel today a baptism is called a "Christian Tvilah." As it stands, it has nothing to do with Christianity except for the role it played historically. There is, in fact, only one ritual authorized by Jesus Christ, and that is communion.

Reformed theologians have motivated reasoning for advocating infant baptism, and it's to support how they categorize humanity into three tiers (the elect, the "covenant community," and everyone else). In Reformed theology the "covenant community" includes the elect but also some unbelievers who nonetheless have been caused by God to enter into the "covenant community" so as to give them blessings intermediate between those of everyone else and the elect. This un-Biblical hierarchy is then given weight by abusing passages including baptism, supposing that baptism deals with entrance into the "covenant community" and thus is most appropriately given to infants. However, here is what the Bible actually says:

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matthew 3:11)

The implication of this verse is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit has replaced water baptism, because Jesus Christ has replaced John. This is why Paul so confidently declares that "there is one Lord, one faith, one [not two] baptism." (Ephesians 4:5)

Response #19:

Absolutely agree. Good stuff!

Question #20:

Greetings to you Sir. I enjoy your explaining about the Spirit, the Trinity, and all the Questions about the Spirit of God. My question is about being baptized. In the book of Acts, the disciples and Paul baptize in the name of Jesus. I have talked to people that say Paul and the disciple’s were disobedient when they baptized in the name of Jesus and should have baptized like Jesus said to be baptized in Matthew 29:19. If this be true, what would be the right way to be baptize? Would you be so kind to comment on this. Thanks for your answer.

Response #20:

Good to make your acquaintance.

I have written rather a lot on this somewhat involved subject, and will give you some links below. Here is what I read our Lord saying in scripture:

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
Acts 1:4-5 NKJV (cf. Acts 1:8)

This is exactly what John had said earlier:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
Matthew 3:11 NKJV (cf. Lk.3:16)

From these verses I get that John water-baptized, but that the Messiah's ministry, after Pentecost, was to be characterized by Spirit baptism. In other words, water-baptism was for the Jewish nation to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah (John's mission); but Spirit-baptism is the baptism of the Church, the "one [and only] baptism" of Ephesians 4:5. As your question indicates, there is no agreement today among those who water-baptism about how it should be done, what should be said, or what it does, what it means, or what it symbolizes. That is understandable since the Bible itself nowhere gives any mandate to the Church to baptize with water. We who believe in this age are baptized with the Spirit when we put our faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom.8:9). That is our baptism, one which places us in union with Christ and gives us the Spirit indwelling us. Reviving and misapplying the Jewish ritual of water-baptism – a symbolic purification of people who were already supposed to be believers in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah – is not legitimate, and the confusion surrounding the use and abuse of this earlier ritual along with the discord it has caused among Christians over the last two thousand or so years (just to name one other of many problems with it) is a sure indication of that illegitimacy. Even in the book of Acts, an inspired historical book which relates what people actually did without pronouncing their actions good or bad or in-between (of which we find all three categories), water-baptism is only recorded as having been done in the very early years of the apostolic period. By the time that Paul was writing the Corinthians from Ephesus a mere twenty years or so after the cross and resurrection, he made it very clear that he had suspended the practice of water-baptism because of this very divisiveness (1Cor.1:17; cf. 1Cor.1:10-16). However one does it today, water-baptism will only lead to confusion and also to legalism. Here are those links:

Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whose Church we are through the baptism of the Spirit,

Bob L.

Question #21:


I was greatly encouraged by what you have written on Water Baptism. I hope to think further on this etc. While everything you have said says so very well what I would have liked to (!), please tell me what you think on "baptism means immersion" and therefore to be baptised (for me) in the context of most every quote in the NT indicates "immersion in Jesus, the Word". I yielded my life to Him years ago and had taken "adult water baptism" then as I was well meaningly advised to, though I had been baptised as a child. However for some time I have been wondering about the need to insist that all should take adult water baptism.


Response #21:

Good to make your acquaintance. I have written a great deal on the topic of water baptism, and will give you some more links below. To put it succinctly, water-baptism is John's baptism, a baptism of repentance for the Jewish nation (who were already supposed to be believers but who were in need of restoration to prepare them for the Messiah who was coming). The apostles occasionally water-baptized in the very early going, but the last recorded water-baptism happened only a few short years after the first Pentecost of the Church and Paul is on record as having regretted continuing the ritual (in the first chapter of 1st Corinthians) because of the strife it caused. The only reason even to continue was for the sake of Jewish Christians who knew of John as a contemporary (and thus they entered into the confirmation of Jesus as the Messiah by doing so). But the baptism for the Church is Spirit baptism – as both John and Jesus had affirmed:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
Matthew 3:11 NKJV (cf. Lk.3:16)

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
Acts 1:4-5 NKJV (cf. Acts 1:8)

Spirit baptism is the "one baptism" of the Church (Eph.4:5), and it happens immediately for all who put their faith in Christ (e.g., Rom.8:9).

So if the question is, how did John water-baptize, the answer would seem to be "through immersion" (cf. Jn.3:23).

If the question is, why do some groups insist on adult water-baptism, the rational given by them is that for them, the ritual represents accepting Christ – although since the ritual does not actually apply, the symbolism cannot be biblical, and that is why no two groups explain the meaning or the necessity or often even the form and formula in the same way. Since infants cannot express faith in Christ, that is reason groups which (wrongly) feel water-baptism to be necessary not as some sort of magic but as an acknowledgment of salvation restrict it to adults.

But if the question is, what should we now do, the biblical answer is to steer clear of anything that smacks of legalism and a faulty application of scripture. In truth, groups who water-baptize do so from a host of faulty motivations, but there is more about all this in these links (and do please also feel free to write me back about any of this):

Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your very helpful email. Apart from appreciating very much all that you have said, I do want to press the point that the word "baptism" (from it's Greek origins) does not mean only water. As I mentioned earlier, in addition to wanting to tell people that "water baptism" is not required, I also want to be able to say that the Baptism that is required, is the immersion in Him/Holy Spirit/His Body, and that such a Baptism/immersion brings change. Please read the matter below and let me know what you think. Thanks so much once again. I am hoping to read more of the material on your website. I read "Three false Doctrines, and was disturbed by "once saved is not saved forever" and was disturbed (happily) by it !!

Response #22:

Yes, you are absolutely correct (see the links where this is all discussed). The word means "dip [into]". That meant (literally) to dip "into water" in early Greek. Later the term is used in a metaphorical way, and we see that also in the Bible where the Israelites are "dipped into" Moses, that is, closely identified with him (1Cor.10:2). That later sense is what we have in the baptism of the Spirit where we are both indwelt by Him and also placed into union with Christ by Him at salvation (i.e., the baptism "of" the Spirit has two aspects, "into" and "with": please see the link in BB 5: "Baptism [of the Spirit]").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:


I like what I read in your email. Will check out the links. I have been greatly influenced by the book " My Utmost For His Highest" . What do you think of it please ?

Response #23:

You're very welcome,

Please to feel free to write any time.

As to your question, the book is not my "cup of tea" (tried to get through it once but was not able to do so), but I know a number of excellent Christians who likewise have great things to say about it – so I guess it's true what they say: "it takes all kinds".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

In Matthew 28:16-20, did the disciples know about the Spirit baptism Jesus was referring to and was this day 1 of the 40 days Jesus would spend with them?

Response #24:

There were clearly many things that the disciples didn't "get" until after the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost – but our Lord predicted that, as well as the fact that they would eventually "get it":

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26 NIV

Even after the coming of the Spirit, the apostles had a steep learning curve to climb, and sometimes they did better than at other times (see the link). But I don't think we can lay the penchant for the medieval and modern church-visible to revert to John's water-baptism at their feet. There is actually very little water-baptism in Acts, all of it comes in the very early days of the apostolic period, and all of it is connected with Jewish congregations or proselytes who knew about John the Messiah's herald and wished to affirm their solidarity with that repentance of Israel which he had preached (see the link: "Baptism: Water and Spirit VI").

This passage, Matthew 28:16-20, takes place in Galilee (v.16) whereas the resurrection occurs in Jerusalem, so this cannot be "day #1" of the period our Lord spent with them before ascending to heaven. Here is a link to my chronology of that period as put together from the information contained in all of the gospels and elsewhere in the New Testament: "The Chronology of the Resurrection".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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