The word “BAPTISM” is[Greek: “baptizo” – Strong’s #907 = to make fully wet, ceremony of washing, Christian baptism]. BAPTISM is used only in the New Testament. It is a sign of the New Covenant, spiritual, eternal Kingdom that is within believers in Christ. Therefore, BAPTISM is only for believers in Christ.
All born-again Christians in the New Covenant spiritual Kingdom should continue to encourage new believers to be BAPTIZED once to testify of their new life in Christ. It is not a requirement for salvation (the thief on the cross was never baptized and yet went to Paradise with Christ (Luke 23:43)). It is not a requirement for your Christian life to be saved, but it is a commandment of the Lord as an act of obedience. It is a physical act that God established as an outward sign or testimony to show that His believers are set apart from others through faith.
As humans we need something to remind us of the reason for and the beginning of our faith in Jesus Christ. Much more important than a graduation diploma from school is the graduation from being spiritually dead to being made spiritually alive through our new spiritual birth.
BAPTISM is our “diploma.” It is a lasting reminder of the new life that God has provided for us. It is most encouraged to be done near the beginning of the time that we believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior. However, there is no restriction to prevent a genuine “unbaptized” believer from being BAPTIZED later in his or her Christian life.
BAPTISM began its prominence with John the Baptist. His ministry was to call the Old Covenant Jews, and only the Jews, to repent and be BAPTIZED. His was a BAPTISM of “repentance” to set the believing Jews apart from the unbelieving Jews, who were destined for God’s wrath that was to come in their first century generation. (Matt. 3:7; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Luke 7:29; Acts 10:37; Acts 13:24).
During the beginning of the New Covenant spiritual, eternal Kingdom. John’s BAPTISM was declaring that the Jewish people should repent and believe in the coming Messiah, who would come after John. When those “John BAPTIZED” Jews in the first century believed in the risen Lord Jesus as their personal Messiah, they were then BAPTIZED as Christians, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. This situation of being BAPTIZED prior to receiving the Holy Spirit was only during the very beginning of the New Covenant Kingdom in the first century AD with two groups of people: 1) the first Samaritans in Acts 8:14-17; 2) some disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:3-6.
“3And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you BAPTIZED?’ So they said, ‘Into John’s BAPTISM.’ 4Then Paul said, ‘John indeed BAPTIZED with a BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come AFTER him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ 5When they heard this, they were BAPTIZED in the NAME OF THE LORD JESUS . 6And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:3-6).
It is imperative to understand what was happening at the foundation of the church. The New Covenant Kingdom church was to be unified under the authority of the apostles, with Peter as the key man. So, while Philip was a believer, he was not an apostle, so for all three of the other believer groups outside of the Christian Jews (Jews Acts 2:1:11; Samaritans Acts 8:14-17; Gentiles Acts 10:44-48; disciples of John the Baptist Acts 19:1-6) an apostle was required to be present in the very first instances of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to provide the unity of authority and recognition of the same equal acceptance into the establishing church – now for every tribe, people and language.
So, when Paul came to the disciples of John in Acts 19
The Holy Spirit came upon all of those foundational believers in the first century AFTER they believed in Christ. (Acts 1:5; 2:38; Acts 11:15-18). The same is so after AD 70 that the Holy Spirit comes upon each person AFTER they believe (Eph. 1:13). There is a spiritual BAPTISM in which new believers are made alive spiritually; placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit; and He indwells each of them forever more. (Mark 1:8; John 1:12-13; John 3:3-8; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Pet. 3:13).
Christian water BAPTISM is for believers only. It openly declares to all, that he or she believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It declares with your outward visible act of water BAPTISM of going fully under the water and then being raised out of the water what has taken place within you in the spiritual realm which others cannot see – that you were spiritually buried with Christ through the cross and then spiritually raised with Him through the power of the resurrection (Col. 2:11-14). BELIEVER BAPTISM was done then and is still done now after AD 70 to declare one’s new faith in Christ. In the first century, BAPTISM was an act of bravery by the Jewish believers. They were under extreme persecution from the non-believing Jews for their faith in Christ.
The New Testament speaks of different BAPTISMS. John’s BAPTISM was for the O.T. Jews in Israel to show their repentance and belief in the Messiah (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:23-24); Jesus was BAPTIZED by John, not for repentance, but to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:13-17); Jesus told His disciples of His pending BAPTISM on the Cross (Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12); Peter said that there was an “antitype” to Noah’s family being saved through water. It is BAPTISM through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:20-21).
The doctrine of BAPTISMS is considered one of the elementary principles of Christ. It is listed along with repentance from dead works; faith toward God; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; and eternal judgment. We believers are to certainly understand these things, but we should go on to maturity in Christ. Our focus should be to continually study the Word of God and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
“1Therefore, 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, 2of the DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMS, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Heb. 6:1-2).