Last week, Levi delivered The Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, which is an ordinance given by the command of the Lord Jesus. Today, we look at The Doctrine of Baptism, which was also commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission, after His resurrection:
“All authority in heaven and on earth was given to Me. Therefore, go and disciple all the peoples, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to be keeping as much as all I commanded you…” (Mt. 28:18-20, lit.).
Baptizing simply means immersing. The substance into which the person is immersed must be specified. Through our church traditions, we probably always associate the word baptize with the substance of water, but this is not always the case in the Scriptures. In the Great Commission, Jesus specified the substance: immersing disciples “into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is our conviction that these words do not speak primarily of baptism in water. Primarily, Jesus’ words specify baptism into the Name of the Triune God. Especially in the ancient culture of the Scriptures, a name “is a verbal marker to represent the whole person and his character. When we hear a name, we think of that person….”1 In Scriptures like Isaiah 30:27, “the Name of Yahweh” is Personified and signifies God Himself. We believe this is the primary sense of Jesus’ command to be baptizing into the Name: it means we are commissioned to immerse disciples into the Person of the Three-in-One God. How does the disciple get into the Person of God?
We must first plant the seed of the Gospel in his heart because that seed is God’s means to cause the hearer to be born again (1 Pet. 1:23, 25). God gives the disciple a new spirit with the Holy Spirit in him.2 This is what John the Baptist said was superior to his baptism in water. He said the Christ would be superior and would baptize people in the Holy Spirit.
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body [Christ] – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).
The results of this new creation3 are simply amazing. The new disciple’s spirit becomes one with the Spirit of Christ (1 Cor. 6:17), so he truly comes to be seated in Christ in God in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6). And, according to Colossians 3:3, his “life is hidden with Christ in God.” The new disciple is literally, spiritually, in the Name of the Triune God; he is literally, spiritually, immersed in the Spirit, in Christ the Son, and in the Father. Is this not astounding?
We must learn ourselves, and we must teach our disciples the incredible things that took place when they first believed. They must be taught to find their identity in Christ. And God designed a tangible teaching tool for the disciple’s new identity: baptism in water.
It is so sad, so grevious, that many ministries and entire denominations think that a person must be baptized in water in order to be born again and saved; they think water baptism is the moment that a person’s sins are forgiven and the moment he is baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is such a serious distortion of the Gospel of justification4 by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that we offer a seven-page article online, which contains these words:
There is not one single instance in the Scriptures where it says explicitly that someone received the Holy Spirit by being baptized in water…. On the contrary, at least five occasions in the book of Acts demonstrate that people receive the Holy Spirit separate from water baptism (Acts 2:1-4; 8:15-16; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 19:5-6).5
Acts 10:44-48 especially shows that baptism in the Holy Spirit is the prerequisite for water baptism. In other words, a person should be born again by immersion in the Spirit, through believing the Gospel of grace, before he is immersed in water. The apostle Peter went out of his way to clarify (in 1 Pet. 3:21) that the physical water does not lead to salvation; the water symbolizes the believer’s appeal to God for forgiveness through Christ’s finished work. We believe in what it called “believers’ baptism.” We do not baptize babies, because babies can’t believe yet. For grown children or adults, we do not teach forgiveness through water baptism, nor do we confuse baptism in the Holy Spirit with water baptism. So many Scriptures make clear that the new birth, forgiveness, justification, salvation – these occur the moment a person believes, before water baptism.6
Properly understood, water baptism is a wonderful outward expression of that prior inward faith. The believer reenacts, symbolically, what already happened in the spiritual realm when he believed. The disciple proclaims his faith to the community of faith and identifies himself with Christ and with them – in Christ. The disciple is lowered into the water to symbolize how God united him with Christ in Christ’s own death and burial. Then the disciple is raised out of the water to symbolize the resurrection of his spirit through union with the resurrected Christ. The disciple is thus pledging to walk in newness of life in the Spirit for the glory of the Father in the preeminence of the Son (Rom. 6).
At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus received revelation of the Father’s pleasure, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I delight.” The disciple being baptized in water today can also hear, through the Spirit of adoption, “This is My beloved son, in whom I delight.” So we encourage every believer to obey the Lord Jesus in water baptism, to obey immediately, for His glory and our joy. If you have any questions, please talk to one of the shepherds.