DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMS
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
(Rom 6:3 NASB)
Jesus Christ our Messiah did not only lay the foundation on teachings about repentance and faith; He very specifically laid the foundation for instructions on baptisms, not only immersion into water (Mat 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-17), but also immersion into His promised gift, the Holy Spirit, (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). The Hebrew author, using the plural noun for baptism, specifically emphasize that the doctrines on both baptisms, the baptism into water and the baptism into the Holy Spirit, should be considered elemental teachings. Unless these doctrines (teachings) are in line with what was taught by Messiah, and confirmed by the apostles, they will without doubt affect what will be built ON the foundation, (1 Cor 3:10-15; Col 2:6-7).
The Greek word ‘baptizo,’ literally means, ‘to overwhelm with water,’ and thus ‘to fully wet or immerse.’ The practice of ‘washings’ was not foreign to the early Believers, for ‘mikve,’ or ritual cleansing (bathing), was a custom which formed part of the First Covenant Temple Worship, (Ex 29:4; Lev 16:26; Num 19:7). In fact, John the Baptist was the forerunner in preparing the way for understanding the true meaning of Baptism. John’s baptism was called ‘a baptism of repentance,’ and ultimately paved the way for those who would believe unto salvation. Those who were baptized by John testified through their baptism that they turned from their sinful ways, for the forgiveness of their sins, (Mark 1:4; Acts 13:23-34).
The Baptism of John was thus a mental preparation for the contemporary Jews of the day to turn to salvation provided through the death and resurrection of Messiah. Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is unmistakably connected to His death and resurrection, for He identified the essence of baptism in His own words when He said to His disciples, ‘Are you able to drink the cup that I drink; and to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ (Mark 10:38). [See also Luke 12:50.]
The doctrine of identifying with the death and resurrection of Messiah through the act of baptism was also foundational in the teachings of the apostles, for Paul clearly stated, ‘Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin,’ (Rom 6:3-7). [See also Col 2:12-13.]
Baptism, in essence, is a testimony enacting a confession to witnesses, stating emphatically that one identifies his “old nature” as dying with Christ on the cross as he is immersed into the water (grave), and also that he unites with the triumph of Christ’s resurrection as he emerges out of the water. There is no stronger public confession to be made, for this triumph is indeed a triumph of ‘life over death,’ proclaiming a spiritual victory to the seen and unseen worlds, (Rom 8:2-4).
The Baptism of John proclaimed the essential condition to receive the Baptism of Christ Jesus the Messiah, namely REPENTANCE! We find the same order, namely, ‘repent and be baptized,’ not only in the passage of our study, namely Hebrews 6:1-2, but also in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter first called to his listeners, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:38), and the book of Acts further states, ‘But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike,’ (Acts 8:12). Baptism can by no means precede repentance and faith!
Thus, the essence of baptism is an immersion into a water bath, representing the death of Messiah on the cross, followed by an ascension out of the water proclaiming Messiah’s triumph over death through His resurrection. Moreover, baptism is a step of obedience AFTER ‘repentance from dead works and faith toward God.’ Connecting any other doctrine or order to baptism will lead to error. In fact, the apostle Paul emphatically states, ‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all,’ (Eph 4:4-6).
The doctrine on baptism is just as elemental as the doctrine of ‘repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.’ Let us adhere to this foundation as we spread the gospel of the Kingdom and the good news of Christ Jesus our Lord, the Saviour of our souls.