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A Glimpse of Baptism

When the word “baptize” is mentioned in conversation today, the first thought to jump into the minds of many, is water. It might be shocking to realize that real baptism has nothing whatsoever to do with water.

The word “baptize” found in the New Testament is a word that means “immersion for the purpose of identification.” However, we should not jump to the conclusion that the immersion being mentioned always includes water.  There are both dry and wet baptisms mentioned in the Bible.

Dry Baptisms

  • The baptism into Moses (1 Cor. 10:1-2)
  • The baptism of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Matt. 3:11)
  • The baptism of fire (Matt. 3:11)

Wet Baptisms

  • John’s baptism (Matt. 3:11),
  • The baptism of Christ (Matt. 3:13- 17)
  •  Believer’s baptism (1 Cor. 1:13-17)

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13)

The baptism in one Spirit mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is obviously a dry baptism. Being baptized into the realm of the Spirit does not involve water.  It is a spiritual, but real, transaction. When faith is placed in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit immerses the believer into the body of Jesus Christ. When this takes place, the characteristics of the one being baptized into Christ become the characteristics of the one being baptized (the believer). This act is a spiritual act and is, therefore, not seen, but yet, it is real. Paul said that what is seen is not the real. But that which is not seen is the real.

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)

In contrast, ritual baptisms mentioned in the Bible do use water and water baptism is important.  It is important because it is used to “symbolize” and “illustrate” real spiritual truth.  The ordinance of water baptism is a symbol for the real baptism. It is a ritual that illustrates the real. It is like looking at a picture of a family member. The picture is not really the person but it is just a picture of that person. Water baptism is a picture of that which is real. The real is our immersion into the body of Christ.

This truth becomes clearer when we realize that both real and ritual baptisms were practiced in the ancient world. During Paul’s day, the word “baptism” was associated with dying cloth different colors. A tunic could be immersed into a vat containing dye that caused the identity of the tunic to be changed from one color to another. This baptism illustrates real baptism.

Ritual baptism was also illustrated in the ancient world. A Roman soldier would ceremonially dip his weapon into a vat of pig’s blood. This was done to “commission the sword” for the role of taking lives. The sword did not take on the identity of the pig’s blood; it was just symbolic. Both of these ceremonies typify water baptism in the New Testament.

Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, explained that because they were all placed into union with the body of Jesus Christ, they became permanently united with each other. They were all united together as members of the same body. Because they were members of the same body, they were members of one another. The church is one body in Christ.

In Union with Christ

Notice how Paul describes the believer’s unique position of being “united with Christ” to the Ephesian church.

“For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:30,32)

“Now you are the body of Christ and members individually.” (1 Cor. 12:27)

This is indeed a mysterious truth and hard to understand, but it is extremely important if we are ever to come to grips with who we are as Christians.  Christians are called “the body of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 10:16; Eph. 4:12).  The Head of the Body is seated in the heavens at the right hand of the Father.  But His body remains on the earth (Eph. 4:16).

Christ’s body is made up of Christians.

Our Identity in Christ

Christians are identified in many ways in the Bible. We are called Christians (Acts 11:26), believers (Acts 5:14; 1 Thess. 1:7), and the elect (Rom. 8:33), to mention a few.

But because we have been forever placed into the body of Christ and have become a permanent part of Him, Paul had a special way of identifying us. He calls us those who are “in Christ.”

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified (set apart) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2)

“Now he who established us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God.” (2 Cor. 1:2)

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3)

“Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” (Phil. 1:1)

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Col. 1:2)

“For you brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus; for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews.” (1 Thess. 2:14)

Why Water Baptism?

 Water baptism is important because it is the method that God gives to new believers to give their testimony.  The New Testament’s manner of identifying new believers was not the raising of hands or walking of an isle, or even filling out a card.  The New Testament method of identifying new Christians is water baptism. By being water baptized, the believer makes public his or her faith in Christ. The believer also shares the good news of Jesus Christ with others without saying a word.  When they are water baptized they are showing a picture of what really happened to them, spiritually.  When they are immersed into the water, they are making known that they have been immersed into the body of Jesus Christ (having died with Him; Rom. 6:3).  When they come out of the water, they symbolize that they have been resurrected with Christ to walk in newness of life (Acts 8:12-13; Acts 9:18; Acts 10:47; Acts 19:5).  That is a picture of the gospel! But believers must remember the real meaning of baptism! It will make their water baptism experience more precious to them.