What does the Bible say about baptisms?  How many baptisms are there in the Bible?  Is there only one baptism?  If there is more than one baptism, do all require water?  Let’s find out!


Mk. 7:3-4

What are some of the things that the Jewish people washed (Gk. “baptismos” – washing/dipping/baptizing) as part of their observances?

Baptisms or ceremonial purifications or washings were common among the Jews.  Not only priests and other persons, but also clothing, utensils, and articles of furniture were ceremonially cleansed or washed – Ex. 19:10, 14; Heb. 9:8-10.


Mk. 1:4-5; Lk. 3:3

Of what was John the Baptist’s baptism a baptism?

So John’s baptism was a baptism “of” repentance.  The word “of” indicates the reason, cause, or motive (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 789).  So the people John baptized were baptized because they had repented (Gk. “metanoeo” – changed thinking/mind – The New Bible Dictionary, pp. 1083, 1084;Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 3, “Vocabulary”, p. 28).  They had changed their thinking/mind about continuing to live sinfully by confessing their sins (Mk. 1:5; Matt. 3:6) in preparation and anticipation of (believing in) the coming Messiah (Matt. 3:2-3; Jn. 1:29-34; Acts 19:4), Jesus. Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived from AD 37-100, in his book Antiquities of the Jews XVIII, v. 2, makes it clear that repentance was the prerequisite for baptism by John.  In Matt. 3:11, it states that John baptized in water “for” repentance.  The word “for” is the Greek word “eis”, which has the meaning of “because of” (Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 1, p. 18).  The same Greek word “eis” is translated as “in” in Matt. 10:41 and as “at” in Matt. 12:41, both with the meaning of “because of” or “on the basis of”.  So John the Baptist’s baptism was a symbolical expression that those so baptized had repented of their sins, confessing them, because they wanted to prepare themselves for the Messiah/Christ’s coming, and by so repenting because they believed Messiah/Christ was at hand (Acts 19:4; Matt. 3:2-3, 6), they received forgiveness of their sins.


Matt. 3:13-16

Who came to be baptized, and why?

The baptism which Jesus received from John was unique in its significance and purpose.  It could not be like that which John administered to others, for Jesus did not make confession.  He had no occasion to repent.  Neither was it Christian baptism, the significance of which shall be discussed later.  Jesus Himself declared the main purpose and meaning of this event in His words, “This way it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.”  It was an act of ceremonial righteousness appropriate to His public entrance upon His mission as the Christ… which included His threefold office of prophet, priest, and king.  The essence of (the main role/ability to perform) His redemptive work is in His consecration as a Priest (Heb. 9:24-26; 4:14).  It is this consecration to His redemptive priesthood that comes into clearest view in His baptism by John.  By “fulfilling all righteousness” our Lord meant the righteousness of obedience to the Mosaic Law.  The Levitical law required all priests to be consecrated when they began to be about 30 years old (Num. 4:3; Lk. 3:23).  The consecration was two-fold: washing (baptism) and anointing (i.e., being dedicated to/set apart for a sacred purpose, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, pp. 46, 238 – Ex. 29:1, 4-7; Lev. 8:6-36) – Unger’s Bible Handbook, p. 472; Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 123.  Both were fulfilled in Christ (Matt. 3:16; Acts 4:27; Isa. 61:6).  So the reason why Jesus was baptized has nothing to do with why Christians should get baptized.


Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 10:48

Who should be baptized?

All disciples of Jesus Christ (believers who are following Christ in obedience) – Matt. 28:19.

All believers in the Lord Jesus Christ – Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38 (10:47-48; 11:14, 17); 16:14-15, 30-33; 18:8.

Why should all believers/Christians be baptized?

Because Jesus implies that it is to be done when He commands His disciples to make disciples/converts and then tells His disciples to tell their disciples/converts to observe all that He commanded them (Matt. 28:19-20).  So it (the implication to baptize) would be passed on down from generation to generation.  Also, Peter ordered it of all the believers in Acts 10:48; 2:38.

Who can do the baptizing?

Apparently any and all disciples of Jesus Christ – Matt. 28:19-20 (future disciples/converts were assumed); Acts 8:39 (Philip); Acts 9:10, 18 (Ananias).

When should a believer/Christian get baptized?

Apparently as soon as possible after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., being saved), as ex­emplified in Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:5-18 with Gal. 1:11-12 and Acts 22:8-16 and Acts 26:15-19; Acts 10:43-48 with Acts 11:14, 17; Acts 16:14-15, 30-33; 18:8.

How should a believer/Christian get baptized?

In classical Greek “bapto” and “baptisma” (from which we get the English word “baptize”) meant “to dip in or under”, “to sink”, or “to submerge”.  In Koine Greek “bapto” and “baptizo” meant “dipped in or under” or “submerged/immersed”.  The Greek words “rantizo” / “prosraino” meant “to sprinkle” which is different from “bapto” or “baptizo” meaning “to dip under” or “submerge”.  Lev. 4:6 uses both words in the Greek (LXX) translation of the Old Testament, showing the differentiation – Dr. Kenneth Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 3, “Studies in Vocabulary”, pp. 70-75; Dr. Lawrence Richard’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 101.  Therefore, the believer/Christian should be completely submerged when baptized.

Should any specific comments be made prior to or when being baptized?

Apparently the baptizing should be done in “the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19) or in “the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48; 19:5).

The word “Jesus” can be a metonymy (a figure of speech where one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated – The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd edition), to represent the Trinity or Godhead, as Jesus is closely associated with the Father (Jn. 10:30, 38; 1:1, 14; 14:9-10; 17:10; Heb. 1:8) and with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Jn. 2:19-21 with Rom. 8:11; Psa. 104:25, 30 and Job 33:4 with Col. 1:13, 16).  Or, by synecdoche (a figure of speech by which a less comprehensive or inclusive term is used for a more comprehensive or inclusive term –The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition; or, where a part is used for a whole – New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language), the word “Jesus” can represent the entire Trinity.

Other examples of metonymies and synecdoches in Scripture are seen in:

  • Jn. 4:1 where the word “Jesus” is used for “His disciples” (Jn. 4:2).
  • 2 Kings 10:17 where the word “him”, referring to Ahab, is used for “all Ahab’s family, relatives, & friends (2 Ki. 10:7, 11, 17).
  • Joshua 10:40-42; 11:9-10, 12 where the word “Joshua is used for “all of Israel or the army of Israel, including Joshua” (Joshua 10:29-39; 11:7, 11).
  • 2 Chron. 4:17-22 where the word “king”, referring to Solomon, is used for “Huram-abi and his skilled men” (2 Chron. 4:16; 2:13-14).
  • 2 Sam. 10:18 where the word “David” is used for “all the army of Israel, including David” (2 Sam. 10:17).
  • 1 Kings 12:16 where the word “David” is substituted for “Rehoboam” (1 Ki. 12:12, 17).
What is the significance of Christian water baptism?

Christian water baptism is different from John the Baptist’s baptism (which signified/symbolized that the person – Israelite – baptized had repented – was turning from sin to God – and was by faith awaiting the coming Messiah’s atonement for sin in the near future – Matt. 3:2-3, 11; Mk. 1:4-5; Acts 19:3-4) and different from the baptism of Jesus (which was “to fulfill all righteousness” – Matt. 3:15 – that is, the ceremonial righteousness of the Mosaic Law appropriate to His public entrance upon His mission as the Christ, which included His threefold office of prophet, priest, and king.  As high priest – Heb. 4:14-15 – Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law, which required all priests to be consecrated – Ex. 29:1, 4; Lev. 8:5-6 – when they began to be about 30 years old – Num. 4:3; Lk. 3:23.  Jesus was not baptized because He repented of any sins since He was sinless – Heb. 4:15) – Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 101.

Christian baptism looks back to a Savior who has died to atone or pay for sin and is resurrected (Acts 19:5).  Just as circumcision was a visible sign of God’s covenant between Himself and His peo­ple (Gen. 17:10-11), so water baptism is a visible sign (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 10:47) of the believer’s spiritual baptism – identification and union with Christ (Col. 2:11-12; Gal. 3:26-27) and His body of believers through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) – Dr. W. Hendriksen’s Gospel of Matthew, p. 1001.

Symbolism is common in Scripture:

  • The tabernacle (for God’s presence – Heb. 9:8-10).
  • The Law or animal sacrifices (for Christ as the lamb – Jn. 1:29 – and high priest – Heb. 9:11).
  • Hagar and Sarah (for the Mosaic, legal Covenant and the Abrahamic, promised Messiah Covenant – Gal. 4:22-26).
  • Leaven (for the Pharisees’ and Sadduccees’ teaching – Matt.16:6-12).
  • Temple (for Christ’s body – Jn. 2:19-21).
  • Door (for Jesus being the way into salvation – Jn. 10:9).
  • Water (for the Holy Spirit – Jn. 4:14 with Jn. 7:38-39).
  • Light (for Jesus showing the way – Jn. 8:12).
  • Food (for doing God’s will – Jn. 4:32-34).
  • Sleep (for physical death – Jn. 11:11-13).
  • Jesus’ flesh and blood (for coming to and believing in Jesus as Savior – Jn. 6:35).
Water baptism, then, is the visible picture of (symbolical for) the spiritual truth of Spirit baptism (i.e., identification with Christ – Rom. 6:3-5; and being placed into Christ’s body – 1 Cor. 12:13).


Matt. 3:11

The Jews would be baptized in two different ways; the believing Jews with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 2:1-5, 37-41) and the unbelieving Jews with what?

It is clear from both the immediate context of Matt. 3:7-12; Lk. 3:16-17 and from the general testimony of Scripture that this baptism of fire is connected with judgment at the Second Coming of Christ – for the unbelieving Jews, eternal punishment – Mal. 4:1; Matt. 13:40-42.


1 Cor. 12:13

What agent baptized all the believers at Corinth into one body?

This momentous spiritual operation is set forth in the New Testament as the basis of all the believer’s positions and possessions “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:10; 3:1-4).  The operation is prophetic in the Gospels (Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8); historic in the Acts (Acts 1:5); and doctrinal in the Epistles (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:9-12; Eph. 4:5).  The Spirit’s baptizing work, placing the believer “in Christ”, occurred initially at Pentecost when He baptized believing Jews “into Christ”.  In Acts 8, Samaritans were so baptized for their first time.  In Acts 10, Gentiles likewise were so baptized.  Now according to the clear teachings of the Epistles, every believer is baptized by the Spirit into Christ the moment he/she is regenerated/born again/converted/saved, e.g., Acts 11:15-16; 10:43-44.


1 Cor. 10:1-2

Into what were the Jewish Old Testament fathers (people) baptized?

“The cloud” shading and guiding the Israelites from above and “the sea” making a path for them through the midst and drowning their enemies behind them were glorious signs to “our fathers” of God’s salvation; together they formed a washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), inaugurating the national life; Israel was born into its Divine estate.  Thus, “they all received their baptism into (uniting with) Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” since in this act they committed themselves to the guidance of Moses (Ex. 14:31), entering through him into the acknowledged fellowship with God.


Lk. 12:50 (Mk. 10:38-39)

What did Jesus say He had to undergo?

How did it affect Him?

A metaphor is the use of a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea in place of another by way of suggesting a likeness or analogy between them.  In the passage above, our Lord is speaking of His sufferings in connection with the Cross.  He speaks of them as a baptism.  The words were uttered while He was on His way to Jerusalem to be crucified.  John the Baptist had announced the Savior’s coming and had baptized the multitudes. Our Lord’s disciples had been baptizing during the three years of His ministry.  The words “baptizo” and “baptisma” which are used by Mark and Luke, had by that time become the technical and common Greek words used to describe the rite administered by John and our Lord’s disciples.  Our Lord used the rite of baptism as a metaphor to speak of His coming sufferings.  Just as a convert was plunged into the baptismal waters, Jesus was about to be plunged into His sufferings.  Just as the person would come up out of the waters, so He would be freed from His sufferings and arise from the dead.


According to Dr. L. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, pages 54, 55, the Hebrew word “masah” is translated as “anoint” in the NIV and NASB and means “to apply oil” by pouring or spreading. The Old Testament purpose for anointing was that of being used in religious ritual and for induction into leadership offices (e.g., priests – Ex. 28:41; 30:30; Lev. 4:3, 5; 8:12; prophets – 1 Kings 19:16; kings – Judges 9:8, 15; 1 Sam. 9:16; 15:1; 16:3, 12; 1 Kings 1:34). The act has several functions. First, it consecrated religious items and served to ordain religious leaders. In each case, the idea is that of setting aside, or authorizing for God’s service. Second, while it was done by a human agent, it was considered to be done by God Himself (1 Sam. 10:1; 2 Sam. 12:7). Because God Himself set the anointed person apart to be His servant, that person was worthy of special respect (e.g., 1 Sam. 26:9-23). The one anointed was considered chosen by God to carry out his appointed service. It set objects (Ex. 29:36; 40:10) and persons apart for God’s use (even pagan king Cyrus, Isa. 41:1). It was sometimes used to identify the royal line of David (Psa. 2:2; 18:50; 84:9; 89:38, 51; 132:10, 17).

The Greek word “chrio” translated “anoint” expresses the idea of rubbing or spreading oil, perfume, or ointment, and is always used figuratively in the sense of some special appointment or commission by God that sets the person(s) apart (Lk. 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; 2 Cor. 1:21; Heb. 1:9).

In the New Testament, physical anointing is not used in worship nor to consecrate persons for leadership. But there is a spiritual anointing. By it, God Himself consecrates each believer to Himself and equips us with His Holy Spirit.

According to Drs. Vine, Unger, and White on pages 8, 9, “mashach” means “anoint, smear, or consecrate”.  Its most common use in the Old Testament is a special setting apart for an office or function. In the New Testament, “chrestos” emphasizes the same of Jesus as God’s chosen one.

According to Dr. M. Unger on page 67 of Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “anointing”, which came from the Hebrew and Greek words “to rub”, was done as an expression of hospitality (Lk. 7:46); for medicinal purposes (Jas. 5:14; Isa. 1:6); as an act of consecration (setting apart) of something or someone to/for a sacred purpose (Gen. 35:14; Ex. 30:23-26); as a coronation custom to set apart kings; or figuratively as a symbol of endowment with the Spirit of God (1 Sam. 10:1, 6; 16:13; Isa. 61:1) for the duties of the office to which a person was consecrated.


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