Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baptism without Water

This is post #3 in a series on Baptism:
  1. Baptism Questions - some questions I'd like to sort out
  2. What Did Baptism Mean? - a look at how the Greek terms get used and translated in other literature
  3. Baptism without Water - a look at baptism references that are not talking about water
  4. Baptism and Culture -  It seems Christianity adopted a common custom of the time.
  5. The Heart of Baptism - What is at the heart of this ritual 
  6. Who Can Baptize? - Do we think Matt 28:18 - 20 is addressed only for the clergy? 
  7. When Should Believers Be Baptized - At what age? At what level of maturity? 
  8. Baptism With The Holy Spirit - comparing immersion with water and with the Holy Spirit 
  9. Baptism Summary Thoughts
My next question is:

Is there a difference between baptizing with water (John 1:31), and baptizing into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19)? Does the word baptize always go hand in hand with water?

In my last post we looked at how the terms baptisma, báptō and baptízō were used in other literature of the day to mean dip, immerse, submerge, plunge, or dye.  The dipping or submerging was not always occurring in water.  One of the references had to do with dipping in blood, another with having too much alcohol.

So what about the use in the New Testament?  Does baptism always refer to being immersed in water?

For example in Mark 10:38 - 40 Jesus uses the word baptism in reference to His death.  It doesn't seem water was involved.

Or what is John the baptist saying here? 
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Matthew 3:11 (NIV) 

Again in Mark 1:8 (NIV)
"I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 

Could it be that John baptized with water, but  Jesus was going to wash/immerse/dye people with the Holy Spirit and fire  (and not necessarily with water).  John doesn't say Jesus will baptize with water and also baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Should we then take a fresh read of the great commission?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:18 - 20 NIV)

The Greek word for in is eis which is usually translated into.

Note it is not saying baptize into water.  I'm not sure that water is actually required to immerse/dip/cleanse/dye someone into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What do you think?


Alan Knox said...


I'm glad that you're studying the terms "baptism" and "baptize." I did a similar study a few years ago and found it quite interesting.

In face, the contrast between John's baptism ( water) and Jesus' baptism (in the Holy Spirit) is found in all four Gospels and twice in the book of Acts. So, there is definitely a difference there.

However, there also seems to be a continuation of water baptism both before and after Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. (See John 4:1-3 and Acts 8:36-39.)

It does appear that Spirit baptism was much more important to Jesus and his followers, but it also appears that this Spirit baptism was accompanied by (either before, during, or after) water baptism.


Jonathan said...

Thanks Alan. I think that is where I'm tracking too.

Dwight said...

Yes, there are at least two distinct baptisms discussed here: by water and by the Holy Spirit (and fire). Clearly, to me, to be born again is to be born of the Spirit, and how else to be born of the Spirit except to be baptized by the Spirit?

The confusing thing was that the two baptisms seemed to both occur after Jesus, instead of Jesus being the end or fulfillment of that ritual.

He wasn't the last to be baptized by water. We have numerous events of baptism by water recorded, for example, in Acts such as the Eunuch (not necessarily the 300 souls added that day who were more likely baptized by the Spirit), and Paul scolded the Corinthians for wanting to attribute baptism with a person. I don't think mistake would be made if were baptism by the Holy Spirit.

What, then, is the purpose of baptism by water?

Another question remained for me, too: are both forms of baptism required? Absolutely not! Baptism by water is a symbolic cleansing of sins. Christ died for all sins, not only ours, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Why then would I still need water baptism?

On the other hand, baptism by the Holy Spirit is critical. In it, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, making us co-heirs with Christ! (That's awesome news!)

So, again, what do we do with water baptism then? Is it just a shadow of the things to come? Can someone be baptized with the Holy Spirit in the desert plains where there is no water? Some have reduce it to a cliche I dare repeat: "water baptism is an outward sign of an inward change." It's cute and makes human sense. But where did water baptism come from, and where is it going? What are God's thoughts about this? Is it like the Lord's supper where some thought a process of transubstantiation changed the elements into His actual body and blood? Do we need to be reminded that we merely do this in humble acknowledgement and remembrance of what He has already completed for us?

I'm not sure, but I do know this topic is making me thirsty!!


homward bound said...

Ephesians 4:5
one baptism. Paul is glad he baptized none of the Cor 1:13. except a few. Some say I am of Appollos others today I am of Jehovahs witness, of baptist, of methodist of catholic. And all are using some form of water for baptism as to join their church.
No one is seeing that water baptism is over. Scripture states it.
What was John the Baptist's purpose that was born with the Spirit of Elijah?
to Baptize Jesus (The Messiah)and when he saw the dove descend John announced that the messiah has arrived
Was Baptism in place prior to John for the public to publicly repent?
NO! water baptism was used in the law of Moses but only to the chosen Levitical Priesthood, prior to entering into the holy of Holies where they not only carried their sins but the sins of the people as well.
John told Jesus he was not worthy to baptize Jesus, and Jesus said that he must do all that is right. So after Jesus got baptized, water baptism was and is over, even though the practice continued.
For John said his baptism must decrease and Christ's baptism with the holy Ghost must increase and with fire. Even in Acts 1:5 where the bsptism is clearly stated and I tell you Jon on the day of pentecost there was no water used. water was a symbol of the better thigs to come just like the law was a shadow of todays new covenant
On my blog their is a blog called one faith one lord one baptism. read it it might help on your quest for truth, homwardbound

Tom Schultz said...

Wow! Interesting ideas going as far as saying water baptism is over!
With what little I've followed on the web I am amazed at the intensity and bitterness associated with some positions (not here so far) about something that seems so secondary. I suppose if you believe your eternal salvation depends on getting it 'just right' that would make sense, but for those who are trusting God's grace there is a lot less tension!

Jonathan said...

Thanks guys for the comments. Tom, I like what you say about "I suppose if you believe your eternal salvation depends on getting it 'just right'" there will be more tension.

I think I am coming to peace with the reality it is unlikely I'll get most of it right. And I don't believe there is a theology entrance exam that we have to pass before we move up to the next level.

I see God putting up with a lot of bad theology over the years. But He doesn't give up on having a relationship with us. Yes, there is a lot of grace. :)

homward bound said...

Yes Tom well put, and yes when one truly is seeking truth they will do all and go all the way to get it all right righ tunto the end of the energy of their own flesh, then crying out to God what is wrong with me, thus God shows one truth that sets one free, for in my journey, I was water baptized more than once, sought out sprinkling sought out confession and all the man made rules, then I read Collossians and things started to open up about my freedom
Thanks Jon and all for seeking truth and not stopping in the quest