There are a wide variety of doctrines associated with baptism and I would like to explain Baptism in the NT and comment on a couple of errant views. First, the word baptizo literally means "immersion." Sprinkling or pouring is not the same as scriptural immersion. Immersion is the only correct manner because it fulfills the picture of the gospel in Romans 6, meaning death, burial and resurrection.
The purpose of baptism has always been for identification. Long before John the Baptist, religious sects and secret societies required baptism as an official part of initiation or acceptance thus proclaiming ones identification as part of that group or sect. So long before Christian baptism, Satan had a counterfit baptism as explained so well by Rev. Hislop in his work called Two Babylons. Because the method was by immersion, and the purpose was for identification, this prevented what is currently practiced around the globe regarding infant baptism which is by sprinkling or pouring. This is why it is called, believers Baptism.
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of
one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a
leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round
about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their
sins. Matthew 3:1-6
John was certainly preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom when he cried for repentance and identification with the Kingdom at hand. It was John who was ordained of old to introduce the King of the Kingdom shouting, "prepare ye the way of the Lord."
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and
comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so
now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from
heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (vs13-17)
Some wonder why Jesus himself demanded of John to be baptized. Since John was the chosen one to herald the first advent of the Messiah, Jesus himself was immersed to identify not just with the Kingdom, but also as the King. God bearing him witness by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and by the voice from heaven proclaiming Christ as well.
Paul, in Acts 19:1-6, meeting Apollos and his crew asked what baptism they had received. When they responded "the baptism of John," Paul baptized them over again in Christ. Why? So that they would correctly identify with the current message being the Gospel of Christ's death, burial and resurrection.
Although the disciple's of Apollos in Acts 19 received the Holy Spirit at that time we must remember that the book of Acts was the transitional book taking us from the Gospels (law) to the new dispensation of Grace or the Church age. According to Mark 16:19&20, The Lord gave his "stamp of approval" to the early church disciples while the churches were born and the NT nearing completion. Cf: I Cor 13:8-12.
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Not The Same As Spirit Baptism
Water baptism and spirit baptism are not the same. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the early church disciples were baptized with the Holy Ghost the day the church was born. Then, those that gladly received the word were baptized by water upon their profession of faith in Christ, Jesus. (vs 41)
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. I Cor 12:13
The context of this passage is obviously refering to "Spirit Baptism." The Bible clearly teaches that for NT Believers in this age, we are baptized by the Holy Ghost the moment we believe. His Spirit quickens or brings to life our dead spirit and we are Born from above according to John 3.
Not only are we baptized with the Holy Ghost the moment we repent and receive Christ; we are also sealed by His Spirit. Once the Church Age had commenced and the NT completed there was no longer any need for the "laying on of hands" in order to receive the Holy Spirit as cataloged in Acts 19:1-6 regarding those that were saved under John's ministry and message. We now are sealed from the moment we believe.
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the
gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our
inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Eph 1:12-14
In ancient times, declarations from the king were irrevocable when "sealed with the King's signet." Although we are able to grieve and quench the Holy Ghost within, as children of Heaven we are sealed by the Holy Ghost for all eternity Cf: II Cor 1:22 & 5:5. Ephesians 1:13 claims that being sealed by the Holy Ghost is God's earnest of our inheritance in Glory and for the redemption of the purchased possession - meaning our bodies. The word earnest means downpayment! Being sealed by God's Holy Spirit is His downpayment on those of us who were "bought with a price," even the precious blood of Christ." I Cor 6:30
Since we are sealed the moment we trust Jesus as our very own personal Savior, and because Spirit baptism and water baptism are different events, the idea of receiving a "second blessing" and loosing one's salvation do not hold up under careful examination of the Scriptures. Those that teach the second blessing believe that Spirit baptism happens post salvation and is also associated with evidence such as "speaking in tongues." I will address Eternal Security at another time.
Some also teach that water baptism is a necessary part of salvation. The first question that comes to mind is, "what about the thief on the cross?" To this they answer that Water Baptism only became essential after Christ's crucifixion. My following question is always "What about those that were saved under John the Baptist?" Christ had not yet been slain yet those disciples were instructed to be baptized! If it was not necessary, why were they compelled to do it. Of course, they have no answer. I also like to take them to I Corinthians 1:14-18.
I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any
should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Paul clearly states that Christ sent him "not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." Of course, they are unable to answer this as well. We are to preach "all the Counsel" of God and "compare spiritual with spiritual" (scripture with scripture). When a doctrine is made from a single scripture or is largely confined to only one or two books of the Bible. We should immediately be suspect.
Not Required For Salvation
According to Romans 6:3-5, baptism is a picture of the gospel.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
It is very clear in the NT that baptism does not save. Baptism pictures the Gospel and enables us to identify with Christ's death, burial & resurrection on the cross for our sins. Baptism is our outward & public declaration that our hope for eternity lies squarely on the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus. We are baptized after salvation in obedience to his will and Word. Just because it is not essential for salvation does not mean that it is not important!
When the early churches were established in the Book of Acts, those that were saved were baptized shortly after their profession of faith to be obedient to Christ and to publicly declare their faith in Him.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
the apostles work miracles And they continued steadfastly
in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in
prayers. Acts 2:41 & 42
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. Acts 8:35-38
Note: verse 37, containing the gospel ("if thou believest with all thine heart") is missing from most modern bible versions.
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. Act 16:30-34
The question in Acts 2:37 is simply "what shall we do?" The answer in verse 38 is " repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." The converts of the first church at Jerusalem asked a general question. I believe that Peter correctly tells them to get saved and get baptized. The Question from the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30 is more specific, he asks "what must I do to be saved." The answer in verse 31 is simply "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Notice that the whole family believed the gospel and made a public declaration that same night through believers Baptism.
Commanded By Christ
Even though baptism does not save, the most important reason for every Born Again Believer to be immersed is because Jesus commanded it.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus commanded that His disciples be baptized publicly in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Ghost. Baptism is an important step in the spiritual life of the believer to identify with the gospel and to be obedient to Christ's command. Baptism is the believers public proclamation of faith in Christ just as the Lord's Supper is a local church's public & corporate testimony of faith in Christ.