Hi all, especially to our brethren in Eastern Europe – greetings in the Lord Jesus! I hope the study below will give you peace. First some scripture and then some teaching.
Hebrews 6:1-2 tells us of the foundational doctrines of our faith:
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go onto maturity; not laying again the foundation of: Repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement.”
Notice that there is a progression in this statement of the foundations of our faith going from repentance all the way to judgement. The believer progresses from repentance to faith towards God, and then to baptisms – note this is plural.
1) Baptized into Christ by the New Birth
I Corinthians 12:13: “For by (in) one Spirit we are 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.”
This is talking about the new birth – being born again – Paul is using the born again experience as a baptism into the body of Christ. The word “baptism” means “immerse”, meaning by the Holy Spirit we are immersed into the body of Christ when we are born again.
2) Baptized (immersed) in water
Mark 16: 15-16: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone. He that believes and is baptized will be saved, and he that believes not will be condemned.”
There are no instructions given about who may baptize another person. In Acts 2: 38-41 it is mentioned on the day of Pentecost some 3000 were baptized. Certainly Peter would not have been the only person baptizing people for the numbers were too many. It is reasonable to assume the other 120 men and women, who were baptized with the Holy Spirit, also baptized people that day.
In Acts 16:15 it mentions Lydia and her household being baptized, but again does not say whether Paul alone baptized or Paul and Silas and Luke also did. In fact, in I Corinthians 1:14, 16 Paul said “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius (Justus)…and I baptized also the household of Stephanas, besides that I don’t know that I baptized any other.”
Here Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, says he baptized 1 household and 2 other people, yet the numbers of believers in Corinth were hundreds if not thousands. (Acts 18:1-11; 21:20)
Therefore it stands to reason that IF it was important who did the baptizing, Paul would give instructions in his writings, or even the other writers would have been led to do so, but they do not.
But even Jesus himself did not tell us of any qualifications needed. Indeed, the emphasis is on the person being baptized, the condition of their heart and their new life in Christ, rather than who is doing the immersing. Man is not important, who is attending is only aiding the Holy Spirit and His work in the person’s heart, and that is why instructions are not given as to whom may baptized another – it is not important. What is important is the person’s heart who is being baptized.
In Acts 19 Paul came to Ephesus and found 12 men, whom he thought were believers in Jesus. He asked if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed, and they replied they didn’t even know there was a Holy Spirit. Paul then asked to what baptism were they baptized, and they replied “John the Baptist”, not even knowing of Jesus. Evidently when John’s ministry was going on, some disciples of his traveled as far as Greece carrying the message of repentance.
Paul then told them of Jesus, and all 12 were immediately baptized again, this time as believers in Jesus. (Acts 19: 1-7)
This shows us that a person may want to be baptized again, and there is nothing wrong with that. These men wanted to be baptized again because they knew more now than when they did when they were first baptized.
This happened to me too. I was sprinkled as an infant in the church, but once I was born again I wanted to be baptized again, immersed, in Jesus. As a teenager 3 of us spent a weekend retreat at a lake, seeking the Lord, and baptizing one another for we had each been sprinkled in the church as infants, but now knew more.
3) Holy Spirit: Acts 1:5; 2:4 “For John truly baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in (languages they had not learned), as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is the last of the ‘baptisms’ mentioned. The apostles believed the evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit was speaking in unknown language(s), and is called “filled with the Spirit” throughout the New Testament.
Acts 19:6 is a good example: “And when Paul laid his hand on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.”
Other mentions in scripture include Ephesians 5:18-19 where Paul states that being filled with the Spirit also gives rise to singing out of our spirit and worshiping in spirit by the Spirit:
“And don’t be filled with wine to saturation, but be saturated (filled) with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in Psalms (lyrics accompanied by stringed instruments), hymns (sung with no instruments), and spiritual songs (songs out of your spirit, whether spontaneous or known), singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
Also Jude 20, 21: “But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God…” Showing that praying in tongues helps our love walk.
Summary: We need not think that these are always 3 separate acts. In Acts 19 for instance, where the 12 men had only heard of John the Baptist until they met Paul, it would appear all 3 baptisms occurred nearly at the same time: They believed on Jesus, were water baptized, and then immediately received the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Yet water baptism does not always follow being baptized with the Holy Spirit; sometimes it’s the opposite. In Acts 9: 17-18 Ananias obediently obeys the Lord he saw in a vision telling him to go to the now blinded and humbled Saul of Tarsus and lay hands on him: “…that you may receive your sight, and the Holy Spirit”, which he did. THEN it says in the next verse Saul was water baptized.
So sometimes a person may be born again, Spirit filled, and then be baptized, and this is most often in our day I would think.
We should also note that in John 20:22 the risen Lord breathes on the disciples saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”, which would have been the New Birth. But later in Acts 1:5 tells them they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days. This shows there is often a ‘time delay’ between being born again and actually being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
That is why Paul asked the Ephesian men “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” Paul knew there was often the born again experience where one is baptized into the body of Christ, and the baptism with the Holy Spirit some time later.
In the name of whom?
In Matthews 28:19 Jesus said to baptize people “in the name of the Father, and Son and the Holy Spirit”. Yet in Acts 19:5 the Ephesian men were by Paul, “baptized in the name of Jesus”.
Why did Paul (and others) seemingly disobey Jesus by baptizing them in the name of Jesus, when Jesus said to do so “in the name of the Father, and Son, and of the Holy Spirit?”
One answer is revealed in the tiny word ‘in’. More accurately, this word should be translated “into”, as in the Ephesian men were baptized “into the name of Jesus”. Paul could have used “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” for again, this is a work of the Spirit, and they were baptized “into Christ”.
Another answer is found in Colossians 2:9 that says: “For in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.” Meaning, in Christ is the fullness also of the Father and Holy Spirit.
Thus some believers may baptize “in the name of Jesus”, understanding that in Him dwells all the fullness of the Father and Holy Spirit. Others may want to individually mention the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when baptizing.
Again, baptisms, no matter whether the New Birth, water, or the Holy Spirit, are all about the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart, not about the mechanics of who attends or what is said, what matters is the genuine work of the Holy Spirit.
I hope this is a blessing,
Please send all personal emails or questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org