In order to know what biblical baptism is we need to go search the scriptures. Starting from the beginning of our Bible we trace baptism as far back to the book of Exodus. There’s a passage in there that sometimes we may overlook, after reading we’ll have some understanding as to one of the reasons of baptism (just going on the record now there’s more than 1 type of baptism).
The Book of Exodus
Baptised in the cloud and in the sea
We know that the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt, Pharaoh charged them to build with brick and morter. In Exodus 1:13 it says that the Egyptians made Israel serve with rigour, they were slaves to the Egyptians.
Exodus 1:14 “And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”
The Old Testament has many types, Moses was raised up in the courts of Egypt from his youth and was learned in all the ways of Egypt, therefore, he was in a position of privilege having the best education.
Acts 7:22 “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.”
Once Moses came to the knowledge that he was born a Hebrew he chose to suffer with his brethren in the pits. Moses made the decision to associate himself with the children of Israel and turned his back on the plush life he enjoyed living among the Egyptians.
When the Exodus from Egypt happened Moses being a picture of the Lord Jesus as a deliverer brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt and came to the Red Sea. Before this pivotal moment, Israel was ruled over by Pharaoh and was forced to be associated with him by reason of being his slaves. The Almighty parts the Red Sea in order for Moses to bring them safely across.
Exodus 14:13-16 “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.”
When this occurred 2 things happened, they cut off any ties they had with Egypt and Pharaoh disassociating themselves, and now they were associated with the man who turned his back on Egypt, Moses. The other which simultaneously occurred was they were baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
1 Corinthians 10:1, 2 “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;”
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
As we move forward into the New Testament we come to another baptism. In the first opening chapters of all 4 gospels, we come to know John the Baptist a forerunner to the Lord Jesus. John was baptizing the children of the nation of Israel for the “confession of sins” (Matthew 3) “remission of sins” (Mark 1) “baptism of repentance” (Luke 3) “Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1).
The baptism of John was a baptism of repentance at this time the Lord Jesus hadn’t shown up yet from what we see from the scriptures. While John is baptising people the Pharisees question him asking if he was the Christ and John says he’s not. One day John sees the Lord Jesus coming the next day and what does John say?
John 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
At this time the Lord Jesus approaches John asking to be baptised, John is taken back by this request because he realises that the Lord Jesus is God in the flesh and says:
Matthew 3:14 “But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”
The Lord Jesus tell John “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) He’s then baptised of John not because He needed to confess any sins, but the Lord Jesus going through the waters of baptism by John was confirmed that John’s baptism was from God.
When the Pharisees challenged the Lord Jesus Christ authority He asked the Pharisees a profound question thereby causing them never to question Him again.
Luke 20:4-8 “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
John’s purpose in his baptism was getting the children of Israel to confess their sins as they went through the water.
The Bible doesn’t give us much detail into this baptism, we’re not certain how different was John’s baptism to disciples baptism. The scriptures we can look at are the ones found in John’s Gospel.
John 4:1 “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)”
Again from what we read here we can gather that the Lord Jesus never baptised with water as John and the disciples did. He (Christ) was going to baptise with the Holy Ghost and fire.
Matthew 3:11 “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:”
The Acts of the Apostles
Peter’s sermon (Israel baptism)
The next mention of baptism is in the book of Acts, after the day of Pentecost when they were indued with power from on high (Luke 24:49) and the promise was fulfilled, the Holy Spirit came and indwelt believers. Peter with the other eleven stood before the men of Judaea and preached unto them. He touched their conscience when speaking of how they rejected their Messiah and crucified Him. When they heard this knowing they were condemned they were pricked in their hearts and said:
Acts 2:37 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter then told them something very specific and it was specific for the nation of Israel.
Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
He told them they needed to “repent in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”. The same way they rejected the Lord Jesus in the open in front of everyone in order to undo what they did in rejecting the Chief Cornerstone (Psalms 118:22), they will have to accept the Lord Jesus, not in secret but in front of everyone.
Again we see an association being made when they were baptised they associated themselves with the man who only a few days ago they said: “Away with him away with him crucify him” (John 19:15). They were no longer associated with Caesar but now they were associated with the true King the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 19:15 “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.”
Phillip one of the disciples went down to Samaria to preach Christ unto them as he preached the scriptures say that unclean spirits were cast out and many people with sicknesses were healed. People in Samaria were believing on the Lord and getting baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then word got back to the Apostles in Jerusalem concerning what was happening in Samaria.
Peter and John take a trip to Samaria and when they laid hands on the Samaritans they received the Holy Spirit. Here the key was they “laid hands on the Samaritans”. Looking back the Jews and Samaritans hated each other, the Jews wanted nothing to do with them.
John 4:9 “Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”
It seems that the Spirit of God wanted that division between Jews and Samaritans to be done away with and the only way that would happen was with a touch.
Acts 8:14-17 “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
Peter was on a rooftop praying and he became hungry had a vision of “a great sheet knit at the four corners”, he saw all sorts of animals and the Spirit of God spoke to him concerning that he would eat saying “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat”. Peter being a Jew and holding to Jewish law was hesitant and said “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean”.
Peter was then told, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common”. The great sheet showed Peter 3 times that these animals were clean to eat. Just as this occurs 3 Gentile men sent from Cornelius arrived asking Peter to come with them. The beauty of how God shows us through scripture that there shouldn’t be any division or hatred, how we shouldn’t look down on one another.
Acts 10:19, 20 “While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.”
Peter goes with them to Caesarea to the house of Cornelius the centurion who the scriptures call “a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews”. God wanted Peter to preach the Gospel of Christ to him for it was God’s will that grace also be given to the Gentiles.
Acts 10:21, 22 “Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.”
Peter enters into the house and Cornelius tries to worship Peter but immediately Peter tells him not to worship “saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man”. As they come into the house many others were there also to hear what Peter had to say, Peter how it’s unlawful to come into the house of a Gentile saying:
Acts 10:28 “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
Cornelius proceeds to tell Peter how he was visited by a man telling him to send for Peter so that he can hear the things commanded by God.
Acts 10:30-32 “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.”
Peter then starts to preach the Gospel unto everyone present in the house of Cornelius saying: “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)” (Acts 10:36) As he preached something remarkable happened which they never saw before. In the middle of him preaching the Gospel the Holy Ghost fell on the Gentiles there.
Acts 10:44 “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”
Peter was shocked to see this happen for as much as he knew God was granting salvation to the Jews and Samaritans (half Jews) but he never thought the Gentiles would also be given salvation.
Acts 10:45 “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Peter said can any man forbid water? It was at this point Gentile believers were baptised as well identify themselves and buried in Christ, believers baptism.
Acts 10:47, 48 “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”
Romans 6:4 “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.”
God never envisions for any born-again believer not to be baptised, to be a follower of Christ is to be called a Christian to be associated with Christ, even the Lord Jesus gave us an example to follow just as He was baptised by John the Baptist as we mentioned earlier in the beginning.
Greek meaning: Christianos (khrē-stē-ä-no’s) Χριστιανός Christianós, khris-tee-an-os’; from G5547; a Christian, i.e. follower of Christ:—Christian.
But not only that baptism is also an outward confession to others saying of what happened on the inside. Being a new creature in Christ Jesus, we are buried into His death and resurrected unto life (Romans 6:4). We are dead to this world and are “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands” (Colossians 2:11).
Colossians 2:11,12 “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Looking back in the Gospel we have the commission by the Lord Jesus Christ telling us what we should do as believers.
Matthew 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
We’re told to go out and preach the good news the Gospel of Peace that others may be saved, those who are saved should get baptised on their own convictions. They should understand what it means, this doesn’t mean they have to be a scholar a general understanding is good enough. Any born again Christian will grow as the Holy Spirit teaches them of all these great truths.
Also just to be clear baptism itself is not necessary for salvation there are cults who teach that you must be baptised in water to be saved. For this we have the account of the thief on the cross, he believed on the Lord Jesus while he was nailed to a cross beside the Lord never had an opportunity of being baptised and the Lord Jesus said:
Luke 23:42 “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
There are a few other accounts of baptism the Ethiopian eunuch mentioned in (Acts Chapter 8). As well as the baptism of Paul the Apostle (Saul) after he was converted when he saw the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9).
Ephesians 4:5 “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,”
The above verse speaks on believers who follow the one true God, which is the same faith as those who do believe in the Godhead, and baptism is being indwelt with the Holy Spirit. But Paul the Apostles doesn’t contradict the words of the Lord Jesus as He said: “teach all nations” Matthew 28:19. That encompasses Jews and Gentile in all the world. As a believer in the body of Christ all are one. This is what the verse in Ephesians 4:5 speaks of.
Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I hope this helps in giving a clearer understanding of baptism and that as Christians we are commanded to be baptised and what baptism means. There are no unbaptised believers in the New Testament. God bless.