The Bible is filled with challenging topics. It is strange to me that one of its simplest – baptism in Jesus’ name for the remission of sins – is among its most misunderstood. The Scripture’s teaching on baptism is uncomplicated and unambiguous. We need not ascend into heaven to understand this doctrine. It is accessible and straightforward.
The Bible Teaches Water Immersion
The Holy Spirit distinguishes baptism from both pouring and sprinkling. The Greek word for baptism means to dip, a thorough submerging, an overwhelming. This is distinct from pouring: For instance in Romans 5:5, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” The Greek word for “pour” is completely unrelated to the Greek word for “baptism.” Hebrews 10:22 teaches that “our hearts [are] sprinkled from an evil conscience.” Once again, the Greek word for sprinkle is drastically different than baptism. Biblical baptism is a water immersion. This is why Philip and the eunuch, “went down into the water.” (Acts 8:38) It is also why Paul says we are “buried with [Jesus] through baptism.” (Romans 6:4)
Jesus Taught, Practiced, and Commanded Water Baptism
The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus’ water baptism. At this significant event both water and the Spirit were present. A short time later Jesus taught Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) The water refers to baptism: In John 4:1-2 Jesus’ disciples were practicing water baptism by the Lord’s direction. The Holy Spirit was the gift Jesus bestowed after His ascension, an indwelling which every Christian receives when they repent and are baptized in Jesus’ name. (Acts 2:38-39) Jesus commissioned His apostles to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16) Jesus taught, practiced, and commanded water baptism.
Baptism in Jesus’ Name Grants the Forgiveness of Sins
Peter teaches that repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name is for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) Ananias later says to Paul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16) Paul likens baptism to circumcision in Colossians 2:11-12. Baptism removes “the body of the sins of the flesh” and unites Christians with the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In the crucifixion with Christ, the body of sin is “done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:6)
Though Biblical baptism involves a complete immersion in water, the washing of baptism is not a ceremonial cleansing. It is not, “the removal of the filth of the flesh.” (1 Peter 3:21) Such rites or ordinances were necessary when the covenant concerned things which perished with the using. Christian baptism is a cleansing of the inward, not the outward, man. It is “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” In full assurance of faith a disciple draws near to the Lord, “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22) A baptism in Jesus’ name sprinkles the blood of Jesus on the heart of a faithful participant. Thus we are cleansed, our sins forgiven, our conscience liberated.
Baptism Declares us Sons of God
The Spirit, water, and blood testify that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:6-8) In like manner Christians are declared sons of God by the Spirit, water, and blood. I previously noted that repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name is for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) Jesus’ blood was shed for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28) Ephesians 5:26 says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses us “with the washing of water by the word.” Christians are “washed…from our sins in [Christ’s] own blood.” (Revelation 1:5) Christians receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon their baptism in Jesus name. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16) Water and blood forgive our sins. Christians are washed with water and blood. The Holy Spirit is given in the waters of baptism. Spirit, water, blood are all involved in Christian baptism. Are you a Son of God without the water’s testimony?
Baptism is one of the New Testament’s plainest teachings. It is an immersion, a dipping, an overwhelming, and a burial. Jesus taught, practiced, and commanded water immersion. The apostles teach that sins are forgiven in baptism. And by the testimony of the Spirit, water, and blood a Christian is declared a Son of God. Have you been immersed in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins? If so, praise God for His indescribable gift. If not, why not?