Paul Addresses the Issue of Baptisms
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them. “No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”“Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked. And they replied, “The baptism of John.” Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.
As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.Acts 19:1-7
Before we seek to look at the issues in this passage I have gone back to what I wrote in Gem 1374 related to the notion of being baptized in the name of Jesus from Acts 2.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”Acts 2:38-29
The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’Matt 21:25
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.Mark 1:4
The time promised by God has come at last!” He announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”Mark 1:15
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.Mark 16:16
And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.Luke 3:3
after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.Acts 13:24
And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.Acts 19:3-5
Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”Acts 19:4
Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.Acts 22:16
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.Rom 6:3-4
having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.Col 2:12
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,1 Peter 3:21
Note the number of times we are told that Baptism is a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the verses above. Baptism therefore, is to be an outward visible sign of the inner process of repentance leading to Salvation. There is a strong link between Repentance and being Baptized. The biblical order is Repent, Believe and Be Baptized. To be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ / Lord Jesus / Christ Jesus” has a number of interpretations attached to it.
- In the connection with or by calling on the Name, in other words recognition of Jesus as Lord.
- In the authority of the Name which can then confer upon you God’s power to save.
- It is a public confession of the power of Christ to save and deal with my sin. It is not something the Baptizer was to confess but rather the baptizee.
- To be baptized on the Name infers confession of all that the Name implies. I.e. a Confession of Faith and Lordship. The willingness to follow.
- To be baptized on the Name carries the sense of resting upon the person of Jesus, or a statement of devotion to Him. Placing our trust in His power and authority to save.
There are often three different prepositions used in connection with being baptized. These prepositions are: [epi] ON [eis] INTO and [en] BY. Each of these different prepositions carries with it a subtlety of meaning.
- ON – embodies the idea of resting upon, on the grounds of faith in Him as being the only way. Putting ones’ hope and trust on Him, on the basis of His authority.
- INTO / IN – devoted to that One whose name I bear, being dedicated to that One. Becoming the possession of the One whose Name I am baptized into, Coming into / under the protection or control of the One whose name I bear.
- BY – being saved by means of the Name. Saved or rescued by virtue of the Name. By His Authority. By union with that Name.
Note also the appearance of the phrase “for forgiveness of your sins”. The preposition “for” in this case either:-
- Indicates purpose, in order to, so that your sins can be forgiven.
- Indicates the grounds or basis, or the reason your sins can be forgiven. Because He is a prophet, or the fact of His imputed righteousness. It is because of His righteousness that I can be forgiven.
Repentance and Baptism are so inextricably linked that they can’t be separated. It is not that Repentance is the key and Baptism is merely a symbol. It appears it is more a case of baptism truly being a sacrament. That when you are baptized an exchange takes place. You are baptized into His death, burial and resurrection so that it is no longer you who lives but Christ who lives in you. (Sound familiar? – see Gal 2:20). BAPTISM also symbolizes that moment of your identification with Christ’s death. You choose to die to your old way of life and rise from the waters of Baptism in newness of life. What is interesting is that when Jesus began preaching about the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15), He told the people to Repent and Believe. Interestingly the two verbs here are present continuous tense. I have described the significance of that in Gem 1372. The same thing can be said of REPENT. You need to repent and keep on repenting. You keep on repenting by keeping short accounts of your sin with God by asking for FORGIVENESS as described in 1 John 1:9. Many Christians think they repented in “August 1973” or whatever date is relevant to you, and so don’t need to worry about it after that. No, the idea of biblical repentance is that it is a present, ongoing act. Live in the moment of your REPENTANCE. We need to realize the frailty of our human flesh and the degree to which we need HIM.
Luke uses Repentance and Baptism in union which seems to infer that Baptism not only confers the gift of the Holy Spirit (viz Jesus breathing on the disciples in the Upper Room) but also conveys the forgiveness of sins. It is the moment that Repentance and Baptism come together and the gift of the Spirit is conferred upon you. Baptism only had value when it was combined with REPENTANCE, not in and of itself. Again, the conferring of the gift of the Holy Spirit is not because of Baptism but because of Repentance linked to Baptism and your willingness to follow Jesus and become His possession and live under His Lordship. The gift of the Holy Spirit means the Holy Spirit will come upon you and indwell you. That is in accord with the prophecy of Joel. Take note of the difference between the Baptism of Repentance and the Baptism of the Spirit. The Baptism referred to in Acts 2 is not the Baptism of the Spirit related to tongues. With the Baptism of Repentance you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. With the Baptism of the Spirit you receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is a difference; did you see it? Gift and Gifts.
When you enter the Kingdom of God and are born again starting with Repentance, that is the moment when the Holy Spirit takes up residence within you. It has nothing to do with the gifts of the Spirit.
It is the moment described in Rev 3:19-20 when Jesus says, ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” It starts with Repentance. The fruit or result of Repentance and TRUSTING Messiah to save you is the indwelling Holy Spirit given to you to help you live this new life, not in your own strength but in His.
I hope all this discussion of meaty Biblical terminology has not put you off. But it is necessary to discuss the terms we use in an effort to ensure we all mean the same thing when we talk about baptism – be it the baptism of John, the baptism of Jesus, the One who will baptize in the Holy Spirit and other baptisms.
Repentance is the hammer which shatters the barrier that protects God’s Word from the uncommitted.Robb Thompson
Most Christians have repented enough to be forgiven but not enough to see the Kingdom.Bill Johnson
Get yourself right before you lead others into the same mistakes.Hannah Rowton
If the only people you think are brilliant are those you agree with, you still have a lot to learn.Rick Warren
There’s something wrong if you’re always right.Anon