Water and Holy Spirit Baptism: Their Important Roles in A Christian's Salvation
Is water baptism important? I would answer yes. Is it required? Yes, again. But is it required for salvation? I would say "no" at this time, though I cannot tell you firmly. Let's study a few Scriptures together...
In Ephesians, Paul wrote: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all." (Ephesians 4:4-6, WEB)
Here, Paul lists seven "one" things that are most important and fundamental to Christians. One body refers to the church, the body of Christ (all believers as a unit); one Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit; one hope refers to our eternal hope for our future resurrection and everlasting life with Yahweh and Jesus in God's Kingdom; one Lord is our Lord Jesus Christ; one faith is our faith in Jesus for salvation; and one God is obviously Yahweh God Almighty. Now, what is our one baptism?
Whenever we come to the word "baptism" and its related forms in the Bible, we need to realize that it doesn't refer to water baptism every single time. In actuality, the New Testament describes three main baptisms:
1) John the Baptizer performed water baptism for people.
2) Before John baptized Jesus in water, God told John that Jesus is one who "baptizes in the Holy Spirit." (John 1:33) Before his ascension back to heaven, Jesus promised his disciples, "For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:5) This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
3) Before his execution, Jesus said, "But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:50) This is the baptism of suffering for the world in which only Jesus was baptized.
To which baptism was Paul referring when he said "one baptism"? All the seven "one" things he listed are vital to us as Christians, so the one baptism must be required for any Christian. Paul spoke about this baptism in his other letters. Let's read a few verses:
"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Here, Paul tells us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit puts all Christians into one body of Christ. All true Christians have "drunk" the Holy Spirit like water. This was what Jesus was referring to when he said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, from within him will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38) This is referring to "the Spirit, which those believing in him were to receive." (John 7:40).
God saves Christians "through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior." (Titus 3:5, 6)
"... you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13, 14)
"Don't grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)
"Now he who establishes us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not only important, but as you can see, it is essential for salvation. Note that the Holy Spirit is given to each Christian as a "pledge." This means that God gives each Christian the Holy Spirit as a down payment or deposit that he or she will be glorified, which is the final stage of salvation.
Only the baptism in the Holy Spirit seals Christians with a pledge. Since this spiritual baptism is essential to salvation, Paul, I believe, must be referring to this baptism when he wrote "one baptism" in Ephesians.
Hence, when Christians are born of "water and Spirit," they are born again and baptized in the Spirit, which God "pours out" on them like water.
Spiritual baptism in the Spirit was what Paul focused on in his letters; he didn't indicate that water baptism was as important or even required for salvation. Remember, he only wrote "one baptism," not two baptisms.
Now, the question is: do people need to be water baptized first in order to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit? If you read Acts 10:44-48, you will see that the answer is no.
If water baptism is required for salvation, wouldn't Paul and other writers have pointed it out? Read Acts 16:29-31. Notice that Paul didn't say, "Believe in Jesus and be baptized, and you will be saved"; instead, he said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)
If water baptism is not required for salvation, why do we need to be water baptized? Well, because Jesus our Savior commanded it in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). This is why I said that water baptism is both important and required, yet not required for salvation.
Why is water baptism required? When a person is water baptized in Christ, it outwardly shows that the person is now associated with the Christ and the Christian faith. To be baptized into something means to have an association with that thing (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Hence, when Peter told the Jews to be baptized, he wanted them to publicly demonstrate their identification with Jesus who they had initially rejected (Acts 2:38).
In addition, water baptism symbolizes our death, burial, and resurrection with Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-11). When Christians go under the water, it symbolizes they are dead and buried. When they come out of the water, they are spiritually resurrected into a new life. Their old sinful nature was impaled with Christ, and once they are resurrected into their new life, they acquire a new nature: that of Christ, who lives in them through the Spirit (Galatians 2:20). In their new lives, they ought to live without sin as much as possible, and when they do sin, they must confess it to God who will in turn faithfully forgive them (1 John 1:9).
Those who believe that water baptism is required for salvation uses Mark 16:16to support their belief. There are two problems with using this verse. First, many of the oldest manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20. So these verses might have been added by people. Because we are not certain whether these verses are inspired by God, I don't feel comfortable using any verse in that passage to support a Biblical doctrine. Second, notice that in the second half of Mark 16:16, Jesus said, "He who disbelieves will be condemned," not "He who disbelieves or is not baptized will be condemned." To me, if water baptism is required for salvation, Jesus would have said so.
Another verse that is often cited by those who believe in the necessity of water baptism for salvation is Acts 2:38: "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Now, this is what I gathered from my research: To understand this verse fully, we need to know the original Greek construction. "Repent" is in plural, whereas "be baptized" is in singular. So here, Peter was saying, "All of you repent for the forgiveness of your sins and you'll receive the Spirit, and each of you be baptized." Thus, repentance, not baptism, is associated with forgiveness. However, I cannot confirm that this interpretation is absolutely correct.
Other than these two verses (Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38), it doesn't seem as though there's any verse that supports the idea that water baptism is required for salvation. Even these two verses may not support this. However, my study in this subject has not ended. But for now, I don't believe that water baptism is required for salvation, and I've explained my reason here. But just to be safe, do be water baptized! It was commanded by Jesus, after all. So whether or not water baptism is required for salvation, we should be baptized.
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