Water Baptism



Be Baptized

Jesus was crucified for you’re sin and mine.  In other words, you crucified, and continue to crucify Christ through sinning.  Peter tells this message to a crowd in the passage below.  A few of the listeners may have been of those who conspired to kill Christ.  However, certainly some of them were not.  Regardless of this fact, Peter told all of them the following:


Acts 2:36-47

36         "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

37         When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

38         Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39         The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call."

40         With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."

41         Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42         They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43         Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

44         All the believers were together and had everything in common.

45         Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

46         Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

47         praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  (NIV)



The members of this crowd probably understood baptism from 1st Century Jewish proselyte baptism, as well as perhaps being acquainted with John the Baptist’s ministry (Skarsaune 2002) of repentance and obedience to God.  Today, however, very few, if any, people have that background.  So I wrote a 5-page article correcting a common view of water baptism and other “entrance liturgies” that are usually offered to proselytes.  To find out what baptism is not, you can read this article entitled “Spiritual Works Salvation – and Popular Evangelical Christian Sorcery”. 


What then is baptism? 



baptism into death

These passages explain the mystery of how dying & being born again can be symbolized or even occur through a sacrament, or outward behavior. 


Rom 6:1-13

1          What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

2          By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

3          Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

4          We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5          If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

6          For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--

7          because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8          Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

9          For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

10         The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11         In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12         Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

13         Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.  (NIV)


Colossians 2:12
having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
(Whole Chapter: Colossians 2 In context: Colossians 2:11-13)




Entrance rite


Water baptism by immersion replaced the Jewish entrance rite of circumcision.


Colossians 2:11-12

11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[1] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.


It therefore grafts the gentiles into the seed of Abraham. 


Gal 3:26-29

26         You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,

27         for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

28         There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

29         If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.  (NIV)


A Jewish neighbor once told me that Jesus brought Judaism to the Gentiles.  Isn’t that what Messiah was supposed to do?  In verse 20, He tells His Jewish disciples to teach them (the Nations) to obey everything that he commanded them.  The entrance rite for new disciples is baptism. 


Matt 28:19-20

19         Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20         and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" (NIV)


Mark 16:15-20

15         He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

16         Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

17         And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;

18         they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."

19         After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

20         Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.  (NIV)


John 3:5-7

5          Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

6          Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

7          You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'  (NIV)


I heard that the Church Fathers unanimously understood this verse to be referring to the new disciple’s water baptism by immersion.  I have not checked on that claim because the church father’s writings are very difficult to search manually.  Historically, the idea of an un-baptized Christian did not exist until the 1500s.  Interestingly, Wikipedia’s article on Baptism in Early Christianity concludes in favor of immersion.


Paul writes the following to some Corinthians that he converted:


1 Cor 6:9-11

9          Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

10         nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

11         And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (NIV)


He points these converts to their “washing” as their point of sanctification and justification.  The Greek word for “washed” used here is “baptizo”, the same word from which we get the English word “baptize”. 


1 Peter 3:18-22

He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom[4] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[5] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.


True Christians debate on whether the baptism or the pledge saves you.  I don’t debate on that.  Obedient believers, will repond the revelation that they have had the opportunity to recieve regarding being water baptized through immersion as a disciple.  If you are obedient, you will obey Christ’s command to be baptized.  This is among the first of many fruits of repentance (Acts 16:15 ). Baptized disciples, like Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25), may also fall away.  They should have no share or part in ministry (Acts 8:21). 


Replacing the entrance rite of baptism with other ones is often unnecessary and disobedient.  Linc Hudson, in his book entitled “Neighborhood Church Planting”, asserts thusly:


We should reconsider the role baptism plays in receiving the Gospel.  (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12, 8:35-38, 10:44-48, 16:14-15, 16:30-33, 18:8, 1`9:4-5, Acts 22:16, Rom. 6:3-4, I Cor. 10:2, Gal. 3:26-27, Col. 2:11-13, Pet. 3:21.)

© Paul L. Hudson, Jr. 2001



What about the thief on the cross?


One time an evangelist asked me these questions:

  1. Are you a thief?
  2. Are you on a cross?
  3. Is Jesus on a cross next to you?
  4. Did he say that to you?


When I answered “no” to all of them, he said, “Ok, well lets just lay that aside then”.  Months later, a missionary made another good point. 


“There are sometimes exceptions to God’s rules or commands.  That does not mean that we go around and teach exceptions.  We are commanded to teach His rules, and follow his commands.”


Matt 28:19-20

19         Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20         and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" (NIV)




Biblical examples of true conversions followed by baptism


  • Philip and the eunuch


  • Saul on the road to Damascus


  • Gentiles at the house of Cornelius


Acts 10

44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues[2] and praising God.
47Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." 48So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.


He was convinced that the new converts were disciples, because they had received the Holy Spirit.  They would not have received the Holy Spirit if they had not repented:


Acts 2:38

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.


Acts 5
32We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."




Do not delay!


As soon as you decide that you want to leave everything and follow Jesus, you should ask a disciple to baptize you.


Acts 8

34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

   36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?”[f] 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 3


 Acts 22:16

16And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'



This is the biblical way to respond to the Gospel message:


Acts 16 

13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. 15When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.


It can take some time

Times have changed

The disciple that you ask to baptize you may or may not baptize you without getting to know you for a while. While this may at first seem inconsistent with the examples above, you should consider that Cornelius, Lydia, the Ethiopian Eunuch, the residents of Jerusalem, and many other bible converts who were baptized immediately had an advantage on you:  A solid background in 1st century Judaism.  As “God-fearers” they were at least outwardly religious, and recognized by the Jews as righteous Gentiles: They obeyed the parts of God’s law that applied to them as Gentiles. For example, when Ananias baptized Paul immediately, he was baptizing a new convert with extensive training in God’s law. 


            Acts 9

   10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

   “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

   11The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

   13“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

   15But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

   17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord–Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here–has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.


Today, God’s law is no longer considered a part of the Gospel message by most “Christians”—but this is no gospel at all.  Those who preach this way are not disciples.  You would not want them to baptize you anyway.


Baptized into who?  For what?

Some disciples prefer to only baptize potential converts who they personally know are serious about obeying the gospel.  This may be because they do not want to defile a holy sacrament by baptizing someone who does not understand the sacrament.  In this way, they want to avoid participating in water sorcery.  They may prefer to engage you in “baptismal counseling”.  This is similar to a preacher requiring marriage counseling before performing the sacrament with you.  Baptism is said to be the sacrament of marriage with Jesus Christ.  Studying documents like this and the links herein may bring questions to a potential convert’s mind.  Such c andidates can ask questions and receive proper teaching about baptism during formal or informal baptismal counseling.


Beyond counseling, many disciples have different views and ways of immersing a new convert.  Some offer to baptize it monthly or annually as an organized church event, while others prefer to do it immediately in a pool, bathtub, or other spontaneous location.  If you are picky about your own preferences for your baptism (or even if you are not picky), then you need to begin planning immediately—that is if you:


John the Baptist knew a lot about baptism.  He would not baptize those who had not repented.  He told them to first obey the gospel. 


Luke 3 (New International Version)

   7John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

   10“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

   11John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

   12Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

   13“Don't collect any more than you are required to,” he told

   them. 14Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

   He replied, “Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”

   15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.[b] 16John answered them all, “I baptize you with[c] water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

   19But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus

   21When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

   23Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.



When do I baptize someone?

The Ethiopian Eunuch may have already been a catechumenate (baptismal candidate) convert to Judaism for three-years, if he happened to be an Essene[i].  He was reading Isaiah.  If he was not already a Jew, he was very interested in becoming one.  Most of the examples in scripture are either studied Jews or studied converts to Judaism.  They knew they were getting more than wet.  Baptismal candidates should also first count the cost.  


How do I baptize?

Before you dunk your candidate, you might use either or both of the following liturgies.  If they can’t recite the creed, you could ask them questions like the Lutherans do.



Episcopal Church (United States)

The Episcopal Church uses the Apostles' Creed as a Baptismal Covenant for those who are to receive the Rite of Baptism


A. A series of questions is then asked, to which the reply is always "I renounce them":

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?


B. The second half of the query is asked, to which the reply is always "I do":

Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?

Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?

Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?


C. The Apostle's Creed is then recited by candidates, sponsors and congregation, each section of the Creed being an answer to the celebrant's question, 'Do you believe in God the Father (God the Son, God the Holy Spirit)?'


Lutheran Church

Lutherans, like Roman Catholics, use the Apostles' Creed during the Sacramental Rite of Baptism:

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth?

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead?

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?

Following each question, the candidate answers by saying "Yes, I believe".


(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed )



Especially if your baptismal candidate has a Catholic background, you might want to make sure they don’t confuse "catholic" with Catholic, and "communion of the saints" with the expanded Catholic Communion of Saints.




Baptism Liturgy

I have combined the above elements into a unified Christian Baptism Liturgy that could printed out and used by most Christian groups to guide their implementation of the sacrament of Baptism:


Baptism Liturgy


I.  Confession unto Salvation

A. A series of questions is asked by the Baptizer (catechist), to which the candidate (catechumenate) replies, "I renounce them":

1.  Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

2.  Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

3. Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?


B. The second half of the query is asked, to which the reply is always "I do":

1.  Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?

2.  Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?

3.  Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?


II. Confession unto the Gospel

Following each question, the candidate answers by saying "Yes, I believe".


Do you believe:


1. in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?


2. in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord?


3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary?


4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified [for your sins], died, and was buried?


5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again?


6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father?


7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead?


8. in the Holy Spirit, [who indwells and empowers believers to follow Jesus]?


9. the Holy [Apostolic] Church, the communion of saints?


10. the forgiveness of sins?


11. the resurrection of the body?


12. and life everlasting?




2nd Baptism

Something unusual happened after Jesus was baptized.  He was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Here began his miraculous ministry.  His 2nd baptism was unique from the other biblical accounts which almost always included speaking in tongues and never included a dove and a voice from heaven.  The fact that He was baptized in the Holy Spirit immediately after his water baptism was not unusual.  This may have been the normal experience of the early church:


John Chrysostom (345-407), bishop of Constantinople, wrote a comment on 1

Corinthians 12 :


"This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our

ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as

then used to occur hut now no longer take place... Well: what did happen

then? Whoever was baptized he straightway spoke with tongues... They at

once on their baptism received the Spirit... [They] began to speak, one in the

tongue of the Persians, another in that of the Romans, another in that of

the Indians, or in some other language. And this disclosed to outsiders

that it was the Spirit in the speaker" (John Chrysostom, Homilies on First

Corinthians, 29, NPNF, 1st ser., XII, 168).




That is why I mention the second baptism here.  Although it is an advanced topic, a new convert should be open to it occurring during or after their water baptism.  If they are not open to it, then it will not happen.  This does not invalidate the sacrament, however, if it does not.  This ideal scenario described above by Chrysostom is actually very rare today.  However, if you and your baptizer are open to it, then you can learn more about it and hope for the best.





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[i] Shaye J. D. Cohen: From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (1987).