Simple Answers on Baptism

Religious tradition and human theology have immersed the elegant simplicity of Jesus’ good news into complexity, confusion, and the divisive chaos of opinion. My aim in this post is to give simple answers from God’s word to clarify the meaning of baptism.


Matthew 3:11; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:37-38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-6; 1st Corinthians 12:13-14; Colossians 2:11-12; Galatians 3:26-29; 1st Peter 3:18-22


Matthew 28:19–20 (CSB) — 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus’ great commission to the Church is that we “make disciples”, which is done both by baptizing believers into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them the way of Christ. Baptism is first because it’s where believers encounter the unmerited supernatural grace of God.


Acts 2:37–38 (CSB) — 37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter preaching the first gospel sermon ever preached by a Christian after Jesus’ resurrection on the day of Pentecost, the crowds were deeply convicted and asked “what should we do?” Peter called each one to repentance and instructed them to be baptized “for the forgiveness of their sins” so that they could receive the promised “gift of the Holy Spirit“. So repentance and baptism describe the believing disciple’s initial response to the powerful conviction of the gospel wherein they receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of God’s promised Holy Spirit by his grace.


Acts 22:16 (CSB) — 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus left him blind, so God sent Ananias to him to give him further instructions about his mission. Once Ananias explained his mission to him, he instructed him to wash away his sins by calling on Jesus’ name for salvation in baptism. So baptism describes the point wherein the disciple’s sins are washed away by God’s forgiving grace as they call on their Jesus’ name for salvation.


1 Peter 3:18–22 (CSB) — 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison 20 who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Baptism corresponds to the flood waters that washed away the wickedness of the world and Jesus’ resurrection is the means of our salvation in baptism in the same way that the ark was the means of salvation for Noah and his family in the flood. So, pledging ourselves to God with a good conscience, believers are saved in baptism through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Colossians 2:11–12 (CSB) — 11 You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Baptism also describes the supernatural means by which the disciple’s heart is circumcised without human hands through the death and resurrection of Christ. For this reason, it’s in baptism that the divine work of removing the body of flesh is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit apart from any work done by the disciple.


Romans 6:1–6 (CSB) — 1 What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,

Paul undertakes explaining the kind of righteousness that comes by faith in his epistle to Rome. He describes both the fallen state of humanity and God’s plan of redemption through Israel. So Paul explains how grace is the means by which God ends the tyrannical dominion of sin and death over the world, and he begins by explaining how baptism describes the supernatural means by which the believer is spiritually joined to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection so that their old self can be put to death with Christ upon the cross, buried with Jesus in his tomb, and raised to new life with Jesus in his resurrection. So baptism is the means by which God’s grace powerfully acts upon the believers life to begin what the believer cannot begin themselves by raising them to new life.


Galatians 3:24–29 (CSB) — 24 The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. 25 But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. 27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

Paul explains God’s plan for the law to the Christians in Galatia, showing them that the law exposed our sin in order to teach us our need to trust God’s grace. And now that faith in Jesus has come, the law is no longer necessary because the righteousness of Jesus has come to us those who trust in God’s grace (i.e. “faith”). Baptism describes the means by which disciples are spiritually clothed with the righteousness of Christ. By this grace the disciple is made fit for Christ apart from anything they do of their own works and are prepared to be joined together with Christ as the coheirs of his eternal Kingdom according to the faithful promises of God.


1 Corinthians 12:13–14 (CSB) — 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 14 Indeed, the body is not one part but many.

Baptism describes the means by which believers are added by the Holy Spirit into the unity of Christ’s body (i.e. the Church). Every believer becomes part of the one universal Church in baptism apart from their own ethnic or social status by the good will of the Holy Spirit so that no one may boast in themselves but we might all become one in Christ.


Matthew 3:11 (CSB) — 11 I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Jesus himself baptizes everyone with one of two baptisms: one baptism for believers in the Holy Spirit, and one for sinners with fire. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is performed by Jesus upon God’s covenant-children as the means by which the grace of God is supernaturally imparted to the believer’s life according to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. While the baptism of fire will be performed in the Day of Judgment by Jesus upon unrepentant sinners as the means by which the wickedness of this world will be consumed by the wrath of God and the scales of justice will be ultimately balanced with perfect retribution according to each one’s own deeds.


Do you have questions about how baptism works with faith and God’s grace? Are you struggling between what you read here and the traditions that you were raised with? Please do not hesitate to leave a comment below!

~ May Christ Captivate!

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