“Repent, and be baptized and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) Does this verse apply today? Is water baptism still essential for our receiving the saving power of the Holy Spirit? Or is baptism just a form of initiation into some church? Why do churches disagree on this vital point of basic Bible doctrine?
Millions today are worshipping Jesus Christ in vain! Do you believe this astounding statement? What did Christ say? “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7-9). Not God’s commandments but men’s ideas.
Millions are being deceived and misled by their ministers into thinking they are “saved” when they are not! Most “professing Christians” have been taught that “Jesus Christ completed the plan of salvation on the cross,” that all they must do is just accept and believe on the name of Jesus Christ and that they will automatically be saved. What a lack of Bible understanding!
You can understand exactly how the TRUTH about water baptism affects your salvation, and what it actually symbolizes, but not from the teachings of men. The truth is in your Bible.
Notice the very beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Here Christ commanded two conditions to becoming a Christian, repentance and belief, faith. These two things we must meet as prior conditions.
Repentance is toward God and means that we abhor our old sinful way of life; we want to quit sinning, and begin to live according to God’s Commandments.
Faith is our firm belief in the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus to pay for our sins, in the fact of His death, and our acceptance of Him as our personal Saviour from our sins. Jesus also commanded, “and believe the Gospel!” But without faith you can’t really believe the Gospel, the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. But is this all we must do to receive God’s Spirit, become converted, and receive eternal life? Notice carefully!
Here is what the Spirit-empowered and inspired Peter shouted to the multitudes on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” and then what? “And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
God commands that we must also be baptized to be saved from the death penalty of sin and receive His Spirit! Baptism symbolizes to God our faith, belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sin. It is also symbolic of the putting to death of the old sinning self by burying it under water.
Our repentance and belief alone are not enough. We must also show proof of our repentance by the outward sign of baptism. Since repentance and belief in Jesus Christ lead us to a new life of obedience, God therefore commands baptism not only as a symbol of this change, but also a test of our obedience.
Once we comply with all three of these conditions, repentance, faith, and baptism, God stands eternally bound by a promise to put within us His Holy Spirit of power which is His love, faith, understanding, gentleness, goodness, His attitude of perfect obedience, His life, the very character of God. Yes, the very power that will change your mortal life into God’s new spiritual creation at the resurrection! Water baptism then, is a required part of the way of salvation!
The Old Testament contains some significant types or foreshadows of New Testament water baptism. Let’s realize how important these symbolic examples are to the understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles concerning baptism and our eternal salvation.
When mankind began to multiply upon the face of the earth, did they obey their Creator? We read, “his heart was only evil continually” in Gen. 6:5 11-12. God was not pleased with what He saw (Gen. 6:7) “I will destroy man whom I have created.” God says, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The evil world Noah lived in was to reap the just consequences of its sinful deeds and practices.
Noah was the only person in that society that found grace in God’s sight (Gen. 6:8), so God gave Noah instructions for the building of an enormous ship in which he and his family were to escape the great flood, the world’s punishment for disobedience, punishment for sin (Gen. 6:14-16). Just how did Noah show his belief, his faith in God’s promise of (physical) salvation from the penalty of the world’s sins? “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22).
Over one hundred long years were required to complete the ark. Just imagine all the ridicule Noah must have endured from the people around him. They must have thought he was crazy. But Noah believed God; he trusted in God, he had saving faith!
Here we see that in both the saving of those in the ark in the time of Noah and saving of people now in New Testament times, God commands man to do something regarding water to test man’s faith in what He says. And to test man’s obedience to do what He commands if he is to be saved. In Noah’s case God commanded Noah to build a ship to save himself from water. Noah had the faith to believe God and obey Him. He builds the ark, although he saw no earthly reason for doing so. He was saved physically.
Now for the other part of this similarity! In New Testament times, God commands man to be baptized in water. If one will have faith in God and obey Him and be baptized, he may be saved (repentance, faith and baptism). How plain the similarity of types! Today we can be saved for all eternity.
The water of baptism cannot save us from our sins. But it is the repentant, faithful and obedient attitude of heart expressed when we submit to baptism that God looks upon and accepts.
God provided Noah with a way to escape the old world of sin. Noah expressed his willingness and desire to come out of sin and escape the earth’s penalty for sin - death - by believing God and building the ark. Noah demonstrated his faith by his works of obedience! This is the same kind of faith and obedience God expects from us today, if we want to be saved from the penalty of our own sins!
Another Old Testament analogy which points to New Testament baptism, is while the children of Israel were in Egypt, they were Pharaoh’s slaves, helpless and powerless under his task masters, just as a sinner is under the power of the devil. Egypt, Pharaoh, and his army represent Satan and sin! God commanded Israel to come out of sin – Egypt - Israel obeyed. The Israelites began their exodus out of Egypt under Moses after they applied the blood of the physical lamb to their door-posts. Likewise, we must willingly start out of sin as soon as we accept the blood of Jesus Christ who is our Passover Lamb today (I Cor. 5:7).Their departure from sin is a type of our repentance from sin.
The Israelites were happy and joyful upon leaving Egypt – sin – behind them (Num. 33:3). They were in great exaltation and elation over what they thought was to be their immediate deliverance from the bondage of sin. While the Israelites were rejoicing over their new-found freedom from “sin,” Pharaoh and his army (sin) begin to pursue them (Ex. 14:8-9).
Today, millions of “professing Christians” find themselves in the same position the Israelites were in, but they don’t realize it! They have just accepted Christ and His blood for the remission of their sins and think they are now free from sin forever, just as the Israelites thought they were free from slavery and bondage in Egypt.
Moses, sent by God to deliver Israel from physical bondage, was a type pointing to Jesus Christ whom God sent to deliver repentant believers from spiritual bondage!
What did God tell the Israelites when they became fearful of Pharaoh’s army (sin) “go forward” (Ex. 14:15).
God likewise tells us, in order to receive salvation, to go forward in obedience to Him, trusting Him and His power, the Holy Spirit to deliver us. The churches of the world today believe and practice the very opposite. In practice they teach there is nothing more for us to do other than to accept Christ and believe in His shed blood. Most people today accept this teaching because it is the easy way.
When Moses, by the power of God divided the Red Sea for the children of Israel to walk across on dry ground (Ex. 14:21-22) they were not fearful (Ps. 78:53). They did not lack faith as they passed through the Red Sea (Heb. 11:29).
God often required many of the Old Testament prophets, including Moses, to act out the things that He would bring to pass in the future (Ezk. 4:1-17 and 5:1-4). Likewise, God requires those who now sincerely want to have their past sins covered by Christ’s blood, to act out the procedure too, by the physical performance of baptism. It impresses the meaning of baptism upon them.
The Israelites passing down through and up out of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh and his army (our old man of sin) typically point to New Testament water baptism! (I Cor. 10: 1-2).
Down through the ages God has called on all to repent. It is of the utmost importance. Why? Because we are creatures of free choice, unlike other creatures God created. And we have a will. If we do not choose to repent, surrender our carnal will to God, He can do nothing to give us a Spiritual nature. Just before the coming of Jesus Christ and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit by which we may receive a Spiritual nature, God inspired John the Baptist to administer a special type of baptism, the baptism of repentance. Its purpose? To emphasize the need of repentance in order to receive this new priceless gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ten years after Peter preached his first inspired sermon to the Jews, God also sent him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles for their first time. God miraculously sent him to the house of Cornelius, a very devout Italian Gentile. But Cornelius did not have saving knowledge. Peter had to preach the forgiveness of sins through Christ to Cornelius and his family (Acts 10:22-43).
Cornelius and his family received the Holy Spirit before being baptized (Acts 10:44-45). Their receiving the Holy Spirit was a special sign from God to the apostles (Acts 11:17-18). God made an exception in this instance. Repentant believers would normally have to be baptized first before they could receive the Holy Spirit.
Since Cornelius and his family were the first Gentiles to be converted God reversed the procedure, bestowing the Holy Spirit upon them before baptism as a special sign to prove to Peter and the other apostles that He had also opened the way of salvation to the Gentiles: But Peter also commanded Cornelius and his family to be baptized (Acts 10:4-48).
The gospel that Jesus Christ commanded His Church to proclaim is not the present-day message about the person of Christ only, but it is the message He brought and preached, the good news of the coming Kingdom or the government of God.
Baptism is part of the divine commission being carried out by God’s true Church today; it is a required condition for salvation.
The word baptize is not an English word. It is a Greek word. The New Testament was written in the Greek language. In translating it into English, the translators left this world untranslated! Literally, in the Greek, the word is baptizo. The definition of this word is “immerse.” It means to plunge into, to put into. It does not mean to sprinkle or to pour. Therefore sprinkling or pouring is not baptizing. Immersion, is being placed completely down under the water. Baptism symbolizes the burial of the old carnal self.
Mere oral acceptance of Jesus Christ’s shed blood and His death is not enough! If this were all that God required of us, then surely He would immediately give us our eternal inheritance and relieve us from this world’s suffering, sorrow and death.
But God has determined that before we can be born into His Kingdom, the God Kingdom He must first build within us His very nature and character. This character can only be built through the experience we gain by obeying God’s laws. But obedience to Him is impossible of our own selves. We need help. And that help can only come from God.
God’s Holy Spirit, His character, His love, His power is the added strength we need so desperately and must receive it. It is His gift to us if we submit to His conditions – repentance, belief and water baptism (Acts 2:38).
Water baptism should not be delayed! It might be neglected until too late! In every case recounted in the New Testament, repentant believers were baptized immediately. On the day of Pentecost, 3000 were baptized that same day. Philip baptized the eunuch at once. God sent Ananias to baptize Saul, (whose name was later changed to Paul). Immediately on meeting him Ananias said: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sin, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
The question you face today: Are you going to surrender your life to God and do as He says?
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