The Institute of Bible Doctrine
(The Seven Baptisms, Part Two)
Real Baptism No. 4
The Baptism of Fire
The baptism of the Spirit is connected with the first advent of Christ, Acts 1:5, where Jesus Christ told the disciples that “John truly baptized with water but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days” — ten days actually, the Day of Pentecost, the day the Church began.
On the other hand, the baptism of fire is connected with the second advent of Christ. When He returns to the earth He finds two kinds of people: believers and unbelievers. The unbelievers are cast off and put into fire and the believers go into the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ. This is the real identification of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles at the end of the Tribulation with fire in Hades, taught in Mt 3:11, "As for me, I baptize you with water because of repentance [a change of mind] , but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matt. 3:16, see also Lk 3:16; Rev 19:11)
Note: Matthew 3:11 must be correctly translated as “I baptize you with water because of a change of mind”, rather than “I baptize you with water for repentance” in order to avoid confusion and the false idea that water baptism leads to ‘repentance’ and thus salvation. (Not to mention that the phrase “I baptize you with water to repentance” or even “I baptize you with water for repentance” doesn’t even make sense!) In Matthew 3:11 the Greek word “eis” is used with the accusative form of the noun “metanoeo” (which literally means “a change of mind” regarding the Gospel message, see also Mark 1:15). The word “eis” has many functions (for example: at; against; because; for; into; on; regarding; so; etc.,) so the context must be considered in order to correctly identify its function and correct usage. Other examples of “eis” used with the accusative noun as found in scripture:
Matt: 12:41 “...they [the people of Ninevah] repented because of the preaching of Jonah...”
Romans 4:20 “...but because of the promise of God he [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief...”
As an extra cautionary note, many ‘scholars’ who emphasize water baptism as a prerequisite to salvation (having already rejected the fundamental principle of grace - that salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone) rely heavily upon this verse (Matt. 3:11) to prove their argument, and therefore must go to great lengths trying to prove that ‘because’ is not a legitimate translation of the word ‘eis’.
The unbeliever is identified with fire forever. The Tribulational unbeliever is identified with the defeat of Satan. All unbelievers are removed from the earth for the start of the Millennium.
This fire speaks of divine judgment that destroys the chaff (unbelievers) in Israel. These unbelievers will be identified or immersed with fire or divine judgment at Christ's second coming. God removes them from the earth at that time (Matthew 24:37-41; cp. 25:31-46)
Three parables deal with the baptism of fire:
The wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30)
The good and bad fish (Matthew 13:47-51)
The wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
There are three ritual baptisms in scripture, all involving water, as follows:
John’s water baptism ritual for pre-Church Age believers
John’s water baptism ritual for Jesus Christ
The water baptism ritual for believers of the Church Age
Ritual Baptism No. 1
The Water Baptism for pre-Church Age Believers
In the water-baptism rituals the water always represents the believer's identification with something else. In John’s baptism, the believer’s entrance down into the water represented identification with the coming Messiah and entry into the kingdom of God (Matthew 3:1-11; Mark 1:4; cp. John 1:25-28). John’s baptism took place during the age of Israel. However, after the day of Pentecost (marking the beginning of the Church Age) John's baptism was inadequate because it was limited to the time of Christ's earthly ministry. For that reason, Paul later re-baptized John's disciples to identify them with the new Church Age (Acts 18:25-26; 19:1-5).
Ritual Baptism No. 2
The Water Baptism for Jesus Christ
What does water mean for Jesus Christ? It represented the plan of God for His life – going to the cross, being identified with the sins of the world and being punished for them “...to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Coming up out of the water would represent His being resurrected into eternal glory, represented by the presence of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove upon Jesus, and the confirmation from God the Father “...this is my Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17). That is the baptism of Jesus.
Jesus was not a sinner who had now received salvation and was witnessing to the fact. He was not identified with any kingdom because He is the kingdom. So we need to remember that the baptism of Jesus Christ is unique and the water represents the cross just as the water in John’s baptism represents the kingdom.
Ritual Baptism No. 3
The Water Baptism for Church Age Believers
This is the ritual testimony analogous to the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27). This ritual was essential for demonstrating to the believer of how the Holy Spirit had placed him into union in Jesus Christ, before this doctrine was recorded in writing and becoming part of the New Testament Canon. However, once the Canon was completed this ritual was no longer necessary since the explanation for the baptism of the Spirit is now in writing, providing far greater scope for understanding than what the water-baptism can.
The water baptism-ritual is for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ only (Acts 8:37).
The water represents what the Baptism of the Spirit provides, namely, entrance into union with Jesus Christ and His body, as described in detail in the previous section on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Water baptism has a double identification (Rom. 6:3-13):
1. The believer going under the water is representative of the believer being identified with Jesus Christ in His death and burial (retroactive positional truth), being free from sins.
2. The believer coming up out of the water is representative of the believer being identified with Christ in His resurrection, ascension, and session (current positional truth), walking in newness of life and producing divine good.
There are only two ritual ordinances in the Church Age:
1. Water baptism – performed only once and representing the believer’s salvation.
2. Communion – performed repeatedly in the church as a memorial service to our Lord’s life and work on the Cross (1 Cor. 11:23-27)
Paul and Peter’s later views on water baptism:
The majority of verses regarding Church Age believers being baptized in water are found in the book of Acts. These verses provide accounts of the early years of the Church Age, before there was any scripture written teaching about the one true baptism – i.e. identification with the Lord Jesus Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Paul tells the Corinthians he stopped using water baptism because misunderstandings about its use and purpose was dividing believers: Acts 2:38, 8:36-38, 16:15,33; 1 Cor 1:11-17. So before Rom. 6:3-4 and 1 Cor. 12 were written to explain the baptism of the Spirit and identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, water baptism was used to represent what had happened at salvation to those who did not yet have the completed Canon. Paul knew the doctrine and saw that teaching the doctrine of identification (referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit) was more instructive than the water baptism ritual which was easily misunderstood.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” (1 Cor. 1:17)
Later, Peter realizes that many believers place too much importance on the water ritual and so purposefully attempts to downplay the water ritual by saying it is nothing more than a bath (English Bibles say, 'putting away of the filth' - 1 Peter 3:21). Ritual without knowing the reality behind the ritual is meaningless.
Is Water Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
There are at least four reasons why we must answer this question "No!"
Salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. Thus, water baptism (a physical work) does not save anyone, or help to save anyone. Man can do nothing by way of good works to acquire or maintain eternal life (Romans 4:4-5; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
Acts 8:12-13. "When they believed [i.e., 'after' they believed] . . . they were baptized." The sequence is first faith, which saved, then water baptism.
Acts 10:44-48. The sequence is clear: Peter preached, the Holy Spirit fell on those who heard the word (and believed) "then Peter answered . . . and ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." Note that he ordered or commanded, thus did not make water baptism optional for those who had believed.
Acts 9:17-18; 22:6-16, esp. 16. The sequence of events is (a) Paul was born-again in Damascus following a challenge from Ananias (Acts 22:16), (b) the Holy Spirit then filled him (Acts 9:17), and (c) finally Ananias baptized Paul with water (Acts 9:18; 22:16).
Romans 4:1-4, 10-11. This passage gives us an extraordinary illustration of how ritual follows inner spiritual reality. Abraham first believed then God imputed righteousness to Abraham while he was still uncircumcised. Then he was circumcised. In fact, the Lord did not have Abraham circumcised until 25 years after he was declared righteous (cp. Hebrews 11:8; Acts 7:2-4 and Genesis 12:1-3 with 17:9-19).
What about those too sick to baptize? Or a dying man who believes on the street following a fatal car accident? What about the repentant thief on the cross next to Christ who put his faith in Him (Luke 23:29-43)? Also Scripture declares Zaccheus (Luke 19:9) and Cornelius (Acts 10:7) to be saved before they were baptized.
What Water Baptism Does Not Do:
It does not contribute to our salvation. God gives each new convert at least 40 things (39 Irrevocable Absolutes, and one revocable asset) at the moment of salvation that place him in perfect and eternal relationship to God (Hebrews 10:14). One cannot improve upon such perfection, with or without water.
Water Baptism (or any other ritual) does not make one more spiritual. A Christian achieves spiritual status only through walking by means of the Holy Spirit and through growth in God's Word, not through water.
Water baptism has no magic in it and imparts no mystical or spiritual potential. It confers no grace to those who are baptized, that is, it does not grant or guarantee to them salvation, spiritual success, forgiveness, nor secure the removal of sin, whether the sin nature, imputed sin, or personal sin. Water baptism is a picture or symbol of an already existing inner reality.
There is only one baptism necessary for salvation, and that is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Paul emphasizes this in Eph. 4:5 when he says, 'There is ONE baptism (identification).’ This is given by the Holy Spirit at the moment that a person believes in Christ as his personal savior (the moment of faith alone, in Christ alone), NOT at the time they decide to love God, or make a promise to God to be a good Christian, or make a public confession of faith in Christ at the front of a church meeting, nor even when they get baptized in water. The water baptism was a ritual used to TEACH about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (It should also be noted that while many claim water baptism is not necessary for salvation, they do claim that it is still a necessary requirement as a ‘public showing of faith.’ However, there is not one verse in scripture to prove this.)
If people have believed in Christ (made a decision that He is indeed their Savior) then they have already had the true baptism (identification into union with Jesus Christ. Rom 6:3-4, 1 Cor. 12:13 and many other verses.) If they understand that is what has happened then they can be water baptized (ritual only) as a symbolic gesture to themselves and others who witness the ritual. But in the eyes of God they are already perfect because they are in union with Christ already.
“Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that believes on me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)