Water baptism is an act whereby the believer obeys the Word of God which in many scriptures exhorts all believers to be baptized. Biblically, baptism may occur relatively privately (Acts 8:36-39) or more publically (Acts 2:41; 8:12). It is one more important step in outwardly expressing one’s personal faith and commitment to God. It is a ceremonial outward proclamation of an inward conversion. To undergo water baptism is to carry out an expectation of faith (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:11) and an ordinance of the church and the command of Jesus Christ. It is to do as Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20) and did (Matt. 3:13-17 ) and as the apostles instructs (Acts 2:37-39). For Matthew 3 says:
Rebaptism is not necessary if the original baptism was done in accordance with the faith expressed in Acts 8:36-39 and the principle of Jesus commandment in Matthew 28:18-20. However, it may be done if the believer feels it would give him or her a better conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:16); consideration applies if original baptism was as a child or otherwise under questionable sufficient belief.
Baptism has its roots in the Jewish acts of purification. Priests would bathe themselves as part of their duties. However, it is not clear whether this act of bathing involved immersion of the whole body, including the head. We, of course, normally do not bathe by immersing our head into the bathtub. We find an example regarding God commanding Aaron washing (bathing) himself before entering the holy place (Leviticus 16:4) and within the holy place (Leviticus 16:23-24). In so doing the priests performed a ceremonial symbolic cleansing as part of their priestly duties. But now all believers are priests of God to a certain degree (1 Peter 2:5-9).
Matthew 3 says: Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:… (Matthew 3:13-17)
And I Peter 3:18-21 says: For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
In I Peter 3:21, when Peter speaks of baptism he speaks of the importance and contribution of baptism in God’s salvation plan. He reminds us that baptism does not cleanse us; it is rather an act that outwardly demonstrates/symbolizes our death to sin and commitment to burial of the old life of the old man and the rising of the new man unto a new life in Christ Jesus. It is an expression of having put on and identified with Christ by faith (Gal. 3:26-29). It symbolically represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; hence the use of the phrase “like figure” for we know that it was not the water that saved the eight but rather God’s plan of which the water was a part. This is consistent with Romans 6:4-5 which says: Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
The scriptures do not teach that water baptism brings salvation in the sense of making us righteous; our faith in Jesus Christ is what makes us righteous; our faith is what makes us clean; the blood of Jesus cleanses us (Ephesians 1:7). If baptism was necessary, then love would compel us to baptize a person the same day they came forward to confess their faith in Jesus Christ less they risk Hell. Baptism obedience gives us greater salvation assurance/certainty (2 Peter 1:11) and an answer that we have a good conscience toward God. Properly, the person being baptized has already received salvation; baptism outwardly demonstrates his salvation and oneness with Jesus Christ. It is an act of following Jesus as Jesus without sin was baptized.
Although water baptism is not necessary for salvation, no one should take water baptism lightly or for granted. Indeed, we do believe the Bible teaches everyone who has the opportunity to be baptized should do so as Jesus did as soon as possible; out of love church officials should perform the baptism as soon as possible. Doing so is to obey the example set by Jesus Christ and the exhortation of the apostles. It is the first post-conversion act of obedience. Submit to baptism unless there is a compelling reason (physical, medical, or otherwise) not to be baptized. Indeed, it is more righteous to be baptized than not to be baptized. The eunuch understood that and gives us as example of sincerity and faithfulness: …And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him (Acts 8:26-38).
The Greek word for baptism and baptize is baptisma and baptizo, respectively; it means to wash or be fully wet but not necessarily through immersion. Indeed I can wash (In Mark 7:4 the Greek word translated wash is baptizo.) or fully wet my hands by running water over them in a sink; the same principle applies for the whole body in a shower or similar mechanisms. Yet, baptism should be done through immersion as a universal standard to more fully symbolize death, burial and resurrection. If a person cannot be baptized or be convinced to be baptized through immersion (e.g., illness, disability, bedridden, imprisonment, fear of water, water availability), then sprinkling or pouring may be used as a last resort to accomplish the baptism objective; sprinkling or pouring is better than not at all yet should be the rare exception.
So the normal process is that a person in his spirit, mind, and heart repents and receives by faith Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. He outwardly unashamedly and boldly confesses that faith and seeks baptism by and membership in a local church for fellowship, help, and training unto spiritual maturity (Matt. 4:17; 10:32-33, 28:18-20; John 3:16; Acts 2:37-40; Rom. 1:16, 10:8-13; Heb. 10:21-25; Eph. 1:6-7; 2:8-10). However, attachment to a local church is not biblically necessary (Acts 8:29-40) for baptism; but, it is advantageous and should be done to promote good order and discipline.
Note that the phrase “remission of sins” in Acts 2:38 does not link to baptism but to Jesus; it has reference to the principle of Matt. 26:28; Luke 24:27; Acts 10:43, Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7 and Heb. 9:22. Indeed, it is Jesus blood that remits (forgives, pardons) our sins not baptism. Also note that the necessity of repentance (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3) as preached by John the Baptist under the Old Covenant is not removed under the New Covenant.
It does not matter whether one uses the phrase “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19), “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38), or “in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48) or similar phrases when baptizing someone. They are functionally the same and each is acceptable to God as each declare the baptism is rooted in God’s salvation plan. Don’t get caught up in arrogant denominational biases and human preferences to the extent of saying one is right and the other wrong or better than the other. Note that in Matthew 28:19 Jesus could have inserted the phrase “in the name” before the word “of” in both phrases referring to the Son and the Holy Ghost; the meaning would have been the same. But, for brevity Jesus did not repeat those phrases; so don’t engage in linguistic immaturity as some do.
Some additional scriptures on the Holy Spirit as well as baptism include John 20:21-22; Acts 2:37-38; Acts 8:13-17; Acts 10:44-48.
The Bible speaks of the rebaptism of those who had only been baptized unto John the Baptist baptism (Acts 18:24-19:6). The context given in these verses suggest that this baptism took place after Jesus death and resurrection and after his commandment to baptize in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20).
Except for Paul (Acts 22:16), there is no biblical evidence that the apostles were rebaptized or even baptized. It is sufficient to draw the following conclusions concerning re-baptism:
(1) Those baptized before Jesus commandment of Matthew 28 need not be rebaptized since John’s baptism was the method chosen by God prior to Jesus commandment.
(2) Today, all are to be baptized according to Jesus commandment as described herein.
(3) Anyone baptized according to Jesus commandment need not be re-baptized even if changing churches, denominations or branches of discipleship. This applies regardless of doctrinal differences regarding method of baptism or other doctrinal areas. This applies to disciples of Jesus Christ whether a group calls themselves Christian, Hebrews, Messianic Jews or any other name as long as they are baptized according to the principles set forth in Matthew 28. As discussed elsewhere, the word principle does not require the exact wording used in Matthew 28.
(4) Those who seek rebaptism demonstrate their spiritual immaturity with respect to understanding the biblical principle of baptism. The same goes for church leaders who encourage rebaptism based on denominationalism or branches of discipleship.
(5) Yet, if the believer believes rebaptism will give him or her a better conscience (1 Peter 3:21) toward God, then he or she may participate in rebaptism; consideration applies if original baptism was as a child or otherwise under questionable sufficient belief. But let such a person grow to recognize that if our hearts (conscience) condemn us, God is greater than our hearts for he knows all things (1 John 3:11-24). Let such a person know that rebaptism is not required every time he or she sins or backslides. The scripture says if one breaks even the smallest part of the law he is guilty of the whole law (James 2:10). So then the type or amount of sin is not a factor in properly determining whether rebaptism is appropriate. What is important is that one commits/recommits to living a holy life that glorifies and pleases God looking to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. This is to take place in the heart, mind, spirit, and body so one can do this with or without rebaptism.
To God Be the Glory!