Water baptism in the gospels

This is the first part of a three part series on water baptism.

Have you only “seen” or have you “entered” the kingdom of God?

Our understanding of water baptism must come from the Book of Books – the Bible. Only the Bible is the inspired work of God and suitable for teaching and correction. We need to study the Bible and see what it has to say about water baptism as there are many variations of water baptism in the different church gatherings, but often based on tradition rather than Biblical teaching.

The Greek word “baptizo” used for baptised, baptism, baptise means immerse, submerge, to make fully wet i.e. full immersion. We note from John 1:33 that God the Father sent John the Baptist to baptise with water. John did not initiate it himself.

In Matthew 3:6-15 believers were baptised in the Jordan River by John as they confessed their sins. The first thing to note is that it was not sprinkling but full immersion. The River Jordan held plenty of water. Also note that Jesus came up from the water. Secondly, the believers who confessed their sin were baptised. No non-believer was baptised. The Pharisees and lawyers rejected any repentance and were not baptised by John (Luke 7:28-30). Also, confession of sin was an acknowledgement of repentance having taken place. Babies were therefore excluded. Also note the sequence: repentance – believing – water baptism.

When Jesus went through His dedication at eight days old, His parents offered a sacrifice (Luke 2:21-24) – Jesus was not sprinkled with water! Although Jesus was presented to the Lord God in the Jerusalem temple, Jesus later went through full immersion.

Jesus was baptised full immersion by John to “fulfil all righteousness”, in other words, to be in right standing with God. Could we say that if Jesus was not baptised in water He would not have been in right standing with God? Baptism is a spiritual experience done in obedience to the commands of God.

Matthew 28:18-20 gives Jesus’ instructions to His 11 disciples. They were to go and make disciples, baptising them and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus had commanded them. If we are to obey the Lord Jesus Christ we must baptise disciples (not babies). It is a clear command from Jesus’s own mouth and we need to listen and obey it. Again there is a sequence, make disciples then baptise and teach them.

Mark 16:15-18 is known as the “Great Commission” to the 11 disciples. “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved” (v 16).This verse declares that believing and baptism is required to be saved.

Baptism is obedience and is one of the first acts to show that repentance has taken place. If there is no full immersion baptism there is obviously no repentance as it is done in obedience to Jesus’ command.

The famous words of John 3:3 “Unless someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” compared to John 3:5 “Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” needs to be understood. Born of water cannot mean the waters in the birth process, because everyone would be included and including that phrase “born of water” would be meaningless. The “water of the word” is also meaningless as many believers for many centuries never had the written word. What has been repeatedly referred to previously is full water immersion.

Note that being born again and the person only “sees” the kingdom. To “enter” you need to both be born again AND born of water or full immersion baptism.

Almighty God in His great mercy has answered our one question, “What if we cannot get baptised full immersion in water for example we are too sick or ill to get baptised, what then?” The thief on the Cross believed and repented on the Cross and had no opportunity for water baptism. Jesus told the thief that he would be in Paradise with Him. Water baptism is an act of obedience and submission to Almighty God and baptism is one of the first acts of repentance. If this cannot be done for whatever reason, like hanging on a Cross where you die, then God knows and understands! – Next week, Part Two: Water Baptism from the Book of Acts

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