Baptism, Which One

By Arthur J. Licursi

What is the place of Water Baptism in Scripture? Does Water-Baptism apply for anyone today?

There are several baptisms to be found in the Bible.

Only one baptism applies today (Eph, 4:5). Paul wrote these verses as the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13) concerning a dry (waterless) baptism concerning today’s church which Paul called “the body of Christ” (cf. Eph. 1:22b-23a).

One Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM,” Eph. 4:5 (KJV)

As many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his DEATH.” Romans 6:3 (KJV) Notice that there is no mention of water to be found in these verses.

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised HIM from the dead.” Colossians 2:12 (KJV)

Later we will discuss in detail how Paul’s “one baptism” is waterless (dry), which makes it totally unlike John the Baptist’s “water baptism of repentance” that applied to Israel only.

First, we need to understand the general Scriptural usage the word ‘baptism’ which indicates a complete identification.’ Paul tells us the only way to become one with Christ is by Identifying Ourselves With Himthrough the faith of the operation of God(cf. Col. 2:12).

That is, to be IDENTIFIED with Christ in HIS DEATHby Faith.

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were Baptized Into His Death? 4Therefore 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.” Rom. 6:3-4

People are buried into Christ’s DEATH. Believers today need to know and believe that Christ’s death is our death and His resurrection is our resurrection to new spiritual life via our spiritual union “with Christ.”

Regarding Israel it is important for us to understand just what water-baptism’ meant. Fortunately it is not difficult to determine the proper meaning ascribed to water-baptism in Scripture, historically. Repeatedly water-baptism was used to represent a ceremonial cleansing’ in Israel.

While we do NOT BURY people in Water, but we certainly do WASH in water. This is clearly the meaning associated with Israel’s historic ‘water ceremonies’ as seen in many Scriptures.

At Pentecost when Peter addressed “ye men of Israel(Acts 2:22) he said “repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), Did he mean “repent and be buried? Of course not! Peter meant Repent and be CLEANSED.’ Water baptism for Israel symbolized cleansingnot burial, and this is why the question arose in John 3:23-25 about purification in connection with the baptism of John the Baptist.

“And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 24 For John was not yet cast into prison. 25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about PURIFYING.” John 3:23-25

In Acts 22:16 Ananias declared to Saul, “Arise, and be baptized, and WASH Away Thy Sins.” Nowhere in Scripture is water-baptism used to symbolize a burial, salvation, new birth, or regeneration.

By contrast the Pauline baptism verses of Rom. 6:3, Gal. 3:27, Col. 2:12 (below) regarding Gentiles speak of our ‘identification with Christ’ in “His DEATH.” Yet, denominational biases mistakenly read ‘water’ into these passages, thus robbing Paul’s “one baptism” of its real meaning for Today’s Grace Believer’s Identification With Christ In His Death and Resurrection.

“… so many of us as were Baptized Into Jesus Christ were Baptized Into HIS DEATH?” Rom. 6:3
“For as many of you as have been ‘Baptized Into Christ’ Have ‘Put On Christ.’” Galatians 3:27
BURIED With Him In Baptism, wherein also ye are Risen With Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him [Christ] from the dead.” Colossians 2:12

While seldom recognized, there are several different types of baptisms in Scripture. Not every baptism has to do with water. For example, speaking of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, Paul writes:

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all BAPTIZED UNTO MOSES IN THE CLOUD and in the sea” (I Corinthians 10:1-2).

This is not a “water-baptism,” since Israel crossed the Red Sea on DRY ground” (cf. Exo. 14:22). Pharaoh and his army, of course, were the ones who were plunged into the water as it thundered down on them in judgment. But it was Israel who is said to have been baptized unto Moses. For Israel this was a dry baptism! This helps to clarify the true meaning of the term baptism.

The word baptism is simply an Anglicized form of the Greek, baptizo. But, for too long denominationally influenced Greek lexicons have wrongly defined ‘baptizo’ as “to dip.” This cannot be an adequate definition as seen from Scripture.

In Matt. 3:11, John the Baptist said Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

“I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he [Christ] that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you [believing Jews] with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” Matt. 3:11 (KJV)

QUESTION: Was Christ to “dip” people into the Holy Spirit and ‘fire’? Obviously No!

Here in Luke 12:50 Christ Himself referred to His soon expected death as a ‘baptism.’

“But I [Jesus] have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened [distressed] till it be accomplishedLk. 12:50

1 Cor. 12:13 says; “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body [Christ’s CRUCIFIED body].”

Are believers “dipped” into the Christ’s dead body?  No.

Our Old Man” died when Christ died.

“Knowing this, that our Old Man Is Crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed [Grk. kartargeo, made of not effect], [so] that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 (KJV)

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” Gal. 2:20a (KJV)

Paul reiterates our death to the Law saying; “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law … by the [dead] body of Christ…” Romans 7:4a (KJV)

So, clearly to ‘dip” is a totally inappropriate definition for these baptisms. For the Nation Israel, Water-baptism always referred to a ‘CLEANSING.’ To understand the reason for this we need to understand the place of water-baptism in Israel’s Old Testament program of God.

First, we should understand that water-baptism is not a so-calledNew Testament ordinance’ for Israel and not applicable today at all to anyone. Water-baptism is in fact a practice firmly rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures and God’s program for the Nation Israel as set forth there.

In John 1:25 John the Baptist was asked, Why baptizeth thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?” It is notable that these inquirers were not surprised by John’s practice of water-baptism as though it were something new to them. Rather they expected the practice of water-baptism in connection with the coming of Messiah. Where could this expectation have come from except the Messianic prophecies found in Old Testament Scriptures?

Remember that the Mosaic dispensation was still in force during the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. This is because Jesus had not yet died, note that importance here in Hebrews 9:17, “A testament [last will and testament] is of force AFTER men are dead.” Nobody’s ‘last will and testament’ applies until they first die. Thus the New Covenant which is for Israel only could not possibly replace Israel’s Old Covenant until after the death of Christ. So John’s baptism was not something new – rather it was a cleansing water ceremony that was thoroughly understood by those Israelites.

So. water-baptism did not begin with John the Baptist. When we turn to the Scriptures to trace the water-baptism’s development, we quickly learn that water-baptism is a ceremonial cleansing in Israel. It pertains to establishing “the Kingdom” that was long-promised to the Nation Israel.

It’s important to remember that of all the people or things to be baptized (cleansed) it was the priest who stood foremost. Exodus 29 sets forth the cleansing procedure for induction into the priest’s office. Two very important steps of the Priest’s consecration are to be noted.

  1. First must come cleansing – a Washing With Water: “And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water(Exo. 29:4).
  2. Second, there was the anointing with oil. “Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour in upon his head, and anoint him (Exo. 29:7) (See for revealing details of the anointing oil’s formulation.)

The sons of Aaron were the Levite priests through whom the people of Israel could approach God. It is in this light that John the Baptist, son of a Priest, appears on the scene preaching his baptism of repentance to ALL the People of Israel” (Acts 13:24). In other words, John’s “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (cf. Mark 1:4) was to be the means for National Repentance in preparation to become the “Kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6) that God ordained for their favored nation status. Thus is important to note Matt. 3:1-2: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the Kingdom Of Heaven Is At Hand.”

Whereas circumcision was the first mark of an Israelite, now taking John’s water baptism of repentance was the mark of the believing remnant, the “little flock” who would receive the kingdom (Luke 12:32).

“Every thing [the temple elements] that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be CLEAN: nevertheless it shall be Purified With The Water of Separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.” Numbers 31:23

“And it shall be a perpetual statute [an ordinance] unto them, that he that sprinkleth the WATER OF SEPARATION shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even [the evening].” Numbers 19:21 (KJV)

How were they to prepare for the coming kingdom that was now “at hand”? “Then went out to him [to the Baptist) Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized [cleansed] of him in Jordan Confessing Their Sins” (cf. Matt 3:5-6).

John’s water baptism of repentance was the means for Israel to flee fromthe wrath to come” at Christ’s 2nd coming (cf. Matt 3:7). To escape His wrath they must be IDENTIFIED as the Believing Remnant of Israel who Jesus referred to as the Father’s “little flock.” They were to be identified as such through taking John’s Water-Baptism of Repentance for The Remission of Sins.

John’s water-baptism became a defining moment for the Messianic believers of Israel’s “Little Flock,” the remnant who received and obeyed in taking John the Baptist’s ‘baptism of repentance.’ Luke 7:29-30 tells us individual Jews were baptized but the Nation’s leaders rejected John’s baptism.

“And all the people that heard him [John the Baptist], and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers [Israel’s leaders] REJECTED The Counsel Of God Against Themselves, Being NOT Baptize Of Him.”

As stated earlier, circumcision had been the identifying mark for the children of Israel, sealing the covenant God made with Abraham and Israel. But now, John’s water-baptism marked out the genuine Israelite believers. The individuals taking John’s water baptism differentiated them from… the unbelieving Nation of Israel as a whole.

John’s water-baptism was associated with salvation and the remission of sins. Salvation was by faith, but the only way they could express their faith was by doing what God required to prepare them to function as “a royal priesthood.” Thus they were baptized with John’s Water Cleansing Ceremony. First must come the water-cleansing, before their service as the “Priests of God” in Israel.

Ezekiel 36:25 foretold of the Lord God’s promise that one day He would come and “Cleanse” Israel.

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I CLEANSE YOU.

The “sprinkling with clean water” was the necessary first step of faith in forming the nucleus of the coming Kingdom, a group of Jewish believers which the Lord Jesus called the Father’s little flock.”

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

The next step in preparing this Jewish remnant of water-baptized believers is seen in Matthew 3:11’s “baptism with the Spirit,” which for Israel came on the day of Pentecost. This “baptism with the Spirit would correspond to the second rite of consecration to the priesthood, providing the “anointing.” The “baptism with the Spirit would “endue” (i.e., clothe) them with power for the nation’s coming service. This then explains why our Lord’s post-resurrection ministry ties together these two things; 1) the ‘baptism of repentance,’ and 2) the ‘anointing of the Holy Spirit” coming upon these believers for power to serve in the Kingdom on earth.

“And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye [12 Apostles] into all the world, and preach the gospel [of the kingdom] to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned [condemned]. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues (cf. Zech. 8:23; Mk 16:15-17; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:4-8).

Recall how at Pentecost when they spoke in tongues, it was not the Charismatic gibberish we hear of today. The Acts 2 text says “every man heard in his own language.” They miraculously could speak all the languages of those gathered at Pentecost. Likewise, in the Millennium, as seen in Zech. 8:23, the believing Jews will be able to speak the languages of the Gentiles who made it into the kingdom. This was power for service.  

Bottom Line: There is NO Gentile Water-Baptism Today, after ACTS 28 during today’s age of the “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2)!

The fact is that water-baptism pertained only to Israel’s Kingdom program. Water-baptism has NO PLACE at all in the Pauline “Mystery [musterion, secret]” program of God for today’s GENTILE “body of Christ.” His body consist of both Greek (non-Jews) and Jew,” ALL men being seen today by God as being Gentiles (non-Jews). There is no racial preference at all today.  

“Where there is neither Greek [non-Jew] nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is ALL, and in ALL.” Col. 3:11

But, concerning the Gentile believers DURING The Acts Period, they had believed into Israel’s Kingdom program, looking for the Kingdom On Earth. Note that Galatians was written DURING the Acts period before the divide of Act 28:28 and Ephesians when “the body of Christ” was formed. This verse speaks of the unity of believers of “the Kingdom” to come on earth… not the Post-Acts “body of Christ.”

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond [slave] nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye [the Jew and Gentiles believers of the Acts period] are ALL ONE in [union with] Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

So we can say with confidence… Water-baptisms were Israel’s CEREMONIAL WASHINGS participated in by Jew and Gentile UNTIL the Nation Israel Fell and its Kingdom program was fully ‘set asidein Acts 28:28.

“Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” Acts 28:28 (KJV)

Paul here explains “the fall of them [Israel]” (verse 12 below) and, as result of Israel’s “fall,” how long Israel’s kingdom on earth will be delayed. Note the word “until” in verse 25 below.

“For I [Paul] would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery [formerly held secret], lest ye [Israel] should be wise in your own conceits; that Blindness In Part [temporarily] Is Happened To Israel, UNTIL the fulness of the GENTILES be come in.Romans 11:25 (KJV)

11I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather Through Their [Israel’s] Fall Salvation Is Come Unto The Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them [Israel] be the Riches of The World, and the Diminishing of Them [Israel] The Riches of The GENTILES; how much more their fulness?” Romans 11:11-12 (KJV)
“For if The Casting Away Of Them [Israel] be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them [Israel] be, but life from the dead?” Romans 11:15 (KJV)

With ‘the fall of them [Israel] (v12) in view, God raised up Paul to be “the Apostle to the GENTILES” (Rom. 11:13). It was through Paul that He brought “salvation to the Gentiles TOTALLY APART from fallen Israel and Her Kingdom Program with its law and ‘religious water ceremony’ and rituals, which are now set aside. Paul writes to the grace age believers;

“… for Ye Are NOT UNDER THE LAW, but UNDER GRACE.” Romans 6:14 (KJV)

Thus we should know, when the Post-Acts “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2) came into effect After The Acts Period. Paul wrote 7 epistles to and for “the body of Christ.”

With Paul’s Post-Script of Romans 16:25 and Post-Acts epistles of Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians we see how the ‘100% pure grace of God’ will continue to be extended to “all men” who will believeUNTIL The Resurrection of All Grace-age Believers who will “Appear With Him [Christ] In Glory (cf. Col. 3:4).

“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in [heaven’s] glory. Colossians 3:4 (KJV)

With the raising up of Paul the practice of baptism clearly underwent a Total Change. The first real indication of this in the scriptural record is found in Peter’s experience at Cornelius’ house in Acts 10. As the Lord began to prepare Peter and the 12 to recognize the change in God’s program for the Gentiles, we have the account of Peter at Cornelius’s house in Acts 10:28. As Peter addressed those assembled in the house of the Gentile Cornelius, he received a shock:

“To Him [Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” While Peter spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on ALL them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished because that On The GENTILES also Was Poured Out The Gift Of The Holy Ghost (Act 10:43-45).

This was in sharp contrast with the previous requirement for Israelites, to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and [then] ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (cf. Acts 2:38). This was a significant change from the program that Peter was preaching. With this change, ALL a Gentiles had to do To Receive The Holy Spirit was to “BELIEVE.” This was much like the Gentile, Abraham, who BELIEVED GOD and His Faith Was Counted For Righteousness (cf. Rom. 4:5-8).

So, seeing what had happened at Cornelius’ house, Peter belatedly and needlessly water-baptized those at Cornelius’ house, saying “Can any man forbid water that these [Gentiles] should not be baptized?” (cf. Acts 10:45-48). For, these Gentiles had already received the Holy Spirit without John’s water baptism that belonged to the Jews ONLY.

We of His Gentile “Body” have no rituals, rites, water ceremonies, special days, foods, or drinks.

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” Colossians 2:16 (KJV).