The Cup And The Baptism
Our Answer of a Good Conscience
By Curt Wildy
Matthew 20:20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping [him], and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared of my Father.
Ephesians 4:4 [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism…
1 Peter 3:15-17 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
1 Peter 3:18-22 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: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 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 [literally, “through”] water. 21 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: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
Introduction To Part Three
Part Two covered spiritual baptism as it relates to being saved through, and by, “water” (that is, untouched through the judgment that fell upon Christ in our own persons but cleansed by the judgment that fell upon Him on our behalf). It is also the one baptism as it relates to the blood of Christ both in the atonement and in the sprinkling of our hearts by faith. We looked at how baptizo/baptism related to such words as merse, whelm, dye, stain, wash, cleanse, purge, purify, etc.
In this final part, I want to build upon the previous and delve more deeply into spiritual baptism as an answer of a good conscience, our answer before men, and our confession and declaration of faith before men — especially in comparison to water baptism. I cannot stress enough that this part builds heavily upon the first and reading this one before the other may likely lead to premature dissent/disagreement. Part Two laid the foundation for where I intend to go now.
More on the Answer of a Good Conscience
Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
This verse pertains to our hearts being sprinkled (baptized) unto a good conscience; it is but one of many to this effect. This precept is what I want to address going forward. To begin, I want to state that water baptism has nothing to do with our answer of a good conscience; this is evidenced by four primary factors:
Firstly, 1 Peter 3:21 specifically states “…even baptism doth also now save us.” If this is water baptism then water baptism is an absolute requirement for salvation; we know this cannot be because our salvation is of God, effectually worked by the Holy Spirit alone, and is not of human effort or ritual. Many, recognizing this problem, twist the passage to make it mean water baptism in a non-salvific sense. They will speak of what it evidences, what it declares publicly, what it “confesses.” However, the passage clearly states that baptism saves. This has to be referring to spiritual baptism because spiritual baptism saves us. It saves us from eternity because Christ is the lamb spiritually baptized from before the world was (regarding its efficacy); it saves us at the cross when we were baptized there with Christ; and it saves us in time when we are quickened and given faith to receive the (spiritually baptismal) Truth.
Secondly, the passage clearly removes the possibility of water baptism being in view by stating “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh;” that is, not the washing, or dipping, or pouring, or sprinkling of yourself with water but by the Spirit of God in spiritual baptism. Water baptism in the literal sense is a ceremonial “washing,” and it is not this “washing,” (the physical result of which was a removal of filth from the flesh) that saves us but the spiritual washing performed by the Holy Spirit upon regeneration in light of the cross.
Water baptism was well known to the Jews before John the Baptist came along. Nothing in the Bible suggests that water baptism was new to the Jews in general, or to the religious leadership (scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, etc.), in particular. We see no record of a “what doeth thou, John? What is this thing called baptism? Where did you get such a notion” This baptism was one of the several ceremonial washings associated with the Old Testament economy. We read in Hebrews 9:8-10:
“The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings [baptismos; βαπτισμός; bäp-tē-smo’s; G909], and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”
Pertaining to Jews, the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia is amongst the most revered English language works on Judaism. The article therein on baptism makes it clear that baptism (ceremonial washing) was exceedingly common even before John’s baptism and they too associated his baptism with the other divers baptisms in the Bible; see http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2456-baptism.
The term washings in the New Testament, as read in Hebrews 9:10 above is baptismos [βαπτισμός; bäp-tē-smo’s; (G909); a second declension noun formed from baptizō [βαπτίζω; baptize; bäp-tē’-zō; (G909)]. It would be intellectually dishonest to force on the translation washings (for baptismos) the notion that the meaning is altogether separate from baptism — it is not. Baptism is intricately related to washing in both the ceremonial and spiritual sense as discussed previously in Part Two. Note also in the following passage how the same Greek word for washings (as in divers washings) is translated baptisms:
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms [baptismos [βαπτισμός; bäp-tē-smo’s; (G909);], and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Josephus in his Antiquities work [18, 5, 2 ] affirms the above in that he used this same word baptismos/baptisms/washings to describe the baptism performed by John the Baptist. Thayer (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament), Trench (Synonyms of the New Testament), and others agree that baptismos was used for Old Testament ceremonial washings/baptisms which could incorporate, without strain or force, John’s baptism. Zodhiates (The Complete Word Study Dictionary NT), however, disagrees and maintains that baptismos should not be deemed to have anything to do with baptism (this, most likely being, because Zodhiates is a staunch baptismal supporter and interprets much in favor of water baptism).
Thirdly, the Greek word for answer in “the answer of a good conscience toward God” is ἐπερώτημα [eperōtēma; ep-e-rō’-tā-mä] and it more accurately means “an enquiry, a question. a demand, an earnestly seeking, craving, an intense desire.” We could read this portion of the passage as “baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but [both] “a demand or requirement for” and “the reasoning, explanation, answer to an enquiry concerning” a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” A good conscience would require a legitimate basis; there must be a solid ground to justify such a conscience. What inquiry, what question, what demand of an answer, what intensely desired factor would justify a good conscience? It is only the spiritual reality that we have been baptized into Christ by the Spirit of God in light of His finished (baptismal) work on the cross. In turn, we urgently seek Christ as a result of being baptized by the Spirit in light of Gospel truth. Our spiritual baptism is evidenced by our urgent seeking after, desire after, or appeal for a good conscience towards God based solely upon the salvific work of Christ — as apprehended (received) by God-given faith.
Fourthly, parenthetical statements can be removed from a sentence without adversely impacting the meaning of the main portion. So we can read the core message of verse 21 as follows: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Spiritual baptism saves us by the resurrection of Christ. In other words, we were crucified with Him, buried with Him (in His atoning baptism), and (when His salvific work was completed) raised with Him. This is not about water; this is about the redemptive, propitiatory work of Christ at Calvary.
Acts 24:14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: 15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
Here we see that a “conscience void of offence toward God and toward men” directly relates to the Apostle’s belief in Christ and His truth. Paul specifically states “But this I confess unto thee, that after The Way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: 15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” The finished work of Christ, effectually revealed by the regenerative aspect of the spiritual baptism, is his answer of a good conscience. Nowhere does he mention water baptism; it is spiritual baptism, represented by his God-given faith in “the Way which they call heresy” and by “believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets (concerning the Lord Jesus Christ).” We see here that Paul was clearly “…ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [him] a reason of the hope that is in [him] with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).”
1 Timothy 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
A good conscience here is equated with faith unfeigned. The demand of a good conscience is true Faith in Christ and His work. Again, this is what we receive upon spiritual baptism. The word “and ” is often translated even; I do not believe it a stretch to read the verse as follows “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, even of faith unfeigned…”
We read in 1 Timothy 1:18-19
This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
Again, this can be read “…Holding faith, even a good conscience…“
In Titus 1:15-16 we read:
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
We see here that unbelief, a lack of faith, is synonymous with a defiled conscience, the opposite of a good conscience. So faith in the baptism of Christ on the cross, what it both represents and guarantees, is the believer’s good conscience. Likewise, unbelief is the essence of the unbeliever’s bad, or defiled, conscience.
We read in Hebrews 9:6-15:
“Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
We see in this passage that it is the blood of Christ sprinkled on our hearts, blood baptism, spiritual baptism, in light of the baptism of Christ on the cross, the atonement, that purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. The blood of animals sacrificed could not purge our conscience but the blood of Christ both can and did. It is the work of the Spirit of God, in light of Christ’s finished work, that effectually applies the blood to all for whom Christ died, giving them faith to believe and receive the Truth.
Consider also Hebrews 10:1 -10:
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
No more conscience of sins, which is another definition of a good conscience, comes from having the sacrificial blood of Christ applied to our heart, our mind, by faith. It is looking unto Christ, and His perfect, propitiatory work and resting therein. It is having no other hope or answer than Christ and Him both crucified and risen again.
We read in Hebrews 13:10-18:
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. 18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
Here we see another aspect of our spiritual baptism. The first part covers the work of Christ on the cross. The second covers our receipt of that work by God-given faith upon regeneration and conversion. The third covers that aspect of our spiritual baptism wherein we are given to suffer as Christ suffered (i.e. suffering persecution in general, but by no means to the same degree). We read “for unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). Like the believers in Act 5:41, we are to rejoice in that we “were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
So we are baptized with the Lord’s baptism experimentally, as we walk in this life, whenever we suffer for righteousness sake and suffer and endure grief wrongfully from those in authority (without reviling or retaliation). Such sufferings do not atone for us in any way; however, as with our public declaration of faith (when giving an answer to those who inquire of us), our suffering wrongs from those in power, serve as a public declaration of our faith.
Consider also Romans 5:1-:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath [THE WATERS OF BAPTISM] through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life [REMEMBER: The Ark was “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now SAVE US BY HIS LIFE, BY THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST“]. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the ATONEMENT (THE SPIRITUAL BAPTISM).
Consider 1 Peter 2:18 also, regarding suffering for Christ’s sake, in light of His finished work on the cross:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 for this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
The Baptism of John vs. Spiritual Baptism
Mark 1:8 “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”
As shown above, one can be baptized with fire, with blood, with water, with the Holy Spirit. This is important to note because baptism does not require water — baptism is an entity to itself. Since not all types of baptism require water, when we read of baptism in the Bible, we need to be sure we understand what type of baptism is in view. The circumstances define the baptism. We’ve seen how (in addition to washing) baptism pertained to dyeing and staining. The Christian is spiritually dyed and stained with the atoning blood of the lamb; he is therefore made white therein, washed therein, even cleansed, purged, and purified therein. Spiritual baptism is also a whelming and mersing. The waters, the overflowing floods of judgment encompassed our Lord, and therefore us in Him. We were mersed with His mersing and whelmed with His whelming. Through his suffering and death we were made whole. Then, upon God-given regeneration and faith, we are mersed into the body of Christ being found in Him (with Him in us). We are thoroughly encompassed by the grace, mercy, love, and presence of our Lord (though the felt reality of this may be obscured at times).
So when we read of baptism in the following verses, do not think of water baptism but think of that baptism which (as proved above) is synonymous with a God-given faith in the atonement/baptizing work of Christ on the cross:
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Mark 16:15-16 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that BELIEVETH AND IS BAPTIZED shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
[Note: Here Baptism distinguishes those who believed temporally from those who believed with a God-given faith. It is not teaching that one who believes and then is water baptized is saved, it is teaching that those who believe with that form of faith/belief associated with spiritual baptism will be saved. This is how the disciples were to “go therefore, and teach all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” — they did so by proclaiming the Gospel and trusting that God would quicken those who are His own and give them faith to believe the Truth.]
We already saw that the baptism in 1 Peter 3:21 “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…” was spiritual baptism. But what of Colossians 2:9-14? Is that speaking of water baptism? Not at all!
For in [The lord Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 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. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
The entire context of the above, in light of the entire context of the proof texts in this series, evidences the fact that buried with him in baptism has absolutely nothing to do with water baptism and has everything to do with His atoning baptism on the cross. God is knocking away physical circumcision and replacing it with the spiritual circumcision of the heart (experienced upon regeneration when our heart of flesh is sprinkled with the blood of the lamb). He references true baptism, not water baptism, as He references our being risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. This is the exact same language as that found in 1 Peter 3:21-22: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us… by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.“
All ordinances are blotted out, both the ordinance of circumcision and the ordinance of the baptism of John (water baptism) both of which were against us. The Baptism of John was an Old Testament requirement. Not in the sense that this particular baptism was written about or performed in the Old Testament books but that it pertained to the fulfilling of the righteousness of the law. The Baptism of John has no place in the New Testament era; it is not meant for our day; though, in the Book of Acts, we see that it was carried out in that transitional period between the Day of Pentecost and some point nigh unto the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This was the period wherein the fledgling New Testament church was still maturing. Not only was John’s baptism still being practiced upon Jews and Proselytes alike but many true believers were still observing days and abstaining from meats and drinks. They were still stuck in the Old Testament (Mosaic Law) mindset and could not fully get out of it until God took them out. This is why they were baptizing Ethiopians, Romans, etc. In Acts 15:19-20 we read:
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
No where does this passage declare that gentiles had to observe water baptism, the Old Testament side baptism of John the Baptist. The fact that John the Baptist was identified with the Old Testament economy is clear from his identification with Elijah as we read in Matthew 11:7-14.
“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias [Elijah], which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Some may ask, how was the Baptist of John against anyone? John’s Baptism was unto repentance. We read in Matthew 3:11,
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire.”
We read in Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” The beginning of the Gospel is always the law; to understand salvation you must know that from which you are saved. John the Baptist, as the Old Testament representative (i.e. spiritual Elijah), pointed those whom he baptized to the law, sin, and judgment, in preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider, the next set of verses in Mark 1:2-5,
As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
Concerning fallen men and women, the design of this baptism was unto repentance of sin in the sense of acknowledging their sin, confessing their sin, repenting of it, and declaring God just in imputing and judging their sin. It was in anticipation of the coming Messiah who would take away the sin of His (spiritual) people. Those who came to John the Baptist were baptized in the Jordan river, a type of judgment. Going “over this Jordan” was a type of salvation but being mersed in Jordan pointed to judgment for sin. They were mersed in Jordan signifying their sin, wrath against it, and their need for the redemption and propitiation required to spiritually ‘go over Jordan,‘ ‘to enter unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth as an inheritance‘ to those that are eternally His. Only spiritual Naaman’s, those perfectly dipped/mersed in Jordan, having a sight of their spiritual leprosy (which is sin), can be healed of it. Only those baptized in Christ, in His baptism, can be saved. But John’s baptism was one that declared that we are sinners in need of a Savior and that divine judgment and wrath abide upon us by nature (though all in Christ have been safe in Him both from the cross and from eternity). So both circumcision and washings/baptisms were ordinances against us; we have no such ordinances against us today. After the transitional period in Acts, all of these things were done away with. What a pity and shame it is that so many men and women have been killed, persecuted, excommunicated, reviled, etc., all over a done away with ordinance.
But some may ask, why was the Lord Jesus Christ baptized by John? The Lord Jesus Christ, in His obedience to God’s righteous decree, was indeed water baptized. However, the Lord had a different reason for being water baptized; we read of that reason in Matthew 3:13-15:
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 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.”
The Lord, as the man Christ Jesus, had to fulfill all that the other Jew’s were required by divine law to fulfill. As a man, He had to be baptized alongside His brethren. Moreover, the Lord Jesus, to fulfill the righteousness of God’s law before the commencement of His public ministry as Prophet, Priest, and King, had to be declared as such publicly. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ but it was through the water baptism of Christ that the lord was publicly revealed to be the Lamb of God who cometh to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Once this was performed, the testimonial seal of the Father and Holy Spirit were upon Him. Matthew 3:16-17 declares:
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.“
We read in Luke 3:22-23:
“And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed ) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli…”
In the Old Testament priests were to be no younger than thirty years old. We read in Numbers 4:3 “From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.” At the acceptable age for a priest, The Lord Jesus Christ was washed (baptized) as the priests would have been, and He was anointed as they would have been (but with the Antitype, which is the Holy Spirit, and not the type (the oil) which represented Him). No sacrifice was offered for Him then because He, Himself, would be the sacrificial lamb. All that was necessary to declare Him our High Priest was performed at His water baptism. Note that Kings and Prophets were also anointed. Christ was anointed by the Spirit immediately after His water baptism.
The baptism of John continued for some time, even being performed by the Apostles in the Acts transitional period. but consider Acts 11:15-18:
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Peter remembered what true baptism was all about. Before Acts 11:15-18, water baptism was still in play but the baptisms mentioned thereafter (especially after Acts 15:19-20), I am convinced, are all spiritual baptisms unless water is specifically mentioned. This is why Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 1:14-16 “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” Paul is saying that the ordinances have been blotted out, it isn’t about John’s baptism, because God has (per Colossians 2:9-14) circumcised [the elect] with the circumcision made without hands and Buried [the elect with Christ] in baptism, wherein also [the elect] are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. In so doing, God was (in Christ) blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
There is no need for us to cling to the ordinance when, in fact, the spiritual has been fulfilled. Water baptism is not our confession of faith before men; our God-given faith in Christ and His finished (spiritually baptismal) work on the cross is our confession, our answer before men. Water baptism has become an idol in our churches; men pride themselves on it in both major camps. One speaks of some covenant between God and the children baptized. Others speak of (often quite pompously) “how they were led by the Spirit to water baptism.” Both sides war, malign, harass, belittle, when -in fact- the ordinance has long been done away with. That is why the baptism debate has been ongoing for centuries; that is why mode has been argued so thoroughly; that is why key texts can seem to support both positions (when looking at them objectively and without church/association/denomination bias); it is because God would have us focus on the spiritual and not the physical. You don’t need water baptism to remind you of Christ or to confess him before men; that is what your mouth is for every time you boldly declare your Faith to someone. Water baptism, in our day, be it sprinkling, dipping, or pouring, has become nothing more than a source of pride and division. Therefore, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” Some will say “that verse doesn’t apply to you anyway, only to God-ordained preachers.” Well, even famous Baptists like J.C. Philpot and others denied this. They held that ‘lay-people’ could do it as well, especially in the absence of a pastor or deacon. Yet it does not matter, the physical water (representing judgment) does not affect me or concern me; it is the spiritual baptism that I rest in and adore. My answer, profession, and confession before men is the Gospel that I, Lord willing and as He enables, proclaim by His grace. It is not the ritual that men have fought and died over for centuries.
True baptism, spiritual baptism, the one baptism is the (a) baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross; (b) applied to our heart and conscience by God-given faith upon regeneration; and (c) played out in our life as we boldly profess our faith (as God enables) and suffer for righteousness sake in light there of. I listed these three parts in order of importance for the work of Christ is paramount and our suffering for righteousness’ sake, which is given to us with faith, pales in comparison to His baptism (His suffering unto the atonement, redemption, and propitiation of the elect). Let us not look to water baptism for anything that is already provided by spiritual baptism. Spiritual baptism is our entrance into the body of Christ — not water baptism. Spiritual baptism is our confession before men — not water baptism. Spiritual baptism is our answer before men — not water baptism. Now if you are reading this summary first and disagreeing, not having read the proof texts above, I ask that you be objective and do so. Nonetheless, I stand behind my words, words that I believe are grounded deeply in Scripture. The elect are all baptized with Christ at the cross and baptized into Him upon regeneration. It is the same one baptism looked upon from two different vantage points in time. This alone is my answer of a good conscience; Christ alone and His finished work is my Baptism, Faith, Confession, and Answer before men. Nothing else will do.
To God be the glory.
- The One Spiritual Baptism
- The Death Knell of Water Baptism [Colossians 2:8-23]
- Baptism: 1 Corinthians 12:13 Amplified By Ephesians 4:4-6
- William Mason [1719-1791] On The End of Water Baptism [from the supralapsarian.com website; my back-up copy, to prevent loss of such documentation, can be found here: william-mason.]
- Spiritual Baptism: Henry Pinnell on Baptism from http://www.supralapsarian.com/Henry_Pinnell.html