In this sermon, we are going to answer the FAQ, what is the original meaning of baptism as the Holy Spirit is going to reveal to us.
The purpose of baptism.
Jesus answered, “most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5).
Accorsing to the above passage, baptism can be seen as a rite of passage in Christianity.
Without baptism, there is no way that one can gain access to the kingdom of God.
Controversies in Christendom over the issue of baptism.
There has been a lot of controversies and contradiction in Christendom over the issue of baptism; to the extent that some have totally dismissed the idea and concluded that baptism is no more necessary for salvation.
While others; who still hold onto the doctrine; rule out water baptism and claim that it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that is necessary.
Still a good majority also reject infant baptism. And most of their facts are based on the letters of Paul; especially this particular one that he wrote to the Christians in Corinthians.
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.1 Corinthians 1:17
Now, if you read that passage in its whole context, that is from verse 10 to 17; you will come to the understanding that there was a division that arose in the church of Corinth; where people said they followed Apollos, some Paul, some Peter and some Christ.
And thinking that people have taken sides based on the people who baptized them. He asked if they were baptized as his disciples or the disciples of Christ. And went further to thank God he did not baptize anyone except the few people he mentione;: Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas.
Again in Ephesians 4:5, Paul talked about one baptism. And people misinterpret this to mean that water baptism had been done away with; and all we have now is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
But if you read that passage in its whole context; you will discover that Paul was referring to unity in the church.
For how can Paul preach against baptism, when he himself was baptized after conversion and the restoration of his sight; as we see in Acts 22:12-16.
And the same Paul, whom people claim abolished baptism; went ahead to baptize the household of Lydia (Acts 16:15), and that of the jailer (Acts 16:33).
Beloved, as I always say and will continue to say; people should be careful how they interpret Paul’s epistles, noting what Peter said in the scripture below:
And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-as also our beloved brother Paul , according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the scriptures.2 Peter 3:14-16
And Paul himself knowing this would happen had placed a curse on those who will befall victims.
But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man). Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not, “let us do evil so that good may come”. –as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.Romans 3:5-8
And for further explanation of the above scripture. Paul is writing about how people misquote him to arrive at a point where they say “let us do evil so that good may come”; and you get that understanding at the point where he says “as some affirm that we say, Their condemnation is just.
Baptism of water and Spirit.
Now to survey the necessary facts that will convince us of the necessity of baptism in Christendom; let us first of all start with what Jesus said to Nicodemus, when he asked what one must do in order to be saved.
Jesus answered, “most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.(John 3:5).
And referring to the Old Testament where God promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit; He first began by telling us He will cleanse us with water so we could be clean and fit to receive the Spirit. Ezekiel 36:25-27
Therefore, without anyone being purged with water at first; there is no way that person can be fit to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Can people receive the Holy Spirit without baptism?
Now some people confuse themselves with this scripture where the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit without being baptized.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
For they heard them speak in tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
For the understanding of the above scripture, we should carefully survey the whole of Acts 10; and therein will discover that Peter, as a Jew; had nothing to do with the Gentiles as was the case back then.
So when he had the vision of the basket with unclean animal and was told to go and meet Cornelius, a Gentile; and show him the way of truth; there is every tendency of Peter as human to doubt if it was really God that wanted the Gentiles to partake of the new religion.
And for God to prove that the vision came from Him; He had to let the Holy Spirit on the gentiles, even before Peter’s words were enough to convince them. (Note very well that Peter was still speaking when the Holy Spirit came on the Gentiles.).
Now in order to show the necessity of baptism, Peter had to order them to be baptized with water; even while they had already been baptized with Spirit.
(Note: please don’t confuse yourself with Acts 11:15 [“and as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning], and think that there has ever been a situation where people were baptized in with the Holy Spirit alone, and not with water because, Peter was relating the account of what happened at the above scripture to the church.).
Jesus commands the disciples to baptize before His ascension.
Finally, if you check all the orders that Jesus gave for the spreading of the gospel, you will find out that He never omitted baptism.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.Mathew 28:18-20
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. “He that believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; take up new serpents, and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”Mark 16:15-18
Then he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it is necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
“And you are witnesses of these things. “Behold I send the Promise of my Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”Luke 24:46-49
Another controversy surrounding baptism is that of infant baptism; where people claim that infants who have not yet sinned and make a decision to repent and follow God should not be baptized; probably because Peter said:
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.Acts 2:38-39
Now you must note that peter was speaking to the adults, who were already living in sin, when he made the above speech.
And if you still believe that infants should not be baptized because they have not yet sinned, how about Jesus who was never guilty of sin, but yet was baptized by John the Baptist?
It was after this baptism that He received the Holy Spirit which descended like a dove upon Him, and it pleased God so much that He had to speak from above “this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. (Mathew 3:13-17).
Now in practicing infant baptism, many people conclude that Christians are putting guilt on new born babies who have never had an opportunity to sin.
But they fail to understand that all human beings are born into the Adamic nature (the flesh) which is bound to sin once they start to have the knowledge of what is good and evil.
Therefore, they must be washed so they could grow in the influence of the Holy Spirit they will receive.
Also, baptism should be seen as a rite of passage, that is to say; it shows that someone has been initiated into Christendom, thus, parents have every right to decide for their infants to follow the same path they follow right from birth.
Thus, when we baptize infants, we do not baptize them because they were born with sin and are guilty of a crime they have not yet grown to know, but we baptize them because they are born into sin and wants the power of the Holy Spirit to take over their lives and help them to resist the evil that will soon present itself before them.
Now note what David said in Psalm 51:
Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
As you can see; he said in sin and not with sin; and the definition of words will help you to understand that there is a big difference between in and with:
IN is another word for ‘into’ which we can simply define as ‘part of’, while
WITH we may simply define as ‘in the company of’ or ‘alongside’.
And this is when we come to the point where we must ask ourselves: when Paul baptized the household of Stephanas (I Corinthians 1:16), that of Lydia (Acts 16:15), that of the jailer (Acts 16:33), and Peter also baptized the xhousehold of Cornelius (Acts 10:47-48), were infants not among that household?
For it is never possible for those household to have had only grown-ups as their members.
Is baptism a ceremonial law?
But to this end, we shouldn’t consider infant baptism a do or die affair.
That is to say, those who feel obliged to do it should not think that those who are not doing it are committing any sin.
Neither should those who are not doing it consider those who are doing it to err; because baptism could be likened to circumcision and the keeping of Sabbath which are but ceremonial laws.
And human beings do not need this to become perfect, all they need is nothing but a conscience that is free from all forms of sin as Peter concludes for us in the next scripture:
There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 3:21
And this means that once anyone is baptized, he or she must never go back to the old sinful lifestyle that has been washed away from the body.
While parents who decide to baptize their infants must ensure that they train them up in the fear of God until they are old and can never depart from it.