Water Baptism

The most important issue in baptism is obedience to Christ by His commission in Mat. 28:19-20. Baptism is a visual, public testimony of one’s salvation. Believer’s baptism is the practice taught in the New Testament. As Adrian Rogers put it, “If you are baptized before you were saved, it is like having your funeral before you died.”

The Greek word, baptisma, has always meant immersion, submersion, being dipped in water. It is an issue according to the Italian proverb that “translators are traitors,” in that translators have not used the words “immerse” or “immersion” to translate this word with its various cognates but have chosen to use a transliteration and allow the English reader to decide its meaning rather than having or allowing its original contextual usage to decide it meaning. In other words, the English reader can wrongfully decide to denote this word, as sprinkling or pouring or laving without complete submersion. Over the centuries translators have tried to find an English word whose semantic range fit the same as the original language word, or at least to have the contextual meaning of an original language word fit within the English word.

Examples of translations that have chosen this over the word, baptism, are:

New Testament, London, by Nathaniel Scarlett, 1798.

The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. the Common English Version, the American Bible Union, New York. Second Revision, 1865; B.C. Goodpasture, Nashville, Tenn., 1955.

The New Testament: American Bible Union Version, 1866 and revised in 1885.

The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testament; Translated Literally from the Original Tonguesby Julia Smith, 1876.

The New Testament, revised by A.S. Worrell, Baptist publication, 1904.

The Christian’s Bible…New Testament, by George LeFevre, 1928.

The Original New Testament: A Radical Translation and Reinterpretationby Hugh J. Schonfield. 1985.

Complete Jewish Bible, translated by David Stern, 1998, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, Maryland.

A believer’s immersion or baptism of the Holy Spirit and immersion or baptism by water are inextricably connected but not identical. On one extreme, “baptismal regeneration” makes both the baptism in the Spirit and in water identical. On the other extreme, if these two baptisms are separated and left separated, one of these two baptisms can in reality happen without the other happening. This would mean, either one can become saved but never baptized in water, or one can be baptized in water but never truly saved. The first idea may be taught by a church that may have people join their local church with an interesting in and confession of salvation but without being baptized by water. The second idea may be taught by a church where one would end up being a “lost church members,” that is, such a one has never been saved, even though he or she has been “baptized.” There are even some churches that teach the first idea. Many churches have ignored the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit and genuine salvation and have only focused upon being baptize.

Rom. 6:4-6 and 1 Cor. 12:13 both explain the baptism of the Holy Spirit at regeneration that parallels and connects to water baptism taught in Mat. 28:19-20 and 1 Peter 3:21. This latter passages teaches that baptism saves us not by the removal of the filthy sins of our sinful fleshly nature but as a response by a good and cleansed conscience toward God.