Subtitle: The Outward Declaration of an Inner Transformation

The first thing we should do is define the word "baptize". It is a transliteration of the Greek word "baptizo", meaning to dip, or immerse in water. Supposedly the translators of the King James Version of the Bible were perplexed as to how they should render this term in English. Since the king was the head of the Anglican Church, which practiced sprinkling as the baptismal rite, to literally translate the word into English would have necessitated the connotation of immersion. That, as the story goes, could have embarrassed the king and one does not embarrass the king! Whether this is completely factual or not, I do not know, but why else would they transliterate rather than give an English word equivalent?

But, be that as it may, to baptize is to immerse in water and was practiced in various forms by the Jews prior to the time of Christ. When John the Baptist came on the scene, he preached the message, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" He then urged those who did repent to submit to baptism and thereby utilized it as a public ritual of identification. It was during the ministry of John that Jesus Christ came to him and requested baptism. John’s initial reaction was that of shock! Why would the Messiah require baptism—let alone at the hands of one of His servants? "But Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now, for this is the fitting way for [both of us] to fulfill all righteousness—that is, to perform completely whatever is right" (Matthew 3:15, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).

The specific reasons why the sinless, Son of God felt it necessary to be baptized are not given to us in Scripture. And for many years commentators have wrestled with this question, but have only offered us their various theories. The best explanation seems to be that the Lord did this as a "work of righteousness" at the start of His earthly ministry, to identify Himself with that ministry. He was presenting Himself to Israel as their long-awaited Messiah—the One of whom John the Baptist had been speaking and encouraging people to repent of their sins as a prerequisite to His coming. When the church came into being on the Day of Pentecost, baptism was then used to publicly identify the saved individual with Christ. It also served as the rite of admission to the church. From the preaching of the apostle Peter in Acts, chapter two, it is apparent that the need for baptism was immediately impressed upon those who were saved. Because of this immediate utilization of baptism, it would appear that, at some earlier time, the Lord had taught the apostles that it was to be done.

Like other subjects found in the Bible, baptism has been a source of controversy and division among believers. In Acts 2:37-38, we read the following:

"Now when they heard this they were stung (cut) to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles (special messengers), Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter answered them, Repent—change your views, and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it—and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).

Here we are shown the result of the gospel being preached at Pentecost. Many of those who heard the message were convicted and stung by the power of the Holy Spirit. They knew that they were guilty and immediately sought answers as to what they should do about it. In response to their questions, they were told to repent and be baptized. The immediacy of the baptism command and the wording of verse 38 was largely responsible for the doctrine of "baptismal regeneration" being adopted and taught by the Roman Catholic Church. This doctrine insists that baptism is a necessary and integral part of salvation. Their interpretation of the wording of verse 38, where it says ‘…and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins…", is that baptism actually secures forgiveness of and release from sins. Therefore baptism is to be administered as soon as possible after one professes faith in Christ—because if death occurs prior to baptism, they will still be in their sins. While this interpretation is certainly possible due to the sentence construction, it does not conform to the demands of systematic theology in that other Scripture proves it to be invalid. And as is usually the case, another interpretation of this particular verse is possible (and preferred). For example, if I say, "The man was arrested for arson". Was he arrested in order to receive arson? Why, of course not! He was arrested because of the crime of arson. This simple illustration serves to show that the word "for" in Acts 2:38 does not necessarily mean "in order to receive". It can also mean "because of"—and in this case, most assuredly does. We are commanded to submit to baptism as an act of identification with Christ because we have received forgiveness of and release from our sins. Also the Greek preposition "eis", rendered "for" in verse 38 is an indefinite preposition of reference and is open to more than one interpretation. If the Holy Spirit had intended that the meaning be "in order to receive", the Greek word "hina" would possibly have been more appropriate.

We need only turn to Acts chapter 10 to prove beyond doubt that baptism is definitely subsequent to, and not necessary for, salvation. The scene before us is that of Peter preaching to the household of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius. In verses 44-48 we read:

"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to the message. And the believers from among the circumcised [the Jews] who came with Peter were surprised and amazed, because the free gift of the Holy Spirit had been bestowed and poured out largely even on the Gentiles. For they heard them talking in [unknown] languages and extolling and magnifying God. Then Peter asked, Can any one forbid or refuse water for baptizing these people, seeing that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).

While Peter was still preaching, the Holy Spirit descended upon those who believed and the evidence of their conversion was "the gift of tongues" (speaking foreign languages they had never learned) and praising and magnifying God. Notice the word "then", which denotes subsequent action. Then Peter asked if there was any objection to baptizing these people who had already received the Holy Spirit, in exactly the same manner as they had received Him. Salvation and reception of the Holy Spirit are virtually synonymous and any attempt to explain away the significance of this event by separating them would be unthinkable. It should then be clear to all that baptism is an act of righteousness by a saved sinner seeking to be obedient to the Lord and has absolutely nothing to do with salvation itself. Furthermore, if there were any requirements or "acts" necessary to complete salvation, they would have to be classified as works on the part of the individual—and the Bible condemns human works (as a means to salvation) from cover to cover! Titus 3:5 speaks to this by saying:

"He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing (bath) of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary)

Another very interesting passage of Scripture is found in Galatians 3:8:

"And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify—declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself—the Gentiles in consequence of faith, proclaimed the Gospel [foretelling the glad tidings of a Savior long beforehand] to Abraham in the promise, saying, In you shall all the nations [of the earth] be blessed" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).

The gospel (good news) message was, in effect, preached through the Scriptures to Abraham before Israel was ever called as a nation. "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3, KJV). The gospel message brought salvation to Abraham (and all of the Old Testament elect) and there was certainly no water baptism then. Their "baptism" was the symbol of circumcision—a "one time only" physical sign of separation unto God. Water baptism, during the "church age", is a "one time only" spiritual sign of separation unto God. Circumcision did not play a part in the salvation of the Old Testament saints and baptism plays no part in our salvation.

The main thing that we need to understand about baptism is that it serves to publicly identify us with Christ. Unfortunately, much of the profound meaning of this identification ritual is lost on us today because we live (for the time being at least) in a tolerant society—one that pays little attention to such details. However, in Biblical times, this response to the gospel message and belief in Christ was in many respects a traumatic experience! To follow Christ in the waters of baptism was to publicly announce your faith in Him and among the orthodox Jewish community this meant instant ostracism and complete loss of family ties! All who dared to profess Christ as Messiah and Savior, were declared to be dead and completely disinherited. Family members were forbidden any contact with the individual and this often meant a poverty-stricken existence for the Christian. Knowing that these things were certain to happen, baptism was a very serious step to take. It is actually to be regretted that it does not have the same significance for our culture today. If it did, I would be pretty safe in saying that we would have far fewer "Sunshine Christians"!

Are you a saved individual? Do you know beyond doubt that you have "passed from death unto life"—been re-born spiritually and a child of God? If you can give an unqualified "yes" to these questions, let me ask you another. Have you been Scripturally baptized? After being saved, have you followed the Lord in believer’s baptism by being immersed in water, publicly, in the presence of witnesses to identify with Him? Many denominations practice sprinkling as a form of baptism, but sprinkling does a poor job of picturing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Total immersion in water—as a picture of His death and burial, and coming up out of the water—as a picture of His resurrection, we believe and teach, is the correct Scriptural method.

If by chance you are saved and have never done this, we urge you to do so in obedience to your Savior. He has commanded that we do it, and to fail to do so is sinful and casts shame and reproach upon Christ. He willingly shed His precious blood out in the open for us, why would we be reluctant to identify publicly with Him?

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.


If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.

  If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.

We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order -- Kingdom of Antichrist -- in their daily news.

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Cutting Edge Ministries, C/O Pastor Ron Riffe
P.O. Box 26

Gordo, AL 35466

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God bless you.