Water Baptism Is NOT For Today

Water Baptism Was Ceremonial Old Covenant Ritual

Are we to believe that this water baptism ritual came out of nowhere? Because if it didn’t come from Jewish tradition and law, and there is good evidence that it did, then John the Baptist just created a new covenant tradition from scratch. And oddly nobody seemed confused by what was happening or wondering what was going on. The truth is that water baptism is from Jewish old covenant ceremonial law. It was customary to wash and cleans often. They had different washing rituals for different reasons. So when John came with water baptism for repentance, this was just another to add to the list. Even many of the other pagan religions utilized water baptism of some kind for various reasons. 

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. Col. 2:11-12 (We easily see the link between old covenant physical circumcision, and new covenant spiritual circumcision. True circumcision is cutting off sin from our lives through repentance. This concept is linked with baptism as well. Old covenant physical baptism is with water. New covenant saving baptism is spiritual through faith which comes from belief in Jesus through hearing his word and teachings. Col. 2 is not talking about water baptism, but saving baptism that is spiritual through faith. If we are buried with Christ in water baptism, then we would also be raised with him in water baptism. That is not what the verse says. It says we are raised with him through our faith. When we believe by hearing the gospel, we die in Christ. When we declare him as Lord by faith, we rise to new life in Christ as a new creation.)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, Eph. 5:25-26 (Baptism into Jesus is not with literal water, but with spiritual water of the word which is the gospel.)

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” John 3:22-26 (The argument was over baptism which is called “ceremonial washing.” Why is it called that? It’s because this is what the Jews did as part of the ceremonial mosaic law. Also a lot people say Jesus didn’t baptize, but this verse clearly says he did.)

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:19-27 (Why were priests and Levites questioning John? It is because they are the ones that are authorized to perform the ceremonial washings in the temple. But here is John doing this in the Jordan river. Interestingly, they do not ask him what he is doing. They knew very well what he was doing. They asked him why HE is doing it. Various “baptisms” or ceremonial washings were a common part of the temple ordinances. This was not some strange new thing that John was doing. They were questioning his authority to do it as they were threatened by him because they were the ones that typically did it.)

This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. Heb. 9:9-10 (These ceremonial washings or water baptisms were not able to forgive sins and they were not to continue in the new covenant. These things are all shadows of Christ used to teach and illustrate for us the spiritual reality that Christ fulfilled.)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Matt. 3:13-15 (Jesus was water baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness. The high priest was to be washed clean before entering the temple and performing the duties of the high priest. Jesus was baptized to fulfill the law as typology in becoming our eternal high priest.)

But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John. Luke 7:30 (John’s baptism was for repentance as the kingdom of God had come near in Jesus as king of the Kingdom. The Pharisees rejected this, which is why they refused to be baptized by John.)

Water Baptism Is A Work Of Law

Col. 2:11-12 is a key passage at the top of the page that links circumcision and baptism. Physical circumcision of the old covenant is the equivalent to water baptism. The spiritual circumcision of repentance is equivalent to the spiritual baptism into Jesus that brings people to saving faith. Now let’s look at Romans and Galatians to see how big an issue circumcision was. Old covenant Jews were pushing physical circumcision onto Gentiles. Paul says Christ died for nothing if physical circumcision remained after Christ’s death. We can apply these same conversations in Romans and Galatians to those today pushing water baptism. 

In Galatians 2, Paul rebukes Cephas because he was giving in to the pressures of Jews to require physical circumcision. Paul reminds him that righteousness has always been by faith, and not by the works of the law(circumcision). Even Abraham was justified by faith. It was his faith that was credited to him as righteousness. 

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Gal.5:2-6 (Paul is making it extra clear that we are not saved by old covenant ceremonial works of the law like circumcision. But water baptism is on the same playing field as physical circumcision.)

Romans 2-4 goes through a lot of the same things as Galatians. It’s too much scripture to copy and paste here. You really have to just bust out your Bible and start reading it. Paul is making it very clear, that we are saved by faith, and not by the works of the law. Circumcision is the main topic being discussed but it’s really bigger than just circumcision. It is all the works of the law and that includes water baptism and ceremonial washings. All these things are for our learning about Christ. And even in the old covenant days they were not saved by the works of the law. Even Abraham was saved by faith. It was the Jewish leaders like the Pharisees that were trying to maintain power with their religion of works. It was a perversion of the old covenant Jewish religion. They missed the point in every way regarding the meaning of the old covenant shadows that pointed to Christ. 

Foot Washing

He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “Never shall You wash my feet!” Peter told Him. Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus told him, “Whoever has already bathed needs only to wash his feet, and he will be completely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him. That is why He said, “Not all of you are clean.” When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His outer garments, He reclined with them again and asked, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you. Truly, truly, I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:6-17