Baptism Isn’t Always With Water

Baptism means to be immersed into, overwhelmed by, or fully identified with. And this does not necessarily mean in water so we must pay attention to context. It means that we were formerly identified in one way or person, but now we are fully identified in another. The old dies and the new comes. So it is really important when we encounter the word “baptism” that try to understand what kind of baptism is being referenced. If we impose or suppose a water baptism into the text we will come up with the wrong idea. Let’s look at some different types of baptism in scripture.

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. Acts 18:24-26 (Apollos only knew of John’s baptism, which was a water baptism of repentance. There were other water baptisms, or ceremonial washings in the law. There are other types of immersions as well spoken of in scripture. Priscilla and Aquila explained “more adequately” the way of God. This is in reference to baptism. So they increased his understanding from only knowing water baptism, to knowing the true spiritual baptism into Jesus.)

They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Cor. 10:2-4 (They were baptized into Moses. They were followers of Moses as they followed him through the desert in the cloud and through the Red Sea. So we see here the word baptized used to follow a person, not as a reference to immersion in water.)

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, Mark 10:37-39 (Again the context of this baptism is not water baptism. This is talking about a baptism of suffering. Jesus is referencing his future death as a baptism. Baptism simply means to immerse. You can be immersed into more than just water.)

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Luke 12:49-50 (This is not water baptism. Jesus is referencing his future death. Jesus’s death on the cross was described as a baptism. It was a baptism of suffering.)

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 1 Cor. 15:29 (This is not some false 1st century ritual that was done where people baptized in water for dead people. If you read the context of the whole chapter this is talking about a baptism of suffering. The same kind of baptism Jesus suffered on the cross. So if there is no resurrection, for what reason do we suffer a baptism of suffering as Christians?)

My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. 1 Cor. 1:11-17 (To be baptized in the name of Paul means to follow Paul or to be fully identified with Paul. The Corinthians were saying they followed different individuals, or they were identified with them or baptized in the name of that person. Paul is rebuking them saying that that it is Jesus who they follow. It is Jesus who they are identified with. It is Jesus who they are baptized into. Then we see the conversation change to water baptism as Paul is stating the very few people he has water baptized. Water baptism was not a concern for Paul. Paul’s concern was the true spiritual baptism into Jesus by the preaching of the gospel.)