In the scriptures there are at least eight baptisms in the history of Israel and the church with eight very different purposes. There was the ordinary washing of animal sacrifices according to the Old Testament law (Heb. 9:10). There was the baptism in the cloud and sea into Moses (1 Cor. 10:1, 2) and ordinary washing of hands (Baptizo is translated washing in the English) (Luke 11:38). John the Baptist taught water baptism for the remission of sins. Jesus took part in a special baptism (Mark 10:38). The apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit after the cross (Matt. 3:11, Acts 1:5). There was a baptism in fire (Matt. 3:11), and the water baptism Jesus commanded after the cross (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38). The Pharisees added different doctrines of baptisms according to their traditions (Mark 7:4-8).
New Testament baptism is described as a “likeness” of Christ’s burial (Rom. 6:3-6). Notice in these verses how that baptism is involved with Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Those who are buried with Christ, must first be “crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6). After the old man is dead, then is he ready to be “buried with him by baptism” (Rom. 6:3,4). We are crucified and buried with him so “. . . that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Our “. . . old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed” (Rom. 6:6). Only after the old man has been crucified and buried, are we in a position to “put on the new man which is renewed in the image of” Christ (Col. 3:10). Thus baptism is the second step of the disciple uniting with Christ in the likeness of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
The scriptures further tell us what else baptism does. When we “have obeyed that form of doctrine” we are “then made free from sin” (Rom. 6:17,18). This is precisely what happened to the apostle Paul when he was told to “arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16). The Jews on Pentecost were also obedient to the Lord’s command to “be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The promise to all men is: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:15,16). He further describes baptism in relation to Noah, who obeyed God and was thus saved by water when it carried him and his boat, while all the others drowned. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:20, 21). This is the same obedience by which “we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13), “which is his church” (Eph. 1:22,23).
After the cross only one baptism is valid (Eph. 4:4-6). Not even John the Baptist’s baptism was valid after the cross (Acts 19:1-5). If, after the cross, the Lord rejected even the baptism which he commanded for John the Baptist, he will surely reject any baptism which man adds. Preaching another baptism is included in preaching another gospel and is cursed by God (Gal. 1:6-9). We must be very careful to receive and teach only the baptism of Christ. Why be cursed for following the wrong teaching? We must not add to it nor diminish anything from it.
We will return to our study concerning baptism after we see what our Lord teaches concerning the third command in the great commission.