This is a scriptural commentary submitted by a volunteer or a volunteer translator. It’s not an official view of the 2001 Translation project. We are not a religion and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other. Anyone can submit a commentary (see requirements).
- Ancient Types
- What John’s Baptism Symbolized
- Baptism in Jesus
- Who Were Baptized
- When They were Baptized
- Why They Were Baptized
- Admission of Guilt
- Infant Baptism
- Sprinkling or Total Immersion?
- Baptism Into the Kingdom
- Baptism for the Dead?
- Baptism into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Though there is no mention of people being ‘baptized’ prior to the coming of John the Baptist, it appears as though the act was indicated in type by the Israelites coming through the Red Sea.
For Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2:
‘All of our ancestors were under the cloud and they all passed through the sea, so they were all baptized into Moses (because of the cloud and the sea).’
We also find baptism implied at Ezekiel 36:25-27, where we read:
‘I will pour clean water upon you,
And from your filth, you'll be cleansed.
I'll also cleanse you of idols,
And then I will give you new hearts.
Indeed, I will give you new spirits,
And remove your hearts made of stone,
Then change them to hearts made of flesh.
Within you, I will put My Spirit,
Which will cause you to follow My rules.
Then you will obey My decisions…
Yes, you will observe every one!’
So we can see that; though no one did the work of baptizing before John arrived, God’s people had been baptized, and that John’s work had been foretold in prophecy.
What John’s Baptism Symbolized
* At Matthew 3:11, it is recorded that John the Baptist said:
‘Indeed, I baptize you in water [to show your] repentance.’
* At Luke 3:3, we read:
‘So he (John the Baptist) went through all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.’
* Mark 1:4, 5 says:
‘This is why John came doing baptizing in the desert and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And throughout Judea and JeruSalem, people went there to be baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they openly confessed their sins.’
* Acts 18:24, 25, tells us:
‘Now, a Jew named Apollos (a native of Alexandria), an excellent speaker who knew the scriptures well, arrived at Ephesus. He had been taught the ways of the Lord and was aglow with the Breath [of God].
What he said and taught about Jesus was correct, but he only knew about the baptism of John.
As you can see; the work of baptizing that John did served the purpose of pointing out the errors in people’s lives, and being baptized indicated their desire to turn away from a life of sin.
So the reason why John did this work was to prepare the people of IsraEl for the coming of their promised Messiah.
Yet, apparently even that act wasn’t enough to bring salvation. For something more was required.
Baptism in Jesus
Then notice that at Acts 19:1-7 we read:
‘When [Paul] got to Ephesus, he found some disciples and he asked them:
Did you receive the Holy Breath [of God] when you became believers?
And they replied:
Why, we've never even heard whether there is Holy Breath.
So he asked:
Then, what were you baptized in?
And they said:
In John’s baptism.
So Paul told them:
When John baptized, it was a baptism of repentance. However, he told the people to believe in the one coming after him… that is, in Jesus.
Well when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Breath [of God] came over them. Then they started speaking in different languages and prophesying.’
So it appears as though baptism to symbolize their repentance wasn’t enough, for they also needed to start believing in Jesus and to be baptized into him.
And from this we can see the purposes of baptism were:
1. To show that people have turned their lives around and have left a sinful course of life
2. That they wish to be ‘in’ Jesus and to receive God’s Holy Breath.
Who Were Baptized
Then notice from the Scriptures who were baptized and what was required before they could be baptized back then:
* Acts 2:41: ‘Then those that welcomed his words were baptized, and about three thousand people were added that day.’
* Acts 8:12: ‘And many men and women were baptized.’
* Acts 16: 15: ‘And as she and her household were being baptized, she begged…’
* Acts 16:32: ‘Then he and his entire family were baptized right away.’
So it appears as though the only requirements for being baptized back then was that they were to welcome the words of Jesus and that they had a sincere desire to become his disciples.
Then all that chose to do this were baptized without any delay.
When They were Baptized
Notice that there were no courses that people had to take or questions that they had to answer before they could be baptized. They just had to know that this is what they really wanted to do.
* Acts 8:36-38: ‘And the eunuch said,
Look! Here’s some water. What’s to prevent me from getting baptized?
So he commanded the chariot [driver] to stop. Then Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, and he baptized him.’
* Acts 10:45-47: ‘At this, all the faithful ones that were there with Peter (since they were all circumcised) were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Breath was also being poured out on people of the nations.
[They recognized that this was true], because they heard them speaking in different languages, glorifying God.
Then Peter asked,
Can anyone forbid water to baptize these that have received the Holy Breath, the same as we have?’
* Acts 18:8: ‘And many of the Corinthians that heard also started believing and got baptized.’
Why They Were Baptized
* Acts 2:38: ‘Then Peter told them: Repent, and each of you get baptized in the name of Jesus the Anointed One so your sins can be forgiven, and then you will receive the gift of the Holy Breath.’
* Acts 22:16: ‘So now, why are you wasting time? Get up, get baptized, and wash your sins away by calling on his name.’
* Romans 6:3-5: ‘Don’t you realize that all that were baptized into the Anointed Jesus were also baptized into his death? So we were buried along with him by our baptism into his death.
And just as the Anointed One was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father; we will likewise follow [him into] a new way of life.
Now, if we've been buried with him in the same type of death, then we will also be resurrected.’
* 1 Corinthians 12:13: ‘Through the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether we are Jews or Greeks, slaves or free; and we were all made to drink from the one Spirit.’
* Galatians 3:27-29: ‘All that were baptized into the Anointed One have put on the Anointed One.
So there aren’t any Jews or Greeks, slaves or freemen, males or females, because you're all one in the Anointed Jesus.
And if you are [part] of the Anointed One, you are really the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise.’
* Colossians 2:12: ‘You were all buried with him when [you were] baptized, and you were all raised together by faith in what God (who raised him from the dead) has done in you.’
* 1 Peter 3:21: ‘And this is the same type of thing that’s currently saving you… baptism!
Its purpose isn’t to get rid of the filth of the flesh, but to ask God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed One.’
* John 3:5: ‘And Jesus replied:
I tell you the truth; Unless someone is born from water and Spirit, he can’t enter the Kingdom of God.’
John’s baptism symbolized repentance over past sins. It was a way of calling people’s sins to their attention and telling them to repent, so as to prepare their hearts for the coming of Jesus.
Everyone was baptized that recognized the truth of the words of Jesus and his Apostles.
They were baptized when they started believing and when God’s Breath was being manifested in their lives.
They were baptized for these reasons:
1. To show that they had repented, and for their past sins to be forgiven (Acts 2:38, 22:16, Romans 6:3-5)
2. To show that they had agreed to follow a new way of life (Romans 6:3-5)
3. To ask God for a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21).
4. To receive the gift of the Holy Breath (Acts 2:38, 8:14-17)
5. In acceptance of the fact that they may also have to share in Jesus’ death (Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12)
6. To enter God’s Kingdom (Romans 6:3-5, John 3:5)
7. To become part of Jesus’ body (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-29).
Apparently, being baptized indicates a wish to be ‘born again’ by God’s Holy Breath or Spirit, and to be called by God to a spiritual life. And ‘entering God’s Kingdom’ seems to indicate a request for some position of rulership in that Kingdom.
So being baptized in water appears to indicate a response to God’s ‘calling,’ and the expression of a willingness to make the needed changes in our lives and even to die, in order to qualify as one that has been ‘chosen’ by God.
Notice that there are no scriptures teaching that baptism is done to symbolize simple ‘dedication’ of one’s life to serving God. In fact, the Greek word dedication isn’t found anywhere in the Bible when speaking of baptism.
The concept of dedication may be found in the Greek word paratitherthoran (put aside for yourselves), which is translated herein as dedicate at 1 Peter 4:19. But notice how the term is applied there:
‘So, let those who (by God’s will) are suffering dedicate themselves to the faithful Creator by doing whatever is good.’
As you can see, this scripture isn’t talking about baptism, since Peter was addressing Christians that were already baptized.
His point was that those to whom he was writing needed to change their way of life (after baptism, not before) and show their dedication to God by doing good things.
So the implication of all the above is that baptism symbolizes that a person has repented (turned away from a past life) and has been forgiven by God. Or as Peter said (at 1 Peter 3:21); he or she has asked God for a ‘good conscience.’
And the person is also asking God for a measure of His Holy Breath.
Admission of Guilt
As you can see from the words of Acts 2:38, 22:16, and Romans 6:3-5; part of the reason for getting baptized is to admit that we are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness.
So, baptism is a visible act of our recognition that we are sorry for our past ways, and that we want God to cover over any wrongs that we’ve committed in our past way of life, which we are agreeing to leave behind.
That baptism is in fact done for this purpose, is reaffirmed by Jesus’ parting words, as found at Luke 24:47, where he said:
‘Then in (my) name, [the message of] repentance for forgiveness of sins is to be preached in all the nations, starting from JeruSalem.’
What Paul wrote at Romans 6:5 (‘If we’ve been buried with him in the same type of death, then we will also be resurrected') has long been misinterpreted as meaning that no one will be resurrected unless he/she is baptized first, and this misunderstanding has led people to baptize (actually just sprinkle) newborn infants, in the irrational belief that this act will result in their resurrection should they die prematurely.
But was Paul actually saying that baptism is required for one to be resurrected?
No, for he had earlier said (as recorded at Acts 24:15):
‘And I have this hope in God, which they (the Pharisees) also share, that there’s going to be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous.’
Therefore, we must conclude that many will be resurrected (including ALL that are righteous) that were never baptized.
So then, what did Paul actually mean by what he wrote at Romans 6:5?
As with most misinterpretations of scriptures, the problem is caused by taking words out of context.
Notice the point that Paul was trying to make to those Roman Christians in the previous verses (Romans 6:2-4):
‘Since we've died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Don’t you realize that all that were baptized into the Anointed Jesus were also baptized into his death?
So we were buried together into him by our baptism into death. And just as the Anointed One was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, we should be walking in a new way of life.’
As you can see from the context; Paul was discussing much more than the need to baptize babies so they can be resurrected. He was really telling adult Christians to leave their sinful ways behind, because by their baptism into the death of Jesus, they should have become dead to their past (sinful) way of life, and they should thus ‘be walking in a new way of life!’
So he wasn’t saying that baptism would ensure a resurrection; he was saying that being righteous was the requirement!
Of course, babies, infants, and children cannot be determined to be either righteous or unrighteous, since inexperience and living under the direction of their parents results in their not being able to establish a life’s course of righteousness or unrighteousness… and they certainly have ‘no old way of life’ to leave behind.
However, as Paul pointed out at Acts 24:15:
All (except the willfully wicked) are ensured a resurrection.
Yet, notice that minor children and even unbelieving mates are considered ‘holy’ by God when a parent becomes a faithful believer.
For Paul wrote (at 1 Corinthians 7:14):
‘Because the wife makes [her] unbelieving husband holy, and the brother makes [his] unbelieving wife holy… otherwise, their children would be unclean; but now they are holy.’
So, the children of faithful Christians are considered holy before God without the need for baptism.
Sprinkling or Total Immersion?
‘Baptize’ is a Greek word that means ‘to dip.’ And we can clearly see the difference dipping and sprinkling in the scripture found at Mark 7:3, 4, which says:
‘None of the Pharisees or any of the Judeans eat unless they vigorously wash their hands (gr. nipsontai tas keiras), because they follow the traditions of the elders.
Nor do they eat anything they bring from the market unless they rinse (gr. rantisitontai) it first.
And they observe many other traditions that have been passed down, such as washing (gr. baptismous – ‘dipping') cups, pitchers, and copper pots in water.’
So as you can see, the Greek words indicate not just a sprinkling, but rather an immersing and washing by being totally covered with water, since it is a symbol of dying to an old course of life.
Baptism Into the Kingdom
Notice that Jesus said (as recorded at John 3:5):
‘Unless someone is born from water and [God's] Breath, he can’t enter the Kingdom of God.’
Doesn’t this mean that one must be baptized and receive God’s Breath or Spirit in order to be resurrected and enter ‘the Kingdom of God?’
Well, remember that Paul said that there would be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. So, entering the Kingdom of God must mean something more that just being resurrected.
Recognize that Jesus was also emphasizing the need for people to live righteous lives in order for them to enter the Kingdom of God. And he spoke of this, as recorded at Matthew 25:34, where he said that the sheep will be told:
‘Come, you that have been praised by my Father; Inherit the Kingdom that’s been prepared for you since the founding of the arrangement.’
As you can see from this text, entering the Kingdom seems to equate to inheriting the Kingdom… that is, it seems as though they are offered an elevated position in God’s Kingdom.
(For more information, see the linked document ‘God’s Promise of an Inheritance.’)
Baptism for the Dead?
One scripture that many Bibles render in an illogical way is 1 Corinthians 15:29. It says in Greek:
‘Epei ti poiesousin oi baptizomenoi hyper ton nekron ei holos nekroi ouk egeirontai ti kai baptizontai hyper auton?’
This literally translates as,
‘Since what will do those being baptized on the dead, if all the dead not are raised, why also are baptized on them?’
From the wording of the above scripture, one religious group has concluded that they must also be baptized on behalf of each of their dead ancestors (and others), so that these might also be resurrected.
Yet this concept contradicts the other scriptures and makes absolutely no sense. For, what purpose does the resurrection into God’s Kingdom serve if it can be given to any person (whether righteous or unrighteous) as a gift from someone else?
Isn’t resurrection the reward that is promised for one’s developing a special and personal relationship with God?
Notice how another Bible (NW) renders this verse:
‘Otherwise, what will they do that are being baptized for the purpose of [being] dead ones?
If the dead are not to be raised up at all, why are they also being baptized for the purpose of [being] dead ones?'
Although this wording, which makes the point that baptism is for the purpose ‘of being dead ones’ is quite convoluted, its meaning may be supported by the text. For the Greek word hyper (which means on) can also be translated as, for the purpose of, or, for the same reasons.
And the Greek word auton, although commonly translated into English as meaning them, can also mean he, she, it, they, them, and same.
So our research has led us to believe that these alternate definitions might be the better rendering in this case. For notice what Paul also wrote at Colossians 2:12:
‘You were all buried with him when [you were] baptized.’
Therefore, it seems as though baptism symbolizes a person’s willingness to share in the suffering and death of Jesus.
So we have concluded that the verse at 1 Corinthians 15:29, 30 should likely read:
‘Also, if none of the dead will be raised, what good would it do for us to be baptized into [Jesus’] death?
Yes, why [are we] being baptized for that purpose… and why are we in danger every hour?’
Many religions require that once a person ‘learns the truth’ as they are currently teaching it, the person must then be re-baptized even if they had been baptized before. So baptism in this case really just amounts to an acceptance of their beliefs.
As the result, some that have been baptized more than once often say that they were baptized into this or that church or religion (not, ‘into Jesus’).
However, what does baptism have to do with a particular dogma, creed, or joining a religion? Isn’t baptism into a religion putting a religious doctrine and group identity ahead of a relationship with Jesus and accepting the life-giving power of his death?
Yet some might ask,
‘Shouldn’t we have a full knowledge of truth before we are baptized?’
That doesn’t seem to have been a requirement for early Christians. And if it was a requirement, then we would all have to be re-baptized each time we come to a better understanding of Bible teachings.
Notice from the scriptural accounts quoted above that baptism was performed at the beginning of one’s accepting the hope and upon their agreeing to make a change in their lives.
Cornelius and his household, the Ethiopian Eunuch, and all the others were baptized within hours of accepting the good news… so they surely didn’t know the whole truth of the Bible yet. Rather, they were baptized when they started having faith in Jesus and in his promises.
Yet today, some religions require that a person pass a test on church doctrines before they can be baptized.
Do you think that such a thing was required of First-Century Christians? Surely not, for the Apostles and disciples baptized them on the spot!
It has been argued, however, that those who were baptized so quickly back then didn’t have much to learn, since they were already familiar with the Bible’s teachings.
But if that was true, then what of Cornelius who wasn’t a Jew but a gentile army officer… and what of the gentile jailer and his family that Paul preached to?
Also, did being an ancient Jew really give a person a better knowledge of God’s purposes and requirements than it does for people that already believe in Jesus today?
Obviously, the religions that require passing a test to be baptized aren’t following the example set by First-Century Christians.
In fact, it is clear that such requirements are not for being baptized into Jesus, but for the purpose of joining a particular sectarian religion!
Notice that the Bible says people were to be baptized so their sins could be forgiven, to gain a good conscience, and to show that they wished to follow a new way of life.
So if a person has already been baptized for those reasons; is there any just cause or need for rebaptism?
If such an agreement has already been seriously and sincerely made with God, then what does changing one’s thoughts about what the Bible says on some teachings have to do with it?
For we should always be constantly learning and changing our minds about what we believe based on a continuing personal study of the Bible.
So if you have already made an agreement to serve God and to make the needed changes in your life; we would question why any action would be required other than fulfilling the vow that you've already made.
To give an example:
We recently heard a story of an woman who was told that she couldn’t join a particular religion and ‘be saved,’ unless she was baptized first.
And because she lived an incredibly long way from the nearest members of that group, she asked an itinerant preacher to baptize her (back in 1923). Then later (in her early 90s), after her mind had been disabled by a mental disease common to old age, she was told that her baptism had never been valid and that she never had a relationship with God, because the person that baptized her wasn’t approved by their religion.
And as the result, she was told that she had to be re-baptized by a member of this same religion that she had been a member of through all those years…
Think about that. Were they right?
Baptism into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Notice that the words found at Matthew 28:19 in other Bibles, ‘in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,’ are not found in the ancient Shem Tov (Hebrew) manuscript of Matthew, so these words appear to be spurious (something that was added to the Bible).
It’s good to look at how differently the Disciple Luke described these same parting words of Jesus at Luke 24:47:
‘Then in his (Jesus’) name, [the message of] repentance for forgiveness of sins is to be preached in all the nations, starting from JeruSalem.’
And Luke wrote again of Jesus’ last words on earth at Acts 1:8, adding:
‘However, you will receive power when the Holy Breath comes over you, and you’ll be witnesses of me in JeruSalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.’
So as you can see; the Trinitarian formula isn’t found in either of these scriptures, which they surely would have been if this was the true and only formula for baptism.
For why would Luke have missed such a critical detail if it was in fact said by Jesus and these were the sacred words to be pronounced when performing baptisms?
However, most Christian religions still use these particular words as part of their baptismal.
So did Jesus really command that we should be baptized in those names?
Well, it has been called the Trinity Formula, for if they were truly spoken by Jesus, it would be the only mention of the three-person ‘Godhead’ that hasn’t already been proven spurious.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any complete manuscripts of Matthew prior to the 4th Century, and all existing manuscripts written thereafter contain this phrase.
However, there is very strong evidence that this is a 4th Century corruption of the original text; for in his earliest writings, the ancient Church ‘bishop’ EuSebius quoted this verse as saying something quite different.
Eighteen times between the years 300 and 336-CE, he cited Matthew 28:19, 20 as saying:
‘Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you.’
So notice that there was no mention of being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the earliest citations, and in fact, there was no mention of baptism at all!
Then, how did this change enter the Bible text?
Well, it’s interesting that the traditional Trinitarian reading of Matthew 28:19 only appears in EuSebius’ writings after the Council of Nicaea, where the Trinity began to be held as official Church doctrine.
So evidence strongly indicates that these words were inserted later by him or by others, in the same way and for the same reason that 1 John 5:7-8 was changed in about the Tenth Century to provide a Trinitarian slant.
Just who was EuSebius?
He is one of the most important instigators of change in the early ‘Christian’ religion, since he was the person that had the ear of and that supported the pagan Roman Emperor, Constantine.
Yes, he was a powerful force in helping Constantine to see the political advantages of bringing an end to persecution of Christians and in establishing Christianity as the official state religion… which was accomplished by literally fusing Christianity into the existing pagan religions of Rome.
He was also involved in creating ‘the Council of Nicaea,’ in which the Trinity was established as official Church doctrine.
So it is ironic that we only have EuSebius’ earlier quotations of Matthew 28:18 to prove the current popular rendering spurious.
However, this finding may cut both ways for some, because while it breaks apart the only mention of the Trinity trio, it does seem to prove what some Trinitarians have said all along… that baptisms should only be done in the name of Jesus.
So, since there may be no actual mention of baptism into the Father and Holy Breath (Spirit), the only other instructions in the Bible on how to baptize people say:
· Acts 2:38: ‘Repent, and each of you get baptized in the name of Jesus the Anointed One, so your sins can be forgiven. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Breath.’
· Acts 8:15, 16: ‘They went [to the Samaritans] and prayed for them to receive the Holy Breath, because it hadn’t come to any of them yet, although they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’
· Acts 10:48: ‘So he commanded that they should be baptized in the name of Jesus the Anointed One.’
· Acts 19:5: ‘When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’
· Romans 6:3: ‘Don’t you realize that all that were baptized into the Anointed Jesus were also baptized into his death?’
· Galatians 3:27: ‘All that were baptized into the Anointed One have put on the Anointed One.’