Baptism
Symbolic of or Necessary for Salvation?
By Dr. Ken Matto
 
(Acts 2:38 KJV) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
 
Recently I received another e-mail condemning me to hell because I do not embrace the belief that water baptism is necessary for salvation. The main reason as to why many Christians grasp the belief that water baptism is necessary for salvation is because they lack discernment when looking at the baptism verses in Scripture. The following are a summation of verses which deal with baptism:
 
63 verses contain the word “baptizô ” (baptizw) which may be translated dip, immerse, submerge, or baptize.
22 verses contain the word “baptisma” (baptisma) which may be translated baptism, rite or ceremony of baptism.
4 verses contain the word “baptismos” (baptismós) which may be translated washing or cleansing.
 
We will return to the verses and their locations a little later in the study. The main word which we are going to focus on is the word “baptizô ” because it deals with immersion. The two definitions from the 1828 Webster Dictionary are as follows:
 
1. To put under water or other fluid; to plunge; to dip.
2. To sink or cover deep; to cover wholly; as, to be immersed in a wood.
 
The 2003 Merriam-Webster Definition basically carries the same definitions”:
1 : to plunge into something that surrounds or covers; especially : to plunge or dip into a fluid
2 : Engross, Absorb
 
So we can safely conclude that the word “immerse” always means something which is placed into something thus covering it or absorbing it fully. This is very important because it brings to light the definitions we are going to look at.  In the beginning I wrote about many lacking discernment when looking at verses which contain the words baptism, baptize, or baptized. Instantly what comes to mind when looking at these words is water baptism and that is because as Christians we are all familiar with it. Now this article is not on the endless subject of which is the best way to baptize, immersion, sprinkling, or pouring. It is on the subject of whether the verse in view is speaking about water baptism or spiritual baptism. In the Scriptures there are four types of baptism mentioned:
 
1) (1 Cor 10:2 KJV) And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
Paul states that the nation of Israel was baptized unto Moses. This baptism that he was speaking of was the uniting of the nation of Israel with Moses. The nation of Israel had been led by Moses and the covenant of law was given through Moses. This means that Israel was following Moses, who was under God’s direction, in not only the physical aspects of those directions, but were also under the spiritual aspects. This direction was in effect even when they came out of Egypt. There was a common responsibility that Israel had and that was obedience to God. At the time of the cloud and Red Sea crossing, it was the beginning of their dealings with God and the covenant of Sinai.
 
2) (Gal 3:27 KJV) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
(Rom 6:3-4 KJV) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? {4} Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: 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. The true believer was baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means we died with Him to the world and when we received our new resurrected souls, we were now alive unto God and live in newness of life which is the Christian life. This has nothing whatsoever to do with water baptism. Water baptism does not have the effect of placing a sinner into Christ and making them a new creation. Water baptism is only a symbol in that we died with Christ and when we come out of the water it symbolizes the resurrection unto new life. A person can only put on Christ when they have become truly saved. The symbol here is that we put on the robes of Christ’s righteousness which is covering us with salvation. (Isa 61:3 KJV) To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. In Isaiah 61:3 it is called the “garment of praise.”
 
3) (Acts 8:36 KJV) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Philip had joined himself to the chariot of the Ethiopian Eunuch and he had helped the dignitary understand the scroll that Isaiah 53 was speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Eunuch was coming back from Jerusalem after celebrating the feast of Pentecost and was a Gentile convert to Judaism. The writings in the scrolls which he purchased from the Temple was bewildering him and that is why God sent Philip to him. This dignitary had become saved and now Philip was riding with him and when they came upon some water, the Eunuch desired to be baptized in the water as a symbol of what happened to him internally.
 
4) (Acts 1:5 KJV) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
Mark 1:8 KJV) I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. John had baptized in water which was a foreshadow or picture of the believer’s baptism in the Holy Spirit. There are many today who misuse and misunderstand this baptism. In fact, I am sure you have it heard it labeled “the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit is not baptized, He baptizes us. That baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs only one time at the time of salvation. The baptism is a uniting of a believer with Christ.
 
(Rom 6:3 KJV) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
(1 Cor 12:13 KJV) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
(Gal 3:27 KJV) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
 
As we see from these verses, the baptism in the Holy Ghost is a uniting of the believer with Christ. Unfortunately, this beautiful event has been bastardized by the modern charismatic movement as they continue to believe and proclaim that the baptism “of” the Holy Ghost always means speaking in tongues and that is the furthest thing from the truth. The baptism in the Holy Spirit happens to be the point a person becomes saved and true salvation is done in silence and not gibberish which is what modern tongues are.
 
Here we see the Bible giving us four different baptisms while using the same word for immersion. The first one was Israel being baptized into Moses and the Law. The second one is the believer being baptized into Christ. The third one is water baptism which is symbolic of salvation. The fourth baptism is the believer being baptized into the Holy Ghost at the time of salvation. Here we have one word being used in four different descriptions. The e-mail I received from that man contained his belief that the word for immersion was only referring to water baptism because he did not look at the other uses, he stopped at the point where he believed he made his point. As we see in the four verses above, “baptizô ” is used to describe water baptism but is also used to describe spiritual baptism in three other instances. So the word is not confined to only a single usage. Let me give an example with the word save:
 
1) I became saved.
2) I saved a man from drowning
3) I saved money
4) I will save my life by taking vitamins.
 
Here we have four usages of the word “save and saved.” Each of them are being used in a different setting yet the word does not lose meaning in each of the usages.
 
Water baptism cannot penetrate the physical body and therefore cannot have any effect upon the spiritual condition of the recipient. If they are unsaved going in, they will be unsaved coming out. However, spiritual baptism upon salvation goes into the soul of man which is inside the body. When a person is baptized in water by immersion they have to keep their mouth closed or they will drown. Therefore physical water could kill but the spiritual baptism by immersion in the Holy Spirit, gives life. This is why the physical is only a symbol of the spiritual.
 
Let us briefly look at the four verses with the understanding that the word “baptizô ” is carrying wit it the meaning of immersion.
 
1) (1 Cor 10:2 KJV) And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
This verse is teaching that the nation of Israel was baptized into Moses, that is, they were united into the law of Moses. This is why when they broke a law, they had to make an offering for that particular sin. They were immersed in the sense that the law fully absorbed them and were required to obey the law. The law of God was their life guide.
 
2) (Gal 3:27 KJV) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
The true believer is baptized into Christ, that is, Christ is completely their life. (Col 3:4 KJV) When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:4 states that Christ is our life. When a person is immersed in water, it wets the entire body, no part is left dry when the person is under water. Christ is the life of the believer. He is our God and our guide. Christ completely immerses our soul.
 
3) (Acts 1:5 KJV) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
When the Christian becomes saved, their soul is totally immersed in the Holy Spirit. He now indwells the believer from the moment of salvation for all eternity. He now glorifies Christ in our bodies and in our lives. He teaches us the Scriptures and He gives us understanding of those Scriptures so we may go out and proclaim Christ to the world.
 
4) (Acts 8:36 KJV) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
The fourth use of the word baptize is the one we are all familiar with and that is water baptism. The Ethiopian Eunuch became saved and now wanted to be baptized in water to fulfill the Lord’s command of baptism and to be a testimony of what transpired in him becoming saved. The complete immersion of the person in water shows that the Christian is to live a fully immersed life and be completely absorbed by their Christianity. There is no such thing as a partial commitment, it must be full as one who is completely soaked by being under water. Immersion in water is a symbol but it also symbolizes our complete allegiance and commitment to Christ.
 
Just to summarize, water baptism by immersion brings no salvation because it is a secondary act on the part of the believer. Baptism in Christ and the Holy Spirit are the primary activity which conveys spiritual life to the believer. It means we are passive in salvation as we receive it. Once we are saved, then we are baptized in water as a symbolic act and then we are permitted to take the Lord’s Supper. In other words, water baptism is ancillary to spiritual baptism. You can get to Heaven without water baptism but you cannot get there without spiritual baptism. Just ask the thief on the cross.
 
Whenever we look at passages of Scripture which deal with baptism, we must look at the verse very carefully along with its context to see whether the verse is speaking of water baptism or spiritual baptism into Christ and the Holy Spirit. That is important because one saves the other does not. If we proclaim that water baptism is necessary for our salvation based upon a faulty understanding of Scripture, then God will hold us accountable for leading people astray. The man who sent me the e-mail stated that he had told several other teachers the same thing that water baptism was necessary for salvation. They did not agree with him and held to the fact that water baptism does not bring salvation. He has condemned all of us not taking into consideration that maybe the Lord is trying to get through to him that he is wrong on the issue. Pride will destroy that man as long as he continues to be willfully ignorant. The biblical evidence is there but if you choose to ignore it, it creates a very serious situation.
 
Now let us look all the verses which contain the words concerning baptize and baptism.
 
These 4 verses contain the word “baptismos” (baptismós) which may be translated washing or cleansing.
Mark 7:4; 7:8; Hebrews 6:2; 9:2
 
These 22 verses contain the word “baptisma” (baptisma) which may be translated “baptism, rite or ceremony of baptism.”
Matthew 3:7; 20:22; 20:23; 21:25
Mark 1:4; 10:38; 10:39; 11:30
Luke 3:3; 7:29; 12:50; 20:4
Acts 1:22; 10:37; 13:24; 18:25; 19:3; 19:4
Romans 6:4
Ephesians 4:5
Colossians 2:12
1 Peter 3:21
 
In the 63 verses which contain the word “baptizô ” (baptizw) which may be translated “dip, immerse, submerge, or baptize,” we are going to look at them and see if they are speaking of water or spiritual baptism. I am going to place an S for Spiritual baptism or a W for Water baptism. In the verses which may have both within them, I will place WS. This will help to separate the spiritual baptism from the water baptism so the verses are not understood wrongly.
 
1) W - (Mat 3:6 KJV) And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
 
2) WS - (Mat 3:11 KJV) I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am
               not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
 
3) W - (Mat 3:13 KJV) Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
 
4) W - (Mat 3:14 KJV) But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
 
5) W - (Mat 3:16 KJV) And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto
            him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
 
6) S - (Mat 20:22 KJV) But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to
           be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
 
7) S - (Mat 20:23 KJV) And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with:
           but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
 
8) W - (Mat 28:19 KJV) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
           Ghost:
 
9) W - (Mark 1:4 KJV) John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
 
10) W - (Mark 1:5 KJV) And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the
              river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
 
11) WS - (Mark 1:8 KJV) I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
 
12) W - (Mark 1:9 KJV) And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in
             Jordan.
 
13) S - (Mark 10:38 KJV) But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized
             with the baptism that I am baptized with?
 
14) S - (Mark 10:39 KJV) And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and
             with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
 
15) S - (Mark 16:16 KJV) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
 
16) W - (Luke 3:7 KJV) Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you
               to flee from the wrath to come?
 
17) W - (Luke 3:12 KJV) Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
 
18) WS - (Luke 3:16 KJV) John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the
                 latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
 
19) W - (Luke 3:21 KJV) Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the
              heaven was opened,
 
20) W - (Luke 7:29 KJV) And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
 
21) W - (Luke 7:30 KJV) But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
 
22) S - (Luke 12:50 KJV) But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
 
23) W - (John 1:25 KJV) And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that
              prophet?
 
24) W - (John 1:26 KJV) John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
 
25) W - (John 1:28 KJV) These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
 
26) W - (John 1:31 KJV) And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
 
27) W - (John 1:33 KJV) And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt
              see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
 
28) W - (John 3:22 KJV) After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and
              baptized.
 
29) W - (John 3:23 KJV) And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and
             were baptized.
 
30) W - (John 3:26 KJV) And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest
              witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
 
31) W - (John 4:1 KJV) When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than
             John,
 
32) W - (John 4:2 KJV) (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
 
33) W - (John 10:40 KJV) And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
 
34) WS - (Acts 1:5 KJV) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
 
35) WS - (Acts 2:38 KJV) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the
                 remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
 
36) W - (Acts 2:41 KJV) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about
              three thousand souls.
 
37) W - (Acts 8:12 KJV) But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus
             Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
 
38) W - (Acts 8:13 KJV) Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered,
              beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
 
39) W - (Acts 8:16 KJV) (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
 
40) W - (Acts 8:36 KJV) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what
             doth hinder me to be baptized?
 
41) W - (Acts 8:38 KJV) And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the
              eunuch; and he baptized him.
 
42) W - (Acts 9:18 KJV) And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and
              was baptized.
 
43) W - (Acts 10:47 KJV) Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as
              we?
 
44) W - (Acts 10:48 KJV) And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
 
45) WS - (Acts 11:16 KJV) Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be
                 baptized with the Holy Ghost.
 
46) W - (Acts 16:15 KJV) And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to
              the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
 
47) W - (Acts 16:33 KJV) And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his,
              straightway.
 
48) W - (Acts 18:8 KJV) And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the
             Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
 
49) W - (Acts 19:3 KJV) And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
 
50) W - (Acts 19:4 KJV) Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should
              believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
 
51) W - (Acts 19:5 KJV) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
 
52) WS - (Acts 22:16 KJV) And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
 
53) S - (Rom 6:3 KJV) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
 
54) S - (Rom 6:4 KJV) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: 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.
 
55) W - (1 Cor 1:13 KJV) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
 
56) W - (1 Cor 1:14 KJV) I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
 
57) W - (1 Cor 1:15 KJV) Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
 
58) W - (1 Cor 1:16 KJV) And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
 
59) W - (1 Cor 1:17 KJV) For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ
              should be made of none effect.
 
60) S - (1 Cor 10:2 KJV) And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
 
61) S - (1 Cor 12:13 KJV) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or
             free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
 
62) W - (1 Cor 15:29 KJV) Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized
              for the dead?
 
63) S - (Gal 3:27 KJV) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
 
Verse Summary
45 Verses dealing with Water Baptism
11 Verses dealing with a Spiritual Baptism
7 Verses which have both Water and Spiritual Baptism
 
We plainly see that the words baptize or baptism are not always speaking of water baptism. It is very important to never place a blanket meaning on one word believing that it carries the same meaning throughout the entire Bible. Each word must be viewed in its context and when that is done, it will straighten out much wrong understanding.

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