Baptism is to identify with a person, a group of people or the message.

The Baptism of John - Matthew 3:6-11 (repentance)

The water was symbolic of the Kingdom of God which John was preaching.  When a person was baptized by John, he was identifying with the coming Messiah and His Kingdom.  The new believer was "identified" with John's message of repentance, that then became part of the believing remnant.  It was the person Who was the messiah they were looking forward to.

To be baptized by John was a spiritual identification, a visible sign of their repentance.  John's proclamation was the coming "Kingdom of God" and to prepare oneself by repenting to prepare their heart.

Acts 13:24: "When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel."

All the Apostles except one were baptized by John and followed his ministry (the exception is Paul who also saw the risen Christ, "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." -Acts 1:21,22)

The Baptism of Jesus

Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and began his ministry after he was consecrated Luke 3: 21

Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  As a human, He was in submission to God the Father to fulfill all righteousness and was anointed for His ministry like all priests.  He received a special anointing of the Holy Spirit for His public mission ( Acts 10:38 ).  Jesus was divinely consecrated for the work of redemption, being an eternal Priest from the order of Melchizedek.  In Matthew 3:15, Jesus tells us that His baptism was 'to fulfill all righteousness."  The basic action of baptism is identification, so Jesus identified with righteousness in obedience to the Mosaic Law.  The Levitical Law required that all priests were to be consecrated when they began their ministry (at about 30 years of age).  He, being a man, needed to be anointed like the prophets of old.  He Identified with the believing remnant, and also with sinners, even though He was not one.  Jesus never sinned (1 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 3:11; Hebrews 4:15).

Remember Jesus was introduced as the Lamb to take away the sins of the world.  This was a unique baptism because it had nothing to do salvation; but a submission to the will of God.  He Identified himself with the preaching of the Kingdom and repentance by John the Baptizer ( Matthew 3:1-2 ).  Jesus identified with righteousness in obedience to the Mosaic Law, to fulfill all righteousness.

The Baptism of Fire

There are four views on what the "baptism of fire" means:

  1. Eternal Torment for all Christ-rejecters.

    There is a judgment coming at the 2nd Coming of Christ when all nonbelievers are taken from the earth.  Jesus taught several parables in reference to the end of time when believers and unbelievers will be separated (Matthew 25, the sheep from the goats).  They (the goats) will join the unbelievers throughout history, who are waiting for the Last Judgment (the Great White Throne Judgment, Revelation 20:11-15).  The Great White Throne Judgment  occurs at the end of the Millennium, when the unsaved are resurrected and put back in their bodies and put into the Lake of Fire.  This baptism is for unbelievers in judgment.

John said in Matthew 3:11, "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."  Luke 3:9, "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."  "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable."

Fire is often used as a symbol for judgment throughout the Bible.  Examples are the fire which burned the sacrifice on the Hebrew altar, and the fire from God which burned the watered down sacrifices of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Fire and brimstone fell on Sodom and Gomorrah.  The world will be cleansed by fire in the end of time (2nd Peter 3:10), as it was in the flood of Noah's day.

Hebrews 10:27, "But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."

2nd Thessalonians 1:8, "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The believers will go into the Millennium; but the unbelievers are "cast off" into fire.  These parables are analogies to the baptism of fire.

  1. The trials and testing which purge us for God.

1st Peter 1:7, "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

1st Peter 4:12, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you."

1st Corinthians 3:13, "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."

The baptism of fire is more applicable to judgment than fiery trials in a believers life. (Read Matt 13:24-30 and Jesus' explanation later in Matt 13:36-40).

  1. The Truth which burns within our heart.  Jeremiah 20:9, "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."
  2. The conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Every born again believer has the Godhead dwelling within their body (Romans 8:9).  Hebrews 10:29, "For our God is a consuming fire."  When a believer sins, God's Holy Spirit will roast that believer's conscience with conviction (Hebrews 12:6-8; 2nd Peter 2:7,8). 

    Regardless of which view the "Baptism of fire" refers to, all four are certainly true.  Those who reject Christ will be cast into the Lake of Fire.  Every Christian is purged through fiery trials and testing.  God's Word should burn intensely as a fire in the heart of every believer who loves the Truth.  And for the believer who walks into sin, God's Spirit will make them extremely uncomfortable.

The Baptism of Moses

1st Corinthians 10:2 tells us, "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea."  This is a symbolism of Moses being a type of Christ.  The water never touched them but they went across to dry land to the other side while the waters became a means of judgment on Pharaoh’s army that tried to overtake them.

The baptism of Moses was a double identification: the children of Israel are identified both with Moses as their deliverer and with the cloud; Gods glory being a visible representation of His presence as they passed through the Red Sea.  There was no water involved.  When the waters were parted, the Israelites walked on dry land, they went through the sea on dry land, never getting wet (1st Corinthians 10:1,2).   The Jews never got wet, but Pharaoh’s army did!  When it says they were baptized into Moses it means in reference to Moses' leadership delivering them through the waters of judgment.  When it says the cloud it was the glory of God leading Moses, who led them into their journey.

The Baptism of the Cross/Death (His Cup)

Jesus Christ "drank" the Cup filled with our sins.  This was an expression of all the sins of the world put into one cup and poured out on Christ while He was on the Cross.  God the Father judged our sins while they were on Christ (similar to the bowls of judgment in Revelation poured out upon mankind).  The "cup" being spoken of signifies God's wrath towards sin. Christ identified with our sin.  He bore our sins on the cross, being made as sin for us (2nd Corinthians 5:21; 1st Peter 2:24.)

Mark 10:38 (also Matthew 20:23 ), "Ye know not what ye ask," Jesus said.  "...can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"  "We can," they answered (vs. 39).  Jesus said to 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."  We are told that we are all baptized into his death in Romans 6:3-4, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  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."  Just as Christ died for us, so does He ask that we die (to the world) for God (Romans 12:1,2).

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

When a person accepts Christ as Saviour, he is placed into the Body of Christ by God, and the Spirit of God is placed in him.  He is identified as a believer.  1st Corinthians 12:13, "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."

Acts 1:5, Jesus said to them "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Jesus is making a distinction between water and Spirit baptism, just as John did.  John's water baptism always showed repentance; but it could not save anyone.  It looked forward to Christ whom they would receive. The Holy Spirit's work would be inward.  This is the spiritual work of God to regenerate a believer and put them, supernaturally, into the Body of Christ.   Acts 1:8, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a New Testament teaching and experience.  In John 7:39, Jesus, speaking of the Spirit, stated those who believe in Him would receive the Spirit when He was glorified.  This event happened when He ascended to heaven and then sent the Spirit.  Its first occurrence was on the day of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit came with an audible sound rushing into the upper room, coming upon them and filling them all, so that they were endued with power to reach the lost with the Gospel.  This baptism was unique in that it also exhibited a dividing of fire above each one's head.  This was associated with the glory of God, the Shekinah in the Old Testament tabernacle.  The "cloven tongues of fire" above their heads, and the "mighty rushing wind," happened only one time, never to be repeated in the New Testament.  These signs were given by God only on the day of Pentecost to signify that the Holy Spirit had indeed come as promised in Acts 1:8.

Believers are placed "in Christ" at salvation.  In their new position they now have access to privileges and blessings that come with this relationship.  Ephesians Chapter one describes our new position in Christ "who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."  We are seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16); and by Jesus Christ who said He would send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17; Acts 1:5).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for all believers adopted by faith into the family of God (1st Corinthians 12:13).  "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28).  Ephesians 5:18 tell us to be continually filled with the Spirit; or, in other words, give him control of our life on a daily basis.

The Baptism for Believers

Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

There is a question whether this is speaking of water baptism or Spirit baptism.  Since this is Jesus' discourse before His ascension and does coincide with Matthew Chapter 28, it would be logical to think it is of water.

The believer's baptism of water identifies us to the Lord Jesus Christ and symbolizes the positional truth of his dying for us and washing away our sins.  The real Spirit baptism of the Holy Spirit places a believer into Christ; and not, water baptism.  Water baptism is a ceremony that illustrates the fact of Spirit baptism, an invisible event which actually puts one into the Body of Christ.

Christians have a real identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.  Water baptism is a symbolic identification with the person and work of Christ in His death (Romans 6:3,4).

When one goes down under the water and returns, they are saying ... "I am identifying with, and am showing my faith in, Christ's death, burial and resurrection (the Gospel)."  They are declaring the Gospel that saved them in a physical act (water baptism).  Carefully notice that water baptism always comes AFTER salvation.

Baptism is a representative act of identification.  The individual is placed in the water, which means, symbolically, that he is identified with what the water represents.  Which is cleansing.  It is also a illustration of death being buried taken away from ones view.  1st Peter 3:21 denies emphatically that baptism conveys either the essence or power of grace. Water baptism is not the removal of the filth of the flesh (our carnal nature).

There is no mention of any blessing that is connected with baptism.  All the windows of Heaven are opened by one's sole faith in Jesus Christ.  Baptism is an outward illustration of the real inward event.

The new covenant is ratified by the blood of Christ.  It is NOT water that saves.  Baptism is the seal of the covenant, but not the covenant itself.  The veil of the temple was ripped open when Christ died, not when He was baptized.  There is no forgiveness without the blood of Christ; but there is forgiveness without baptism.

Water baptism always comes after salvation.  It does not precede salvation.  When water baptism precedes salvation it becomes a religious practice, a ritual without substance.  Believer's baptism is intended to indicate that one has a relationship with Jesus Christ.