The doctrine of baptism is essentially the belief that in order to be saved you must be baptized. Adherents to the doctrine usually prescribe a particular mode or method of being baptized and advertise it as the one true baptism; whereby if one is not baptized in that one particular way, they are not saved.
In modern times, the controversy has been toned down, but there are still denominations teaching not only that their particular understanding of baptism is the right one, but also that adherence to it is a requirement for salvation, or at least membership in their church.
— What is the True Baptism, Truth or Tradition
Many think much of themselves, because they are baptized in water, partake of bread and wine, &c. And many think much of themselves because they avoid them and suppose they see beyond them.
— Scott, John, The baptism of Christ, a gospel ordinance being altogether inward and spiritual p. 164
Causes for Doubt
- What special power is in the water that makes it the determining factor whereby we are saved?
- Why didn't the apostles themselves ever get baptized with water?
- Why didn't Christ baptize with water any himself?
- Did Christ come to institute a religious rite?
Ritual washings were frequently practiced by the Jews to purify the body in accordance with Mosaic law.
“The ordinances of purification in the Levitical law relate especially to the removal of legal uncleanness connected with child birth, death, and other pollutions.”—Primitve Culture p. 440
These ritual washings were common place by the time of John the Baptist who first used them as a call to reformation .
“... John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.”—Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiqities 18. 5. 2.
After the death of Christ, the use of ritual washings as a call to reformation evolved into the initiation rite of baptism and were further mystified.
“Water baptism seems not to have been insisted upon at first but in the second century greater importance appears to have been attached to it... [and] about the beginning of the third century we find water baptism first called a sacrament”—J. H. Moon, Water baptism p. 54-55
“...both the positive institutions of Christianity, baptism and the Lord's supper, were converted into mysteries”—Priestley, Joseph, An History of Corruption on Christianity p. 87
“Initiation is a rite of passage marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society... Examples of initiation ceremonies might include Hindu diksha, Christian baptism or confirmation, Jewish bar or bat mitzvah, acceptance into a fraternal organization, secret society or religious order, or graduation from school or recruit training.”—Initiation, Wikipedia
Later groups used other monastic religious rites along with baptism to ensure that the initiate was "prepared"; this had the net effect making the initiation more severe.
“But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.”—Didache 7:4
“Laboratory experiments in psychology have shown that severe initiations produce cognitive dissonance. Dissonance is then thought to produce feelings of strong group attraction among initiates after the experience, because they want to justify the effort used. Rewards during initiations have important consequences in that initiates who feel more rewarded express stronger group identity. As well as group attraction, initiations can also produce conformity among new members. Psychology experiments have also shown that initiations increase feelings of affiliation.”—Initiation, Wikipedia
As justification for the continued use of water baptism it is not uncommon to hear the follow Christ argument. Here stated,
- Jesus Christ was baptized in water 
- We should follow Christ's example 
- Therefore we should be baptized in water
It would seem on the surface to be a sound argument however that same argument could be applied to everything that Jesus did during his lifetime and still be valid. In other words, the idea that we should follow Christ in everything, is very vague and not technically possible. For example, Christ migrated from Egypt to Israel during his lifetime, should we not then all follow his example and all move to Israel? If I wanted to promote my own doctrine called the doctrine of migration to Israel, I could use this same argument and it would be valid - that because Christ did it, ipso-facto it is now required by all of us to do. Christ followed all the Mosaic laws, shall we follow them all too?
Many times the prevailing mentality about baptism is a better safe than sorry one; that is, it is better to be safe and get baptized then to remain unbaptized and to be damned. Such an approach to problem solving utilizes the precautionary principle: defined as "caution practised in the context of uncertainty". When the mind chooses to take a precautionary action, it is based on uncertainty rather than on any truth. In other words, a precautionary approach relieves the mind of the believer from having to gain a deeper understanding about the problem at hand.
Another argument often made in favor of water baptism is that Jesus commanded his apostles to water baptize.
The most prominent command to go forth and baptize is found in what is referred to as the great commission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV
However, the authenticity of Matthew 28:19 is disputed.
“In his Literal Translation of the Bible, Dr. Robert Young placed the Trinitarian names of Matthew 28:19 in parentheses, thus indicating the words to be of doubtful authenticity.”
“It is the central piece of evidence for the traditional view of the institution of baptism by Christ. If it were undisputed, this would, of course, be decisive, but its trustworthiness is impugned on the grounds of textual criticism, literary criticism, and historical criticism.”
Matthew 28:19 was quoted over 21 times in the writings of an early church father named Eusebius which point to a text that omitted the baptismal formula and the command to baptize. Interestingly enough, it wasn't until after the First Council of Nicaea, in which the doctrine of the trinity was first promulgated, that Eusebius' writings quoted Matthew 28:19 more closely inline with the traditional wording.
No other gospel quotes Jesus as commanding baptism in the trinitarian formula as Matthew 28:19 does. Had the wording of the commission been of great importance and necessary for salvation then one would imagine it would have been preserved in more than one gospel.
All of the baptisms in the book of Acts where a name was explicitly mentioned were in the name of Jesus Christ and not in the triune names commanded by Matthew 28:19.
“But we may take notice, that neither this, nor water baptism, was "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." No there is not one instance of this form of words in all the Bible, in the use of water.”—Scott, John, The baptism of Christ, a gospel ordinance being altogether inward and spiritual p. 127
“Scholars generally agree that 9:5, which speaks of baptism "in the name of the Lord," represents an earlier tradition that was gradually replaced by a trinity of names.”—Didache, Wikipedia
Had Matthew 28:19 been a command given by Jesus to his apostles then it would stand in judgment against them as they never obeyed it by baptizing in the manner prescribed.
“Although Jesus was baptized by John, he makes little mention of it, and never requires it of his disciples. He sends forth the Twelve without including it in the instructions given to them. The one passage which commands the eleven disciples to go forth and baptize in all nations "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" betrays its later origin by using the language of the next century. Certainly those who maintain that this is a genuine command of the Master and that no baptism is valid without this Trinitarian formula, must be prepared to accept the logical conclusion of their premise, -- namely that few if any of the Apostolic baptismal services were valid.”—Reccord, P. Augustus. Baptism and the Lord's Supper p. 5
- Go ye, and make disciples of all nations in my name
- A. Ploughman - A Collection of the evidence for and against the traditional wording of the baptismal phrase in Matthew 28:19
- Fred C. Conybeare, The Hibbert Journal - Three Early Doctrinal Modifications of the Text of the Gospels
- Clinton D. Willis - A Collection of Evidence Against the Traditional Wording of Matthew 28:19
- Kirsopp Lake - Baptism (Early Christian)
Beyond Matthew 28:19 the only other place in the entire scriptures where Jesus is said to give a command to baptize is in Mark 16:16:
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”—Mark 16:16
However, the oldest ancient manuscripts do not have anything after Mark 16:8 and of the manuscripts that do there are at least 5 different known endings . It probable that the end of Mark 16 is a later interpolation taken from Matthew 28 of what might have been written.
Given that both Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16 are of a questionable or later authenticity, it leaves the book of Luke as the remaining source about what Jesus might have said to his disciples during this time.
“and he said to them -- "Thus it hath been written, and thus it was behoving the Christ to suffer, and to rise out of the dead the third day, and reformation and remission of sins to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem"”—Luke 24:46-67 YLT
Luke does not mention anything regarding baptism, but he does mention simply the proclamation of the gospel in the name of Jesus to all the nations. If we take that along with what Eusebius originally believed Matthew 28:19 to be, we can come to a proper conclusion about what Jesus said.
“Go ye, and make disciples of all nations in my name”—The Church History of Eusebius, Book III, Chapter V
These two statements when considered together are good evidence that the words of Jesus were simply to the spreading of the gospel. To become a disciple and to be water baptized may have been viewed synonymously by parts of the early church, but they do not have the same meaning nor does one particularly necessitate the other.
“When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples)”—John 4:1-2 ASV
“And did not Jesus himself wholly avoid baptizing any in water, on purpose that it might plainly appear that there is another?”—Scott, John, The baptism of Christ, a gospel ordinance being altogether inward and spiritual p. 137
The scriptures don't furnish us with any record of Jesus having water baptized anyone nor do they furnish us with the water baptisms of the disciples. Had water baptism been hierarchical in nature and of a saving power then the scriptures should have included such records. Not surprisingly, water baptism is absent from Jesus' own mission statement which mentions only preaching.
“and he saith to them, "We may go to the next towns, that there also I may preach, for for this I came forth."”—Mark 1:38 YLT
In real world terms, preaching is necessary for spreading the gospel and making disciples, water baptism is not. The great commission given by Jesus was not a command to institute a new religious rite but was a command to spread the word.
“There is a multitude of rites of the Old Testament, but we believe in every instance that the person, the time, and the mode, are rigorously defined. Whatever be the rite in question, it is stipulated who is to perform it, who is to be the subject, at what time, in what place, and with what attendant circumstances, it is to be observed... Do we ever find, during the economy of the Old Testament, that men fell into endless discussions about the time, place, and manner of any one of the rites? Is it to be supposed that the same Spirit who laid off the ordinances in such a manner in the one dispensation as to prevent mistakes, would leave them thus vague and indefinite in the other?”—Wishart's theological essays, MacNair. Robert, Christian Baptism, Spiritual not Ritual, pp. 264-265
The book of Acts describes several instances where converts were baptized and these are often used as arguments for the continued use of water baptism. It should be noted however that not all instances specify the substance that the convert was baptized in. The traditional view of baptism has been to imply water to these instances even when it isn't explicitly stated. If we broadly look at baptism in Acts, what can be clearly seen is a transformation from a baptism of water to a baptism of spirit and from a baptism meant only for the Jews to a baptism meant for the entire world.
The baptism of John gradually decreases and the baptism of Christ gradually increases.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”—John 3:30 NKJV
The four gospels begin with the baptism of John; conversely, the book of Acts begins with the baptism of Christ in which his apostles are commanded not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait to be baptized with the Holy Spirit .
“And being assembled together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, [saith he,] "Ye did hear of me; because John, indeed, baptized with water, and ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit -- after not many days."”—Acts 1:4-5 YLT
After the apostles receive the gift of the holy spirit, Peter preaches for the first time to his fellow Jews in Jerusalem that they might also receive the gift of the holy spirit.
“and Peter said unto them, "Reform, and be baptized each of you on the name of Jesus Christ, to remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, for to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call."”—Acts 2:38 YLT
The next time Peter is seen preaching he mentions nothing about baptism.
“Reform ye, therefore, and turn back, for your sins being blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”—Acts 3:19 YLT
This could indicate that Peter meant for them to be baptized but that the scriptures don't explicitly state it or that it wasn't explicitly stated in the scriptures because the point of Peter's messages weren't to be water baptized.
To reconcile both messages together,
“It is also possible to take the clause "and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" as parenthetical. Support for that interpretation comes from that fact that 'repent' and 'your' are plural, while 'be baptized' is singular, thus setting it off from the rest of the sentence. If that interpretation is correct, the verse would read "Repent (and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ) for the forgiveness of your sins." Forgiveness is thus connected with repentance, not baptism, in keeping with the consistent teaching of the New Testament”
“Second, the immediate context of the verse shows that only repentant faith is needed to gain divine forgiveness. Earlier in his message, Peter quoted from Joel (Acts 2:16-20) and concluded with that Old Testament prophet's evangelistic appeal: "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (v. 21). In the Old Testament period, people became saved by calling upon Jehovah-God. They acknowledged their sinful need, believed that only God could deliver them, and placed their trust in Him. They did not submit to water baptism. If Peter meant that baptism was essential to salvation, then why did he quote from Joel? The reference would be irrelevant.
Third, the greater context of the Book of Acts reveals that only repentant faith is the basis of securing divine forgiveness. Later, in his sermon at Solomon's Porch within the Temple, Peter appealed to the crowd; "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). There is no mention of water baptism here as a requirement for the removal of sins.”
The consequences of interpreting salvation in such a formulaic manner is that the gift of the holy spirit then becomes conditional upon being water baptized. Such a conclusion is contradictory to later events, such as those concerning the household of Cornelius, which show that water baptism is not conditional to receiving the gift of the holy spirit. To view water baptism as a condition upon which a man is saved is to make the work of God subservient to the work of men.
“In those dark ages the clergy affected to keep the people in ignorance, and in a state of dependence upon themselves, and wished to make them think that the whole business of reconciling men to God was in their hands.”—Priestley, Joseph, An History of the Corruptions on Christianity p. 119
In Acts 10:48, Peter gives an order that all of Cornelius' house be baptized in water.
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”—Acts 10:44-48 KJV
Before Peter gave the order to have them water baptized he appealed to the reason of the men who journeyed with him when he said, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized...?" In other words, Peter was unsure about whether or not Cornelius' household should be water baptized. Often it is inferred that Peter knew what should have been done in that instance and that his question was only rhetorical, however there is nothing to lead us to believe that was the case. It is possible that Peter had Cornelius and his household baptized in water because he still believed them to be unclean.
What can be taken away from these events was what Peter summarized to those who were in Judea; namely that God had also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life and that came through the gift and not the water.
“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. If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God? When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."”—Acts 11:16
In Acts 8:27-39 Philip meets an Ethiopian who had just come to Jerusalem to worship:
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 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?... 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.”—Acts 8:35-38 KJV
When Philip went up to the Ethiopian it was not with the intention to water baptism him but to shared with him the good news about Jesus. In fact, the request to be water baptized was that of the Ethiopian who asked Philip, "See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" That the Ethiopian had just come from Jerusalem accounts for why he thought he needed to be water baptized.
In Acts 19, Paul comes across some disciples who had never heard there was a holy spirit.
“And it came to pass, in Apollos' being in Corinth, Paul having gone through the upper parts, came to Ephesus, and having found certain disciples, he said unto them, "The Holy Spirit did ye receive -- having believed?" and they said unto him, "But we did not even hear whether there is any Holy Spirit;" and he said unto them, "To what, then, were ye baptized?" and they said, "To John's baptism." And Paul said, "John, indeed, did baptize with a baptism of reformation, saying to the people that in him who is coming after him they should believe -- that is, in the Christ -- Jesus;" and they, having heard, were baptized -- to the name of the Lord Jesus, and Paul having laid on them [his] hands, the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were speaking also with tongues, and prophesying, and all the men were, as it were, twelve.”—Acts 19:1-7 YLT
The passage is clear that to be baptized in the name of the Lord was simply to believe on the Christ. Nothing is mentioned about the usage of water or of Paul performing an act on these men other then telling them about Jesus and laying his hands on them.
“Calvin views the words, "They were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus," as pointing to the baptism of the Spirit, and then adds, 'Nor is this interpretation inconsistent with what is stated afterwards, that "when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them." For Luke does not rate two different things, but follows a mode of narration familiar to the Hebrews, who first propose a subject generally, and then unfold it in more details.”—MacNair, Robert, Christian Baptism, Spiritual not Ritual p. 93
It should come then as no surprise when Paul later wrote that Christ did not send him to baptize; similarly Christ did not send his twelve apostles to their cities to baptize either -- but only to teach and preach.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but -- to proclaim good news;”—1 Corinthians 1:17 YLT
There were a number of superstitions that arose regarding baptism.
Use of a Name
In the course of the early church when the people saw the apostles perform wonderful acts in the name of Jesus, it was supposed that there existed a sanctifying virtue in the name being used. In other words, the acts being done were attributed to the words being said rather than to the actual performer of those works; as if the apostles were magicians casting spells.
The apostles did works in the name of Jesus but did not always use the the words "in the name of Jesus" when done. To do acts in the name of did not necessitate the verbal declaration of the name in which they were done. Even Paul stated that every Christian should do all in the name of Jesus.
“whatever ye may do in word or in work, [do] all things in the name of the Lord Jesus -- giving thanks to the God and Father, through him.”—Colossians 3:17 YLT
Certainly he could not have meant saying the words "in the name of Jesus" after every single thing done -- it would have been impractical. It is more probable that when Paul said to do all in the name of Jesus he simply meant to glorify Christ in all that is done.
“[to] glorify, then, God in your body and in your spirit...”—1 Corinthians 6:20 YLT
When the words "in the name of..." were spoken it specified by what power and authority a particular action was being done. In those ancient times, a solider might have used the same words to announce by what authority he came or in who's authority certain actions were being orchestrated.
It is believed that on Pentecost over 3000 persons were baptized in water in the name of Jesus.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”—Acts 2:31 NKJV
If we suppose that is the case then it becomes equally unlikely and impractical for Peter and the other apostles to have said the words, "I baptize you in the name of Jesus," three thousand times in one day.
The gospels reveal no instance where it is recorded that words were explicitly spoken over those being baptized. The closest thing we have to a depiction of a baptismal event is when Philip baptized the Ethiopian in Acts 8. Even in that instance there is no mention of the Ethiopian being baptized into any name or of any name having been spoken over him during the course of it. Most other instances in the scriptures only ever provide whether or not a baptism took place or not and in some cases it explicitly states the purification agent.
That baptism was not always practiced by saying, "in the name of Jesus" can be further seen from the dispute that arose in Corinth in which Paul stated:
“For it has been declared to me concerning you... that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.”—1 Corinthians 1:11-15 NKJV
Had those of Corinth been baptized by a baptizer speaking the words, "I baptize you in the name of Jesus", then it is unlikely that there would have been such a dispute. It is more plausible that if such words were spoken during baptism then they were spoken inconsistently by those that baptized in the early church.
It was also supposed in the course of time that in the waters of baptism there existed a sanctifying virtue that was able to wash away sins. The use of water baptism as a call to reformation and remission of sins turned into water baptism as the power whereby sins are remissed.
“In the age immediately following that of the apostles, we find that baptism and regeneration were used as synonymous terms; and whereas, originally, the pardon of sin was supposed to be the consequence of that reformation of life which was only promised at baptism, it was now imagined that there was something in the rite itself, to which that grace was annexed; and in general it seems to have been imagined that this sanctifying virtue was in the water”—Priestley, Joseph, An History of the Corruptions on Christianity p. 170
“.. along with other superstitious notions, they got the idea of the efficacy of baptism as such to wash away sins, and consequently of the peculiar safety of dying presently after they were baptized, before any fresh guilt could be contracted.”—Priestley, Joseph, An History of the Corruptions on Christianity p. 167
“(We) become children of choice and knowledge and obtain in the water the remission of sins”—Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol. II, p. 59
“When once it was imagined that a person newly baptized was cleansed from all sin, it is no wonder that many persons deferred this sanctifying rite as long as possible, even till they apprehended that they were at the point of death. We find many cases of this kind at the beginning of the third century. Constantine the Great was not baptized till he was at the last gasp, and in this he was followed by his other sons, Constantine and Constans, were killed before they were baptized.”—Priestley, Joseph, An History of the Corruptions on Christianity p. 171
From this notion it is not hard to imagine where the belief came from that baptism was necessary to salvation if sins were necessarily washed by it.
“After this we are not surprised to find (and it appears as early as the second century) that both baptism and the Lord's supper were thought to be necessary to salvation.”—Priestley, Joseph, An History of the Corruptions of Christianity p. 7
Conversely, Paul in his letter to the Romans states that the true power unto salvation is in the gospel.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”—Romans 1:16
There are two baptisms mentioned in the New Testament: the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus.
“I [John] baptize you with water, but he [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”—Mark 1:8 NIV 
“but I [Jesus] have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I pressed till it may be completed!”—Luke 12:50 YLT
“Water-baptism is connected with the name of John, the baptism of the Spirit with the name of Jesus”—MacNair, Robert, Christian Baptism, Spiritual not Ritual pp. 14-15
John's baptism was a baptism of the law and Jesus' baptism was of liberty.
“The righteousness of that ordinance of water baptism, was at best but under or during the law of outward commandments.”—Scott, John, The baptism of Christ, a gospel ordinance being altogether inward and spiritual p. 19
“Thus some who begin in the Spirit, turn about and seek to be made perfect in the flesh, or outward ordinances.”—Scott, John. The baptism of Christ, a gospel ordinance being altogether inward and spiritual p. 26
Many of the outward ordinances of the Old Testament were types that have their proper anti-type in the New Testament. In other words, the ordinances of the Old Testament were merely shadows of what was later to be revealed - so too with baptism. When Jesus was baptized, he was baptized in both water and spirit; in one man both the type and the anti-type met.
“Now therefore cometh Jesus to be baptized of John in the Jordan; for it was now time those knew him, who were thus prepared for him, that they might receive him. His thus coming to John, and being first baptized in the type, and then in the antitype, the Holy Ghost from heaven, confirmed John’s knowledge of him.”—Scott, John, The baptism of Christ, a gospel ordinance being altogether inward and spiritual p. 30
The apostle Peter came to understand the distinction between the baptism which puts away the filth of the flesh and the baptism which puts away the filth of the mind.
“also to which an antitype doth now save us -- baptism, (not a putting away of the filth of flesh, but the question of a good conscience in regard to God,) through the rising again of Jesus Christ”—1 Peter 3:21 YLT
“(not by works that [are] in righteousness that we did but according to His kindness,) He did save us, through a bathing of regeneration and renewing* of the Holy Spirit”—Titus 3:5 YLT
“In short, water baptism and Christ’s are plainly type and anitype; and accordingly Peter, speaking of the baptism which now saves, uses the Greek work antitypon.”
The scriptures go on to state that there is one baptism ; but they don't explicitly state which baptism that one baptism is.
Ancient Hebrew and Greek made no distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters therefore when it is written in our English bibles Holy Spirit, and is capitalized as such, it is done at the preference or bias of the translator. The notion that the holy spirit is an actual person or ghost of God that inhabits men is rooted in superstition and mysticism. The holy spirit is the personification of the spirit of someone who believes in the holy one of God -- that is, in Christ.
It was thought during Jesus' time that humans could be inhabited by spirits from supernatural realms; these were the philosophies of the day or the superstitions of the age. Men of that age determined whether or not an individual was possessed based on what that individual said and did. A man who appeared mad was characterized as having a spirit of madness and a man who appeared charitable was characterized as having a spirit of charity. Out of the ordinary traits were attributed to out of the ordinary causes. It was what men said and did after hearing the gospel that caused them to be characterized as having had the holy spirit come upon them.
“It is a common idiom among the Jews, to put spirit before any quality ascribed to a person, whether it be good or bad, mental or corporeal. Thus the spirit of fear, the spirit of meekness, the spirit of slumber, the spirit of jealousy, are used to express habitual infirmity...”—Balfour, Walter, Three Inquiries p. 102
“Mankind have always been [very ready] to ascribe the unknown cause of extraordinary appearances to something to which they can give the name spirit.”—Priestley, Joseph, Disquisitions relating to matter and spirit p. 210
Today, a mad man would not be classified as having a demon inhabiting him but rather would be classified as having a mental disorder. In a like manner, a man with the holy spirit should not be classified as having a spirit from God inhabiting his body, but rather should be classified as having a belief in God or in his Christ.
Hence the reason why Paul could truly say that he came not to water baptize but to preach the gospel; because the preaching of the gospel was what stirred individuals to have a spirit of holiness.
The outward baptism is good to the purifying of the outward man and his flesh while the inward baptism is good to the purifying of the inward man and his spirit. The outward cleansing is of the body through the water and the inward cleansing is of the mind through the word. The baptism of man is that outward cleansing and the baptism of the holy spirit is that inward cleansing.
“Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."”—Luke 11:39-42 NKJV
The cleansing of the entire constitution of man, both inward and outward, is figuratively of water and spirit.
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”—John 3:5 KJV
“We shall no more be born of material water than we shall be baptized with material fire.”—Moon, J.H, Water baptism p. 40
To cleanse human nature is to take up divine nature; and the nature of the divine is to love one another.
“Let not therefore him who is outwardly baptized, suppose he has therein something that belongs to the gospel; neither let him who rejects it, either Quaker or other, think he therefore has something; for outward baptism is nothing evangelical, and the mere rejection of it is nothing – The new creature, the living faith of the operation of God, working by love, is all in all”—Scott, John, The baptism of Christ, a gospel ordinance being altogether inward and spiritual p. 33
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”—1 John 4:7 KJV
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."”—1 Peter 4:8 NKJV
I tried to find the most defensible position to be taken on baptism but the truth is that no where in the scriptures does it clearly define what constitutes baptism. All that exists in the scriptures are inconsistent or insufficient depictions of baptismal events. Perhaps the lack of a scriptural treatise on baptism is exactly what has given rise to all the dogmas concerning it.
Water baptism (1902) by J. H. Moon is a well laid out treatise on baptism that hits all the major points.
What is True Baptism by Truth or Tradition asks whether or not baptism necessarily implies water.
- Luke 3:3
- Matthew 3:13
- 1 Peter 2:21
- Wikipedia. Mark 16 - Versions
- Acts 1:5 YLT
- Matthew 11:1
- Matthew 3:11
- 2 Corinthians 3:17
- Ephesians 4:5