Importance of Spiritual Baptism (Part 1)

Someone who just loves me to death and has fought tooth and nail for the observance of baptism by immersion in water as the only acceptable and biblical way to baptize new converts, asked me to read Ironside’s complete article on baptism and refute it point by point and not simply dismiss it out of hand. So, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”



By Dr. H.A. Ironside


Several years having elapsed since the first publication of this booklet, and a new edition being called for, I have considerably revised my former paper, though altering nowhere the teaching therein set forth.

Further study and experience have only confirmed what was first written, although I believe I see many kindred truths in a much fuller, broader way than I did some years ago.

The revision consists largely of additional matter which I hope may make clearer what is now sent out, and commended to the prayerful consideration of the people of God into whose hands it may fall.

The great essential is Christ, not baptism; but they who love His name will seek to keep His word.  But in this it is well to remember that an unkind, critical spirit is far more to be deplored than divergent views and practices in regard to ordinances, however precious. (Emphasis added)

If the great essential is Christ (and I wholeheartedly agree), then no argument in favour of baptism by immersion in water being an essential part of Christian doctrine is feasible, let alone it  being a sign of God’s approval, as Dr. Ironside later indicates in his dissertation on baptism.

We would do well to remind ourselves of God’s own testimony regarding his Son because that and that alone magnanimously proves that Christ is God’s “Great Essential.” Nothing else is needed.

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.

Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

And this is the testimony that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:7-13)

Jesus’s earthly ministry was initiated by his baptism in water which served as a preliminary, anticipatory sign or symbol of the way in which He would accomplish man’s redemption through his blood, referring to his death by which his earthly work was terminated, and thereby accomplishing and fulfilling all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15).

Jesus’ baptism in water could never have been a fulfillment of all righteousness if He hadn’t been baptized (been wholly submerged and immersed in death). Hence his words in Luke 12:50: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”

Several people have asked me: “Why was Jesus distressed until He was baptized when He had already been baptized in water by John the Baptist?”

Hadn’t He already been baptized by John the Baptist? Yes, He was. But this baptism, when the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended from heaven upon Him simply gave Him the mandate, authority and power to accomplish the essential baptism into death on the cross.

Hence John’s magnanimous words in 1 John 5:6 “This is he who came by water and blood-Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” Indeed, there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood.

To assert that a convert’s baptism is a testimony or a sign or a symbol of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is to suggest that God the Father’s own testimony regarding his Son is insufficient.

Yes, a saved and blood washed saint’s testimony is great but God’s testimony is much greater.

He has already fulfilled all righteousness in and through Christ Jesus who came by water and blood.

It is finished; nothing more in terms of God’s testimony in and through water and in and through blood is needed. What is required of a saint is to testify by word of mouth. What does the Bible say?

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:11)

It is not a once-off ritual that testifies to our death, burial and resurrection with Christ.

It is the unsurpassed power of our daily spoken word (our verbal testimony) to the unsurpassed power of the blood of the lamb that testifies to our death, burial and resurrection with Jesus Christ.

A once-off ritual which has absolutely nothing to do with salvation is powerless.

Hence Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6 that our identification with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection is made effectual by our own cognitive reckoning (faith) that we have indeed been baptized (immersed) into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I sincerely believe that the devil is using a ritual that has nothing to do with salvation as a tool and a ploy to divert the saints attention from the genuine and practical way to overcome the devil, our own fleshly nature and the world, and that is to use our God-given reasoning (reckoning) faculties to reckon that we have indeed been baptized into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

Although baptism was initially a Jewish ordinance and later used by John the Baptist and the early Christian church which was uniquely Jewish in the beginning, it has developed into a ritual accompanied by the speaking in tongues and slain in the spirit, both of which have become tools in the hands of Satan.

Dr Ironside then wrote:

Fruitvale, CA, March 1915


While, in the pages that follow, controversy has been so far as possible (consistently with the object of presenting what I believe to be the truth as to Baptism) sedulously avoided, yet it is hoped a careful perusal may prove helpful even to those who have been troubled by conflicting views.

The pamphlet presents the conclusions I have been obliged to come to after utterly denying for a number of years any present importance attaching to this ordinance, and after a careful study of what others have put forth on the subject, as well as much time spent, I trust before the Lord, over the word of God.

The apology for its publication, if such be needed, can be stated in a few words.

In going about, now for some years, seeking to “do the work of an evangelist,” I have been importuned again and again for a paper expressing my thoughts on this question.

Finding no publication that seemed to me altogether suitable (so few being at all full without being exceedingly controversial), I have tried to give as clearly and briefly as possible, what I believe to be the scriptural teaching upon it.

The query as to whether baptism brings its subject into the Kingdom of Heaven, the House of God, or the Body of Christ, has not really been touched.

Here I need only to say that I do not believe it brings one into any of the three.

To my mind the importance of it is not in regard to what it brings one into (and, as others have noted, Scripture NEVER says it brings one into anything), but in that it is the clearly expressed will of the Lord Jesus for His disciples, and therefore should possess marked interest for all who desire His approval.

I presume that those known as Friends, or Quakers, with numbers of other Christians who recognize no ordinances (though they assuredly lose much by such neglect), are yet in the Kingdom, the House and the Body.

At least, I know of no Scripture that teaches, directly or indirectly, otherwise. (Emphasis added)

Ironside happily concedes that baptism by immersion in much water has absolutely nothing to do with salvation, i.e. to bring the convert into the Kingdom of God, or the Body of Christ or the House of God.

Yet, he makes much ado about baptism being the expressed will of the Lord Jesus for his disciples and therefore should be of great interest to all who desire His approval. If this is true, then the one criminal who was crucified next to Jesus was allowed to enter into God’s Paradise without his approval. And guess why? Well, we all know that he wasn’t baptized by immersion into much water, which according to Ironside,. is a sign of God’s approval.

The most shocking thing about Ironside’s statement, “To my mind the importance of it is not in regard to what it brings one into (and, as others have noted, Scripture NEVER says it brings one into anything), but in that it is the clearly expressed will of the Lord Jesus for His disciples, and therefore should possess marked interest for all who desire His approval,” is that it distorts the meaning and purpose of God’s revealed will and therefore deceives the many who are captivated by his remarks.

If water baptism in lots of water gains God’s approval, then Paul of Tarsus was peculiarly lacking in God’s approval because he wrote:

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. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

Every single will or resolve of the Father expressed in the Bible has a purpose and ultimately a single-minded goal in view.

He never says: “OK you guys, listen up, this particular will or command of mine cannot benefit you in the very least. It has nothing to do with salvation or sanctification; it cannot bring you into my Kingdom; it cannot gain you access into the Body of Christ and it cannot bring you into the House of God. In fact it is completely impotent and cannot do anything for you. Nonetheless, you MUST obey it if you want to obtain my approval.” Really? REALLY???

A simple example will suffice. In 2 Peter 3:9 God expresses his will that none should perish but that all should come to repentance and be saved.

Any old Tom, Dick and Harry will tell you there is a magnanimously divine purpose in this.

His purpose is to grant everyone an opportunity to repent because it is his will that all of mankind, without exception, should enter into his Kingdom and the Body of Christ and the House of God.

No! saith the great Ironside, “To my mind the importance of it is not in regard to what it brings one into (and, as others have noted, Scripture NEVER says it brings one into anything), but in that it is the clearly expressed will of the Lord Jesus for His disciples, . . .”

But my dearest Lord Ironside, can’t you see that this was precisely why Jesus became man? “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8).

God’s entire plan, purpose and will for mankind is to get them all into his Kingdom and yet you demand that we adhere to a ritual that has absolutely no value whatsoever so that we may obtain his approval?

Even the most basic man-made command contained in a country’s constitution has a specific purpose and that is to benefit law abiding citizens and punish the lawbreakers.

But you, Mr. Ironside, demand that we keep a command that benefits no one. Really??? REALLY???

In that case we may as well desist from being baptised by immersion in water because it does not bring us into God’s Kingdom and neither does it bring us into hell.

What then is the expressed will of the Father and his only begotten Son?

Surely if their expressed will was the baptism by immersion in much water so that his disciples may obtain his approval (which replicates a works-based salvation, although many would deny it), then Luke 19:10 should rather read as follows, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost and to baptise them by immersion in great quantities of water so that they may obtain my Father’s approval.” Really? REALLY???

This borders on blasphemy because it denies the efficacy of Christ’s death on the cross, his burial and resurrection. Indeed, it suggests that you have to do something, albeit being baptised by immersion in water, to obtain his approval. Really? REALLY???

Fancy that, Ironside admits that baptism by immersion in water does not save but audaciously declares that it obtains God’s approval.

The result of his immoderate statement suggests that all who are not baptised by immersion in great quantities of water like rivers, dams, swimming pools and the likes, do not have God’s approval. Let’s briefly look more closely at the meaning of the word “approval.”

The Merriam Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus defines “approval” as follows:

  • the belief that something or someone is good or acceptable : a good opinion of someone or something
  • permission to do something : acceptance of an idea, action, plan, etc.

Adherents to baptism by immersion in water claim that converts who’d been washed in Christ’s blood (i.e. been saved) are the only approved candidates for baptism by immersion in water.

But wait a second. If salvation through the blood of Christ alone permits him/her entrance into the Kingdom of God, the House of God, and the Body of Christ because God deems them good and acceptable (suitable) for his Kingdom – through the blood of his Son, of course – what kind of approval does baptism by immersion in water offer the repentant sinner?

Is it a special kind of approval that surpasses and exceeds the approval repentant sinners receive who’d been washed and cleansed of all their sins in the blood of Christ? Let met put it this way. The blood of Jesus Christ’s gains God’s approval for repentant sinners to be “delivered . . . from the power of darkness, and . . . [to be]  translated  . . . into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). However, God’s approval of the repentant sinner is only ratified the moment he or she is baptised by immersion in a lot of water in public, AFTER they had been saved. Surely, this gives the “whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” kind of baptism precedence over Jesus’ kind of baptism.

I hope you can see that, although the adherents to baptism by immersion in water proclaim that baptism has nothing to do with salvation, they are inadvertently or deliberately exalting baptism above salvation, because “it is the clearly expressed will of the Lord Jesus for His disciples (all those who’d already been saved), and therefore should possess marked interest for all who desire His approval.

If baptism by immersion in large quantities of water, like a river, a large tub, a swimming pool or whatever, was the will of Jesus Christ for his disciples [including Judas), the Holy Spirit would at least have mentioned it somewhere in Scripture.

The fact is, however, that there is no record in Scripture that any of the disciples went to John the Baptist to be baptised in the Jordan. (John 4:1-2).

Some may argue that the disciples must have been baptised because they themselves baptised new converts (Acts 8:35:39).

As matter of interest; If the phrase “come up out of the water” meant that the convert must be immersed in water and then come up out of the water, it would follow that both Philip and the eunuch were baptised, because Acts 8:39 clearly says that they both came up out of the water.

Among his band of disciples only Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, not to set the example of how future converts should be baptised, but to fulfil everything which He had come to accomplish (Matthew 3:13-17).

The righteousness Jesus had to fulfil (completely accomplish the right thing) was to end the old of which John the Baptist was the last prophet and to bring in the new.

Dr Ironside continues to write:

Baptism certainly is connected with the sphere of profession; that is not disputed, but insisted on; only let there be profession and not infantile unconsciousness.

The Word is simple: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal.3:27).

This can only be true of professed believers, who, in this act, publicly put on Christ, or, in other words, acknowledge Him as their Lord.

That it is not, properly speaking, a Church ordinance, but a Kingdom ordinance, I also admit and teach, because, unlike the Lord’s supper, baptism had a place before the Church began, and will have one after it has been taken to heaven; but whether tribulation saints will enter into its import as Christians can is very questionable. (Emphasis added)

Paul often used traditional military and traditional Roman dress codes to illustrate Christian values and truths. Most Christians are thoroughly accustomed with Ephesians 6 where he uses Roman body armour to describe the spiritual armour of God.

He uses something similar when describing what it means to be clothed with Christ in Galatians 3:27.

When a youth came of age in Roman society he was given a special toga which demonstrated that he earned the full rights of his family to be honoured as an adult.

The entire nation of Israel were kept under the disciplinary teaching of the Law and as such were regarded as children being tutored to receive Christ as their Messiah (verse 24).

Jesus Christ, having fulfilled the law (including the old Jewish law of baptism as it was administered by John the Baptist), has given us the right to no longer be regarded as children under the Law but as adult sons through faith, never to be reckoned again as being under a Jewish slave-guardian.

Paul reminded the Galatians Christians that they no longer needed to be UNDER the Law but that they had been COMPLETELY ENVELOPED (covered, clothed) with Jesus Christ (who had fulfilled the Law) the moment they were baptized into Him spiritually by the Holy Spirit.

What we need to discern is whether Paul was referring to the ordinance of baptism by immersion in water or spiritual baptism with the Holy Spirit into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, i.e. salvation proper.

Ironside seems to think it refers to the ordinance of baptism subsequent to salvation since he says it can only “be true of professed believers, who in this act [baptism], publically put on Christ, or, in other words acknowledge Him as their Lord.”

The act of baptism by immersion in water in public is therefore equal to the putting on of Christ like a new garment. Whoa! That’s dangerous, very dangerous it suggests that water baptism itself is salvation proper.

A more careful and thorough reading of the passage shows that Paul did not maintain that the putting on of Christ like a new garment occurs in public when the professed believer acknowledges Him as Lord through baptism.

Paul simply said: The moment you were baptized into Christ, that was the moment when you put on Christ.” (Isaiah 61:10). The verse says it so plainly and clearly in the Amplified Bible:

For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ.

Water baptism cannot possibly bring a repentant sinner into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One.

And yet Ironside seems to think so. Listen again carefully to what he says: “This (Galatians 3:27) can only be true of professed believers, who, in this act, publicly put on Christ, or, in other words, acknowledge Him as their Lord.”

He says in effect: “All who profess to believe in Jesus Christ (“infantile unconsciousness” cannot profess anything) can and will only put a stamp of approval on their professing faith (and thus obtain the aproval of God), and make it true when they publically put on Christ in this act (baptism by immersion in water) and thus declare Him to be their Lord.

Jesus Himself does not think too highly of people who profess to be believers and acknowledge Him as lord in public (Matthew 7:22).

I’m not suggesting that Ironside was lost. I am merely saying it is dangerous to propound something contrary to what Paul teaches in Galatians 3:27 because it can and does indeed mislead millions into an erroneous soteriology.

Paul never even once mentions that the putting on of Christ must of necessity take place in public.

Ironside sanctimoniously taps those who are guilty of eisegesis (to read something into the text that is not there) over the knuckles but fails to see his own eisegetical blunders.

Yes, of course, if the putting on of Christ is a baptismal ritual, then it must be done in the public eye, as all the adherents to baptism by immersion in water so demand.

However, if the putting on of Christ is salvation proper then it need not be in public. Most salvations occur in private where the repentant sinner is alone with God to reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 11:28).

Dr Ironside continues:

I am not wholly ignorant of what esteemed brethren? to whom I am indebted for much, have penned on “Household Baptism,” etc., though I remember that others, equally gifted and godly, have differed radically from them; so I would beware of following either unless I have a clear Scriptural basis for so doing.

I confess that while reading the books of the former, their theories seemed very plausible and had certain charms for me; but when I turned from their writings to the word of God I could not find the theories.

It seemed to me that they had read their teachings into Scripture, not out of it; rather eisegesis, than true exegesis. (Persons desirous of investigating the question of the baptism of children in households, in order to weigh what may be said for the practice, will find the leading arguments clearly and graciously stated in “Christian Baptism,” by Waiter Scott; “Reasons for my Faith as to Baptism,” and “A Review of Objections to Household Baptism,” by F.W.Grant. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge.” The principle, at least, of this verse is doubtless applicable here.)

I ask an equally careful comparison of my statements in the following pages with the unerring guide, the Word of Truth. ” Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. ”

Oakland, CA, April, 1901

The “esteemed brethren” who “have penned on ‘Household Baptism” are those who argue that the household baptism of Cornelius and his family must have included infants. Whether “infantile unconsciousness” forbids infants to be baptised, remains to be seen in the next edition of my series on “The Importance of Spiritual Baptism.” – Thomas Lessing

Read:  Importance of Spiritual Baptism (Part 2)

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Tom Lessing (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

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Deborah (Discerning the World)


lol, I love you Thomas! This is the thing, we get out spiritual gifts from high places the moment we are saved, not when we get baptised. So I totally acknowledged you.

Sally Forth

The final authority is not the Apostle Paul, but the Lord Jesus Christ who said in Matthew 28:19

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.

Just because Paul did not do the baptizing does not mean that he thought it unnecessary. To give such an impression would seem to undermine the direct command from our Lord.

Ultradispensationalists, and other groups discount the significance of water baptism while others go to the other extreme and say that it is essential for salvation. Neither position is biblically correct.

Leading someone to the Lord is only the beginning and too often the new convert is not properly discipled and grounded in the faith and this includes baptism and a proper understanding of it. To consider it an option goes counter to the Lord’s final instructions to the Church.


Since I am a Baptist I can say…we do not believe that baptism is essential to salvation. The repentant thief on the cross didn’t have time to come down and be baptized.
The Baptist preachers that I personally of have never taught that baptism was a part of salvation. Baptism as Deborah stated is an outward act of our inward faith in Christ Jesus.

If a person is physically unable to be baptized they are still saved. IF the newly saved person is able to be baptized then after the pastor has talked with this person and explain what baptism means then they should be baptized. But if they choose not to be baptized they are just as much a Child of God Almighty as I am.

The denomination that calls themselves “The Church of Christ” do believe that baptism is the only way a person can be saved. That is extreme heresy. When my grandfather was a child his parents were of this denomination.

But thank God, someone witnessed to my grandfather and he chose to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. He began reading the bible and realized that what he had been taught as a child was very wrong. In time God chose to call my grandfather to preach the simple and glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am so thankful for my grandfather’s salvation, being called to preach and pastor for over 60 years. Had he not received Jesus as Savior I most likely would not be saved.

My grandfather never preached that one had to be baptized to be saved. My brother has never preached you have to be baptized to be saved. My pastor doesn’t preach that one must be baptized to be saved.

Acts 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

That is salvation.


Amen, Thomas.

Sally Forth

With all due respect, there seems to be some confusion between the baptism of the Holy Spirit which occurs at the moment one makes the decision to receive Christ and the ordinance of water baptism.

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He was not telling His followers to impart the baptism of the Holy Spirit because no man can do that, it is entirely an act of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was referring to the physical act of water baptism which goes hand in hand with discipleship of a new believer and is a picture of what has occurred by faith in the heart of the new believer.

To downplay the importance of water baptism by immersion is to undermine biblical truth. There are two basic extreme schools of thought regarding the topic of water baptism. Ultradispensationalists believe water baptism is of little or no significance as well as the Lord’s Supper and the baptismal regenerationists consider it to be necessary for salvation. Both positions are incorrect.
Those who profess to be born again and say they have no need of baptism; that baptism, since it is not essential for salvation, is of little or no value or place in the life of the believer – in essence ignore the Great Commission, “marching orders” given by our Lord. Not so with Saul of Tarsus, as he was immediately baptized, and began to tell the good news of salvation.
Thomas said:

Was Paul baptised by immersion? The text in Acts 9 doesn’t seem to say so. It simply says that Paul arose (stood up) and was baptized. He was probably seated on a chair or on his knees when he stood up (arose) to be baptized. It does not say that he was immersed in much water.

This is a leap right over a cliff. Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan, immersed – He set the example. The very definition of “baptize” means to immerse. The Apostle Paul would surely have followed the Lord’s example of being baptized – to suggest otherwise is to suggest he was “baptized” unbiblically.

The apostle Paul wrote that baptism is a burial (Romans 6:4), and that’s why both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and came up out of the water.

“…then both Philip and the man went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…”
Acts 8:38-39
The word “baptize” signified that Saul/Paul was immersed when baptized at Damascus. This is confirmed in Romans 6: 3-4 and Colossians 2:12; 3: 1, where he refers to the ordinance and shows its symbolic and spiritual meaning, as well as a practical calling for the believer to a godly life honoring the Lord Jesus Christ.
Buried with Christ in baptism – raised up also with Him – to walk in newness of life, having our hope set on Christ at the right hand of God – these are the words of the Apostle Paul and clearly demonstrate his position on water baptism. The spiritual is expressed in the physical act. It is the testimony of believers being in Christ and Christ in them the hope of glory. This is its meaning, whether for Saul of Tarsus, for believers at Rome and Colossae, to whom he was writing, or for all who would come after, even to our own times.
What does the word itself mean? The word “Baptize” means “To dip under water” The Greek work “Baptizo” means “To immerse or dip under water”. It best symbolizes a burial and resurrection! Other modes of “baptism” do not accomplish this.

“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death…”
Romans 6:4a

Thomas said:

Had I been immersed in water at that particular time, water baptism would not have added anything to which I had already received by faith in Jesus Christ.

Water baptism does not add anything to our salvation. But our Lord commanded believer’s baptism for a purpose. To use the thief on the cross as an example that one doesn’t need to be baptized is inappropriate. That example is proof that baptism doesn’t save, but it does not negate the Lord’s command for believers to take the step of baptism. The thief did not have the opportunity to be discipled and grow in the Lord, but that does not negate the need for discipleship.
Thomas said:

Some Christians seem to believe that they are missing out on something when they are not baptised by immersion. I have heard many Christians mentioning first and foremost their baptism when I ask them how they were saved. “Would you mind telling me how you were saved?” Then the answer comes “Oh I was baptized by immersion.” No, they do not regard their baptism to be their salvation but they do see it as a signal or sign of their salvation.

Those who respond to the question posed by saying they were baptized do not have a proper understanding of the Gospel and most likely believe in baptismal regeneration. I know people like that and it is a red flag waving. They are in great danger because they may not be saved at all if they are equating baptism with their salvation.

Baptism expresses, symbolically, the redeeming acts of Christ; immersion equals death, submersion equals burial; emergence equals resurrection. The lifting of the person from out of the water is not only a physical necessity, but also completes the picture, showing Christ risen from the dead and the believer risen with Him. When properly understood and explained, water baptism is a testimony to the faith of the believer, and all believers and those observing.

To answer the question as to why the Apostle Paul apparently did not consider it his role to baptize requires that we look at it in context.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. (1 Corinthians 1:14-17)

His primary role was to spread the Gospel message and move on and leave the discipling and baptisms to others. He shared truths with those under his care through letters of instruction.

Factions were a problem in the Church and there is always a tendency for people to honor status. Paul didn’t want to risk people thinking their baptism was more special than somebody else’s because they had been baptized by him when all glory should go to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

Thank you Deborah for posting this article. It is an important issue for all believers. For believers who cannot find a church it may pose a problem to find a way to be baptized, but if the desire is there, the Lord will provide some way. If it is not possible, the Lord knows the desire of the heart and will honor that.

Sally Forth

Thomas said:

I’m sorry but water baptism by immersion has become an entertainment manoeuvre to make the so-called pastors (charlatans) look and feel good. It already began in Paul’s time (many bad things began in his time) and that’s why he said: “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.”

Just because there is abuse of an ordinance is no justification for abandoning it. Sadly, the nature of man, has always been to taint the Word of God and pervert what is meant to be holy.

Water baptism DOES have a purpose or the Lord Jesus would not have ordained it and provided an example for us!

He calls us to preach the Gospel AND disciple AND baptize in water AFTER we have been baptized by the Holy Spirit that brings about an INNER change.

Sally Forth

I never said at ANY time that water baptism is essential for salvation. In fact, I emphasized that it is NOT a work for salvation. Salvation is by faith ONLY. I never even hinted that water baptism is legalism. I clearly pointed out the error of baptismal regeneration. I am utterly astounded that my comment was misunderstood as I labored to make it clear.

I never said that there is a double standard. If you are going to accuse me of that you are going to have to accuse our Lord Jesus because the thief on the cross was not baptized and there are certainly death bed professions where baptism is not possible or certain illnesses. This is because of God’s GRACE and that we are NOT under law!

I pointed out the mandate of our Lord Jesus, the Great Commission which includes water baptism. He wasn’t setting up a new law, He was establishing an order, convert and disciple, which includes the step of baptism. As I pointed out, the Apostle Paul explained the beautiful picture that immersion depicts of the death, burial and resurrection as we identify with our Lord.

I don’t believe that I am not the one who is confused here. I am not a legalist. I know what grace is and treasure it and am a sinner saved by it. My Lord did it ALL on the cross and He said it is finished! But I took the step of baptism because I wanted to obey Him and identify with Him, just as I want to live for Him and obey Him. That doesn’t make my obedience a work of salvation! It is because I LOVE Him and want to serve Him. I can’t imagine why any believer would not want to follow the Lord in water baptism and further try to undermine it. Sorry, but I cannot relate to this line of thinking.

To disregard or discount the ordinance of water baptism clearly stated in the Word is to be disobedient in my opinion. But our God is a God of grace. Water baptism is not a law – it is to benefit the believer and to commemorate what has ALREADY occured in the life of the believer.

Unless I missed it, I don’t see the Lord’s Great Commission addressed in this discussion. It seems clear to me.

Deborah (Discerning the World)


>> it is to benefit the believer

How does it benefit the believer?

Sally Forth

Thomas, are you an advocate of other modes of baptism other than immersion? ONLY immersion is a true picture of the death, burial and resurrection. Pouring or sprinkling are not. Immersion is biblical, the other modes are not. Would you not agree? Why do you keep suggesting the possibility that the unuch or the Apostle Paul were baptized other than by immersion? The very word “baptize” limits the method to immersion.

There should be no pride whatsoever in baptism. Where did I suggest such a thing? It would be ludicrous for someone to be prideful that they were baptized. It is in fact a surrender or should be.

Another point where baptism is important. When one comes from a false religion such as Roman Catholism, the new convert needs to learn biblical baptism and the error of infant baptism. Missionaries report that many new converts have difficulty breaking free from their past and by taking the step of believer’s baptism it helps tremendously to break the ties from the false religion. Conversion is instantaneous, but discipleship is a process. If taught properly the new convert understands it is not an issue of their salvation. I seem to have to emphasize that over and over again.

Deborah asked what benefit there is for believer’s baptism? There is a benefit in every act of obedience to the Lord. It is a way for the believer to give glory to the Lord. Also, one could ask what benefit is there for taking communion. Among other things it reminds us of the sacrifice our Lord made for us. We don’t do it to get any benefit, or that should not be our motivation, but there is blessing in obedience and a clear conscience.

I don’t see how one can read the Great Commission and take a “okay if you do and okay if you don’t” approach to believer’s baptism. There may be instances due to physical infirmity or isolated circumstances, but that should be the exception. I witnessed once when a crippled man was not able to get down into the bapistry and the pastor had to modify the mode of baptism, but if that man was able, he would have been more than willing to get into the water. I have seen an 80 year old frail lady go into the waters of baptism, aided and protected by men. It was a beautiful picture. Water baptism is a beautiful picture of what our Lord did for us. Whether there is a crowd present or just family, it is a witness to one’s faith.

Sally Forth

Thomas, with this I am done as well. You have confused the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at conversion with the ordinance of water baptism that our Lord has ordained to take place after one has been saved.

I have explained that the Apostle Paul did not discount water baptism and the reason he did not baptize but delegated it to someone else was to avoid causing factions in the Church.

With all due respect, you do not understand the significance of John the Baptist’s ministry to the Jewish people and Christ’s instructions to the Church. Apparently you believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit replaced water baptism and that Paul considered it less than important. This is exactly the way that ultra/hyper dispensationalists believe. You have not indicated if you believe that the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is valid for today.

My dear brother, these are lies from the very pit. I am sorry to be so blunt, but this is very serious and it deeply concerns me. I am concerned for you in this vein of thinking. I do not mean to come across as arrogant and a know-it-all, because you are no doubt a much better student of the Word than I am. But of this topic I am certain with all my heart.

I used the example of the crippled man who could not enter the waters of baptism and you turned it into something profane. My intention was to demonstrate the grace of God. The man had already been baptized in the Holy Spirit and saved by grace and faith. He wished to be obedient to the Lord in water baptism but was unable to do so. My reason for the example was to show that it was what was in the man’s heart that mattered to God, not that he wasn’t able to be immersed. You then still confused the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at conversion with water baptism by immersion.

As for the Roman Catholic converts, the pastor/evangelists who led them to the Lord and He baptized them with the Holy Spirit then labor to mentor and disciple them and grow them in their faith know more about this than you or I do. Water baptism is a huge step for them due to overcoming their past. These are pastors who know the true Gospel and defend it with their very lives. They know of what they speak. Water baptism is not all they talk about with new converts – they teach them the Bible and sound doctrine. There is a reason that our Lord instructed evangelists/pastors to baptize believers.

There is no point in continuing. I do hope that anyone reading this discourse will get the true meaning. Deborah’s article is correct and I hope she lets it stand as written.

Sally Forth

Thomas Lessing (Watch and Pray / Waak en Bid) wrote:

Thomas, with this I am done as well. You have confused the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at conversion with the ordinance of water baptism that our Lord has ordained to take place after one has been saved.Sally, when does the baptism of the Holy Spirit take place?

At the moment one receives the Lord as Savior.

Sally Forth

Thomas Lessing (Watch and Pray / Waak en Bid) wrote:

Sally wrote:
I have explained that the Apostle Paul did not discount water baptism and the reason he did not baptize but delegated it to someone else was to avoid causing factions in the Church.So, what you are actually saying, is that Paul had a reason to disobey Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19. He would rather have someone else causing factions in the church than himself. In any case that’s not the reason Paul himself provided for his reluctance to baptize new converts. Why didn’t Peter or John or James delegate the perfomance of baptism to others so as not to cause factions in the church? They were just as famous and well-known in the church as Paul.
By the way, Paul was the one who said it is a good thing for factions to occur in the church. Why then would he have wanted to avoid factions?
or doubtless there have to be factions or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you. (1 Cor 11:19)

Paul did not disobey the Lord Jesus. As I said before, his major role was to share the Gospel and left the discipling to others. He was an evangelist. Just because he did not do the baptizing himself does not mean that it was not done.

As for the other issue, he didn’t want to risk causing problems amongst the congregation by people being caught up in being baptized by him as a prominent figure in the Church. It could have been a distraction.


Small comment. The word BAPTISM comes from the Greek word BAPTISMO which means to plunge or immerse in water. It adds nothing to our salvation other than it is the very first act of obedience we should do if one is physically able.

As far as the thief on the cross. That is the perfect example of baptism having nothing to do with salvation. Besides where would there be found water that is pure enough to wash away sins?

Simply put from a simple mind like mine, Jesus’ blood atoned for the sins of ALL mankind, even for a woman like me. His blood made me clean and being baptized was a witness to those who were present that I AM SAVED.


Thank you Debs for this article. The IVP Bible background Commentary states the following on Rom 6: 1–5
“For Jewish people, baptism was the act by which non-Jews converted to Judaism, the final removal of Gentile impurity; by it one turned one’s back on life in paganism and sin, vowed to follow God’s commandments, and became a new person with regard to Jewish law. A person who became a follower of Jesus likewise gave up his or her old life; through participation with Christ’s death, Paul says, their death to the old life in sin, which was crucified in Christ, is an accomplished fact.”

Could it be that water baptism (immersion) served indeed as a witness to the Jews as Thomas pointed out?


My apologies, the last sentence should read: “Could it be that water baptism (immersion) SERVES as a witness to the Jews….”

Sally Forth

Thomas said:

Well, if the baptism with the Holy Spirit AND FIRE occurs at the moment of rebirth (Jesus Christ’s baptism which you cannot see), why do you REVERT to water baptism (John the Baptist’s baptism, something you can see) subsequent to the baptism of the Holy Spirit AND FIRE ? YOU ARE TEACHING PEOPLE TO LIVE BY SIGHT AND NOT BY FAITH.(Hebrews 10:38). You may say that baptism by immersion is not necessary for one’s salvation and yet you say it is important because you are obeying Christ. In fact, you are being double-minded when you say, No it is not important for salvation, and then, Yes, in some way you are obeying Christ.

Which of the two baptisms witnesses to the fact that you have been saved: Jesus Christ’s baptism with the Holy Spirit AND WITH FIRE which only the Holy Spirit administers to a repentant sinner OR John the Baptist’s baptism with water which any charlatan, false teacher, false prophet, Tom, Dick and Harry etc. etc. etc. can administer?

Dear Brother,

I said I was done, but you persist in causing confusion in bringing confusion to a simple and beautiful truth

One thing I have noticed – you keep using the terminology “WITH FIRE” when you mention the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This seems to come from Matthew 3:11. You misunderstand this passage and the nature of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which saves. One is distinctly different from the other. Fire in the word stands for judgment. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is of blessing, not judgment. You might be basing your opinion upon the tongues of fire at Pentecost, but many other verses do not support this view. The following verse, 12 equates fire with judgment.

In fact, fire is used much in the NAR and other false religions and extreme Pentecostal circles. Anytime this is emphasized, it raises a red flag for discerners. Some cursory research will bear this out.

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus. Jesus had a twofold purpose in walking some 60 miles to be baptized. He had no sin so why was He baptized? Firstly, to identify with the godly who were repenting but also it symbolized the way He would fulfill His mission to save mankind. His immersion spoke of death on Calvary, and burial, but His coming our of the water foreshadowed His resurrection. The Holy Spirit appeared as a dove, not as fire.

Brother, there is no reverting as you say, but a progression from John the Baptist’s ministry to the Israelites to the accomplishment of Christ on the cross for our redemption. There is no conflict except for those who use John’s baptism as basis for baptismal regeneration. You are mixing apples with oranges.

Your logic is faulty in many ways. For one thing, the fact that water baptism is not biblical because it is done for the wrong reasons or by false teachers. Don’t you realize that the precious Gospel is misquoted, perverted and watered-down by false religions and teachers? Every truth of God is an object of attack by the enemy of our souls.

I know someone who was baptized by immersion in the Church of Christ who believe you must be baptized to be saved. When that person came to know the true Gospel, they were rebaptized by a pastor who taught biblically. We live in a fallen world – those things are going to happen. That is a straw man argument.

Again, you seem to refuse to come to terms with the Great Commission given by our Lord who instructed His followers/evangelists to share the Gospel and then to follow it up with baptism, water baptism by immersion, the only biblical mode.

You accuse me of being double-minded and promoting sight over faith. How astounding! Water baptism is AFTER the fact of conversion – it doesn’t cause anyone to believe. The belief is already established. It is a step of identification with and obedience to the Lord. It is a demonstration of what has occured in the inner man. Apparently our Lord considered believer’s baptism important.

Bottom line is that you, no doubt without realizing it are promoting mysticism. Our Lord knows that as humans we need the physical to complement the mystical – first water baptism after conversion and then the Lord’s Table on a regular basis.

Sally Forth

Thomas I would ask you to consider these passages:

– In the Bible, note the many references to the REJOICING that came either in connection with, or after, one’s baptism!
– In Acts 2:41 we are told that, “they that GLADLY received the Word and were
baptized “- verse 46 goes on to tell us that, afterward they ate
together, “with GLADNESS and singleness of heart.”
– In Acts 8:39 we are told that when the eunuch was baptized he “went on his
– In Acts 16:34 we are told that, after the Philippian jailer was baptized, he

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