This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Water Baptism Lesson Series
Biblical vector illustration of Jesus, receiving water baptism in the hands of John the Baptist.

Lesson Objectives

Welcome to the first lesson on preparing for water baptism. This series consists of three lessons for people who want to know more about water baptism and be prepared for this step in their Christian walk. In this lesson, we will focus on different types of baptisms mentioned in the Bible, the meaning and the significance of water baptism, as well as false teachings, beliefs, and misconceptions involved with the doctrine.

At the end of this lesson series, both the student and the teacher would decide if the student is ready to be baptized. Also see that you are free to download, copy, print, share and use this note for teaching others as long as the original idea is not altered and republished elsewhere or on the web. [Used with permission from the Assemblies of God of Ceylon. Scripture quotations are taken from the Amplified® Bible (AMP), Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

1. Types of Baptisms

While world history indicates baptism is older than Judaism or Christianity themselves the study of religions reveals that some form of water baptism is almost universally practiced in all religions. It is not distinctively Christian, although John the Baptist adopted it as an outward sign of repentance and Jesus adopted it as a way of His followers identifying with Christianity. There are several types of Baptisms mentioned in scripture which are mentioned below.

1.1 Baptism of Repentance/Baptism of John

Historically proselytes (those converting from other faiths to Judaism) were baptized. John the Baptist practiced baptism of repentance at the time of Jesus.

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins [that is, requiring a change of one’s old way of thinking, turning away from sin, and seeking God and His righteousness]. (Mark 1:4)

The Bible calls John the Baptist the Forerunner to Jesus. He prepared the society he lived in for the coming of Jesus the Messiah by practicing the baptism of repentance.

1.2 Baptism in Water by immersion in Water

The words of Jesus and the apostle Paul probably the most prominent character in the New Testament next to Jesus indicate this is a commission given in light of the authority that is given unto Jesus; this is an authoritative command, not a suggestion.

Paul said, “John performed a baptism of repentance, continually telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, [to confidently accept and joyfully believe] in Jesus [the Messiah and Savior]. (Acts 19:4 )

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18-19)

Although the baptism of repentance or the baptism of John and water baptism has slightly different purposes both forms of baptism are carried out by immersion in water regardless of the name.

1.3 The Baptism of the Holy Spirit of God

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was Jesus’ promise to his first disciples and the New Testament Church in general that saw the initial fulfillment on the day of Pentecost.

For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized and empowered and united with the Holy Spirit, not long from now. (Acts 1:5)

And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately]. (Acts 2:4)

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit continues to this day. Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior becomes an eligible candidate to receive the Holy Spirit Baptism.

2. Water Baptism is:

It’s a sign. In water baptism, the candidate is immersed in water as a sign that he is now a believer and accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior, and is seeking to live a life pleasing to his Master. So we also baptize following the biblical example provided unto us by our Lord Jesus and his disciples. Given below are some examples from the Bible:

2.1 Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist

The historical fact that Jesus himself received water baptism suggests that we don’t have any excuse for not receiving it ourselves. The Bible describes the baptism of Jesus in the manner mentioned below.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan [River], to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him [vigorously protesting], saying, “It is I who need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus replied to him, “Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John permitted [it and baptized] Him. After Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he (John) saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him (Jesus), and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased and delighted! (Matthew 3:13-17)

John the Baptist himself identified Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. He baptizes his church with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Still, he humbled himself to set an example unto us.

2.2 The Disciples of Jesus baptized Others

Jesus thought it was crucial to carry out John’s baptismal work as a sign of repentance and cleansing in preparation for the messianic kingdom. Here we learn that Jesus assigned His followers to perform the actual baptismal service.

…So when the Lord learned that the Pharisees had been told that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were)… (John 4:1-2).

Frédéric Louis Godet Commentary Collection indicates by baptizing, Jesus attested to the unity of His work with that of the forerunner. By not Himself baptizing, he made the superiority of His position above that of John the Baptist be felt.

2.3 The early church baptized new Converts

On the day of Pentecost Peter’s command to receive water baptism was a strong statement. In those days Jews were not commonly baptized, only Gentiles who wanted to become Jews did.

And Peter said to them, “Repent [change your old way of thinking, turn from your sinful ways, accept and follow Jesus as the Messiah] and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far away [including the Gentiles], as many as the Lord our God calls to Himself.” And Peter solemnly testified and continued to admonish and urge them with many more words, saying, “Be saved from this crooked and unjust generation!” So then, those who accepted his message were baptized; and on that day about 3,000 souls were added [to the body of believers]. (Acts 2:38-41)

As I mentioned before we also baptize following the biblical example provided unto us by our Lord Jesus and his disciples. Baptism by water by immersion in water has a threefold significance.

2.4 The act & its symbolical Significance

It’s an outward sign of an inner change. Being buried in the water symbolizes your death to Sin and your old life, and the coming out of the water symbolizes your new life in Christ Jesus.

We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we also might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. Romans 6:4

Remember, water baptism is only an outward symbol of the inner transformation that takes place when accepting Jesus Christ as our personal savior. Therefore an individual can continue to live in sin even after receiving the water baptism.

2.5 The Physical Significance of Water Baptism

It identifies you as a follower of Jesus Christ and as an integral part of the family of God, the universal body of Christ. It is also a public declaration of your faith that you are now committed to Christ, to obey Him, and live in fellowship with his family.

2.6 The Spiritual Significance of Water Baptism

You seal the covenant made with the Lord at Salvation, and in front of witnesses, you communicate that you have broken any agreements or covenants made with any other powers or principalities made knowingly or unknowingly.

3. Water Baptism isn’t:

It’s important to know and understand the false teachings, beliefs, and misconceptions involved with the doctrine of water baptism lest we shall be misled and will be convinced to mislead others also. Given below are three erroneous teachings about water baptism you must not accept.

3.1 Water Baptism isn’t Salvation

Water baptism isn’t synonymous with salvation. (Some have even cut holes in the ice to baptize immediately, lest the new believer miss heaven.) Salvation comes only through Jesus when responding to the Gospel in the fashion mentioned below.

A. By acknowledging that we are Sinners

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]. (1 John 1:9)

B. By repenting for the sins of your Past

See, Lord, I am [now] giving half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will give back four times as much.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he, too, is a [[b]spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:1-10)

C. By accepting Christ as your only Savior

But to as many, as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name. (John 1:12)

D. By putting our faith in the Lord Jesus

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; (Ephesians 2:8)

E. By confessing that Jesus is the Lord

because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

If water baptism is synonymous with salvation Jesus wouldn’t have promised the robber that he will be in paradise with Jesus at that very moment in history. That would have made Jesus a liar.

3.2 Not Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Water baptism does not mean that you have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptism of the Holy Spirit is distinct from water baptism and could be received at any time. Please refer to my sermon titled “Holy Spirit Baptism: Before and After” if you want to learn more about the Holy Spirit Baptism or you want a sermon to preach.

3.3 Not Church Membership

Water baptism does not make you a member of any church or denomination. To become a member of a local church it is best to understand the doctrines, the vision, and activities of the local church and then make the commitment to the vision and work of that church. The procedure for receiving membership in the local church varies from one church to the other. Please consult your local church for more information.

Final Remarks

Water Baptism is an important step in our walk with God and I pray you will find this lesson series to be helpful. In the meantime, if you are looking for a sermon to preach at your special baptismal service feel free to check “Biblical Perspectives of Water Baptism.” (All the students are encouraged to share their salvation experience in Lord Jesus prior to taking part in water baptism. This can be done at the end of the second and final lessons.)

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