Grace Family Bible Church

Which Baptism are we to use in the Body of Christ?

By: Scott Morton


Its is important for us to know the answer to this question. Many people have different answers to this question and believe they have the answer from the Bible. If we are to be as the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11), it is important for us to have an answer to this question, particularly based on the following passage:


Ephesians 4:4-6

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; [5] One Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.


Paul identifies that there is only one baptism that we are to use. Since this is the case, it starts to become even more important for us to have this issue settled in our minds. The first thing that we need to note is that baptism is a word that is only found in the New Testament. There are passages that refer to similar ideas, but these passages call it washing.


An assumption that people start to make with the word baptism is that the word water is always associated with the idea. This often leads to people trying to break fellowship with each other, because they see differences in how each group is practicing water baptism. This causes people to break the unity that Paul is talking about in Ephesians 4. In this article we are going to see that there are twelve baptisms that are identified. Of these twelve baptisms, seven of them do not involve water. If a person is going to say water every time they see the word baptism, they are not going to remain true to what the scriptures talk of.


Most of the time when water baptism is discussed, the purpose for this is the idea of remission of sins (Mark 16, Acts 2). This is usually where the agreement ends, as each group then proceeds to put their theological spin on the issue. The problem is that Mark 16 talks about all of the signs listed (not some selected signs, as some would teach) following the person that is baptized. Since this is the case, we need to have a full understanding of the issue of baptism in Scripture. Let us now take a look at the twelve baptisms that are discussed.


1. The national baptism of Israel

This is one of the first baptisms that are discussed, as this goes back to the nation of Israel leaving the captivity in Egypt. The idea we see in the passage is that they are baptized unto Moses.


1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; [2] And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; [3] And did all eat the same spiritual meat; [4] And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.


This passage refers to the fact that as a result of what God did to save them, they have been baptized or identified with Moses. This would be the true birth of the nation that is being discussed. However, did this involve water in any way? Israel did not get wet at all, as they had passed over on the dry ground (Exodus 14:22). Those who had been placed into the water were Pharaoh and his army as it came down on them in judgment, resulting in their death. This is a dry baptism and nobody would want to be associated with the water that is being discussed.


2. The typical baptism of Noah's ark


1 Peter 3:20-21

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. [21] The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:


Peter brings up a symbolic baptism and discusses some things related to Noah and the situation that was going on in the world at that time. During the days of Noah, God saw the wickedness of man and was going to destroy all of mankind (Genesis 6:5-7). However, He saw the fact that Noah was not like this and Noah found grace in the eyes of God (Genesis 6:8). The issue is that Noah was not turned over the wickedness like the rest of the world. Peter is also talking about the condition of the believer at that time and how they will be falsely accused of doing wrong. The water was used as judgment and the occupants of the ark did not get wet. The baptism here again deals with the identification of the person with God's program.


3. Baptism for the dead


1 Corinthians 15:29

Again, what will they do who are given baptism for the dead? if the dead do not come back at all, why are people given baptism for them?


This verse is an interesting passage related to baptism. It is dealing with a baptism that we do not often think about, but will also be looking at farther down in the list. It is talking about the idea of death and suffering, as the context of this section in 1 Corinthians 15 is dealing with the resurrection of Christ. They are teaching that Christ did not rise from the dead. However, there are those such as Paul that are willing to take on this suffering and will continue to preach that Christ did die and rise again, as the gospel would show (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).


It is unfortunate that some would twist this and would try to use this passage to teach that someone could be baptized in order to save someone that had died and was not saved. This passage does not teach this and there are no passages that would show that a person could have a second chance like this after death.


4. Man-made washings


Mark 7:1-9

And there came together to him the Pharisees and certain of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, [2] And had seen that some of his disciples took their bread with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. [3] Now the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not take food without washing their hands with care, keeping the old rule which has been handed down to them: [4] And when they come from the market-place, they take no food till their hands are washed; and a number of other orders there are, which have been handed down to them to keep--washings of cups and pots and brass vessels. [5] And the Pharisees and the scribes put the question to him, Why do your disciples not keep the rules of the fathers, but take their bread with unwashed hands? [6] And he said, Well did Isaiah say of you, you false ones: These people give me honour with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] But their worship is to no purpose, while they give as their teaching the rules of men. [8] For, turning away from the law of God, you keep the rules of men. [9] And he said to them, Truly you put on one side the law of God, so that you may keep the rules which have been handed down to you.


There were some that did not think the law was strict enough. In order to show they were more righteous than others, they decided to add things to the law in order to show that they could keep these things as well. The items that were added were things such as the washings that are described in this passage. By reading these verses, we can clearly see that this is not God-ordained and is condemned of God as Christ states that those who attempt to keep this have made the word of God of no effect in their lives (Mark 7:13).


5. Divers washings of the law


Hebrews 9:10

Because they are only rules of the flesh, of meats and drinks and washings, which have their place till the time comes when things will be put right.


According to this verse, we can clearly see there are various washings that were performed. Since this is written in the book of Hebrews and is dealing with the nation of Israel, we have to understand that this passage has no application to a believer today. It is dealing with the fact that there are washings the nation is instructed to be performing in the law. These washings are to be in place until Christ returns and things are put right by the establishment of the kingdom and the issuing in of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).


6. Baptism for the remission of sins


Acts 2:38

And Peter said, Let your hearts be changed, every one of you, and have baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will have the Holy Spirit given to you.


This passage may be the most controversial of these passages, as those who teach water baptism being in effect at this time will often point to this verse as being the instructions. The audience that heard Peter preach are the men of Israel (Acts 2:14). Peter is preaching to them and showing the fact that they are heading towards the last days of Joel (Acts 2:16, Joel 2:28-32). They are accused of killing their Messiah and they ask what they need to do. Their belief in what Peter teaches causes them to be added to the church (Acts 2:41). The believers that participated in this baptism were added to a church already in existence. This passage does not record the beginning of the church the Body of Christ. This cannot be for us, as the sin issue is taken care of when a believer accepts the gospel (see the identification article on this website for further details on this issue).


7. Death baptism


Mark 10:38

But Jesus said to them, You have no knowledge of what you are saying. Are you able to take of my cup? or to undergo the baptism which I am to undergo?


This baptism is one that no other person can be a partaker of. Jesus is making a reference to the reason He came among men, to die for their sins of the cross. There was no person that was righteous enough to do this, except for Him. This is the reason that as believers, we receive His righteousness when we accept the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:21). He had to say this to His followers, as they did not understand what was going to transpire and were confused every time a reference was made to the death Christ was going to suffer.


8. John's baptism of repentance


Matthew 3:5-7

Then Jerusalem and all Judaea went out to him, and all the people from near Jordan; [6] And they were given baptism by him in the river Jordan, saying openly that they had done wrong. [7] But when he saw a number of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, Offspring of snakes, at whose word are you going in flight from the wrath to come?


This is a baptism performed specifically related to the nation of Israel. John had been preaching for the nation to repent, for the kingdom was at hand (Matthew 3:2). A student of the scripture would know the result of this would be the pouring out of God's wrath, as is evidenced by Matthew 3:7. In order to avoid this wrath, a person would have to be identified with God's chosen people. The way to do this was to participate in this baptism and be made part of the Little Flock.


9. Jesus Christ's baptism


Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be given baptism by him. [14] But John would have kept him back, saying, It is I who have need of baptism from you, and do you come to me? [15] But Jesus made answer, saying to him, Let it be so now: because so it is right for us to make righteousness complete. Then he gave him baptism. [16] And Jesus, having been given baptism, straight away went up from the water; and, the heavens opening, he saw the Spirit of God coming down on him as a dove; [17] And a voice came out of heaven, saying, This is my dearly loved Son, with whom I am well pleased.


10. Christ baptizing with the Holy Ghost


Acts 1:4-5

And when they were all together, with him, he gave them orders not to go away from Jerusalem, but to keep there, waiting till the word of the Father was put into effect, of which, he said, I have given you knowledge: [5] For the baptism of John was with water, but you will have baptism with the Holy Spirit, after a little time.


This passage is dealing with the baptism that the followers of Jesus Christ were going to receive. This was the supernatural empowering of the Holy Ghost that they received at the beginning of Acts 2. Other people that joined the little flock (which was done by the person doing what Acts 2:38 states) would also be partakers of this baptism. Since the sin issue has been taken care of for the members of the Body of Christ (see the article on Identification), this baptism does not apply to us.


11. Christ baptizing with fire


Matthew 3:11

Truly, I give baptism with water to those of you whose hearts are changed; but he who comes after me is greater than I, whose shoes I am not good enough to take up: he will give you baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire:


Out of all the baptisms that are dealt with, this is the one that no believer should want to take part in. This baptism is talking about the wrath that is going to be poured out on the world during the Day of the Lord. It is important for us to realize that we are not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10), so this baptism does not have anything to do with the Body of Christ.


12. Baptism into the Body of Christ


1Corinthians 12:13

For through the baptism of the one Spirit we were all formed into one body, Jews or Greeks, servants or free men, and were all made full of the same Spirit.


This baptism listed here is the one baptism that is talked about in Ephesians 4. When a person believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), their identification is changed and they are made to be a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). A believer is identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-6) and the believer is then placed into the Body of Christ. This is something that a person does not physically experience, and is something that cannot be undone (Ephesians 1:13-14).


Through all of this, we have hopefully seen that only the last one of the baptisms that have been discussed here apply to us. This is the one baptism that Paul is speaking about in Ephesians 4 that brings us to the unity we should have as members of the Body of Christ. When someone asks you about this issue, you now should be able to have a clear understanding of what the Bible says on this issue.