Question: Could you explain to me the difference between the two baptisms (water baptism and spiritual baptism)? Which is the true baptism?

Answer: I trust the Lord will enable me, by His Spirit, to make this answer plain. First, I would say that both baptisms referred to in the question are true baptisms, definitely taught in the New Testament Scriptures. The one is a work of man, immersing the bodies of believers under the water as a public testimony of their conversion to Christ; the other is a work of the Holy Spirit upon the inward man, inducting him into the body of Christ and purifying his heart by faith. Further, let us understand that both of these baptisms are exclusively and totally New Testament doctrine. They were never taught nor practiced among the Israelites in Old Testament times. They belong exclusively to the gospel dispensation and are to accompany the preaching of the gospel and the conversion of souls to Christ. The word baptism does not occur a single time in the Old Testament. There is only one reference to baptism relating to the Israelites in the New Testament and it is found in I Corinthians 10:2 where it says And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. This refers to the Israelites passing through the Red Sea with the cloud of God over them and enveloping them from Pharaoh s army, and it was a mass operation, not an individual, personal thing such as an individual converted to Christ testifies to when he is baptized. In Acts 1:21-22 we read, Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” We see, then, that the ordinance of water baptism came right in and had its beginning with the bringing in of the preaching of salvation through faith in Christ and His gospel.

After Jesus had risen from the dead and had been with His disciples periodically for about 40 days, He delivered unto them His divine commission to Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19.) Mark records this same commission in these words, …Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;… (Mark 16:15-16.) These scriptures make it very plain that baptism is to be taught wherever the gospel is preached and all converts to the Christian faith are to be baptized as an outward testimony of that inward work of grace in the soul. The disciples taught this wherever they preached and souls were saved.

Water baptism is symbolic of all the fundamental elements of the atonement the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and our faith in the whole plan of salvation in all of its parts. Paul makes this very plain in Romans 6:3-4 where he says, Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Baptized into Jesus Christ would clearly refer to a spiritual operation. By faith in the merits of the shed blood of the Son of God the soul is born again of the Spirit (John 3:5), inducted into Christ, and brought into fellowship with Him through the operation of the Spirit. As a result of this experience, the converted individual is baptized in water to give in symbol an outward testimony to the inward work of the Spirit in his soul. Verse 4 of Romans, chapter 6 says that because we are baptized into Christ, therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead we should walk in newness of life. This is water baptism. Its purpose is to signify that we are dead with Christ to the things of the flesh, and we symbolize that by being buried in the water. We further testify to our new life in Christ by being raised up out of the water. Water baptism is closely related to the gospel of Christ because it testifies in symbol to our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection to a new life (eternal life) of the Lord Jesus Christ. In I Peter 3:21 Peter referred to baptism as a figure, and compared the eight souls being saved from a drowning death by the ark they were in to the souls of all who are baptized into Christ Jesus being saved from eternal death by abiding in Him. He also mentioned that it was not the washing away of the filth of the flesh. There is no actual cleansing from sin in the ordinance of baptism, but Peter says it is the answer of a good conscience toward God. Now it must be recognized by all that a person cannot answer to a good conscience until he has or receives a good conscience. How does one obtain this good conscience? Hebrews 9:14 says, How much more shall the blood of Christ,… purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 1:3, speaking of Christ says, …When he had by himself purged our sins,… Revelation 1:5, speaking of Jesus, says, “…Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” We see here that our sins must be purged by the blood of Jesus and our conscience purged before one is eligible for baptism. Then the individual is baptized in water to give public testimony to that experience.

Let us look a little at the teaching in the New Testament regarding spiritual baptism. This is also an exclusive New Testament doctrine. While there are numerous scriptures in the Old Testament relative to the Spirit of God coming upon people, and qualifying them for some special work or purpose, yet there are no references at all to any people ever being baptized with the Holy Spirit and Him abiding within them such as is taught for all converted souls in the New Testament. In Matthew 3:11-12 John the Baptist said, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Here we have water baptism and Holy Ghost baptism contrasted. Men could baptize with water, but it took Jesus to baptize with the Holy Ghost, and He had to die and shed His blood in order to do it. Jesus said in John 16:7, Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. Again Jesus said in Acts 1:5, For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

All of the above texts make it clear that the baptism of the Holy Ghost had not yet come upon men up to the time of Jesus, nor during His time, but He was preparing the way for the Holy Ghost to come. In Luke 24:49 Jesus said, And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. The promise of the Father was the Holy Spirit as an abiding Comforter for the saints and a source of power and victory for preaching and living the gospel. It was prophesied in numbers of places in the Old Testament Scriptures but was not poured out upon the Church until the day of Pentecost after Jesus had gone away and sent Him according to His own promise in John 16:7. The reader may refer to Isaiah 32:15-19; 35:3-7; 44:3; and Joel 2:28 for just a few references of prophecies of the giving of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 15:8-9, Peter in testifying of his experience at the house of Cornelius, a Gentile centurion, said this: And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Here is stated one of the basic essential works of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of saints “PURIFYING THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH. He is the only One qualified to purge the heart and life of any individual from all dross, worldly affections, self-love and interest, etc., which is an absolute essential if we are to have power and victory in our lives and fulfill all the standards set forth in the Holy Scriptures for holy living.

We read in I Corinthians 12:13, For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. Here we see that every converted soul is inducted into the body of Christ, established in a unity and fellowship with the saints by the Holy Ghost, and maintains that relationship with Christ and Christians by continuing to drink of that one Spirit.

In John 7:38-39 Jesus said, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Such texts could go on and on, but I have already over extended the space allotted to me, so I will break it off right here. God bless you.

Greetings to all readers. Since no one has sent in a question to be discussed this month, I have elected to discuss II Corinthians 3:18.

II Corinthians 3:18, in its entirety, reads as follows: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. This verse gives to us a clear and concise formula for becoming more like our Master, day by day, as we earnestly seek a closer proximity to Him. In the first place it opens with the statement, We all. Thus we conclude that what is said in this verse is for every child of God, without respect to age or station in life. God has no respect to these things and does not exclude anyone from the special benefits referred to in this scripture on those grounds. He does have special respect to the disposition, attitude and condition of the heart of each individual. Consequently, some people are able to gain a closer relationship with the Master and have a richer, fuller relationship with Him, and reflect His glory in their lives more than others.

In Ephesians 3:17-19 we read of another all. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. The word comprehend, in verse 18, means to seize upon together. God wills for every one of His saints to possess this divine fullness; yet some do not because of an imperfect disposition toward Him in not having an all-consuming desire to possess His fullness in their hearts and lives.

The next statement in the verse is, with open face. Open face refers to having an open countenance, heart and mind. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is a discerner of the thoughts of the heart. Verse 13 says, Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. We surely all know this is so. What God wants out of us is a disposition of heart in which we do not want anything hidden from Him, but are anxious for Him to search us out and know us altogether, thereby helping us out of any defective condition He discovers in us. The Psalmist said, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24. Ah, folks, if we come before the Lord with an open face, an open countenance and an open heart, and with the prayer of the Psalmist, we are in a position to enter into the full benefits set forth in this verse.

The next clause in the verse is beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord. In James 1:22-24, a comparison is drawn between the Word of God and a glass (mirror). He says a person looks into the Word of God and sees himself. We all should look into God s Word to see ourselves and discover what we need to do to be made like Him. But there is a clearer scripture than this that shows the glory of the Lord is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. In Romans 1:16-18 Paul says, …I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:… For therein is the righteousness of God revealed… For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…. The Bible is a book about God. It does not undertake the proposition of proving there is a God. It just assumes the existence of God and the opening statement in it is, In the beginning God…. In the Bible we learn what kind of God is, and we see Him depicted clearly and beautifully in the life of His Son Jesus who was the express image of His person. (Hebrews 1:3.) Jesus Himself said in John 14:9, …He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;… And it is in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that we see Jesus living, teaching, and revealing the Father in every detail. Therefore we conclude that representing the Word of God as the glass into which we look in order to behold the glory of the Lord is a right and scriptural conclusion. The glory of the Lord is surely revealed there.

We see Christ s mercy, longsuffering, forbearance and love in dealing with His apostles. They had many defects and shortcomings, but He taught them, and sometimes rebuked them, in love and meekness. In the end He was able to bring them out and make them foundation stones in the Church of God, except for Judas. Christ was able to look past what He saw and heard, and look into their hearts and discern what was there, and act upon that.

We see Christ in John 8:4-11 dealing with a sinful woman taken in the very act of adultery, which seems to be the most grievous sin in the catalog. But Jesus saw her penitence and willingness to accept His mercy, and He forgave her sins and started her in a life of righteousness. In John 5:1-9 we see Him coming to the pool of Bethesda where there was always a multitude of sick and invalid people waiting for the water to be troubled, that they might be healed. He walked right past the multitudes of sick and infirm people, to perhaps the most hopeless and helpless person there, and healed him and sent him home carrying his bed. In Luke 19:41 we see Him looking over the city of Jerusalem which was filled with His enemies, and where a few days hence He would be crucified; but He looked ahead 40 years or so and saw the indescribable calamity that was to befall that city, and His heart was broken and He wept.

These and many more examples are all very beautiful and reveal the glory of the Lord, but we want to move on to the end result and see how it works in us to conform us to His image which we must have before we are ready for heaven. The process is this: We look into the Word of God today and see Jesus in some particular part of His character, in His dealings with whatever group He is among, and see how He deals with them. As we pursue this thought, let us think of the fleshy tables of our hearts as a camera. When you load your camera with film and focus it on any particular object, and flip the lever or button that opens the lens, an impression is made on the film of the exact likeness of the object your camera was focused on when you opened the lens. When the film is developed, the picture will come out exactly as you had it focused when the picture was taken. But it is important to remember that if you move the camera the instant the lens opens, the picture will be blurred and unclear, and you will not be happy with it. It takes time to be holy and we do not want to be nervous nor moving about when taking these shots and making these pictures on the fleshy tables of our hearts as we behold the glory of the Lord and His character and likeness; as we meditate on His Word.

We may be looking into the Word today where we see Jesus in one aspect of His life as He dealt with people friends, foes, adversaries, common people or top brass, so to speak, etc. Whatever the situation and the people involved, it is showing Jesus in some particular segment of His character and likeness. As we continue a while in deep meditation and holy devotion before the Lord, a picture begins to form and take shape of Jesus in that particular aspect of His character. Then as the picture comes out clear and beautiful and we continue in quiet meditation and devotion before the Lord, and submit ourselves to the Lord to make us like that, and open the lens of our souls to Him, that image is stamped on the film of our souls. Then as we repeat that process day after day, looking into God s Word, perhaps in another passage, revealing Jesus in His dealings with another group of people, and in other conditions or circumstances which emphasize other aspects of Jesus character, and we repeat the same process of humbling our hearts and submitting to God to make us like that, opening the lens of our soul, that picture is stamped on the fleshy tables of our hearts, which is the film of the soul.

God has His own developing process. The ordinary routine of living, the trials, tests and provocations of daily living, brings out the exact reproduction of what our vision was focused on when we opened the lens of our soul and the picture was taken. As we behold in the Word (glass) the glory of the Lord His character in all of its aspects and open our hearts and minds to the Spirit of the Lord, He performs His work in us to conform us to that same image. Amen.


© Church of God Evening Light