Christian Living

What Does Baptize Mean? Where Did Baptism Come From?

In Baptism, We Turn from Sin, Follow Jesus, and Receive the Holy Spirit

Another concept that only appears in the New Testament is baptize and baptism. Baptize occurs fifty times, and its counterpart baptism appears twenty-one times.

These two words often show up in the Bible’s four biographies of Jesus and especially in the book of Acts, as well as a few times in Paul’s letters and once in Peter’s.

Some Bible scholars attempt to connect New Testament baptism with the ceremonial washings of the Old Testament. But this comes across as a weak explanation.

We first see these words in John’s ministry, when they pop up out of nowhere.

The Bible gives no historical understanding for the basis of baptism. And it doesn’t explain the significance of the practice. However, the people act as though they comprehend what baptism is.

We get the best clue about the origin of baptism when Jesus poses a question to his detractors. He asks them if John’s baptism came from heaven or was of human origin.

The chief priests and elders discuss the question. Knowing that either answer will be problematic for them, they tell Jesus they don’t know (Matthew 21:25).

The Bible gives us three forms of baptism:

John’s Baptism

John, who we call John the Baptist—because he baptized people—precedes Jesus in ministry. He points the people to Jesus and preaches a message of repentance (Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:5, Luke 7:29-30, Acts 19:4).

We can think of repentance as to stop doing wrong, to make a U-turn from our errors (our sins).

Jesus’s Baptism

John paves the way for Jesus and for his baptism. John says that Jesus will baptize people with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, and Luke 3:16).

However, we get a sense of an intermediate step where Jesus’s disciples baptize people who believe in him and are committed to following him John 4:1-2.

It’s a baptism of salvation (Mark 16:16). Holy Spirit baptism doesn’t occur until after Jesus dies, resurrects, and returns to heaven.

Holy Spirit Baptism

Before Jesus leaves the earth, he tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit that Papa promised to send them (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, and Acts 2:38).

This completes what John had foretold, that Jesus will baptize with Holy Spirit fire.

Today’s Baptism

Today our baptism can include all three aspects of these New Testament baptisms: turning from sin, following Jesus, and receiving the Holy Spirit.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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