By Tom Hamilton
Paul met “certain disciples” at Ephesus in Acts 19. Paul knew that these men were “disciples” or followers of God, but he also knew that they were not Christians. Therefore, the question Paul put to them was, “Into what therefore were you baptized?” We, like Paul in this example, will not deny that others may believe in God, may have had a religious experience, or may have some attachment to God. But we must also ask the same question that Paul did. Into what were you baptized? Our answer to this question will determine the validity of our religious experience and our relationship to God, just as it did those many centuries ago.
Baptized Into Water
Jesus was himself baptized as an example for us to follow. In Mark 1:9, we read that “Jesus was baptized by John in (lit. ‘into’) the Jordan river.” This expression does not make much sense unless we also understand that baptism means “immersion” — Jesus was immersed into the waters of the Jordan River. That is why the next verse says, “When Jesus came up out of the water . . .” This example of Jesus set the pattern for all believers to follow. For example, in Acts 8:38 we read of the Ethiopian’s baptism “. . . and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water . . .” The fact that Paul refers to baptism as a “burial” (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) also indicates that baptism involves a complete covering over or a total submersion into water. Of course, our answer should agree with what the New Testament says that we are to be baptized into.
Therefore, we must not simply be baptized by water or with water, but into water. Have you been baptized into water?
Baptized Into Death
Paul says in Romans 6:3-4, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” In the same way that Jesus physically died, was buried, and raised from the dead, we spiritually die to sin, are buried in baptism, and are raised again. Our old sinful self has been crucified and we have made a complete break with our sinful past, therefore we should not sin anymore, but rather live a new life (Rom. 6:5-6). Notice that our spiritual resurrection follows, not precedes, being baptized. The correct order — death, burial, and then resurrection — must be preserved if we are to be right with God. Spiritual resurrection and renewal can only take place after baptism.
Have you been baptized into death and then raised to eternal life?
Baptized Into the Name
Jesus commanded his disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and disciple the nations, baptizing them in (lit. ‘into’) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.” Acts 8:16 and 19:5 also speak of being baptized into the name of Jesus. While other passages speak of being baptized in or by the name of Jesus, baptism into the name of Jesus carries a little different meaning. It is a figure of speech for ownership, indicating that one rightfully wears the name of his owner. Notice in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul says that nobody was baptized into Paul’s name and, therefore, nobody could claim to “belong” to Paul. On the other hand, if we are baptized into Jesus’ name, then we belong to him. It also makes it clear that we do not belong to Jesus and cannot rightfully wear his name as our owner until we are baptized.
Have you entered into the realm of Christ’s ownership, having been baptized into his name?
Baptized Into Forgiveness
Peter says in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for (lit. ‘into’) the forgiveness of your sins.” Here we find the answer to the very simple question, How does one enter into the forgive- ness of one’s sins? Peter says that we enter into forgiveness through baptism. This also means that until one is baptized, one has not entered into the forgiveness of his sins. This does not mean that we are saving ourselves. Peter explains elsewhere that baptism saves us, not of our own power, but simply because we are faithfully doing what God has said in order that we may have a clear conscience (1 Pet. 3:21).
Therefore, we must be baptized in water out of obedience to God in order to receive the forgiveness of our sins. Have you been baptized into the forgiveness of your sins?
Baptized Into the Body of Christ
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” Paul pictures the church — the group of all the saved — as a body with its many members. But how does one get into Christ’s body? While people will give many different answers to this question, there is only one Bible answer — baptized into the body! One does not enter into Christ’s body and then afterwards get baptized. Also, this means that one is outside of Christ’s body until baptized to enter into it.
Therefore, to be a member of Christ’s body, we must be baptized. Have you been baptized into the body?
Baptized Into Christ
Finally, the Bible tells us not once, but twice, that we are baptized into Christ. We have already quoted Romans 6:3-4 when noting the expression “baptized into death.” Note also Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” How do we get into Christ? Again, while many give conflicting answers, there is only one biblical answer. If you want to agree with what the Bible says on the subject, you must agree that one can enter into Christ only by being baptized into Christ. This also means that one is not in Christ until one enters into Christ through baptism. It also means that one does not get into Christ and then get baptized afterwards, as many teach.
If you believe that you are now in Christ, how did you get into him? At what point did you go from being outside of Christ to being in Christ? Have you been baptized into Christ?
These are not, of course, six different baptisms that the Bible is talking about. The Bible is simply telling us the six things that we are baptized into when we are properly baptized out of obedience to God.
When we are immersed into the waters of baptism, we bury our dead previous life of sin, enter under Christ’s ownership, receive the forgiveness of our sins, become members of the body of Christ, and enjoy all of the blessings of God that are to be had by those who are in Christ, having entered into him by baptism.