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What kind of baptism is necessary to enter Heaven?

The Question:

What Kind of Baptism is Necessary to Enter Heaven?

The Answer:

The word baptism means to immerse or to dip into something ... as a cloth into a dye bath, so that the cloth (thing being dipped) takes on the characteristics of the thing dipped in. There are basically three baptisms mentioned in the Bible.

One is baptism into the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit does this when we are born again (John 3:3-5, I Corinthians 12:12-13).

The second is baptism in water, which is an outward symbol of our inward repentance and identification with Jesus' death and resurrection (Acts 10:47, Acts 19:1-5).

And the third baptism is the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit by Jesus (Luke 3:16, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 19:6).

The baptism into the Body of Christ at salvation ALWAYS occurs first and is REQUIRED to inherit eternal life. Then we are typically baptized in water second, and then usually third is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. But the sequence of the second two can be reversed, according to Scripture.

We are talking about different TYPES of baptisms... one literally in water ... and two spiritually (being baptized into the body of Christ and being baptized in the Spirit). Thatís what the Bible says ... that there is baptism in literal water and also baptism in the Spirit, which is described as living water.

How can you tell which baptism a passage is referring to? If it says water baptism, then it means immersed in water, if not it probably is talking about a spiritual baptism. You also need to look at context. In one place, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit first, and then the disciples said who could deny them water to be baptized? So obviously in that case they were spirit immersed before they were water immersed!

Acts 10:47 Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?

Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

As far as baptism in water being REQUIRED for salvation, people are of two different opinions about this and both can muster up verses to support their views. I personally believe that we are saved by faith through grace, not of works ... and since water baptism is a WORK - in other words something we do, then it is not REQUIRED for salvation.

However, I do believe that baptism in water is a COMMAND, and we should be obedient to the Lord in this regard if at all possible. We know that Jesus was baptized in water and His disciples that were followers of John the Baptist were also. Acts 1:22 refers to the fact that the replacement for Judas must have been with them from the "baptism of John" implying they were all baptized by John.  So following Jesusí example, we should be baptized in water if at all possible.

Water baptism is an outward sign of an inward work - in other words part of your testimony that you are now a new creature in Christ. It is also symbolic of Christ's death, and shows that you have been buried with Him spiritually in baptism and raised to new life.

Colossians 2:11-12 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

However, if someone is saved and cannot be baptized in water, such as the thief on the cross, or someone being saved and dying in the desert, then I do NOT believe that God will block him or her from entering Heaven on this technicality, for lack of water.

Mark 16:15-16 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

These two verses are quoted by those who believe that baptism in water is required or necessary for salvation. The Weymouth translation puts Acts 2:38 this way: "Stop your wrong ways and turn back to God,' answered Peter. `And then everyone of you can be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Your wrong ways will be forgiven you, and you will receive the Holy Spirit."

Which makes it a little clearer I think that the repentance - stopping the wrong ways and turning back to God is what brings forgiveness and gives us the right to be baptized in water.

Romans 10:8-13 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming that if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

When Mark 16:15-16 and Acts 2:38 are taken out of the context of the other salvation passages, it seems that water baptism is necessary for salvation. But elsewhere water baptism is not mentioned as being necessary for salvation (See Romans 10:8-13, Ephesians 2:8-10, for example). Also notice that these passages do NOT say be baptized IN WATER - so are they talking about water baptism or being baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit?

I found this interesting explanation of the word baptism in Strong's Concordance:

"baptizo {bap-tid'-zo} translated in the KJV baptize (76), wash 2, baptist 1, baptized + 2258 1; 80 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) 2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe 3) to overwhelm."

"++++ Not to be confused with 911, bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change."

"When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g. Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptized shall be saved'. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle! Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989."

So what it's saying here is this. What produces the permanent change in our lives? Being dipped in water or being baptized into Christ? It is the inner change of the heart, repentance and believing on Jesus that saves us and washes us free from sin. If water could do it alone, why would we need Jesus?

1 Peter 3:20-22 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and THIS WATER SYMBOLIZES BAPTISM that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

The baptism that saves us is the baptism by the Holy Spirit into Christ ... and the baptism in water is a symbol or an outward evidence of what has happened inside. It clearly says that it is NOT the removal or washing of dirt from the body (the effect of water) but the pledge of a good conscience towards God ... the baptism into Christ that saves you by the resurrection of Christ.

Here is a verse that trips a lot of people up because they misinterpret it: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all BAPTIZED BY ONE SPIRIT into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

When do we become part of the Body of Christ? When we are saved, born again, converted, etc. So when we are born again, we are baptized by the Spirit into Christ's body. This is not the same thing as being filled with the Spirit, or being baptized in water.

So this verse is NOT talking about water baptism, but about the fact that the Holy Spirit unites us with the body of Christ when we are born again. IF you can visualize it this way, it's like we are all dipped in the river of Christ's blood by the Holy Spirit and that makes us one body in Christ.  

Now after the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the Body of Christ, which is automatic when we are saved, we are given of one Spirit to drink. When you drink something you take in liquid and it is assimilated into your body.

We are also given of one Spirit to drink ... but it's up to us to do the drinking! And we have the capability of drinking of the Spirit until we are full. This is also called being FILLED with the Spirit. Of course this is not literally drinking a fluid, such as water, but in a spiritual sense, drinking of the Spirit.

Think of your spirit as a glass ... it could have a little bit of water in it, or be half full, or be completely filled. Our goal as Christians should be to stay filled, even to over flowing. Remember in Psalm 23, it says "My cup runs over" ?

Paul told the believers at Ephesus this in Ephesians 5:18 [written to believers] Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.

We can all understand being drunk on alcoholic beverages ... how the alcohol takes over a person's thought processes and behavior, how they can become saturated with alcohol or inebriated. This is what Paul says NOT to do. By the same token, we are to be filled with the Spirit, so full of the Spirit that He takes over our thought processes and guides our behavior.

This is what Jesus said about this: John 7:37-39 (NIV) On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

When was the Baptism in the Holy Spirit by Jesus given? Remember that John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would come and baptize us with the Holy Spirit ... and that Jesus Himself said to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16, Acts 1:4-5).

Acts 1:4-5 On one occasion, while he [Jesus] was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Jesus was referring to the day of Pentecost, when He sent the Holy Spirit to baptize the believers. Notice that it also says they were filled with the Holy Spirit. So the terms "filled with the Holy Spirit" and "baptized with the Holy Spirit" mean essentially the same thing. The disciples believed in Jesus and obeyed Him ... when they followed His instructions, then they were filled.

Acts 2:4 (NIV) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 4:31 (NIV) After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 13:52 (NIV) And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

So being filled with the Spirit also has the effect of giving you boldness to witness and filling you with joy.

This is the flow of the Holy Spirit - He baptizes us spiritually into Christ's Body when we are born again, then we drink of the Spirit until we are filled with the Spirit and then living water flows out of us. In most cases where being filled with the Spirit is mentioned, it also mentions an outflow: speaking in tongues, speaking the Word of God boldly, showing forth joy, etc.

Being filled with the Spirit is also called being baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5), having the Holy Spirit come upon you (Acts 1:8; 8:16), the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13; Acts 2:38), and receiving the Holy Spirit (John 7:39, Acts 10:47; 18:15-16; 19:2).

Being filled with the Spirit or baptized in the Spirit can either happen at our conversion, later or not at all. The Holy Spirit fills us when Jesus Christ baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, and we are to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we make all this much too complicated, we just need to drink of the Spirit ... let Jesus fill us with living water. So don't let the terminology throw you ... it basically means yielding yourself to God, and the more you yield to God, the more of the Holy Spirit you will receive in your life ... like drinking to the full, or being baptized until you are soaked through and through.

So the Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ's body when we are converted, saved, born again, born from above, born of the Spirit ... again the Bible calls it many things... receiving Jesus as Savior etc. And the after we are born again, Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and as we surrender to Him we are filled with the Spirit.

The Baptism in or with the Holy Spirit by Jesus is NOT required for salvation, so why worry about it? The Holy Spirit empowers us to witness:

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Now the Greek Word for power is dunamis ... which is our root word for dynamite and dynamo. It means explosive, overcoming, atomic type power. Now you can witness for Jesus without the Holy Spirit ... but it's hard! But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, He gives you explosive power to witness, holy boldness, and more than that, discernment to know what to say and when to say it.

Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and the power to witness comes with His presence! Itís more than just words, it's a lifestyle of love ... And in this context the Holy Spirit can give us overcoming power over sin... or the boldness to say "no" when those you associate with are trying to get you into questionable activities.

 Words speak, but actions YELL!!! Praise the Lord! Wisdom and power are given to us through the Holy Spirit. One reason the Church today doesn't have much power is because many have ignored the Holy Spirit and tried to follow a dry form or the traditions of men.

Remember it was JESUS who said that we would receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon us. Jesus told us that He was going to send the Holy Spirit to be our Helper, our Counselor, our Teacher, and our Guide, who would live within us, who would be JUST LIKE JESUS. Since Jesus was going back to Heaven, the Holy Spirit was being sent to earth so we wouldn't be orphans ... we would have the Spirit of Christ not only with us but also IN us.

Sometimes we make it way too complicated ... just receive the Holy Spirit like someone handing you a gift ... just accept Him, lean on Him. One of His names is Paraclete ... which means one called alongside to help. If you need help, just call on the Holy Spirit. That's His job and He loves to do it!

How hard is it to drink a glass of water? Spiritually it's the same thing, open your mouth and drink of the living water, let the Spirit fill you with joy to overflowing. The Holy Spirit longs to help you ... and is waiting for you to ask.

The most important thing is that we repent and believe on Jesus ... and that the Spirit baptizes us into the Body of Christ. Baptism in water is an outward sign or testimony of what Jesus has done in the heart. But the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is something greatly to be desired to help us live a victorious life.


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