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1: Baptisms in Acts
Preface for Baptisms Article Series
Baptisms: Introduction and Historical
Original Proclamations about Baptism
Two Baptisms Occurring Separately
Baptizo: Two Baptisms, One Greek
Synonymous Phrases: Baptism in the
Water Baptism in Jesus' Name
No Record of Paul's Water Baptism
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great
Necessity of Water Baptism: 3 Common
Survey 1: Baptisms in Acts
The Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming
Survey 2: Baptism from Romans to
Baptism and Hebrews 10:22
Conclusions: When and How Are We
Survey 3: Baptism and the Ante-Nicene
Closing: Water Baptism for the Right Reasons
In our continuing efforts to decide which form of baptism
was necessary for salvation, we will now move on to a survey
of "baptism" in the post-resurrection New Testament.
The King James uses 7 derivatives of the word "baptism" in
the entire New Testament (not including references to John
the Baptist himself). These 7 derivatives are: baptism, baptisms,
baptized, baptize, baptizing, baptizeth, and baptizest.
The word "baptize" does not occur in the book of Acts. Neither
do the terms "baptisms, baptizing, baptizeth, and baptizest."
There are two derivatives of the term that occur in the book
of Acts. These terms are "baptism" and "baptized," which together
occur a total of 27 times.
There are 6 occurrences of the
word "baptism" in Acts. All 6 are historical references to
John's baptism or people being baptized by John the Baptist.
There are 21 occurrences of the
word "baptized" in Acts.
Of these 21 occurrences, 8
times there is no specification of which baptism is meant
by the term. These 8 occurrences describe 6 instances of baptism.
It is unclear which form of baptism these 6 instances involved.
The remaining 13 occurrences of
"baptized" in Acts, we can decipher which form of baptism
was involved. In Acts 1:5, 1 time
Jesus uses it referring to John's baptism with water, and
1 time Jesus uses it referring
to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In Acts 11:16, Peter quotes
Jesus from Acts 1:5. In Acts 11:16, 1
time Peter uses it referring to John's baptism with water,
and 1 time Peter uses it referring
to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is used 3
times in Acts 8:12-17 to refer to the water baptism of the
people of the city of Samaria. It is used 2
times in Acts 8:36-38 to refer to the water baptism of the
Eunuch. It is used 2 times by
Peter in Acts 10:47-48, to refer to the water baptism of the
first Gentile converts. It is used 1
time by Paul in Acts 19:3 in a question clearly intends to refer to baptism in the Holy Spirit. 1 time
in Acts 19:4, Paul uses it to refer back to John's historical
baptism with water. Total: 13.
That gives us a total of 13 times
that the word "baptized" occurs in Acts in which we can identify
which form of baptism is indicated.
Of these 13, 3
times "baptized" is used as a reference back to John's historical
water baptism. 3 times (including
Acts 19:3) "baptized" is used to refer to baptism in the Holy
Spirit. There are 7 times
"baptized" is used to describe water baptism being performed
within the Book of Acts. Total: 13.
So, out of the 27 total occurrences
of "baptism" derivative words, here's how the results break
out of 27 (a full 1/3) refer back
to John's historical baptism with water (6
"baptism," 3 "baptized.") 3
times it refers to baptism in the Holy Spirit (used by Jesus,
Peter, and Paul.) 7 times it is
used to refer to water baptism (3
actual baptisms). 1 hypothetical
in Acts 19:3.) The other 8 times
there is no specification from the immediate context which
form of baptism is meant. Total: 27.
This is the final survey for the occurrence of baptism derivatives
in the book of Acts: 9 = John's
historic water baptism, 3 = baptism
in the Holy Spirit, 7 = water
baptism, 8 = unspecified (6 instances
of baptism.) Total: 27.
So far this survey has focused on the occurrences of the word
baptism or its derivatives. But there is another way to survey
Acts on this subject. We can survey the number of baptisms.
Or, in other words, we can survey the number of instances
where there was a baptism of one form or another.
There are 6 instances of baptism
in the Holy Spirit occurring during the timeframe of Acts
(Acts 2:4, 2:38-41, Acts 8:15-17, Acts 9:17, Acts 10:44-48,
and Acts 19:1-7.) There are 3
instances of water baptism performed during the timeframe
of Acts (Acts 8:12-13, Acts 8:36-38, Acts 10:47-48.) That's
twice as many occurrences of baptisms in the Holy Spirit during
the timeframe of Acts than the number of water baptisms performed.
Now, if we only count the baptisms in the Holy Spirit that
were performed by men (as opposed to God directly in Acts
2 and 10.), baptisms in the Holy Spirit outnumber the amount
of water baptisms performed by a count of 4
So, using the number of occurrences of the two forms of baptism as an indicator, we would have to admit either that the results are inconclusive or that it was baptism in the Holy Spirit (and not water baptism), which was considered essential to salvation. Of course this analysis does not take into account the other 8 occurrences of the term "baptism" (or its derivatives) that do not specify which form of baptism is involved.
These remaining 8 occurrences describe 6
baptisms that have not been categorized as either water baptism
or baptism in the Holy Spirit. We will now examine those 6
remaining baptisms to see if we can decipher which form of
baptism they record and what effect that will have on our
These 6 baptisms can be found
in Acts 2:38-41, Acts 9:17-18 (also found in 22:12-16), Acts
16:12-15, Acts 16:25-34, Acts 18:7-8, Acts 19:1-7.
Of these 6, we know for a fact
that baptism in the Holy Spirit did occur in 3, Acts 2:38-41,
Acts 9:17, and Acts 19:1-7. The only question is whether or
not water baptism was performed as well. The issue is whether
or not the use of the term "baptism" in these passages alludes
to water baptism taking place in addition to the baptism in
the Holy Spirit which is mentioned specifically.
Because 3 of these 6 passages definitely involve baptism in the Holy
Spirit, we have already included them in our count of baptisms
in the Holy Spirit. So, these 6 passages can add only a possible
3 baptisms to the total number of baptisms in the Holy Spirit,
while they could theoretically add 6 baptisms to the total
number of water baptisms.
What is interesting to note about all 6
of these baptisms is that not a single one of them mentions
water at all. Neither do they mention a river. There is no
hint from the texts themselves that would point to water baptism.
Those who conclude that these are water baptisms are most likely just presuming that the term "baptism" refers to water baptism by default.
On the other hand, 3 of these
passages specifically mention receiving the Holy Spirit. These
passages are Acts 2:38-41, 9:17-18 (22:12-16), Acts 19:1-7.
Acts 9:17-18 records the baptism of Paul. This same is also
recounted later in Acts 22:12-16 by Paul himself.
We have already discussed in extensive detail that this baptism
was baptism in the Holy Spirit, not baptism with water for
two reasons. First, the Greek word for "washed" found in Acts
22:16 only occurs one other time in the New Testament. That
only other occurrence is 1 Corinthians 6:11 where it used
regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Second, the context of Acts 9 itself points to baptism in
the Holy Spirit. Not only is there no mention of water in
any form, but Ananias himself says in verse 17 that he is
there for two purposes, for Paul to receive his sight and
for Paul to receive the Holy Spirit. Then verse 18 goes on
to tell us that Paul immediately received his sight and was
baptized. The simplest, most logical interpretation is that
he was baptized in the Holy Spirit, fulfilling the second
purpose of Ananias.
For these two reasons and because there is a complete absence
of any mention of water in these two passages, we conclude
that this baptism, Paul's baptism, was not one of water, but
of the Holy Spirit.
Similarly, we believe the absence of any mention of water
in Acts 2:38-41 and Acts 19:1-7 along with the mention of
receiving the Holy Spirit in both passages, logically indicates
that these baptisms were not with water, but in the Holy Spirit.
We should not assume water baptism when no water was mentioned.
So, judging just from scripture, we believe 2
out of these 6 remaining baptism
were most likely only baptisms in the Holy Spirit, not water
(Acts 9:17-18 and Acts 19:1-7.) However, we are counting Acts
2:38-41 as referring to BOTH water baptism and baptism in
the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be
baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ
for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift
of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and
to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many
as the LORD our God shall call. 40 And with many other words
did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this
untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his
word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto
them about three thousand souls.
Note the phrase, "be baptized...and you will receive the Holy Spirit." As we have already shown in depth earlier in this study, the phrase, "receive the Holy Spirit" is a synonym for baptism in the Holy Spirit. The question is whether the phrase "be baptized" here refers to water baptism.
For the purposes of this portion of the study we will answer "yes" to this question. The reason we will answer yes is because we want to be as fair as possible in our count of baptisms in the Book of Acts. Correspondently, it could be argued that interpreting "be baptized" (in verse 38) as a reference to baptism in the Holy Spirit would seem to make the sentence redundant. In other words, it would read "be baptized in the Holy Spirit and you will receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit." Such a rendering could understandably lead us toward the conclusion that the phrase “be baptized” is here referring to water baptism while the phrase “receive the Holy Spirit” serves as the means of referencing baptism in the Holy Spirit. In this interpretation, Peter would be instructing the crowd to "be water baptized and receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit." This would be the same order the apostles themselves likely received the baptisms, first John's baptism with water and then Jesus' baptism with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
However, we want to also note that it is not our position that the phrase “be baptized” Acts 2:38 must be taken to refer to water baptism. On the contrary, since baptism in the Holy Spirit occurred, at times, through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:15-20, 1 Timothy 4:14 with 2 Timothy 1:6) it is possible that the phrase “be baptized” here refers to the laying on of hands by which the Holy Spirit was received. If this is the case, there would be no redundancy in Acts 2:38. In this case, since there is no direct mention of water, by extension, there would be immediate contextual basis for inferring any mention of water baptism here. Rather, Peter would be instructing the crowd to “repent and come forward to have hands laid on them for the remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit.” (This may well parallel Acts’ account of Paul’s baptisms which we will discuss in more detail later. See Acts 9:17-18 which also mentions the laying on of hands and the subsequent reception of the Holy Spirit.) Additionally, the wording of Acts 2:38 would also work well as Peter’s introductory explanation to the crowd that baptism would now entail reception of the Holy Spirit rather than water immersion, just as predicted repeatedly by John the Baptist and affirmed by Jesus in Acts 1. We believe that this interpretation of Acts 2:38 is a fair representation of the textual details in their immediate historic context as well as within the greater New Testament discussion of baptisms.
So, we will count Acts 2:38-41 as a tally in the water baptism category as well, to give us a total of 4 water baptisms. But, we will note that the language of Acts 2:38 does not mention water and would not ultimately require that the phrase “be baptized” necessarily references water baptism. With regard to our survey of baptism in Acts, we will again note that Acts 2:38-41, Acts 9:17-18, and Acts 19:1-7 have already been counted as baptism in the Holy Spirit since we know these passages mention that specifically. So, our look at Acts 2:38 does not add anything to our overall count for baptisms in the Holy Spirit. There is still a total of 6.
And since the other 3 baptisms
don't specify which form of baptism was involved, at this
point we will not attempt to speculate (although this issue
will be revisited later.) Scripture does not indicate which
form of baptism was employed in those texts. The only hint
is the complete absence of any mention of water. Beyond this,
no one can be dogmatic about these final 3
baptisms. Any comments about which form of baptism was involved
would be pure assumption.
Since these were the only 3 baptisms
out of the 6 unspecified accounts
that could have been counted for baptism in the Holy Spirit,
we will not be adding any baptisms to our count of baptisms
in the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, we will be adding 1
baptism to our count of baptisms with water, Acts 2:38-41.
But, we have shown that no mention of water of any form can
be found in Acts 9:17-18 and Acts 19:1-7. So, we will not
be adding those to the baptism with water category. At this
point, the insertion of water baptism into these texts is
an unfounded assumption at best and a deliberate twisting
of the scripture at worst.
So, what have we concluded from our survey of the baptisms
recorded in Acts? The totals are as follows: 3,
baptisms when the form of baptism is unspecified [Acts 16:12-15,
Acts 16:25-34, 18:7-8], 4 baptisms
in water [Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:12-16, Acts 8:38-40, Acts 10:47-48],
and 6 baptisms in the Holy Spirit
(2 performed by God, 4
performed by men) [Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:15-17,
Acts 9:17-18 (also found in 22:12-16), Acts 10:44-48, Acts
That gives us a total of 13 baptisms
found in the book of Acts, 3 unspecified,
4 in water, and 6
in the Holy Spirit. (We have 1 extra because Acts 2:38-41
was counted as a baptism with water and a baptism in the Holy Spirit.)
This survey would favor the conclusion that baptism in the Holy Spirit was more prominent than baptism in water, although these numbers are not extremely definitive.
There is one last interesting note from this survey. Acts 10:44-48
records one instance when Peter insisted on water baptizing
the first Gentile converts AFTER they had received the Holy
Spirit. However, Acts 8:12-17 records Peter also insisted
upon baptizing the Samarian converts in the Holy Spirit AFTER
they had been baptized in water. And, Acts 19:1-7 similarly
records that Paul insisted on baptizing the 12 men from Ephesus
in the Holy Spirit AFTER they had been water baptized already
by John the Baptist. So, there are twice as many occasions
in scripture when baptism in the Holy Spirit was insisted
upon AFTER water baptism as there are occasions when baptism
in water was insisted upon AFTER baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Not only does this disprove the claim that Peter's insistence
in Acts 10:44-48 indicates the necessity of water baptism,
but it further demonstrates the greater significance of baptism
in the Holy Spirit over baptism with water.
Having finished our survey of the occurrences of the term
"baptism" in Acts, we can only conclude that Baptism in the
Holy Spirit was held to be of greater importance
by the apostles and the early Church. We will now move on
to survey the rest of the post-resurrection New Testament
to examine what it has to say about which baptism is essential