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Particulars of Christianity:
309 Baptisms


Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great Commission

Preface for Baptisms Article Series
Baptisms: Introduction and Historical Background
Original Proclamations about Baptism
Two Baptisms Occurring Separately
Baptizo: Two Baptisms, One Greek Word
Synonymous Phrases: Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Water Baptism in Jesus' Name
No Record of Paul's Water Baptism
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great Commission
Necessity of Water Baptism: 3 Common Arguments
Survey 1: Baptisms in Acts
The Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming Evidence)
Survey 2: Baptism from Romans to Revelation
Baptism and Hebrews 10:22
Conclusions: When and How Are We Reborn?
Survey 3: Baptism and the Ante-Nicene Authors
Closing: Water Baptism for the Right Reasons



At this point it bears mentioning again. The same Greek word (Strong's #907, 908) for baptism (or its derivatives) is used throughout the New Testament to refer to both John's baptism of water and the baptism of the Holy Spirit (ex. Acts 1:5). Therefore, we cannot just assume when we read the word "baptism" in a particular passage that it refers to water baptism. Nor should we assume that it refers to water baptism by default.

Similarly, we cannot automatically assume that the word baptism refers to "baptism" in the Holy Spirit. Instead, we must look at the context, not only the immediate context, but the context of the entire New Testament. Only after examining the entire New Testament will we be able to know which baptism we should assume by default when the immediate context does not indicate one or the other.

Here is the Greek word for baptism.

907 baptizo {bap-tid'-zo}
from a derivative of 911; TDNT - 1:529,92; verb AV - 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

To answer the question of which baptism Jesus meant in Matthew 28 and Mark 16, we must first recognize that Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and Acts 1 are all parallel passages. Therefore, the command to baptize all nations came within the very same exact context and timeframe when Jesus was reiterating to the apostles the distinction between the baptism in the Holy Spirit and baptism with water. This is a very important point, so let's spend some time on it. Let's take a look at all four of these parallel passages.

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 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. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

Acts 1:2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
...22 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.

The first thing to recognize is that Mark 16, Luke 24, and Acts 1:1-9 all conclude with the ascension of Christ into heaven. Most scholars fail to connect the Acts 1 account to the Gospel accounts of these events. But it is clear from scripture that all of these passages including Matthew 28 are parallel accounts of the same events and teachings of Christ before his ascension. Therefore, we can construct the following composite of Jesus' interaction with the apostles in the days following his resurrection and before his ascension.

1. In Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4-5, Jesus tells the apostles not to leave Jerusalem until they are baptized in the Holy Spirit.

2. In Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, Jesus commands the apostles to go into all the world and preach the Gospel after they have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

3. In Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8, Jesus tells them that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit. In Mark 16:17-18 Jesus tells them that signs will follow believers, including tongues.

4. In Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9 all record Jesus' ascension into heaven AFTER he spoke these things to the apostles.

5. Mark 16:20 and the entire book of Acts (after Acts 2) record that the apostles did go forth and preach the Gospel everywhere and that signs followed them (just as foretold in Mark 16:17-18.)

The important thing to realize here is that Jesus' command to baptize in the Great Commission came in the context of and was preceded by three important statements, which clearly establish which baptism he was commanding the apostles to carry on. First, Jesus reiterates the teaching that John baptized with water and that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Second, Jesus tells them not to leave Jerusalem until they receive this baptism in the Holy Spirit. Third, Jesus states that after they received this baptism in the Holy Spirit that they would receive power to be witnesses, to go forth into the world and proclaim the Gospel, and that signs will follow them, including tongues. Having stated all of this he then commanded them to go into the entire world and baptize those who believed and accepted their message.

Notice also that the coupling together of a form of baptism with miracle working power in Mark 16 further indicates that it was baptism in the Holy Spirit that was meant in that passage.

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

What is interesting from comparing this version of the Great Commission in Mark 16 to Acts 2 is that both mention baptism followed by tongues and witnessing to the nations. This further indicates that the baptism in view in Mark 16 was baptism in the Holy Spirit, the same baptism that preceded the apostles speaking in tongues and witnessing to the nations in Acts 2.

Further evidence that Acts 1 is a parallel account of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-20, and Luke 24:47-51 comes from Joel 2:29-32 and Acts 2:14-21.

Joel 2:29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

Here in Joel 2, the Lord declares that He will pour out his Spirit upon his servants and that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Peter quotes this passage from Joel during his first sermon in Acts 2.

Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

The first thing to note from Peter's words here is that Peter applies Joel 2 as an explanation for the apostles’ speaking in tongues. Thus, Peter says that the speaking in tongues is not drunkenness but it is what Joel spoke about when he said that God will pour out his Spirit upon his servants. However, we also know that the phrase "pouring out of God's Spirit upon his servants" is a synonym for "baptism in the Holy Spirit" since this is exactly what the apostles were told to wait for by Jesus in Acts 1, where Jesus calls this event baptism in the Holy Spirit. And lastly, notice that in his quotation from Joel, Peter also associates receiving this baptism in the Holy Spirit with calling upon the name of the Lord and thereby being saved.

From the very origin of this concept in the book of Joel to Peter's affirmation of Joel's teaching when he receives the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we see that it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that is associated with calling upon the name of the Lord and being saved. Keeping in mind the progressive nature of divine revelation, in this connection between Joel 2 and Acts 2 we see another scriptural precedent, which would have dictated the apostle's understanding concerning which baptism the Lord was referring to in the Great Commission alongside his mention of receiving salvation. To further illustrate the parallel nature of these verses along with the controlling understanding that Joel 2 would have provided upon the Great Commission, we have listed these verses side by side below.

Joel 2:29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit...32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 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. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

Acts 1:4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence... 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Acts 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy...21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Starting with Joel 2, which provides the earliest basis of this teaching, all of these passages include some combination of these same elements: God's servants receiving baptism in the Holy Spirit, salvation for those who receive baptism in the Holy Spirit, the apostles waiting in Jerusalem for baptism in the Holy Spirit, after receiving baptism in the Holy Spirit preaching the Gospel throughout all the nations, and Jesus ascending into heaven after teaching these things.

Based on all of this it should be abundantly clear which form of baptism that Jesus was referring to when he commanded the disciples "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." From both the context and the prior revelation of Joel 2 and Peter's application of Joel 2 in Acts 2, it is obvious that in the last days before his ascension Jesus was referring to baptism in the Holy Spirit and not baptism in water when he gave the Great Commission and that the apostles understood this to be the case. Having heard John teach from the beginning that baptism in the Holy Spirit is the baptism that the Christ would bring and having heard the Lord himself restate this very teaching in the days between his resurrection and ascension, the apostles clearly would have understood the word "baptism" in the Great Commission to refer to baptism in the Holy Spirit. In fact, any student of the gospels should have interpreted Jesus’ reference to baptism in the Great Commission in accordance with John the Baptist’s original proclamation that the Messiah would bring baptism, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit – a fact recorded in the beginning of Matthew and Mark both of which mention baptism in the Great Commission.