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Particulars of Christianity:
309 Baptisms

Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?

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

Having established that the distinction between the two forms of baptism was understood and that there was no new form of water baptism distinct from John's to arise after the resurrection, we will now move on to demonstrating that the New Testament upholds only one of these two forms of baptism was essential to salvation. After doing so we will move on to an examination concerning which of these two forms of baptism was essential to salvation.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

From this passage in Hebrews 6, there are two things worth noting for this study. First, the doctrine of baptisms is considered fundamental teaching that, according to the writer of Hebrews, was something his audience should have already understood by that time. Second, the author speaks of the doctrine of "baptisms" plural.

Second, if "baptisms" here is plural, then what baptisms is he talking about? Well, we have already demonstrated that there were only two: baptism with water and baptism with the Holy Spirit. So, the rendering of this word "baptism" as a plural in this passage further demonstrates that the early Christians held that water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit were distinctly different events and experiences. But does the mention of "baptisms" plural indicate that both were considered essential to the life of every believer? No. It simply means that there was teaching regarding both forms of baptism probably including how each should be practiced and their respective level of significance in the life of the believer.

The reason that Hebrews 6 cannot be indicating both forms of baptism were equally significant to the Church or that they were both essential to the Church, can be found in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

In Ephesians 4 we have a list of singular items that are essential to Christianity. There is one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all. The significance of placing "one baptism" (singular) in the midst of these other items makes an unequivocal statement of the importance of one of these two forms of baptism but not both. Only one of the two forms of baptism was considered essential enough to Christianity to be listed side by side with one Lord and one faith. The questions is, of course, which one? And we will survey the New Testament and Ante-Nicene writers to try and find out just a little later on.

1 Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

This passage from I Peter 3 is a controversial one concerning baptism, and we'll discuss why later on in our study. For now, the portion of the passage significant to this study is verse 21. In verse 21, Peter states that "baptism doth also now save us." By doing so, he unequivocally equates baptism with the salvation experience. But again, which one?

At this point a dilemma arises. Most modern theologians interpret Jesus' words "go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (in Matthew 28 and Mark 16) to mean water baptism in Jesus' name and not baptism in the Holy Spirit in Jesus' name.

The presumption is that there is no scriptural context to indicate the apostles would have understood any other form of baptism at the point in time that the Great Commission was given. But is this the case? Could the apostles have understood Jesus' was indicating baptism in the Holy Spirit? It is this question to which we now turn our attention as we move ahead to our next section.