Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 12, 1961
NUMBER 35, PAGE 3,14a

How Many Baptisms Are There?

J. L. Knight, Huntington, Tennessee

In the pages of the Bible we find a number of names associated with baptism: John the Baptist, Paul, Cephas, Apollos, Moses, and Christ. We will study these names in their connection with baptism from a historical standpoint. We will see to whom baptism was applicable. We will notice also which one of these men has the authority to require us to be baptized today. We will find what the element is in which we are to be baptized, and how it is to be done. Many people contend it can be immersion, sprinkling, or pouring. According to them it does not make any difference which way it is done. Paul said there was one baptism. Matthew 3:11 refers to three baptisms. Let us study the subject and see what the Bible has to say on the question:


In 1 Cor. 10:1-2 Paul writes, "Moreover brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Moses is now dead and the law was nailed to the cross. (Col. 2:14) Thus the baptism unto Moses is eliminated from our list.


We find John the Baptist baptizing in the river Jordan. (Mark 1:4-8) This was before Christ and not by the authority of Christ. After the ascension of Christ into heaven, and after Christ gave the great commission to go into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them (Matt. 28:18-20), people who had been baptized unto John's baptism were re-baptized in the name of Christ. (Acts 19:1-6) If John's baptism had remained in effect, there would have been no need for these disciples to be re-baptized. Hence John is eliminated from our list as being the one who has the authority to require us to be baptized.


In regard to Christ, we read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We study his life, his suffering, his death on the cross, his burial, and his resurrection. We read in 1 Cor. 1:12-15 Paul's condemnation of the Corinthian brethren because some ware saying they were of Paul, some of Cephas, some of Apollos, and some of Christ. In verse 13 Paul asks, "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" Of course not! It was Christ that was crucified, and they were baptized in the name of Christ. Thus Paul, Cephas, and Apollos were eliminated as men who have authority to require us to be baptized. Christ alone has the authority to command baptism. (Matt. 28:18)


In Eph. 4:5 Paul says there is one baptism. Matt. 3:11 speaks of water, Holy Ghost, and fire baptisms. Which one is the one Baptism? If there is only one then there could not be three for today.

What is the element? We note in Matt. 28:19, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." The element is not named. Again in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Here again the element is not named. Then Peter, in Acts 2, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice He preached for the first time the gospel in its completeness; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The men who heard what they had done, knowing that they had done something terrible, asked in verse 37, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" In verse 38 Peter told them to "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Verse 41 says "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized." Note again the element is not named.

But let us now turn to Acts 10, where we read the story of Cornelius. Many good things are said about him. He is instructed by the angel to send for Peter "Who will tell thee what thou oughtest to do." He sends for Peter. Peter comes to his house. We find Peter preaching Christ to Cornelius and his house. Notice in verse 47! "Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." Now we see the same preacher that told the Jews to be baptized on the day of Pentecost commanding Cornelius and his house to be baptized in water. Paul said there was one baptism in Eph. 4:5. We have now found that this baptism is in water.


Let us now notice the Holy Ghost. God alone would send the Holy Ghost in Christ's name. (John 14:26) He is not the element in which we are to be baptized because we are commanded to be baptized in something we could go down into, come up out of, and go on our way and leave. We could not be baptized in the Holy Ghost and in the name of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 28:19) In Acts 8 we find Phillip riding along with the Ethiopian eunuch. Phillip had preached Christ to him. We find the eunuch in verse 36 saying, "See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Then after the eunuch had confessed Christ (verse 38) they went down into the water and he baptized him. Then came up out of the water (verse 39).

Paul says there is one baptism. We have noted that it is performed on people who had heard the gospel, believed it, repented of their sins, and confessed. Christ before men. We also note that it is for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) We have proved the element to be water.


But is it sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Can it be either of the three? Is it a matter of choice? Many say yes, thus causing, quite a bit of confusion. This confusion s further deepened by painters, teachers, and preachers. If we would take the Bible only, we would not be con fused. Many argue that when people came to John the Baptist that he sprinkled or poured water on them. If this is true, then the statement "And straightway coming up out of the water," would be foolish. (Mark 1:10)

Many people say, concerning the Ethiopian eunuch, that because the country was desert there was no body of water; that when he said, "See here is water," he reached under his seat, drew out a jug of water and that Phillip poured or sprinkled him. But if indeed this be true about the jug of water, they both went down into the water (into the jug of water?) and they both came up out of the water (out of the jug of water?). The word desert here means sparsely settled, not hot, and dry. Let us read verse 38 again: "And they both went down into the water, both Phillip and the eunuch, and he baptized him."

We have established the fact that the subjects went down into the water — both the one to be baptized and the one to baptize. We note again in John 3:23 "And John also was baptizing in Enon near Salem because there was much water there: and they came and were baptized." We see much water was present. In the language of the Bible (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) Baptism is a burial. Sprinkling or pouring are not used in the New Testament except to denote pouring into a pan or container of some kind.


Now concerning the three baptisms. Water is commanded (Acts 10:48), Holy Ghost is one of promise by Christ. (John 14:26; 16;13; Luke 24:49; and Acts 1:8) We see this promise being fulfilled in Acts 1:1-4; Acts 10:44; and Acts 11:15-16. Fire baptism is for them that obey not the gospel. In 2 Thess. 1:6-9 we find that Christ is coming with his mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the. Lord, and the glory of his power. They shall be gathered out of the kingdom that do offend and do iniquity; and shall be cast into a furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:41-42) And in Matt. 13:50, we find that the wicked shall be separated from the just and cast into the furnace of fire. It is an everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his 'angels; it is an everlasting punishment. (Matt. 25:41, 46) It is a place where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched; it is a fire that shall never be quenched. (Mark 9:44, 45) It is a place where the wicked shall suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 7) It is a place where the devil shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented night and day forever and ever. (Rev. 20:10) It is a lake of fire where death and hell shall be cast, it is the second death. (Rev. 20:14) It is where all those that are not written in the book of life will be cast. (Rev. 20:15) And finally Rev. 21:8 says, "But the fearful and the unbelieving, and the whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and murderers, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."

In conclusion we ask, how many baptisms? The answer: ONE. That is what we have found. It is water baptism, where there is much water, a going down into the water, a burial, and a coming up out of the water. It is for (in order to) the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38)

Christ said in Matt. 4:4, Man must live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Paul tells Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:15 to "Study....rightly dividing the word of truth." Again in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 that it furnishes us completely. Rev. 22:18-19 says not to add to nor take from. And as "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17), and "without faith it is impossible to please him (God)" (Heb. 11:6), let us accept the Bible only — nothing more and nothing less and nothing else. Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him (Heb. 5:8-9); but not to them that obey the commandments and precepts of men. (Matt. 15:9)