Uploaded by ROBERT DUNN

Biblical Theology of Baptism Paper complete cop

Biblical Theology of Baptism
Student’s Name
Institutional Affiliation
Biblical theology and the other theological inquiry branches exhibit some clear contract
between them but are closely interrelated. Whilst practical theology labors on the pastoral
application of the scriptural truths; with systematic theology emphasizing on the articulation of
the scriptural outlook in a philosophical system and the historical theology trying to investigate
the gradual growth and development of the Christian thought throughout the centuries, Biblical
theology endeavors to articulate the Biblical theologies as they are addressed by different authors
in regard to their setting. This definition implies that Biblical theology strives to uncover the
unity of the entire Biblical texts when considered comprehensively resorting basically to the
categories of those individual texts. Therefore, Biblical theology is concerned particularly with
the diverse historical and literary contexts of the texts whilst trying to connect the meaning of the
illustrated stories in the conditions of the story. For example, this paper will trace the
development of baptism, not because it is a relevant term in the scriptures but because it is the
agenda and term brought out by the story of baptism itself.
The scriptures were established after many centuries, from different social settings,
different authors and also geographical locations. Moreover, the scriptures are of many genres
and this paper would analytically go through texts so as to develop the required synthetic
understanding. It will examine the different contexts in which baptizing and baptism are used
especially in the gospels. Also, the paper would shed light on the differences between the
baptism carried out by Christ and the one done by Apostle Paul and if there are other baptisms
mentioned in the subsequence scriptures. In addition, the paper will examine the theme as
depicted in the epistles, differences in all baptisms in the scriptures and thus the theological
gravity of the theme.
The Greek word (baptivzw)-baptizein means simply to plunge, sink or rather immerse;
hence to be immersed, washed. The aspect of baptizing or rather baptism dated back to the
Jewish rules regarding purification from the ritual uncleanness and thus the word gained the
religious and technical connotation meaning ‘purification’. It was deemed as a public mode of
repenting ones sins as a result of paganism by the Gentiles who sought to join the Israeli
community and then getting assimilated into the Mosaic Law. However, as observed from the
ancient discussions by Jewish scholars and as it echoed in 1 Corinthians 10:2, support for this
pre-Christian proselyte baptism. It is no surprise therefore that the baptism by John did not need
require much needed explanations. However, his authority and demand to carry out the
‘purification’ was challenged by the Jewish leaders, priests and Levites as depicted in the John
1:19 and Matthew 3:7-9.
Henceforth, the baptism by John gave the proselyte ‘cleansing’ a deeper emphasis on
moral teachings and repentance as illustrated in Luke 3:3, Luke 3:10-41 and also initiating the
community to prepare for the coming Messiah. The meaning and authority of baptism gained
momentum after the coming of the Messiah, the example he provided and His experience. Why
then would a sinless man undergo through the rite perceived as the ‘baptism of repentance’? This
remains a debatable subject in theology with many arguing that Jesus, was well informed of His
duties as having being ‘numbered together with transgressors’ as depicted in Isaiah 53:12.
However, it is illustrated that Jesus received the assurance later in Mark 1:10-11, in words in
Psalm 2:7 and also from Isaiah 42:1, after he came out from the water during His baptism.
Hence, Jesus depicts John’s baptism as being from heaven and thus when he associated Himself
with it, it depicted it as a righteousness act and thus fitting and essential to fulfill as illustrated in
Matthew 3:15.
The baptism carried out by John the Baptist carries a lot of theological significance in the
gospels. As observed, the birth of John the baptism is meticulously recorded and so his arrival
into the world distinctly colored by divine intervention and angelic proclamation as recorded in
the first chapter of the gospel of Luke. Not only does the birth of John the Baptism come in
parallel to the birth of Christ but also reflects to the glorious birth of the patriarch Isaac.
Therefore, John’s duties mark a pivotal personage to God’s salvation in history. The key
message during his formative years in the wilderness was repentance and preparation for the
Messiah and thus earned the name ‘the Baptist’ as recorded in Luke 7:20. Thus in John’s
ministry, the authenticity of a person’s repentance was illustrated practically through baptism.
However, his baptism required the masses to come searching for him as he was no like a ‘crowd
pleaser’ as recorded in Matthew 3:5.
The earlier gospels however do not record that Jesus baptized but the initial recordings by
Luke in the book of Acts clearly show that baptism indicated Christ’s authority as Matthew
declare in chapter 28:29-20. When John was baptizing Israelites with water, he told them that
when Jesus comes, He will baptize them with spirit and fire as recorded in Matthew 3:11. The
varying prepositions as seen in various passages such as ‘baptism by/with/in/of’ all indicate that
the Holy Spirit is both a sphere and agent of the rite of baptism. One of the passages that contrast
the baptism by John and the baptism by Jesus is 1 Corinthians 12:13 when Apostle Paul reflects
the initiation of the Corinthians into the early church.
Therefore it is worth establishing that the baptism by John was of repentance in
preparation for the coming messiah, the baptism that Christ Himself brought about was pivoted
towards purification by the help of the Holy Spirit, to bless the believers and condemning the
unbelievers. Therefore, John’s audience could not understand the exact prediction of being
baptized in spirit. Hence, Luke’s accounts of baptism as being assumed as the as the rites initial
association with repentance, remission (Acts 2:38), cleansing from sin (Acts 22:16) and the
customary admission of the gentiles into the Israeli community.
In many instances, Luke depicts the baptism initiated by Jesus as the response after
hearing and then accepting the gospel. Later on, the disciples reflect the response to the gospel
about the Christ, His death, the resurrection, and the bestowing of the Holy Spirit. The baptism is
carried out in the Name of Jesus, the Lord and Son of God. Hence, the name ‘in the Name of
Jesus’ indicated the authority Jesus has on the rite and implied one is ‘redeemed’. The
confessions that sprout up developed into the later creeds; the illustrated Trinitarian formulation
as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20 represents the initial stages depicted this development.
There are however other baptisms that have been identified by Bible Scholars. The first
form of baptism identified is the baptism by patriarch Moses as recorded in 1 Corinthians 10:1-3
after the Israelites were redeemed from slavery and Moses baptized them in the cloud and sea in
Exodus 13:21. The next baptism is by John the Baptist as discussed above which was followed
by baptism of Jesus as an act of getting identified with fallen nature of mankind. The other type
of baptism identified in the Bible is the baptism by Fire as prophesied by John in Matthew 3:11-
12. As John describes Jesus as He whose winnowing fork is found in His hand and that He
would clear the threshing floor, gather up His Wheat and come to burn the chaff with fire that is
unquenchable (Matthew 13:24-30). Here he illustrates that the judged will burn in the lake of fire
(Revelation 20:15). John also foresaw that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit
(Matthew 3:11). At this stance, John speaks of spiritual baptism in which the Spirit of the Lord
covers us, fills us, indwells us and helps us become part of Christ’s spiritual body. Therefore, the
baptism by the Holy Spirit is what now integrates us into Christ-like new life and the first human
beings to experience such baptism were the Believers during the day of baptism as illustrated in
Acts chapter 2.
The other type of baptism identified is the baptism by the Cross, in which Jesus used the
term baptism to illustrate the sufferings that He was to undergo to redeem mankind (Mark 10:3539). The last form of baptism illustrated in the gospels is the baptism of the believers in which
involves the act of washing in water in order to symbolize the Holy Spirit’s actions in the heart
of a believer. Scholars record that the believer baptism is an ordinance to the church. However,
different churches carry out various baptism modes. Of the baptisms discussed above, only the
baptism by the Holy Spirit and that of water are stressed to be of personal importance. The other
forms of baptisms are identified to be uniquely of varying occasions, limited only to certain
people and for the case of fire baptism, preserved for the future.
The subject of baptism and baptizing is adequately handled by Apostle Paul in his
ministries to the Gentiles through the epistles such as Romans, Corinthians, Galatians et cetera.
As Paul elucidates, the experiences of the Holy Spirit are like those of the day of Pentecost.
However, 1 Corinthians 12:13 does not state whether all the Gentiles mainly the Corinthians
experienced visible and dramatic manifestation during the baptism by the Holy Spirit. However,
the epistles by Paul exemplify initiation of individuals into the community of the believers.
Therefore, the baptism by the Holy Spirit indicated the moment in which the Spirit started to
operate in the lives of the believers.
During the ministries of Apostle Paul, Households were baptized rather than individuals
and this was done the name of Jesus rather than the threefold formula. Moreover, the new
believers were usually signed using the cross instead of anointing or submersion. The disciples
had gone through the baptism by John the Baptism. Cantwell Smith (2017) moreover asserts that
there was no repetition of baptism. Therefore, as baptism undoubtedly became Christian’s rite of
passage, whether at birth, at puberty stage or even death; does not depict the earliest functioning
of the rite. Therefore, we cannot at present age equate baptism to the circumcision rites by the
Jewish community in the letters by Paul. However, baptism in Paul’s ministry represented a
conversion rite rather than a passage rite. Hence, most conversions by most new believers to
Christianity in the early church would not be voluntary and individual but rather collective and
involuntary. Christian life can be conceptualized beyond such liturgy as a being ‘a living
sacrifice’. On other words, Paul’s view of Christian can be viewed as the purifying and
preparation of the believer for the modesty of witnessing, worship and service that await him/her
in Christian Life (Alexander, 2018).
Paul doesn’t merely put emphasis on Christian Identity as being a transcendence of a
given race, gender and class but rather as the family of God in which the individuals are adopted
through baptism (Galatians 3:2 & 6-9). Therefore the act of baptizing was not just a matter of
assimilating the new believers into the Church but rather absorbing them into Jesus’ earthly body
so as to ordain their lives in conformity to the purpose of God. Paul relates baptism inextricably
and unequivocally with the acquaintance of the Holy Spirit, exhibited in the gifts the Christians
receive for the sake of church service (1Corinthians 2).
Baptism as illustrated by Paul creates the definition of the church and the identity of a
Christian. The act also remained the key message for Paul for the unbelievers as it was
prominent in the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts and as Beasley-Murray observed,
‘baptism was the proclamation of Christ and the logical conclusion of the apostolic sermons.’
This is evident even in the modern day ministries.
In summary, the apostles proclaimed that baptism was a command for the ultimate
remission of one’s sins (Acts 2:38), necessary for washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), it did
involve water (Acts 10:48) and it was supposed to be conducted immediately regardless of the
time as illustrated in Acts 16:25-33. This confirms that baptism was very necessary for anyone to
receive salvation. In examining what Paul himself taught in the epistles sequentially starting
from the letter to the Romans; we discover that baptism illustrated a believer’s burial and then
his resurrection with Jesus. Therefore, it illustrated the baptism with/into Christ’s death (Romans
6:3); being crucified with the Messiah (Romans 6:4); implied putting away the believer’s old
nature (old man) (Romans 6:6) and lastly freeing us from our sins (Romans 6:7-11). It is worth
noting that Paul does not symbolize baptism with anything that had occurred but in his letter to
the Romans expresses baptism as a necessity to walk in the ultimate newness (Allen, 2017)..
In his letter to the Galatians is depicted as how we put on the character of Christ. Baptism
is a crucial activity into transforming an individual to becoming a son of God through our faith in
Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). And the beginning of the verse, Paul illustrates how through
faith we get to be transformed into sons of God. Therefore, baptism implies how we get to put on
Christ so as to become God’s sons.
To the Colossians Paul illustrates that baptism is but the works of God. He refers baptism
as the spiritual circumcision in which our sins get ‘cut away’ (Colossians 2:11). He also depicts
baptism as when we get buried with the Lord Jesus Christ and then resurrect together with Him
(Colossians 2:22). In addition, he stresses that baptism enables us to be made alive in Him
having our sins forgiven (Colossians 2:13). Therefore, we get to learn that the act of baptism is
but God’s work and not man (Colossians 2:13) who is cuts our trespasses through Christ’s blood.
In his pastoral letter to Titus, Paul depicts baptism as the act of being washed by Christ
and getting regenerated as he illustrates in Titus 3:5. Here, the washing simply alludes to the act
of water baptismal.
In the view of baptism in the scriptures above, there some key features those are evident.
The first aspect that is clear is that water baptism is commissioned to human administrators.
Matthew 28:19 mentions that Christ commissioned His apostles to go out into the entire world,
make disciples baptizing by His name. However, only Christ could baptize an individual with the
Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11) (Spinks, 2017). Moreover, Baptism involves immersion of an
individual as illustrated in Colossians 2:12 and also Romans 6:3-4.
Another feature that is illustrated by Paul in the epistles is that; water is also connected to
the act of baptism as it is evident in 1 Peter 3:20-21. Also, Paul teaches that the act of baptism
helps to place an individual into the kingdom of God. Another observable features in both the
synoptic gospels and the epistles is that the term ‘baptize’ with its cognate term ‘baptism’ occur
together in a couple of instances. Therefore, this implies that the word takes on some figurative
application as seen in Matthew 3:11, Luke 12:50 and Acts 1:5. However, the conclusion is
similar in the texts, which are ‘water immersion’. The synoptic gospels and the epistles all
establish water baptism as seen in Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38, 22:16 and in Romans
6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13 and 1 Peter 3:21 (Alexander, 2018).
Both the epistles and the synoptic gospels advocate for immersion as a method of baptism
accompanied by the Lordship of Christ as illustrated in Romans 10:9-13. Moreover, the original
meaning and interpretation of being baptism in the synoptic gospels is preserved in the epistles
(1 Corinthians 12:13). Also, the epistles also stress on the interrelationship and connection of the
spirit and baptism. It is through the spirit that a baptized individual is initiated into the body of
Christ, to drink from one spirit and get sealed by Christ for the ultimate redemption (1
Corinthians 6:11). In addition, the epistles carry on the interpretation of the act of baptism as
being the washing away of an individual’s iniquities and then the renewal through the Holy
Spirit. As Paul administers in Titus 3:5, it is the ‘cleansing of the bride’. However, the epistles do
not however present a relation between the spirit, word and water in an individual’s cleansing
experience. The observable differences in the acts of baptism in the epistles and the synoptic
gospel are the administering of baptism by using the name of Jesus and that of using the name of
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, the message is the same in the synoptic
gospels and the epistles.
Therefore, baptism is what conserves the covenantal basis for the Christian biblical
thought. As illustrated in the synoptic gospels and the epistles, God first offers His grace in
which human beings ought to respond by showing gratitude. Therefore, baptism is illustrated as a
means in which human beings show gratitude by accepting God’s call into His eternal kingdom.
The baptismal response of an individual to the gospel implies that he/she is expressing faith in
the death and the rise of the Messiah and then vows to die in regard to the former fallen nature
and live a new life in Christ.
Alexander, L. C. (2018). The Church in the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The
Oxford Handbook of Ecclesiology, 55.
Allen, D. M. (2017). Paul on Baptism: Theology, Mission and Ministry in Context, Nicholas
Taylor, SCM, 2016 (ISBN 978‐0‐334‐05476‐4), xxviii+ 180 pp., pb£ 19.99. Reviews in
Religion & Theology, 24(3), 575-577.
O'Reilly, B. (2017). Baptism and Death: A Study of Mark and Romans (Doctoral dissertation,
Teologiska institutionen, Uppsala universitet).
Spinks, B. D. (2017). Early and medieval rituals and theologies of baptism: from the New
Testament to the Council of Trent. Routledge.