Is water baptism required?

I know this could be a controversial issue which is why I’ve struggled not to specifically write about it. I did mention some of my thoughts in a previous blog, however, I wanted to devote a post specifically to this topic. First, I want to state that I have no problem if people feel led by the Spirit to have a water baptism. When it becomes a requirement for salvation though, it starts resembling old law methods of external conformance.
First, we see John the Baptist performing water baptisms in preparation for Jesus’ coming. He states that he indeed was baptizing with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). Likewise, John was the last of the Old Covenant prophets pointing the way to the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus states that his water baptism was to fulfill all righteous. Similarly, he fulfilled the Law and the Prophets as he mentions a couple of chapters later and gives us the fulfillment of all of these things. It seems in this instant that water baptism was a temporary symbol (or shadow) of what was to come–baptism by Jesus into the Holy Spirit. In addition, if baptism is required because Jesus did it, so would circumcision as Jesus was also circumcised (Luke 2:21).
So, what about all the Acts verses and the directions of Peter that the early church should be baptized in water? Very early in Acts 1:5, we see Jesus repeat that John the Baptist used water, but that the disciples would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, which they were at Pentecost. Peter goes on to preach the three standards for entering the Kingdom–believe in Jesus, be baptized (in water), and receive the Holy Spirit. Now, this seems pretty cut and dry at this point. Peter preached the requirement for water baptism and therefore we must be baptized by water. Many stop right here and insist that water baptism is necessary and we should just go ahead and do it. This would be a legitimate conclusion if Jesus didn’t step in again to remind Peter of what he said in Acts 1:5. In Acts 11:15-17, the Holy Spirit falls onto the listeners of this Cesarean household. This happens when Peter is still speaking before he ever has a chance to baptize with water. He’s then reminded (v16) that this is exactly what Jesus was trying to communicate, and God’s mandate supersedes human ones (v17).
The ways I’ve seen water baptism presented today sound a lot like what the old law followers were trying to do to the early church (Act 15:5,10-11Galatians 5:1-2). They were stating that the gentile converts should just go ahead and get circumcised and get it over with so there would be unity (but what they really meant was conformity). I’ve heard this same thing stated about water baptism. This is a forceful attempt to bind people to external actions to gain a foothold of control by presenting an artificial standard that promotes “more” righteousness (Galatians 3:2-3). People seem to be manipulated to feel they aren’t a “real” Christian unless they are baptized by water. Then they can be manipulated to other political, financial, and societal agendas to further an organization’s goals. Those who don’t accept the popular view of water baptism are labeled as divisive, backsliders, sinners, or otherwise pointed to as the standard not to be. This is, of coarse, a worse case scenario, but I’ve witnessed it played out on several occasions and often in very subtle ways.
As stated before, I don’t have a problem if people desire a water baptism based on the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, when it becomes a requirement, it is turned into a mandate that must be followed to become a Christian similar to how the Pharisees defined the Old Covenant laws. Christians can be spiritually unified without having to be conformed externally to artificial standards.
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4 thoughts on “Is water baptism required?

  1. I have heard and read some on both sides. I agree more with you, but I know some people way more learned then me give a strong case for it. I am going with it doesn’t hurt to cover all bases, but I don’t think God is going to say. “Oh death bed confession, ya, but too bad you were never baptized so off you go”

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  2. Nice post, Eph 4:5 confirms that there is only one baptism, not 2, and Acts 11:15-18 confirms the truth that baptism is no longer water baptism, it is the Holy Spirit, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18), no one needs to be water baptized to receive the Holy Spirit. Only those who God baptizes in the Holy Spirit are born from above (born of the Spirit).

    I was born from above 19 years ago, and God baptized me in the Holy Spirit immediately after He gave me the faith to be believe that His Son is the Messiah, just like the non-Jews were baptized in the Holy Spirit in Acts 11:15-18.

    I was water baptized after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit only because I was never taught the truth about Acts 11:15-18, had I known about Acts 11:15-18 I never would have believed that I had to be water baptized.

    Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism [the Holy Spirit]

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  3. WASHING OF WATER? EPHESIANS 5:26 BY STEVE FINNELL

    What does the washing of water found in Ephesians 5:26 mean? Should you, as a believer in Christ, look to creed books and Bible commentaries for the answer to that question or should you look to translations of the Bible for truth? Do you want to trust men or do you want to trust God’s written word?

    Ephesians 5:25-26…just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (NKJV)

    How did Christ sanctify and cleanse the church? The church is the body of Christ. The church is comprised of Christians. How did Christ sanctify and cleanse the church?

    Ephesians 5:26 to make her holy and clean, washed by baptismand God’s word;(The Living Bible- Paraphrased)

    Ephesians 5:26 that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, (KJV)

    Ephesians 5:26 in order to make her holy, cleaning her with the baptismal water by the Word. (Weymouth New testament)

    Ephesians 5:26 He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word. (Common English Bible)

    Ephesians 5:26 He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water.(Contemporary English Version)

    Ephesians 5:26 In order that he might sanctify it, purifying [it] by the washing of water by [the] word, (Darby Translation)

    Ephesians 5:26 He died to make the church holy. He used the telling of the Good News to make the church clean by washing it with water. (ERV-Easy-to-Read-Version)

    Ephesians 5:26 He did this to make the church holy by cleaning it,washing it using water along with the spoken words. (God’s Word Translation)

    Ephesians 5:26 He did this to dedicate the church to God by his word, after making it clean by washing it in water, (Good News Translation)

    Ephesians 5:26 He did this to make the church holy by cleansing it, washing it using water alone with the spoken words. (Names of God Bible)

    Ephesians 5:26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (New American Standard Bible)

    Ephesians 5:26 He did that so that he might make the church people holy, when they were washed with water by God’s word. (World English N.T.)

    Do you really want leave the interpretation of Ephesians 5:26 to others,why would you not read it and believe what it says?

    Is God smart enough to guide men to accurately translate the Bible?

    Two choices: 1. Trust God’s written word, the BIBLE. or 2. Trust preachers, priests, pastors, Bible commentators, the man on the street, your friends and relatives or creed books, for the truth and nothing but the truth.

    Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved….(NKJV)

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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    • Sorry, this was caught in the site’s spam queue and I don’t check that often.

      The first thing that I notice with the Ephesian’s passage is that it is speaking in the past tense. The cleansing has already been done. This goes hand-in-hand with Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist as stated in the post (Matthew 3:15). Jesus has already fulfilled any requirement for water baptism and, as stated above, we are now baptized in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16). Likewise, I believe the Mark 16:16 passage to be referencing baptism in the Holy Spirit.

      Again, if someone feels they need water baptism, I won’t stand in their way or try to talk them out of it as I’m coming to see that unity (not to be confused with conformity) is better than argument (not to be confused with discussion or disagreement).

      I believe the Bible in that it all has to work together, otherwise it contradicts and our message to non-believers is frustrated. If water baptism is required, we in effect say that Jesus didn’t do enough through his life, death, and resurrection. When he said “it is finished”, I believe he meant everything.

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