BTC – Phase 2 – Lesson 1
Baptism for the Spiritual Soul
What is Baptism? One Greek word for Baptism is “Bautizo” which points to “being immersed/saturated,” or to “being identified with something,” which relates back to a time when cloth was dipped into a solution to “identify” with the color of the liquid.
Therefore, Baptism is a ceremony we participate in as our token to God, representing our desire to be “identified” with Christ. A complete Christian Baptism, as experienced by members of the early Church, included the recognition of all three aspects of Baptism (water, spirit, fire,) which we will discuss here; but let’s start with more about what Baptism is as a whole, and why Christians throughout history have always valued the experience of Baptism.
Immersed in the Mercy of God: Because this original word “Bautizo” means “immersed,” many man-made doctrines now imply, that without “being fully dunked” in water, you aren’t really saved, etc. But does Scripture support that theory? Actually…no, because material things can’t save us or change us; rather the Spirit of God or Resurrection Power within us can produce the nature change over time.
To substantiate a false claim that some in the Body make, that… “Without immersion in water you cannot be saved,” they will often refer to Mark 16:16, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” But even in this Scripture passage, “believeth” implies ongoing belief; and if we remember that “Bautizo” refers to “being identified with,” then the lesson from Scripture here is, that what saves us is not the physical water which has no power; but what can transform us, is “identifying with the Spirit of Christ” on an ongoing basis.
Included in what determines “salvation” (involving total transformation of the soul to become spiritual in nature) is whether or not we partake of the mercy of God while seeking the Spirit as the source of our new identity. Conversely, Jesus makes it very clear that even if we are a member of the Body… without walking in mercy, we could become known as a “worker of iniquity.” Go figure. I guess extending mercy is pretty important, no matter what kind of baptism ceremony that we participate in as we see in Matthew 7:23 (KJV) “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Two universal Christian Sacraments: According to the Gospels, Jesus entered the water at the river, with John the Baptist presiding over the ceremony. Thus, Baptism is considered to be one of the two ceremonies or “sacraments” (Communion being the other) which all Christians seem to universally embrace in one form or another.
“Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”- Luke 3:22 (KJV)
But even John the Baptist, as dedicated as he was, knew that there was more to Baptism than taking a very important bath in the river. He also knew that what Jesus would offer would expand on what he himself (the Baptist) had been conducting as a ceremony.
John the Baptist realized that part of his mission (as given by the Holy Ghost), was to set the stage for… as he put it, “after me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.”
Again, in the Gospel of Matthew 3:11 (KJV), John says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
In this particular line of Scripture, we can see that there is much more to Baptism than just the issue of “water.” With three elements mentioned, of “Water, The Holy Ghost, and Fire,” we understand that a complete Christian baptism… not only is our celebration of the inception of our spiritual journey (with Jesus and the Holy Spirit), but the three aspects of Baptism working together, actually point to the fullness of the spiritual journey itself, a process which will carry us all the way to the realization of the Kingdom of God within us.
If I have been baptized or christened already…does this count?
Christening vs. Baptism: To answer this question we can simply ask ourselves, “When did I personally decide to follow Christ and enter the soul-transformation process? When did I first decide to “identify” with Jesus or the Spirit of Christ?”
If someone else made “the decision” for us as a “God-parent” when we were yet a baby, then perhaps it would be significant for us to have a “ceremony or celebration” in which we state to the world that we have made the decision for ourselves, to “identify” with Christ and walk with Him, now that we are adults.
The practice of having adults’ present babies to God in a ceremony apparently dates back to a time long ago, when Christians were being persecuted on a regular basis. At that time, anyone with kids would have to make arrangements for other adults to take their place in continuing to raise the children, if… or shall I say….when they were put to death, since persecution was “a given” for hundreds of years during certain periods of history.
This practice of the “dedication of children” or “standing up for children” has evidently carried over in various forms, with “meaning” being added on to it throughout the centuries, until we arrive at our traditions of Baptism today.
Overall… christenings and “stand-in baptisms” represent the desire of adults to dedicate a child to God; but as for “entering a process unto transformation,” that is a decision which only we can make for ourselves….when we are grown and ready.
When you think about this rationally, aside from man-made doctrines on the subject, doesn’t it stand to reason that a decision regarding making a commitment to a spiritual transformation process should be one that we make for ourselves? There really is no one who can “stand in” for us when it comes right down to “dying to the old nature” and its “ways.” There is no one else who can undergo the “soul transformation process” for us, on our behalf.
However, there is a time when hopefully… each soul naturally arrives at a decision to enter the spiritual transformation process; and this cannot be artificially induced or forced.
To face the death of the “self-nature,” the individual must be fully willing, fully able (age appropriate time), and fully enrolled in the process of undergoing change. This requires an active and personal relationship with the Spirit of God; no one else can have a personal relationship with God for us.
“And he that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.” – Matthew 10:39 (KJV)
No matter what religion/denomination we wish to envelop our faith in, it is simply impossible for one soul to “grow up” for another; and it is equally impossible for anyone to undergo the rigors of the spiritual journey without a full commitment to “finish the race.” The Spirit of God will be there with us; but we have to continue to seek God throughout our process. We can pray for one another but we cannot seek God for another.
So, even if you have already been baptized/sprinkled, etc. as a child, then it still may be significant to undergo the experience of Baptism again, as an expression of a renewed commitment and as a celebration of a personal choice to walk with Jesus.
However, bear in mind that the ceremony is but a token of our induction into the Body; as already mentioned, the “water” itself, regardless of whether we are immersed or sprinkled, has no redeeming or transforming ability, since water, in and of itself as a natural/earth-based element.
The Spirit of God is that which ultimately holds the power and wisdom to effect lasting change within us. Since Jesus asked us “to Baptize” (Matthew 28:19-20 – KJV), we do this. But even if circumstances will not have not allowed us to “make it to the water” prior to passing from this world, our “salvation” will not necessarily be in question, if we held to mercy and embraced grace…for however long we walked with Jesus.
Things don’t always happen in life in some dogmatic order; take the example of Cornelius in Chapter 10 of Acts, who received the Gift of the Holy Ghost (which is the Holy Spirit or Grace) – Acts 10:44-45 (KJV)…and this happened before he was formally baptized. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
What if Cornelius had died before a baptism ceremony could have been conducted? Would the Holy Ghost have taken back the Gift of Grace? Not likely. Would Cornelius’ “salvation” been in question without having “gone to the water?” No; It is clear in Acts that the Holy Ghost “fell on all them which heard the Word.”
Water as a Metaphor for Mercy: The word “Water” in the Bible (or the mention of a lack thereof) is often used to depict whether or not mercy has been practiced or is being practiced in a given situation. In the case of the Baptism ceremony, the physical “covering up” of a person in water is a metaphor representing having been immersed in the Mercy of God. Therefore, Baptism is also a time when we recognize that our slate has in a sense, been wiped clean in the eyes of God. Subsequently… after asking for and gaining the Spirit, our identity is now based on our potential “In Christ/by the Spirit,” rather than continuing to be identified with our errors.
Our promise to God at the time of our Baptism: By the way, entering the water also represents our promise to God to extend the same mercy to others that has been given to us. This commitment involves our willingness to forgive others (including ourselves) along the way of life, as well as our willingness to see others by their potential “In Christ,” rather than characterizing them through the eyes of our flesh-based and limited understanding.
“Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.”- Jude 12 (KJV)
As already mentioned, references in the Bible to “lacking water” or being “dried up and withered” such as what we see in Jude 12, are often places where the Holy Ghost (through the Scriptures) has warned us of times when there either has been a lack of mercy or when there will be a lack of mercy among the people on earth…even lacking among those in the Body of Christ, having missed their purpose for “entering.” “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” – Jude 12 (KJV)
The reference to “without fruit” likely points to what can happen when folks receive the Spirit and do not “mind the Spirit” resulting in a lack of Fruit “of the Spirit.” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” – Gal 5:22-23 (KJV)
The Bible also warns us of the consequences of acting without mercy, such as what we see in Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV) or Matthew 7:22-23 (KJV), “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
What is “iniquity? Iniquity is a word which references “being unequal.” When we have been given the ways and means “to do” something we should and yet we “do not,” our behavior is then “unequal.”
Thus iniquity is considered to be an error of “omission” rather than “commission,” such as: refusing to forgive, being unwilling and too full of pride to accept apologies from others, while demanding that others see us only in the best light. Or, we might find ourselves continuing to characterize others by their past errors while remaining rigid in our points of view. Basically, iniquity involves any behavior which fails to render to others the forms of mercy which we have ourselves received.
Jesus as the Son of Man taught us all about mercy during his earth walk; and Scripture tells us that He shall return as the “Son of Man” to set the sheep on his right and the goats on the left, a division which will be based on mercy. (References to Jesus as the Son of Man point to Mercy, while references to Jesus as the Son of God point to the Resurrection Power, which is Grace/Holy Spirit.)
“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”- Matthew 25: 45 (KJV)
A balanced Christian life will always involve both the willingness to receive and extend mercy to others (along with all the other forms of Godly love,) as well as a desire to always seek the Spirit for guidance and strength in this endeavor.
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” – Matthew 5:7 (KJV)
Baptism as a celebration: All in all, a baptism ceremony can be considered a celebration of our “induction” into the Body of Christ as well as the start of our journey “unto” soul transformation by the Spirit.
Let’s review the three elements of Baptism which cover most all of the aspects of the spiritual transformation process.
One Baptism with Three Elements…
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire”- Matthew 3:11 (KJV)
1. Baptism by Water
With the first element of Baptism (Water), we celebrate the receiving of the Mercy of God. As we enter the water, we also promise to render the mercy unto others that has been given to us, which includes how we characterize others. So how does that work?
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” – Hebrews 2:17 (KJV)
When we are “In Christ,” (maintaining a focus on the Spirit) Scripture tells us that we are “reconciled to the Father” which is a fancy way of saying that we are no longer defined by the “mis-takes” of our flesh-nature. Though the Father knows our soul, as well as our heart and our good intentions, nonetheless as imperfect humans, we have still committed errors in judgment; and of course, there are natural consequences associated with those mistakes.
So, how then, could any of us stand before God as “righteous” (pure in heart & totally motivated by Spirit) considering how limited that our human nature is and therefore how hard it is to consistently love and forgive?
Well… now, because of our association and identification with Jesus and His Spirit within us, the idea is… that we have the extra help in learning to love (which the Spirit gives); and therefore the Father can now “see” us by our potential “In Christ,” regardless of our past errors, since we are “grafted together” with Jesus by His Spirit.
“Who gave himself a ransom for all.”- 1 Timothy 2:6 (KJV)
Now, regarding those “consequences” for errors resulting from our flesh-based nature… for those who enter into a relationship with Jesus, we also learn from Scripture, that Jesus took upon Himself, the “judgment” or consequences for our mistakes; He voluntarily embraced His passion and death, obeying the will of the Father…all done in great love for us.
Death was the penalty for many “sins” according to Jewish Law and for centuries the Jews would make regular atonement for their errors or “sins” via the sacrificing of innocent animals that were considered spotless and pure.
The Lamb of God: Jesus however, came onto the planet through flesh like any of us, but was fully motivated and led by the Holy Spirit, having remained centered in God. Never deviating from His focus on the Father, Jesus lived without error. He was pure in heart and soul; and so on the Cross He became our Lamb of God, (spotless and pure)….and therefore the expression we have all heard somewhere or another…. “He died for our sins.”
His passion and death also gave us a clear snapshot of what forgiveness and mercy look like, even under the worst of circumstances, especially at the moment He spoke those famous words from the Cross, “Father forgive, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24 – KJV) With His life and death, Jesus presented a picture of compassion, humility, and selfless love that the world had never seen before…yet one that we can all gain strength and hope from.
In continuing, when Jesus offered the prayer from the Cross, “Father, forgive them,” He opened up the way for mercy to become not only a commandment for all of us, but a way of life.
Based on His example, we can “believe in our hearts,” that He, in a very real way, suffered and died a substitutionary death for us, showing us how to love, even in the face of pain and terrible hurt; and today, as we reach for the strength to forgive and show mercy, this legacy of love continues.
Ask and ye shall receive….Why are we to “ask for and receive this gift?” Well, anyone can offer a lovely gift, but by definition, it must be received and opened to have reached its conclusion. So, those who “receive” this extraordinary “substitution,” (and the Mercy it represents), into their hearts and souls, are the ones who stand to benefit, especially as these souls are joined in Spirit with the Father.
2. Baptism by the Spirit – Receiving “The Gift” of Grace:
Spirit begets Spirit: The same is also true regarding “receiving the Spirit,” (in the Baptism with the Holy Ghost planting the Seed of the Spirit in us). We don’t necessarily experience actual “tongues of fire” dancing over our heads, as described in Scripture about the original group who waited in the Upper Room on Pentecost. But we can “believe and receive” the Gift of Grace, which will give us greater ability to transform, since that Grace is, in essence, connected to the Resurrection Power which raised Jesus up; and it takes Spirit to teach us about “Spiritual matters.” Spirit begets Spirit; thus, association with the Spirit of God brings about the changes in our nature that the true Seeker of God reaches for, along with transformation that the soul longs for.
So, with the second element of Baptism (Baptism of the Holy Ghost granting us the Spirit or Gift of Grace), we ask to “Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost,” which is the Seed of the Spirit, also known by many other names such as the Holy Spirit, the New Man, the Greater He or Grace.
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”- Acts 2:38 (KJV)
To prepare for the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, we pray and ask that the Holy Spirit come to “live in us,” (that we might become aware of the presence of the Spirit of God at all times to lead and guide us), that our soul might have a point of reference by which we can continue to learn what it is to become “Christ-like.”
Why do we need a deep connection with the Spirit to become spiritual? Well, we just addressed some of that question above, but the Bible also tells us that all things are created after their own kind; in Genesis, Chapter 1, we see several verses with mention of how things were created “after his kind”; hence, to become “spiritual,” we need the “kind”…which is the Spirit, in order to become “like the Spirit.” All other states of consciousness which claim to be “spiritual” are over-reaching in that description if their consciousness is not connected to the Spirit; so, the second phase of our Baptism is very important indeed, as we prepare to take our next steps of growth in becoming Christ-like.
These days, prior to entering the water, candidates for Baptism are usually questioned about their belief in Jesus and in His resurrection. However, in the early years of Christianity, those about to enter the water were expected to vow that, “they would render the same Mercy unto others which they have asked for and received from the Father for themselves.”
Then after new members emerged from the waters of Baptism, leadership of the Church would lay hands on them again, and pray with them, asking for the Seed of the Spirit to be planted in the new Christian’s heart and soul. I see no reason why we could not include both of these wonderful practices, representing two of the three parts of Baptism, into our ceremonies of today. Do you?
Speaking of which….can you understand a little more now, after knowing more about the importance of all of the elements of Baptism, why one must choose this relationship with Jesus (along with all of the deep commitment it entails)…. for one’s-self, rather than have someone else “stand in” for us while we are infants? Taking vows related to Mercy and Grace is serious business; especially since spiritual growth will involve a vigilant and ongoing focus on the Spirit as well as the giving of our “whole heart, mind, and strength,” as commanded by God.
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4 (KJV)
Gifts which come with the granting of the Spirit: With the Gift of Grace (or the Holy Spirit), we receive the other “special gifts” which God has for us as members of the Body, such as those mentioned in 1 Corinthians, Chapters 12-14 (KJV). These are Chapters well worth reading in Scriptures, as therein, we learn about the many spiritual abilities which come with the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
So, yes…I am mentioned the Word “Gift” in two different ways…one being the “Gift” with a “big G,” which is Grace itself, while “gifts” with a “little g” are those talents and extra abilities which come with having the Gift of Grace alive within us and expressing through us.
Some of these gifts are seen functioning throughout the body, through those who “have the Spirit”; while other gifts are given to individuals, as “God wills.” When these gifts are applied or exercised with Agape/Godly love, the result is the comforting, teaching, healing, and encouragement of the Body.
Discernment: Among those “gifts” mentioned in Scripture, is the ability to “discern” or distinguish that which is authentic from that which is counterfeit or false, within us and without us. The “Holy Spirit” also helps us avoid entanglements with flesh-based doctrines or groups. The Spirit can make us aware when our motive is still flesh-based or carnally-motivated, so that we might mature in the Spirit. This ability is not given that we might stand in judgment of anything we come to “perceive” or learn about others or even about ourselves. But instead, this form of insight is given for us to gain the knowledge and wisdom needed, to know how to grow personally, how to respond to a given situation in a Godly manner, or how to minister appropriately, with compassion, forgiveness, and love.
Conviction…directing us back on course: Awareness of when we are “off base” is known as “conviction,” which is kind of like a nudge to our consciousness when we need one, but not to be confused with “condemnation” which we do not receive as those who “walk after the Spirit.” We see Romans 8:1 (KJV)….
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Using God’s Gifts as He intends us to: A thorough study of those areas of Corinthians can acquaint you with the attributes and benefits of having the Spirit; but, with all of God’s gifts, we are expected to use those, in the manner which He intends us to; and so…when we receive the gift of forgiveness (the mercy of God), we are also expected to commit to a “lifestyle of forgiveness” as well as to “seeing” others by their potential in Christ and as we grow in love, we give more love.
This may be one of the biggest challenges which we will face during our spiritual transformation process; and this is another reason why the Lord in His Mercy, has granted us the ever-significant example of Jesus, including the Communion ceremony, as well as the power of the Holy Spirit…all to enable us to cross over to the realm of forgiveness and peace.
3. Baptism by Fire:
The term “Fire” mentioned here is actually a metaphor regarding the “burning away of the old nature and its habits.” So, with the third element of Baptism, we become aware of the “exposure process,” which involves those experiences that bring to our attention, (often by virtue of seeing how we stumble under pressure)… the habits of the “old-man” nature, that are still left in us.
This third element of Baptism works beautifully along with the other two, being Water (Mercy) and Spirit (Grace,) in that… the only way we can truly overcome our old-nature and all of its wiles (ways and habits,) is to walk in Mercy while depending on Grace… a pattern which we will hopefully develop with time and experience during the “wilderness phase” of our journey (period of training and development).
So, if we discover here and there (and we will discover this), that our reactions in a given situation have still reflected the “old nature”…the minute we recognize what has happened, we can ask God for help and simply re-connect to the Spirit; we can re-commit to reach for the Spirit a little sooner next time, so we might exhibit better “Fruit” (of the Spirit) should we face a similar challenge again someday.
We do not need to agonize excessively over a mis-take; rather we can “repent” which means “turn around” and just begin again. God’s mercy is new every day and Jesus will not toss us out; He knows that we are learning by experience.
Don’t be surprised however, if at first you find that you want to exercise “the other option” whenever you sense “exposure,” which is to become defensive or seek fault in those bringing attention to a problem, so as not to have to acknowledge one’s part in a difficult situation. Oooops.
Maybe the first option is better…to just ask God for help in overcoming the habit or problem and then give thanks for the Mercy and Grace which we do receive, that helps us become more and more free each day, from the oppression of all fear-based behaviors and beliefs.
Did I pray for this? Make no mistake about this subject of receiving correction; if we have asked (or prayed) to see where “we might come up higher in our motives and operations,” then we will find ourselves in situations that indeed “expose” just how much “Jesus” we have operating within us. We did and do pray for this… right? You know…“Shape me Lord!” or “Teach me love and patience Lord.” Yikes!
So, do not despair if you find yourself struggling to render “Fruit” under pressure; there is purpose even when we stumble, if we remain open. With each “discovery” of any weakness within ourselves we can learn more about how to better hold to the Spirit. We can also learn what to ask for when we pray for God’s help and ultimately find ourselves growing all the more.
“My Grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV)
So, no matter how occasional growing pains can challenge us… how could we not get excited over ultimately becoming able to shed “the old” and instead, learn how to live and walk by the leading of the liberating Spirit of God?
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)
With this article, we have covered the importance and purpose of Baptism. We have also reviewed the three elements of Baptism and explained that the first two, by water and of the Spirit, can be experienced together, whereas the third element, involving fire (or ongoing growth)…..will be part of transformation process along “The Way.”
We encourage you read next, the insightful lesson regarding “Baptism” by Pastor Newmyer, in order to firmly establish your understanding of this important ceremony.
For music & lyrics which support Baptism & Communion: Read more.