Yep, I'm going to write about it! For some of you, seeing the word Baptism may get your heart beating faster, while you hover the screen, ready to type/text a response on your point of view. Baptism is one of the most debated topics among Christians. Why? I think it’s because our understanding of it correlates with the most important part of Christianity, grace: the reason Jesus died for us. To understand grace, it helps to start by explaining the law and how it applies to us now. As mentioned in the passage below, if we depend on following the law, then Christ's death, the ultimate sacrifice that forgave us from all our sins, was for nothing (in vain).
"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
A clear understanding of baptism syncs with a powerful, life-changing transition God makes to save our lives: the whole point of Christ's death was to save us from sin. We could not overcome sin with our own attempts, because none of us can successfully adhere to the law (God's definition of without sin).
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
So, what does the law include? The Bible mentions "the law" when referring to the 10 Commandments, circumcision and making sacrifices, to name some I've read. Paul explains the law as "the knowledge of sin." The law defines sin and without it, there is "no transgression," rule or penalty for doing something sinful.
"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
"For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for
where no law is, there is no transgression."
Yes, it seems sinful acts are obvious, but was it not established at some point? If parents did not teach their children right from wrong, would they have any reason not to act selfishly? Is it not easy to justify reasons for acting in ways God would consider sinful? Of course it is, and we do...a lot! In fact, no one can abide by the law. It is way too strict for any of us to adhere to, hence the reason Jesus died as our sacrifice, knowing we could never make enough sacrifices to make up for all of our sins. In fact, Paul describes the law as a curse that none of us can be justified (declared innocent) by. We can only be justified by faith, and wearing ourselves out trying to become worthy of God by works, and telling others to do the same, is not going to make us any more deserving of God's forgiveness. In addition, the stress we display in trying to justify ourselves is probably not appealing, and scary, to those who do not have a relationship with God. Also, thinking we can live without sin and expressing that to others, displays arrogance rather than humility. It is obvious that Jesus suggests humility over arrogance as the best approach to teaching and to develop more need for God, creating a stronger relationship with Him and others. This is not to say that we should carelessly sin, knowing we are forgiven. When a relationship with God is true and sought after, we desire more closeness to God through love. Love brings us closer to God and sin is like a hurricane, making it more and more difficult to see, hear and stay in tune with God's presence. So, the more we desire God, the less we desire sin. This is grace, the way Paul teaches us to live now that we have been forgiven by God's sacrifice. We are already doomed and none of our works will be good enough for God. Only faith in Jesus, as the one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, is good enough to earn God's forgiveness.
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Now that I've explained the law versus grace (forgiveness by faith from the gift of God's forgiveness via Jesus' sacrifice), let's get back to baptism. Many people will quote Acts in trying to explain that the baptism, we are supposed to perform now, involves water. It is common to think that Acts is written to us, because it is in the New Testament. Actually, Acts tells us what happens during Jesus' life, and during this time the Israelites, not us (we were not alive back then), were still under the law, hence Acts 1 when they ask if the Nation of Israel will be restored. For a better explanation on this, what's written to who, see my article, Dispensationalism. Jesus’ response throws a wrench in their presumed timeline; and thank God, because we could not save ourselves from sin, especially us, who have not lived by the law like the Isrealites tried to. This change in plans is foreseen in Acts 1.
"For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
More than one baptism is mentioned in the Bible: baptism with water, like John did, baptism of the Holy Spirit (as the sacrifice of Jesus enabled) and baptism with fire. Baptism with fire is going to Hell, as mentioned in Matthew.
"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:
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
Realize that Matthew was an account of what took place before Jesus died and provided the ultimate sacrifice, so that we can be baptized by the Holy Spirit. As explained in Matthew, "he", being Jesus Christ, who comes later will baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire, instead of water. The apostle Paul writes about this new and better option to save us from our sins in Ephesians, written after Jesus died (forgiving us from all of our sins), so we can live by faith and not by works (attempting to save ourselves from what we cannot).
"With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
As mentioned in the verse above, which "one baptism" do you presume Paul is referring to? Of the three options mentioned in Matthew 3:11-12, water, the Holy Spirit and fire, which makes the most sense and which do you hope it is? I think the answer is very clear, and I hope all who read this understand that it is the Holy Spirit (God and Jesus in us) that saves us, not water or fire.