That is the question raised about the beliefs of the people from Ephesus who had been baptized by John the baptizer (Acts 19:3). John preached the Gospel: Jesus, he said, is the Lamb of God” who had come to “take away the sins of the world.” And he plainly stated that (in contrast to his water baptism) Jesus would baptize “with the Holy Spirit as well.”
John stood at the razor’s edge of the two covenantal periods. He looked into the future era, but remained the other, Old Testaments side of the divide. His message was “repent because the kingdom of God is near.” It was largely negative, and, like his predecessor, Elijah, whose clothing and mission were similar(though disappointed), was seeking a national repentance such as there had been in Nineveh under Jonah. Though many were baptized by him and his disciples, they were also directed to the more positive baptism that would take place under Jesus.
Jesus’ baptism—so far as it went—wasn’t merely a recognition of the cleansing of sins by repentance in order to avoid the: wrath soon to come (“the axe is laid at the foot of the tree; His fan is in His hand” ready to strike down the unrepentant Jews and throw them into the fire). It was a positive message as well, declaring the good news of Christ’s sacrificial death.
It’s strange that people who believe that baptism by immersion, by their church, is essential to salvation still want to study with us at INS. You’d think that they’d want to do what they do in other contexts—namely, say that we are unbelievers, and then try to convert us. It’s also interesting that Paul made it clear to the Corinthian church that baptism is not part of the Gospel, since he distinguished the two (1 Corinthians 1:17). Yet, these same people say that the Gospel includes baptism. They don’t seem to understand that news (except for what commentators on TV call news by making it up at the moment) is the report of something that has already happened; it isn’t a requirement that yet must be fulfilled.
Just a few comments that may be of benefit to any who wonder about such things. They can’t understand, for instance, why Presbyterians pour water on someone’s head rather than immerse him.
Of course, there’s a reason—biblically!
The word Baptizo doesn’t mean “immerse” as some think. That is a kindred word, Bapto (used in Luke 16 where the rich man begs to have Lazarus dip [bapto] his finger in the water).
“There are those who teach that baptism is a part of the Gospel and, therefore, essential to salvation.”
I know that.
“Well, are they right or wrong?”
“How can you prove that?”
By a verse that explicitly says so.