Print This Bible Study


the contents of this page may take a few seconds to load . . . thank you for your patience...



Baptism in Water — a Church Ordinance




Christ Jesus left two ordinances for the Church, the “body of Christ,” to practice, to administer.  They are (1) water-baptism and (2) the Lord’s Supper.  This study will concern itself with the ordinance of water-baptism.  This study, although not as comprehensive as the writer would like, will cover the subject with the following outline: (1) The Recipient of Water-Baptism, (2) The Meaning/Purpose of Water-Baptism, (3) The Method/Form of Water-Baptism, (4) The Administration of Water-Baptism, (5) The Motivation for Water-Baptism, (6) The Kingdom and Water-Baptism, and (7) The Final Word on the Matter as Seen in the Old Testament and John 3.


The Recipient of Water-Baptism


This expression is to convey “who” (what individuals) should be baptized.  Within this portion of the study a distinction is made between baptism in water and baptism with water (the first indicating immersion; the latter indicating either sprinkling or pouring). 




Though there are religious denominations that subscribe to infant baptism, there is no basis for this practice within Scripture — not a word is said of “infant-baptism,” nor any allusion made to it in the Bible.  The following are a few of the specious arguments advanced for infant-baptism:


  1. Infant-baptism should take the place of circumcision.  The argument is that as Jewish children were circumcised, children of Christians should be baptized with water.  But circumcision was only commanded for males; whereas, water-baptism is intended for both genders.  In Acts chapter fifteen, when the apostles and elders were assembled at Jerusalem to consider the question of circumcision for Gentile converts, not a word was mentioned regarding water-baptism; which certainly would have been the case if it was to take the place of circumcision.  Furthermore, circumcision was observed by Jewish Christians after water-baptism was enjoined and in use (note: Paul’s circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3).


  1. Infant-baptism is included with households.  The argument that the apostles baptized whole households is no proof that infants were baptized with water.  In fact, aside from the fact that no proof can be obtained that these households included infants, there is clear evidence that those which were baptized in water within these households mentioned in the New Testament (e.g., Cornelius, the jailer, of Crispus, and Stephanas) were of sufficient age to understand the gospel of grace and exercise an informed faith in Christ.


  1. Infant-baptism is taught by Peter in Acts 2:39, “For the promise is to you and to your children . . . .”  But the promise here is not of water-baptism, but of the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, a correct rending of this passage should be “For the promise to you and to your posterity,” meaning to their descendants (e.g., to those within their progeny who would believe in Christ).


The practice of infant-baptism has caused much harm within the Church.  Its practice has encouraged the secularization of the Church by obliterating the line of separation between the Church (believers in Christ) and the world (unbelievers in Christ such as infants who are unable to understand such a matter).  When all are baptized in or with water, the effect is the taking of the whole world into the Church; as exemplified by the Roman Catholic religion.  Furthermore, it eliminates in the mind of many the need for the “new birth,” i.e., to exercise faith alone in Christ alone; since, the impression of being saved already, as evidenced by one’s infant-baptism, rests in the individual’s mind.




All water-baptism events recorded in the New Testament, in which a specific recipient of the ordinance can be identified, reveal that only individuals who have made an informed decision of faith in Christ were baptized in water.  In all cases, these are adult individuals who understood and accepted the gospel of grace message by faith.  Even the example set by Christ of water-baptism was executed only after Christ was fully matured as an adult.


Examples within the New Testament, which show that faith alone in Christ alone precedes water-baptism, follow:


  1. Believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:41)
  2. Converts in Samaria (Acts 8:12)
  3. Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36-38)
  4. Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:17, 18)
  5. Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:14, 15)
  6. Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:30-33)
  7. Believers in Corinth (Acts 18:8)
  8. Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:4, 5)


Another most egregious view of water-baptism by some religious denominations is that the ordinance is necessary for one’s salvation, i.e., the act of water-baptism must follow the exercise of faith in Christ in order for the person to secure eternal life.  And this view is largely fostered by a misinterpretation of only a few scriptural passages, e.g., John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; and 1 Peter 3:21


The misinterpretation of these passages of scripture rests in one’s ignorance of spirit-salvation (that which is promulgated by the gospel of grace and based on the finished, complete work of Christ at Calvary; and which cannot be nullified by God or man once established — with only eternal verities in view) and soul-salvation (that which is achieved by faith-works [divine good works/faithfulness in fruit-bearing] subsequent to spirit-salvation, but which indeed can be lost — with only Messianic verities in view).


Scriptural passages that deal with spirit-salvation require only faith (absent any works) as the means to acquire or apprehend one’s eternal (forever) salvation, e.g., John 3:16, 18; Ephesians 2:8, 9; and Titus 3:5.  Furthermore, the spirit-salvation of the thief on the cross was achieved by faith without the possibility of water-baptism.


The Meaning/Purpose of Water-Baptism


There are two expressions that water-baptism symbolically displays to the world for the Christian; they follow:


  1. The Christian’s affirmation of faith in the truth of the gospel of grace; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4).  Water-baptism affirms that Jesus, as God-incarnate, vicariously paid the penalty-payment for the believer’s sins by suffering spiritual death for a three hour period while on the cross of Calvary, that Christ voluntarily gave up His physical life (no one could take it from Him), that He was buried, and that upon the third day He was resurrected from the grave.  It is in effect, the most scriptural and personal public testimony that a Christian can give regarding His faith in Christ.


[3] For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, [4] and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4)


  1. The Christian’s affirmation of his death, burial, and resurrection in Christ, which is in fact his union in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13); which is his public testimony that he is no longer a slave to the sin nature (the “old man”), but that he is now raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-14).


[1] What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? [2] Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? [3] Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? [4] Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, [6] knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. [7] For he who has died has been freed from sin. [8] Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, [9] knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. [10] For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. [11] Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [12] Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. [13] And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. [14] For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14)


The Method/Form of Water-Baptism


The only scriptural method or form of water-baptism is “baptism in water,” not with water (as in sprinkling or pouring, to which some religious denominations subscribe).  And “baptism in water” is meant to be the immersion of one’s entire body in the element.   This conclusion is based on the following scriptural passages and the subsequent arguments following them.


  1. Matthew 3:5, 6, 11, 16 (also Luke 3:16).  John the Baptist declared that he baptized in (Greek: en) water.  Admittedly, there are times when this Greek word can be translated “with,” as it is in the KJV and other translations, but contextually, it can only mean “in.”  Furthermore, there was a reason why John needed a large body of water (Jordan) for this procedure, a requirement unnecessary if he was only sprinkling or pouring.  And after Jesus was baptized, He “went up . . . out of the water;” an expression that indicates He was previously in it.  And it would seem quite unnecessary for a person to have to enter into the water for someone to then sprinkle or pour it upon his head.


  1. John 3:23 — “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there . . . .”   Baptism by immersion requires “much water;” sprinkling and pouring does not.


  1. Acts 8:38, 39 — “So he commanded the chariot to stand still.  And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he baptized him.  Now when they came up out of the water . . . .”   Again, it would never be necessary for both individuals to go down into the water if baptism was not by immersion.


The English word “baptize” (Greek: baptizo) is not the translation of the Greek word.  It is a transliteration, which is simply bringing from one language to another the spelling of the word and not the meaning.  It is the translation of a word that brings across the meaning of the word, and this is done by studying the use of the word in various Greek manuscripts during the time when it was used to translate the Bible.


Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, one of the most profound Greek scholars who for years taught at the Moody Bible Institute, in his Untranslatable Riches From the Greek New Testament is worthy of note and it follows.


“In classical Greek, the word “baptize” is used first in the ninth book of the Odyssey, where the hissing of the burning eye of the Cyclops is compared to the sound of water where a smith dips, “baptizes” a piece of iron, tempering it.  Euripedes uses the word of a ship which goes down in the water and does not come back to the surface.  In Xenophon’s Anabasis we have an instance where the word “baptize” is used of the practice of Greek soldiers in placing the points of their spears in a bowl of blood before going to war.  We see in this last instance a ceremonial usage also.  This was a ceremony they observed, its observance involving the mechanical meaning of the word “baptize,” that of “placing in.”


In secular documents of the Koine period, which documents are written in the same kind of Greek that is used in the New Testament, Moulton and Milligan report the following mechanical usages: a submerged boat, a person overwhelmed in calamities.


In the Septuagint, the translation of the Old Testament written in Koine Greek, the same type of Greek that is found in the secular documents and in the New Testament, we have in Leviticus 4:6, “And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord,” where “dip” is the translation of the Greek word “baptize,” and “sprinkle” is the rendering of another Greek word, the word “dip” referring to the action of placing the finger in the blood, a purely mechanical usage here, and the second word speaking of the ritualism of sprinkling the blood.


In the New Testament, a purely mechanical usage is seen where the rich man asks that Lazarus dip his finger in water and cool his tongue (Luke 16:24), also in the case where our Lord dips the sop (John 13:26), and again, where He wears a vesture dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13), the verb in these three instances being bapto, a related word to baptizo, the verb usually used in the New Testament and translated “baptize.”


The mechanical usage of the word as seen from the above illustrations resolves itself into the following definition of the Greek word “baptize:” “The introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition.”  The translation is “to place into,” or “to introduce into.”  These ideas were in the mind of the Greek as he used the word n its mechanical usage.


The Complete Word Study Dictionary—New Testament, which is based on the lexicon of Edward Robinson and whose General Editor is Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D., employs an even more lengthy and enlightening explanation of the correct translation of baptizo, which again is determined to be “to dip, immerse, submerge for a religious purpose, to overwhelm or saturate.”


According to Clarence Larkin’s extensive research, “The primary and ordinary meaning of the word ‘baptizo,’ is to dip, plunge, immerse, bathe, overwhelm; and its secondary and figurative meaning involves its primary meaning.  So testify thirty-four of the more common and best authorized Greek Lexicons, as well as all the standard encyclopedias, scores of expositors and commentators, hundreds of college, university, and theological professors, and uncounted numbers of the most learned writers of different denominations.”


Clarence Larkin, in his Why I Am a Baptist, goes on to say the following.


“But it is often said that the Greek preposition ‘eis,’ translated ‘into,’ means ‘to,’ and that Philip and the eunuch went only to the water.  If this is true, then the ‘wise men’ did not go ‘into the house,’ and did not return “into their own country,” and the demons (Matthew 8:31-33) did not enter ‘into the swine,’ and the swine did not run ‘into the sea.’  Again, the Savior (Matthew 9:17) did not speak of putting wine into bottles, but only to bottles.  Query:  ‘How could the new wine break the old bottles without being put in them?


Once more—‘And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.’  Here the word ‘eis’ is used; and if it means simply ‘to,’ then that passage should read: ‘And these shall go away to (close by, not into) life eternal.’


But Pedobaptists admit that ‘eis,’ in the above passages, means into.  Why then limit its meaning, when baptism is the subject at issue?  As Dr. Pendleton says—from whom the above is quoted—‘The little word eis is a strange word.  It will take a man into a house, into a ship, into hell, into HEAVEN—into any place in the universe, except the water.”


The following comments from Arlen L. Chitwood (edited somewhat by this writer), which are based on an exhaustive word-study of the Greek language, are quite noteworthy:


It is common usage to say “baptism by immersion. . .”  But what is really being stated is “immersion by immersion.”  Thus, when we say “baptism by sprinkling,” we are really saying "immersion by sprinkling."  That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s the way it is I suppose.


The KJV translators undoubtedly knew what the word baptizo meant, but how could they translate the word and have an acceptable translation for the King of England, who was head of a state church that sprinkled?  Thus, they simply transliterated the word, leaving it open to interpretation.


And the translators of most later versions have done the same thing, for apparently similar reasons.  For example, how many Presbyterians, Methodists, etc. would purchase an NASB if the word baptizo was translated?


As for the relationship between the words bapto and baptizo, if Trench is to be believed (and he is probably correct, for he is usually viewed as the authority on these matters), baptizo is a later form of bapto.  Both are used in the New Testament (though bapto sparingly, for it is the earlier form), and both mean exactly the same thing.


Clarence Larkin’s research regarding the practice of the early churches resulted in these comments.


“Immersion continued to be the general practice among Christians for THIRTEEN HUNDRED YEARS.  The first account we have of sprinkling, or pouring, is that of the case of Novatian, about the middle of the third century.  While unbaptized, he fell into a dangerous sickness; and, because he was likely to die, was baptized on the bed where he lay by having water sprinkled or poured all over him.  He recovered, was afterward elected Bishop; but the election was contested, on the ground that he had not been ‘lawfully baptized.’


From that time on, A.D. 250, sprinkling was permitted, but only in a case of necessity, death being imminent.  It was not considered regular baptism, but was called ‘clinic’ or ‘sick baptism.’


France seems to have been the first country in the world where baptism by pouring was used for those in health.  The Church of Rome first tolerated it in the eighth century; and in the sixteenth century, she generally adopted it.


In A.D. 1549, the Church of England made an exception in favor of sprinkling for “weak” children; and within a half century thereafter, sprinkling began to be the more general, as it is now almost the only, way of baptizing in that church.


The following quotes are noteworthy:


John Calvin, the founder of Presbyterianism—“Among the ancients they immersed the whole body in water.  It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”


Martin Luther, the leader of the Reformation—“Those who are baptized should be deeply immersed.”


Dean Stanley—“Baptism was not only a bath, but a plunge, an entire submersion in the deep water.  In that early age the scene of the transaction was either some deep wayside spring or well, as for the Ethiopian, or some rushing river, as the Jordan, or some vast reservoir as at Jericho or Jerusalem.  Such was apostolic baptism.  We are able in detail to trace its history through the next three centuries.”


Finally, the same word is used of the Holy Spirit regarding our placement into the Body of Christ—establishing our union with Christ.  It is inconceivable that we are “sprinkled” into Christ.


The Administration of Water-Baptism


Although religious denominations advocate that only the “clergy” may baptize, i.e., those ordained to represent God; Scripture is somewhat silent in this regard.  In what is often referred to as the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19, 20), Christ instructs His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, “baptizing them . . .” and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  And, logically, such converts were then to observe the same command that Christ had just givens to His disciples, i.e., to continue on in making disciples and baptizing them. 


The truth is that any believer (Christian) may baptize.  The administration of the ordinance of water-baptism (and for that matter, the ordinance of the “Lord’s Supper”) is not just for the clergy.  The fact is that all believers are representatives (“ambassadors” [2 Corinthians 5:20]) and priests (1 Peter 2:9) of God; and they may administer the ordinances of the Church.


The Motivation for Water-Baptism


Although one may suggest the requirements of love and gratitude to be the motivation for one to be baptized, and these are valid; the primary motivation for being baptized should be the desire to be obedient to the command of Christ.  To those who know what the baptism is that Jesus received and commanded, but have never yet submitted thereto, let the words of Ananias to the apostle Paul have special emphasis — “And now why are you waitingArise and be baptized . . . .” (Acts 22:16)


The Kingdom and Water-Baptism


What is little understood by almost all Christians is the relationship water-baptism has to do with the purpose and goal of their soul-salvation, i.e., their future inheritance as firstborn sons, which is to co-rule and co-reign with Christ in the heavenly sphere of the coming Messianic Kingdom.


(The salvation of the soul is one of the most misunderstood subjects in Scripture. And it is misunderstood because of the way most Christians view salvation.


Contrary to common belief, the salvation of the soul has nothing to do with man’s eternal destiny. Biblical teachings surrounding eternal salvation are always related to the spiritual part of man, never the soulical, and are centered in one realm alone — in Christ’s finished work at Calvary.


And the salvation message, having to do with Christ’s finished work at Calvary and one’s eternal destiny, is very simple: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved [made possible through that which Christ has done on man’s behalf]. . . .” (Acts 16:31)


But the salvation of the soul is dealt with after an entirely different fashion in Scripture. Rather than Christ’s past work at Calvary being in view, His present work as High Priest is in view; and rather than the unsaved being in view, only Christians are in view.


Christ is presently performing a work as High Priest, on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat, to effect a cleansing from sin for the kingdom of priests that He is about to bring forth. And Christ’s present work in this respect relates to Christians and to the saving of the soul.


Scripture deals with the salvation of the soul in relation to the present faithfulness of Christians, and this salvation will be realized only at the end of one’s faith (1 Peter 1:9). And a realization of this salvation is associated with rewards, Christ’s return, and His kingdom (cf. Matthew 16:24-17:5; Hebrews 10:35-39).


Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls [the souls of Christians, those who have ‘passed from death unto life,’ the only ones in a position to received ‘the implanted word’]” (James 1:21).


[Taken from Salvation of the Soul-Saving of the Life by Arlen L. Chitwood,])


The relationship between water-baptism and the coming kingdom requires an understanding of the type-antitype relationship between the Old Testament historical account of Israel in their experience of being delivered out of their bondage in Egypt and their subsequent journey toward their stated goal and the New Testament account of Christians being delivered from their spiritual bondage through faith alone in Christ alone and their subsequent journey toward their stated goal.  And this is aptly stated by Chitwood in an e-mail message to an inquiry made to him concerning the matter, as follows:


I would want to say that the way to go on this would be to remain with the main type of the whole overall matter as the base, from the point of salvation to entrance into or non-entrance into the land of their calling.  And this type is found beginning in Exodus 12 and continuing into Joshua.

The type has the Red Sea passage as occurring shortly after the death of the firstborn in Egypt, lying between Egypt and the land.  On the second generation forty years later, the Israelites were still sacrificing the paschal lambs year after year, but now it was the Jordan passage which immediately confronted them before entrance into the land.

Note something interesting with respect to both the Israelites in Egypt and the second generation in the wilderness forty years later.  Geographically, routes were available for both groups to enter the land apart from either the Red Sea or the Jordan passage, but God would not allow them to take these routes (God would allow the first generation to enter at Kadesh-Barnea, for they had already been through the Red Sea, but not the second.  The second generation hadn’t been through the Red Sea, and they had to go through the Jordan).  The only routes God allowed them to take were the ones requiring the passage through water.  They couldn’t go any other way.

Baptism, of course, has nothing to do with the salvation that we presently possess.  That’s seen occurring via death and shed blood, in Exodus 12 in the type.  The Red Sea passage, or the Jordan passage, follows this and occurs in route to the land of our calling, which for Christians is a heavenly rather than an earthly land.

But, to say that baptism has to do with salvation would not really be incorrect.  The incorrect part comes when people say that it has to do with the salvation that we presently possess.  Rather, it has to do with the saving of the soul — not so much the physical act per se but that which the physical act has to do with, as seen in verses such as Colossians 2:12; 3:1ff.

I deal with this on pp. 92-95 of my book, Signs in John’s Gospel, or the same data is available in the book, Brought Forth From Above, pp. 20-23.

Thinking along the lines of the preceding, I recall something Wilson said at a baptismal service about 1960, in Chattanooga.  He said, “If baptism is no more important than the average Christian makes it, we might as well forget about it.”

Here is something that you might want to think about relative to baptism.  Both pictures of baptism in the overall Old Testament type that I’ve called attention to (the Red Sea and the Jordan crossings) were connected with the people of God in relation to the kingdom.  Baptism was a rite later practiced in the camp of Israel in the Old Testament (e.g., the priests were baptized [given a complete bath] upon their entrance into the priesthood, proselytes were baptized, etc.)  When John appeared on the scene, baptizing in Jordan, this wasn’t something new to the people.  And note something.  His baptism was in complete keeping with the type.  It had to do with the people of God in relation to the kingdom.

Now, bring this over into the Church today.  What do you suppose baptism has to do with today?  The answer is obvious.  All one has to do is go back to the type to find out.  It has to do with the same thing it has always had to do with — the people of God in relation to the kingdom.

But no one seems to know or appreciate that.  So you might want to keep it quiet, else you’ll get the fundamental Baptists or others down on your case.


The Final Word on the Matter as Seen in the Old Testament and John 3*


The race in which Christians are engaged is that of a life characterized by faith resulting in obedience to the Lords commandments.  Christians alone are engaged in the race.  Unsaved individuals are aliens, outside the arena of faith, and, thus, cannot participate.


In the basic type established during the days of Moses, an unsaved person is positioned in Egypt, apart from the protection provided by the blood of the Passover Lamb (apart from that which the presence of the blood shows — a vicarious death); and the participants in the race have not only appropriated the blood of the Passover Lamb (“through faith” [Ephesians 2:8, 9]), but, within the framework of the complete type — which includes the Red Sea passage — are also positioned outside of Egypt.


The nation of Israel was delivered from Egypt for a purpose, and this purpose involved entrance into a land set before them.  The Israelites outside of Egypt in the wilderness constitute the type forming the teachings in Hebrews chapters three and four, as well as the type which must be referenced to correctly interpret Hebrews 6:4-6.


“Faith,” as set forth in these chapters, pertains to the experiences of the people of God beyond the Red Sea passage.  God could deal with the Israelites in the wilderness only because they had previously kept the Passover and passed through the Red Sea.  Apart from the first there could be no deliverance from the death of the firstborn; and apart from the second there could be no deliverance from Egypt.  Both had to occur before the Israelites were in a position to be dealt with by God concerning entrance into the land of Canaan.


Christians, likewise, have been delivered from Egypt for a purpose, and this purpose involves entrance into a land set before them.  The antitype of that which is taught in Hebrews 3:1-4:16; 6:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 must be understood in order to place the race in which Christians are engaged in its proper perspective.  The reason that Paul referred to this race in the verses immediately preceding 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 (9:24-27) is, thus, self-evident.  The race in 1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1 can only occur, as in the type, outside of Egypt.  God can deal with Christians in this manner (in the race) only because they have previously appropriated the blood of the Passover Lamb and passed through the antitype of the Red Sea — that which is symbolized by the waters of baptism.


(Note:  Baptism, as in the observance of the Lord’s Table, has no power in and of itself per se.  Rather, the power lies in that which is shown through baptism, or in that which is shown through observing the Lord’s Table.


And it must forever be kept in mind that both have to do solely with the saved, never with the unsaved.)


Apart from the blood of the Passover Lamb there can be no deliverance from the death of the firstborn, and apart from that which is shown through the waters of baptism there can be no deliverance from Egypt.  Both must occur before a Christian is in a position to be dealt with by God concerning entrance into the antitype of the land of Canaan.


Drawing from the type, an unbaptized Christian is on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side of the water.  He is still in Egypt, safe from the death of the firstborn, but in no position to run the race (cf. 1 John 5:5-8).


This can perhaps best be seen and understood by and through Christ’s dealings with Nicodemus in John chapter three, along with related passages from the Pauline epistles.  The subject in Christ’s dealings with Nicodemus had to do with signs in relation to the message being proclaimed, which was the proffered kingdom, not eternal life (though eternal life is dealt with later in the discourse [vv. 14-16]).


Christ’s two opening statements to Nicodemus drew from a large section of Israeli history, extending from the Red Sea passage in Exodus chapter fourteen to the entrance of the Israelites into the land in the book of Joshua.  This is something that Nicodemus would have been quite familiar with, though he wasn’t able to properly relate Christ’s statements to this part of Israeli history.  And this would account for Christ’s sharp rebuke later in the conversation, when this became quite apparent:


Are you the teacher of Israel [lit., not just any teacher, but a particular teacher], and do not know these things? (John 3:10b)


In this respect, note Jesus’ statement back in John 3:5, explaining that which He had opened with in verse three.  And an understanding of this will explain why the message of the kingdom to Israel was accompanied by baptism, or why Christians are baptized today.


Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit [Greek: Except a man be born (brought forth) out of water and Spirit], he cannot enter the kingdom of God.


(The construction of the Greek text of John 3:5 requires that both “water” and “Spirit” be understood the same way — either both in a literal sense or both in a figurative sense.  “Water” cannot be understood one way and “Spirit” another.)


Then, the type, beginning in Exodus chapter fourteen, opens John 3:3, 5 to one’s understanding.


1)  Out of Water


There is really no way that Nicodemus could have associated Christ’s statements in John 3:3, 5 with the events back in Exodus chapter twelve — the Passover.  The Passover, the first of seven Jewish festivals given to the Israelites under Moses (cf. Leviticus 23:1ff), had to do with events that Nicodemus would have known that the nation had kept, which Israel had been observing year after year over centuries of time.  And, being among Israel’s religious leaders, he could only have been among those participating in these events.


The conversation between Christ and Nicodemus in John 3:1ff could only have been a conversation between Christ and a person who had already experienced the death of the firstborn, as seen in Exodus 12:1ff.  And, beyond this, according to that which is clearly seen and stated in both the text and context, the subject matter had to do with the Jewish people and the kingdom (a people who could only be viewed as saved, having availed themselves of the blood of slain paschal lambs, with the firstborn having died vicariously).


This conversation could have had nothing to do with eternal salvation, which, of necessity, would have related to the events of Exodus chapter twelve.


That to which Jesus referred could only be seen in the type as having to do with events beyond the Passover in Exodus 12:1ff.  It could only have been understood as having to do with a continued divine work beyond that which is foreshadowed by the events of day one in Genesis chapter one.  It could only have been understood as having to do with that which is seen throughout days two through six — a continued bringing forth from above, with a goal in view.


In the original type in Genesis 1:1-2:3, this goal is seen as a seventh day of rest.  In the type beginning in Exodus chapter twelve, this goal is seen as realizing an inheritance in another land, within a theocracy.  And both types point to different facets of exactly the same thing and occurring during exactly the same time — events during the 1,000-year Messianic Era, which will be the seventh millennium following six millennia of divine restorative work.


Born out of water from John 3:5, in the type beginning in Exodus chapter twelve, can only have to do with the symbolism as seen in the Red Sea passage following the Passover.


The Israelites (who had experienced the death of the firstborn) were then taken down into the Sea, symbolizing burial following death (taken down into the place of death) and raised up out of the Sea, symbolizing resurrection (raised up out of the place of death) and placed on the eastern banks of the Sea (Exodus 12-15).


They stood on the eastern banks of the Sea by and through supernatural means, wherein resurrection power was exhibited. And they stood in this position with a view to an inheritance in another land, within a theocracy.


The Israelites, passing through the Sea, had gone down into the place of death.  Only the dead are to be buried, and the death of the firstborn had just occurred.  Thus, a burial must also occur.  But beyond burial, with a vicarious death of the firstborn, there must also be a resurrection.


The Israelites, following the death of the firstborn, possessed spiritual life.  Thus, they had to be raised from the place of death to walkin newness of life” — something having to do with the spiritual man alone, for this resurrection has nothing to do with the man of flesh.  He is to be left in the place of death.


This is pictured during the present dispensation by and through the act of baptism.  A person (a Christian), having experienced the death of the firstborn vicariously (by and through the blood of the Paschal Lamb who died in his stead), is placed down in the waters.  He then, within the symbolism involved, finds himself in the place of death, beneath the waters.


But, because the One providing the vicarious death conquered death, the Christian can be removed from the waters and find himself in the position of having been raised with Christ (Colossians 2:12; 3:1ff).


And in this position — wrought through supernatural, resurrection power — the Christian is to walkin newness of life” (Romans 6:4), with a view to an inheritance in another land, within a theocracy.


It is going down into the place of death because of the death of the firstborn, and it is rising from this place, as Christ was raised, because the person possesses spiritual life.  And this rising has to do with the spiritual man alone, for again, this resurrection has nothing to do with the man of flesh.  He is to be left in the place of death.


2)  Out of Spirit


In John 3:5, Christ not only referred to a birth (a bringing forth) out of water in the preceding respect, but He also referred to a birth (a bringing forth) out of Spirit as well.

In the type, this is seen in and through the Israelites, on the eastern bank of the Sea, being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, as they moved toward an inheritance in another land, within a theocracy.


And the antitype is evident.  A Christian, raised from the waters to walk “in newness of life,” has the indwelling Spirit to lead him into all truth, as he moves toward an inheritance in another land, within a theocracy.


There must be a resurrection in view.  Then, the one raised from the place of death must follow the man of spirit, allowing the Spirit to fill and lead him throughout his pilgrim journey (cf. Ephesians 5:18, 19; Colossians 3:16).


And the entire matter rests upon that which is initially seen and set forth in an unchangeable fashion in Genesis 1:2b-25 — the ruined creation removed from its watery grave and completely restored over six days’ time by means of a work of the Spirit throughout.


There must be an initial bringing forth from above (a passing “from death to life” [Genesis 1:2b-5; cf. John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1, 5]); then, there must be a continued bringing forth from above (Genesis 1:6-25).  And John 3:3-5 deals with two aspects of the latter, not with the former.


(*Taken from By Faith by Arlen L. Chitwood)


Bottom line, water-baptism, a command of Christ, is directly connected to a Christian eventually achieving the stated goal for his redemption, that of one day joining Christ as His bride to co-reign and co-rule with Him in the Messianic era.


Many of the writings of Chitwood may be accessed verbatim at, and this writer highly recommends that each reader avail himself of this access.  Without a proper understanding of the Kingdom Message, which is the predominate message of the Bible and particularly the New Testament, the possibility of “missing the mark” as regarding God’s purpose for your life is a stark reality.


Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20b)