The word "baptize" (from the Greek baptidzo) means "to
identify" or "to be made one with". In early Greek, the word
had both religious and secular meanings. In general, it refers to the act
of identifying one thing with another thing in such a way that its nature
or character is changed, or it represents the idea that a real change has
already taken place.
As a reference to identification, "baptize" means to place
a person (or thing) into a new environment, or into union with some one
or something else, so as to alter his (its) condition or relationship to
the previous environment.
There are seven types of baptism mentioned in the Bible. Four of these are
real baptisms and three are ritual baptisms.
-- The Baptism of Moses
-- The Baptism of the Cross (or Cup)
-- The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
-- The Baptism of Fire
-- The Baptism of John
-- The Baptism of Jesus
-- The Baptism of the Christian Believer
These seven baptisms are described in the sections below.
A baptism is called "real" if it involves actually identifying
a person with something or someone.
The Baptism of Moses
The baptism of Moses was a double identification, the children of Israel
are identified both with Moses and with the cloud (Jesus Christ) as they
passed through the Red Sea. There was no water involved (remember, they
went through the sea on dry land when the waters were parted). (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)
The Baptism of the Cross (or Cup)
Jesus Christ "drank" the Cup filled with our sins. Another way
of expressing it is that all the sins of the world were put into one cup
and poured out on Christ while He was on the Cross. God the Father judged
our sins while they were on Christ. Christ was identified with our sin and
He bore our sins on the cross. He was made sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter
In Matthew 20:22 Jesus speaks of the cup he is to drink as he makes a reply
to the mother of Zebedee's children. In Matthew 26:39, He prays to the Father
to "let this cup pass from me". Nevertheless, He determined to
drink from the cup, as seen in John 18:11, "the cup which my Father
has given me, shall I not drink from it?"
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a real baptism. When a person accepts
Christ as Savior, he is placed into the body of Christ. He is identified
as a believer. The mechanics are given in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit did not occur in Old Testament times. The
first occurrence was on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit placed
the new believers into the body of Christ.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the basis for Positional Truth. Believers
are place "in Christ", and in this position have access to many
kinds of privileges and blessings. Ephesians 1 has a good description of
what it means to have "all blessings in heavenly places in
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by John the Baptist. (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16) And it was prophesied by Jesus Christ. (John
The implications of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for all believers in
the family of God, are given in Galatians 3:26-28.
The principle of retroactive identification with Christ is brought out in Romans
6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience. It is not
by speaking in tongues or any other kind of feeling or behavior. The things
that happen to believers at the moment of salvation are accomplished by
the Holy Spirit, not by us, and these things are not experiences.
The Baptism of Fire
There is a judgment coming at the Second Coming of Christ when all nonbelievers
are taken from the earth. They will join the rest of the unbelievers in
Torments (Sheol, Hades, Hell) to wait for the Last Judgment (The Great White
Throne Judgment of Revelation 20) at the end of the Millennium. This removal of
unbelievers for judgment is the baptism of fire.
Fire is a symbol for judgment all throughout the Bible. Examples are the
fire which burned the sacrifice on the Hebrew altar, and the fire from God
which burned the watered down sacrifices of Elijah and the prophets of
The doctrine of the baptism of fire is stated in Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17;
and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.
The Lord Jesus taught several parables regarding the end times when believers
and unbelievers will be separated. The believers are to go into the millennium,
the unbelievers are "cast off" into fire. These parables are
to the baptism of fire.
Wheat and tares -- Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
Good and bad fish -- Matthew 13:47-50.
The wise and foolish virgins -- Matthew 25:1-13
The sheep and the goats -- Matthew 25:31-46
A baptism is called a ritual baptism, or a ceremonial baptism, when water
is used as a symbol for something else. It is a representative
The individual is placed in the water, which means, symbolically, that he
is identified with that which the water represents.
The Baptism of John -- Matthew 3:6-11.
Here the water is symbolic of the Kingdom of God which John was preaching.
When a person was baptized by John, he was testifying to his faith in the
Messiah and his identification with Christ's kingdom. The new believer was
"identified" with the water, but the water represented a spiritual
The phrase "Kingdom of God" is a general term referring to all
believers from the time of Adam until the end of the Millennium. At the time
of John the Baptist, all believers were pre-Church Age Christians, although
many lived on into the Church Age (which began at the Day of Pentecost).
The Baptism of Jesus
When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist, the water was
symbolic of God's will in salvation, namely that Jesus would go to the
This was a unique baptism. As He went into the water, he was saying,
in effect, "I will die for the sins of the world." As he came
out of the water He said, in effect, "I will rise again that believers
might have resurrection bodies and victory over death and the
This baptism was unique because Christ is unique and His work on the Cross
is unique. No one ever "follows the Lord in baptism" When a
is baptized, it for an entirely different purpose. See the discussion below
on believer's baptism.
The Baptism of Believers
In believer's baptism the water represented the Lord Jesus Christ and
positional truth. The real baptism of the Holy Spirit places a believer
into Christ. Water baptism is a ceremonial representation of that face,
a picture of Spirit baptism.
Christians have a real identification with Christ in his death,
and resurrection. See Romans 6. Water baptism is symbolic
with the person and work of Christ.
As he goes into the water, the believer says, in effect, "I am
with Him in His death and burial."
As he comes up out of the water, the believer says, in effect, "I am
identified with Christ in His resurrection and victory over death and sin,
as He is seated at the right hand of the Father."
Water baptism comes after salvation. It does not precede salvation.
Water baptism which precedes salvation is only a religious practice, ritual
without reality, therefore it is meaningless. Believer's baptism is not
religion, but a indicates a relationship with Jesus Christ that lasts