"THE EPISTLE TO TITUS" Graces Of The Heirs Of Grace (3:1-2)


Graces Of The Heirs Of Grace (3:1-2)


1. In his epistle to Titus, Paul commanded him to do two things...
   a. Set in order the things that are lacking - Tit 1:5
   b. Speak the things proper for sound doctrine - Tit 2:1

2. The first had to do with the appointment of elders...
   a. Whose qualifications were listed by Paul - Tit 1:5-9
   b. Whose task included dealing with insubordinate talkers and
      deceivers - Tit 1:10-16

3. The second had to do with conduct becoming members of the church...
   a. As men and women, young and old, slave or free - Tit 2:1-10
   b. As recipients of the wonderful grace of God - Tit 2:11-14

[In Tit 3:1-2, Paul continues to instruct Titus on what to remind the
brethren.  We find him describing "Graces Of The Heirs Of Grace", i.e.,
how recipients of God's grace should act toward others...]


      1. A charge given by Paul elsewhere - Ro 13:1-7; 1Ti 2:1-2
      2. A charge reinforced by Peter as well - 1Pe 2:13-17
      3. Both of which reflect the words of Jesus - cf. Mt 22:17-21
      -- Our duty to government can be summarized by these words:  obey,
         pay, and pray

      1. As citizens, we should be prepared to serve our country and
         fellow man in ways consistent with the teaching of Christ;
         i.e., with good works - Mt 5:16; cf. Php 2:14-16
      2. A recurring theme stressed throughout this epistle to Titus
         - Tit 2:14; 3:8,14
      -- Such gracious conduct is proper for the heirs of grace

[As seen in Tit 2:11-12, God's grace does not mean license to do whatever
we want.  It teaches us to respect and obey those in authority.  As we
continue, it also teaches us how to live graciously...]


      1. Speak evil (blasphemeo) - To blaspheme, revile. To hurt the
         reputation or smite with reports or words, speak evil of,
         slander, rail - TCWD
      2. As translated in other versions
         a. "to malign no one" (NASB)
         b. "to slander no one" (NIV)
      3. Applied here to all men, elsewhere toward brethren - Ep 4:
         31-32; Jm 4:11-12
      4. Note the caution of Michael the archangel in reproaching even
         the devil! - cf. Jude 1:9
      -- We must speak out against error, but gracious in how we speak
         of those in error

      1. Peaceable (amachos) - not disposed to fight, not contentious or
         quarrelsome - TCWD
      2. The quality displayed by Paul toward his brethren - 1Th 2:7
      3. A virtue to be displayed even toward those in error - 2Ti 2:24-25
      4. A grace indicative of heavenly wisdom - Jm 3:17
      -- We can contend without being contentious, disagree without
         being disagreeable

   C. BE GENTLE...
      1. Gentle (epieikes) - equitable, fair, mild, gentle - Thayer
      2. Towards those who attack us. Yielding, considerate, not urging
         one's rights to the uttermost, but forbearing and kindly - JFB
      3. A grace to be extended toward all men - cf. Php 4:5
      -- A willingness to turn the other cheek, not just literally but
         also figuratively

      1. Humility (praotes) - gentleness, mildness, meekness - Thayer
      2. As translated in other versions:
         a. "to show perfect courtesy" (ESV)
         b. "showing all meekness" (KJV)
         c. "showing every consideration" (NASB)
         d. "to show true humility" (NIV)
         e. "to show every courtesy" (NRSV)
      3. A quality present in the fruit of the Spirit - cf. Ga 5:22-23
      -- An example of gracious conduct by an heir of grace!


1. The reason for such conduct is given as Paul continues in his epistle...
   a. Though we were once foolish, disobedient, etc. - Tit 3:3
   b. We have been saved by the kindness, love, and mercy of God - Tit 3: 4-6
   c. We have been justified by His grace, and thus "heirs of grace" - Tit 3:7

2. Are we willing to conduct ourselves in ways appropriate for "heirs of grace"...?
   a. Toward those in authority, even when as wicked and evil as was the
      emperor Nero?
   b. Toward all men, not just brethren, but even those who may oppose
      and oppress us?

That is our calling.  May we grow in grace to become the kind of people
for which Jesus died...

   "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every
   lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people,
   zealous for good works." - Tit 2:14

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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The Only True God by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Only True God

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The Bible is full of scriptures that, when quoted without any consideration of the immediate and remote contexts, a person can misuse in all sorts of ways. As proof that we do not have to work to provide for our family’s material needs, some may quote Jesus’ statement, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27). In order to show that Jesus was a liar, the Bible critic might quote Jesus’ acknowledgement: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true” (John 5:31). Those who exclude baptism from God’s plan of salvation often quote John 4:2: “Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples.” When the Bible reader is “rightly dividing” (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV) or “handling accurately the word of truth” (NASB), however, he will remember that “[t]he sum of thy [God’s] word is truth” (Psalm 119:160, emp. added). Since the Bible teaches “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10; cf. 1 Timothy 5:8), Jesus never implied that working to help feed one’s family is wrong (John 6:27). “He simply was saying that spiritual food is more important than physical food, and as such, should be given a higher priority” (Butt, 2003, emp. in orig.). Jesus did not confess wrongdoing in John 5:31. He simply acknowledged that, in accordance with the law (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15), His testimony apart from other witnesses would be considered invalid or insufficient to establish truth (cf. John 8:13-20; see Lyons, 2004). Likewise, Jesus never taught that baptism was unnecessary for salvation. In fact, He taught the very opposite (cf. John 3:3,5; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20; see Lyons, 2003).
Consider another proof text from the Gospel of John regarding the nature of Christ. Some (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses) contend that Jesus was not deity since, on one occasion, He prayed to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3; cf. “Should You Believe...?,” 2000). Allegedly, by calling the Father, “the only true God,” Jesus excluded Himself from being deity. Such an interpretation of John 17:3, however, contradicts numerous other passages within John’s own gospel account. From beginning to end, John bore witness to the deity of Christ. Some of the evidence from the Gospel of John includes the following:
  • In the very first verse of John, the apostle testified: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (emp. added; cf. 1:14,17).
  • Two verses later the reader learns that “[a]ll things came into being by Him [the Word], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3, NASB).
  • Still in the first chapter of John, the apostle testified that John the Baptizer was the one whom Isaiah foretold would “prepare...the way of Jehovah” (Isaiah 40:3; John 1:23; cf. 14:6). For Whom did John the Baptizer come to prepare the way? Isaiah called Him “Jehovah.” The apostle John, as well as John the Baptizer, referred to Jehovah as “Jesus” (John 1:17), “the Christ” (3:28), “the Word” (1:1), “the Light” (1:17), “the Lamb” (1:29), “the Truth” (5:33), etc.
  • When the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well told Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming” (John 4:25), Jesus responded, “I who speak to you am He” (vs. 26). Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be called “Mighty God” (9:6) and “Jehovah” (40:3). Thus, by claiming to be the Messiah, Jesus was claiming to be God.
  • In John chapter nine, Jesus miraculously healed a man with congenital blindness (vs. 1). When this man appeared before various Jews in the synagogue and called Jesus a prophet (vs. 17), he was instructed to “give glory to God,” not Jesus, because allegedly Jesus “is a sinner” (vs. 24). Later, after the man born blind was cast out of the synagogue, he confessed faith in Jesus and worshiped (Greek proskuneo) Him (vs. 38). In the Gospel of John, this word (proskuneo) is found 11 times: nine times in reference to worshiping the Father (John 4:2-24), once in reference to Greeks who came to “worship” in Jerusalem during Passover (12:20), and once in reference to the worship Jesus received from a man whom He had miraculously healed, and who had just confessed faith in Jesus. Indeed, by accepting worship Jesus acknowledged His deity (cf. Matthew 4:10; Hebrews 1:6).
  • While at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, Jesus claimed: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (vs. 31). Why did Jesus’ enemies want to stone Him? The Jews said to Christ: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (vs. 33, emp. added; cf. 5:17-18).
  • After Jesus rose from the dead, the apostle Thomas called Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus responded: “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29). Notice that Jesus did not deny His deity, rather He acknowledged Thomas’ faith and commended future believers. Believers in what? In that which Thomas had just confessed—that Jesus is Lord and God.
It was in the overall context of John’s gospel account, which is filled with statements testifying of Jesus’ deity, that the apostle recorded Jesus’ prayer to His Father the night of His betrayal (John 17). But how can Jesus’ statement about His Father being “the only true God” (17:3) be harmonized with statements by Jesus, the apostle John, John the Baptizer, Thomas, etc. affirming the deity of Christ? When a person understands that Jesus’ statement was made in opposition to the world’s false gods, and not Himself, the reference to the Father being “the only true God” harmonizes perfectly with the many scriptures that attest to the deity of Christ (including those outside of the book of John; cf. Matthew 1:23; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:5-13). On the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, it was completely natural for Him to pray that “all flesh/people” (John 17:2, NKJV/NIV), many of whom were (and still are) pagan idolaters, would come to know “the only true God” and receive eternal life (17:3). Thus, Jesus contrasted Himself not with the Father, but “with all forms of pagan polytheism, mystic pantheism, and philosophic naturalism” (Jamieson, et al., 1997).
Furthermore, if Jesus’ reference to the Father being “the only true God” somehow excludes Jesus from being deity, then (to be consistent) Jesus also must be disqualified from being man’s Savior. Jehovah said: “Besides me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11; cf. Hosea 13:4; Jude 25). Yet, Paul and Peter referred to Jesus as our “Savior” several times in their inspired writings (Ephesians 5:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1,11; 2:20; etc.). Also, if Jesus is excluded from Godhood (based on a misinterpretation of John 17:3), then, pray tell, must God the Father be excluded from being man’s Lord? To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote that there is “one Lord” (4:4, emp. added), and, according to Jude 4 (using Jehovah’s Witnesses own New World Translation) “our only Owner and Lord” is “Jesus Christ” (emp. added). Yet, in addition to Jesus being called Lord throughout the New Testament, so is God the Father (Matthew 11:25; Luke 1:32; Acts 1:25) and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Obviously, when the Bible reveals that there is only one God, one Savior, one Lord, one Creator (Isaiah 44:24; John 1:3), etc., reason and revelation demand that we understand the inspired writers to be excluding everyone and everything—other than the triune God. As former Jehovah’s Witness David Reed explained: “Jesus’ being called our ‘only’ Lord does not rule out the Lordship of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s being called the ‘only’ true God does not exclude the Son and the Holy Spirit from deity” (1986, p. 82).


Butt, Kyle (2003), “Wearing Gold and Braided Hair,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2264.
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Faussett, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Lyons, Eric (2003), “The Bible’s Teaching on Baptism: Contradictory or Complementary?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/617.
Lyons, Eric (2004), “Was Jesus Trustworthy?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/516.
Reed, David (1986), Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Should You Believe in the Trinity?” (2000), The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

The Omnipotence of God by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


The Omnipotence of God

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

God is the only being Who possesses omnipotence. In the Oxford English Dictionary, “omnipotence” is defined as “all-powerfulness,” or “almightiness.” In other words, when God wants something to be done, it is done. God has all power in heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18), so unlike the limited power of humans, which is constrained by time, space, and force, God’s capabilities are limited only by His own character (see Miller, 2003). Paul wrote of God’s omnipotence in the sense that He is “above all, and through all, and in you all,” (Ephesians 4:6). God is preeminent for many reasons, not the least of which is His great power.
God has complete power over the Earth. The very first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1) is full of references to God’s power. The words of His mouth brought the Universe into existence; He spoke the Cosmos into existence with only a word (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 11:3). In order to create the Universe, God needed no pre-existing matter with which to work; rather, He Himself spoke the very first matter into existence (see Thompson, et al., 2003a2003b). After He created “the heavens and the Earth,” He spoke “light” into existence on Earth (Genesis 1:3). After creating light, He created the firmament, and much more, all by the power of His word.
God has complete power over the spiritual realm. Just as the first chapter in the Bible reveals that God created light on Earth, the last chapter in the Bible reminds us that God’s power will be responsible for the eternal light in heaven (Revelation 22:5). Christ repeatedly cast out devils during His earthly ministry (Matthew 8:16; 9:32-33; 12:22), and James revealed that the demons believe in the one God of the Bible, and that because they are aware of God’s omnipotence, they tremble (Luke 8:31; James 2:19). God now limits Satan himself, keeping him from directly inhabiting people or causing people physical pain (Zechariah 13:1-2).
Only God can perform “wonders,” and only God can furnish that capability to others (Job 5:9; Psalm 72:18; John 3:2). Christ again revealed His power over the spiritual realm when He brought Lazarus’ soul back from the realm of departed spirits, and returned it to Lazarus’ body (John 11:43). Similarly, God will resurrect all the dead one day, having already determined the fate of their souls (Mark 12:26-27; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15:15,32; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
God has complete power over the affairs of men. John Waddey observed: “God was known to the patriarchs as El-Shaddai, God Almighty (Exodus 6:2-3). The term Shaddai, when connected with the Hebrew word El (God) means, ‘the mighty One to nourish, satisfy and supply.’ Thus we see His power to send forth blessings for He is the all-bountiful One” (1987, p. 1). It makes sense, then, that when Moses spoke to the entire assembly of the children of Israel the lyrics of a lengthy song, he included this line: “Nor is there any that can deliver out of My [God’s] hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). Of course, just as God has the power to bless us and deliver the righteous from spiritual harm, He also has the uncontainable power to destroy the wicked, as can be seen in His utter destruction of the world through the global Flood of Noah’s time (except eight souls; see Thompson, 1999a).
The plural form of ElElohim, brings to light the fullness of God’s power, in that it highlights the Trinity (Psalm 38:75). Still another Old Testament expression used to denote omnipotence is Abhir, or “strong One” (Genesis 49:24; see Vos, 1994, 3:2188-2190). Jesus said that God is Spirit, emphasizing that God is not limited by impotence of flesh, as are humans (Isaiah 2:22; 31:3; John 4:24).
God’s power over the nations of the Earth is evident. Though God used the children of Israel as His means for bringing Christ to Earth, God’s power over large groups of people has never been limited to Israel. God has authority over all nations, and frequently has used them to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 10:5; Jeremiah 25:9; Amos 1). Job said: “He makes nations great and destroys them” (Job 12:23). Kings have their dominion only because God allows it (see Custance, 1977, p. 134). Vos observed: “The prophets ascribe to Jehovah not merely relatively greater power than to the gods of the nations, but His power extends into the sphere of the nations, and the heathen gods are ignored in the estimate put upon His might (Isaiah 31:3)” [1994, 3:2189]. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was warned:
This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men…. This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses (Daniel 4:17,24-25, emp. added).
God has complete power over the devil, whom He created (though the devil was not evil at the time of his creation; see Colley, 2004). While the devil has certain powers that humans do not possess (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 11-12), Satan is not omnipotent. During his temptation of Christ, Satan admitted that whatever power he possessed had been “delivered to him” (Luke 4:6). Satan had to ask for God’s permission to harm Job (Job 1:7-12). Jesus said that Satan had desired to sift Peter as wheat; that is, Satan sought the express permission of God. Without it, Satan would be powerless to tempt Peter. While God never had a beginning, Satan was created (Colossians 1:16). For this, and other reasons, Satan is not omnipotent, and his power is far less potent than the power of God. John wrote: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
If we were to try to imagine someone whose power approached God’s might, we might think of Satan. Yet, the Bible reveals that nothing is too hard for the Lord—even defeating Satan (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17). In fact, Christ already conquered the devil, and eventually will punish him everlastingly in hell (Matthew 25:41; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 12-13). Hebrews 2:14 reads: “He [Christ] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Milton, in Paradise Lost, wrote of Satan: “Him the Almighty Power hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky…Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms” (1.49).
God’s complete power is unending. Because God would not be God if He were not omnipotent, and because we know that God will never end, we can know that God’s power will never cease or diminish (see Colley, 2004). Furthermore, Isaiah plainly stated: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (40:28).


God’s omnipotence reassures us, because it is through the Divine power that His servants know that “nothing will be impossible” to those who faithfully serve Him (Matthew 17:20; Mark 9:23; Philippians 4:13). Those who are not faithful to the Lord should be terror-stricken by God’s omnipotence, because, in the Day of Judgment, the very force that created the Universe will condemn them to an everlasting punishment. Vos commented that omnipotence
evokes a specific religious response. This is true, not only of the Old Testament, where the element of the fear of God stands comparatively in the foreground, but remains true also in the New Testament. Even in our Lord’s teaching the prominence given to the fatherhood and love of God does not preclude that the transcendent majesty of the Divine nature, including omnipotence, is kept in full view and made a potent factor in the cultivation of the religious mind (Matthew 6:9). The beauty of Jesus’ teaching on the nature of God consists in this, that He keeps the exaltation of God above every creature and His loving condescension toward the creature in perfect equilibrium and makes them mutually fructified by each other. Religion is more than the inclusion of God in the general altruistic movement of the human mind; it is a devotion at every point colored by the consciousness of that Divine uniqueness in which God’s omnipotence occupies a foremost place (1994, 3:2190).
Little wonder that the multitude of Revelation 19:6 cried: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” The fact that God so willingly uses His omnipotent capacity for the ultimate benefit of His servants should motivate everyone to obey the Gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). We will not escape the vengeance of God if we neglect the great salvation offered us (Hebrews 2:3).


Colley, Caleb (2004), “The Eternality of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2565.
Custance, Arthur C. (1977), Time and Eternity and Other Biblical Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Things God Cannot Do,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2292.
Lockyer, Herbert (1997), All the 3s of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Thompson, Bert (1999a), The Global Flood of Noah (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), second edition.
Thompson, Bert (1999b), Satan—His Origin and Mission (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, 2001 reprint).
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003a), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/22.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003b), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part II],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/26.
Vos, Geerhardus (1994), “Omnipotence,” The International Bible Encyclopaedia, ed. James Orr, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Waddey, John (1987), “The Omnipotence of God,” Firm Foundation, 104[18]:1,4, September 22.

The Name “Christian” by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Name “Christian”

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Christendom is conspicuous for the myriad of names worn by individuals and churches—from “Catholic” and “Protestant” to Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Episcopalian, and an innumerable host of others. Those who employ these terms to identify their religious orientation also would claim to be “Christian”—as if the secondary terms are simply further refinements or clarifications of the broader, more basic designation of Christian.
Whence did these names arise? History answers this question for each name. For example, “Catholic” simply means “comprehensive” or “universal.” The Catholic Church therefore wishes to emphasize that it constitutes the universal church. “Baptist” is connected to the Greek word for immersion, and thus represents the wearer’s conviction that baptism is by immersion. A “Baptist” is an “immersionist.” “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which refers to the form of government by which the church is to be organized. A “presbyter” in the New Testament was one of a plurality of elders who functioned as the leaders or overseers of the local congregation. “Pentecostal” refers to the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to speak in tongues. Thus a “Pentecostal” is one who believes in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. All other names, terms, and designations by which people who claim to be Christian refer to themselves may also be explained on the basis of some doctrine or feature of Christianity that historically came to receive special emphasis among a specific group of people.
What does the New Testament have to say about this state of affairs? Does Christ sanction the use of differing names and terms to identify individuals and churches? Perhaps the place to begin is in the Old Testament when the messianic prophet Isaiah predicted that the day would come when God would implement a “new name:”
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns.
The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory.
You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name (Isaiah 62:1-2).
This fascinating prophecy contains four points that merit close consideration: (1) Righteousness/salvation would go forth from Jerusalem; (2) the Gentiles would see this righteousness/salvation; (3) a new name would be given; and (4) the Lord Himself would bestow that new name.
One must go to the New Testament to find fulfillment and clarification of these marvelous assertions. A number of names are used to refer to God’s people in the New Testament, including believer, disciple, saint, servant, and brother. But all of these terms were used previously in the Old Testament (Exodus 4:31; Isaiah 8:16; John 9:28; Psalm 106:16; Proverbs 2:8; Leviticus 25:46,55; Nehemiah 1:2). They were not new. Isaiah’s inspired prediction allows us to pinpoint the precise occasion on which a newname was given. His first indicator was that righteousness or salvation would go forth from Jerusalem. Here is an apparent allusion to the commencement of the Christian era on the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 30, described in detail in Acts 2. After His death and resurrection, Jesus instructed His apostles to go to Jerusalem and there await the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4,12). They did so, and the Holy Spirit, as predicted, empowered the apostles to present the Gospel message and to launch Christianity and the church of Christ (Acts 2). Indeed, on that auspicious occasion, just as Isaiah predicted, the means to salvation went forth as brightness, and proceeded to go forth from Jerusalem even as Jesus predicted (Acts 1:8). The first point of Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled.
However, the throng gathered on Pentecost was composed entirely of Jews (Acts 2:5). In fact, though about 3,000 were converted to Christianity that day (Acts 2:41), and several thousand thereafter (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1,7), all the converts were Jewish. Samaritans (half-Jews) were eventually incorporated into the Lord’s church (Acts 8:5ff.). But it was not until perhaps eight to ten years later that the first Gentiles obeyed the Gospel and were added to the church. This momentous event occurred when Peter, at the instigation of a heavenly vision, agreed to go to the home of a Roman centurion to preach the Gospel to him, his family, and close friends (Acts 10:24). They, in turn, became the very first Gentile converts to Christianity as a result of hearing the preached message and submitting themselves to water baptism (Acts 10:47-48; 11:14).
But look back at Isaiah’s prophecy. The second action that Isaiah anticipated would occur, after salvation went forth from Jerusalem, was that the Gentiles themselves would be the recipients of this same righteousness/salvation and likewise bask in the glory of the Lord. The conversion of Cornelius and those with him in Acts 10 constitutes the fulfillment of the second criterion of Isaiah’s prediction. Incredibly, immediately after the conversion of the Gentiles in Acts 10, in the very next chapter, Luke reported that Peter was confronted by hostile Jerusalem Jews who had heard about the inclusion of Gentiles into the Christ’s church. These Jewish Christians insisted that he give account of his actions. He did so in Acts 11:4-18, recounting sequentially the events of Acts 10. Upon hearing of these astounding events orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, the hostile Jews melted, backed off, glorified God, and conceded: “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18). This was an amazing concession that further cleared the way for Gentile missions.
At this point in his inspired narrative, beginning in Acts 11:19, Luke proceeded to clarify the full significance of what had just occurred. The persecution that drove Jewish Christians out of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-4) forced them to travel into predominately Gentile areas. However, these Jewish Christians had refrained from imparting the Gospel message to Gentiles (Acts 11:19). But with the conversion of the household of Cornelius, the Gospel now began to be presented to the predominately Gentile population in the city of Antioch: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Aside from Cornelius’ own household, Antioch thus became the first Gentile church of Christ in all of human history. The church in Jerusalem immediately sent Barnabas to Antioch to confirm the reports, who in turn (quite logically) went to Tarsus in search of the “apostle to the Gentiles,” Paul, to introduce him into the mix at Antioch. Together, the two men spent an entire year meeting with the church and teaching many people.
In line with the prophecy of Isaiah, the first two preconditions to God imparting a new name had now been met. If the application of Isaiah’s prophecy is correct, one ought naturally next to expect the bestowal of the new name. We are not disappointed. The very next statement by Luke is simply: “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). What an earthshaking statement! Astonishing! Isaiah was absolutely accurate—dead on! Consider the following three observations about this astounding moment in human history.
First, observe that from the inception of Christianity (Acts 2), converts were called “disciples.” They were not called Christians on the day of Pentecost! Though thousands had converted to Christianity, and now belonged to Christ and were therefore followers of Christ, they nevertheless were not called Christians. Unlike Judaism, one of the central features of New Testament Christianity is its international application—with absolutely no consideration given to ethnicity. In this sense, the church of Christ reached its full existence only when Gentiles were incorporated into its membership (cf. “also to the Greek” in Romans 1:16; 2:9-10). This circumstance came only with the conversion of Cornelius and the commencement of the Antioch church of Christ. Thus we do not read what we would full well expect to find: that “the disciples were called Christians first in Jerusalem.”
Second, Luke included a grammatical feature worth considering. He said the disciples “were called.” The term he used (chrematidzo) is typically used in the New Testament in relation to those occasions when God is specifically the One Who does the calling: “to appoint, warn, or nominate, by Divine direction” (Clarke, n.d., p. 772; cf. McCord, n.d., 2:311). The term occurs nine times in the New Testament: Matthew 2:12,22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; 11:26; Romans 7:3; Hebrews 8:5; 11:7; 12:25 (Moulton, et al., 1978, p. 1011). In every case, divine calling, warning, or admonition is contextually self-evident (cf. Thayer, 1901, p. 671; Robertson, 1930, 3:160). In fact, several translations indicate this use of the word by inserting “by/from/of God” (KJV, ASV, NASB, RSV), or “divinely” instructed/warned (NKJV) in some or all of the passages.
Third, observe the final feature of Isaiah’s prophecy: “which the mouth of the Lord will name” (Isaiah 62:2). Church historians insist that the name “Christian” arose as the result of persecution wherein the enemies of Christ originated the name as a term of derision. However, they are mistaken. Isaiah predicted that God Himself would be the author of the name. And so He was. The name Christian is, indeed, so special that it occurs only three times in the New Testament and each time flags a critical aspect of the name. In addition to Acts 11:26, where the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy spotlights the magnificent inclusion of the Gentiles in the church of Christ, the word occurs again in Acts 26:28. In that setting, Paul strove ardently to convert King Agrippa. Agrippa indicated his awareness that Paul’s purpose—his mission and goal in life—was to make people Christians. He endeavored to make people followers of Christ—not followers of Moses or any other religion.
The final occurrence of the word Christian in the New Testament is Peter’s use of the term in a context dealing with suffering that is inflicted on God’s people by their enemies: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16). “In this matter” in the NKJV is a rendering of the literal Greek phrase “in this name,” i.e., the name “Christian.” Peter insisted that the suffering that is heaped upon a follower of Christ ought to be borne under the name Christian—not some other religious appellation.
Writing over 200 years ago, Rice Haggard recognized the extreme importance of the name “Christian” in the divine scheme of things, when he wrote: “[I]t is but a due honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, that they who profess his religion, should wear his name” (1804, p. 14).


Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary: Matthew-Acts (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury).
Haggard, Rice (1804), An Address to the Different Religious Societies, on the Sacred Import of the Christian Name (Lexington, KY: Joseph Charless).
McCord, Hugo (no date), Fifty Years of Lectures (Atwood, TN: Atwood Church of Christ).
Moulton, W.F., A.S. Geden, and H.K. Moulton (1978), A Concordance to the Greek Testament(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark), fifth edition.
Robertson, A.T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (New York, NY: Harper).
Thayer, Joseph H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).

The Meaning of Baptism and the Catholic Ritual by Moisés Pinedo


The Meaning of Baptism and the Catholic Ritual

by Moisés Pinedo

It is distressing to see how the doctrine of baptism is distorted in modern-day Christendom. With the passing of time, baptism, as a necessity for salvation, has been replaced by a “prayer of faith,” abstract manifestations of conversion, and ecclesiastical ceremonies based on traditionalism. Today, many ignore the concept, implications, and importance of baptism. Jesus said: “[U]nless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5, emp. added). Paul wrote that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5, emp. added). These New Testament passages and others make it clear that baptism is not merely a religious tradition or a commandment of men. Therefore, it is very important to understand it correctly.
It is essential to know the meaning of “baptism.” Depending on the context in which it is mentioned, “baptism” may mean many different things. For example, in an evangelical context, it is regarded as just a “public profession of faith” (Rhodes, 1997, p. 178). In a Catholic context, the word “baptism” brings to mind a ceremony, godparents, elegant robes, emotional parents, an infant in white, a fountain, and a few drops of water (as well as a pre-paid fee for the ceremony and the actual “baptism”). However, when we consider the real meaning of the word “baptism,” many of these erroneous concepts disappear.
In his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine defined “baptism” and other related words:
BAPTISMA, baptism, consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip).
BAPTIZO, to baptize, primarily a frequentative form of bapto, to dip, was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another, etc. (1966, 1:96-97, emp. added).
From the definition of the word, it is easy to see exactly what was involved in the act of baptism: “immersion, submersion and emergence.” Unfortunately, the word “baptism” has been passed from generation to generation as a transliteration, i.e., a phonetic representation of a word in another language. [Note the similarity between the Greek baptisma and the English “baptism”]. A study of the Greek etymology of this word opens the door to its real meaning and also gives us a better picture of how it was carried out in New Testament times. Baptism was not sprinkling or pouring, as Catholicism teaches, but immersion. The Bible points out some important implications concerning baptism.
First, baptism requires enough water to immerse completely a believer. The gospel accounts inform us that John the baptizer baptized in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:4-6; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:2-3; John 1:28). The Jordan was the largest and most important river in Palestine, and it contained enough water for the innumerable baptisms (immersions) that took place there. For example, in this river, Naaman the leper immersed himself seven times (2 Kings 5:14). If baptism were an act of sprinkling, it would have been unnecessary to baptize in the Jordan; instead, a single container of water would have been sufficient. However, as the apostle John noted, John the baptizer also baptized in the Aenon, “because there was much water there” (John 3:23).
Second, baptism is immersion since one goes down into and comes up out of the water. This fact is seen clearly in the various baptisms in the gospel accounts and the book of Acts. The gospel writers recorded the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). Matthew 3:16 and Mark 1:10 tell us specifically that Jesus “came up from the water.” Certainly the phrase “to come up from the water” would have been omitted if Jesus was only sprinkled.
Acts 8:26-39 records one of the most illustrative accounts of the procedure of baptism. Luke wrote that while an Ethiopian was on his return trip from Jerusalem, he heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the mouth of Philip (a servant of God). Then, “they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’” (Acts 8:36). Luke does not record the source or location of that water, but we can infer that it was sufficient for Philip to immerse the Ethiopian. Luke clarifies how baptism was performed when he notes that “both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water,” and “they came up out of the water” (Acts 8:38-39, emp. added). From this biblical narrative, it is illogical to conclude that the baptism of the Ethiopian was some form of sprinkling. It is impossible to “go down into” and “come up out of” a few drops of water! There is no doubt that the Ethiopian was immersed.
Third, baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is not a random practice void of any logic pattern, or special meaning. God chose baptism as the perfect representation of the redemptive plan performed by His Son, Jesus Christ. In Romans 6:3-4, Paul explained the symbolic meaning of baptism: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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.” R.L. Whiteside noted about these verses:
In being buried in baptism there is a likeness of his death; so also there is a likeness of his resurrection in our being raised from baptism to a new life. Hence, in being baptized we are united with him in the likeness of this death and resurrection. We are therefore, partakers with him in death, and also in being raised to a new life. Jesus was buried and arose to a new life; we are buried in baptism and arise to a new life. These verses show the act of baptism, and also its spiritual value (1988, p. 132).
There is great spiritual value and meaning in the act of immersion. It not only re-enacts the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but also unites the believer with Christ (Galatians 3:27). There is no other act of faith that is an effective (and biblical) substitute for being immersed into Christ. When a person is immersed, he is buried with Christ. Could sprinkling be described as a burial? When a person dies, do people sprinkle dirt on his head and declare him “buried”? Of course not! Rather, he is covered completely (immersed) with dirt. Similarly, to be “buried” with Christ, we must be covered completely (immersed) in water. Sprinkling falls far short of representing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.Both Paul and Peter, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and 1 Peter 3:21, added emphasis to the importance and significance of baptism.
Finally, it is important to note that the modern Catholic practice of “baptism,” i.e., sprinkling or pouring, is inconsistent with the Catholics’ own understanding of the meaning and method of biblical baptism. In the first chapter of the “Sacraments of the Christian Initiation,” the Catechism of the Catholic Churchdeclares:
This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse”; the “plunge” into the watersymbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as “a new creature” (1994, 1214, emp. added).
It appears that ignorance of the etymology and procedure of biblical “baptism” did not mislead Catholicism from the truth concerning baptism, but rather the emphasis that Catholicism places on tradition above biblical truth. Catholics also declare:
To facilitate the application of the new discipline, baptism by infusion—which consists in pouring water on the child’s head instead of immersing the whole child in a basin—gradually became common because it was easier; it became the almost universal practice in the fourteenth century. But although immersion fell into disuse, it still had its place in the rubrics (Cabié, 1988, 3:72, emp. added).
It is declared (with shameless audacity) that the commandment for immersion given by the Lord (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16) was replaced by the traditional rite of sprinkling or pouring out of convenience. These words can find accurate parallel in the words of condemnation pronounced by Jesus against the Pharisees when He said:
Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men... All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition (Mark 7:6-9).



Cabié, Robert (1988), The Church at Prayer (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press).
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), (Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press).
Rhodes, Ron (1997), The Complete Book of Bible Answers (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
Vine, W.E. (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).
Whiteside, Robertson L. (1988 reprint), Paul’s Letter to the Saints at Rome (Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth Foundation).

A dream of A Message by EE Healy


Which Baptism? by Trevor Bowen


Which Baptism?


We know of several types of baptism that were administered in the early first century and recorded in the Bible; however, Ephesians 4:5 plainly says that there is only "one baptism". Therefore, by the time Paul recorded this verse in Ephesians, all other baptisms must have fulfilled their purpose and ceased, leaving only one baptism that was to be practiced by the ongoing New Testament church.
Today, some people believe that "Holy Spirit baptism" is the one saving baptism that remains. Others, believe that "water baptism" is the only one authorized for today. While still other modern disciples pray for the Lord to baptize them in "fire". Because of the many types of baptism being advocated today, in this article we search to answer the question, "Since there is only one baptism that is authorized for today, of the many possible baptisms, which is the one baptism?"

The Possible Baptisms

During the ministries of John, Jesus, and the apostles, the Bible references four types of baptism:
  1. John's baptism
  2. Holy Spirit baptism
  3. Fire Baptism
  4. Baptism of the Great Commission
One of these baptisms may sound more powerful, or desirable, over the others. For example, baptism of the Holy Spirit sounds like it would be very powerful and beneficial to the Christian; however, we must consult the Scriptures to determine the purpose and authority of each of these baptisms. Our final conclusion must be based on Scripture, else tradition, prejudice, or other personal goals become our standard, rather than faith (Romans 10:17).
Now, let us examine the Scriptures concerning each of these baptisms. As we study, we will make observations concerning the purpose, scope, and duration of each baptism, looking for the one baptism that we are authorized and commanded to practice today.

John's Baptism

Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, his cousin John, often known as John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1), in Judea preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:2-22).
"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! ..."
"Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him, and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. ..."
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Matthew 3:1-11
Several features are worth noting as being characteristic of John's message and baptism:
First, John was the primary administrator, or one performing the baptism. Later, as John's ministry began to draw to a close and Jesus ministry was just beginning, we learn that Jesus’ and His disciples also began to baptize in addition to John (John 3:22-23), although Jesus never actually baptized anybody Himself. Only His disciples performed the baptisms (John 4:1-2). Shortly after this time, John was thrown into prison, and his ministry ceased.
Second, it should be observed that John's baptism was "unto repentance for remission of sins" (Luke 3:2-3). The primary work of his message was to prepare men's hearts by a message that would lead to a baptism for repentance. This repentance was looking forward unto the remission of sins, which would be provided through Jesus’ imminent gospel message.
Third, we should note that John was aware and taught that his ministry was intended to be preparatory for the work of Jesus and would fade away as Jesus’ ministry progressed, completing John's work (Mark 1:1-6). Consequently, once Jesus arrived, John's message and baptism were fulfilled, antiquated, and ceased (John 3:24-30).

Baptism of The Holy Spirit

Few people, if any, would today advocate the practice of John's baptism. However, many people would profess Holy Spirit baptism to be the cornerstone of a person's conversion and salvation. It is believed by many that this baptism results in the cleansing of the inherited total depravity that was taught by John Calvin. Although many denominations have forsaken the cruel implications of Calvinism, most continue to teach the other less offensive conclusions, such as Holy Spirit Baptism.
Contrary to Calvin's teaching, the Scripture teaches that Holy Spirit Baptism had a much more limited purpose, result, and time-frame than that of conversion and salvation. First, let us observe who was to administer this baptism:
"John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Luke 3:16
Holy Spirit baptism was not administered by any mere mortal, but it was performed by the Lord Jesus Christ. This was not a baptism that could possibly be administered by a human, for the element into which the subject was immersed, or overwhelmed was the Holy Spirit.
Please notice that the purpose of the baptism was to empower the subject to work miracles and prophesy by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He directed and promised His apostles:
"And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
"Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:4-8
How were the apostles to accomplish this incredible mission? How would uneducated Galileans be able to preach the gospel in all of Judea, much less to the ends of the earth? How would they remember what Jesus said? How would they prove that their testimony was truly from God? Jesus informed the apostles that they would "receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you". This special assistance was previously promised to the apostles, Jesus special ambassadors. They were to be guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit. And, they were enabled to confirm their message through miraculous signs (John 16:13Mark 16:17-20). Ten days after Jesus’ ascension, on the day of the feast of Pentecost, the promise was fulfilled when the apostles were "baptized with the Holy Spirit" and "received power".
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:1-4
This led to a miraculous scene of uneducated men speaking and preaching the gospel in over 14 different languages. When a crowd gathered to observe this strange occurrence, Peter explained:
"But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.'" Acts 2:16-21
Notice that this "pouring out of the Spirit from heaven" was viewed as an overwhelming, or immersing in the Spirit by the recipients on earth. What was to be the results of this baptism? Was it salvation? No, it was power unto prophesying God’s message and confirming it with wondrous signs. Salvation is only mentioned at the end of the fulfilled prophecy, where it is not mentioned as a result of Holy Spirit baptism, but it is instead declared to be a gift to "whoever calls on the name of the Lord".
The only other record of Holy Spirit Baptism occurs in Acts 10 at the conversion of Cornelius and his family. The conversion was unique because it was the first conversion of Gentiles. Until this point, the gospel had only been preached to Jews around Judea and Samaria. By the time of the events in Acts 10, the time had come for the gospel to be preached to "every creature" (Mark 16:15-16). But, a powerful sign was required to convince the Jews that non-Jews were also to be granted the opportunity to repent unto life. In fact, God had to tell Peter in a vision to go preach to Cornelius and his family (Acts 10:9-35). In spite of this heavenly direction, Peter remained confused and a more powerful and obvious sign was required to enlighten Peter and his Jewish companions. The events of the following passage occurred while Peter was preaching to Cornelius and his family:
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered,
"Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"
"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days." Acts 10:44-48
In addition to enabling Corneluis' family to prophesy through tongues, what was the significance of this sudden and astonishing bestowment of the Holy Spirit? The answer is seen in the effect that it had on Peter and the other Jews. From this event, they concluded that nobody could forbid these Gentiles the opportunity to be baptized in water, in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:47-48).
Later, Peter recountted this event to several more Jews, who similarly concluded that "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:18). The baptism served as a sign that salvation had come to the Gentiles. God’s time had come for the gospel to be preached to "every creature".
Why would someone think that this was the second and only other occurrence of Holy Spirit baptism, beside the baptism of the apostles on Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2? Notice how Peter later related the events of Acts 10:
"And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.
"Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
"If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"
When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." Acts 11:15-18
First, Cornelius' family's reception of the Holy Spirit was indeed Holy Spirit baptism because Peter specifically recalled and associated this event to Jesus’ promise of Holy Spirit baptism. Secondly, Peter compared this event at Cornelius' house to when it fell upon them "at the beginning"? Since over 20,000 Jews had been converted by this point, why did Peter not instead relate "as it has fallen upon every Jew", or "as it fell upon a Jew just yesterday at his conversion"? Moreover, why did Peter have to work through his confusion at the time until he recalled, "Then I remembered the word of the Lord"? It was only after he remembered the Lord’s promise that he realized Jesus had personally bestowed this gift, signifying His authority for their opportunity for "repentance to life" and the opening of the gospel unto all Gentiles. These two phrases uttered by Peter imply that this was a rare occurrence and specify that the most closely related occurrence was that of the apostles Holy Spirit baptism on Pentecost, "at the beginning".
There is no other record of the Holy Spirit descending suddenly and unexpectedly on people. We have several references to the apostles deliberately bestowing gifts and powers of the Holy Spirit by the "laying on of their hands" (Acts 8:5-25). But, the distinction of this gift is seen in its administration. Baptism of the Holy Spirit was administered suddenly and unseen by Jesus, while the gift of the Holy Spirit was given by apostles through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:16-18). Although they both resulted in the ability of the recipient to perform miracles and speak in foreign tongues, baptism of the Holy Spirit carried special significance because it was administered directly by the Lord, signifying His special approval (Acts 11:15-18). Once the kingdom was evidently opened to Gentiles and Jews, the need and occurrence of this unique baptism apparently ceased.

Baptism of Fire

Fire is often used to symbolize God’s treatment of the righteous and the wicked. Some passages use fire to symbolize God’s fiery wrath and judgment upon the wicked (Ezekiel 21:31-32Isaiah 29:6). Other passages refer to a difficult, but merciful trial by refining fire that purges God’s people of their wickedness (Zechariah 13:8-9Malachi 3:1-4). In each symbolic usage of fire, the context determines whether the intent is punishment or refinement. With these two possible uses in mind, let us examine the context of the references to "baptism of fire".
Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all,
"I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire." Luke 3:15-17
John's answer was given in response to the question of him being the Messiah, or Christ. He contrasts himself with the Messiah by contrasting his baptism with the those baptisms administered by the Messiah. He continues to expound on the Messiah's authority through His power to render judgment and separate the righteous from the wicked
Please notice that the only other reference to the "fire" of verse 16 is that of "unquenchable fire" in verse 17. Verse 17 illustrates the Messiah's judgment through an old figure of separating the useless chaff from the desired wheat kernels. The winnower separates the wheat to be saved, while the chaff is separated for destruction by fire, which illustrates the ultimate redemption of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked. This would cause one to reasonably conclude that baptism by fire is nothing other than a symbol of the eternal destruction of the wicked in hell's fire.
Another possibility, although unlikely, is that the "baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire" refers to a single baptism, that comprises two elements: the empowering of the Holy Spirit and a purifying fire. This may seem plausible, since a vision of something like fire was shown during the apostles' baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). However, please notice that the phrase "baptize with ... fire" only occurs in two passages out of the entire Bible (Matthew 3:10-12Luke 3:15-17). In the context of both passages, we find a reference to destruction or punishment by fire (Matthew 3:1012Luke 3:17). However, in contrast to this relation, the other two gospel accounts that mention baptism with the Holy Spirit, that do not reference fire, also do not reference punishment (Mark 1:8John 1:33). This suggests that "baptism with fire" is associated with punishment and destruction by fire.
Moreover, when Peter recalled Jesus’ reference to the events surrounding the apostles and Cornelius' family's Holy Spirit baptism, he makes reference to "baptize with the Holy Spirit" but "baptize with fire" is again conspicuously absent (Acts 11:15-16).
This gives us three reasons as basis for a conclusion: one, the relation of the immediate context to destruction by fire where the phrase is used; two, the conspicuous absence of reference to punishment by fire when the phrase is not used; and three, the further absence of its reference when Holy Spirit baptism did occur. These three reasons lead one to believe that "baptism with fire" is not part of a single Holy Spirit baptism, but it is a separate baptism, referring to the immersion of the wicked into the fires of hell (Revelation 20:11-15Matthew 25:41-46). Of course, if it did refer to a single baptism, then it would have expired in conjunction with Holy Spirit baptism according to the earlier cited passages.

Baptism of the Great Commission

John's baptism has long ceased. Holy Spirit baptism occurred only twice, and its mission was limited to empowerment by the Holy Spirit and approving the open invitation of the gospel to Jews and later, Gentiles. We have found that Bible references to "baptism with fire" refer not to a desirable blessing from God, but they rather refer to a dreaded eternal punishment, separated from God. Eliminating all the previously discussed baptisms, only one baptism remains that is eligible for our question, "Which baptism is the one baptism?".
Jesus commissioned His apostles to go into the whole world, preaching the gospel to every creature, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Mark 16:15-16Matthew 28:18-20). The purpose of this baptism was to be for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38Acts 22:16I Peter 3:21). It was not administered by Jesus, but it was performed by other humans upon willful, believing, and penitent sinners (Acts 2:37-38Acts 8:35-38Acts 22:12-16). The element was water (Acts 8:36-3910:47-48). It began to be first practiced "at the beginning" on the day of Pentecost, immediately following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:137-38), and the command for its practice continues today (Matthew 28:18-20Mark 16:15-16).
How do we know this is the one? If a person has been raised believing, or has been previously convinced that Holy Spirit baptism is superior and commanded over the water baptism of Jesus’ Great Commission, it may be difficult to accept a Bible-based conclusion, contrary to one's personal conviction. Considering this situation, let us examine a few more points.
  1. Jesus’ Great Commission included the apostles administering baptism by the authority of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-19). This commission to be carried on by disciples, and its baptism was to be performed upon those who believed (Matthew 28:20). Therefore, the baptism that was commissioned by Jesus must be able to be administered by the apostles or disciples. Since Holy Spirit baptism was administered directly by Jesus, it cannot be the baptism of the Great Commission (Luke 3:15-16). 
  2. The baptism of the Great Commission was to be performed on "every creature" that believes. It is universal in it scope and without time limits. Since Holy Spirit baptism cannot be the baptism of the Great Commission, then it must not be the one baptism, if the baptism of the Great Commission is to continue until the end of time.
  3. The baptism for remission of sins was a baptism that was commanded (Acts 2:38Acts 22:16). Holy Spirit baptism cannot be commanded by any preacher, since it is administered by the Lord; however, subjects of the gospel can and were commanded to be baptized in water, in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 10:47-48).
  4. Immediately following the Holy Spirit baptism of Cornelius' family, it was still necessary for them to be baptized in water in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 10:47-48). The purpose of the Holy Spirit baptism was to manifest Jesus’ authority for the Gentiles' repentance unto life (Acts 10:44-4811:15-18). If Holy Spirit's purpose also included the redemption, salvation, or forgiveness of sins, then why did Peter follow their baptism of the Holy Spirit with the command for them to be baptized in water by the Lord’s name? What was the purpose of the baptism in water in the name of the Lord Jesus?
  5. Why was nobody else baptized in the Holy Spirit, but yet many more coverts were commanded to be baptized in water by the name of Jesus? Please note: All references to commanded baptism must be understood as water baptism by above designated point 3 and cannot be Holy Spirit baptism by points 1, 2, and 3. This includes Acts 8:35-3922:162:38; and I Corinthians 1:13-16.
  6. "Baptism in the name of the Lord" is associated with water baptism, not Holy Spirit baptism, and refers to the source of authority for the command (Acts 10:47-48Matthew 28:18-19). Again note this was a commanded baptism, consistent with the Great Commission's purpose for the remission of sins.

    At Ephesus, Paul again commanded baptism in the name of the Lord (Acts 19:1-5). There is no reference in this passage to the baptism of the Holy Spirit; moreover, the only way the new converts were able to receive the Holy Spirit was not by Holy Spirit baptism, but by Paul administering the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of his hands (Acts 19:4-5), which is consistent with other conversions (Acts 8:14-20). If Holy Spirit baptism was already the one baptism, then why was it necessary that Paul lay his hands on them that they might receive miraculous gifts, since that was one of the effects of Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 2:1-410:44-48)? Why is Holy Spirit baptism not mentioned in Acts 19 or 8? Why is water baptism in the name of the Lord the one baptism mentioned in Acts 8 and 19?
  7. "Baptism in the name of the Lord" produces rejoicing (Acts 8:5-8); however, this rejoicing occurs before the miraculous reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-16). How could Christians go on their way rejoicing, never receiving the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:35-39)?

The Right Baptism for the Wrong Reason

Some people realize the importance, role, and purpose of baptism, after they have already been baptized. They may have been baptized for another purpose, beside the remission of sins, if they believed they were saved before they were baptized. Others may have been baptized in water, but confused it with Holy Spirit baptism. This raises another question, "What if someone is baptized in water, but for the wrong reason?"
Fortunately, we are not left without Scriptural guidance on this question.
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them,
"Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism."
"Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."
"When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 19:1-5
Even though these Ephesians had been baptized in a water baptism for repentance unto remission of sins, their baptism was ultimately for the wrong purpose. It was a baptism that was looking forward unto the remission of sins granted by Jesus’ crucifixion, while baptism in the name of the Lord was by the Lord’s authority and immediately unto remission of sins. It was a minor point, but yet it posed a problem. The solution was simple. They were immediately baptized again, but this time for the right reason (Acts 19:5). If rebaptism was necessary for those who were baptized under a divinely ordered, but antiquated baptism, then will it not be even more necessary, if we were baptized because we wrongly thought we were already saved? If the Ephesians' baptism did not suffice, then how will any other baptism be adequate that is not the the one baptism?


The differences between each of these four baptisms is easily seen when their characteristics are compared and contrasted, as shown in the chart below:
Paul's letter to the Ephesians teaches that there is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Only one baptism was administered for the purpose of salvation and is commanded still today, the baptism that was authorized by Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Once we recognize the true purpose and role of this one baptism, we must ask ourselves if we have been baptized for the right reason. If we have not, then the solution is simple: Be baptized in water, by the name of Jesus, for the remission of sins (Acts 2:3810:47-4822:1619:1-5). If we are in doubt, then why gamble with the redemption of our soul, when assurance is readily available? Why not be baptized for the right reason and put an end to all self-condemning doubt (Romans 14:23)?
The writer of Hebrews classifies doctrines concerning baptisms as "elementary" or "basic" (Hebrews 6:1-2). If it is so basic, then why is there so much confusion and hesitancy about this subject? Please do not let pride or prejudice hinder. Simply read the Bible and do what it says, abandoning tradition and your own wisdom (I Corinthians 1:18-31). Christians walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). Let us encourage each other to do so.
If you any questions or comments regarding this essay, please e-mail the author or any of our local contacts.  They will be glad to discuss your questions or comments.
 Trevor Bowen