Holy Spirit Baptism

The question was asked if the baptism of Colossians 2:12 is water baptism or the baptism of the Holy Spirit? This is my response.

I would like to answer your question concerning Col. 2:12 relative to the “baptism” of that passage. While it is true that the New Testament speaks of other kinds of baptism such as the baptism of fire and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the fact is, that whenever the terms “baptism” or “being baptized” occur, without mention of the element in which the baptism takes place, the reference is to water baptism. Whenever water baptism is not meant the alternative baptismal element is always mentioned.

There is “one baptism” (Eph. 4:4), and that is baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Col. 2:12 shows baptism to be a participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as we crucify the “old man” through repentance, are buried (immersed) “with Him” in water, and raised “with Him” from this watery grave. The focus of this action is not on ourselves, but on Him who died for us, who was buried and was raised from the dead.

Notice in Col. 2:12 we are “raised with Him through FAITH IN THE WORKING OF GOD.” Our faith is in the work that God did in raising Christ from the dead. And now we are raised from spiritual death through the same power that raised Christ from the dead - the power of God. How do we know this? Because God tells us that when we repent and are “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

Notice the process. Christ could not be buried until He died. He could not be raised until He was buried. Neither can we. Yes, it is a spiritual resurrection that is accomplished by faith in “the working of God who raised Him from the dead.” But remember, faith alone will not save (James 2:24), it must be made complete through obedience (v. 22). And so, we are “baptized into Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:3; also Gal. 3:27); “baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3); “buried with Him by baptism into death” (Rom. 6:4).

Notice what Paul says in Galatians 3:26: “For you are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” I believe that passage with all my heart. It is by grace we are saved through faith (Eph. 2:8). But notice in the next verse Paul shows our faith being made complete through obedience (the same thing that James teaches in 2:22) as he says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

The real issue is whether “remission of sins” (salvation) comes at the point of belief or at the point of baptism. What does the text say? Notice on Pentecost that Peter told those Jews: “Therefore let all the house of Israel KNOW ASSUREDLY that God has made this Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). To “KNOW ASSUREDLY” is to believe it. Some of these Jews did believe they had crucified the Lord because, “When they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (v. 37).

Now I ask you, how did Peter answer this question? Did he tell them they did not have to DO anything, for they are saved by their faith alone? Did he tell them that if they had to do anything to be saved their salvation would not be by faith but by works? Did he tell them they were already saved because they obviously believed (“knew assuredly”) that Jesus was Lord and Christ and their sins were forgiven the moment they believed? No, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins’” (v. 38).

By the way, I’m curious about something. We haven’t really mentioned the necessity of repentance to salvation. Do you believe repentance is necessary to salvation? Do you believe that one repents of his sins because his sins are already forgiven? Clearly, repentance and baptism come subsequent to belief. In fact, the copulative conjunction “and” inseparably joins “repentance” and “baptism” as being “for the remission of sins.” Not only so, they are both works of obedience that complete faith, i.e., they are (as you put it) the result of faith. Because one believes in the Lord he trusts Him and obeys His commands by repenting of his sins and being baptized into Christ.

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). To what or whom were these 3000 baptized believers added? We find out in verse 47: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” In reality the word “church” (eklesia) is not in the Greek, but what is there is the word “auto” which means “together.” Who did the Lord add together? He added together “those who were being saved.” And who were those being saved? Those who gladly received his word and were baptized (v. 41).

You wrote: “My works are a product of my faith. I received salvation as a result of faith in Jesus Christ.” Please understand, that is exactly descriptive of my works and my salvation. Because of my faith in the Lord I trust Him enough to obey Him. (“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things which I say?” Luke 6:46.) My obedience is an act of faith, i.e., it is a work I do because the Lord said “do it.” My faith is in Him, not in myself or in anything I do of myself. Hence my obedience completes my faith (James 2:22). If my faith remains alone and will not obey, it is dead and will not justify or save me (James 2:17,20,24,26).

So when the Lord commands me to repent and be baptized in His name “for the remission of sins” I act upon my faith and obey Him. I have enough faith in Him to obey Him and trust that when I repent and am baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (by His authority) HE will remit (forgive) my sins. I am “buried WITH HIM in baptism” and “raised WITH HIM through FAITH IN THE WORKING OF GOD, who raised Him from the dead.”