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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Water or Spirit Baptism? (1): Romans 6

Doug Hammett

The position on Baptism in Romans 6 can lead to dangerous and deadly doctrines or to a misunderstanding of Biblical teaching. For this very reason, the Philadelphia Baptist Assoc., of 1802 met and sent out a circular letter explaining that Romans 6 is not spirit baptism. Here is their conclusions:

1. Though this point has been often mentioned, we think it seldom clearly explained: and for want of a right idea of it, the glory of the Gospel lessened.

2. That has almost universally been so blended with the work of regeneration and sanctification, that it is commonly called the inward baptism, and the only necessary preparative for heaven; whereas, it was never inculcated in this light in the gospel, and we think ought not to be considered as constituting any part of the office work of the Divine Spirit in renewing the heart.

3. That haply we may be of use to some of our respected friends, by showing them, that, though they may be regenerated and enjoy the highest consolation in the sweet incomes of the Holy Spirit and the most sensible communion with Christ: yet as all this does not constitute the baptism of the Holy Spirit, nor is designed by it in the sacred Scriptures, it follows of consequence that, rejecting the water baptism, they have no baptism whatever, and ought cheerfully to submit to that prescribed in the example of Jesus Christ.

4. It is extremely absurd to hold one point of the Christian religion under the denomination of another, especially when there is no well founded evidence of its present existence."

Although we could show from earliest antiquity that Christians have believed Romans 6 to be water baptism and we can find no Christians from the 1st to the 4th century that held to Spirit baptism, we will confine our remarks to the plain statements of scripture. Any one studying for themselves will see that Romans 6 refers to water baptism. Spirit baptism is derived from a decidedly Protestant view of scripture and has its present origin from the charismatic movement. Sadly, Baptists have accepted this teaching rather than honestly and diligently studying their Bible.

What The Scriptures Teach

1. Baptism is a picture of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6 is emphasizing that this is what water baptism is all about. The phrase "like as" in verse 3 shows us that baptism and Christ's death, etc., have a relationship to each other. Baptism is a picture of Christ's death. In other words, baptism is "like as" Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. How can Spirit baptism present a picture of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection? It can not! Only water baptism can do that.

2. Eph. 4:5 tells us there is only one baptism ,or in other words, one "kind" of baptism. Is it Spirit baptism or is it water baptism? It cannot be both. Which is true baptism? If it is Spirit baptism, then why was Jesus baptized in water? Why the apostles? Why should we be baptized today? It must be understood as speaking of water baptism because the clear teaching of scripture is that a Christian must be immersed in water after salvation (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 8:36-38). If there are two kinds of baptism, why didn't God tell the Apostle Paul?

3. Nowhere in Scripture is the phrase "baptism of the Spirit" used. Since that term is not in the Bible, where is its foundation? The answer is in I cor. 12:13. However, there is no reason to take this passage to mean anything but water baptism. Paul is writing to the local church in Corinth. He is speaking of how they were added as individual members to that church by God at baptism. Baptism is the door into the church (Acts 2:41,47). The "baptism with the Holy Ghost" is definitely not what is taught as baptism of the Spirit.

4. The term and teaching of the "baptism of the Spirit" is modern in origin, not Biblical. It leads to false doctrines, among which is a form of Gnosticism. Gnostics believe that when a person possessed a special knowledge, it would help to bring them to a special positions or power. Whether it is the "gift of tongue," the "gift of miracles," being "slain in the Spirit," or the "power of the Holy Spirit," it all adds up to one thing: anti-Biblical teaching.

Our Conclusion

Romans 6 is very plainly a passage teaching water baptism. Even if we accept the strongest arguments for Spirit baptism, they can only be built on unclear and indecisive scriptures. In this case, the clear rule of hermeneutics is that the clear scripture always interprets the unclear. Therefore, Romans 6 must refer to water baptism, because the Bible nowhere teaches a Spirit baptism.