Shelby G. Floyd

The subject of baptism is very important. It is mentioned about 100 times in the New Testament. Many in the religious world teach that faith alone will save one from their past sins. But we believe based on the plain teaching of the New Testament, that baptism is requisite for the forgiveness of sin. I believe that we shall establish and confirm that proposition.


When our Lord Jesus Christ was about 30 years old and ready to begin his public ministry, John the Baptist, his first cousin, appeared in the wilderness of Judea and preached a powerful message of repentance. His message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 3:2-3). As you may know, Isaiah the prophet delivered his message to the children of Israel, about 700 years before Christ. Of all the prophets, Isaiah prophesied about the Lord Jesus Christ more than any. And now, John the Baptist quotes this particular verse from Isaiah 40:3,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.”

John the Baptist was certainly the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He preached in the power and spirit of Elijah the prophet! God’s people in the time of Christ were not living the right kind of life. They were just like the people in the days of Isaiah and Elijah! And because the people back then did not listen to Isaiah and Jeremiah and other prophets, their city of Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple was destroyed and they were taken to Babylon in bondage for 70 years. John the Baptist therefore is now preparing the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John was not like the religious leaders of his day and time. He did not act like them and he did not look like them. He looked more like a country preacher. “Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist and his food was locus and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). John was a very popular preacher with many of the people who wanted to live the right kind of life. The Bible says, “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” (Matthew 3:5-6). These people were not perfect people, but when they heard the message, they repented of the sins that were committing and confessed them to Almighty God. And then they were baptized. This is the first time that the subject of baptism is mentioned in the English Bible. It is found about 100 times in the New Testament. The Bible teaches that John the Baptist was baptizing “for the remission of sin” (Mark 1:4). The baptism of Jesus was the only exception. Jesus was baptized, but not for the remission of sin. He had no sins to be remitted. Later we will point out the reason why Jesus was baptized.

Out in the wilderness where John was baptizing there was also a different group of people that came out to hear him. They were well known and were called the Pharisees and Sadducees. When they came to John, his message was very strong:

“Brood of vipers! Who warned you from the wrath to come?” Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:7-9).

As we said previously, John was preaching a message of repentance, and repentance follows faith and precedes water baptism for the forgiveness of sin. Therefore, John is telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that they need to bear some fruit of repentance before they are baptized. In other words, they need to change their lifestyle as proof that they have really repented of their sin. John was preaching a message of repentance and it would lead to a life of repentance.

It is at this point that John gave his audience a warning, that if sinners do not repent and change their life, there is coming a Judgment Day of both rewards and punishment. John declared to his audience that God would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor, and gather his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable {Greek asbestos} fire” (Matthew 3:12).


When Jesus was about 30 years old, he closed up his carpenter shop at Nazareth and traveled about 60-75 miles to be baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist. John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized. “He said to him, I need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me” (Matthew 3:14). But Jesus replied, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (John 3:15). John did not argue with Jesus, but he went ahead and baptized him:

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV).
From this text, we can draw several conclusions that are very plain. Some religious teachers say that the action of baptism can be by sprinkling, or pouring water on the person. Others teach that scriptural baptism is by immersing the person in water. Their argument for sprinkling is that it is for the sake of convenience. But convenience did not seem to be the case for Jesus. He traveled about 60 to 75 miles to be baptized. The Bible plainly says when he had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water. That could only describe immersion, which in fact is the plain meaning of the word baptism.

In the next place, when Jesus was baptized, God gave him the Holy Spirit. And today when we are baptized into Christ, we are promised, “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38-39). Furthermore, when Jesus was baptized, God acknowledged Him as “My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).


But someone will ask, “Why was Jesus baptized by John, since Jesus had no sins to be forgiven?” We know that John was baptizing for the remission of sins as is clearly stated in Mark 1:4. Therefore, there must be other reasons why Jesus came to John and submitted to baptism. What are the reasons?

1. The first reason is that baptism was an essential part of God’s will. Jesus came to do his Father’s will. John the Baptist was preaching baptism because it was God’s will for him to do so. Jesus thought very highly of John the Baptist: “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). The Scriptures reveal to us that many people, including the tax collectors came to John gladly, repented of their sins and were baptized (Luke 7:29). But there was another class of people that rejected the will of God for themselves, and were not baptized by John. They were the Pharisees and the lawyers (Luke 7:30). Therefore, unlike those that rejected the will of God, Jesus came to do the will of God and therefore was baptized by John.

2. Another reason why Jesus came to John and submitted to baptism was when He came up out of the water, this was the step that brought the reception of the Holy Spirit and the approval of his heavenly Father who said, “This is my beloved son, I am well pleased.”

3. And the third reason why Jesus was baptized was because this was the act by which Christ was publicly presented to the people of Israel as their Savior. On one occasion the people asked John the Baptist why he was baptizing if he was not the Christ nor Elijah, nor the prophet? John’s reply was very simple: “I baptize with water, but there stands one among you whom you do not know. It is he who, coming after me, is preferred before me, the sandal strap. I am not worthy to lose” (John 1:26-27).

The next day, John presented Jesus as the Savior of the people of Israel: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34 NKJV).

4. The final reason why Jesus was baptized is from what he said in answer to that question himself. Jesus said to John, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15 NKJV). And this is the same thing King David said is his day: “My tongue shall speak of your word, for all your commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119: 172). Jesus wanted to fulfill all of God’s righteousness.


Some religious teachers have made the ridiculous claim that baptism is by sprinkling. This is absurd because the Greek word for baptism means, “dip, plunge and immerse.” Baptism by immersion is borne out in every passage where it is used. The writer of the book of Hebrews mentions to his readers that their hearts had been sprinkled and their bodies were washed with pure water: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). This is definitely a reference to their bodies being washed with the pure water of baptism and for the forgiveness of sins.

We have an example of the meaning of baptism from the Old Testament book of Leviticus. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew, there are three different Greek words used for three different kinds of action:

15 And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand. 16 Then the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle some of the oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. (Leviticus 14:15-16).


The first mention in history of sprinkling for baptism was in 251 A.D. A man by the name of Novation was baptized by pouring water over him because he was sick. They called this clinical baptism. But he was never allowed to be an officer in the church. This indicates that his baptism was somewhat skeptical.

It was not until 1311 A.D. that the apostate church at the Council of Ravenna, made sprinkling for baptism the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. This was not the doctrine of the apostles of Jesus Christ, nor of Christ himself. For the practice in the New Testament was baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins. There are still large outside baptisteries in Europe that demonstrate the even the Roman church practiced immersion until 1311!

Sometimes in the New Testament, the word baptism is used figuratively of being overwhelmed in suffering or in the power of the Holy Spirit. For instance, the apostles on the day of Pentecost received the promise that Christ had made them when he said that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. No one was ever promised the baptism of the Holy Spirit except the apostles (See Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-4). And the word baptism, in this case means to be overwhelmed in the power of the Holy Spirit.


When Jesus was about 30 years old. He traveled about 75 miles to be baptized by John the Baptist. This was not very convenient. Therefore, the argument for sprinkling or pouring water on someone for baptism on the basis of convenience is false. The Bible says, “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (Mark 1:9). Notice that Jesus went to the water instead of having the water brought to him. This is what happens when a person is immersed, but does not happen when a person has water sprinkled or poured on them. And we also take note that Jesus went to “much water,” not to a glass, or a pitcher of water, but to the Jordan River (John 3:23). Bible baptism requires “much water,” but sprinkling does not!


racoon john smith

The story is told of one of our pioneer preachers, Raccoon John Smith, who went to a baptizing where some water was to be sprinkled or poured on the candidate. He slipped up to where the glass of water was, poured out some of the water and drank the rest of it. When the preacher noticed his glass was empty, Raccoon John Smith jumped up and said, “Pardon me for drinking your Jordan dry.”

The little cabin of that pioneer preacher is located in Monticello, Kentucky, the hometown of my mom. We are grateful to those pioneer preachers who preached the truth of the gospel and sacrificed so much to serve Almighty God.

Another thing that stands out is the fact that Jesus went down into the water, for the Bible says he came up out of the water. Anybody with average intelligence can see that is the case, and this is a description of baptism by immersion. And the Bible teaches this so plainly that is hard to understand how anyone could misunderstand the plain teaching of the Bible on water baptism for the forgiveness of sin. In the book of Romans, Paul wrote,
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we are, 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.” (Romans 6:3-5).


From Romans 6:3-5 we notice that when we are baptized, we enter “into Christ.” Prepositions are very important because they reveal different kinds of movement. They are indispensable when we consider the gospel plan of salvation. For instance different prepositions convey different kinds of movement toward the object, which in this case is salvation. Therefore, let us notice UNTO, INTO, and IN, and how they differ in relation to forgiveness of sin and let me say plainly that:


9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:8-10 NKJV).


18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:18 KJV).


10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:10 NKJV).


26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27 NKJV).


10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10 NKJV).

And another passage basically says the same thing. When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Colossae. He reminded them that they had been baptized into Christ and into his spiritual body: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). Water baptism is the operation of God. Just as when Jesus died, was buried, and then was raised from the dead by the operation of God, so it is with baptism. We die to sin or separate ourselves from sin, and in baptism we bury the old life of the sinner. And by faith in the operation of God we are raised to walk a new life.

After Christ was baptized, God the Father confessed Jesus Christ as the Son in whom he was well pleased. There is no record in the Bible that God ever acknowledged anyone as his child until after they were baptized into Christ. And now we give you a passage of Scripture that bears out what we have just said. To the Galatians, the apostle Paul declared,

“But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For (gar-Greek) you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For (gar-Greek) as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for (gar-Greek) you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:25-28).

The word for-gar in the original language assigns a reason for what the writer has just said in the previous sentence. Therefore, the teaching goes something like this: But after faith has come, why are we no longer under a tutor? We are no longer under a tutor? Because we are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. But why are we all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ? The reason is because we were baptized into Christ and have put on Christ. Therefore, baptism puts us into Christ and when we are baptized into Christ, we are in Christ.


The first thing Jesus did after he was baptized was to immediately lift up his heart in prayer. If you have not been baptized into Christ and into His spiritual body—the church, why not make that decision today. Be buried with your Lord in baptism and arise to walk a new life. Then lift up your voice in prayer and thank the Almighty for loving you by giving His Beloved Son to die on the cross of Calvary! *
* Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd delivered the essence of this sermon May 30, 2021, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142