Question: John 4:2 informs us that Jesus never baptized with water. So, when Jesus gave his
great commission, of which baptism was he speaking: His of the Holy Spirit, or John’s of water?
Answer: This well-worded question presents a false choice between baptism which is of the
Holy Spirit and baptism which is of water, as though baptism cannot be both. But in speaking of
baptism as the “new birth,” Jesus said, “Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot
enter into the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:5). When people observe the “one baptism” described in
Ephesians 4:5, they are baptized in water for the remission of their sins, in the name of the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit, (see Mt. 28:18-20). Their baptism is both “of water and the Spirit.”
The baptism of John was for the remission of sins and it was in water, but it was temporary.
It looked forward to the baptism of Jesus Christ which endures today. We know this clearly from
what Paul said to Apollos concerning baptism: “John baptized with the baptism of repentance,
saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on
Jesus,” (Acts 19:4). Since Apollos at that time only knew about the baptism of John (Acts 18:25),
it was necessary for him to be taught the “one” baptism of Jesus Christ, (Eph. 4:5). Still, some of
his disciples whom he had already taught, had to be taught as well, and this is what Paul
proceeded to do. Notice that John’s baptism was also in water, and was for the forgiveness of
sins, (Mk. 1:4), but it was replaced by Christ’s baptism.
Jesus, like John, taught baptism in water for the forgiveness of sins. Even though Jesus did not
personally baptize in Judea (John 4:2), his disciples did. He instructed his disciples to baptize in
water for the remission of sins, and to teach others to do so. “Go ye into all the world, and preach
the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…Baptizing them
into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I commanded you,” (Mk. 16:15-16; Mt. 28:19-20).
How do we know that Jesus’ teaching included baptism in water? Because that is what the
early disciples did in obedience to His commands. For example, the inspired record tells us that
Philip “preached good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,” in
response to which “they were baptized, both men and women,” (Acts 8:12). In that same chapter
we have the record of Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch. Note that this occurred in water.
“And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold,
here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (8:36). As if to make it even clearer, the text
goes on to say that “they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he
baptized him,” (8:38). Then, we are told that they both “came up out of the water.” This is
unmistakable evidence that the early disciples of Jesus, including Philip the evangelist,
understood our Lord’s commands to require water baptism. This is not difficult for us to see as
well, if we are willing to put away man-made traditions and contradictory doctrines.
When we carry out our Lord’s teaching which has been recorded by inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, we are behaving “in the name of the Lord Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.” When we baptize
the way the Lord commanded, as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, we are baptizing in the name
of the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are also baptizing in the name of the Father, since Jesus did
not speak on his own authority, but on the authority of God the Father, (Jn. 12:49; 17:7-8). And
when Jesus was baptized in water by John, the Father orally indicated His approval, (Mt. 3:13-
These passages also teach us that when John the Baptist contrasted his baptism with that of
Christ, (e.g. Lk. 3:16), he was not saying that the baptism of Christ would involve no water. He
was showing that the baptism of Christ would be much more consequential, important and
permanent, for it will be a matter of eternal judgment. “He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit
and in fire: whose fan is in his hand, thoroughly to cleanse his threshing floor, and to gather the
wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire,” (Luke 3:16-17).
The apostles were “baptized” in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-4), and
under the Spirit’s guidance, they preached baptism for the remission of sins for all people. Such
is the baptism Jesus had earlier practiced and commanded, and such is the “one baptism” for us
today, (Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc).
– by Robert C. Veil, Jr.