1) How is it that man can baptize man into Christ?
2) Is the putting on of Christ in baptism water baptism?
These questions were handed us by a brother, with the request that we should answer through the Gospel Advocate. To both of them we answer unhesitatingly: Yes.
In Romans 6 and Galatians 3 we are told plainly by Paul that we are baptized into Christ. These passages show that by baptism we enter into Christ. Then in the last of Matthew, we have Jesus commanding the apostles: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in [eis, into] the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” In this passage the word rendered in, where he says, “baptizing them in the name,” etc., is the same Greek word that is rendered into in Romans 6 and Galatians 3; and as it has the same construction in the last of Matthew, it should be rendered the same way, and then we would have: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
The only baptism men could perform was water baptism. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was always a promise, never a command; and Christ himself was the administrator, as was said by John when he said of Christ: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Christ, then, and not men, was to baptize in the Holy Spirit. This baptism was not said to be into any name, but the baptism the apostles were to perform was to be into the name of Christ. Therefore the baptism which men were to administer to men was water baptism, and this is the baptism that was to go to all nations and to continue through all time.
We have but two instances of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that are called such in the New Testament, and these were the apostles on the day of Pentecost and the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius; and on both these occasions the Spirit was poured out miraculously from heaven, and the subjects of it were miraculously endowed and enabled to speak at once in other tongues, in other languages, that they had never learned; and as we have no account of any other occasions like these two, we put them down as the only recorded cases of a baptism of the Holy Spirit. We have nothing of the sort now at all. No one is miraculously endowed now; no one now can speak in languages he has never learned. And, besides, at the house of Cornelius the very persons that were baptized in the Spirit had to be immediately baptized in water; for after the Spirit had fallen upon them, after they were baptized in it, Peter said: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”
This baptism in water is the baptism that men were to administer, and, as we have already seen, the baptism that was to put people into Christ. Spiritual baptism only occurred on two occasions, and on one of these — Pentecost — those who received it were already the disciples of Christ, and it could not have put them into Christ; they were his apostles already. On the other occasion they were immediately baptized in water, and in this way entered into Christ, and not by spiritual baptism. So it is plain that no one ever entered into Christ by spiritual baptism. And, besides, if it requires the baptism of the Holy Spirit to put men into Christ, it follows that none have entered into him since the house of Cornelius, as there has never been an event like that since. But when we take it that water baptism puts man into Christ and that it extends to all nations and through all time, all difficulties are at once out of the way. Every time a proper subject is baptized in water he is also baptized into Christ; but before anyone can be baptized into Christ he must be prepared for it by an earnest faith which turns the heart to God and by an earnest repentance which turns the life to him. When these steps have been taken, the individual is ready, upon the confession of the name of Christ, to be baptized into him, and thus put him on in this divine ordinance. This kind of baptism is in the reach of all who will receive the gospel, while the baptism of the Spirit is not in the reach of any since apostolic times.
Elisha G. Sewell