In Heb 5:11–14 through Heb 6:1–3, the believers in first-century Jerusalem were called down for their failure to mature in the faith. These believers, who ought by now to have been teachers, were still babes who needed someone to teach them the basics of the Word. The author of Hebrews urges these people to get past the elementary teachings and to press on to maturity. He then lists seven foundational doctrines that believers must understand if they ever hope to reach maturity. One of these is baptismon didaches, "the doctrine of baptisms."
Usage of the Greek word baptizo can be traced as far back as the ninth century B.C. The word had two basic meanings: "to change the nature of something" and "to identify something with its purpose." The first meaning was employed by Homer in The Odyssey to describe the tempering of a sword. When the hot metal was plunged into water, the sword was "baptized," changed from soft to hard metal. The second meaning was used by the Spartans who would "baptize" their spears before a battle by dipping them in blood. The process did not change the physical characteristics of the weapon, but served as a picture of its becoming a battle spear—one that had tasted blood.
Seven different baptisms are taught in the New Testament. Four of these are "real" baptisms in which a real change takes place. Three are "ritual" baptisms in which no change takes place, but something is simply identified with its purpose. In each of the real baptisms, where a real change takes place, no water is involved. In each of the ritual baptisms, where no change of nature takes place, water represents something spiritual.
Real Baptisms
  1. The baptism of Moses (1Co 10:1–2). In the baptism of Moses, Moses is identified with a cloud and the children of Israel are identified with Moses. The cloud is Jesus Christ. The people of the Exodus generation passed through the Red Sea from slavery to freedom. No one got wet, but an actual change took place: 2.5 million slaves were identified with God’s deliverer and became free men.
  2. The baptism of the cross (Luk 12:50). In the baptism of the cross, when the sins of all men were poured out on Christ, the Lord was changed. He became sin (2Co 5:21). On the cross, when Jesus was identified with our sins, He was under condemnation—severed from God the Father and God the Spirit (Mat 27:46).
  3. The baptism of the Holy Spirit (1Co 12:13). In the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which takes place at the moment of salvation, the person who has put faith in Christ is baptized into union with Christ and becomes a new creature. He is identified with Christ and given His righteousness (Eph 4:5; 2Co 5:21). He is placed in Christ and sealed there forever by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).
  4. The baptism of fire (Mat 3:11). In the coming baptism of fire, all unbelievers will be identified with the fire of judgment. A permanent change will take place at the Second Advent when unbelievers are removed from the earth and sent to eternal destruction (2Th 1:7–8; Rev 14:1–20, Rev 19:1–21).
Ritual Baptisms
  1. The baptism of John (Mat 3:11; Act 19:3). The water baptism that John offered to Jewish believers was a picture of their identification with the kingdom.
  2. The baptism of Christ (Mat 3:13–17). The water baptism of Jesus Christ was a picture of the Lord’s identification with God the Father’s will for His life. In the process, Jesus was identified to the nation of Israel as the promised Messiah.
  3. The baptism of believers (Mat 28:19–20; Act 16:33; 1Co 1:17). The water baptism of believers in the Church Age is a picture of the Christian’s identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is an outward expression of an inward change that has taken place.
This material was originally a highlighted topic in "The Basics".

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