Baptism - Sacrament or Symbol?


Many people believe that baptism is merely a symbolic act that one performs before the community of believers as an outward sign of an inward decision to accept Christ as one’s “personal Lord and Savior”. Is this view biblical or does God view baptism differently? Let’s see what the Bible has to say.

Baptism is Related to Impartation of the Holy Spirit

Ezekiel 36:25-27
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

In this Old Testament passage, the prophet clearly speaks of the sacrament of baptism that was to come. Notice the elements: water is sprinkled, the person is actually made clean (not merely imputed to be or called clean), and he receives a new spirit along with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel makes a connection between washing in Water and the receipt of the Spirit of God.

However, sometimes when the Old Testament is referenced, people will say, “Well, we follow the New Testament.” in an attempt to dismiss an Old Testament passage. They need to remember the following words from the New Testament:

2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Consequently, we can see that all of the Bible must be taken into account when we seek to understand doctrine.

Baptism Washes Away Sin

Acts 2:38-39
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

At Pentecost, Peter told the crowd to “be baptized…for the forgiveness of…sins.” After that, “you will receive…the Holy Spirit”. Once again, we see the elements of Water and Spirit…just as Ezekiel prophesied. Note too, that this promise is for “you and your children” – a clear endorsement of infant baptism.

Acts 22:16
16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Acts 22:16)

Baptism Makes Us Part of the Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:13
13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Galatians 3:26-27
26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Colossians 2:11-12
11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Baptism Saves

1 Peter 3:18-22
18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.



Baptism Commanded by Jesus

John 3:5
5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

Some argue that in this verse, “born of water” refers to the placenta fluid of physical birth. However, there is no scriptural basis for this interpretation. Instead, as the references from Ezekiel and the New Testament passages make clear, the “water” connected with the Holy Spirit is the water of the sacrament of baptism – not that of physical birth. Jesus’ words, understood properly, tell us that unless one is “born of baptism and the Spirit” he cannot enter the kingdom of God. This point is underscored by the fact that Jesus took the disciples out to baptize immediately after these words were spoken and commanded them to do so later:

John 3:22
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.

Matthew 28:19
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

In this passage containing the very last instructions Jesus gave His disciples, we see how important baptism was to Him. He did not say, “Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to accept me as their personal Lord and Savior and baptizing them as an outward symbol of this inward acceptance…”

From these passages, we can see that water baptism is connected very closely with the receipt of the Holy Spirit, that baptism washes away sin, that baptism saves us, and that baptism is commanded by Jesus. Therefore, baptism can hardly be viewed as merely symbolic.


This non-sacramental theology seems to be one of the common defenses of Sola Scriptura, as well. Protestants who believe that baptism is merely a symbol are already “in the habit” of believing in a God who does useless things and asks His followers to do useless things as well. That’s why they can say “2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that Scripture alone is necessary” and then reply to Ephesians 4 and say, “Apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, and evangelists–they’re good, but they’re unnecessary if I have Scripture. God didn’t have to give them to us, and we don’t really have to listen to them.”



Hi, All

                        New american Bible

Isaiah 30:20, The Lord will give you bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your teacher.

                         New Jerusalem Bible

When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer.

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of, Jesus Christ.

Peace, OneNow1


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