Baptism Meaning in the Bible with Supporting Scriptures


Lord’s Library contributor Bill Furioso offers a baptism meaning in the Bible with key Scripture verses. Check out his ministry At Christ’s Table for additional Bible studies and resources.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgeActs 2:37: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Acts 2:39: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

Acts 2:40: “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”

Acts 2:41: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

Acts 2:42: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Acts 2:43: “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”

Acts 2:44: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common;”

Acts 2:45: “And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”

Acts 2:46: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,”

Acts 2:47: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

Preface: “The Way”

This Scripture passage is the conclusion of the sermon, which the apostle Peter preached in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost – the day, which is commonly, held to be the birthday of the Christian Church. At that time, Christianity and its adherents – the Church – was known simply as “The Way” (See Acts 9:2, 18:25, 19:9, 24:14, 22):

  • Acts 9:2: “And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
  • Acts 18:25: “This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.”
  • Acts 19:9: “But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.”
  • Acts 19:23: “And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.”
  • Acts 22:4: “And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.”
  • Acts 24:14: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:”
  • Acts 24:22: “And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.”

Jesus had declared Himself to be “The Way, The Truth and The Life” in John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Through His death and resurrection, He opened up “a new and living way” for those who trust and follow Him, according to Hebrews 10:20: “By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”

And “He left us an example that we should follow in His step” as we walk with Him on this Way of Life, according to 1 Peter 2:21: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”

The Christianity Jesus founded is a way of living. It’s The Way of Life.

Recorded in this passage in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles is the model or pattern, which the Holy Spirit established in the early Church as The Way of Life for the Christian. Namely:

  • Repentance and faith toward God
  • Baptism
  • Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit

But also recorded in this passage is the model or pattern, which the Holy Spirit established in the early Church as The Way of Life for the Church. Acts 2, verse 37 reads: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

In verses 38 through 40, it tells us that what the Holy Spirit had the early church to do was:

  • Repent
  • Be baptized
  • Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

And being assured of their salvation, they then continued steadfastly and devoted themselves to:

  • The apostles’ teaching
  • Fellowship
  • The breaking of bread
  • Prayer

And then, verses 41 through 47 tells us that:

  • Thousands of people were added to the church
  • A holy reverence came over the whole church
  • Signs and wonders took place
  • There was unprecedented giving
  • The church was united, being of one heart and mind
  • Their fellowship was sincere, intimate and happy
  • The church was praising God
  • The church had favor in the community
  • And, daily, the Lord added more people to the church

The Gospel

Baptism Meaning in the Bible


From the above, we see that one aspect of The Way is to “be baptized.” “The Meaning of Baptism” is the title of this teaching

It is not within the scope of this article to directly address any of the controversial aspects traditionally associated with Baptism. This does not mean that I don’t have opinions on these matters. While I very much admire the great Reformed theologians and very much appreciate and ascribe to many aspects of Reformed theology, I do not believe that Baptism is literally the replacement of Circumcision as the “Sign of the Covenant,” and therefore, I also do not believe it is absolutely required for membership in the local church.

Having said that, I strongly encourage – and expect – true disciples of Christ to be baptized. I also do not subscribe to theories such as “Baptismal Regeneration,” or practices such as “Infant Baptism.” Suffice to say, I identify more with an Anabaptist view and practice of “Believer’s Baptism” and “The Believer’s Church.” In short, my view of Baptism is that it is an outward declaration of faith and obedience which gives witness to an inward work of the Holy Spirit in the spirit, soul, and life of a believer

In partial support of this view, I reference Romans 2:28-29, Colossians 2:11-12 and I Peter 3:21, fully realizing that these very scriptures are used to support views to the contrary.

  • Romans 2:28-29: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
  • Colossians 2:11-12: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
  • 1 Peter 3:21: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”

Lastly, Baptism, as with all of the theological concepts associated with it, is a great spiritual mystery. On the one hand, we have Holy Spirit-inspired words recorded in the Biblical scriptures regarding spiritual realities like Baptism, and then on the other hand, we have the difficult task of human beings explaining how we are to understand those spiritual realities, with different theological traditions seeing and emphasizing different facets of the same truth and reality.

Our faith determines our practice. Two things are important for our practice

  1. That we experience the reality of the thing
  2. That our experience does not contradict the doctrine of the Biblical Scriptures

One thing is essential to our faith: Now that the Spirit of Truth (Reality) has come, we believe He will guide us into all truth, as it says in John 16:13: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

The Great Commission

In Acts 2:37-47 we see that the second aspect of this Way of Life mentioned by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost is Baptism. Peter said in Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” 

The basis of Peter’s injunction is the Lord’s final commission to His apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.… He who has believed and is baptized shall be saved….”9

And this is exactly what we see the church doing in the book of The Acts of the Apostles. Luke, the author of The Acts of the Apostles, introduced his letter (Acts 1:1) by writing, “all that Jesus began both to do and teach,” and in the Acts of the Apostles, we see the church continuing “to do and teach” all that Jesus began. It is in the Acts of the Apostles that we find our pattern for Baptism.

  • Acts 1:1: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,”

“Repent and Be Baptized”

On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all flesh (See Acts 2:17), Peter was being faithful to the Lord’s commission when he preached – and I’ll quote a verse of his sermon from a modern translation: “All of you must turn to God, and change the way you think and act, and each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift.”

  • Acts 2:17: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:”

Baptism is the expression of the grace through which one is enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to repent i.e., turn to God, and change the way one thinks and acts with a view to obedient discipleship that is pleasing to the Lord.

A Public Declaration

Baptism is a public declaration of the “repentance from dead works” and “faith toward God,” which we have been discussing. Jesus said in Mark 16:16: “The one who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but the one who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” 

A believer’s baptism is a public declaration that one repents from the dead works of sin and has faith toward God – that is, believes in the forgiveness of sin, salvation, sanctification and redemption made available in Christ, as we see in 1 Corinthians 1:30: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:”

Both Jesus and Peter said that baptism with this kind of faith toward God saves us, in 1 Peter 3:21: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter ended his sermon by saying in Acts 2:40: “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” 

A believer’s baptism is also a public declaration of transference of kingdoms. The apostle Paul explains to the disciples in Colossae in Colossians 1:13-14: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

By extension, believers are transferred from the “kingdom of the world” to the “kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” as we read in Revelation 11:15: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”

This is why the early Christians were martyred for pledging allegiance to Christ by declaring that Jesus, and not Caesar, was Lord, in Acts 17:7 “Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”

This transference of kingdoms is pictured in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy and Joshua) with the Israelites crossing over the Jordan River to the Promised Land. So, as John was baptizing in John 1:28 “beyond Jordan” (east), believers who “cross over the Jordan” through baptism, are saved from “this perverse generation” and the kingdom of Satan and are transferred into the kingdom of Christ. See also John 3:26 and 10:40.

  • John 1:28: “These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.”
  • John 3:26: “And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.”
  • John 10:40: “And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.”

We see another corresponding picture in the Old Testament with Noah’s ark saving his family from the flood. It is only in this sense in 1 Peter 3:21 that Peter meant “baptism doth also now save us),” for it was the same Peter who declared to the Jewish religious leaders in Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other.”

  • 1 Peter 3:21:The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”
  • Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Nothing can take away our sins except the blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Therefore we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. See John 1:29: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Modes of Baptism

The professing Church, taken as a whole, practices different modes of Baptism: sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. While we believe that the mode of immersion was the New Testament/Apostolic practice, each of the three modes brings out an aspect of the rich and diverse symbolism given to Baptism in the Bible:


Immersion, which is the most literal meaning of the Greek word, baptismal (using Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary), gives us the image of being buried and resurrected with Christ (Romans 6:3-5), as well as, being born anew of water and the Spirit (Colossians 2:12).

  • Romans 6:3-5: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”
  • Colossians 2:12: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”

Pouring or Sprinkling

Pouring or sprinkling water on the head signifies God’s pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to Matthew 3:16: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:” See also Mark 1:9-10, Luke 3:21-22, and Acts 10:1-7.

  • Mark 1:9-10: “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:”
  • Luke 3:21-22: “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”
  • Acts 10:1-7: “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;”

It also signifies the washing away of sin, which is the overall usage and significance of Baptism in the scriptures. See Acts 22:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Hebrews 10:22.

  • Acts 22:16: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
  • Hebrews 10:22: “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.”

Baptism & Identification

Baptism is a public identification with Christ. That is, we identify ourselves to the world as disciples of Christ, submitting to His Lordship in order to “observe all that He commanded”.31

In Acts 2 verse 41, it says: “…those who gladly received (Peter’s) word were baptized….” The word which they “gladly received” was the gospel message – that Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected on their behalf.32 Being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is publicly identifying with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul writes to the disciples in Rome: “… do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”33

We must understand that The Way of Life is not only BELIEVING this message, but also BECOMING the message – daily identifying with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection – “a living baptism” – “taking up our cross daily, (denying ourselves), and following Him”34 – “knowing Him in the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, knowing Him in the power of His resurrection”.35

Baptized Into Christ: Being Clothed with Christ

The apostle Paul told the Corinthian disciples that “Jesus became for us … righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”36 Righteous, sanctification and redemption – this is God’s full salvation package. Paul told the Galatian disciples that when we are baptized into Christ, we clothe ourselves with Christ.37 In other words, we put on His righteousness, sanctification, and redemption:

  • Righteousness means that we can be acquitted from the guilt of sin and be in right standing with God.
  • Sanctification means we can be cleansed of sinfulness, grow in holiness, and be transformed into the image of Jesus.
  • Redemption means we can have our bodies raised and glorified with Christ at the Resurrection.

Being baptized into Christ expresses God’s full salvation package – past, present, and future: Righteousness was accomplished in the past. Sanctification is being worked out in the present. Redemption will be fulfilled in the future. When we are baptized into Christ, we accept and receive by faith that:

  • Our spirits have been made righteous, and this was accomplished 2000 years ago through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
  • Our souls are being sanctified now through His word and His Holy Spirit.
  • Our bodies will be redeemed when He comes again in glory.

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William Furioso
William Furioso

William Furioso

Bill and his wife, Frances, served as missionaries in South Africa for 13 years helping establish churches and train church leaders. As an itinerant Bible teacher and conference speaker, Bill has ministered to churches and groups on the continents of North America, South America, and Southern Africa. Bill helped plant and shepherd several US churches, and currently writes, teaches, and mentors church leaders in various nations.

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