Water baptism has been a subject of debate ever since the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) when Jesus first poured out the gift of holy spirit upon those people who had faith in him. For the Jews, washing and baptism ceremonies started when the Law was given to Moses, and in many cases, such as in the cleansing of a leper, the full cleansing ceremony involved animal sacrifice.
When Nebuchadnezzar burned the Temple down in 586 BC and carried the Jews away from Israel, baptismal ceremonies took on a new importance, and continued to grow in importance even after the Temple was rebuilt. John and Jesus both baptized people in water (although Jesus’ disciples did the actual baptism). However, like animal sacrifice, water baptism was symbolic, and pointed to a greater reality. Animal sacrifice pointed to the greater reality of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself, and water baptism pointed to the greater reality of the baptism in holy spirit, which the Old Testament prophets as well as John and Jesus foretold.
When the reality of the baptism of the holy spirit came on Pentecost, water baptism was no longer needed as a symbol, and could have stopped. This is why Ephesians 4:5 says there is only “one baptism” for the Church. However, it was such a well established tradition that it has continued to this day. In this teaching, John Schoenheit covers the history and tradition of water baptism, and shows why the “one baptism” for the Christian Church is in holy spirit, not water.