Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity

How many times have you been baptized?

Scripture talks about baptism — full immersion in water — as a first step in believers’ walks of faith. It’s an outward sign of our identification with God’s people and our commitment to leave our old lives behind. Some church groups stop there, some sprinkle people from a baptismal instead, and Messianics continue to mikvah on a semi-regular basis.

I thought practicing mikvah once a year (more or less) was an odd idea when I started attending a Messianic group. Part of me still does, though I don’t really see anything wrong with it. However, while we are supposed to undergo water baptism at least once, it doesn’t stop there. When Scripture talks about multiple baptisms they’re not all done with water. Here’s what John the Baptist said about the baptism he was doing and the baptisms Messiah would do:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I am, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt. 3:11, LEB)

Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity | LikeAnAnchor.com

Water, spirit, and fire — those are the three baptisms that John tells us believers in Jesus will go through. I think this is what the writer of Hebrews means when he describes “the doctrine of baptisms” (plural) as a foundation of Christianity (Heb. 6:1-2).

Water

The baptism of water is the easiest to study. We have multiple examples of it in the gospels and throughout Acts. When someone became a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, they were baptized in His name. It was the next step after repentance as part of their commitment to follow His teachings.

Baptism in water acts as a sign that we’re committing to Christ and identifying with His people. It also serves a symbolic purpose that Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans.

Or don’t you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4, WEB)

Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity | LikeAnAnchor.com

When we’re baptized, we put our “body of sin” into the grave as if “our old man was crucified with” Jesus (Rom. 6:6). Coming up out of the water aligns you with His resurrection. Now, you’re ready to live a new life as a servant of God. You’re also ready for the next baptism, which gives you what you need to keep following God.

Spirit

After Christ’s water baptism, the spirit of God descended on Him in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16). Peter tells us that new believers’ baptisms follow a similar pattern: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, WEB). There are exceptions recorded (Acts 10:44-48), but for most people water baptism is followed by spirit baptism.

The spirit of God is a precious gift. It’s God’s mind connecting with our’s making it possible for us to understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:9-16). Baptism in water prepares us to walk in newness of life, but it’s baptism of the spirit that actually lets us do that.

Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. … as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. (Rom. 8:8-9, 14 WEB)

Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity | LikeAnAnchor.com

Once we commit to following God with water baptism, God commits to making us His children with spiritual baptism. We dunk ourselves in water and He washes us with His spirit, beginning a life-long process of us walking in the spirit.

Fire

Fire in the Bible is often referred to as a refining force. It heats up metal for purification and it burns off wrong things we’re building in our lives. Paul says that fire will reveal what each of us has been building on the foundation, which is Jesus Christ. Sometimes what we’re building comes through the fire intact, passing the test. Other times “If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:10-15). The fire is meant for our good, checking us to make sure we remain in the spirit and building us up to become like Jesus.

Right after His water and spirit baptisms, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1, WEB). Like our Savior, we have to face temptations and trials as part of our walk in faith.

Beloved, don’t be astonished at the fiery trial which has come upon you, to test you, as though a strange thing happened to you. But because you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory you also may rejoice with exceeding joy. (1 Pet. 4:12-13, WEB)

Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity | LikeAnAnchor.com

Like baptism of the spirit, baptism of fire is an ongoing process. Even in the midst of His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished” (Luke 12:50, WEB). We follow in His footsteps, sharing in His sufferings as He refines us. But we also get to share in His spirit and we know that with Jesus as our Baptist the work God is doing in us will have a good outcome.

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4 thoughts on “Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity

  • The Three Baptisms of Christianity are also known as the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three points of Christ have distinct distinctions within the Christian faith. The first point is that all three have the same divine purpose in the life of a believer. The second point is that the three are distinct in their essence, but are one in purpose. The third point is that three distinct points of light have three different functions within the life of a believer. This article will explore these three themes of the Three Baptisms of Christianity.

    The first point is that all three have the same divine purpose in the life of a Christian. All three share this goal of salvation throughout the world. The second point is that all three are one in purpose. The third point is that the three have distinct roles within the life of a believer. Within the three separate points of light there are three distinct points of light, each having a unique role to play and a distinct love of the savior within their being.

    The first baptism is by water, the second by blood, and the third by spirit. The first two simply mark the entrance of a person into the Christian faith and the forgiveness of their sin. The forgiveness of one’s sin by water marks the start of the three days of suffering after the death of Jesus Christ. The third baptism allows believers to be purified and cleansed from their sin through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The three days of suffering at the end of the Three Baptisms of Christianity mark the completion of the work of Christ. The saving work of Christ on the cross at the conclusion of the Three Days of Baptism serves as a lesson to believers in keeping God’s commandments.

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  • I believe what you have spoken about for the 3rd baptism is actually refining by fire not baptism by fire. Acts 2 speaks about the Holy spirit coming down as tongues of fire and resting on the disciples. Then they began to move powerfully in the Holy spirit. That is different to the refining by fire or by trials. I personally have had the tongues of fire baptism when I was 8. After which I was able to get prophetic dreams, visions of heaven and sung in tongues. This was different from the baptism of water I had at 17. And the baptism of the Holy spirit I had at 3 or 4 when I started my gift of distinguishing between spirits. Apart from that you are spot on.

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  • I have a question about being born again as a child I was baptised by water and I sinned a lot as I become a teenager.then at the age of 17 I cried out to God in a state of despair and I asked to be shown why their was so much evil in the world and to be honest I was quite evil I did not know love but after that day I changed in my heart I became a good person and I felt love like I actually knew love and understood the feeling I was no longer the same I become a new creature new person so yeah I have a question was that experience being born of fire or being born of the Holy Spirit.i have sinned since but I still know love and now I read the Bible and I try bring others to The true light of the world Jesus Christ so now I’m wondering am I born again it’s made me very scared not knowing if I am I do not want to spend eternity in Hell I want to be in Heaven with Jesus Christ and God almighty please can you let me know.God bless

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    • Hi Jack,

      One of the amazing things about God is that He offers forgiveness when we sincerely repent, even if we’ve been baptized before and then stumble into sin as you talked about when you spoke of being baptized as a child, then living a wicked life as a teen, then later having a genuine change in your heart and becoming a new person. You may want to prayerfully consider being baptized in water again now that you’re an adult as a sign of you renewed commitment to God and your sincere repentance (though different churches have different recommendations for whether or not to re-baptize adults who were baptized as children).

      I can’t give a definitive answer on whether what you experienced was being born of fire or born of the holy spirit. I do want to share some verses with you, though, that I think you may find reassuring. I’ve been studying John’s letters recently, and I noticed there are several times that he mentions ways we can know if we are part of God’s family.

      •“(My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world. Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. … whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him.” (1 John 2:1-3, 5)
      •“We know that we have crossed over from death to life because we love our fellow Christians. The one who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14)
      •“And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us.” (1 John 3:24)
      •“By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)
      •“By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 John 5:2)
      •“All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death. We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:17-18)

      Putting all those verses together, it seems that even though God does not want His people to sin He does offer forgiveness over and over each time we genuinely repent. And the more we sincerely commit to following Him, the less hold sin has over us. As we love God, love our fellow Christians, and keep God’s word faithfully we can live with assurance that He will faithfully reward us.

      Blessings and shalom,
      Marissa

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