View Additional "Plain Talk"  TOPICS:

Home Page


Plain Talk About

F. F. Bruce And Water Baptism


What is F. F. Bruce’s view of the relationship between water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit?

“Since John the Baptist distinguished his own baptism in water----a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”  (Mark 1: 4 par Luke 3: 3) ----from the baptism in the Spirit to be administered by the Coming One, it might have been expected that, when the disciples experienced the outpouring of the Spirit from the day of Pentecost onward, they would have discontinued water baptism as having been superceded by something better”.  The Book Of The Acts, PG 69

Bruce apparently views water baptism as holding the same relationship to baptism in the Holy Spirit as John’s baptism to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To his credit he acknowledges they did not discontinue water, surprisingly from that viewpoint.

Mr. Bruce apparently does not grasp that there is one baptism to salvation.  (Ephesians 4: 5)  The baptism in water is not to be separated from the baptism in the Holy Spirit even though Spirit is exponentially greater than water.  The baptism is one, but there are two elements.  The same is true of the new birth.  There is one birth but two elements, water and the Spirit.  (John 3: 5)

When only one aspect of the baptism is mentioned, as with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8, we should understand that the other element, baptism in the Holy Spirit, in implied.  The two elements cannot be separated as they are inextricably linked by the Holy Spirit in Acts 2: 38.


Is baptism in water a mere token?

“Baptism in the Spirit is an inward work; baptism in water now becomes its external token”.  The Book Of The Acts, PG 70

Token- a visible sign, something that serves as a symbol

The implication of a token is that it is only symbolic, nothing authentic.  On the other hand we have the view of Paul and the Holy Spirit:

Water baptism:

Yes, baptism is a sign, indicating that in obedience our faith is perfected and completed to the point that God cleanses us from sin by the blood of Christ, unites us with Christ “in Christ,” and we, having been begotten when we come to faith, are now born into the family of God

Baptism in the Holy Spirit


How does baptism in water fit into the over all picture of salvation?

Salvation is by the grace of God through faith.  This truth cannot be emphasized too much.  The death of Jesus Christ in payment for the penalty of sin is central to this grace and to our faith.  God has graciously determined to save those that believe.  But how much do we have to believe, how strongly?   What must be the depth of our faith?   Years ago people would go down to the mourner’s bench and pray and agonize and cry, hoping that God would give them a sign.  Some say that salvation is received immediately upon coming to faith.  I implore those people to read John 1: 12, 13 with an open mind. 

Baptism in water is God’s counsel, command and gift to us.  We need a sign or signal to us to know when God will reckon our faith for righteousness.  Baptism is His answer.  Now there is nothing in the act itself that merits such blessing, but when our faith leads us to obey in repentance and baptism He says, “Now I know that you do fear God.”  Baptism is the sign to us, not to God.  God knows all things from the beginning.  (Genesis 22: 12)


Why did God select baptism in water? 

We don’t know for sure but baptism is rich in symbolism.  Baptism suggests a cleansing from sin.  Baptism suggests a birth.  Baptism suggests a reenactment of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord in our own life and being united with in these things.  Baptism suggests a resurrection to newness of life.  Baptism is the story of Naaman repeated, for all who would be cleansed from the leprosy of sin.  (2Kings 5: 1- 14; Luke 4:27)

Baptism in water is a symbol. It is also the time when God works authentically in our life.  How can anyone claim to believe in God and refuse to obey?

God bless

Arland  Pafford  


Please contact us if we can be of assistance:


Plain Talk 

PO Box 1182

Oakdale, CA 95361


Last Update   09/26/12