Normally when we talk about baptism we are referring to what we call believer’s baptism. But there are at least seven different baptisms mentioned in the Bible.
Some of these baptisms happened in the past to illustrate a future truth. Or, they are Old Testament predictors of New Testament events. We call this typology. When looking at types, it is important to remember that they are usually limited to a certain aspect of the item or person that typifies another item or person. Therefore we should not read more into the “type” than what the Bible mentions. This is also an important principle to remember when explaining parables. When taken too far, parables and types either break down in their equality to the thing being illustrated or conclusions are drawn that are unbiblical.
Baptism of Moses
Moses is considered a type of Christ. This means that Moses represents Christ in some way. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 the Israelites are said to have been baptized unto Moses. This is talking about how the children of Israel were led by Moses and judgment came by water. However, the judgment was not on those “baptized unto Moses”; they passed through on dry ground. The judgment by water was against the armies of Pharaoh.
Baptism of John
This is a baptism that identified the participants with the coming Messiah. It was a physical baptism into water that signified a spiritual repentance in the heart of the believer (Matthew 3:6-11).
Acts 19:1-5 shows how this baptism has ended. People are not baptized for the sake of repentance today, but are baptized into the Lord Jesus Christ.
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:1-5)
Baptism of Fire
There are several views as to what the baptism of fire is as mentioned in the Bible. Three of them are: eternal torment, trials and testing , and conviction from the Holy Spirit.
Fire is often used as a symbol of judgment in the Bible. We see this when God struck down the prophets of Baal with fire as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Future cleansing by fire will come during the time of Revelation (2 Peter 3:10). Those who are judged eternally will be judged by fire (Revelation 20:13-15).
Trials and Testing
A second interpretation is that baptism by fire refers to trials and testing in the life of Christians. 1 Peter 1:7 tells us that the trying of our faith purifies us as gold tried in fire. 1 Corinthians says that our works will be tried in fire, not in punishment, but for the purpose of sorting out our reward.
Conviction From the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit convicts believers of their wrongdoing. This conviction comes from a God who is a consuming (purifying, cleansing) fire (Hebrews 10:19). Later in Hebrews (chapter 10) the Christian is told he will be convicted and chastened by the Holy Spirit of God.
Baptism of Jesus
Jesus was physically baptized by John in the Jordan river. He did not need to repent. He also did not need to identify with the coming Messiah. So why was Jesus baptized and what was different about His baptism and ours today? The baptism of Jesus was a public submission to the will of God. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:37, 38) at His public water baptism.
As Prophet, Priest, and King, Jesus was anointed in obedience to the Old Testament Law (1 Kings 19:16; Exodus 28:41; 1 Samuel 10:1). Jesus showed obedience to the will of God and the fulfillment of the law.
Baptism of the Cross
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
God judged the sins of mankind on the cross of Christ. He bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).
Jesus asked His disciples if they could drink of the same cup and be baptized with the same baptism as He (Mark 10:38). They answered that they could in verse 39. Jesus confirmed that they could; however, we know that these men did not take on the sins of the world. Then to what was Jesus referring?
Romans 6 says that Christians are baptized into Jesus’ death. We are buried and raised to new life. But our baptism into Christ is not a physical death, burial and resurrection. Rather, it is a spiritual one. We are dead to the world and walk in new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-11). Sin  no longer has the power over our bodies.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
At salvation we are placed into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Acts 1:5 makes a separation between water baptism and baptism by the Holy Spirit . Water baptism (or believer’s baptism) was an outward expression of repentance and identification with Christ, but it did not save a person (1 Peter 3:21). The regenerative work of the Holy Spirit came when He indwelt believers (John 7:39; 14:16, 17, 26; Acts 1:8).
We are placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit at salvation. This is a separate event from believer’s baptism in water which is used as a physical representation of a spiritual truth. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are what is necessary to save us and guarantee our resurrection. Believer’s baptism is a way to identify with the death of our Savior and to show the world an internal repentance and spiritual regeneration (Romans 6; Matthew 28:19).
Believer’s baptism is also done as a step of obedience. It is not done to earn salvation, but as a way to show commitment to Christ and His will. We see baptism as a form of obedience in Acts 2 when looking at the formation of the early church. The new believer’s heard the Word of God; repented of their sins; and believed Christ was the answer to their sins. Then they were baptized and joined the church (Acts 2:37-42):
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? 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. 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. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
There are different types of baptism mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to apply every reference of baptism in the Bible to only one type of baptism. When you come across the word ‘baptism’ or the concept of baptism in the Bible, take some time to evaluate to which type of baptism the Bible is referring.
Want to learn more about the baptism of Jesus? Take a look at this article:
Reference – The Holy Bible, King James Version. YouTube video “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin