Each reference to Christ’s forthcoming ministry, or mission, contained the word and idea of baptism.
Even Jesus submitted Himself to water baptism by John Baptist, not because He needed to confess sin or anything like that, but to identify with it as a requirement and necessary act for true believers. We are told that when Jesus had been baptised
“He came up from the water”, Matthew 3:16.
This indicates that the rite of baptism was enacted by repentant believers going down into the water of the river Jordan, being immersed, and then rising out of the water again.
A similar incident is recorded in Acts 8:36. In this passage there is the remarkable account of the conversion of the Ethiopian Chancellor of the Exchequer, who miraculously meets Philip while he was reading a prophetic chapter of the Old Testament. Philip opens his understanding of what he is reading and the man believes. Not only that but he realises that he needs to be baptised. They come across water and he asks Philip,
“See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptised? Philip and the man then “went down into the water” so he could be baptised. Clearly there was sufficient water for him to be immersed in.
Christian water baptism is an act of obedience and faith. It is also an amazing picture, or visual aid. The person being baptised must be an adult believer and able to confess that Jesus Christ is their Saviour and Lord. They are depicting in their baptism that they have died to their old, former life, were going down into the water as a picture of their watery grave, and rising out of the water depicting their new resurrection life in Christ.
Although water baptism is important for the believer in the New Covenant, it is superseded by baptism with the Spirit. John Baptist said this himself. His whole message was that One was going to come after him who would be a greater Man with a greater ministry. Just as Jesus Christ was the greater Man, so baptism with the Holy Spirit was the greater message.
There are only sparse references to baptism in the Old Testament. In that context it would largely be used to describe washing, or ritual cleansing. People asked John Baptist
“Why then do you baptise if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”, John 1:25.
It seems that the ritual of baptism was associated with the coming of some key figure, even the Messiah. John Baptist quickly distanced himself from that connection and immediately pointed away to the One to come, of which he was the forerunner.
So, we have seen in a number of ways that baptism with the Holy Spirit is the key ministry of Jesus Christ and the experience that we are to know.