(An Excerpt taken from “Baptism the washing away of our sins”)
The Bible insists that there is one baptism as stated in Ephesians 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”. How are we to understand this?
We can understand this when we realize that there can be something that is substantive and actual, but it also may cast a shadow. For example, a tree is substantive and actual. A tree may cast a shadow that is altogether identified with the tree but has no substance at all in itself. So, too, the baptism (washing away of sins) performed by God is substantive and actual. But water baptism is only a shadow of the action performed by God. Water baptism is identified with baptism (washing) with the Spirit so that there is one baptism. Water baptism is the shadow so it has no substance in itself.
The ceremonial washings of the Old Testament were shadows of the washing away of sins that would be accomplished by the coming Messiah. So, too, the baptism with water is a shadow of the washing away of our sins, which is accomplished by Christ’s payment for our sins. The shadow, water baptism, is, therefore, a sign that points to the washing away of the sins of the one who became saved; or it points to the hope that some time in the future the individual baptized may become saved. There is no substance in the act of water baptism. However, now that we are at the end of the Church Age, water baptism is no longer to be observed.
Therefore, when the New Testament uses the word “baptism” it ordinarily must be understood to mean the act of God washing away our sins. Thus, Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” is declaring that there are two conditions which give evidence of salvation” God has given us a faith whereby we have come to trust God as our Lord and Savior; and our sins have been washed away; that is, we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit.