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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, July 22 2021

Water baptism and the laying on of hands

In order to receive the Holy Spirit we must repent, be baptized and have hands laid on us by God's ordained ministers, serving as His representatives. Baptism by immersion symbolizes our death and resurrection to a new life in Christ, and God's Holy Spirit is imparted to us by prayer and the laying on of hands.

After one repents in faith, the next step is water baptism. The words ‘baptize’ and ‘baptism’ are derived from the Greek verb ‘baptizo’, meaning "to dip or immerse". Baptism by immersion symbolizes our death and burial, while rising out of the baptismal water symbolizes a resurrection to a new life in Christ (Romans 6:3-5).

Paul explained that, once we are baptized into Christ, we are no longer trapped in sin (Romans 6:3-4). "Our old man was crucified with Him...that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died [through the symbolic death of baptism and eradicating our old ways] has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:6-7).

From the Scriptures, we find that water baptism is followed by the ceremony of laying on of hands, at which time we receive God's Spirit. Acts 8:12 shows that "both men and women" in Samaria understood, repented and were baptized. However, the Holy Spirit was not given until Peter and John prayed and laid their hands on them, "...they [Peter and John] prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit," (Acts 8:15-170.

Because it is impossible to keep God's law in its full spiritual intent on our own, Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to guide and help us (John 14:16-18). God's Holy Spirit is given to us by the prayer and laying on of hands by God's ministry, serving as His representative. The gift of the Holy Spirit starts us down the road that ultimately leads to eternal life and entrance into the Kingdom of God at the resurrection of the just, when Jesus returns to earth, at which time we will be changed into spirit (1 Corinthians 15:42-55).

Some mistakenly believe once a person is baptized, God takes over and does everything. This is a misleading concept. God expects us to resist sin and strive to make His Spirit an active part of our daily lives. Overcoming our habitual sins and selfish nature is a lifelong process. The apostle Paul, more than 20 years after his miraculous conversion, described his continuing struggle to overcome the evil desires within himself. (Romans 7:18-23).

Paul restated, in Philippians 2:12, that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, but Paul trusted God to produce righteousness in him, knowing "it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). He understood it was a partnership as he wrote in Colossians 1:29, "I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily."

This transformation requires ongoing changes in our thinking and outlook that permanently affect the way we live. Paul admonished, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). Having the mind of Jesus Christ is what makes this great miracle of transformation possible.