The verb is βαπτιζω (baptizo). The nouns are βαπτισμα (baptisma)and βαπτισμος (baptismos). The literal meaning is to dip, plunge, use water as a rite, baptize. The figurative meaning is to overwhelm, to indicate an extraordinary experience, to associate or identify someone with someone or something.
Baptism in Romans 6 is a figurative use. Believers are associated or identified with Jesus Christ. The believer died with Christ through baptism and therefore died to sin. This was Paul’s point in Romans 6.
There are those who claim Romans 6 means water baptism. We can then ask a question? Does Romans 6 apply only to those baptized in water? Did Paul only write to a special group, those who were baptized in water, and then these were the only ones who have been freed from sin’s control?
The answer is no. Paul wrote Romans 6-8 to all the believers in Rome, and to all believers everywhere. Paul wrote that all believers have died with Christ and were raised with him and now sin no longer reigns or rules believers. If this is water baptism the application is limited to a smaller group.If this referred to water baptism, why did Paul not stress baptism more in his writings?
Why did Paul write 1 Corinthians 1.12-17 if water baptism is so important in the Christian life? Yes, the context in Corinthians is that Paul does not want believers to take sides and divide the church in Corinth, but still, Paul does not seem to indicate that water baptism is so important to the Corinthians.
We find further support that Paul does not mean water baptism in Romans 6 by the fact that the Bible identifies seven different kinds of baptism. Three are wet baptisms and four are dry baptisms. Romans 6 is a dry baptism and this baptism in Romans 6 stresses that each believer is so associated or identified with Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection that sin no longer need control him and he can live a new kind of life now, a resurrection kind of life.
The three wet baptisms use water.
The baptism of John meant that one believed John’s message that the kingdom promises were about to be fulfilled through Jesus, the promised Messiah (Mark 1.1-8; John 1.19-28).
The baptism of Jesus by John was a one-time only baptism. This baptism identified Jesus with God the Father’s plan that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the savior of the world, and the king of Israel (Matthew 3.13-17; Luke 3.21-22).
Church age water baptism emphasized a believer’s relationship with Christ in Christ’s death to sin and resurrection to new life (Matthew 28.19; Acts 8.12 and 16; Acts 16.33; 1 Corinthians 1.13-17).
The following four baptisms are dry baptisms.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit began after Pentecost and is unique to the church age; each believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and made a member of Christ’s spiritual body, the church (1 Corinthians 12.12-14; Galatians 3.26-28; Colossians 3.11-13). This was prophesied by John the Baptist (Matthew 3.11, Mark 1.8, Luke 3.16) and by Jesus (John 14.16-17, Acts 1.5). Peter, in Acts 10.44-48; 11.15-18, explains the coming of the Holy Spirit upon those in Cornelius’ house as that which Jesus had predicted when he said in Acts 1.5, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The baptism of Moses occurred during the Exodus. Israel was baptized into Moses when the nation went through the Red Sea and was led by the cloud during the day; the nation was identified with Moses, their leader (1 Corinthians 10.2). They were not plunged into water.
The baptism of the cup is a figure of speech which Jesus used to identify himself with his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus said that both James and John would also drink his cup, by which Jesus meant that they would suffer severely for him (Mark 10.38-39; Mark 14.36; Matthew 20.22-23; Luke 12.50).
The baptism of fire is a reference to some kind of judgment upon those who reject Christ as Messiah. It will probably be fulfilled at his second coming to earth (Matthew 3.10-12; Luke 3.16-17). Mark 1.8 and John 1.33 are parallel passages and omit the baptism of fire because they also omit the judgment material that Matthew and Luke contain.