I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.[b]
John - Matthew 3:11
To baptize, as we have seen, is simply 'to whelm'. People can be, and often are, overwhelmed by many different things; life itself, with its many twists & turns, speed-bumps and illusions ( or should that be 'allusions'? ) is often overwhelming! One can be overwhelmed by a multitude of problems, issues, or even by too much of a good thing!
We have seen that the practice of water baptism was itself eschatological in nature. It began under the so-called Old Covenant, was carried on into the transition period by John, and finally revealed in its significance by Paul & the apostles. It really was, during that transitional period, anyway, a sign to the Gentiles that they too, had become part of the Body of Israel, or Christ!
In the church today, and maybe in particular, the evangelical church, Christians are thought to be ( and even called ) Gentiles, unless they are of course, physical Jews ( you'd be very hard-pressed, I believe, to find one of those anymore! ). This however, conflicts with Scripture, which says in several different places & ways, 'For there is no difference' ( Romans 3:22 ). Paul actually comes right out and plainly says 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' ( Galatians 3:28 )
( 'Greek' & 'Gentile' are translated from the same Greek word, 'Hellēn' )
In some circles, those who do not necessarily view the practice as 'necessary', nevertheless still hold on to the practice as an identification with Israel. It most surely is that, an outward sign of identification with the Story that we read in the pages of Scripture, but we might ask the question here, for those of the Reformed persuasion in particular ( I was brought up in this tradition ); 'do we need to administer this outward sign in order for the inward Reality to be made manifest?' Will the outward sign guarantee the inward Reality?
Obviously not, though some of my stauncher Reformed brethren might beg to differ!
Admittedly, one could well make the argument that when the unbeliever is awakened from his ( or her ) sleep and realizes the gravity & blessedness of right relationship with their Father in Heaven, receiving the outward sign of water baptism is a beautiful way to picture the Reality of their becoming One with the Body of Christ! Here though, we run into the same problems as we've already discussed! If one ( unbeliever ) claims to have become a believer, and so receives that outward sign, and later, for what ever reason, falls away, what good has his water baptism & confession done him? Nothing but harm!
However, as truly now as back then ( Luke 23:43, baptism by fire?), when one turns their life around, and begins to live in some sort of communion with the Body, it becomes fairly obvious that person has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is the True Baptism promised by our Father in Heaven!
Should we refrain then, from baptizing with water?
I, though I do not practice it myself, leave it up to the individual, but, for the very reasons enumerated above, advise ( seriously ) anyone reviewing the issue in their own mind, to realize the gravity & significance of either continuing the practice or not!
Charles Haddon Shank