I want to quote two very key verses about baptism, then I’ll tell you the inevitable conclusion.
Matthew 28:18-20 says (Jesus’ final command):
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
and Matthew 3:11 says (part of a speech from John the Baptist):
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Maybe it’s just me, but this seems to indicate that a water baptism is not required at all. In fact, water baptism seems to only happen to Jewish people converting from Judaism to Christianity (or The Way, as it was called then). The Gentiles were not baptized in water. What’s up with that? I stand correct – Lori noted to me that in Acts 10:44-48, Cornelius and his house were baptized in the spirit, then in water. She also linked me to 1 Peter 3:21, which talks about the symbolism of the water.
This is where I move from scriptural fact to my own opinion based off observation: Water baptism was a public event to express a persons conversion from a religion to Christianity. This does not remove the validity of the public event from today’s church, but it certainly removes the necessity of it.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn’t require water. What it does require, according to various biblical references, is laying hands on people – from one person who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit to another who has not been. I would even hypothesize that God can baptize a person in the Holy Spirit without another person who has been already if there is no one able to lay hands on the person.