Believers Baptism

There are two aspects of baptism in the Scripture. The real baptism (which is what has spiritually happened when you believe; example – Ro 6:3; Gal 3:27; 1 Cor 12:13), and the ritual baptism (which is what we physically subject ourselves to; example – Acts 8:36-38; 18:9; 19:4,5). The first refers to the doctrinal statement of a spiritual truth (that which is wrought by the Holy Spirit), the second is a physical display of that biblical truth shown through water baptism.

What is ‘real’ baptism? It is the work of the Spirit when one believes. This is illustrated by the emphasis of being baptised into the remission of sin (Mk 1:4), into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Matt 28:19), baptised in drinking the cup of suffering (Mk 10:38),Israel baptised into Moses (1 Cor 10:2),the Spirit baptises all Believers into the Body (1 Cor 12:13). These things are done through heaven for the believer.

The vast majority of the New Testament involves the Spirit’s work in the believer. Roman 6:1-14 is often used for the physical baptism when the real beauty of the context is neglected. The whole passage has nothing to do with physical baptism but of the spiritual baptism of the believer into the significance of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection! THE PORTION REFERS TO DOCTRINAL TRUTH.

The gift of the Spirit by Christ’s finished work on the cross baptizes the believer into the relationship with God and all true Believers:

-at conversion: Eph 1:13, 14; 4:5; Col 2:11, 12

-into the Body 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:28, 29

Here baptism clearly indicates the Spirit immersing/submerging the Believer into something as a permanent result of God’s grace by receiving Christ as Saviour.

In the Greek literature baptizo[1] means immersed – take on the essence as its own – as in 2 Pet 1:4 – partakers of the divine nature.

WHAT ABOUT RITUAL (PHYSICAL) BAPTISM?

1. It is an ordinance illustrated and declared – e.g. the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:23); the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36-39); Paul (Acts 9:18); and Christ’s declaration in the great commission.[2]

2. Baptism declares humble submission and obedience, not merely a decision to trust Christ for one’s salvation. As was illustrated by Christ, being baptized was a fulfilment of righteousness – displaying humility in submission to the Father’s will (Matt 3:15).

3. Acts 22:16.. arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins. Does not the blood of Christ wash away sin? Yes! Then what would remain that a Christian may be guilty of – forsaking pride and submitting to the authority of God and His will, as illustrated by Christ by an act of righteousness. It is a positive act of righteousness declaring the remaining issue of complete surrender – wash away the now dead sins forgiven and walk away in the newness of obedience!

4. A person is baptised into the Body of Christ solely through faith in Christ. Baptism has nothing to add to salvation and has nothing to do with confirmation, empowerment, and any such thing. It has only to do with one thing, surrender to the rule of God (a companion to accepting God’s gift of salvation).[3] I would hesitate to allow a Christian to serve the Lord in the Body when that individual is unwilling to humble himself in submission through the obedience of this one command – believe and be baptised. Resisting humble submission to the will of the Father through a very minor act of righteousness such as baptism reveals an unsurrendered heart. If a person would balk at this one simple act of obedience how much of an independent spirit would you think the person has? For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry (1 Sam 15:23a). A Believer who is not surrendered to the Lord has neither the strength nor resources to tackle spiritual realities of spiritual service of the Kingdom.

5. If a Believer resists baptism, when he comes to realise the need to do so, then, I have observed, he will not continue to grow in spiritual maturity (e.g. Ez 12:2; Ez 33:30-32). His behaviour may conform to religious activities but heart change is often missing (we do not mature beyond our last resistance to the Holy Spirit prompting of obedience).

6. I do not think baptism is an option when convenient. It needs to be undertaken soon when one is convicted of the need to show their obedient heart to God. As for young children being baptized: I think it is appropriate to baptize a child who knows he is saved and consciously wants to obey God (not man, church, or parental pressure). The key in judging a young person’s motive is to ask: Is the young person asking to be baptized to display righteous obedience to God? Baptism is not to be imposed or applied lightly, the person being baptized must be willing (uncoerced) and voluntarily committing to obedience.

7. IT IS MY DEEP CONVICTION THAT BAPTISM IS NOT A WITNESS TO THE CHURCH OF AN INDIVIDUAL’S DECISION FOR CHRIST, NOR A IS IT A TESTIMONY TO THE BODY OF HIS SALVATION! I BELIEVE IT IS THE INDIVIDUAL SHOWING HIS HEART OBEDIENCE TO GOD ALONE! Human witness may rejoice with the ritual but the person is being baptized before God, not man.

8. Immersion best displays humility and submission (I want to be sprinkled lightly so as not to mess my hair is a tepid response to obedience for example). Ps 133:2 expresses abundance, don’t spare, glory in the abundance, not like Joash who did not display a passion for all (2 Kings 13:15-19).

The bottom line: Is the person (child or otherwise) submitting himself to baptism to testify his heart felt need to show God surrender to His Lordship then that one should not be prevented. If there be any other reason for following through with baptism other than being motivated out of obedience, it is irrelevant in the eyes of God, though other people may be pleased or falsely comforted.

But there is another connection: Peter saw in the Flood a picture (type) of a Christian’s experience of baptism – 1 Peter 3:22. No matter what mode of baptism you may accept, it is certain that the early church practiced immersion. It is a picture of our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection. Many people today do not take baptism seriously, but it was a serious matter in the early church. Baptism meant a clean break with the past, and this could include separation from a convert’s family, friends, and job. Candidates for baptism were interrogated carefully, for their submission in baptism was a step of consecration, and not just an “initiation rite” to “join the church.”

(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright (c) 1989 by SP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.)

[1]

The etymological and hermeneutic understanding of the word ‘bapto’, the root of the word ‘baptizo’, and ‘baptizo’ use gives us invaluable insight as to its meaning. The English word is carried over from the Greek. The English equivalent could be to dip (bapto) and immerse (baptizo). The ‘immerse’ is the primary meaning of the word in the new testament. ‘Bapto’ is used only three times in the New Testament – Lk 16:24; Jn 13:26; Rev 19:13 – The first two instances contextually means to ‘dip’ which involves the two actions of putting in and drawing out. The reference in Revelation illustrates the secondary meaning – to dye or stain.

Good insight is derived from the Septuagint (Greek translation 200 years B.C.) where the accepted meaning of the word ‘baptizo’ translates five Hebrew words: 1. to affright (used once); 2. to come (used once); 3. to pierce (used once) 4. to dye (used three times); 5. to cleanse (sixteen times).

[2]though it could be considered that He referred to the spiritual aspect of ‘decisions’ of salvation rather than ritual baptism per se.

[3] some would question anyone who accepts salvation in Christ being possible without surrender to the Lordship of Christ too.

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