Saturday, June 22, 2013

Physical Baptism versus Spiritual

Baptism from a Slightly Different Perspective.

I recently found myself in a debate with two men, one a member of the Southern Baptist persuasion, and I was somewhat shocked to discover how similar their arguments and rationale style matched the methodology of the cults. Dire warnings were dished out should one fail to undergo baptism or meet with others of like mind in a church corporate setting, even though they prefaced these things with the mandatory, “they are not really required for salvation”.

Like the sabbath to sabbatarians, baptism is the distinctive of choice for the Baptists. And, like the sabbatarians, they hold to their distinctive with a rabid and fierce dedication. During our brief encounter, Matthew 28:19-20 was cited as their proof text for teaching and insisting people be baptized in water before they are fully fledged members in good standing within the Baptist world.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

To their way of thinking, to neglect to put people under the water is to neglect a command of Christ’s directed to the church.

I have no doubt that Jesus worded what He said here in such a way knowing full well people would interpret this to mean water baptism.

Three baptisms are touched on in the NT Scriptures: a baptism into water, a baptism into or by the Holy Spirit, and a baptism of or into fire.

Note in the passage cited above and used as a proof text by the Baptists that there is no mention of water. It is implied. It is assumed.

I had a discussion about this very thing with a Baptist minister a few years ago, and painted this scenario. A person who perhaps does not have a real grasp of the gospel undergoes baptism in water and is now accepted in full membership within the Baptist church and allowed to partake of the Eucharist as a result, and another comes in who has a full grasp and understanding of the gospel who has been baptized by/into the Holy Spirit, but has not been baptized with water. This one is not allowed to participate in the Eucharist, who is one who actually belongs to God, whereas the other who does participate in the Eucharist does not belong to Christ, and is in fact a tare.

The suggested “solution” was typical and unsurprising. The one with the Holy Spirit should undergo water baptism. That solution solves nothing when it comes to the spiritual understanding of an entire denomination.

Shall we apply a little further critical thinking to the matter by carefully examining the concluding statement found in the book of Matthew?

What I glean from the Baptist perspective is that they see a command from Christ to “get people wet” to be of greater importance than preaching the gospel. The primary focus and aim is to increase the numbers of Baptists. Those of you with a background in Armstrongism will recognize this methodology and practice immediately. The average Baptist at this point who might read this is probably scratching his head in bewilderment.

What happens when a person hears the message of the true gospel, according to Scripture? The answer is in Acts chapter 10. There is a “baptism” as a result. Into water? No, into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. ― John 14:23

So, which makes more sense to the reader? Jesus was admonishing His followers, His disciples, to go into the world teaching/preaching and baptizing “believers” in water, with a somewhat vague regard to what was to be taught and preached, or to go out into the world, teaching and preaching the gospel, resulting in people being baptized into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I would point out here that the narrative in Mark 1:9 regarding Jesus’ baptism in water states:

And it came about during those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized in the Jordan by John. ― Transline Translation.

“In” here can be translated “into”. Jesus was baptized “into” the water of the Jordan.

I am not advocating any abandonment of water baptism. I merely question the motive of the person or church that demands it. Christianity was supposed to be a religion that divested itself of legalism; a “letter of the law” religion based on “do this” and “don’t do that.” To claim one MUST undergo water baptism is to subordinate the gospel.

One might be tempted to argue Jesus underwent baptism in water, and claim we are to follow His example. Why though did Jesus have John baptize Him? The Pharisees were the ones who began the practice of having gentile converts to Judaism undergo a witnessed baptism or washing because of their former lives being cut off from God and sinners. John was instructed by God to baptize Jews – the implication being they too were sinners, just like the gentiles; something that didn't sit well with those Pharisees. For more on this aspect of baptism, you can go to the Living God Ministries of Aaron Budjen online and listen to his series on the subject.

My Baptist antagonist also brought up the laying on of hands in relation to receiving the Holy Spirit. My reply to him that prior to Acts chapter 6, Jews were receiving the Holy Spirit without regard to this.

I’m very uncomfortable now when people insist on the observance of physical things/rituals. They might as well advocate ministers wearing robes with little white stars on them and that they wave and stab in the air with a stick or wand while reciting various incantations. There is nothing magical about water baptism or laying on of hands. We can focus on these physical things, or we can look at the bigger, spiritual picture.

************ It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11 ************


Jonah said...

I totally agree!
I'm coming to see that the "magical" ritual that Armstrong taught ie undergo water baptism & laying on of hands & you'll receive the Holy Spirit is wrong as it is ritualistic & leads to the same "fruit" that was exhibited by the Jewish Christians who demanded circumcision! We see this in the ACOGs who look upon those baptized according to HWA's formula as "converted" while everyone else is "unconverted"! Yet, HWA was baptized by a Sunday observing Baptist minister without laying on of hands!
Further the Greek word translated baptism basically means "immersion". So as Christians we're meant to be immersed in Christ & His Body thru His Word, which like water cleanses us (Eph 5:26; Jn 15:3). Even Paul asserted he hadn't been commisioned to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1 Cor 1:17).. Thus we're identified with Him (Eph 2:6). So just like we were once "in Adam" & must suffer death for "all in Adam die" we are now "in Christ" the 2nd Adam who imparts His Spirit of Life to us according to our faith (Eph 1:13) & will "live again" (1 Cor 15:22; Rom 5:19). So as Christ said, "Because I live, you also will live!" (Jn 14:19). So I believe that many times we seem to insert our own modern day preconceived notions into the word "baptize" & automatically think water baptism. Yet, if it were translated "immersion" or "immersed" the water element would be diminished if not altogether vanish in peoples minds. In any event I believe that there is a vast difference between water baptism as John performed & is followed to this day & the baptism with Holy Spirit as taught by Christ & His disciples (Acts 1:5; 11:16). Like the example you gave many true Xians are denied the right of fellowship or partaking in the Lord's Supper because they haven't undergone water baptism & yet bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit while others have been baptized into water, share in the bread & wine & yet are more carnal minded proving the ritual is nothing more than superficial.

Gary said...

Maybe the Infant Baptism debate has been approached from the wrong direction. Instead of starting with our disagreements, let's start with what Baptists/evangelicals and orthodox Christians AGREE upon: All persons who believe and have faith in Christ as their Savior should follow his command and be baptized as soon as possible. Agreed?

So the next question is: Can an infant believe and have faith?

Evangelical and Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ: If I can prove to you from Scripture that infants not only can but DO believe and have faith, would you accept infant baptism as Scriptural?