Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Baptism According to Scripture

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  (Hebrews 6:1-2)

The third foundational principle listed in Hebrews chapter 6 is the doctrine of baptisms.  Note that baptisms is plural; not singular.  This means the complete doctrine of the Christian faith includes more than one baptism.  To be exact, there are 4 baptisms mentioned in the new testament: 
  • Christ's baptism of suffering
  • The baptism of John
  • Baptism by water
  • Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The word "baptize" used in the Bible means to entirely immerse or submerge in something.

One of the baptisms mentioned in the New Testament is called the baptism of suffering.  This baptism is spoken of by Jesus:

But I have a baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened till it be accomplished. (Luke 12:50)

This baptism is also mentioned in the gospel of Mark where the sons of Zebedee asked for the honor of sitting with Christ on His right and left sides in Heaven. Jesus answered:

"Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"  (Mark 10:38)

Jesus was speaking of the suffering awaiting Him through His death for the sins of all mankind. He was to be immersed in suffering, buried in the tomb, and resurrected in a new body.

Peter also made it perfectly plan that in our relationship with Jesus, there will be suffering:

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;  1 Peter 4:1

The baptism of John the Baptist was baptism in water connected with the message of  repentance. John the Baptist was born miraculously to Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1).  God had a special plan for his life. He was to serve as the "forerunner" of Jesus Christ:

For thou child shalt be called the prophet of the highest for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.  (Luke 1:76-7)

John was the one who was to go before and prepare the way for Jesus. John was to preach the message of repentance and baptism to Israel to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ:

I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I...He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. (Matthew 3:11)

The ministry of John the Baptist was the beginning of a new spiritual age:

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16)

Before the time of John the people lived under the law. Prophets and priests served as spiritual leaders and interpreters of the law. Only the priests had access to the presence of God in the temple. They served as mediators between the people and God and offered sacrifices for sin as God had commanded. This all changed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made access to God possible for all men. Jesus now serves as the mediator between sinful man and a righteous God. 

John made two demands on the people: Repentance and public confession of sins. Those who were willing to meet these God-given requirements were baptized in the Jordan River as a public testimony. It was an outward sign that they had repented of their sins.  When some of the religious leaders came to John to be baptized, he refused to do it. He demanded that they show evidence of real change in their lives before he would baptize them:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. (Matthew 3:7-8)

Repentance and remission of sins were required by John before he would baptize. The phrase "baptism unto repentance and remission of sins" does not mean that these two experiences followed the act of being baptized in water. Baptism was a visible confirmation that those being baptized had already experienced repentance and forgiveness.

The passage which best introduces "water baptism" describes the baptism of Jesus:

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to be baptized of him.  But John forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?  And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered Him.  And Jesus, when He was baptized went up straightway out of the water:  and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him:  And lo a voice from Heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:13-17)

Jesus was not baptized by John as evidence that He had repented of sin because He had no sins for which to repent. Jesus was baptized to "complete all righteousness.”

And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness
(Matthew 3:15)

He was setting a righteous example of behavior which He wanted all believers to follow.

When Jesus was baptized He went down into and then came up out of the water. Considering this and the Biblical meaning of the word "baptize", we must conclude He was fully immersed in the waters of Jordan.

And Jesus, when He was baptized went up straightway out of the water:
 (Matthew 3:16)

In allowing Himself to be baptized, Jesus showed outward obedience to the will of God.  Through this act of obedience He fulfilled the plan of God. When believers are baptized, this outward act symbolizes the inward righteousness which they have received by faith.

There were spiritual conditions to be met by those who sought baptism from John. There are also requirements to be met by those seeking baptism today.

The  1st condition for baptism was given by Jesus:

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... (Matthew 28:19-20)

Christ's command to teach new believers is given twice. They are to be taught before and after baptism. Sinners must first hear and receive the Gospel to become true believers:

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized. (Acts 2:41)

When they heard this, they were baptized... (Acts 19:5)

A certain woman named Lydia...attended unto the things that were spoken of Paul...and she was baptized. (Acts 16:14-15)

Before baptism, believers should receive enough teaching to understand its meaning.  After baptism, they should continue to receive instruction in order to become mature Christians. Paul calls this "going on to perfection" (Hebrews 6).

The 2nd condition for baptism is repentance from sin. Peter stressed this during his sermon on the day of Pentecost:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:37-38)

Note that conviction of sins is not enough. Action must be taken. The two commands Peter gave were repent and be baptized. Repentance comes before baptism.

The 3rd condition for baptism is believing [faith]:

And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

This requirement of believing is illustrated by the account of Philip and the Ethiopian man who he met on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8). Philip heard the Ethiopian read from the book of Isaiah. He joined him in his chariot to explain the Gospel. As they continued on their journey the road led past water. Upon the Ethiopian's request and his confession of faith, Philip baptized him:

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?  And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  And He commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.  (Acts 8:36-38)

A person who desires baptism first must confess to faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

The 4th  condition for baptism is a good conscience toward God:

Peter compares baptism in water to the experience of Noah and his family who were saved from judgment as they entered into the ark:

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.  The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us [not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 3:20-21)

Peter dismisses any idea that the purpose of baptism is any kind of cleansing of the physical body. He says the condition of baptism is the inner relationship of the believer's heart toward God. He calls it "a good conscience toward God."

A person must receive proper instruction, repent, believe, and have a good conscience toward God. The length of time it takes to meet these requirements will differ depending on the individual.   The Bible says that on the day of Pentecost three thousand people were baptized. A few hours before they were unbelievers who rejected Jesus to be either the Messiah of Israel or the Son of God. From the end of Peter's sermon to their baptism, the time required to give necessary instruction could not have exceeded a few hours:

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)

Philip baptized the Ethiopian the same day he preached the Gospel to him.

Baptism by water, fire and suffering is an inclusive part of our relationship with Jesus.

 (Biblical Studies)



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