WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH BAPTISM?

Sometimes I’ve wondered.  I’ve been privy to a number of conversations with folks who aren’t “ready” to be baptized–with those who do not see “why” they need to be baptized.  And in the past few years, I’ve read many posts and comments regarding baptism.  I’ve followed conversations where folks get all worked up over the requirement of, get this, Southern Baptist churches expecting people to be baptized like the Savior by John to validate their fellowship with the Baptist faith which espouses baptism by immersion as one part of Christ’s biblical commands.  To be honest, that doesn’t baffle me much, given the fact that men must find something to argue about or they just wouldn’t be men.  I’m about to digress and chase a bunny:

Once when I entered a comment stream and asked why the men found such pleasure in arguing with one another, I was told that “Men were born contenders.”  From that bit of info I began to view the bulk of these arguments with a c’est la vie kind of resignation.

HOWEVER…

When I consider the act of baptism today, I am forced to wonder why so many folks and faiths have aversions to the practice of baptism by immersion.  Now, I’m sure if I did a bunch of research, read a bunch of history, went to college and seminary, and wrote a dissertation, that I’d find valid reasons (drought, no water, tradition, etc.), theological interpretations, and doctrinal views, to answer my question.  And if I ran a dozen or so polls and surveys from a wide dissection of people groups, I’d cully a great deal of excuses and rationale.  But, that’s not what I’m really wondering about.

I’m wondering why in the introduction of Jesus to the world, His very first action was baptism.  I’m wondering why, when Jesus came up out of the water, God Almighty, El Elyon, Most High, would take that specific moment in time to lend His literal booming Voice to bless Christ’s action with “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I’m well pleased.”  God the Creator, was no longer just the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; He was the Father of Jesus, Immanuel.  In my limited knowledge of scripture, I don’t recall God ever amplifying His pleasure of Jesus on any other occasion.  Not when He was twelve and dumbfounding the synagogue leaders.  Not when He overcame temptation in the desert.  Not when He chose His disciples.  Not when he taught His disciples.  Not when He preached the sermon on the Mount.  Not when He healed the sick, fed the thousands, raised Lazarus from the dead, made water into wine, reduced demons to a herd of beserk pigs, or stood before Pilate and died upon the cross.  Nope.  The time God chose to verbalize His approval of His only begotten Son was at His baptism.

I even let my pea brain wander backwards into the Old Testament and wonder why God used water as the first way He destroyed the earth.  I wonder why God saved the nation of Israel by parting the waters of the Red Sea then used the same waters to swallow up and drown those who’d dare chase after His chosen people.  I wonder why God chose to wipe out the leprosy of the king by making him humble himself and wash seven times in the Jordan.  I wonder why Elijah methodically stacked a pile of wood then drenched it with water and let it pool in the trench around the pile of lumber before he called down God’s fire from heaven to prove the absolute power of God over Baal to the heathens who worshiped a god of satan’s making.  I wonder why it took “much water” to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch.  I wonder why all the early Christians were baptized, without hesitation, upon confession of faith in Christ.

It’s fair to say that today, in a world of such sophistication and progressive intellectual modernism that some may view baptism with as much disdain as the leprous ruler who balked at his servant girl’s advice to follow a prophet’s instruction.  It’s probably even fair to say that in a culture so pride-filled and beauty-focused that a hair-drenching, make-up ruining action would cause others to shy away from such public display of humiliation.  It may even cause the strongest of men to resist the idea of yielding himself to another man’s control (even if that man is of God) to be dipped into a pool of water and made vulnerable for the entire world to witness.  YET…

I stand amazed at how excited a child is to experience the opportunity with such openness, willingness, innocence, eagerness and joy.  How compelled they are to share the experience, invite all their family members (lost or saved) to the event, as if it were special.  How unintimidated they are to write it in their school biographies and voice it in “show and tell” for their classmates to hear.  And then I consider how the Savior said, “Unless you become as a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Perhaps the reasoning behind baptism is far more a heart-rendering than a body-rendering.  Perhaps the mystery of it all is deeper than a mere ordinance, a profession to the world of an inner confession, or joining with a group of like-minded Believers.  Perhaps the reason Jesus said to go, make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all things really carries greater significance than we will ever conceive.  Whatever God’s reasoning behind it, I cannot tell.  That, I simply accept as many things of God I accept yet don’t understand.  He is Sovereign.  And after all, since baptism mattered to Jesus, shouldn’t it matter to me?  selahV

SelahV

Comments

  1. says

    Wonderful selahV! You have captured the very thoughts that I have pondered and thought were missing in the deabte on baptism. In fact, you have captured the theological essence of the debate with the picture of God Huimself making the ONE TIME AND ONLY time to say”this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”.

    Obedience to God is the goal, motivation, and the only thing that counts! Even in Jesus is this picture clear and you have painted it well!

    Tim Gs last blog post..Hardball Religion – A Reluctant Review

  2. says

    Tim, That is a blessing to hear. It’s amazing how God manifested in the smallest of details makes the most profound statements to our faith, huh? I’ve always loved that thought. thanks for taking time to share. selahV

    selahVs last blog post..THE DAY AFTER A STORM

  3. David R. Brumbelow says

    SelahV,
    If Jesus humbled Himself, and submitted to baptism, how can we do otherwise? Very good thoughts and teaching on the significance of following our Lord’s command.
    David R. Brumbelow

  4. Dr. Paul Foltz says

    BAPTISM BY IMMERSION IS A TESTIMONY THAT ONE HAS RECEIVED jESUS’ DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION AS HIS SALVATION.
    IT IS A PROFESSION OF FAITH.
    THE BAPTISM THAT PUTS ONE INTO THE CHURCH IS THAT OF THE SPIRIT.

  5. says

    Dr. Foltz, and, do you agree, also, that baptism is a command of our Lord? And since you write “baptism by immersion is a ‘testimony’ that one has received Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as His salvation”, is there any other means by which there is a “testimony”? selahV

    selahVs last blog post.."…OH, THAT WE MIGHT SEE SOME GOOD!"

  6. Dr. Paul Foltz says

    selah Jesus was baptized, because a priest had to be washed and an0inted before
    he could enter the priestly office.
    Jesus is the only way to the father. and if he submitted to water baptism, so should we. Water baptism only gets you wet. but is the answer of a goood conscience towards God.

  7. says

    Baptism is one’s profession of faith in which the believer identifies himself/herself with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is an act of obedience. Going foward in a crusade or in church is not the profession; it is the act of submitting to the Lord’s command to be immersed. The original word as every one knows means “to dip or immerse.” The Greek has other words for sprinkling and pouring, and the term bapto or baptizo is never taken any other way until about the third century with the clinical baptism by pouring of Novatius in Rome. The Roman Catholic Church still has baptistries that were obviously built for immersion. And if there should be any doubt consider the Greeks who should know: They still immerse. There is a joy in submitting to the Lord’s will, in doing what He commands.

    Dr. James Willinghams last blog post..The Climax of the Reformation

  8. says

    Dr. Foltz, well, I’m sure glad my conscience is clear, aren’t you? I was baptized as a child and as an adult. Remember both times in detail. And both times I believed to be obeying God and testifying to the Lord. Odd, in a sense. Though the expression of faith as a child stands out so clearly, I also know that the Lordship of Christ in my life developed the fastest and deepest after the second time. Yet as a little girl and when growing up, if I did something that I knew was not right, I thought of that time I was baptized. What would one make of that in a spiritual sense? selahV

    selahVs last blog post.."…OH, THAT WE MIGHT SEE SOME GOOD!"

  9. says

    Dr. Willingham, I so appreciate your thoughtful input and explanation. Some folks could have written volumes in what you summed up so clearly for all in just a few words. That is very helpful for some of my readers who are following this post. Thank you. selahV

    selahVs last blog post.."…OH, THAT WE MIGHT SEE SOME GOOD!"

  10. says

    SelahV: Thank you for your comment. Dr. Foltz also mentioned somthing what is absolutely crucial and that is the act of the spirit baptizing us into the spiritual body of Christ. some will not be pleased to learn that I was once a Landmarker in my ecclesiology, but many Southern Baptists have held to that view (the local church is the only church an there is no universal spiritual body). I set out to prove the Landmark view by researching all 2000 yrs of church history only to prove the doctrine was wrong from the Bible. the text which brought me to the baptism by the spirit was and is I Cors.12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”. What helped me the most was to grasp the context of that statement. The “we” includes the Apostle Paul, the believers at Corinth, and “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (I Cors.1:2). Clearly, we who call upon Christ as our Lord today are included in Paul’s statement, along with the Apostle Paul and the believers at Corinth. It follows that we are incorporated into the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now let me hasten to add that Landmarkism has definitely one thing to say in its favor, namely, that it has clearly established the nature of the local visible church, that it is a democratic body, the government of the church is with the body under the headship of Christ. J. R. Graves work on Intercommunion provides one of the most helpful expositions of Acts. 19 that I have ever read. He makes a clear distinction between Ochlos (the mob) and the ecclesia of the Greek City State of Ephesus which was under the Roman Empire’s over all rule. K. Schmidt’s article on the ecclesia in Kittells suffers from the fact that he was not aware of Graves contribution. That is not to say that I approve of Graves’ pushing the matter of the local church to the extreme which he did. The doctrine of the church as apparently are all of the biblical doctrines is two-sided and apparently contradictory (The Universal Spiritual and Invisible Body and the Local, Visible, Democratic Body). These precepts constitute the doctrine of the Church and they enable one to be balanced, flexible, creative, and magnetic. Salvation which involves Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsiblity, the Trinity and Unity of God, the Immutability (Unchanging nature of God) and self-changing (I do not know how to put this but remember God is Spirit but from now on Jesus is linked to his human body, a mystery that cannot be explained and is not meant to be). Such ideas are meant to make us balanced and flexible as they set up a tension in our minds which we experience as enabling us to cope with any situation with the means appropriate to the situation. It was looking at the biblical truths as ideas and how they were meant to influence human behavior that led me to realize the genius of orthodoxy. The Bible is inspired by the omniscient God, and it reflects the depth of wisdom commensurate with that fact. We should expect, therefore, as we get the Divine teachings right, we shall become mature, attractive witnesses for our Lord and Savior. That does not mean perfection, but it does suggest a state of balance which will enable us to accomplish things for the Glory of Christ Jesus.

    Dr. James Willinghams last blog post..The Climax of the Reformation

  11. Dr. Paul Foltz says

    Selah The Spiritual sense is wheb you came up from the water you arose with Christ and entered into a new life, to walk with Him everyday in obedience to His Lordship.