MUSINGS OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF THE ORGANIZED CHURCH
Water baptism is best described as an outward sign of an inward cleansing. In the early church, baptism was the Christian's initial confession of faith in Jesus. It was limited to believers and was by immersion. It was done with little delay after one's conversion. (Acts 16:14-15; 16:30-33; 2:41; 8:12, 35-37).
Today there are churches who baptize infants. There is no support of infant baptism in any Scripture. This is, therefore, something we ought not do. Salvation is a personal experience and children must become old enough to accept salvation before they are commanded to be baptized. Scriptures demand and teach faith and repentance as necessary before baptism, and this no child can do until he/she is old enough to understand what sin is and what to do to be saved. An infant cannot confess Jesus as Savior. An infant cannot repent of his/her sins. An infant cannot make the choice to be baptized nor can he/she understand what it's all about.
Scriptures teach baptism is by immersion. The Greek word for “baptize”, “baptidzo” which is is derived from the word “bapto”, means to dip, to sink, plunge, immerse, submerge and cover wholly with the element (water) used in baptism. The Greek word “baptidzo” never means to sprinkle or pour. Every passage of Scripture where this word in used, in the New Testament, either requires or allows the meaning of “immerse”. Scriptural Examples: Jesus - “In the Jordan” (Matthew 3:6), ”In the River Jordan” (Mark 1:5); "Went straightway out of the water"; Philip and the Eunuch “went down both into the water” and came “Up out of the water (Acts 3:38-39).
In the early church baptism was both an act of faith as well as an expression of faith. We don't put much emphasis on water baptism today. When did this change?
In the second century some influential Christians began teaching that baptism must be preceded by a time of instruction, prayer and fasting. This became worse in the third century when converts had to wait three years before they could be baptized. During this three year period their lives were scrutinized with a fine tooth comb. They had to show themselves worthy to be baptized by their conduct. At that point baptism had become an act based on works rather than faith.
The disciples were to baptize people because baptism unites believers with Jesus Christ in their death to sin and resurrection to new life. Baptism symbolizes submission to Jesus, a willingness to live God's way, and identification with God's covenant people.
Water baptism is a step of obedience to the command of Jesus. It signifies the outward cleansing of the inward man. We follow the example of Jesus, Himself, in baptism. Baptism symbolizes the death and burial of the old man (nature), and the resurrection of the new man (II Cor. 5:17; Romans 6:4-5).
Again, in the early church, immersion was the recognized mode of baptism. The early church understood baptism to symbolize the death and burial of the old way of life. Coming up out of the water symbolized resurrection to a new life with Christ. If we think of our old, sinful life as dead and buried, we have a powerful motive to resist sin. We can consciously choose to treat the desires and temptations of the old nature if they were dead. We can then continue to enjoy our wonderful new life in Jesus.
If you're a Christian and you've not yet been baptized, I want to encourage you to take that step in your Christian life. It's an important step to take. It makes a powerful statement in your Christian walk.
Until next time, enjoy the journey!
This blog post is another in a series looking at the practices of churches today and how they line up with the New Testament. Perhaps this series could be better called, "Kicking Over Sacred Cows". For further reading and research, I recommend the book "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.
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