POWERS AND PROCEDURES OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM.
DENOMINATIONS ARE TROUBLESOMELY OR IGNORANTLY PRESENTING THEIR HALF TRUTHS AND PREFERENCES AS WHOLE AND ONLY TRUTH.
While Denominations or even Christian families and individuals are free and have rights about their choice of particular baptismal modes and modalities (since one cannot do more than one mode at the same time), yet none has the freedom and right to contradict, condemn or contemn any other varieties and possibilities which the Scriptures have revealed for baptism. The Scriptures used many symbolisms for Baptismal initiation and dedication, therefore it is not true that any particular baptismal mode or modality preferred by any Church denomination today is spiritually superior or more scriptural. It is however advisable that in interdenominational settings, the most agreeable mode and modality be used.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
(10) Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
(11) For it has been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them who are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
(12) Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
(13) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
As we shall see, the Scriptures show that the POWER OF BAPTISM does not depend on the age of the baptised, the depth and amount of water or extent and thoroughness of the bathe. The power of baptism depends primarily on God’s PROMISE for the New Covenant in Christ, and Christ’s COMMISSION to the Church and our FAITH and OBEDIENCE in Christ.
The following Excerpts are adapted from the booklet Christian Baptism by Ifechukwu U. Ibeme. (See http://www.scribd.com/doc/9637215/Christian-Baptism)
THE MATTER IN CHRISTIAN BAPTISM: NOT PREFERRED MODE BUT SPIRITUAL BLESSING
From the discussion in Chapter 1 of the said booklet, “Christian Baptism” on the contextual use of Baptism in the Scriptures, we learn that the Scriptures never used the phrase “baptise INTO WATER” but rather “baptise INTO CHRIST with water”.
We can therefore now understand why:
St. Paul speaks of Baptism as a:
(1) Washing of water with the Word (Eph. 5:26);
(2) Washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5);
(3) Incorporation into Christ’s Body by drinking of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:13);
and St. Peter added the description:
(4) Pledging of good conscience towards God (not merely the washing of bodily dirt) (1 Pet. 3:21);
(5) Likened to being saved from the flood into `The Ark’ (i.e. `The Risen Christ’). 1Pet. 3:20-21.
and from St. Luke we understand Baptism as:
(6) Means whereby believers were added to the Church (Acts 2:41; 5:14).
(7) Washing sins away by calling on God’s name (Acts 22:16).
The teachings of the Scripture, on the whole, show that Water Baptism, does not save yet it is not an empty symbol just as prayers, ministrations and such programmes of the Church do not save nor are yet empty. Certainly, as a rite instituted by Christ Water Baptism has powerful benefit or spiritual blessing and grace of purification, initiation and dedication for the disciple’s strengthening towards participation in, and identification with the New Covenant community of Christ.
The symbolic meanings of Christian Baptism are several in the Scriptures.
Most of these several symbolisms seem to respect or take sides with much of our dramatic modal concepts of Baptism by water burial, putting down and immersion as commonly peddled today. For instance, the Scripture talks of Baptism as symbolising the following:
(1) Death (to sin), burial (with Christ) and resurrection (to new life) Col. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:3,6.
(2) Circumcision without bands. Col. 2:11-12.
(3) Putting-off of the old man Col. 2:11-12.
(4) Quickening with the Spirit. Col. 2:13.
(5) Putting-on of Christ. Gal. 3:27.
(6) Regeneration (New Birth) washing with water and renewal with the Sprit Jn. 3:5; Tit. 3:5.
(7) Pledge of good conscience towards God. 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 26:18.
(8) Washing away of sin Act 22:16; Eph 5:26; 1Pet 3:21.
Note that all these meanings are to be reckoned and appropriated inwardly and spiritually by faith, not acted out dramatically in Baptismal modes.
The Anabaptists’ contention is not plausible on scriptural grounds. The first error of the Anabaptists is that of re-baptism (ana-baptism) for those who have already been baptised (as infants or by non-immersion modes). They Anabaptists brought division and contention into the baptismal unity of the Church, diverting the purpose and meaning of baptism:
(1) from INTO Christ to INTO water;
(2) from cleansing (washing) to dipping (immersion);
(3) from covenant initiation symbol to congratulatory maturation symbol;
(4) from baptizo to bapto;
(5) from means of God’s grace to means of man’s witness;
(6) from seal of God’s regeneration (for adults and their children) to seal of man’s confession (for adults only).
Further than these, they [the Anabaptists] have denied the humanity and dignity of children of disciples whom Christ required they be welcomed as believers in Him too, with a warning in Matt 18:1-7!
According to divine wisdom, revealed in the Scripture infants belonging to disciples are numbered among the images of God, among humans and among citizens of nations, who as sinners need Christ as Saviour. Can anyone deny these facts? Discretion is a social measurement but the Divine Lord measures faith, repentance and grace spiritually.
No one is saved by human abilities of discretion and immersion but by God’s gifts of faith in Christ, grace of Christ, regeneration in Christ, cleansing by Christ, repentance and incorporation into Christ.
BY WHAT MODE THEN SHOULD WE BAPTISE?
We know that water was used for Ritual Sacramental Baptism (Acts 8:36; 10:47; Matt. 3:6; Jn. 3:23; I Pet. 3:20 – 21) but nowhere in the Scriptures are we told exactly how this water was or must be applied. Attempts to use bapto and baptizo to establish this are futile as the Scripture is not helpful in this direction.
The closest, most detailed description of baptism in Scripture is Acts 8:36. But the “going down into the water” by both Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch was clearly distinguished from the “baptism” of only the Eunuch subsequently. The “going up from water” by both men was clearly after the “baptism” of only the Eunuch had finished. Same was the case of Christ, who after being baptised came out of the water and was praying, at which time the Holy Spirit then descended on Him. (Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21).
Nevertheless, there are ample instances where the Scripture refers to various modes of applying water/Holy Spirit for baptismal cleansing/initiation and similar ritual purposes. These include the following:
(a) Used when referring to Christ’s Baptism into suffering, blood and death. Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 10:38, 39; Lk. 12:50.
(b) Used in describing the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. John 4:10, 13:13; 7:37 – 39; I Cor. 12:13.
(a) Commanded in the Law (Num. 19:13 – 18).
(b) Predicted by the Prophets (Ezek. 36:25).
(c) Fulfilled in Christ (Heb. 9:13,14).
(d) Preached by the Apostles (Heb. 10:22).
3. WASHING (OF PART OF THE BODY John 13:8-10)
(a) As done in other ceremonial purification (John 3:22-26; Exd. 30:18-20; Lev. 8:6; Ps. 51:7; John 13:5-11).
(b) With water in a river (John 1:26-28).
(c) With water from a water pot (John 2:6).
(d) With water from other containers (Exd. 30:17-21).
(e) A very common descriptive word for baptism used in the Scriptures (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 10:22).
(a) Used by God in the Holy Spirit Baptism (Ezek. 36:27; Acts 2:17; 10:45; I Cor. 12:13).
(b) Most likely mode used at house baptisms (Acts 9:18; 10:47, 48; 16:33; 19:5) and at mass baptisms (Acts 2:41; and 4:4).
(c) Seems to be similar to FALLING by the Holy Spirit UPON the believer at Spirit Baptism (Acts 1:8; 2:3; 10:44).
(d) One of the likely modes at river baptisms (Acts 8:36-38).
(e) Poured out for drinking! (1Cor 12:13).
(f) Sometimes practiced by some early Churches in crypt/surface baptisms (e.g. Didache Chapter VII).
(a) Derived from the meaning of the Greek root-word “bapto” which means “to dip momentarily” as well as “to dye into a new colour”.
But we have already seen that the Scripture never used bapto to describe Baptism, nor used baptizo as being INTO water, rather it used baptizo as being done INTO Christ or His Name.
Also it must be noted the
(b) Appears to be probably figured in Rom. 6:4 and Col.2: 12 (However see 1 Cor. 10:1,2; I Pet. 3:20; Mk. 7:4 where baptizo could never mean immersion).
(c) One of the likely modes at river baptisms (Acts 8:36-38)
(d) Sometimes practiced by some early Churches in river/pond baptisms (e.g. Didache Chapter VII).
Though Peter preferred that Jesus would wash his whole body, yet Jesus did not hesitate to teach him that such preferences have no spiritual advantage. Purification and incorporation into Christ with water does not depend on the amount of water or extent of its application (John 13:8-10), but on our attitude towards God and the gracious efficacy of Christ’s work before God (I Pet.3: 21-22).
As the power of the anointing oil does not depend on the quantity of oil, so it is with the baptismal water, our preference for immersion does not in any way invalidate nor supersede other non-immersion modes.
THE GREEK WORD “BAPTIZO”, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
In classical secular Greek literature, baptizo conveys the sense of an “overwhelming influence” by the receptive element into which an object is baptised. For example:
1. A sunken ship is said to be baptised into the sea.
2. A drowned man is said to be baptised into the river.
3. A drugged man is said to be baptised into the opiate drug.
4. A drunken man is said to be baptised into wine.
The import of baptizo in all these is “overwhelm” not “whelm over”, “overpower” not “cover over”. Even when the overwhelming substance is put into the man (e.g. opiates and wine), the man is still said to be baptised into the substance without necessarily meaning dipping or immersion. Paul tended to imply this in 1Cor. 12:13:
“We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body … given the one Spirit to drink.”
In the Scripture, there are two pre-figured types of baptism:
(1) The Baptism of Noah: in which Noah and his household sailed on the flood and may have been sprinkled by the rain and were saved due to Noah’s righteousness (Gen. 7:1). It was those who were immersed into the flood that perished! (1 Pet. 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 3:6; Gen.7:11-23). Also note that it was specifically because of Noah’s faith and righteousness that he and his household were saved (Gen. 7:1; Heb. 11:7).
(2) The Exodus Baptism into Moses: in which the Israelites (including infants) walked on the seabed of the Red Sea following the pillar of cloud and fire in front of them and were delivered. Again, it was the Egyptians who were immersed into the Red Sea that perished! (1 Cor. 10:1-2; Exd. 14:28-29). Also note that Moses was once delivered as an infant by being put on (not into) the same Red Sea (Gen. 2:1-10).
Before baptism was used by John and Christ for initiation into discipleship, Jewish water cleansing rituals as done in washing of hands and feet as well as washing of utensils and cleansing of household furniture were referred to by the Scripture with the words `baptismos’ and `baptizo’ (Mark 7:4), even washing of hands before meals (Luke 11:38) and other washing or cleansing rituals (Heb. 9:10).These washings and cleansings which did not involve immersion were called baptisms because they were meant to cleanse and purify. When Jesus turned water into wine in Cana, this was with pots used to store water for such Jewish purifications/baptisms (John. 2:6), showing that baptism and purification was not always by immersion into rivers.
We may believe and argue with our Gentile minds that baptism is best done by immersion. But we must admit that the Bible nowhere used immersion into water for baptism nor used baptism for immersion into water anywhere.
It may be surprising that in fact the contrast is the case. Baptism for the writers of the Scriptures means WASHING, pouring and cleaning not immersion. For instance:
(38) And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed(BAPTIZED) before dinner.
(4) And when they come from the market, except they wash(BAPTIZE), they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing(BAPTISING) of cups, and pots, bronze vessels, and of tables.
Therefore Baptism does not consist in immersion but in experiencing a transforming and purifying grace. Is it any wonder then that the Scripture speaks of Baptism INTO Christ (and NOT into Water)? So it is a process whereby one is subjected to the overwhelming purifying influence of Christ (not water influence!), whereby one is dedicated to Christ (not to water!). Besides, the foregoing tends to show that water immersion in the Scripture means perishing rather than cleansing or covenanting. We can therefore confidently say that water immersion, sprinkling, pouring, washing or even drinking are of no competitive or conflicting consequence as regards the meaning, efficacy or validity of Christian Baptism (1 Peter 3:21).
AND WHO SHOULD WE BAPTISE?
According to the Scriptures, baptism belongs to every Believing disciples and their children as Peter declared to Jews on Pentecost day (Acts: 2:38-41), or to every Christian disciples and their household as Paul and Silas declared to Gentiles and practiced during their missionary ministry (Acts 16:14-15, 30-34; 1Cor. 1:14-16). Therefore the Church should baptise:
1. Citizens of all nations without distinction, to whom the Gospel has been preached (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 20:21).
2. Those who give regenerate response to the Gospel i.e. repentance, faith and coming for baptism (Acts: 2:31-41).
3. These citizens of all nations who respond to the Gospel may be INDIVIDUALS or HOUSEHOLDS (Acts 16:14-15; 1Cor. 1:14-16).
Baptism is a necessary accompaniment of faith for all believers and their dependent households as soon as possible (Act 2:38-41; 16:14-15, 30-34). By faith one is converted or committed to Christ, but by Baptism one is regenerated or covenanted unto Christ and His Church. Christian Covenant Baptism, as a Sacramental Ritual, ought to be received by all Christians in order:
- To be admitted/initiated into or added to the Church of the New Covenant (Acts 2:41).
- To receive the New Testament graces of sin- removal and Spirit-bestowal (Acts 2:38,39)
- To seal the Newbirth (Acts 3:5′ 10:47- 48).
- To symbolise what the Holy Spirit has actualised. (I Cor. 12:13; Acts 10:47)
- To fulfil the Great Commission as instituted by Christ Himself (Matt. 28: 18 -20 Luke. 24: 44 – 43).
Some modern Churches have come up with the thinking that children in Acts: 2:38-41and household in Acts 16:14-15, 30-34 and 1Cor. 1:14-16 cannot include little children because they suppose little children are neither able to believe nor are worthy to be called believers. This modern Gentile surmising had long been proved to be both wrong and dangerous by Christ’s declaration and warning in Mat 18:1-14 that children of disciples are reckoned by Him as believers who aregreat in His Kingdom and St Paul’s teaching in 1Cor 7:14 that children of believers are clean and holy and in 2Tim 1:5 that they even carry the faith of their believing parents.
(1) At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
(2) Calling a little child forward, he had him stand among them.
(3) Then he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
(4) Therefore, whoever humbles himself AS THIS LITTLE CHILD is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,
(5) AND WHOEVER RECEIVES A LITTLE CHILD LIKE THIS IN MY NAME RECEIVES ME.”
(6) “If anyone causes ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES WHO BELIEVE IN ME to sin, it would be better for him if a large millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned at the bottom of the sea.
(7) How terrible it will be for the world because it causes people to sin! Temptations to sin are bound to happen, but how terrible it will be for that person who causes someone to sin!
(8) “So if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life injured or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.
(9) And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell fire.
(10) “See to it that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you, their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
(11) For the Son of Man came to save the lost.”
(12) “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, he leaves the ninety-nine in the hills and goes to look for the one that has strayed, doesn’t he?
(13) If he finds it, truly I tell you that he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that haven’t strayed.
(14) In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”
DENOMINATIONS ARE TROUBLESOMELY OR IGNORANTLY PRESENTING THEIR HALF TRUTHS AND PREFERENCES AS WHOLE AND ONLY TRUTH.
This dangerous Gentile game should stop.