FAQ #32 What is the meaning of baptism?

What is the meaning of baptism?

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Matthew 3:3

“For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias (see it’s also in Isaiah. I took you back to Malachi but Isaiah also speaks of John the Baptist) saying, `The voice of one crying in the wilderness, `Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” You know all about John, so now I would like for you to come quickly down to verse 6:

Matthew 3:6

“And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.”

Think for a moment. Can you think of any other subject in Christianity that will cause more controversy, more anger, more disruption of fellowship and more everything else that you can think of, than baptism? Oh, I’ve experienced it over and over. I see people who seemingly have real sweet fellowship until all of a sudden they realize they didn’t agree on baptism and then, oops, there goes their friendship. Now there’s something wrong when something can cause such division amongst believers. And I guess I’d have to say it’s because we have so many different views of this baptism. Some feel that it’s mandatory for salvation. Some, that it has nothing to do with salvation. Some in sprinkling, some in immersion. So you have all of these conflicting ideas, and I think it’s a pity.

Now we are going to see what the Scripture says. But here, John no doubt about it, maintains that if these Jews of Israel are going to show saving faith in the fact that their King and Kingdom is here, then they would have to show it with the baptism of repentance. And that is why it is always called the “Baptism of Repentance.” The two could not be separated. These Jews were repenting then of their failure of the system of law, and everything else. They were now preparing their hearts and minds for the King and His Kingdom. I have a question for you. Why baptism? That throws a curve at almost everyone. Now remember that we are dealing with the Jew, and if you go back to the Old Testament economy, in order for the priest to be prepared for service the first thing they had to do was wash, wash, and wash some more. They had lots of practice at washing. Throughout the whole system of the Law of Moses there was that constant washing to show to the very mind of Israel that sin was a filthy thing. This is what we are dealing with here. Sin!

That is why leprosy is used as a picture of sin. Now most of us don’t know how horrible a man with leprosy can look, especially in the final stages. It is beyond comprehension. And that’s what sin does. Naaman, the Syrian General, had leprosy and the servant just begged him to go to the prophet of Israel and be healed. So he ends up with Elisha, and the old prophet doesn’t even come but rather sends his own servant out, and tells this big Syrian General to do what? Go dip in the Jordan River seven times. Well he finally did, and what happened? He was healed of his leprosy. Now the water didn’t do it. God did it because Naaman, as reluctant as he was, was still exercising faith. But that dipping in the Jordan River indicated a cleansing. In the same way, the priesthood with their wash, wash, wash, were merely emphasizing their need for a spiritual cleansing. The water in no way could do that. Remember, we looked at Scripture a couple of lessons back where Israel was told that every Jew was to be a priest of God. What little rite had to happen before they would be ready for a priesthood? They had to be washed. And they experienced that symbolic washing with their baptism. Now that is all you can put on it. Nothing more!

I guess one of the biggest questions has been, “Why was Jesus baptized? He didn’t have any sin to repent of.” But again, He came to be a prophet, priest, and King, and in order to fulfill all of the requirements of the priesthood again, symbolically what did He have to experience? The washing. So as He went down into that baptism in the Jordan, he symbolically fulfilled the washing of the priesthood, and at the same time He identifies Himself with His Covenant people the Nation of Israel. Do you see how everything just fits so beautifully together? There is a reason for it, but we have to understand it.

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I Corinthians 12:12,13

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

Now, does the Holy Spirit baptize with water? No! So, this is not talking about water baptism, yet nearly every Christian group will not accept a person for membership without water baptism. Do you really believe that every member in your congregation is a born again child of God? Of course not! We are all members of congregations where there are unbelievers who have been baptized under whatever form of baptism their particular group uses. There are still people coming into every group who are totally unsaved; they’re baptized and they are members there, but they are not members of the Body of Christ. There will be no unbelievers in the Body of Christ because that’s the work of the Holy Spirit – to immediately place or baptize them into the Body of Christ. The reason Paul uses this analogy of the human body is that some believers’ roles are no more that that of a little pinkie finger. Some may even have the role of a little toe, which most people never see. Others may be in more visible roles, but every one of us, regardless of where God has placed us in the Body, has a function in that Body, be it small or great.

We’ll get back to Romans 8 in moment, but here in I Corinthians 12, it shows very clearly what God expects of His children. Here, Paul mentions the gifts that really amount to something; the very gifts Christ uses, by an act of the Holy Spirit, to search the heart. The Holy Spirit will never place an unbeliever into the Body of Christ. None of us can examine someone else close enough to screen him from the membership in our local church. We can’t do it, and we’re not supposed to. That’s why Jesus gave the illustration during His earthly ministry of the “tares and the wheat.” Years ago, when I was teaching in that concept of the tares and the wheat, an agronomist at the college brought in some tares and wheat. You couldn’t tell the difference, but one would never give a grain and the other would. It’s the same way in the church. We can’t judge and say, “That church member is not a child of God.” That’s not our job. But, we have to be aware that in the Body of Christ there are no false professors – only the genuine believer is in the Body of Christ, and that’s the only Christ there is.

So that’s the membership you’d better be sure of. Don’t worry about whether you are member of the biggest church in town or the smallest; just be sure you are a member of the Body of Christ, and remember the qualification: It’s for all! “For by one spirit we were baptized into one body!”

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Romans 6:4

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: (many people will disagree, but I’m convinced this is not a water baptism. Water baptism cannot do what Paul is talking about here.) that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

No baptism can give new life. Only the power of God can do that. So I am convinced, maybe contrary to the way I was taught in my earlier years, that this is Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks of this in I Corinthians Chapter 12. I hadn’t intended to do this but I feel the Spirit is leading this way for a reason, so let’s look at this verse. In Chapter 12 is what I consider the only valid baptism for us in this Age of Grace. And it’s a baptism that human hands cannot touch; it’s a baptism that a lost person can have no part in. In water baptism, we can never be sure of a person’s salvation.

I was brought up in a congregation where candidates for baptism were examined very thoroughly, yet I’ve come to the conclusion in my later years that there is no way a group of men, or pastors, can truly determine a person’s salvation. We can hear their testimony and come to some human conclusions, but we can never look on the heart. That is something that only God Himself can do.

I’ve told my class that I don’t think it will actually happen this way, but if it were, and we get to glory, we are suddenly going to realize that a lot of people are there we didn’t think would be. And there are going to be a lot of people not there that we thought should be. We probably won’t have that kind of knowledge, but just hypothetically if that were the case, we would be surprised and disappointed. But we can’t look on the heart, only the outward veneer to reach a conclusion. But that’s not the heart. This is where the Scripture says also “Judge not!” Consequently this is the baptism that Paul refers to here in verse 12:

I Corinthians 12:12,13

“For as the body (that is this human body. In other words from head to toe, we are controlled by one central nervous system, one mind, one brain) is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body (ten fingers and toes if we are normal): so also is Christ.”

And here Paul is referring to the Body of Christ. Now, verse 13, and this may shock some people, but again I’m not changing or twisting the wording, we are going to leave it exactly where it sits.

I Corinthians 12:13

“For by one Spirit (notice that Spirit is capitalized, so it is in reference to the Holy Spirit.) are we (and remember Paul always writes to believers. What’s the next word?) all (not just a favorite few, or a special elite, but how many? All But of course that’s according to God’s determination of who is a believer, whether weak or strong, spiritual or carnal) baptized into one body,” So reading the verse again:“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

Let me qualify the Body of Christ, which of course came on the scene in the New Testament, I think after Pentecost. Some people disagree with me, and that’s fine. But you search the Scriptures until you are sure you can prove me wrong. But I’m convinced that the Body of Christ didn’t necessarily begin at Pentecost, because Pentecost was strictly a Jewish holiday, with a Jewish message. When the Gospel of Grace begins to go out to both Jew and Gentile, especially at the church in Antioch, in Acts Chapter 11, where it says that the believers at Antioch were the first to be called Christians; this was about 10 years after Pentecost.

That’s where they were first called Christians. Not the Jewish believers in Jerusalem in those previous years. But when Gentiles started coming in by faith in the Gospel of the grace of God, they were now called Christians as the Scriptures says, so that’s where I feel the Body of Christ began when Paul begins to preach this message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. And by faith and faith alone without the Law. And as men and women began to believe that, then the Holy Spirit baptized, or placed them, into the Body of Christ, the Church. Now, I asked my class the other night, as I have over the years, as I don’t care what denomination you are a part of it doesn’t make any difference, the question is still valid: is every member on your church roll a genuine born again Christian? No. Remember we are not to judge, but we know for a fact that they are not all true believers. What about the unbeliever? Are they members of the Body of Christ? No, they can’t be. They are unsaved. Only the saved go into the Body of Christ. So this is where I get the premise, that the only baptism that really counts for eternity is this one. The one that places the true believer into the Body of Christ. Let’s also look quickly at Ephesians 4. Again, Paul writing to believers says:

Ephesians 4:4,5

“There is one body, (The Body of Christ) and one Spirit, (The Holy Spirit) even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” How many? ONE. Do you see that?

So you can have your name on as many church rolls as you wish. But unless you are in the Body of Christ you are doomed. The Scripture makes it so plain. But if you are a child of God, you are in the Body of Christ by virtue of the placing it there by the Holy Spirit, as Paul makes it so plain. And then as members of the Body of Christ, we all maintain our individuality, we all have unique place in that Body, and yet we are all what? ONE. That’s also why, when you walk into a room full of fellow believers, are you a stranger very long? No. I’ve experienced it and I know you have. I’ve had people from far off states come into my class, and on the way out they will say, “The minute I stepped into this room I felt at home” And that is as it should be, because when you are with fellow believers there is that oneness that any other group can never experience.

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Now this lesson will finish book 33, and I find that unreal. That means we’ve come to Tulsa 99 times to do these tapings of “Through The Bible.” Before we begin, let’s review where we ended our last lesson. Paul is writing to Gentile believers for the most part and says:

Galatians 3:26

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

And as I mentioned in the last lesson when Paul speaks of faith in Christ he’s speaking of that whole finished work of redemption, which is faith in His death, His shed blood, His burial, and His resurrection. Paul stresses constantly the power of His resurrection.

Galatians 3:27

“For as many of you as have been baptized into (your denomination?) Christ have put on Christ.”

Well that’s the way most people read it, isn’t it? Sure. You ask the average individual, how did you become a member of your Church? Well I was baptized into it! But you see that’s not what the Scriptures says. Here it says, “that you have been baptized into Christ.” Now there’s not a drop of water in this verse. It’s as dry as a bone, and to follow up with another verse come back to Romans chapter 6, and you have the same thing. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a guest preacher in one of our previous churches where we were members, and this preacher preached from Romans 6 and when he said there wasn’t a drop of water in this third verse we thought he was way out in left field. And at that time I was probably one of the strongest, but oh I can see now that he was 100 % right because there is no water in Romans chapter 6. Here it’s basically the same thing as what Paul is saying in Galatians chapter 3.

Romans 6:3

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into (not into a denomination or church, but rather into) Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”

If you’ve been placed in Christ then before you can get there you had to be identified with His death. And how have I always put it? When Christ died, God saw every one of us on the Cross in the Person of Christ, because He died in our place, and this is what God saw. He saw you and I crucified and that’s what He means in Galatians 2 when Paul says –

Galatians 2:20

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;…”

Now just as surely as God saw us on the Cross in the person of Christ, He also saw us in the tomb. So here we are in the tomb, we’re buried with Him. Not by water but by virtue of God determining that now since He’s paid the sin debt for all that believe, and appropriate it then yes God said, “You’re dead, you’re crucified, I saw you in Christ, I saw you buried with Him in his death, in His tomb, and so also we’ve been resurrected with Him to a new life. We are totally different people as a result of this power of His resurrection, and so it’s a God thing. God in His Omnipotence, in His power, in His Omniscience, in His ability to work in the area of the invisible, He has placed us in all of these places.

In the area of the invisible He has seen everyone of us crucified with Christ. In the area of the invisible He saw everyone of us in the tomb with Christ, and in the area of the invisible He has resurrected everyone of us to a new life. How often haven’t I made this illustration? If you were to go down to the morgue and accompany a pathologist in a autopsy, would you ever see the soul of a person? Would you ever see their spirit? Of course not, it’s invisible. Does that mean that it’s not for real? You better believe it’s for real or you wouldn’t be here. But the soul and spirit are invisible, and that’s where God works, in the area of the invisible. He works in the area of our soul and spirit, and human hands can’t touch that. You can baptize this old body a hundred times and it’s not going to change the soul and spirit. Remember this is only an outer tabernacle, but only God can work in the area of the soul and spirit. I wish people could understand that. Looking at the verse again.

Romans 6:3

“Know ye not, that so many of us is were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized (or identified) into his death?” And then to verse 8:

Romans 6:8

“Now if we be dead with Christ, (in other words if we’ve been crucified with Him, if we’ve been buried with Him then) we believe that we shall also live with him:”

How are we going to live with Him? By His resurrection power. Do you see that? We’ve been raised in resurrection power. We’re a new person, we’re a whole new being, and now we are placed into Christ. How? Now on your way back to Galatians stop at I Corinthians chapter 12. These are verses that we use over and over because they are so foundational and so simplistic. You don’t have to have a seminary degree to understand some of these verses. They’re so simple but most people don’t understand them. Also keep in mind that Paul tells us in Ephesians now in this age of Grace that there is only one baptismand then I Corinthians tells us what baptism that is.

Ephesians 4:4-5

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism,”

I Corinthians 12:13

“For by one Spirit (the Holy Spirit, it’s capitalized) are we all (believers of Paul’s Gospel for salvation) baptized into one body, (the Body of Christ. Now here’s another verse that is as dry as a bone. There is not a drop of water in this verse. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit working in the area of the invisible placing you and I now in that new resurrected personage into that relationship with Christ.) whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and we have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

There is no color line in the Body of Christ, we believers are all baptized into that Body of Christ, and we are all one in Christ. We just came back from a cruise on the Mediterranean, and we had 62 of us from various parts of the country. But you know what? In just a matter of 24 hours we had all come together as though we had known each other all our lives. Why? We were all believers. We were all members of the Body of Christ, and you’re not strangers long when you’re believers, and it’s so beautiful. Now next week we’ll be going back to Israel, and we’ll have a different group and I know the same thing is going to happen again. That whole group of people is going to come together and by the time we come back it’s going to be as close knit as family. It just shows the fact that when you become members of the Body of Christ there is that unity that nothing can take apart.

Now this is what comes alone from the writings of the apostle Paul. This isn’t taught in the Four Gospels, this isn’t taught in the Old Testament, but Paul is constantly at it. That when we have faith in the Gospel then we become a member of the Body of Christ. Now back to Galatians chapter 3. Now verse 27 is too good a verse to just casually go over, I’m going to spend some time in it. So if you have been baptized by that Holy Spirit’s work into the Body of Christ, then something else has happened. What? You have put on Christ.

Galatians 3:27

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

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Romans 1:16

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

He didn’t say, “To everyone who repents and is baptized” or “to everyone who does according to man’s traditions,” but he said “to everyone that believeth”! He stated very plainly that if we believe this Gospel with all our hearts – that Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead – then that Gospel becomes the very power of God Himself. The very power that created the universe is released on us, to us and in us so that we, by that power of God, become children of God. It is beyond human understanding, so we must take it by faith. The Bible says that is what the Gospel is, and when we believe it, God counts it as righteousness for us. But it is imperative that we be very careful what we believe!


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