How do we clear up the confusion (see previous post) surrounding water baptism?
We begin with our orders…
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:18, 19)
We should read the scriptures on this subject with an awareness of our present understanding, prior practices and public pronouncements. We need to acknowledge we may be confused.
Water submerging (baptism) has been practiced by many religions for many years before Christ and by several groups during the time of Christ. (I’ll let you confirm this for yourself.)
What’s different about the baptism of discipleship?
The baptism of discipleship is an act of obedience and a declaration of allegiance. Those who follow Jesus in baptism announce their decision to follow him. They declare their allegiance to him as Lord. They symbolize their death to themselves by being buried (submerged) and then raised to walk in the life of Jesus. (Note: I’m not saying “lifestyle” of Jesus. I’m saying the indwelling, imparted life of Jesus in us. We live by him. (Of course this will determine your lifestyle.)
This type of baptism has its roots in the baptism of John “the baptizer” (not Baptist but baptizer) John was a “dipper”, a “submerger”. He came submerging people in a baptism of repentance. Here’s part of the record from the Bible.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”… People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
Excerpted from Matthew 3 NIV (Additional insight gained from Mark 1, Luke 3 and John 1.)
John bursts on the scene sent from God to prepare the way for Jesus. For the first time in 400 years God is speaking directly to Israel.
- The nation of Israel (descendants of the man Abraham) has failed to represent God to the other nations. They failed to bless all nations. (Genesis 12:1-3)
- Israel has failed to repent (more on this in a minute) in response to Malachi’s call 400 years before John.
- John calls on his fellow descendants to repent because the kingdom of heaven (a Jewish synonym for the kingdom of God) was near.
- When religious leaders (Sadducees and Pharisees) request John’s baptism, he demands evidence of their repentance. (Luke 3)
- Jesus comes to John and is submerged (baptized) by him in the Jordan River.
Setting the scene:
- · The people of Israel are looking for a Messiah/King to overthrow their oppressors (Rome at this time) and re-establish the Kingdom of David.
- · The Pharisees have for some time been leading a move back to holiness, separation. This movement degenerated into outward legalism.
- · The people are longing for authentic connection and blessing from their God.
John says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:14, 15
Look at that again. Jesus describes the “good news” of God as a time that has come and the Kingdom of God has come near. The Kingdom (dominion and rule of God) is breaking into this world. It is coming in the person of Jesus Christ. He will inaugurate it. He will implement it. He will rule it. This is the good news! He calls on his listeners to repent and believe this good news.
We generally use “repent” as feeling sorrowful over our sins. John and Jesus use it in its original intent and usage. “to change one’s mind”.
- Change your mind about the Kingdom of God.
- Change your mind about what the “good news” is.
- Change your mind about Messiah, who he is, why he comes and what he will do.
When you accept the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in your life you are ready to announce your allegiance through baptism. In your baptism you declare Jesus is Lord and you “wear” your baptism as a reminder of the commitment you made to be united to Christ. You are no longer two but one with Him.