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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Baptism of John-RV

Baptism did not originate with John the Baptizer,as is clear from the Pharisees' reply to John's answer that he was not the Christ: "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet?" Why did the Pharisees ask John this follow-up question? I think that the Bible tells us why, in the Old Testament.

By the way ,did you know that the word baptize is not found in the Old Testament? Which begs another question; how did the Pharisees know that Christ would come baptizing, unless they knew what it was?

I think that, traditionally, the most notable Old Testament passage in this respect is Isaish 52. In verse 15 ,it says, "He shall sprinkle many nations.......". Another passage they might have had in mind is Ezekiel 36:25-27. Also,where God says,in Joel,chapter 2, "I will pour out My Spirit on ALL flesh....." God tells us, "the simple ones", to "Turn at My rebuke. Surely I will pour out My Spirit on you......." In the book of Proverbs, chapter 1, verse 23. In the book of Isaiah, He says,in chapter 44, verse 3,"I will pour water on him who is thirsty..............I will pour My Spirit on your descendants...........".Isaiah 45:8 says "Rain down you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour forth righteousness............".


I think that they understood from passages like these (for there are others) that the Messiah,or Christ, would come baptizing, or pouring out gifts. I think that they,along with most, misunderstood just exactly what form that gift would take, for they understood these symbols to speak of physical things, when truly, they were meant to be discerned Spiritually.

Looking at I Peter 3:18-21, but particularly at verse 21, Peter tells us that "there is also an anti-type which now saves us; baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh,but the answer of a good conscience toward God),through the resurrection of Jesus Christ". Going backwards now, to verse 20, Peter tells us that, "eight souls (or individuals) were saved through water". Now, some people might take this to mean that the baptism that Peter talks about "saving" us, in verse 21, is water baptism; but remember that the baptism in verse 21 is the anti-type(or reality) of the type,in verse 20.


Some will argue, saying, "Christ was baptized with water" .Let us look at that for a minute; in Matthew, chapter three, starting at verse 13, "Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You,and are You coming to me?" I think John (through the Holy Spirit) understood somewhat,because I don't think that he was arguing about who should baptise whom, per se, but I think he realized that while his was a baptism with just water, Jesus' was a baptism "with the Holy Spirit and fire".
"But Jesus answered and said to him,'Permit it to be so now,for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he allowed Him." Why would Jesus say this to John? Let us go back to the Old Testament and see if we can throw any light on the question.
In Exodus 29:4, God tells Moses, "And Aaron and his sons you shall bring before the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall wash them with water." He goes on to say that THEN they are to be clothed with their priestly garments. (Also see Ex.30:20,40:12,Lev.8:6) I think this (again,through the Holy Spirit) should give us a fairly clear picture of why Jesus would tell John that his baptism of Him would "fulfill all righteousness".


This may open another whole subject(??), but,in the Second book of Kings, chapter 5, is the story of Naaman (a Gentile) who was instructed by the Spirit, through his maid, to seek healing through Israel's prophet. In verses 10-14, we are told how Elisha told him to wash himself (or dip) seven times (the number of perfection) in the Jordan river, and although he balks at first, finally does what he was instructed and is healed of his disease.


Before we go into the New Testament, let me make a few commments about Christ's baptism by John. It was, I believe, a priestly baptism in the form that we just read about in Exodus and Leviticus, not a Christian baptism as we know it, "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (else as my daughter jokingly suggested,it be "in the name of the Father, Yourself, and the Holy Spirit), but seriously, why do I bring this up? To show that Christ put no more importance on water baptism than "to fulfill all righteousness", which He has done for us. Yes, you can argue Matt.28:19 and there may be something there, but neither Mark or Luke put baptism as a requirement for discipling the nations (Mark mentions it in 16:16, but I believe that he is talking of the "one, true baptism"(Mark 1:8). There are many more examples to look at in the New Testament, of "water baptism", but we will comment on just a few more before we wrap it up with I Peter 3 and Genesis 6 and 7.

In the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 16, Christ says, "he who believes and is baptized, shall be saved............", which seems, in context with Matthew 28:19, to imply water,and not Spirit, baptism.
We go now to Acts, chapter 8, verses 26-39. I will make just a few comments on this; (And remember; in this passage, we are still under the Old Covenant economy (or system), and all the Scripture that would have been readily available, would be our Old Testament,or the Hebrew Scriptures) As the Ethiopian eunuch (or officer) was reading through these Scriptures and not quite getting it, Philip (again,at the instruction of the Spirit) came along side, and explained the Gospel of Jesus Christ (to which the Hebrew Scriptures pointed) to him more fully. Now, the Scriptures don't tell us at this point whether Philip told him also to receive water baptism, but the eunuch asked for water baptism, whether because of what he had read in the Hebrew Scriptures, because he had heard that a prophet (John) in Israel was baptising for the remission of sins, or because Philip told him he should. I tend toward the first reason.
Next, in chapter 16 of the same book, in verses 14-16, Lydia was baptized by water as a matter of course (Matt. 28:19). Following immediately after this,Luke records how Paul and Silas were set upon by the religious (and other) men of the city and eventually wound up in jail where God gave them opportunity to share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ (verse 32).
We all know the story of how Paul and Silas are miraculously freed of their chains, and how the Philippian jailor comes nigh unto taking his own life.
When he is 'awakened' to his senses (yet again, by the Holy Spirit), he asked Paul and Silas that most famous (and humbling) of questions; "Sirs; what must I do to be saved?"
Notice that Paul only tells him "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,and you shall be saved..................", not, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,be baptized and you will be saved". Scripture does'nt record that Paul said anything to him about being baptized, although it does record, in the next verse or so, that he and his family were baptized, most likely with water.


I want to backtrack here a little and talk of the apostle Paul's baptism (as it were,by fire); I think we're all pretty familiar, to some extent, with the story of Paul's conversion, but for our subject we will touch a little on verses 17-18 .Ananias told Paul that he (Ananias) was sent that "you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit".Then,in verse 18,Luke records that he "arose and was baptized",again, I believe, talking about water, rather than Spirit baptism. That IS an arguable assumption though, because of the symmetry of these two verses; in verse 17, Ananias says "that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit", then in verse 18, we see that "he received his sight at once and he arose and was baptized. Notice the symmetry here; "receive your sight"/"he received his sight", and "be filled with the Holy Spirit"/"he arose and was baptized". Interesting paralells there,but I'm not sure I want to open that can of worms right now.
Time constrains us,but here are some verses and passages that you can look up on your own: Acts 1:5-2:4 ,2:38,41, 8:12, 10:47,48, 11:16, 18:8, 19:3-5, 22:16(I must make a commment here; this is a furthur relation of Paul's conversion "experience", but here he records Ananias as telling Paul to "be baptized,and wash away your sins (I think he means this figuratively) calling on the name of the Lord", Romans 6:3-5, I Corinthians 1:13-17, 10:2, (which I will comment on later) ,12:13, Galations 3:27, Ephesians 4:5, Colossians 2:11-12, and I Peter 3:21.
And now for my remarks on the I Peter 3 reference, to wrap things up, starting in verse 18, Peter describes the anti-type; baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is compared to the "water baptism" that Noah and his family received while in the ark. I Corinthians 10:2 describes another "type" of spiritual baptism that the children of Israel underwent while miraculously crossing the Red Sea "on dry ground".

by God's grace,
Charles Shank

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