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Friday, November 21, 2008

Being The New Testament Church Part 2: Baptisms

In continuation of my last post on “Being the New Testament Church” we are discussing Acts 2:41. After the new believers “believed in what Peter preached and then became baptized. The fact that the early New Testament (NT) believers were “baptized” can have many implications. According to which Christian discipline you are of the baptism mentioned could be “water baptism” or “the Baptism of the Holy Ghost”. Peter’s requirement for those asking “what they needed to do” mentions the “remission of sins” and “receiving the Holy Ghost”. This may be a little confusing so let’s take a look at the Biblical Baptism question.
In the NT we first see John the Baptist performing this service. I have see programs on the TV that suggest that John got the practice of baptism from an earlier Jewish sec like the Essenes. This is debatable. The first baptism we are introduced to is a baptism in water by submersion. This has been called all through the New Testament as John’s baptism or the baptism of repentance. In three of the gospels Jesus is pictured as coming to John and being baptized and in all three accounts the Heavens opened up, a voice spoke and the Holy Spirit came down. This is one of those moments when the total God was present. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit all showed up for Jesus’ baptism. Now since this was a baptism of repentance why did Jesus need it unless He had sinned? In Matthew3:13 He answered this, “…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” One Commentator said that He had to be baptized so that He could be identified with His people. This is true but in Galations 3:27 and Colossians 2:12, both show that baptism is a picture of us being buried with Christ and risen to new life with Him. We rise clean and we put on Christ. We forsake our nature and we take the nature and righteousness of Jesus. We no longer live but Christ lives in us (Galations 2:20). So there was a reason to for Him to submit to John’s baptism.
We see that as the Holy Spirit entered Him at this moment things began to change. Jesus was introducing a new baptism that would come into effect after He fulfilled His purpose. Acts 10:37 states that the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus at John’s baptism of Him. At this point some may say, “the Bible states there is One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism.” Some say that there are more than one according to Hebrews 6:2 where it states that “baptisms” plural, is one of the elementary doctrines of Christ. Which is right? As we look at Ephesians 4:5 in context we see that Paul is speaking of the Body of church believers, also called the Body of Christ. So this one Baptism of believers must be a baptism into the church, because there are other baptisms mentioned in the scripture. Jesus called His death on the cross as a baptism as recorded in Luke 12:50.
So, how do we know of which baptism Peter was speaking of I vs. 41? Let’s look at the Christian growth process as a whole. In Gen. 1:26 and 11;7. God reveals Himself as a plural Personage. By reading the revealed scriptures in the NT we see that God is in fact Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Now I do not agree with our brethren that say God was God the Father in the Old Testament times , God the Son in NT times and now is a God the Spirit at our present time. We have seen that all three were present at the baptism of Jesus the Man. Jesus said at least one time that he had to “go to the Father” and that He ascended to the right hand of the Father. And that He would send another comforter.
Back to Christian growth as concerning baptisms. We being created in the image of God, which is body, soul and spirit like He is Father, Son and Holy Ghost. At the fall of mankind the spirit part of man died. Giving future humanity a dead spirit nature. At our conversion, our being born again, we received a live spirit able to worship and commune again with God. In the Christian Growth Process we deal with the past, present and future. We have been saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. That is why the bible says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). When reading scripture we can see by reading the text within context if it is speaking of our past, present or future condition. I need to say here that the fallowing is my opinion and not to be taken as doctrine. I am an uneducated factory worker just trying to help you make some sense of this subject. I am not the final authority on the subject.
With that said, let’s move on.
John’s baptism was a baptism for repentance. It dealt with our past condition. An outward act reflecting an inward work. It shows that we are buried with Christ and risen with Him in life. That we are no longer subject to eternal death. I remember when I was a child baptized after walking the aisle and saying “the prayer”, it had no effect on my life. When I was converted as a teenager, I knew it was not right and that I needed to be baptized again. Nobody told me I needed to, I just knew. It was after this that I started to change. I started to understand the Bible. Christian principles were open to me. Concern for the lost became genuine.
In Acts 19:3-4 we see another baptism. The Baptism of the Holy Ghost. This baptism is a baptism for the present condition of a believer. Just as John’s baptism was for the saving from the past, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for the saving of the present. Here I would like to say that the baptisms of and in themselves do nothing but (as said before) give outward show evidence of an inward work. John’s baptism was connected to the “saving of the Spirit”, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is connected to the “saving of the soul”. Soul being the mind and emotions. It is a daily process with the Baptism as a starting point. Simply said, baptisms are just marks of a “new beginning” in a Christian’s growth in life with God. There is much debate as to the evidence of this baptism and when does a person receive it. Many believe that it comes when we are born again and some say it is a “second blessing” that comes separate. Whether separate or together, whether with out without evidence. No matter which way you swing, just get it. I know some who claim it and some who don’t that love the Lord and the same for ones that live worldly. One thing for sure, if you can argue about it, hold back fellowship or hate your brother over it, you do not have it.
John had had spoken of Jesus coming to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and Fire. What is this Fire Baptism? (Mat. 3:11 and Luke 3:16) Many have tried to answer this and here is my try. Fire in the Bible has mostly been a symbol of purging. In Luke 3:16 were John says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire, the next verse speaks of wheat being purged from the chaff. The useless part of the wheat. In a Christian’s life there will come times of testing. Times of “New Beginnings” that serve to purge us of useless things in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth. These are baptisms of fire. I may add that if a person has not had the Baptism of Repentance and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, things might not turn out that good. I once had a job that I had been employed at for fourteen and a half years. At the time I was consumed with preaching in group homes, jails and prisons. Ministry in the streets and concert outreaches. And quit full of myself. Then I found myself jobless. Having to start all over again. At this time I started doing “Internet Evangelism”. I found out quite quick that I did not know as much as I thought. Looking back at my job loss, I saw mistakes that I had made which lead up to my loss. I was completely humbled. This was a baptism of fire. I look back now, at this time ten years ago, and see my spiritual growth much higher and my usefulness to the kingdom increased. I’ve learned to “humble myself” instead of letting the Lord do it for me.
This is the Baptism of Fire which will save us. (again, outward marks of an inward work) It is the daily dying of our flesh. Our ego. Anything that hinders our relationship to the Lord with the final climax as our bodily death. As Jesus pointed to His death as a baptism, so we will all enter into a baptism that will save our body. A baptism for the future. A new beginning with the Father.
In Acts 2:41 the baptism Peter spoke of is one or all of the baptisms. Some say that we are to baptize in Jesus’ name only because nowhere in the book of Acts does it show anyone doing it. Jesus gives us the commission to “Go and teach all nations and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, in Mat. 28:19. Could Jesus be telling us to go and baptize for the saving of all the person? Body, Soul and Spirit? The Baptism of John or Repentance for the saving of the Spirit and for being added to the Church. The Baptism of the Holy Ghost for the saving of the Soul, in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit teaching us of Jesus and renewing our mind. He Baptism of Fire for the salvation of our body. The Holy Spirit leading us through the fire baptisms of life. All the way to our bodily death and final union with God.
Again, this is just an idea and an attempt to put baptisms in perspective. I’m not pushing my formula or anything else. The point is, baptism is a new beginning. The new believers in Acts 2:41 had to start all over again before they could be added to the Church. Then they could understand the Apostle’s teaching with revelation. Fellowship in true Christ-Like love, take part in the Body of Christ and pray effectively. They became New Testament Christians.

Further Reading on baptisms:
Mat. 3:6; 21:25
Mark 1:4; 16:16
Luke 3:12, 21; 7:29
John 1:26; 3:5, 23
Acts 2:38; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 13:2416:15, 33; 18:8; 22:16
Romans 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Peter 3:21

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