What an awesome moment in time. Yesterday we baptized three of my family members. You might ask, ‘So, what’s so awesome about that?’ Glad you asked. Over forty years ago I began a prayer list of my family, my dad, mom, sisters, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Every morning I would lay the list on my open Bible, and ask the Lord to save my family. (At the time I was the only one on the list serving the Lord.)
One by one by one I saw them come to the Lord. Most I baptized. I baptized my dad thirty days before he passed over. Baptized my mom, my sisters, nephews and nieces, uncles, aunts, and cousins, not to mention a long list of many others.
Here it is some forty something years later. And the joy continues. Please note the first picture. Yesterday I baptized my dad’s youngest sister, Aunt Vallie Paul. (84 years young.) There are only two of my father’s siblings left this side of heaven. The rest have gone on. What a great honor to get to baptize Aunt Valley.
Oh no, the story doesn’t end there. This next picture is my cousin, Lane Fletcher, baptizing his sister, Martha Jane Duncan. Both Lane and Martha are children of my first cousin, Gus Fletcher. (Gus has already made the journey home.)
So the story of the list continues. Of course it has gone far beyond the original list that I made.
Is that it? No, there is one more. The last picture is my first cousin’s wife, Bernette Fletcher. Bernette is Lane’s and Martha Jan’s mother, wife of Gus Fletcher. I got to baptize her yesterday.
Is that it? No way! I’ve long since misplaced my original list, but that’s alright. I fully intend to stand in the gap for my family and for whoever else the Lord will place on my heart. Life is too short to get sidetracked.
The fact of the matter is that the business of the kingdom of God is souls. And when I stand before the Lord, I want to hear Him say to me, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things … enter the joy of your Master.” – Matt 25:21 nasb
The big question remains. Perhaps you are asking, ‘Whats the big deal on water baptism?’ Stay with me as I share a short Bible study. Let’s call it…
Bodies Washed With Pure Water
“Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22 nasb.
When the writer speaks of our ‘bodies washed with pure water,’ this was a Hebraic expression for water baptism.
Notice the writer first draws attention to the heart being sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. The inference here is to the application of the sprinkled blood of Jesus upon the repentant sinner. Peter speaks of this in saying, “By the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled by His blood.” (1Pet1:2 in part.)
In our initial Scripture reading the background for the washing of the body with pure water is the tabernacle plan. In approaching the holy tent, you must first come to the altar of the blood sacrifice. Then you came to the laver of washing. Then you were able to enter the tent of communion. In our conversion experience the Holy Spirit first brings us to the blood and then to the water and then into full communion with Christ. (The Holy Spirit is involved in the full work of sanctification and conversion.)
For some additional background let me take a moment to draw on the ancient Jewish ritual of the proselyte baptism. This is very much in line with Christian baptism. In the law of the proselyte desiring to be joined to Israel, three things were required; a sacrifice at the temple, circumcision, and then water baptism.
Lightfoot gives this explanation: “As soon as he grows whole of the wound of circumcision, they bring him to Baptism, and being placed in the water they again instruct him in some weightier and in some lighter commands of the Law. Which being heard, he plunges himself and comes up, and, behold, he is an Israelite in all things.” The proselyte was not a completed Israelite until his or her body had been washed by full immersion.
Paul explains this as the old man (including the old master) being cut off and put away, and a newly created life now being presented. Early Christian baptism was very similar to the Jewish proselyte baptism. The sacrifice was Jesus Christ, circumcision was of the heart, and water baptism was the cutting off of the old life.
Baptism was always a full immersion. Lightfoot adds; “Every person baptized must dip his whole body, now striped and made naked, at one dipping.” He went on to say, “Wheresoever in the Law washing of the body or garments is mentioned, it means nothing less that the washing of the whole body.”
Ebersheim says that women were attended by their own sex and the rabbis stood outside the door.
The point is that for the Jews and early Christians, baptism was always a full washing of the body. And this issue of full immersion continues today in the Greek Church. Wherever the Greek Church is found in the world today, baptism is full immersion. This has been an unbroken practice from the early Jewish Christians. [Pouring water on a candidate began to make an appearance in the 2nd century and thereafter.]
The early Christian writers show that immersion was employed in baptism. Barnabas is an example. He says, “We go down into the water full of sins and filth, and we come up bearing fruit in the heart.” Sounds very similar to what Ananias said to Paul; “Now, why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” (Acts22:16)
To the early Christians, water baptism related to the cutting the covenant, or cutting off the old master, or cutting off the old life. Because of this water baptism was not a thing to be toyed with. A careful reading of the Acts of the Apostles will show that a great emphasis was placed on water baptism.
In Acts, while people could be born again before water baptism, the act of water baptism was still made an issue of immediate importance. The question is why? There must be a reason that is not always understood today. For many today, water baptism has almost been nullified in importance. I believe water baptism is one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Christian experience.
Let me share an example. Paul used the issue of Israel crossing the Red Sea in regard to baptism. He said, “Our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” (1Co10:1,2) Here we begin to see the issue of water baptism.
Let’s go back to Egypt. Remember the judgements of God? Do you recall the purpose of the blood being applied to the homes? The blood singled out and protected the Hebrew peoples from the judgments of God. How does this fit our experience? It is the blood of Jesus that saves us from the judgement of God.
Paul said, “Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” (Rom5:9) What the blood did was to reconcile us to God. We now have peace because of the blood.
Follow me here – Now while the blood on the doors of the Hebrew homes saved them from God’s judgement, why did it not protect them from Pharaoh trying to keep them in slavery? Do you recall how that Pharaoh chased after them up to the Red Sea?
The reason Pharaoh kept after them was because they were still in his domain, or jurisdiction. He was their old master and he had no intention of letting them go. What happened at the Red Sea? The old master was cut off. The Hebrew nation took up a new life on the other side. They were now under a new master.
There is an old song that says, “The water, spirit, and the blood, agree if we but understood, in making sinners pure and good, and take their sins away.” John tells us the blood, the water, and the Spirit are all involved in the outworking of our salvation. (1John5:6)
Just some things to consider.
How about a song about the water. Here it is, ‘Step Into the Water,’ by Kingdom Heirs and Kirk Talley.
Of course you know that water baptism has to do with fulfilling righteousness.
Have you thought about it?
There is much love to be found in Jesus,