“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Baptism Thoughts

I spoke on Baptism this weekend, and afterward baptized 5 folks. What a honor it is to be part of God's people and be able to perform baptism on these dear children of God. I felt it especially important to provide a Biblical understanding of Baptism, as two of the people who were baptized came out of Mormonism and JW's. Because of this, I thought I would post a few of my thoughts on baptism:

It seems that baptism has become either -- (a) Something not discussed, or practiced, or (b) something that has been denigrated to a 'Brats and Baptism' mentality.

I believe that part of the reason for this is that pastors often have such a diluted concept of why baptism is important, that they are unable to speak authoritatively as regards this ordinance, and this filters down to the flock. Baptism in the modern church has turned into either a pool party or a numbers game (a line forms, and a small LED counter lights up 'Now serving XX' and the pastor dutifully dunks and claps for the many people standing by)

I find it interesting that people in persecuted countries will risk life and limb to be baptized, at times going out in the dead of night and chipping a hole in a frozen body of water to perform a baptism. In our country we have to schedule it on our PDA, and it is definitely not a high priority, coming after football games, soccer practice, hunting, or any number of other activities.

Why is this? Well, I would provide you a link to a video illustrating what a 'modern pastor' thinks of baptism, but I find it so vile that I will not even provide them the free publicity. I will briefly sketch it out -- A so-called pastor produces a video in which he describes what one should wear to a baptism (a fellow 'actor' comes out in a variety of stupid costumes, which the pastor rejects), then he and the other person wrestle and throw each other into the pool, spending some time dunking one another and generally acting like fools. Then another 'actor' comes along and slides down a slide into the pool, whereupon the 'pastor' is shown (although it is bleeped out, we can all read lips), cussing him out for disturbing the video! Throughout this entire video there is not a mention of WHY we baptize, nor is there any sense of respect or reverence for the ordinance of baptism.

And this is but one of many videos on the web which depict baptism as some kind of outdoor 'fun' event that coincides with a B-B-Q, or some other me-centered activity.

Why baptize? Well, how about the very first fact -- Jesus Christ commands us to do so! Matthew 28:19, 20 -- Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Then how about the fact that it is a public proclamation, identifying you with Jesus Christ? How about the many references that Paul provides in which he describes the significance of baptism?

Romans 6:1 - 4 -- What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Colossians 2:11 - 14 -- In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Sadly, it is a rare event when the significance of baptism is taught in the shallow man-centered system that is practiced in all too many churches today. In fact, baptism becomes another thing all about ME! No significance is attached to it, save the fact that now you have fire insurance and can 'legally' become a member of the church! There is no emphasis on Christ's finished work on the cross, of our identifying with Him in His death and resurrection, or of Teshuvah (to use a Hebrew word), or repentance and turning AWAY from sin and TOWARDS Christ. There is no discussion of the true new birth, only some vague 'hallmark' comments.

This is why I run into many people who have been baptized ten times and want to have one more to see if it will stick; or who have been baptized and for years have not shown a single glimmer of the fruit of the Spirit. When baptism becomes a social status mark, and not a mark of death and rebirth, then you end up with the foolishness that pervades many churches today.

Pastors -- let us proclaim the gospel, practice baptism and the Lord's Supper with full reverence and a proper understanding, and teach the saints so that they may do works of ministry.


Anonymous said...

At the other side of the spectrum, let us not forget the Baptismal Regenerationist. When someone professes faith in Christ, get them into the tank WITHIN SECONDS, lest (heaven forbid!) they suffer a fatal heart attack between the altar and the water and go to hell for all eternity.


Ryan said...

Thanks for the post.
I love the text you quoted from Colossians. I baptized one of the residents at the apartments we used to live in and read Col 2:9-14 and 3:1-4 to him afterwards. I inserted his name every time the text used "you".