The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: B

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Baptism, meaning of

Baptism in faith is our meeting point with the saving death of Jesus Christ without which there is no forgiveness of sins and therefore no hope.


The importance of baptism --

Why was Jesus BAPTIZED (since he was sinless)?

Jesus accepted baptism because his Father desired it of him. His baptism was an example for others (note Acts 2:38). He pointed the way for the rest of humanity, linking himself, in his sinlessness, with the sins of those, of like nature, whom he came to redeem. "All flesh is grass", including the flesh of the Son of God.

Why must one be immersed and not sprinkled with water?

Immersion, pouring or sprinkling? -- Sprinkling as a baptismal method arose because of the baptism of infants. The baptism of infants arose because of the adoption of a false doctrine of sin: that infants possess guilt for sin because they are born "in Adam", and need baptism to remove this guilt. But the issues to be confronted and mastered before baptism are for mature decision; baptism is for adults.

Sprinkling? Note Acts 8:36; it is inconceivable that a man crossing a desert would not have a few drops of water in his possession.

While sprinkling fits the "washing" imagery of baptism in the NT, it hardly fits the burial and resurrection pictures which are just as important.

John the Baptist is often pictured pouring water over the heads of his followers; this fits only slightly better!

How much knowledge is sufficient to be considered for BAPTISM? Prerequisites for baptism --

What must be believed?

"But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12).
Things concerning the kingdom of God --

Things concerning the name of Jesus Christ --

Who should be the one to administer a valid BAPTISM?

Baptism is effectively the entrance into the household of faith, so to be baptized by a member of that household is appropriate. Baptism also follows a public confession of belief -- and one would surely want to confess this belief to fellow-believers. But the validity of your baptism depends on what is in the heart of the person being baptized, not the status of the person who hears one's testimony and helps ensure that one is submerged.

Themes involved with baptism:

Submission/Acknowledgement --

Baptism is a command. We can submit to it or refuse. Baptism is not however a normal career choice; something which just happens naturally. It is a revolution, a complete change in the course of someone's life: when he embraces new goals, a new family, a new life. A natural child of Adam, born under the shadow of death and bound by the dominion of sin, reaches a point where they voluntarily choose what is good and holy, and reject all that is related to the kingdom of sin. They don't do this because it is expected of them, or from desire for reward, or from fear of the consequences of doing otherwise, but out of a pure, transforming, love for the Father.

Confession: Rom 10:9,10; 1Ti 6:12,13, 1Pe 3:21.

No other resources: Gen 47:18, Luke 7:42; 8:43; 15:14.

Sincerity and motive are important: Rom 6:17; Eph 2:8-9; 1Pe 3:21.

Identification with Christ --

Burial -- Rom 6:4; Col 2:12.

Part of a bigger symbol:

Death and Life --

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (Mat 16:25), if we keep it for ourselves we cannot keep it for ever. To willingly lose our life is to surrender it to God's service, and to exchange our so-called freedom for discipleship. Or, to "voluntarily choose what is good and holy, and reject all that is related to the kingdom of sin." This is because we recognize that our life has as its object the satisfaction of selfish desires, so we decide to deny it any opportunity of mastery, to crucify it, to bury it. As Jesus was condemned to death at the judgment seat of Pilate, so we condemn ourselves to death at the judgment seat of our own conscience.

Death: Rom 6:6,7; Gal 5:24.

Yet life: Rom 6:8,11; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:12,13.

Some parallels

Circumcision --

Washing --

Change of clothes --

Pervasive theme in OT; note washing and changing garments above, also:

In Christ's parables:

In his miracles:

Canceling sins --

Rebirth --

Change of allegiance --

Baptism is typically "into the name" of the Lord. The Greek is 'eis to onoma', a term used in Greek banking when a sum of money was placed "in the credit of" another person. This would imply that when baptized we are "made over" to Christ. Also, as truly as a bride takes on the name of her husband, so we take on the name of Christ.

Enrolling in a new family or community --

Through baptism, we become sons and servants of God, join the one body of Christ, become heirs of the promises to Abraham, are lifted into heavenly places: John 1:12; Rom 6:17-22; 1Co 12:13; 15:22; Gal 3:26-29; Eph 2:6,13,19; 3:6; Col 1:13.

Both Old and New Testaments occasionally use the idiomatic expression "upon whom the name of God is called". When this idea is used with other names it refers to adoption of a new family name, for example: Est 2:14; Gen 21:12; 48:16, Isa 4:1.

With God's own name it is used of:
This is the background to the NT usage, closely linked with the idea of baptism: James 2:7; Acts 15:17 (= Amos 9:12, and note Acts 15:14); Acts 22:16. Note too the name in the forehead of the High Priest: Exo 28:36 (cp Eze 9:4; Rev 14:1).

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