Sunday, April 14, 2019

Water Baptism

There are some comments and teaching in the audio not contained in the notes below.

Water Baptism

Baptists baptize believers – by submersion. We're in the minority. Denominations that practice "infant baptism" include Roman Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Nazarenes, the United Church of Christ (UCC), Moravian Church, Metropolitan Community Church, Wesleyans, and Episcopalians. There are some who believe baptism is salvific – Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and those who hold to Federal Vision.

Baptists used to be called “people of the book,” resting on the sure foundation of Scripture and submitting to the authority of Scripture. If we are not tenacious in this matter, we are vulnerable to smooth sounding arguments that end up becoming traditions that cannot be questioned. Just as has happened for those who sprinkle little ones. I do not want to spend much time explaining why the paedobaptist view on baptism is wrong, I will appeal to a few of their finest theologians to tells us they are wrong.

John Calvin: “John and Christ administered baptism totins corpore submersione, by the submission of the whole body … The very word 'baptize' … signifies to immerse entirely, and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”

Martin Luther: “The Greek word baptizo means 'immerse' or 'plunge', and the word baptisma means immersion.”

Ulrich Zwingli: “Immersion of the whole body was used from the beginning, which expresses the force of the word 'baptize', whence John baptized in the river. It was afterward changed into sprinkling, though it is uncertain when or by whom.”

And the great B.B.Warfield: “It is true that there is no express command to baptize infants in the New Testament, no express record of the baptism of infants, and no passages so stringently implying it that we must infer from them that infants were baptized.”

These four giants of the Reformation and the development of Presbyterian theology unabashedly tell us their position is not based on the Scriptures. It’s what I call “white space theology” – derived from the spaces between the words in the Word; what they call "good and necessary inference." When did this great controversy over baptism start? If believers' baptism is what the Bible teaches, why and when did people start baptizing babies? History records the creeping ignorance and superstition that led to this practice and the religion which institutionalized it. In the 3rd century, some people in the church became convinced that baptism was meritorious and had a magical power to help save the soul. At first, people only baptized infants who were sick – as an insurance policy. Quickly, all infants were baptized, sprinkled instead of dipped – for their physical health. Church men began to argue over when the infant should be baptized – saying on the 8th day? Others argued it ought be delayed as long as possible so that more sins would be covered. Such was the case with Constantine, who refused to be “baptized” until he was on his death bed. Lack of knowledge and trust in the Word of God leads men astray, to trust in the imaginations of men. Something that divides people for centuries, shedding no little blood, ought to be based on clear teachings from Scripture - not inferences needed to support that which is not found clearly taught.

When Christianity was legalized, the church, already suffering from an unhealthy view of “holy clergy”, saw infant baptism as an effective way to number the people so they could be taxed and controlled. And to convince the ignorant masses, these compromised churchmen played up the false notion that baptism plays a part in saving one's soul. This is called Sacerdotalism – using a sacrament (a religious rite) as a means of conveying God's favor to the people. When the Reformation broke out, some were called Magisterial Reformers – they maintained the close connection between church and state. One of these, Zwingli, was stuck between his belief that the Bible commands believers' baptism and his practice, which was more than a thousand years old, the union of church and state and control of the people by infant baptism. So he persecuted those who did not practice what the state commanded because he feared the people. Such is the power of our unexamined presuppositions and the influence of the culture. We must be people of the book!

In the early 17th century, the Puritans fled England in search of religious liberty. They had been persecuted because they believed in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone and they were persecuted because the state church held to a sacerdotal view. Yet they, like Zwingli, failed to escape the trap they fled – they brought it with them, just like Lot did when he fled Zoar. Baptists also fled to the New World to escape religious persecution. In a report, Ill News from New England, early American Baptist John Clark records how he, Obidiah Jones, and John Crandall were arrested because they had discussed baptism over dinner at a boarding house. These three were hauled before the court in Boston, found guilty of not honoring the state religion. They were beaten, fined, and thrown in prison. The Puritans had established state churches in the colonies and they persecuted those who did not agree with their religious views – just like the Church of England which persecuted them. Our theology affects how we live, just as it did these Puritans and these Baptists.

With that brief historical backdrop, I want to explore the deepest meaning of this ordinance. Why is baptism – baptism of believers – important? What does it signify?

We know what Romans 6:4 says, we rightly hear it every time a child of God gets baptized - 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. This gives us a picture of what has been done to us, that as the Lord Jesus was put to death and raised up, so are we. This is an important truth that we must never forget. But I hope we open our eyes to the greater meaning of this simple ordinance and pray that we see together what a glorious picture has been given to us by our great and gracious Lord.

As with most important truths from Scripture, the spiritual significance of what God has revealed is far, far greater than we at first comprehend. Unless we dig into the Word and pray for wisdom, we may not get to the place where we see more and are given even more reason to humbly thank our God, in awe of Who He is and what, in truth, has been done.

I highly recommend a small book by Baptist Pastor Hal Brunson, titled The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, a book of parables about baptism, which is most helpful.

The metaphor in Romans 6:4 gives us the active or present reality of the meaning of Christ's death, that introspective reality of the first resurrection, when we die to sin and are raised to new life. But this verse and the act of baptism also point back historically to the death of Christ and prophetically forward to the physical resurrection of all the saints when He returns to judge all flesh. Baptism is a multifaceted word picture that ought to remind us of far more than the glorious change wrought in the life of the redeemed sinner. One aspect of baptism that baby sprinklers cannot lay claim to is baptism as a picture of submersion into great waters, portraying the great waters of Divine judgment. We see in Scripture several passages where great waters are graphic symbols of God's judgment and wrath against sin – which Christ took upon His body as the Lamb sacrificed for our sin. He was submersed into the ocean of God's wrath on our account, and raised up on the third day. There are at least four major word pictures used in Scripture that describe baptism.

  1. The flood of Noah.
  2. The sorrows of David, described as “great waters”.
  3. Jonah being cast into the sea.
  4. Jesus' understanding of His death.

The Apostle Peter points to this great flood of the entire earth as a vivid picture of the believer's baptism as well as a figure or type pointing to the suffering of Christ. In proclaiming (1 Pet 3:18) that Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, Peter then alludes to the flood and how only 8 persons were saved in the ark, brought through the great waters of God's judgment against sin. And Peter goes on in his first letter to tell us that baptism corresponds to this – the flood of Noah, the outpouring of God's wrath in judgment and the only refuge being in the ark which is Christ. In 2 Peter, the flood is listed with another well-known symbol of God's wrath against sin – Sodom and Gomorrah. God's wrath against sin is real, it is certain, it is final. We need a savior, One Who can bear up under this wrath, One Who has no sin of His own to atone for. Not only did Christ provide refuge from God's wrath, He was buried in God's judgment as payment for sin. He is worthy of our praise.

What about the sorrows of David? This man after God's own heart knew of his own sin and the despair of trusting in any mortal man for reconciliation with Holy God. David and other Psalmists described their deep sorrows as a kind of burial beneath the billows and waves of the Almighty. In Psalm 42 we read, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? In this sorrowful lament with his soul, he describes his afflictions in terms that point to baptism - Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. Three images of water – waterfalls, breakers, and waves – all communicate the idea of a cascading waterfall pummeling the poet, with the brutal breakers and waves of an angry ocean violently washing over his head. These terrifying metaphors of his torment and anguish wash over him, drowning him in his sorrows. Carried along by the Spirit of God to write these things, perhaps the Psalmist knew not that he prophesied of the promised Messiah, but his words anticipate the sufferings and death of Christ as a kind of baptism. The word for deep in the psalm is used as a synonym for sheol, connecting to the death of Christ as a submersion into the deepest waters of sheol. And the water metaphors in this psalm undoubtedly describe the suffering servant of God - Psalm 42:10  As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” This is widely recognized as prophecy of the Lord's sword-pierced side and the cruel mockery of those who blasphemed while He hung on the cross.

David's description of his soul's suffering in deep water takes us more deeply into the sufferings of Jesus. As did the high priest of Israel, we are brought through the first veil, the holy place of Christ's impeccable flesh, gazing upon His physical sufferings; and then through the second veil into the holy of holies, to the very heart of Christ, where we see the spiritual anguish of the Lamb being under the rod of God's wrath. In Psalm 18, David wrote about his persecution at the hand of Saul – but the eternal message of redemption contained in all of Scripture here portrays the Savior's passion, not David's sorrow; death and hell as the persecutor of Christ, not Saul chasing David. The king of Israel describes his trials in terms of sorrow and death and hell which have a human and a divine cause, stark images of his soul's baptism into the lesser sea of man's wrath and the greater ocean of God's wrath. David is immersed in human wrath, Saul's rage is real. But David's words tell of God's judgment on sin and care for His people. Psalm 18:7-17 Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.  Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

But as God did not leave David's soul in torment, neither would He suffer His Holy One to see corruption, as Christ was not left buried beneath the sea of God's wrath and the ocean of His judgment. As David cried out in his distress and called upon the Lord from beneath the deep waters of his sufferings, so also the Savior, as it were, from beneath the burning waters of the cross, (Matthew 27:46) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As deep calls to deep, the Almighty heard the voices of David and David's seed, and thus He bowed the heavens and came down, riding on a cherub and flying on the wings of the wind; God answered the cry of His Son and sent from above and drew Him out of many waters.

The sorrows of David and other psalmists resonate with all who suffer, but they point us to the One Who suffered what we deserve, to bring many sons and daughters to glory. The love of God for His elect caused the Son of God – David's promised seed – to submit to the baptism of His Father's wrath, so we who are called by His name would be reconciled to our Father and not be left to our just deserts.

When we baptize a new convert, we are not drinking His cup, but we bapize in remembrance of what He did – to cut the New Covenant in His blood to reconcile sinners to Holy God. Paul asks, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Rom 6:3) And further he tells us, (1 Corinthians 12:13) For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Oh, the Savior’s love for His Father – and all those He chose to redeem in Christ! Baptism – it's an ordinance which shows how spiritually dead people have been raised to new life in Christ. But, oh my dear brothers and sisters – it is much, much more than that. I pray you got a glimpse of a better picture of the grand and glorious sacrifice of our Lord and Savior was prophesied and pictured in various ways as a baptism into God the Father's judgment. The price He paid and the suffering He took as He drank the cup of wrath due us, summed up the submersion and emersion as one is plunged beneath the waters of baptism and raised up from the deep as did our Savior. Let us never see baptism as only the celebration of a new-born brother in Christ, and not ever the mere sprinkling of water over a little one who knows nothing and fears not the sprinkled water. Let us always remember the One Who was baptized in a way you and I could never survive. Christ paid the price we could not pay. He drank the cup and underwent the baptism we could never do. Every time we see this ordinance, let us think on His sacrifice, His obedience, His submission. And let us be thankful we have a faithful God Who did not allow His Holy One to see corruption – that we would have the firm hope of life eternal. 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. It is a glorious picture of our Redeemer, but we won't know that if we are not people of the book!

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