December 2, 1999

Baptism Discussion

Greetings everyone,

The writer of Hebrews would have us leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ and to go on to perfection. Baptism is one of those principles that the church just cannot seem to get right. Something this foundational has divided the church for almost since the beginning. So I have started with this and will continue with those doctrines mentioned in Hebrews 6, so we can go on to perfection from here.

This is a long essay, I hope those in the future will not be so long or take me so long to put together. I had not intended it to be as one of my web pages, but it has turned out that way. More than asking questions like I did before, they are more like statements. Nothing is in stone so lay into me if you disagree. Actually the baptism debate includes several controversies, maybe more than I list. Rather than just the divisions for discussion, I have just decided to include all that I have. I would like to see us agree, this is only the way I see it. Those responding to discussion have replied to me personally rather than to the whole group. I suppose everyone is comfortable with that but anyway is fine. Pray that the Lord has His perfect way with us to come of one accord.


Discussion items:

1. Does baptism save you?

2. Is infant baptism valid?

3. Should you be baptized in the name of Jesus?

4. Is immersion the only way?

5. Symbol or sacrament?

Baptism is the rite of admission into the Christian church in line with the Jewish rites of purification and as a symbolical representation of cleansing from the sins of which they repented. The law of Moses spoke of a water of separation, a levitical purification for sin and the entry into a new and purer life. Christian baptism represents the response of our faith of Jesus' sacrifice. It is the symbol of the fact of our faith, repentance and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As Paul said, "For if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" This is where salvation lies. Paul would also consider the types of Israel in that "our fathers were under the cloud and all passed through the sea. And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea and did eat the same spiritual meat and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ." Christian baptism is considered a symbol and a sacrament.

We find John the Baptist from the beginning of his ministry baptizing unto repentance as a Jewish rite; the Essenes had their own baptisteries. John's baptism of repentance included the metanoia which means a change of mind. John's baptism was incomplete, "I baptize you with water, He will baptize with Holy Ghost and fire." John's baptism was a preparation for the other, "repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit." Jesus' baptism from John was "to fulfill all righteousness." The obligation of Christian baptism rests completely on the command of Jesus at His ascension. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Jesus never commanded His followers to be baptized, He command us to go out and baptize His followers. Paul would also have others do it and had only baptized a few, saying that "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" He had others do it so that no-one could say that they had been baptized into Paul's name. In Acts there is no trace of one set of people only to baptize.

Through the teaching of the Didache, we see in the early church that baptism was considered to be connected with the washing away of sins, accompanied with the unction with imposition of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was an institution taken for granted in the Jerusalem community as well as in the missionary endeavors of Paul. Baptism and the laying on of hands could be at any time at any place there was water. There is evidence that baptism also took place at dawn on Easter or Pentecost. Generally preceded by a fast, they renounced paganism, satan and all his works, and received an anointing with oil from head to foot, baptized and again anointed with oil and dressed in white. >From the beginning, a candidate for baptism would begin to associate with those already baptized and learn a great deal from them in the process.

Pere Teilhard wrote "By baptism in cosmic matter and in sacramental water we are more Christ than ourselves, and it is precisely because of this predominance of Christ in us that we can one day expect to be fully ourselves." Watchman Nee: "Baptism in scripture is associated with salvation. By that aspect of the cross which is figured in baptism, you are delivered from this present evil world and by your baptism in water, you confirm this. It is baptism 'into His death', ending one creation; but it is also baptism 'into Christ Jesus' having in view a new one. You go down in the water, the world goes down with you; you come up with Christ, but the world is drowned. Something far greater, relating to both the death and resurrection of our Lord, and having in view two worlds.

Paul wrote in Romans that "we are buried with Him in baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." "We are buried with Him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God who has raised Him." John and Paul looked at baptized persons as being just as impervious to sin as a dead person is to outward things. Baptism is representative of us as new creatures, we have already been reconciled and received the grace, now as a public profession of that faith, we are obedient in baptism and become part of the Body. Grace is poured out if we have truly responded in faith.

Baptism suggests immersion and means burial, only the dead needs to be buried. To baptize in the first century was to immerse or to dip. A person would baptize a garment into a dye and had to completely immerse the fabric into the solution. The Didache prescribes immersion but pouring under exceptional circumstance. There is a definite mindful break with the past in baptism and that is the important thing and what makes is especially symbolic; Jesus' resurrection enters into us, imparting to us a new life, I in Christ and Christ in me. Immersion is the proper way and the way that the apostolic fathers have done it but if baptism is to represent the inner reality of resurrection into the newness of life, sprinkling or pouring is also valid, not ideal but valid nevertheless. The problem with this and maybe not co-incidentally, those churches that hold to sprinkling have the least among them that have been fully immersed in the Baptism with the Holy Ghost and the ones that hold on most firmly to the traditions of men.

Does baptism in itself save you? Can you not receive the Holy Ghost until you are baptized? Those are doctrines hard to accept since those that think this have also caused division. Paul was filled with the Holy Ghost first and then baptized and many others in the book of Acts. Those that think that baptism has saved you have turned the fact of a spiritual resurrection into a magical formula of baptism thinking even that unbaptized infants will go to hell, or if you haven't been baptized in a certain way that you are not saved. The false doctrines of baptism has turned false teachers into schismatics and many worshipers into superstitious fools. That said however, we must realize that baptism is done in obedience to the command of Jesus and the apostles and therefore in effect baptism has a saving influence. If we cannot be obedient, how can we therefore say that we have been saved?

Baptism then should be taken very seriously and transcend mere symbolism. The Corinthians were so sure of the saving act of baptism that some were vicariously baptized for those who had died without baptism to insure that they would be raised from the dead. This practice continued into the fourth century. The first effect of baptism should be the admission that it is for the remission of sins. The second effect is that the inward and spiritual grace is a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness. We are by nature born into sin and the children of wrath, now we are raised into newness of life and made the children of grace.

The medieval church controlled the sacraments and the sacrament was essential to salvation. The voice of protest was called heresy. Thomas Aquinas: "The Lord said 'He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.' Baptism without faith is of no value. The effect of baptism is to remit both original and actual sin as well as all guilt and punishment which they incur." Saint Thomas omits the words of Jesus following which stated that he that believes not shall be damned, baptism is not mentioned in the damnation.
Luther: "Not a single sacramental act which magically wiped out original sin, as the scholastics maintained, but a process which continued throughout life. The waters of baptism are parallel to the waters of the Exodus through which the Israelites passed when they made their decisive conversion to Yahweh."

Paedobaptist is the word for those who practice infant baptism. Baptism began with baptism of adults and their family, therefore, infant baptism was practiced in the book of Acts and still recognized in the second century. Lydia was baptized with her household. It was not only the adults who were to repent of their sins and give evidence of their faith in Christ, but also the children of the Christian parents who would consecrate and hold them to separation. Children were thought of as being of the kingdom of God and entitled to baptism. Those baptized in infancy can pick up the catechum later, but it was not considered a guarantee of conversion. The Didache showed the practice as still comparatively simple and preceded by instruction, the training of the catechumens, an argument against infant baptism since an infant cannot be instructed. Tertullian recognized the practice in his day, though he strongly disapproved of it. Augustine emphasized infant baptism. By the time of Constantine, he and others would defer baptism until the moment before death in the belief that sins committed after baptism might not be forgiven. Many feel that infants are in danger of dying without hope of salvation unless they receive baptism, but that is mistaken. Even though, if the kingdom belongs to children, how dare we refuse them baptism, especially in the last days when there are woes pronounced on pregnant women and infants. If it is our responsibility to get others baptized, then we may have to alter our former ways of thinking.

From the first day of the church on the day of Pentecost, baptism was in the name of Jesus Christ. On that day, they were all with one accord and filled with the Holy Ghost. Peter said unto those Jews in attendance "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." The Greek is "into the name" not "in the name" of Jesus, not just the formula for baptism but the purpose and effect of baptism; Paul confirms this. Peter was to later say that "there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. And Paul, "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" So it is not just faith in Jesus, it is faith in the power of His name. Hermas, another Apostolic Father, describes the obedient as "They are such as who have heard the word, and were willing to be baptized in the name of the Lord." The practice of baptizing into the name of Jesus continued throughout the second century and does not seem to have changed until sometime before the Nicene Council. For us to be baptized into the name of Jesus, we are brought into the life-giving relation with the Divine Person that he is.

Most of us, myself included, have been baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. This is not the apostolic way but the traditional way, yet still in response to the original words of Jesus. We have heard the arguments before, these are not names, they are titles of the Godhead and not the way the apostles did it. However, if this was done from our faith in Jesus and was done in His name, then we should believe it is valid, there is no reason to be re-baptized. There is still "only one Lord, one faith and one baptism." It may not be proper according to what the apostolic fathers have done and knowing that should lead us to re-evaluate our understanding in a different way, but nevertheless it is valid as to our salvation and according to the unity of the faith.

All churches have false doctrines to a certain extent, some worse than others, but some will manifest real doctrinal hatred. For example, We need to believe that the Baptism in the name of Jesus is the proper formula used in baptism because this is what the apostles did in response to what Jesus commanded. Peter and John did it, so did Paul and none of us can deny that this is the way it was done in the early church and continued for two centuries. It cannot be a matter of Jesus being right and Peter being wrong. We are bigger than that. The name of Jesus is exalted above every other name, who can dispute that? The problem with some who also believe that, is that many of them have gone beyond the formulas used and accepted the heresy that believes that the words used in baptism has something to do with their salvation. Arguments concerning the nature of Christ and Jesus only positions set aside for now, the worst of these false teachers will lead you to believe that you are not saved unless you are baptized in the name of Jesus. We cannot and should not accept a heresy that leads to division and that is exactly what this is. It is according to the letter and not the spirit. If you look at those that have taught this error, they are those that have separated themselves from us and have become denominational pseudo-pentecostal cults. The truth of salvation is far from that heresy in that it is not the formula used in the baptism at all but whether you have been raised in newness of life. If a person has come up from the baptismal waters a hate-monger who believes that others have not been saved unless they have been baptized the way that they have been, or if they come up as a false prophet who teaches these things, then they have not been raised in newness of life and are still in their sins.

True Christians are known for their love arising out of a new life in Jesus, not in the way that they have been baptized. Those that are in the spirit of love can see through a hate-monger or false prophet easily and unfortunately, satan has used the apostolic mandated truth of the baptism in the name of Jesus to divide the church once again. The enemy has taken many of our people into captivity by teaching this heresy and putting them into churches that believe that everyone else besides them are wrong. We are called to unite under the truth, not unite under false doctrine or division or churches that use a misunderstood truth to separate themselves from the rest of the Body.

Latter Rain Discussion Archives

The Lord has given us the grace to reconcile the children to their Fathers

As One Body

  • We prepare for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
  • Harvest the Fruit of the Latter Rain
  • Follow Him as the Army of the Lord into His Glory

Help To Prepare A Holy Bride!

Issue Oriented Discussion Newsletter

Index | Search This Site | Aristide.Org | The Latter Rain | Babylon the Great | The Kingdom | The Nicolaitans | Jezebel
The Baptism With the Holy Ghost | The Grand Delusion | World Trade Org | Liberation Theology | Jay Atkinson | Alphabetical Index