It Says It, We Do It, And I Was. But.........
I've been so bemused, yet baffled, at all the hoopla about baptism that I sent someone whose opinions I trust, an email venting about it this morning. He responded by saying he agreed and that I ought to blog about it. So OK.
Let's start with the premise that God had The Holy Spirit write the bible, and various people interpret it, so you and I could read it. I doubt He did it just so folks with degrees could tell us what we should believe. So I'm going to talk about what I see in scripture, as a guy in the pew.
"...For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13, NIV)
Thanks to Ken Hemphill's Spiritual Gifts Study Course, I was awakened to the fact that the Holy Spirit Himself baptizes us into the body of Christ. Grasping the reality of THAT, I have to say I'm not real shot up about what man wants to do to me to take part in this or that. Nothing can hold a candle to God baptizing me Himself!
That does, however, give rise to a question: does He only do that when some "authorized person" baptizes me? I rather think not, and I have to conclude that water baptism is about the local church and its requirements, and not about the Body of Christ.
***And let me add this: Paul said we were all baptized into one Body, by the Holy Spirit. That canNOT be a local church, but can ONLY apply to the "universal", or ______ (insert your own non-offensive word) Body. Paul made that remark to the people in the church in Corinth, but Paul was baptized in Syria! I doubt that Corinth was into multi-campus churches.***
Some folks apparently like to major on minors.
On another front, we are told:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV)
I assumed from reading those verses, that making disciples has (at least) two parts. Baptizing and teaching. So merely baptizing does not a disciple make. And if that's the case, then it's an indictment of CHURCHES because there's such dismal discipleship going on in MOST cases. FBC Pelham has done a marvelous job beefing up Discipleship Training Hour .. we've gone from 30-40 to 200-300 folks there on Sunday afternoons. But that's out of 900 SS attendance and 2500+ members. So the CHURCH is doing a poor job of the "and" part of the commission.
Look at the typical happenings in an SBC church (at least I've experienced this many times, personally): someone walks the aisle and wants to join the church. Say they are already a Christian and we ask about baptism; they say they have not been immersed. We tell them they'll need to be immersed, so we schedule it, and we then consent to their becoming members upon their baptism. Or, say they are convicted of their sin and want to be saved. We pray with them, and then get around to the necessity of baptism to become a member.
Is it any wonder we have generations of people who equate baptism with joining A baptist church? We couch it in language about "following the Lord in believer's baptism" but omit any real education about the meaning of being baptized, and certainly about what it does NOT mean.
I had a discussion not long ago, with a deacon and his wife. They'd been Baptists forever and they've both been teaching for many years, but neither had ever studied the BF&M. Wouldn't good discipleship include teaching folks what it is we believe, and what it is we're supposed to have freedom in believing, but should certainly have our own position on? All most seem to know is "what our church does"! How "disciple-y"is THAT?
NOW .. if I go somewhere and lead someone to the Lord, and I baptize them (which I think I could do as I AM part of that "church" to whom the command was given), I'd be a moron to drop it there and not follow through to see that discipleship followed, too! (I would see to it, by hooking them up with the best local body of believers I could find). But lack of discipleship is what happens in far too many baptist churches, and is the reason why Peg refused to join FBC for the first 4 months we went there. She'd been saved and baptized in FBC of Lebanon, IN, and she described it as a "love'em and leave'em" experience. IN FACT, the ONLY reason she joined was that they asked her to teach a pre-school SS class (one of her 2 lifelong passions), and we had to be a member to teach.
Third, and I need some help on this ... where does it say baptism is our "identification" with Christ? As we all died with Adam, so we all came to (spiritual) life in Jesus. And His death, burial and resurrection are imputed to us via His righteousness and His sacrifice, just as death was via Adam. Those are spiritual transactions, and not contingent on some ritual to become true.
Also, if our water baptism is "identifying with" Him, it's only true for the onlookers. How does the next person visiting my SS class know I was baptized? Does the Bible even say that baptism "identifies me" with Christ? I don't recall it.
Peter said to the folks in Acts, upon the occasion of the first sermon under the current plan (sacrificial death, bodily resurrection, salvation by faith, infilling of the Holy Ghost), in response to the question as to how they might be saved "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins". That's a pretty direct command and seems to me an argument for baptism being salvic in nature. I don't believe that, but even if I did, I'd think it was the Baptism done by the Holy Spirit, not by some guy in a robe. And that IS essential for salvation. For me, a refusal to be scripturally immersed, when the Bible says to "repent and be baptized", and when we know what that word means in the original and why it was transliterated rather than being translated as "immersed", hints at something that ought to get more attention than the mere fact of immersion, or the lack thereof.
Couple all that with the fact that Jesus INSISTED on being immersed, and I think obedience demands we be baptized similarly.
AND .. the baptist faith has been described as a fellowship of believers who feel that the proper response to salvation is being baptized by immersion. If someone does that, why aren't they as baptist as anyone else? And why would someone want to be baptist who didn't believe that?
This whole thing smells of "respecter of persons", to me. And that doesn't smell good.