Theology – Baptism

Christian Baptism Series – Part 7 – Conclusion and Q&A

I can understand how things have turned out the way they have. If baptism is something that we do as our first act of obedience in Christ, it certainly cannot save, because the result would be each of us earning salvation, and that is something that all Protestants would collectively deny. So therefore the clear verses are explained away because if they were true and literal, that would make baptism efficacious, and us no different from the Judaizers of Galatia. What believers’ baptism has done to get around this issue is adopt a modern form of Gnosticism. The Gnostics taught, and still teach today, that the spirit is inherently good and the material is inherently bad. Therefore, those that profess believers’ baptism, in effect, are saying that God only chooses to work through the spirit manifestation, not by any real material means. Therefore baptism is taught as symbolic only; like a wedding ring. The problem with this is that it negates the efficacy of Christ coming in the flesh. Christ became “material” at the incarnation. He physically lived and touched people during His 33 years of life. Those who closely watched as he was scourged, played witness to the nails pounded into his hands and feet as well as those who watched the violence play out as they stood under the cross as he bled and breathed his last breathe saying “It is finished” all had access to his physical blood to cover themselves as an atonement. We, today, cannot go back to Calvary and scrape Jesus’ blood from the ground to cover ourselves. It is no longer there.  But Jesus knew this and gives the good news to the disciples in Matthew 28 when they realize what was accomplished and how disciples are made.  This bloody picture of our ravaged savior is the precise picture of what baptism is and what it delivers to us. The real and physical means that Christ chose to dispense atonement to those that could not access it. Christ touches through the waters of baptism because his word says he does. From the Old Testament means of grace and baptismal foreshadowing (Part 1 & 2) to the preparatory work of John the Baptist (Part 3) that resulted in the baptism of Jesus (Part 4) and the subsequent fulfillment of means of grace and prophecy through the gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit (Part 5 & 6) the masterpiece of salvation through baptism is now complete. As this series comes to a close there is one additional point to be made.

What does it mean when God says  “remember?”

It comes up many times in scripture and is synonymous with salvation.  There are many verses that point to this (Genesis 8:1, Genesis 9:14-16, Genesis 19:29, Genesis 30:22, Exodus 2:23-25, Exodus 20:24, 1 Samuel 1:19-20, Psalm 105:8-11, Psalm 111:4-5, Isaiah 65:16-17, Jeremiah 31:33-34, Luke 1:54-55, Luke 1:69-78, etc., Hebrews 8:10-14, etc).  These verses display that when God “remembers” his promise, salvation flows forth. The scarlet thread of the Old Testament text shows the preparatory means by which everything proceeding from the gospel promise given in Genesis 3:15 was to prepare the way for the one who will bruise the head of the serpent. All of the covenants, miracles and opened wombs were means of grace to prepare the entrance of the savior into the world.  God Remembers Noah and rescues him, his family and an ark full of animals from the great flood. God remembers his covenant with Abraham in Exodus and returns Israel from Egyptian exile. God remembers Rachel and her womb is opened to birth Joseph. God remembers Hannah and her womb is opened to birth Samuel.  God remembers the remnant and rescues them from Babylonian exile and points to a future covenant in which he will remember their sins no more.  In Luke, John the Baptists father, Zechariah, prophesies over his son saying that he will prepare the way for the Lord which is an answer to the prophecy in Jeremiah 31.  In Hebrews, the Jeremiah prophecy is shown to be fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  All of scripture points to Jesus Christ.  He is the reason for God’s remembrance.  There are three particular verses that will help bridge the gap between God remembering and baptism.  The verses are…

Exodus 20:24
An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

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.”

1 Peter 3:18-22
For 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, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

In Exodus, God gives a promise of blessing attached with the remembrance of His name. When God remembers his promises, salvation happens.  In Matthew, Jesus gives the baptismal formula which is by water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  In each and every baptism, His name is remembered.  Peter then affirms that as God remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1) He also remembers each of us in our baptism stating that as God saved Noah and his family by bringing them through the flood waters, so too will he save us through the waters of baptism.  Peter continues that this is not merely a temporal cleansing, but a true means to clear ones conscience through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Baptism is more than a mere act of obedience or a hollow ordinance.  Baptism is true salvation.  Baptism is an extension of the cross because just as God “remembered” the thief on the cross, so too will he remember us who were adopted in baptism.  I’ll close with one last picture. When the soldier pierces Jesus’ side with the spear; blood and water flow out. What a perfect picture of the sacraments of baptism and communion. As Eve was created out of Adams side, so to the church was created from the side of Christ through the promises he offers through the proclamation of His word, the Lord’s table and the waters of baptism.


1. Can someone be re-baptized?
There is no such thing as re-baptism if baptism is God’s work. If it is God’s work, then the act of re-baptizing would signify that God was either only partially effective or ineffective in the baptismal waters the first time. This would also mean that God doesn’t keep his promises; which makes Him out to be a liar. I am not saying that if you are re-baptized you are condemned, only that you have a misunderstanding of what baptism is and should, when convicted, repent of that misunderstanding. On the other hand, if baptism is our work (a position I disagree with), an infant baptism would become null and void while necessitating cognizant “age of discretion” baptism since the claim of those who affirm believers’ baptism is that it’s the first act of obedience. Since I see neither scripture or history affirming anything resembling “age of accountability” or a “first act of obedience” view of baptism, the infant baptism performed in the triune name of God, would be the fully efficacious baptism the second “baptism” (as first act of obedience), would merely be an empty work. The only time that I believe scripture merits a second baptism is if your first baptism was not done in accordance with Matthew 28:19; that is in the name of the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” We see this in Acts 19. This still would not be called a “re-baptism” as the first baptism wasn’t a true baptism, thus scriptural baptism has never occurred in the first place. Any denomination that will baptize an adult more than once has zero scriptural evidence to perform such a multitude of rebaptisms and is completely missing any scriptural foundation for understanding baptism.

2. Does the absence of baptism condemn?
The short answer is no, but it is much deeper than simply that. Our sins are what condemn us. So to escape condemnation we need forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sin (grace) is dispensed by the means of faith through hearing the word and the waters of baptism. The command given in Matthew 28:19 is to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching, therefore an un-baptized Christian is a rare bird, however, there is precedence. The thief on the cross heard the Word proclaimed, believed and that gifted faith justified him.  The thief often finds himself in the midst of poorly formed arguments against efficacious baptism. As stated earlier, it’s not the absence of the baptism that condemns, but the  despising of it.  Despising baptism is any attitude that keeps you from it.  Secondly, Jesus’ exhortation to make disciples through baptism was some 43 days after the crucifixion.  Lastly, he was nailed to a cross thus making it relatively impossible for him to be baptized. It wasn’t the thief’s attitude that kept him from baptism, but 3 nails and a cross (and lack of directive since the narrative in Matthew 28 hasn’t happened yet).  This carries forward to paint the big picture.  Baptism is A means of grace, not THE means of grace. As pointed out many times in this series saving faith comes both through hearing of the word and the waters of baptism.  These two means are not to be pitted against one another, but are to harmoniously interact.

3. Why don’t you just go to the hospital and start baptizing all the babies if it is indeed certain salvation?
This is a question that comes up rather frequently because it seems logical at first glance. However, the life of a Christian, from birth to physical death in one of constant nourishment and care.  When a baby is born they must be fed and cared for until they can care for themselves apart from their parents or guardians.  The same goes for babies and their spiritual lives.  Baptism is only given to infants and children of believing parents or guardians because the parents and guardians are responsible for the spiritual nourishment and upbringing.  The have to take them to read and teach them the word, take them to church, and generally bring them up in the ways of the Lord.  It would be frivolous and un-scriptural to baptize infants of unbelievers because their faith will ultimately be starved to death.  It would be akin to welcoming an infant with an incredible feast and then sending them to a barren desert to live out the rest of their days as their spiritual life is quickly staved out.

4. What about those that were baptized as infants that are not bearing fruit in keeping with repentance but claim salvation in their baptism anyway?
I believe that John 15 best answers this. In John 15 we are told that God the Father is the vine-dresser, Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. We are told that if we abide in him we will bear fruit, but if we do not abide in him, we will be removed from the vine and thrown into the fire. In this picture there are several things to point out. First, if we want to stay in the vine, we have to understand how to abide. In the proceeding verses we learn that “we abide” by loving Jesus and we love Him by keeping his commands. The Greek word there is “tereo” which does mean keep, but not in the same sense as it is typically preached. It means keep-in-tact or guard. Therefore, to abide we must guard or keep-in-tact His commands (also see John 5:38 for further evidence of this understanding). This also insinuates that we have to know what His commands are. Faith needs nourishing just like branches need nourishing. It is important for the parents and the church to collectively work together in bringing our children up in the faith by not only teaching them God’s Word and commands, but also teaching them to guard them. This is a true picture of discipleship. Secondly, it is apparent that those that are not bearing fruit are still in the vine before they are removed and thrown into the fire. They are in the vine by baptism. So God kept His promise that was made in their baptism. However, somewhere along the line, through malnourishment, they reject the promise, stop bearing fruit, and are thus removed from the vine and thrown into the fire. This is a sad picture that should touch us all. This is the picture of one whom claims salvation through baptism, while refusing to receive spiritual nourishment through word and sacraments. Just as there are those who hear the word and come to faith only to eventually fall to apostasy, there will be those who in like manner are baptized and will fall to apostasy.  As long as we find ourselves on this side of the grace, proper spiritual nourishment important no matter the age of the believer.

5. Do infant baptizing brethren ever baptize adults?
Yes. Infants are only baptized when their parents are professing believers. If there is an adult that comes to repentant faith in Christ having never been baptized in the triune name of God, then this calls for adult baptism. This is the same baptism that is seen in scripture concerning Cornelius, the Philippian Jailer, Lydia and the Eunuch (among others). These were all converts that had never been baptized previously. The text clearly says their whole household was baptized. This brings us to the debate centered on what is meant by households.  It is my contention as well as the contention of historical Christianity, that households are inclusive of all who live in the house.  Household is as inclusive as “nation” is.  I purposefully left the debate about “households” out of the previous parts of this series because it is an overused argument from both sides of the fence.  Ultimately, we can fight about assuming whether household equates to infants. The fact is we do not know for certain that these households had infants nor can we, with any certainty, say they didn’t. What we do know is that the whole household was baptized; therefore if there were infants, they too were baptized.  What we can say with absolute certainty is that all nations include infants and the baptismal directive is to baptize all nations.  Households are part of nations.  I see no scripture anywhere that gives a positive case for infants to be excluded.

6. What’s the proper mode of baptism?
This is a hot topic amongst the brethren. The typical infant baptizing congregation will say sprinkling while the believers baptizing congregation will demand immersion. There is some validity on both sides of the argument. I personally think that baptizing by pouring water on the head three times out of a shell is the most historically accurate way, but ultimately I don’t think it matters all that much since it’s God’s work and he has promised to work and gift through water and word.  As long as water and word are present it shouldn’t make much difference. This is one reason I spend any time on this in the series. However, the hang up tends to focus on the Greek word “baptismo.” This word can mean immersion and it can also mean a sprinkling. The believers’ baptism congregations use this to invalidate infants because they say that you must be immersed to truly be baptized and thus immersing an infant could drown them. The infant baptism crowd says that we sprinkle all and thus do not see a problem. I personally believe the Didache is insightful when considering the mode. The Didache is a writing, believed to be written in first century, that has been called “the teaching of the apostles.” It is a short work dealing with many of the rules and regulations for the ecclesia or church. Here is what it says concerning baptism…

Now about baptism: this is how to baptize. Give public instruction on all these points, and then “baptize” in running water, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” If you do not have running water, baptize in some other. If you cannot in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

The baptismal hierarchy within the Didache is…
1. In running water in the name of the Trinity
2. If you don’t have running, use some other water
3. Use cold water and if you don’t have that, use warm
4. If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times in the name of the Trinity.

Notice there is a hierarchy of water modes, however, what doesn’t change is that water is used in combination with the triune name of God. Also, even though full immersion paints of beautiful picture of being buried and raised with Christ, I have a hard time harmonizing this with scripture.  The text typically used for this is Acts 8:39 when Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch.   The text says “and when they came up out of the water” and this is usually quoted as proof that Phillip immersed the eunuch.  This is not what the text says.  In Acts 8:38 Philip and the eunuch come upon water and go down into it.  In verse 39 Philip baptizes the eunuch and they come out of the water.  If this was talking about full immersion the text could not say “they came up out of the water” because when someone s baptized by immersion only the baptized comes up out of the water.  The baptizer is always above the water.  Therefore this verse is simply stating that they went down to the water, the baptism happened, then they returned to the dry land.  I do not see support for full immersion from this passage.  Once again, it is my position that the means doesn’t particularly matter, but we must be faithful to what the text actually says and not jump through hoops just to attempt to prove our presupposition.

Thank you for reading the “Christian Baptism Series” and please feel free to comment of email e with any questions.

The Bride of Christ Needs Counseling…

I’m thankful that I’m married.

Watching my single friends run through the gambit of 21st century dating etiquette allows me to feel all the more blessed.

The onslaught of what is considered culturally acceptable on social media platforms boggles the mind as many freely expose the dark taboo-ish corners of their lives in an effort to gain attention through individualism and avant garde living.  I’m amazed at what is considered “commonplace” in the arena of social media.  Passive aggressive girlfriends who, with their forked tongues, speak slander and praise as an attempt to manipulate their way through relationships.  Misogynist man-boys who’s goal is to mark their territory and expand their imaginary empires by the means of lies, deception and emotional thievery.  This formerly sealed off corner now has the spotlight through the likes of  reality TV and no-holds-barred social media.  The landscape is hostile, lawless and ultimately narcissistic.

This paradigm shift makes me all the more satisfied that I not only have a wife, but that I love her and find security and assurance in our relationship.  Sure neither of us are close to being perfect and our relationship has its ups and downs, but as I watch while others openly live their lives in the public forum, I began to entertain a thought.  What would the bride of Christ, which is the church, look like within the confines of  modern day social media?  Do we look passive aggressive?  Do we jump into the relationship just to strip-mine the benefits for ourselves and then bail?  Are we emotionally unbalanced?  What is our current mental state?  I recently read an article on “Ask Men” titled “10 signs she’s crazy.”  In the article the author lays out 10 signs that you might be dating someone who is crazy and when I compared the list to the current state of the Church, the results were scary.

10. Controls Narrative

We like to be the one that controls the narrative.  So often, God’s word is conformed to our worldview instead of our worldview being conformed to God’s word.  We control this narrative through many ways such as the purpose and direction of the church service, how worship is viewed and a strange view of what prayer actually is.  I could spend much time delving into how the modern church is embracing culture instead of maintaining its position as counter-cultural, but for the sake of time I’m going to focus on prayer.  Prayer is often viewed as a literal conversation between us and God.  In the personal setting many are instructed to find a quiet room, talk to God and wait in silence until he answers.  This is the perceived “conversation” that many Christians expect.  However, this is not the biblical definition of prayer.  Prayer is simply talking to God, through Jesus.  The perfect picture of this is found in the Old Testament where the high priest would offer prayers for the people and would burn incense to represent the prayers ascending to God. Interestingly enough, the smoke never descended back to the people. Nor did it change back to incense and audibly reply. This is because prayer is not like our earthly conversations.  We should not expect an answer directly from God, but instead should seek answers in his word.  That is how God speaks to us.  Prayer is not a conversation.  Look at the Psalms.  David was a prophet and how many of his prayers were conversational?  Jesus is God and taught us how to pray in Matthew 6 and Mark 11.  Jesus’ prayer doesn’t end “…and deliver us from evil and answer me back to let me know if I should date Cindy.” The Lord’s Prayer was given because it shows God’s precise will for each of our lives.  It’s not that Cindy doesn’t matter, but that if you are honestly praying the contents of the Lord’s prayer, then you will trust that his will be done.  I am not saying that God could not talk directly to us, only that direct revelation is not normative. The modern church correctly takes its every need and desire to God, as directed through scripture, but controls dialogue when answers are sought outside the appropriate method of response, given by God, which is through his word.   The answers to our prayers will ultimately be answered as God perfectly reveals his will in his perfect time.

9. Self Aggrandizing

There is so much self importance placed upon the individual that Christ is left as a supporting cast member instead the lead actor.  This happens often as many sermons are set up to make us feel important.  These days, it’s more important to make people feel like they have purpose than to show them they are a sinner in desperate need of salvation.  I mean, who wants to feel bad about themselves? Many pastors subtly engage in this behavior by reading themselves into the biblical texts.  When the narrative of David and Goliath is the Sunday text, the pastor compares the congregations life to that of David and accordingly asks them to identify the “Goliath” in their lives.  This belittling of the biblical narrative not only takes our eyes off of Christ and his scarlet thread through the old testament, but feeds our inner narcissist as we suddenly have the power to slay our giants of guilt, debt or anger.  The problem is that Goliath was a real Philistine giant not a projection of our problems.  The bible is not about us.  The bible is about Jesus and what he has done FOR us.  All things point to him and we can rest in what he has accomplished in our place.  The bible isn’t a self help book that leads us on a path to self actualization, but instead is a book enables us to die to self as we place our faith in Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, that came, bled, died and rose again for our justification.  The church should be aggrandizing it’s groom, Jesus, not itself.

8. Hates other women

How often do Christians look down on unbelievers living in exposed sin?  How often are our lives lived as if we are sinning less and less while the world around us are way worse sinners than we are?  Have you ever caught yourself feeling pretty good on the inside when a person that annoys you gets caught in sin?  Have you ever had a person tailgate you for 10 miles until you move over and let them pass only to think “I hope there’s a cop up there waiting to give them a ticket” as if you never speed?  How about realizing that you are sinning by not speeding because your motive for driving under the limit is fueled by greed instead of a desire to serve Christ through obedience? How often do we look like Pharisees on both the inside and out. This attitude against unbelievers is true hatred.  Love would come along side them.  Love is not haughty.  Love would not discount the damage and and ugliness of their sin, but would point to Christ as the one who died and rose again for those sins.  Love would point to repentance, not as a process to perfection, but as a realization of complete inability to please God apart from the work of Jesus Christ.  True love doesn’t hate others through haughty eyes that see the spec in their neighbor’s eye while missing the plank in their own.  We often harbor hatred for others because of our own insecurities.  We may have been deeply, personally hurt by a particular sin of others and now paint those with even a hint of that sin with the broad brush of reprobation. We often hate because we see what we don’t like about ourselves or our experiences in others.  That sin is just as damning as the sin committed against us because both sins are in opposition to God.  This is precisely what 1 John 4:20 is talking about.

7. Isolates herself

How many times do we like to hang out in our comfortable groups, speaking Christianese as a way to protect ourselves against the trials and tribulations of this world.  This is not only unhealthy for us, it is also hypocritical.  Hanging out with “only” Christians as we isolate ourselves not only implies superiority, but also projects an unloving attitude.  This attitude will reveal itself in the places in which we are in contact with the largest population of unbelievers…which is usually our work environments.  Our unbelieving co-workers are curious as to why we claim to be Christians, but fail to show them any love or always turn them down when they extend an invitation.  The mission field is wherever our vocation is.  Every time we head into the office, job site or the onto the production floor we carry the torch of Christianity through our thought, word and deed.  The same goes for when we visit others work places as we dine in restaurants, pick up our children at daycare and interact with others at the grocery store. The world doesn’t need to see us in our collective groups of dissociation.  The world needs to hear the comfort of the full proclamation of the gospel message.  The world needs to know that we struggle just as they struggle, but that our faith and hope lay in the one who came and died for the sins of the world instead of faith in our works.  Isolation is not an adjective that defines the Christian life.

6. Weird about Exes

We are pretty weird about our exes.  Our exes in this case are the idols that we used to (and continue) to exalt in place of God.  These idols could be food, comfort, luxury, pietism, other people…really anything.  As Calvin famously said, our hearts are idol factories.  This being the case, we are weird about them.  We struggle to call them what they are. We often run back to them in an attempt to satisfy the longings of our sinful flesh.  It’s a weird coping mechanism. On one hand we hate and renounce them while on the other, we secretly love and cling to them.  Our God is a jealous God who doesn’t desire to interact with our former crushes.  He wishes to exterminate them and call them out for what they really are…false securities of our sinful flesh.

5. False Accusations

Many times in an effort to comfort ourselves, we project our shortcomings onto our loved ones.  When we see the things that we hate so much about ourselves in other people we tend to harp on it.  This is an interesting paradigm when compared to our relationship with Christ.  How many times, in our sin, have we said “Well you made me this way.”  How often to we project our shortcomings onto Christ as if he is responsible for our condition. The interesting twist is that even though he is not responsible for our condition, he did willingly and actively take our place on the cross.  He bore each and everyone of our sins that we falsely blame him for to earn our pardon.  He defeated death and the false accusations which to him were very real, true and painful as he suffered and died only to rise again for our justification.

4. Shaves her head

We are attention seekers.  We really love attention even if it’s negative.  We do weird things in order to steal the spotlight.  Many times these weird things are a blemish to the name of Christ. We do many of these attention seeking acts in the name of relevance with the tag line “If it could only save one person…” as our qualifier.  We shave our heads by attempting to make the worship service “entertaining.”  This could be as ridiculous as an arena rock service with smoke machines and laser lights or as head scratching as a Mixed Martial Arts Fight Church (I am not lying.  This is a real thing).  This is akin to the girlfriend that always acts outrageous as a means to gain acceptance, while her boyfriend stands at the side shaking his head in disgust.  Once again the church is and always will be counter-cultural.  It’s not counter-cultural to draw attention to itself because it’s an attention seeker, but because we have been given a true picture of what the church should look like in scripture and it’s never been bright lights and parties to draw in unbelievers.  For 120 years Noah preached the word to all who would hear.  Scripture doesn’t tell us that Noah offered free drinks, a rock concert and a MMA fight to get people into the Ark.  He simply preached the word.  Sure the Ark was a spectacle. A spectacle of ridicule instead of relevance.  The same Ark that he was ridiculed for building, is the same Ark that God used to save him and the only 7 others in the world that believed God’s word, which were Noah’s family.  We shouldn’t figuratively shave our heads to focus the attention on us, but instead should stay with the outline that Scripture gives us and focus the spotlight on Jesus Christ.  Anything we do to steal the spotlight, will take our eyes off of him.

3. Hits below the belt

This can either be a literal kick or an verbal spar.  Either are equally painful.  Angry and hateful comments about our family or lack of success should be off limits to our spouses, but sometimes find themselves fair game in the heat of battle. The church utilizes these cheap shots against our Lord and Savior when we deny the efficacy of the sacraments.  Jesus, through his word, promises to be present and offer gifts through baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution of sin.  When the church, through many denominations, deny what Jesus proclaims using arguments of fallen reason, it is a hit below the belt.  Jesus offers to meet us and give himself to us through these particular means and many reject them because it doesn’t fit within their comfort zone or desired understanding.  I am sure that some will take exception with this, but think about it for a moment.  If the sacraments are truly efficacious, as I believe the word clearly proclaims, then rejecting them on any basis would be a supreme low blow to the one offering his presence and gifts.

2. Contradicts herself

This deals with the sad fact that many Christians that I run into, couldn’t explain their faith if their life depended on it.  Jay Leno used to have a segment called “man on the street” where random tourists outside his studio would be asked insanely simple questions and fail to give the correct answer.  If we did a similar experiment in many of our churches, I hypothesize that the results would be similar.  This is a major issue because those participating in Jay Leno’s segment aren’t making a knowledge or affiliated claim before being subjected to the simple questions whereas those in the church are claiming fellowship and thus should know something substantive about what they believe.  This does not mean that each and every Christian should be able to succinctly wax eloquent on the hypostatic union, but should at minimal, be able to defend the faith they claim to lay hold of.  When we don’t know what we believe, we become walking and talking contradictions.  These contradictions are easy to spot and make us easy picking for false teachings and teachers who will gladly guide us to apostasy.  Could you imagine a marriage where the wife has only superficial knowledge of her husband?  Could you imagine the confusion and utter amazement of the husband for how clueless his wife really is?  It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the relationship is based off of what the bride can “get” instead of actual genuine, sacrificial love.

1. Other crazy people think she’s crazy

Atheists and agnostics are quick to point out all the craziness that was pointed out in the previous 9 signs.  While I am fine with a self-proclaimed atheist or agnostic calling me crazy if I am proclaiming the truth of the gospel, (1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing) it’s a whole other story to behave in the fashion of the “signs” listed above and be justly labeled crazy.  There is a difference.  Accept the label of foolishness for the message of the cross, not because you exhibit behavior found in the above “signs” of craziness.

Is this what the true bride of Christ looks like or is this some doppelganger infiltrating the ranks of Christendom?  As much as I would like to lay the blame on an evil twin, scripture gives us picture of what we look like and it’s messy.  Throughout scripture the church is compared to a prostitute.  Our story is more  desperate than we’d like to admit.  This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to give up and give into our sin nature as scripture also gives us a picture of what we should strive to look like.  We will continually fall short of the goal, but his grace gifted to us is what gives life to the striving.  We have been redeemed.  Purchased for a price.  Bought and freed from the bounds of sin, death, and the devil.  Our groom is the text-book example of loving and puts up with our garbage as he continues to strengthen and encourage our faith in him through word and sacrament.  So yes we have many problems and need counseling. Yet, even though we are trapped in these earthen vessels, we can look forward with faith, hope and love to our wedding day when we are finally united with our groom who gave it all for us so that we can have freedom in him.  We are the treasure in the field.

Christian Baptism Series – Part 6 – Should Infants Be Baptized?

Dylan Baptism

Should Infants Be Baptized?

It has been established by the previous posts in this series that baptism actually does something.  It gifts forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.  If the scriptural promise attached to baptism is true, then the question of  nessecity arises concerning whether infants need the gifts offered.  Do infants need forgiveness of sins?  Are they born perfect or are they born sinful?

Romans 5:12
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”

Job 15:14
What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me

John 3:6
That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Ephesians 2:3
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

These verses paint a rather dire situation for anyone born of flesh (with Christ Jesus being the lone exception).  Infants may not be able to rob a bank, tell a lie or covet their neighbors Ferrari, but the seed of Adam is ever present within us all from the point of conception forward.  The fall has infected us to the core.  Sin has no prejudice. Like a pit viper, it inflicts it’s poisoness effect without regard for gender, race, status or age in hopes of certain death for it’s victim.  The anti-venom is only found in the blood of Jesus Christ.  So yes, it is quite evident that infants need what baptism offers.  They need forgiveness of sin.  This may be shocking or a hard teaching for many, but within historical Christianity, there wasn’t even a debate about this. The earliest teaching resembling the doctrine of believers’ baptism didn’t arise until the 1520’s when the Zwickau Prophets organized to protest Martin Luther. These “prophets” came out of the early stages of the radical reformation.  They taught that the Holy Spirit reveals all that is needed, directly, to the individual apart from the word.  Therefore they taught that the bible was not authoritative. This claim was in opposition to Luther’s teaching of sola scriptura.  Their defense of denying sola scriptura stated that if the Bible was indeed authoritative, then God would have dropped it directly out of the sky. Since the bible was written by mere men, it couldn’t attain the status of divine authorship or authority.  On the other hand, they taught that God dropped the Holy Spirit out of the sky and implanted him into all believers and therefore, authoritative truth proceeds solely from believers.  Because of this view, they divorced what the scriptures said concerning many things, including baptism, and created their own views based on their supposed direct revelations. They severely opposed infant baptism and affirmed believers’ baptism based on these direct revelations.  Following in the baptismal steps of the Zwickau Prophets the radical reformation moved forward through the likes of Anabaptist groups like the Hutterites and Mennonites.  Unlike the Zwickau Prophets, these groups affirmed Sola Scriptura, however since the Bible didn’t explicitly say “baptize infants” they rejected infant baptism through the claim of Sola Scriptura. Many controversies and separations continued as this new teaching of symbolic adult baptism continued to spread.  Other groups were also influenced by the radical reformation which resulted in the English separatist movement in the 17th century which birthed denominations like the Baptists.  The position of the Radical Reformation came out of a stark desire to distance themselves as far away from Rome as possible as they believed Luther’s error was that he did not go far enough.

Therefore the baptismal continuum looks something like this. From 30AD to 1525AD, baptism was taught to be regenerative and for all regardless of age, then a split started with the birth of the radical reformation around 1525 that produced 3 alternative views resulting in 4 major branches; Regenerative baptism for all ages, non-regenerative baptism for all ages, regenerative believers baptism and believers baptism as a symbol. There is a major problem with this as it would mean that for approximately 1500 years Jesus would leave His church completely misinformed and lost in the woods concerning one of only two things that He instituted in Matthew 28:19-20. For there to be a misuse, there has to be an initial correct use. If I am misusing a wrench, there had to first be a correct use for which the wrench was intended before misuse can be entertained. Concerning baptism, history reveals unity in appropriate use and function for 1500 years, followed by 500 years of proper use alongside misuse. The church fathers are rather clear in their position as they repeatedly affirm regenerative baptism for all ages. If the church fathers that carried the torch of Christianity through the first 5 centuries alone are studied, it is clear that infant baptism is the standard, accepted, unquestioned, professed and proclaimed view amongst the church. There was no discussion concerning age requirements for baptism apart from whether baptism should occur on or before the eighth day. That debate was quickly extinguished by Cyprian of Carthage in 253AD when he suggested that the day doesn’t matter, just do it as soon as possible. Here is a list of solid, sound church fathers who affirm regenerative baptism as a means of grace for people of all ages…

1st Century – Barnabus and Hermas
2nd Century – Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria & Justin Martyr
3rd Century – Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage and Hippoytus
4th Century – Gregory of Nazianz, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Aphraahat the Persian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Eusibius of Caesarea and Jerome
5th Century – Augustine, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Severian of Gabala,

Now that the historical ground work has been laid for regenerative baptism for all ages, what does scripture say?

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

This verse issues a directive to make disciples of all nations. This is to be done by baptizing and teaching the word.  The qualifier in the statement hinges on what is meant by “nations.” Webster defines it as “a territorial division containing a body of people of one or more nationalities and usually characterized by relatively large size and independent status.” This is a pretty standard definition. The primary subject that defines a nation is “people.” “People” is nondescript. The word “people”, in its generic use (which is how it is used in this context), has no age description. People, I contend, are people from conception to death. The verse does not say make disciples of all men, or women or all people except infants and small children. It says make disciples of all nations. Infants are included when the census is taken. Citizenship is granted as a birthright. This is as inclusive as it gets.

Galatians 3:28-29
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

This verse is also purposefully written to be inclusive. Paul is stating that salvation is for all as there is no hierarchy or limits to who can be saved. Once again, if the Holy Spirit though Paul wished to exclude small children and infants, said exclusion would have been part of the text. The fact that this verse goes to great lengths to be inclusive is proof positive. Each of the categories that Paul mentions could refer to an infant or the elderly, therefore the necessity for such language is unnecessary.  Once again the full inclusivity of Christ is presented.

Acts 2:38-39
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

This response by Peter is to those at the Day of Pentecost sermon when they realize Jesus’ blood was on their hands.  The text says they were cut to the core and asked Peter what they needed to do to be saved. Once again, an enormously inclusive verse is given. One particular argument that I have heard is that Peter is really saying that “you and your children”  is descriptive of “the Jews” and that “all who are far off” describes the “gentiles” therefore the “you and your children” section should not be taken literally. This is shortsighted eisegesis. It is true that both Jews and gentiles are included in the statement as there is a great crowd at Pentecost full of both Jews and various gentile nations (thus the necessity for tongue speaking and translators). Peter is simply preaching what he was told in Matthew 28:19-20. Peter is making disciples through the method in which Jesus commanded him. This crowd was precisely “you and your children and for all who are far off…” All nations were present in the crowd. There were adults, parents, children, infants, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, fathers, mothers and cousins. These were people of all ages. Peter once again does not exclude anyone from baptism. He says it is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, for as many as the Lord will call unto himself. The verse when taken literally includes everyone present.  If the verse is present only figuratively (as the argument claims) then this verse, by nature, becomes exclusive.  There are no liguistic, historical or theological reasons that necessitate reading this verse other than literally.  This verse clearly states that baptism is “for” the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, therefore the promise is made to all who need it which includes “you and your children” as were present at Pentecost and are still present today. This leads us to the next verses…

Matthew 19:13-15
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Luke 18:15-17
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

There are a couple things that need to be pointed out here. To properly understand what is going one must look to the koine Greek word for children used in these passages. Matthew uses παιδία (paidia) which means small child.  Paida is somewhat broad as it can be either an infant or a young toddler.  Luke uses the word βρέφη (brephē) which is more precise and means “suckling infant.’  This word is used 8 times in scripture and always identifies the child as being as young as possible.  For instance Luke uses this same word to describe John the Baptist in utero when he lept with joy inside of Elizabeth when Mary shared the news of her immaculate conception.  It is crystal clear that this verse is speaking about infants and very small children.  When these parents were bringing their small children to Jesus, the disciples rebuked them.  Jesus, however, overturned their rebuke and let the children come to Him without hindrance.  These children cannot come to Jesus apart from their parents carrying them because they are so small.  Jesus desires these small children to be brought to him, therefore the question today becomes how do our small infant children come to Jesus? They can’t be brought to a physical Jesus as in the gospel narratives because Jesus has ascended and we are waiting on His return. The answer is found in where Jesus promises to be for his church (word and sacrament), therefore, they are brought to Jesus in the waters of baptism. One of the claims of those who affirm believers’ baptism is that infants cannot repent or have faith because they cannot comprehend such things. The issue is that apart from Christ neither can we. Age is not something that lessens sins stranglehold and according to these verses, age actually does the opposite by increasing sins grip. I didn’t come to Christ because of anything I did and more specifically not because I turned a particular age or ascended to a certain mental capacity.  It was 100% Christ finding me and carrying me home. Because of Jesus, I was gifted with repentance, salvation and the Holy Spirit. I did zero to earn it. Apart from Christ I could not even desire repentance, let alone salvation, I could only despise it. Once again  Romans 10:17 states that faith comes by hearing the Word. Infants can hear from within the womb. There is Psalm 22:9 where David confesses faith while nursing.  Also in Luke 1:15, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to have faith. Lastly, baptism gifts the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:28-39).  If the Holy Spirit is within someone, faith must also be present in order to receive the gift.  Therefore if faith isn’t present before baptism, the word and water will create the faith necessary to receive the gift promised by the word through the waters of holy baptism. Considering all of this, I am most perplexed that many who fight the abortion culture war in this country, that ascribe so much to life at conception (and rightly so) by exalting so high the temporal gift of life, yet completely wash away the spiritual blessings and promises that God has made to and for our infant children by the word through the waters of baptism.

So now the question is raised concerning what this means. Is it certain salvation? The answer to this is actually rather simple.  The answer is to believe God and His promises. To clarify that statement, baptism is a means of grace just like the audible teaching of the Word is a means of grace. Just as there are those who reject the teaching of of the word, there too will be those who will reject the promises gifted in baptism.  The word is always efficacious (capable of producing an effect), but not always effective (producing an effect). Baptism is the same. The mysteries of God must be acknowledged in that that God sometimes allows his will to be thwarted (e.g. the anguished words of Jesus regarding Jerusalem: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”). What gets us turned around so easily is that we constantly confuse God’s certainty of promise keeping with our proclivity for promise breaking. God is offering a promise in baptism just like he is offering a promise in teaching the Word, we can accept (passively) or reject (actively) the gift of that promise, but keep in mind that our rejection doesn’t nullify the fact that the promise has been made. Age doesn’t figure anywhere into this equation. Our infant children have been tainted by the sin of Adam. Even though our little ones cannot lie or cheat or murder at so young an age, they still have inherited the curse (Romans 5:12). Baptism cleanses not only the sin of Adam, but also the sins of their future because baptism is what God does, not something that we do.  However, this doesn’t negate the necessity of proper nourishment.  Infants must be reared in the shadow of word and sacrament.  After baptism, the second part of process for making disciples must take place as they are taught and instructed all the things the Jesus taught through the disciples found in the written word.   In baptism, God works by gifting forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit to the recipient.  The promise of this gift should eagerly send parents running their children to the baptismal font. This is the attitude present when the early church fathers answered questions concerning age of baptism. Good parenting entails proper nourishment, love and care.  If infants are bathed to cleanse the temporal dirt from their body, then scripture gives all the more reason too cleanse them in the waters of baptism as a means of proper spiritual nourishment, love and care.  Failing to do this is the essence of hindering the young ones from coming to Christ.  Therefore infant baptism doesn’t abdicate parental responsibility, it increases it.

(Click here for a link to quotes on regenerative baptism for all ages  by early church fathers as compiled by Chris Rosebrough)

Stay tuned for the final post of the “Christian Baptism Series – Part 7 – Summary and FAQ”

Click here to link to “Christian Baptism Series – Part 5 – What does Baptism do?”

Christian Baptism Series – Part 5 – What Does Baptism Do?


What does baptism do?
There are many verses that define what baptism is and does.  These verses are where this post will begin.

Acts 2:38-39
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”6:3-5

Collosians 2:11-12
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.

Acts 22:16
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Titus 3:4-7
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

1 Peter 3:18-22
For 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, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

John 3:5
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Each of these verses clearly proclaim that baptism actually does something. These verses state that in baptism there is not only the gift of salvation through forgiveness of sins, but also the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism is pure gospel plain and simple. It is not something that I do. It is something done to me. I cannot baptize myself, as I must to be baptized. I cannot remove my sins, only Jesus’ death and resurrection can. I also cannot circumcise my heart (without hands) as the Colossians passage says.  No one can circumcise my heart (without hands) apart from God Himself. So where do I go to have my heart circumcised? The waters of baptism.

It’s just water though right?

Yes. It is just water, but the water isn’t the active ingredient; the word is. The 1 Peter passage says that baptism is not for removal of dirt from the body but for true salvation. What makes the water efficacious is the word of God. Scripture. When the water is combined with the word, baptism is efficacious. Promises are made by God through the means of baptism and we receive the gifts of that promise upon coming in contact with the water because the word is tied to it and the word never lies.  Interestingly enough, American Evangelicals who discount efficacious baptism as salvivic, have no problem when salvation comes by the professed word.  Romans gives a clear look at how the process of hearing the word is a means of grace as it gifts faith. Romans 10:17 says…

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Now combine what was read in Romans 10:17 with what is said in 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.”

So one disciples are made by teaching and faith comes by hearing. That is extremely clear and is generally agreed upon across denominational lines. The question is how is this different from baptism? The words I teach are just words right? I speak words everyday and they do not contain life. My words are no different than water. What gives my words life and efficacy to instill faith is the promise found in these two verses. God’s promise that faith comes by hearing the word professed is a means of dispensing grace just like God’s promise that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and the installation of the Holy Spirit is a means of dispensing grace. The promise is faith and the means is teaching as confirmed by the Word. Likewise, the promise is forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit and the means is water in the name of our triune God as confirmed in his word (Matthew 28:19-20). As this thought is carried forward throughout scripture, it becomes rather clear that God has always worked this way.

In Genesis 6:14-22, God attached His word to a coffin shaped boat known as the Ark…

In Exodus 30:17-21, God attached His Word to a bronze basin and water…

In Exodus 12:1-20, God attached His Word to the blood of a lamb wiped on a door post…

In Exodus 14:15-16, God attached His Word to the staff of Moses…

In Levitcus 13:6, God attached His Word to water applied on the 7th day…

In Levitcus 16:20-28, God attached His Word to water…

In Numbers 19:11-13, God attached His Word to water applied on the 3rd & 7th day…

In Numbers 21 God attached His Word to a bronze serpent…

In 2 Kings 5 God attaches His Word to the Jordan River where Naaman bathed 7 times to be healed.

God attaching His Word to a material object as a means of grace isn’t a novel idea. It doesn’t mean the object holds any power, only that it has power because of what God’s word says. When these Old Testament verses are studied, it is discovered that each of them either deal with purification or salvation (It could be argued that the Ark and high priest purification could be representative of both purification and salvation).  For the purification verses, did the water cleanse or did God’s word combined with the water cleanse?  For the salvation verses, did the Ark, lamb’s blood, staff or bronze serpent save or did God’s word combined with them save? The promises were always transferred to the recipient because God’s word described how his promises were to be received.  Therefore, if Moses held up a wooden serpent instead of a bronze, the healing effects wouldn’t have been available because God’s instruction for receiving the promise was not provided. We are not in the position to override God’s methods for delivering his promises (for more on this click here).

There is another place where God attaches his promise to a material object.  That place is the Garden of Eden.  In Genesis 3:17, God attached His Word to the fruit of the tree “in the midst of the garden.” The promise attached to eating this fruit is death and thus when Adam ate, sin entered the world and condemned all mankind.  This one act is a means of destruction that ushered in the reign of sin, death and the devil.  But as our God is a loving God, from which his mercy and justice flow, a gospel promise is made several verses later in Genesis 3:15.  Therefore, all of the means of grace that follow are types of the final means of grace that comes through the promised seed of the woman, which is Jesus Christ.  Thus the salvation texts point to Christ saving us through his death and resurrection by the gifting of forgiveness of sins by faith through grace and the purification texts speak to Christ purifying us through gifting us the Holy Spirit. The prophecy in Ezekiel 36:24-27 brings this all together showing that through the means of Holy Baptism, God will gift His promises of forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.  This will be fulfilled through the person, work and office of Jesus Christ.  When this is understood in light of the New Testament passages at the top of this post, there is no room for the position that baptism is a mere act of obedience (law) that is symbolic (not efficacious).  The history of the means of grace, as laid out above, point to the true work that is done in baptism by the hands of God.

Baptism is gospel, not law.

The above New Testament verses clearly display this good news of promises gifted in and through baptism. The word gospel literally means “good news.”  One cannot “do” good news,  one can only “receive” good news.  Baptism is where one receives these gospel promises which truly are the best news anyone could ever receive; the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.  Baptism also points to a objective event.  When the devil or our conscience question our faith, all that must be done is to point to our baptism to know the gifts were received. This is a blessed gift of assurance when darts from the enemy pierce the sub conscience with questions like “How do you know you are really saved?”, “You don’t really believe!” or “Are you sure of your faith?”  The objective act of baptism is a gift in and of itself to us to thwart Satan and our sinful nature against these attacks.  When these questions come (and they will for every believer) the answer is found in your baptism which is the very place the gifts were received.

To further support these assertions about baptism, I began to research what the church fathers believed and taught. They all believed the literal passages. This line of thinking is not new.  I am not the originator.  It has been the standard position of orthodoxy throughout church history. All of the historic church fathers from the time of the Apostles into the 16th century collectively believed and confessed this through their writings.  In addition, all of them baptized infants.

That leads us to Part 6 – Should Infants be Baptized?

Click here to go to “Christian Baptism Series – Part 4 – Why Was Jesus Baptized?”

Christian Baptism Series – Part 4 – Why was Jesus Baptized?


Why was Jesus Baptized?
This is indeed a good question.  Anyone whom claims orthodoxy would agree that Jesus lived a completely sinless life. That perfection was absolutely necessary for Christ to be the spotless Lamb of God. John the Baptist even says as much when he states “behold the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.” So why would the fully righteous, sinless God-man need baptism from John whose baptism was specifically the “baptism of repentance.” In Matthew 3:14 there is a clear view of this event. We also have a completely perplexed John the Baptist. He knows that his is a baptism of repentance. He also knows that Jesus has nothing to repent of. John also knows that he is a lowly sinner being asked to baptize God incarnate. John is perplexed. R.C.H. Lenski, in his Matthew commentary, says it much better than I…

“By associating himself with John in this matter of baptism Jesus is thinking of their respective offices. It was proper that they should carry out whatever respective positions required. It is thus that Jesus views his baptism. The view that it is an act of “righteousness “ only in so far as it marks the willing obedience of Jesus, God having ordered John to baptize Jesus and Jesus (though not needing the baptism) submitting to it, makes the baptism a formality and misunderstands what John’s baptism was. It was not law but gospel, not a demand to obey but a gift of grace to be received and accepted as such. By accepting John’s baptism Jesus is in no sense obeying the law, a useless law in his case; and in no sense accepting grace and pardon since he is indeed sinless. Jesus is choosing baptism by John as the right way by which to enter upon his great office and he is doing it with a fine sense of propriety including John as well as himself. He, the sinless one, the very Son of God, chooses to put himself alongside of all the sinful ones for whom John’s sacrament was ordained. He thus connects himself with all instances of John’s baptism; for it is his mediation that makes these truly efficacious for sinners. By thus joining himself to all these instances of John’s baptism he signifies that he is now ready to take upon himself the load of all sinners, i.e. assume his redemptive office. It was thus proper and right that Jesus should come and, as it were, offer himself voluntarily for this great office and not wait until he would be called or until it would be laid upon him. For this office, especially in so far as it involved the sacrifice upon the cross, had to be assumed voluntarily. Shortly after this baptism John calls Jesus the Lamb of God, referring directly to the sacrifice. Jesus himself calls his suffering a baptism, Luke 12:50 and elsewhere. These are rays which illuminate the character of this act when John baptized Jesus.

To summarize Lenski, Jesus embarks upon this baptism for the sole purpose of assuming His redemptive office. There is much involved in this, and taking it too far either direction has serious implications. On one hand, there are those that will say that this is merely an act of obedience. That simply turns this act into law; a law that would be a formality in this case. Jesus’ baptism is gospel, plain and simple. Jesus, in his baptism, is choosing to enter into his redemptive office by stepping into the waters, alongside those who so very badly need redemption. Ultimately it is Christ’s mediation between God and man, won upon the cross that gives the baptismal waters their efficacy. John knows this as he calls Jesus the Lamb of God a short time later. John knew Jesus was to be our atonement. On the other hand, it cannot be assumed that Jesus acted as our substitute in baptism. Christ secured our salvation by the work on the cross alone; not twice by his baptism and crucifixion. If this were true, then this would mean that each sin must be removed twice. That does not make sense, nor does the Bible teach it. Going too far in either direction here will have serious consequences to ones understanding of this event.

Click here for Part 5 of the series titled “What does baptism do?”

Click here for “Christian Baptism Series – Part 3 – John & his baptism of repentance”

Updates & Blog Direction

First of all, thank you for continued interest in this blog!

Thank you for the support through views, likes, comments and follows. Going forward, I thought it best to come up with a plan to aid continuity of content so that readers can understand the direction.

The following list will hopefully shed some light on what to expect…

Christian Baptism Series
The first 3 posts are up in this series and there will be 4 more which will make this a 7 week series. I plan to continue posts from this series on Mondays.

Introducing the Church Fathers
The first 2 posts in this series are live (Gregory of Elvira & Melito of Sardis). I plan to continue this series for the life of this blog. There are many church fathers that all Christians should be acquainted with. I find it troubling that culturally, more is known about national history (be it ever so slight) than our Church history. I plan new posts in this series on Thursdays. The focus of this series is not to provide an exhaustive biography, but to give a short introduction to the person and then let them speak for themselves through their surviving writings. It is also very possible that some church fathers will be revisited as many have insights on a variety of Theological topics rarely seen in the modern era.

I will continue to season the blog with topical content on occasion. I hope to do this more often than not. Some examples of my topical posts are “Baptism & the Fountain of Youth”, “Can I Lose My Salvation”, and “Sacraments for those who don’t believe in Sacraments.”

Mining the Parables
This is a new series that I am currently working on. This series will take the place of the Christian Baptism series once it completes. The plan is to exegete the parables of Christ. I find much misinformation regarding the parables and hopefully this series will be a helpful resource for those seeking to understand them in an exegetical, historical and contextual fashion. This series will begin on Monday June 16th.

Once again, I’m very grateful for your interest in this blog. Please don’t be a stranger. If there are any topics that are of interest to you, I’m certainly open to suggestions. Feel free to contact me on twitter @JonRodebaugh or by email at

Thank you all and have a blessed weekend!

Christian Baptism Series – Part 3 – John & His Baptism of Repentance


Who is John the Baptist and what was the purpose of his baptism?
When introduced to John the Baptist in the beginning of the gospels, the role he plays is essential to defining both what baptism is and who Jesus is. In the beginning of the Matthew (Chapter 3) and John’s (Chapter 2) gospel accounts it is revealed that the Pharisees send messengers to inquire about John the Baptist to discern who he claims to be and why he is baptizing. They are curious as to whether he is the Christ, Elijah or the (faithful) Prophet (John 1:19-22). He denies each of these titles and answers by simply quoting Isaiah 40:3 saying that he is a “voice crying out in the wilderness…” and points them to the one that will come after him whose “sandals he is unworthy to untie.” The Jews were used to their many forms of purification as we studied earlier, so while the act of purification was not foreign to them, the language used along with the massive number of recipients was. This was the basis for the Pharisees questioning. So what’s the difference between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28:19? Several times in scripture, John’s baptism is called a “baptism of repentance” (Luke 3:3, Mark 1:4, Acts 19:4) and this title is specific to John.

What does this mean?

Is it different than Jesus’ baptismal commission in Matthew 28:19?

To understand this, the person of John the Baptist, his purpose and work, must be understood. Scripture lays this out in detail.  Isaiah 40:3 is where this study begins.

“A voice cries: Prepare ye the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Traditionally, before the New Testament period, Isaiah 40:3 was viewed as fulfilled when the remnant of Judah returned from Babylonian captivity. The desert highway was the route of grace for those who remained faithful.  Barry G. Webb, in his commentary on Isaiah, has a more astute observation when he says…

“Although there was a partial return from exile in the years following 539 B.C., spiritually the exile continued until the Messiah came. Only he could solve the deep, underlying problem.”

This is actually at the heart of the often misquoted Jeremiah chapter 29.  Jeremiah has prophesied that Babylon will conquer Jerusalem but God will save for himself a remnant that will be exiled to Babylon. Chapter 29 is a letter of comfort to these exiles outlining the promises, hope and blessings they have and will be given for staying faithful.  The promises include both spiritual and temporal blessings. The temporal blessings were fulfilled when the remnant returned from exile, but the spiritual blessings of hope and a future were still yet to be fulfilled.  These blessings would be met in the person and work of the coming Messiah.

Malachi 3:1 says…

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

This is the same verse that is quoted in Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27. Notice there is a distinction between the “messenger” who prepares the way (John) and the “messenger of the covenant” (Jesus). Therefore, looking through these lenses, John’s ministry is fully preparatory for the entrance of Christ. This means that in all things John is preparing, which includes baptism. John’s baptism of repentance, in light of Isaiah 40:3, is a call for Israel to return from their spiritual exile. Thus John’s baptism of repentance is for Israel alone and fully efficacious for the remission of their sins. Therefore, the Pharisees were looking for Elijah to return in the flesh as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Malachi 4:5 and thus sent messengers to ask if this was who John claimed to be.  Malachi 4:5 says…

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

John denies this claim which was true.  He was not Elijah in the flesh but John who was naturally born of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  That being said, how does this work in light of Matthew 17:10-13 where Jesus refers to John the Baptist as Elijah?  Jesus was simply stating that John was a type of Elijah as he was the last prophet before Jesus Christ.  All previous prophets pointed forward to Christ and the same is true for John, only in addition to pointing to his coming, he was also Jesus’ contemporary and thus prepares the way for him. The idea of preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry begins with Johns baptism of repentance.  John’s preparatory baptism merges into Jesus’ ministry in John 3:26 and 4:1-2 when Jesus’ disciples begin to baptize alongside John. John’s view of this accompaniment is that he must decrease and Jesus must increase. R.C.H. Lenski puts it this way in his commentary on Matthew…

“In essence and efficacy both were the same. The Baptist’s was on the level of the revelation given at that time; that of Jesus on the level of his completed work. That of the Baptist made followers of the Christ about to come; That of Jesus followers of the Christ who had come. Both bestowed forgiveness; the one the forgiveness about to be wrought; the other the forgiveness that had been wrought. Thus the baptism of John was preparatory for Israel alone, Christ’s permanent for all nations. And only in this way that one made ready for and then gave way to the other.”

Therefore the only real difference between John’s preparatory baptism and Jesus’ is whom it is directed toward. John’s is for Israel and Jesus’ is for everyone. I would also like to address some confusion concerning John’s baptism as seen in Acts 19. When Paul arrives in Ephesus, he discovers some disciples who knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. Paul subsequently asks in whom they were baptized? They reply into John’s baptism. This appears to contradictory. The apostles and Apollos were also baptized into John’s baptism and it was fully efficacious not warranting a “re-baptism.” Paul makes sure to point out why their baptism wasn’t real; lack of knowledge of the work of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. These disciples were not familiar with Jesus nor had they heard of, let alone received the Holy Spirit in their baptism. This means that no baptism really took place. Paul lays hands on them and baptizes them in the triune name of God (in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit); which is how the Lord Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19. The New Bible Commentary has a solid explanation…

“These people had received a baptism of repentance, which was in itself a good thing, but unlike Apollos (Acts 18:25), they did not seem to know anything about Jesus. We are not told that Apollos needed to be rebaptized (Priscilla and Aquila certainly would have been able to baptize them, if Ananias could baptize Paul, Acts 9:17-19). The probable difference was that Apollos knew about and trusted in the Messiah (having accurate, if incomplete knowledge about him, Acts 18:25-26) and saw his baptism in connection with that faith, whereas for these disciples, the baptism was merely a pledge of good behavior. They still needed to be baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.”

What is Repentance?

Now that the similarities and differences between John’s and Jesus’ disciples baptism have been established, it is important to look at and understand repentance as defined by scripture. These days, it seems common thought amongst Christians that repentance is something that the individual does in and of themselves. In this modern definition, I do the initial work and God takes care of the rest (by forgiving my sin). This is 180 degrees backwards from what scripture presents. Repentance is a gift that we cannot come to apart from God’s work. In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

This is where we go to truly understand repentance. The shepherd in the parable is Jesus and we are the sheep. A sheep is lost, representing us, and the shepherd does all the work to find the sheep, then puts the sheep on his shoulders, rejoices and carries him back home. Notice that Jesus doesn’t make the sheep walk back on his own. This is purposeful. This shows that we do absolutely none of the work as we are only receptive of the life saving gift. In verse 7, Jesus concludes by saying that this parable is a picture of repentance. Repentance is Jesus finding us and carrying us home, therefore, it is not something we do. The only role we play in the story is that of getting ourselves lost, and when found, agreeing with Christ that we are indeed lost thus we cooperate by returning with him.  Repentance is gifted agreeance with Christ.  Repentance acknowledges that our sin is indeed sin and is in opposition to the will of God and thus receives forgiveness of sins as a gift given from Christ’s atoning work on the cross.

Summary thus far

In effect, John’s baptism is one of repentance, specifically for Israel and Christ’s baptism is one of repentance for all nations. John’s baptism calls the Jews from their spiritual exile while Jesus’ baptism expands the call to all nations. Both baptisms are fully efficacious and do precisely what scripture says they do; forgive sin.  Neither baptism requires any work of our own because they both are 100% Christ’s work. In Mark 2, when the paralytic is lowered through the roof, Jesus first forgives the mans sin.  The Pharisees respond in verse 7 by saying…

“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

The Pharisees were right in saying that only God can forgive sin.  By doing this Jesus claims His divinity and then proves it by healing the man’s temporal ailment allowing him to walk.  Baptism, as described in scripture is no different.  There are many passages that connect baptism to the forgiveness of sins.  These verses will be investigated in the upcoming installments of this study on baptism.  Before moving on, let’s look back to what was learned in week 1 of this study to begin to connect the Old Testament with the New Testament.  In week 1 of this study, several examples of “means and promise” were studied.  For the priest, washing feet and hands in the bronze basin before entering the tent of meeting was efficacious as it saved him from certain death.  For the person in contact with the deceased, washing on the 3rd and 7th day was efficacious in allowing him to return to the community.  This same “means and promise” purifies the leper as well as the scapegoat handler.  In like manner, the New/Old Testament allegories (The flood narrative and the crossing of the Red Sea) point to baptism as accomplishing salvation.  The Ezekiel prophecy in Chapter 36:24-27  says…

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

This prophecy also speaks of “means and promise.”  The means is sprinkling with water and the promise is cleanliness, a new heart of flesh and gifting of the Holy Spirit.  This prophecy points forward to both John’s baptism of repentance and Jesus’ baptism for the forgiveness of sins (and gifting of the Holy Spirit) as Jesus’ baptism engulfs John’s and expands it to all.  There is no racial restriction. There is no cultural restriction. There is no gender restriction. There is no positional restriction.

There is no age restriction.

This statement of inclusion has been a topic of much debate in “modern” times.  I am well aware of there being no verse that clearly states “baptism is for infants.” However, using this same poor hermeneutical principle, a case could be made that communion isn’t for women as there is no place in the Bible that records a woman taking communion, or where it says that women can take communion. We know this to be hogwash, but it goes a long way in making the point as I am equally aware of zero verses that restrict baptism from infants. Simply, the arguments used to validate women taking the Lord’s Supper are the same arguments historically used for affirming infant baptism. We cannot say this argument can be used for women and communion but not for baptism and infants. Matthew 28:19 says that we are to baptize all nations; children and infants are included in all nations. They are part of the census. They are counted. Galatians 3:28-29 states…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

These verses are solely salvivic. They clearly state there is no division or distinction in Christ’s salvation plan. I understand that it does not specifically say “elderly or infant”, nor does it have to. Any of the distinctions made in the verse could be infant or elderly. The purpose of the list is the complete inclusiveness of Christ. If Paul had added a disclaimer excluding “infants” it would not be inclusive, but exclusive. Remember in Ephesians 1:4, Paul says that…

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

This statement is as inclusive as Galatians 3:28-29. If God chooses us, what does age have to do with anything? It is as irrelevant as our color, gender or social status. In addition, infants are in need of what baptism offers.  Job 15:14, Psalm 51:5, John 3:6, Ephesians 2:3 and Romans 5:12 show that all are born under the curse of sin.  No one is born good or innocent.  In addition to believing what scripture says about this, there is also temporal proof.  The proof is that infants die.  Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.  Therefore, with ample proof that all are born under the verdict of guilty, including infants, the reality of the necessity for baptism of all ages is presented.  This will be revisited and expanded upon in Parts 5 and 6 of this study. In the meantime, stay tuned for next weeks installment “Part 4 – Why was Jesus baptized?”

Click here for “Christian Baptism Series – Part 4 – Why was Jesus Baptized”

Click here for “Christian Baptism Series – Part 2 – Jewish Rites of Purification & Pharisaical Law”

Christian Baptism Series – Part 2 – Jewish Rites of Purification & Pharisaical Law

Jewish Rites of Purification
As discussed in Part 1 of the Christian Baptism Series, there are many Old Testament verses concerning purification rituals for various purposes. However, the Jews, through the Pharisees, innovated and expanded these laws extraordinarily thus creating two distinct categories for specific cleansings; Netilat Yadayim and tevilah. Pharisaical law determines which purification right is to be performed for which cleansing.

Netilat Yadayim is the washing of the hands with a cup and is to be performed at meals, before worship, before priestly blessing, after sleeping, after visiting the bathroom, after cutting hair, after cutting nails, after participating in a funeral procession, being at a funeral, coming in contact with a corpse, after touching body parts that are typically covered (arm pits, private parts, etc), touching inside of nose or ear, after touching scalp, or prior to scribal work.

Tevilah is the full body immersion in a mikveh.  A mikveh is a collection of water as found  in a natural spring, river or drawn bath. This purification is also performed for a variety of reasons.
– Those who came in contact with a corpse
– Those with skin conditions
– Those emitting bodily fluids
– Women experience their monthly flow
– Men experiencing seminal discharge
– The one who led the scapegoat on Yom Kippur
– Those suffering from any issue resulting from blood discharging from the body
– Conversion to Judaism (2nd century)

When the list is studied, a blending of Biblical cleansing mixed with manufactured cleansing rituals are revealed. The “tevilah” appears to have a Biblical root in the Old Testament purification rituals that were listed in Part 1 of this study, while the “netilat yadayim” appears to be an innovation or hybrid (man’s law and God’s law) at best. There are two particular New Testament passages that reference these innovations; John 2:6 and Mark 7. In John 2:6, there is only a mention of 6 ceremonial washing jars (netilat yadayim) at the wedding in Cana. Mark 7 tells us not only what these jars are for, but gives a clear scope of the meaning behind them. In the passage, the Pharisees become agitated that Jesus and the disciples didn’t ceremonially wash their hands (netilat yadayim) before eating. This appears to be a small debate to our 21st century minds, however, when one understands what is actually at stake, the fight that Jesus and his disciples are initiating by not washing their hands is cataclysmic. To fully understand what is going on, two things must be explained;

(1) How Pharisaical laws came to be
(2) What not washing their hands really meant.

How Pharisaical Law came to be
The common perception of Pharisaical law tends to visualize itself as well intentioned law guarding. Their extra, innovative laws are thought of as caution tape (Pharisaical Law) around an open manhole (God’s Law).  The seemingly well intentioned Pharisees are just helping by devising extra precaution to keep from danger.  While it may appear that way on the surface, there is much more going on than meets the eye. The Pharisees actually believe(d) in 2 Torahs; the written and the verbal. They also believe(d) that Rabbi’s had absolute authority to interpret scripture and this absolute authority was governable by the majority. Therefore, the “second” verbal Torah was the Pharisaical rabbi’s living interpretation of scripture. It was verbal because they wanted to keep it to themselves in order to exclude the gentiles. The written Torah was for everyone, while the verbal Torah was exclusive. This conveniently resulted in the Pharisees having absolute power to determine law without having to explain themselves to anyone, let alone God. They used an irrational interpretation of Deuteronomy 30:12 and Exodus 30:12 to support their position.

Deuteronomy 30:12 says ” It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?”

Exodus 30:12 says “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.”

By taking these two verse completely out of context and combining them together they establish that since the Torah is no longer in Heaven, but on earth, interpretation is now solely their responsibility according to the consensus of the Pharisaical council. With this understanding, the Rabbinical Pharisees are the only ones who can now interpret God’s law; even excluding God (since the Torah is no longer in Heaven). Therefore they take these interpretations, create traditions of the elders or (takanote) and bestow upon them the authority of God’s commands (written Torah). This is how God’s commands such as “keep the Sabbath holy” can devolve into equating spitting on the ground with gardening. This understanding goes a long way in explaining Jesus’ incessant anger at the Pharisees. It is also important to note that the verbal Torah was eventually written down and is now the Talmud (Jerusalem and Babylonian).  This position is evident in reading the Talmud.  There is an account of Rabbi Eliezer in the Babylonian Talmud found in Baba Mezi’a 59 a & b.  Here is the selected account…

We learnt elsewhere: If he cut it into separate tiles, placing sand between each tile: R. Eliezer declared it clean, and the Sages declared it unclean; and this was the oven of ‘Aknai. Why [the oven of] ‘Aknai? — Said Rab Judah in Samuel’s name: [It means] that they encompassed it with arguments as a snake, and proved it unclean. It has been taught: On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them. Said he to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!’ Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place — others affirm, four hundred cubits. ‘No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,’ they retorted. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!’ Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards — ‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water,’ they rejoined. Again he urged: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,’ whereupon the walls inclined to fall. But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: ‘When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what have ye to interfere?’ Hence they did not fall, in honour of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honour of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’ Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: ‘Why do ye dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!’ But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: ‘It is not in heaven.’ What did he mean by this? — Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline. R. Nathan met Elijah and asked him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour? — He laughed [with joy], he replied, saying, ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.’ It was said: On that day all objects which R. Eliezer had declared clean were brought and burnt in fire. Then they took a vote and excommunicated him. Said they, ‘Who shall go and inform him?’ ‘I will go,’ answered R. Akiba, ‘lest an unsuitable person go and inform him, and thus destroy the whole world.’ What did R. Akiba do? He donned black garments and wrapped himself in black, and sat at a distance of four cubits from him. ‘Akiba,’ said R. Eliezer to him, ‘what has particularly happened to-day?’ ‘Master,’ he replied, ‘it appears to me that thy companions hold aloof from thee.’ Thereupon he too rent his garments, put off his shoes, removed [his seat] and sat on the earth, whilst tears streamed from his eyes. The world was then smitten: a third of the olive crop, a third of the wheat, and a third of the barley crop. Some say, the dough in women’s hands swelled up.

This account begins with an argument between Rabbi Eleazer and the other Rabbis concerning whether the oven tile arrangements  were clean or unclean.  Rabbi Eleazer says the arrangement is clean while all other Rabbi’s issue dissent.  Rabbi Eleazar continues to argue his point against the other Rabbis to no avail.  Once he sees that his words and reason cannot sway the other Rabbis, he calls on God for supernatural proof that he is correct.   There are a series of supernatural events including a tree uprooting, a river reversing flow and a library collapsing.  The other Rabbis scoffed and refused to accept these events as proof that Eleazar was right in his assessment of the oven tiles.  As a final sign to prove his assertion, he says ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’ Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: ‘Why do ye dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!’ The other Rabbi’s were unimpressed saying that it doesn’t matter what a voice from heaven says because the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai and thus is no longer in heaven.  They believed that God himself didn’t have the power to overthrow the Pharisaical Consensus. Thus Rabbi Eleazer was excommunicated.  This is the perfect picture of how Deuteronomy 30:12 and Exodus 30:12 was twisted and ripped from context to grant the Pharisaical counsil absolute executive power.

What not washing their hands really meant
Now it should be much clearer why the refusal of Jesus and His disciples to wash their hands would spark outrage. The argument is not about whether it is good to wash hands before dinner (it is); the argument was about whether God commanded it or not. The Pharisees believe that He did because they believe that Deuteronomy 30:12  and Exodus 30:12 gives them interpretive authority that supersedes even God. Jesus, rightly so, says that it is not one of God’s commands, but instead, a “tradition of the elders.” His mere saying this completely strips their self-appointed authority away and exposes it for what it is; twisting of God’s word in the form of man’s law. By refusing to wash their hands, Jesus and the disciples are rebuking these Rabbis and exposing their false teachings and deception. This was no minor dispute as it calls the very office of Pharisaical Rabbi into question. This completely attacks and strips their perceived self appointed authority.

What does this have to do with Baptism?
I bring this up primarily to discount any arguments for Jewish rites of purification stemming from Pharisaical law as a case for understanding Christian baptism. I am a staunch advocate for looking at history to get a full, clear picture; however, in this case, any Jewish purification rite that stems from Pharisaical law must be discounted as it was birthed from a tradition of the elders. However, purification laws that stem from Old Testament passages can and should be studied as a prefigurement of Christian baptism; especially when New Testament apostles reference them.

Summary from Part 1 & 2
When looking at Old Testament law, it is apparent that purification laws served many purposes. Old Testament purification laws were efficacious for all that participated. This is known because scripture tells us that Priests who followed the “tent of meeting” purification laws lived and those who didn’t died. There are also the allegorical verses that shed light on the Flood and the parting of the red sea. These are both equated with baptism. In addition, there is also the prophecy in Ezekiel that points toward efficacious baptism. So while baptism practiced salvivicly for all people isn’t part of the Old Testament, there is imagery present that is pushing toward John and his baptism of repentance; this imagery would lead to the Pharisees sending messengers to inquire who he is and what he is doing. The groundwork has been laid in the OT rites of purification, allegories and specific prophesies concerning both baptism and the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.  This was apparent enough to the Pharisees to cause them to believe that John and his baptismal work could be the fulfillment. Notice in Matthew 3 that they are not curious as to what John is doing; only who he is and why he is doing it.  Keep the Pharisaical beliefs studied above in the Eleazer account close at hand as it will shed light on John the Baptists response to the Pharisaical messengers discussed in Matthew 3.  Stay tuned for Part 3 – John and his baptism of Repentance.

Click here for “Christian Baptism Series – Part 3 – John & his Baptism of Repentance”

Christian Baptism Series – Part 1 – The Old Testament

The Old Testament and Baptism

To begin to understand what baptism is and does, let’s start in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, purification laws are given. There are three primary verses that give an origin for such purification. These verses are Genesis 32:5 (purification from idol worship), Exodus 19:10 (Israel at Mount Sinai) and Numbers 19:7 (purification for priests). All other purification rituals seem to flow from these verses. When broken down, there are seven primary categories for purification. These categories (in no particular order) are…
– Purification for priests (Exodus 29:1-9, 30:17-21, 40:3-32 – Psalm 26:6, 73:13)
– Leprosy (Leviticus 13:6, 13:34)
– Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:20-28)
– Bodily discharges (Leviticus 15:1-29, Deuteronomy 23:10-11)
– Cleansing of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-7, 19:7-22)
– Contact with the deceased (Leviticus 5:2, 16:4, 16:24, 11:24-28, 11:39-40, 22:4-6 & Numbers 19:11-13)
– Unsolved murders (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)
Old Testament purification texts are only one area that should be examined when studying Christian baptism. In all, there are three categories; purification, allegory and prophecy. To further investigate, it is important to view the verses listed above which correspond to Old Testament purification practices, True Old Testament events that are allegorized by New Testament apostles (Genesis 6:9-18/1 Peter 3:20-21, Exodus 14:1/1Corinthians 10:1-2) and Old Testament prophesies concerning baptism (Ezekiel 36:24-27). Let’s examine a few of these passages in context.

Old Testament Purification Rituals

1. Purification for Priests – Exodus 30:17-21

“The Lord said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”

Here the instruction is given by God, to Moses, for Aaron and descendant priests to purify themselves before embarking on their priestly duties. This passage specifically commands them to purify themselves in the ceremonial basin…“When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die.”  This is an interesting picture. If the priest comes into the presence of God without cleansing with water in the basin of bronze he will surely die. There is nothing concerning any specific miraculous property of the water; only that God said for the priest to “wash” their feet and hands in the water of the bronze basin before performing priestly duties or else face death.   Also there is a means (wash hands/feet with water in bronze basin) and a promise (death will not occur).  Once again, their is nothing “special” about the water or the bronze basin.  The action here is in God’s word. We will see the importance of this thought carried through the rest of this study.

2. Leprosy – Leviticus 13:6

And the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the diseased area has faded and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only an eruption. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean.

The disease of leprosy comes up many times throughout the Old and New Testament. There are many similarities between leprosy and sin. Leprosy is an extremely painful and incurable skin disease that once contracted leads to affected body parts falling off, eventually resulting in death. Likewise, sin is a completely devastating disease that reeks havoc throughout the body eventually earning us death (Romans 6:23). Several theologians have written comparing sin and leprosy. C.H. Spurgeon wrote an entire sermon on the subject (The Cleansing of the Leper sermon #353). The verse above speaks of a purification process after a former leper has been pronounced clean. After this pronouncement, the text says, “he shall wash his clothes and be clean.”

3. Contact with the deceased – Numbers 19:11-13

Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.

These are the purification rights associated with coming into contact with a corpse. There are some echoes of baptism in this verse, especially in the statement “…because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean.” Here there is a correlation of water with cleansing impurity.  One could argue that this is a sanitary precaution as to not contaminate the community with the infirmary from the deceased, but if that was the case, shouldn’t the command have been to “wash immediately and scrub well?”  Instead we have a means (water for impurity on the 3rd and 7th day) and a promise (cleanliness that rejoins the person with fellowship).  I also cannot help but see the correlation between cleansing on the 3rd day as a symbolic reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the 7th day cleansing as a symbolic reference to “completion” as we see in the creation account.

4. Day of Atonement – Leviticus 16:20-28

“And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.”

Leviticus 16 outlines the Day of Atonement which was the day 3 animals atoned for the sins of Israel.  First a bull was selected to cover for the High Priest and his family.  Second, two goats were selected to atone for the sins of Israel.  Lots were cast to see which goat would be sacrificed (The Lord) and which goat would live as the scapegoat (Azazal which means outcast or scapegoat).  For the goat whose lot fell as scapegoat, the High Priest would confess all of the iniquities of Israel over the goats head, thus transferring onus from Israel to the goat.  The goat was then guided outside of the camp, into the wilderness, to never return again. We ultimately see the true fulfillment of all of this (the sacrifice of the bull, goat and the scapegoat) in Christ and His atoning work on the Cross as Hebrews 10:4 says “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.”   There is so much good news in these verses now as we see Jesus Christ as the one true atonement that takes away the sin of the world.  Once again, there is purification ceremonies for the High Priest, the handler of the scapegoat and the one who burns the remnants of the sacrificed bull and goat.  The High Priest is to bathe, put on garments of a specific fabric before sacrificing the bull and goat and then remove the garments and bathe again.  We are told numerous time that this is so he will not die.  Likewise the one who takes the scapegoat to the wilderness and the one who burns the sacrificed remains must wash his clothes and bathe his body in water or he will face excommunication.  Once again, there is a means and a promise.  The means for the High priest are: wash in water, wear particular garments, remove particular garments, wash in water.  The promise is that the High Priest will live.   Likewise there is a means and a promise for the men who handled the goats and sacrificed remains.  Upon coming in contact with the creatures that atoned for their sin, they were to wash their clothes and their bodies in order to return to fellowship with Israel.    There is no evidence that neither the fabric or the water has any special properties, only the word of the Lord.  Yet again, the action lies within the word of the Lord.

Baptismal Allegory in the Old Testament

Genesis 7:7-24
And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

1 Peter 3:18-22
For 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, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Here the flood narrative is our Old Testament passage. When striking parallels come to the forefront, such as this, I am reminded of Augustine’s brief statement concerning the Old and New Testament, “The old is the new concealed; the new is the old revealed.” These passages in Genesis show what happened and why in a way that seems readily visible, while the passage in 1 Peter sheds light and depth onto it in a way that is majestically revealing. Peter is saying that through the flood waters Noah and his family were saved, now too, the waters of baptism now save. The direct quote from 1 Peter states “…when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…” Just as real and true as Noah and his family were saved is equally true and real as how baptism now saves you.  The God who sealed the door of the Ark is the same God that seals the door of salvation through baptism.  This is the allegory revealed in 1 Peter.  Once again there is a means and a promise.  The means is baptism and the promise is salvation.

Exodus 14:21-25
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

Here is the familiar account of the great exodus of Israel from the bonds of Egyptian slavery.  Paul uses this text as a picture of both who the Corinthian church is and what could befall them.  The Popular Commentary by Paul Kretzmann handles this well. Kretzmann writes…

“In this passage the apostle offers a few pages from the history of ancient Israel as a warning example for those that are in danger of yielding to carnal security. Out of the entire number of adult Israelites that left the land of Egypt only two, Joshua and Caleb, entered the Promised Land. Therefore the lesson should be heeded: For I do not want you to remain in ignorance, brethren, that our fathers all were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. Paul openly speaks of “our fathers,” thus identifying the New Testament Church with the true Israel (Romans 4:1-11, 11:17-18). When the children of Israel left Egypt, the land of their bondage, the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to show them the way (Exodus 13:21).  And the entire congregation also passed through the Red Sea as on dry ground, the Lord Himself causing the water to stand like a wall on either side (Exodus 14:22). The merciful presence of God surrounded and accompanied them at every step of their journey. Note that all the Israelites, without exception, escaped from the house of bondage, that they all were included in the miraculous deliverance in the Red Sea; and yet most of them afterward perished! Paul states; furthermore, that they all received their baptism unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. The cloud and the sea together became the elements by which the children of Israel were cleansed to the Lord, separated as the people of the covenant. Thus the cloud and the sea were types of the New Testament sacrament of Baptism; they were God’s seals and pledges of His merciful promises, just as the Sacraments are in truth to-day. Through the cloud and through the sea God saved His people from the tyranny of Pharaoh and led them forth to freedom. And thus God, through Baptism, delivers us from the power of Satan and transfers us into His kingdom, to be His free, blessed children forever. In saying that the children of Israel were baptized unto Moses, the apostle means that they entered into intimate relationship or fellowship with Moses, as the mediator of the divine manifestations ; they took upon themselves the obligation to follow him faithfully as the leader given them by God (Exodus 14:21) even as a believer baptized unto Christ makes Him the great Leader of his life (Galatians 3:27).”

Here there is a cleansing for the people of the Lord as they were cleansed through the cloud and the sea.   This is what it meant to be baptized into Moses.  Moses was the mouthpiece for God to Israel and the cloud and the sea were the “means” by which God “promised” to save Israel from Egyptian bondage.  Once again we have a means (cloud and sea) and a promise (salvation).  Therefore Paul is warning the Corinthian church that even though God chose and saved Israel through the cloud and the sea (which is a picture of New Testament baptism), Israels hearts became hardened as they lived carnally in unbelief.  The picture of what happened with Israel is grim as they wandered for 40 years with the only two original men entering the promised land being Joshua and Caleb (those who remained faithful).  The writer of Hebrews also speaks of this in Hebrwes 3:12-19 when he says…

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”

Therefore 1 Corinthians 10 confirms what we have already discovered in 1 Peter; that baptism does in fact save.  We also have more evidence of God acting through means and promise based upon His word given here through Moses.  Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 10 (as does the writer of Hebrews) to use the Exodus judgment of Israel as an example to the Corinthians (and to us) to warn of the consequences against hardened hearts and unbelief.  This warning will be looked at in more detail later in this study.

Baptismal Prophecies in the Old Testament
Ezekiel 36:24-27
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

In Ezekiel 36:24-27 we are given a prophecy for the future restoration of Israel. The imagery here is that of baptism. God says that through the sprinkling of clean water He will cleanse from all uncleanliness, give a new heart made of flesh, and instill the Holy Spirit to allow for holy living. Once again there is a means and promise.  The means is “the sprinkling of water” and the promise is “cleansing from all uncleanliness, a heart made of flesh and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  The future restoration of Israel is in Christ Jesus. This prophecy is for the entire church, not just for the nation of Israel.  We share in the promise of this prophecy through the means of baptism by the work of Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God.

Click here for “Christian Baptism Series – Part 2 – Jewish Purification Rites & Pharisaical Law”


Christian Baptism & The Fountain of Youth

ImageEver since my move from American Evangelicalism to the Confessional Lutheran Church, baptism has been a topic of much discussion and debate. I’ve played the spectator in many social media feuds between Lutherans and most other denominations on this topic over the last year or so. I sincerely believe that both sides are well intentioned, but are talking past each other in an effort to play their supposed trump cards to “win” the debate once and for all. Coming from American Evangelicalism, I can certainly understand where they (American Evangelicals) are coming from. I no longer agree with them, but I can understand them. The American Evangelicals (here on referred to as AE’s) believe that baptism is a decision rooted in spiritual acumen. It’s the first step of new obedience to begin ones sanctified journey. Lutherans, on the contrary, believe that baptism is much, much more. Lutherans believe that baptism actually saves and gifts faith. The argument here is typically based in how we define “work” as it applies to our salvation. The AE’s say that Lutherans are adding baptism to the gospel message in a similar way the Judaizers in Galatia did with circumcision. This is a complete misunderstanding of what Lutheran’s believe about baptism. Lutheran’s do not believe that baptism works “ex opere operato” (that the act in and of itself grants salvation), but that the God is working in, with and under baptism as a means to fulfill His promise of forgiveness of sins. The Judiazers in Galatia stated that in order to become a Christian, one must first become a Jew (through circumcision) and only then could salvation be obtained. This is the essence of “ex opere operato.”

So the question often bandied about centers on how is the NT work of circumcision (as found in Galatia) different from Lutheran view of baptismal regeneration?

The answer lies in who is doing the work. There is no NT promise attached to circumcision as circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled in Christ (as Christ is the Seed of Abraham as found in Genesis 22:17 & Galatians 3). So now circumcision is just that; circumcision. There is, however, a NT promise attached to baptism. The promise is “the forgiveness of sins” and the “gifting of the Holy Spirit.” We see this promise in many places in the NT (Acts 2:37-39, Titus 3:4-7, John 3:5-6, Colossians 2:11-15, 1 Peter 3:18-21, Acts 22:12-16, Romans 6:1-5, Matthew 28:19-20).  When a promise is made (by God), it is He (God) who fulfills the promise. This is where the rubber meets the road. In the Lutheran view, the act of baptism is not a human work, because the recipient is not doing any of the work. The promises are being fulfilled by God through the means of baptism (water and the triune name of God). In addition, the recipient is just that…a recipient. In speaking with a dear friend concerning this, a rather helpful analogy came to mind.

(Please keep in mind that all analogies break down when taken too far…)

As I was considering the debate on Christian baptism, the idea of the fountain of youth crossed my mind and I realized that it could be used as a tool to help explain the Lutheran view of baptism. For those unfamiliar with the fountain of youth, I’ll give you a brief overview. The fountain of youth is a mystical tale that crosses cultural, national and historic boundaries. It claims there exists a hidden fountain that has the magical property to stop aging and overcome death; eternal life. All that one must do is find the fountain and dip in it and the promises of the fountain will attach themselves to the person dipping. Similarly, in the NT, (Acts 2:37-39, Titus 3:4-7, John 3:5-6, Colossians 2:11-15, 1 Peter 3:18-21, Acts 22:12-16, Romans 6:1-5, Matthew 28:19-20) we are told that Baptism “…is for the remission of sins”, “baptism now saves”, and “…is the washing of regeneration” (as well as gifting The Holy Spirit). In these verses we see that baptism actually does something. Here is also where I surrender that baptism is a work; the question is who’s doing the work? If the result of the work is forgiveness of sins, and Mark 2:7 tells us that only God can forgive sins, then it stands to reason that God is doing the work. This is where the “fountain of youth” comes in handy. When someone finds the fountain of youth and dips in it, is youthful complexion and eternal life a gift or a wage? Where did the eternal life come from? The answer is the fountain. The only thing the person dipping in the fountain did was receive the promise of never aging and eternal life. This also helps in explaining how faith is created in infant baptism. If the fountain of youth grants eternal life by merely dipping in it, then what does age matter? If I dipped my infant in the fountain of youth, would the promise of youth be rejected because of failure to comprehend the promise? No, that’s not how it works. Baptism is the delivery method for the gifts of God’s promise to forgive our sins in Christ. Baptism is an extension of what was wrought and accomplished on the cross. Infants can and should be baptized because they are sinners through the seed of Adam (Romans 5:12) and thus need what baptism has to offer. Just as an infant will eventually age and die, the fountain of youth will counteract this result through dipping in the fountain. Similarly, since we all are sinners and face the wage of death, we all need forgiveness of sins obtained through a dip in the waters of baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.