By way of introduction for myself and the title of this blog, I wanted to begin with a series of posts titled “Baptism For Life”, based on a series of 3 full-length (60-70 min.) sermons by the same name. The basic idea is that baptism is a life-long process, not a one-time dunking in the water. Before we go on to some deeper things, though, there’s groundwork that must be laid, especially for those who haven’t heard this concept before.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Heb. 6:1-2)
Notice in verse 2, it says baptisms – plural. This is speaking of the basic doctrines of the church – foundational things for us to build our fund of knowledge on. I’d like to ask this question: How much do we really know about the doctrine of baptisms, plural? Do we think we know it all? How solid is our foundation in the faith regarding our understanding of the role of God’s baptisms in our lives?
On To Perfection
Paul says we should go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation, but what if we find ourselves years after baptism, trying to move toward perfection and we discover some big cracks in our foundation? We aren’t after all … skyscrapers with load-bearing walls. We’re human beings with a mental, intellectual, and emotional fund of knowledge as our foundation, and we are counseled by God’s word to grow in knowledge and grace
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:7-10)
The action, the activity of the spirit within us is (or should be) this way. Reaching out, searching, re-searching, and re-re-searching to find the deep things of God, to enhance knowledge and understanding, to grow towards perfection. My kids are all sci-fi geeks, and there’s a statement in The Matrix that comes to mind: “Do you care to see … how deep the rabbit hole goes”.
How deep are the deep things of God in Relation to Baptism?
This is the kind of question that no man with a mind that is humble before God can answer, but we can learn more as we grow. We often think of ‘baptism’ as a single event that we submit ourselves to, where we are immersed in water by a minister, and have his hands laid on us, so we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We’ve always viewed it as being a very important, if not the most important single event of our lives – March 1, 1980, for me. But is that all there is to baptism? Because the only things we really looked at regarding baptism were the ways that the Bible differs from the common practices of the religions we see in this world who sprinkle instead of immerse, who practice infant baptism, and who are baptized for the dead.
In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” John’s baptism was a physical baptism, by immersion in water. It is a physical act intended to communicate to God our desire to be granted repentance at His hand, our willingness to change, to place our lives under His power and authority, and to request the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help us to finish our course in the flesh and become a part of His family. It is also a request for betrothal to His son, an expression of love, the desire to be married to Him, to become “one flesh,” a member of His body, the church. And last, but not least, it is a request to God for a greater and weightier baptism to be performed for us in the spiritual realm by a spiritual being.
In this verse, John is pointing out the inferiority of his baptism to another another type of baptism, performed by a greater Baptist, that would follow. Look at what John says about the One who was to come after him as verse 11 continues: “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Just to clarify matters, it appears from John 4:1-2 that Jesus Christ Himself did not baptize anyone in water (though His disciples did, under His guidance). In Matthew 3:11, John is very plainly speaking of another kind of baptism – one performed by another Baptist “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” There is a greater baptism that takes place on a spiritual plane, and that begins (for most of us – we’ll look at some exceptions to this later) after we are baptized in water.
We know that our physical baptism is symbolic of a deeper cleansing from sin and moral filth. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). The word “washed” is translated from a form of the Greek word apolouo (G628). Spiros Zodhiates contrasts this phrase with ‘you were baptized’, which refers to an outward cleansing, where apolouo refers to an inner cleansing of the heart. The word ‘sanctified’ (G37) means a setting apart of our lives for holy use, and ‘justified’ (G1344) means to render just or innocent and, “to bring out what is desired in a person.”
Physical baptism in water is just the first step in a baptismal process that should last for our entire life. When God and Jesus Christ begin to work in us, we can be confident that They will bring us to completion (Phil. 1:6). In part 2, we will continue to look at the distinction between the baptism of John, and the baptism performed throughout our lives by Jesus Christ.
Baptism For Life series: