A question that came to us:
“If we are still to practice water baptism today, what scripture teaches that it is no longer a purification (Jn. 3:25) and washing (Acts 22:16) by sprinkling or pouring but burial in water to symbolize death, burial, and resurrection?”
(This is the second part to the question’s answer. You can read Part 1 here.
My short answer:
Water baptism is not a sacrament, or means of obtaining salvation. Baptism of a believer is a personal decision that identifies (by a picture or visual representation) the believer with the gospel he professes to believe.
The gospel in this Church age is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again for our justification under the New Testament. This gospel does not symbolize a future remission of sins under the New Covenant God promised to Israel, such as John’s and Peter’s baptism (Jeremiah 31:31; Luke 3:3, 24:47; Acts 2:38; Joel 2:28-29).
Water baptism in the Church age looks back on the finished and complete work of Christ, which was applied effectually by the Holy Spirit, at the moment the believer trusted Christ. It is important to note that water baptism does not look directly back to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ—it looks back to the work of the Holy Spirit when the believer was baptized into Christ—which in itself, indeed, is based on the past Person and Work of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. (Romans 6:3-4). The believer’s salvation and justification is “no more of works” “not of works” and “not by works of righteousness” (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:9; Titus 3:5).
At the same time, when the believer trusted Christ alone, the Holy Spirit baptized him into the body of Christ, of which Christ is the Head (1 Corinthians 12:13-27). Therefore, water baptism is by immersion (going down into a ‘watery grave’, and coming up out of it): and the only mode that can picture the gospel of grace: identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
Water baptism may be public or private but the intent is always to identify the believer with the gospel revealed to Paul for this age, and to mark his fellowship with all other believers in Christ.
It is a vivid illustration that can be done anywhere, anytime, in any culture. When the gospel of grace (salvation without any work by man–all is dependent upon Christ) is preached, water baptism renounces all other ‘gospels’ and proclaims that any other means of salvation are false.
The biblical meaning of water baptism has been so perverted, ignored and neglected by so many for so long, water baptism is no longer an offence to false gospels and religious systems in the USA and other parts of the world.
The detailed answer:
PREVIOUS STUDY ON PURIFICATION AND BAPTISM
In our first study we covered the general process of purification, its elements, and the fact that baptism and purification were not synonymous. In this final study we look at the second part of the question: Do we have any scriptural justification to baptize converts that is a burial to symbolize death, burial, and resurrection?
I attempt to cover a large body of material here without needless jargon or long technical terms with the intent to not only answer the question above but to also use it as part of our Bible school curriculum. My focus is on the average Bible student and is intended to be an introduction to the voluminous and complex subject of translation and interpretation from a source language (Greek) to a target language (English). At the same time I hope to give a reasonable, logical, and scriptural answer to the question. It is of utmost importance to know what constitutes “baptism”. Is baptism an act or a condition that results from a particular action? In other words, when one is ‘baptized’ does that mean the candidate was dipped, submerged, immersed, or simply overwhelmed? When one is baptized, must water be the element used? “He was baptized by John in the river of Jordan.” Does that mean he was “dipped in water and brought up” “sprinkled with water, or had water poured over him so profusely, that he was entirely wet?” “The disciples were baptized with the Holy Ghost”—must that mean the baptism was with water? When a person is “baptized” does it mean the baptism was ‘because of’ a prior event or looking forward ‘for’ a future benefit?
“Baptism” and “Baptized” (verbal forms and adjective) have been miserably ill defined by many so-called ‘scholars.’ This is the result of a flawed definition of baptism; one that never met the demands of normal literal interpretation of scripture. First error: To discover what the word “baptism” meant, ‘scholars’ searched Classical Greek for how the terms, baptism and baptized were used in the writings of ancient secular Greek authors. Second error: Depending on the particular religious view of the researcher, the definition of baptism was determined from select accounts, while any opposing account was simply left unreported. The majority of accounts that agreed with the researcher’s predetermined ‘correct definition’ overruled any account of disagreement.
Therefore, to put it in plain speech, when the researcher was Presbyterian, ‘baptism’ was determined to be sprinkling or pouring. When the researcher was a Baptist, ‘baptism’ was determined to be immersion or dipping. Both ignored the context where baptism was used in the Bible, and both believed the interpretive authority lay in the secular Classical Greek usage, instead of context and usage of the term in the Bible itself. Both approaches concluded that “baptism” was an ACTION (sprinkling or pouring or dipping or immersion) rather than a CONDITION. The misconception lingers today and has affected Bible interpretation by many.
The definition of baptism must include several key elements, all determined by the context and usage found in the King James Bible (KJB). The KJB is an accurate translation of the koine (common) Greek text into the English language and thus reflects the divine definition. A consistent definition and meaning of “baptism” must consider “where” “when” “how” and to “whom” the term is used in the word of God. Proper definition of baptism embodies the message it accompanies, the method employed, the mode of action, as well as the messenger or the “baptizer”.
The Greek of the New Testament was not written in Classical Greek; the NT Greek is what is called ‘koine’ (common) Greek and was not the Greek of the secular Greek authors such as Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Hippocrates, etc. God set His own definitions and interpretations apart from man by usage and context in the KJB.
NT Greek was the language of the common man and not the language of the ‘scholars’. Not only that, NT Greek has properties that go beyond the normal speech and usage of the koine Greek. The KJB is based on what is called “Biblical Greek”. Even the English of the KJB has certain elements not used or spoken in the English language by anyone from 900-2015 a.d.; therefore, the KJB is Biblical English and one only finds the definitive meanings of terms in their usage and context in the KJB.
For several reasons, I believe the error of substituting or transliterating baptismois as “baptisms” instead of the translation of “washings” in Hebrews 9:10 is a glaring example of ignoring Bible usage and context. It is simply the result of ‘uniform translation’ (the assumption that all Greek words that are the same, must have the same meaning.) In following this assumption, all ‘modern translations’ such as the NIV, have perverted the meaning of critical Bible words.
The KJB employs context and usage to define critical Bible words. Methods God uses are: common translation, which is dependent upon words between Greek and English context and usage that are necessary for proper grammar and syntax. For example: common words such as a, an, the, is, am, to be, go, to, for, in, at, body, people, etc. This not to say that gender, verb tenses, adverbs, prepositions, adjectives, etc., are not important and that translation does not necessitate Greek/English grammar rules. The most unusual feature of proper communicative translation between Greek and English is transliteration of certain words in specific contexts. Whether a word is to be translated or transliterated is determined by its import of a doctrinal matter as well as near or far context. Transliteration in effect creates a new term by putting the English equivalent of the Greek letters such as βαπτισμοῖς= baptisms. It is a divine marker to indicate the need for biblical context and usage alone to define it. Typical Greek vocabulary and grammar reference books are of no help in discovering what it means. (The Greek vocabulary tools on such words have been manipulated by Classical Greek usage rather than how the Bible uses the term).
The word baptism (along with all its various grammar forms) is not found in the Hebrew or English Old Testament. There are “divers washings” involving water just as the KJB says, but there is no usage of “baptisms”. The KJB recognizes the problem of transliterating baptismois as “baptisms” in Hebrews 9:10 and employs the translation, “washings” which is defined on the rule of biblical context.
Here is the reason: if the OT “washings” is synonymous with NT baptisms, a doctrinal error of extreme importance is introduced. The various ‘water baptisms’ of tents, pots, pans, cups, toes, and animal guts would be on the par with not only the baptism of NT believers, but also John’s baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ!
God reveals seven baptisms in the NT with a variety of recipients, messengers, modes, and meanings—not a single one is named a baptism in the OT text.
Baptism from the beginning (Exodus; 1 Corinthians 10) was identification with Moses as God’s spokesman and professed agreement with his message from God. The waters of the Red Sea never cleansed or even touched those under Moses leadership—they all went through on “dry ground”. Remember, this “baptism” at the Red Sea was never called that in the OT. Paul brought it into the Corinthian letter because of their misuse of the purpose and meaning of water baptism. A single baptism (Red Sea) existed before the Law and God never confused baptism with “a purification rite” under the Law. This baptism preceded the Law dispensation and involved a “mixed multitude” that included Jews and Gentiles, some truly dedicated to Moses leadership and some mere professors, as was proven later when times got hard and they rebelled. The rule of first mention establishes the basic meaning.
The use of water in such Law matters as the priests, etc., was a dedication and identification to their office and duties. Water took no sins away nor did it immediately remit any sins; water if used, was a part of several elements and actions: a process.
God “sent John to baptize” and he followed no OT Law instruction or traditions of the Jews. (John 1:33).
WATER BAPTISM TODAY
“If we are still to practice water baptism today, what scripture teaches… (it is)… a burial in water to symbolize death, burial, and resurrection?”
There is no scripture that ‘teaches’ water baptism is essential to salvation or successful Christian living today. When ‘baptism’ is seen to be immersion in every instance in the NT, the interpreter has accepted the wrong conclusion that baptism is an ACT, rather than a condition that is the result of an action. This false assumption is based on Classical Greek usage in secular writings and not the Bible Greek (koine) usage and context. Therefore, when we read, “they were baptized…” the meaning is that the people were put into a place and a particular action of pouring, immersion or submersion occurred, which resulted in the condition of them being described as “baptized”.
Baptism is defined in its most basic definition by the rule of first mention. (See 1 Corinthians 10:1 with Exodus, “baptized unto Moses”). Baptism, by whatever mode, (sprinkling, pouring, immersion, etc.) is identification with the messenger and his message. And, the mode may be in a figurative sense such as when Jesus spoke of His coming substitutionary death, (“I have a baptism to be baptized with.” Matthew 20:22-23) refers to a submersion into a certain situation. When we say, “He was baptized by fire in the first battle…” we mean he was placed in a situation he had never been in before and experienced things he had never experienced prior to that situation. We do not mean he was literally in fire. But when the context of a baptism contains such words as “baptized in Jordan” “in and out of water” “baptized by John”, context demands it is a literal event.
“Baptized unto Moses,” means those who followed him through the Red Sea accepted Moses as God’s leader, His spokesman, and agreed with Moses’ message. That baptism was literal but the mode and meaning were certainly unusual! No one got wet. The ground was “dry”; at least dry enough so that the Israelites were not impeded by mud and sinkholes, the waters of the sea itself were “divided”. Exodus 14:21-22 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
They were not encompassed or touched by water on every side, unless one wishes to insist that the atmosphere had water in the form of vapor above them. The “cloud” was not above them but before and behind: “…and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:” (v.19). The whole experience is described as being “baptized unto Moses.”
Baptism, as used in the context of Paul’s ministry, is certainly important for us today. God selected him as the “apostle to the Gentiles” and revealed to him God’s program for the Church. His ministry was not just a continuation of the same message and ministry of Peter and the twelve apostles before him. Certain aspects of his ministry are the same as previous periods of time but there are several that are unique to the present doctrine and practice. God’s program for all eternity is consistent throughout and in total harmony. And in our Bible study, we must never ‘split’ up the Bible so that certain portions of scripture are of less value than others, but neither should we insist that everything in the Bible is to be followed by everybody during all periods of time.
WHAT DOES PAUL TEACH REGARDING BAPTISM?
Paul never commands or denies water baptism in all his epistles (13 in total: Romans-Philemon) although he did baptize converts. Paul never changed his message of salvation by grace, without works. This can produce nothing but one of two conclusions: (a.) Paul was ignorant for a period of time in his ministry, or (b.) that water baptism is not essential to salvation and carries some other meaning than that found in Luke 3:3 and Acts 2:38 ‘for the remission of sins’.
Paul connects water baptism with the testimony or profession of a Christian and never with salvation. In his letter to the Corinthians, he deals with their carnality and poor spiritual practice but never questions their position in Christ. To understand this, we must look at the context of 1 Corinthians 1.
1Cor. 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
1Cor. 1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
1Cor. 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
1Cor. 1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
1Cor. 1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Cor. 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
(There is no question here as to whether Paul is writing to confirmed, lost professors or to those who are saved. He thanked God for them, they are “enriched by Him (Christ)”, Their “testimony” of Christ was confirmed—not necessarily perfect—in that they had many gifts, and they were “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”)
1Cor. 1:10 ¶ Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1Cor. 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1Cor. 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1Cor. 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
(However, they had some problems of carnal divisions and contentions. The Corinthians had divided themselves into various ‘denominations’: “I am of Paul”—those that separate Paul’s ministry apart from Peter’s ministry to the extreme, ’Neo-Bereans’??—“I of Apollos’, ‘scholarly crowd’??—“of Cephas”, RCC??—“I of Christ”, so-called Church of Christ?? It is this problem he addresses. Their carnality was marring their testimony.)
1Cor. 1:14 ¶ I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
1Cor. 1:15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
1Cor. 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
(Paul is not confessing his problem with understanding baptism here—as the Neo-Bereans of today claim—Paul is not trying to figure out what he believes, he is correcting the Corinthian’s problem! Since water baptism pictures the union of the believer with Christ and his fellowship with other believers in Christ, the practice of division among the Corinthians was not consistent with their position in Christ. Paul, by inspiration here, also strongly indicates that water baptism is not commanded, nor is it of such importance that records of who is baptized by who must be maintained; Paul did not. Baptism is a picture that professes relationship and fellowship. The Corinthians were not ‘living up to’ their profession.)
1Cor. 1:17 ¶ For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
(Again, Paul is not finally coming to the realization that he should never baptize—another ridiculous interpretation by those who oppose water baptism in this age. Water baptism is not a part of the gospel he preached. The gospel of the grace of God does not require that you cover water baptism or any work by man. John the Baptist was “sent to baptize” and his baptism proclaimed that Israel would receive “remission of sins” in the future. Peter preached the same message and his baptism was “for the remission of sins” in the future. Both John and Peter demanded that those who believed their message must be baptized. That baptism looked forward to the future day when the nation would be “born again” and their sins remitted—final dealing with their apostasy under the New Covenant.)
John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
John 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
John 3:10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
(Nicodemus was a ‘master of Israel’—teacher, and a prominent leader of the nation. Jesus’ question was a rebuke to Nicodemus, had he never read and believed all the OT promises of the future New Covenant?)
Jer. 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Jer. 31:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
Jer. 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jer. 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Joel 2:28 ¶ And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
Joel 2:29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Acts 2:37 ¶ Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
(John the Baptist and Peter, while not understanding the full meaning of the suffering of Christ, they knew the OT promises of the coming New Covenant and the ‘pouring’ out of God’s Spirit, along with the OT’s many references to water being a symbol of the word of God: cleansing, refreshing, growing, and even judging.)
1Cor. 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
(Paul mentions “the cross” several times in his letters. In 1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” With v. 18, “the preaching of the cross” connects “the gospel” and “the cross”. Whereas, John and Peter did not mention “preaching of the cross”; John was puzzled regarding the death of Christ on the cross; Peter, knowing that Christ was crucified, mentions the death of Christ—not as a blessing to anyone—but as a sin of Israel’s leaders, who with “wicked hands” killed the “Prince of life” Acts 3:15.)
Today, those who do not see the primacy of the “cross” in the gospel of the grace of God are apt to add other things or requirements to the “preaching of the cross.” Men add baptism, church membership, good works, even understanding ‘mysteries’, giving, and even some level of refraining from practices such as gambling, sports, entertainment, etc., and call these things “preaching the gospel”. One can stand on a street corner all day long with biblical terminology signs: “Repent or Perish” “Go to Church or the Devil Will Get You” “Get Saved”, “Pray For America” “Get Baptized” or political statements such as: “Abolish the Supreme Court” “Elect Hillary” “Arrest Hillary” “Impeach Obama”–none of them have anything to do with “preaching the gospel”. We are not saying it is wrong to stand on the street with a sign, or that all of the above imperatives are good or bad; none of them are the gospel.
There is nothing sinful or ungodly about being baptized, praying, giving, going to church, or being concerned over political and social issues. Every preacher should have such concerns, but God did not ‘send us’ to baptize, pray, give, or dedicate all our efforts to a thousand other worthy matters. If I “send” my son to the store to buy a gallon of milk, he may drive the car, say ‘hello’ to several on the way, look at the store’s candy display and even buy a “KitKat”—but if he forgets the milk—he did not do what I sent him to do.
–Dave Reese August, 2015