Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Identification of Baptism

Col 2:11  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, Col 2:12  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. Col 2:13  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.

Rom 6:3  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Rom 6:4  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Rom 6:5  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 

We notice in the above passages that we are baptized into Christ.  Whether we are speaking of our spiritual baptism when the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ or water baptism where we publically identify with Christ it is all about union and identity with Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I have spoken with Covenant Theologians who baptize by sprinkling and pouring and who baptize babies.  One argument used to support sprinkling and pouring is the above passage in Col. 2:11-13.  This person said that when the Spirit baptizes us he comes down upon us so sprinkling is an appropriate symbol of this. 

That might be true but it is fundamentally flawed since we are not baptized into the Holy Spirit but by the Holy Spirit.  Also we are never said to identify with the Holy Spirit but with Jesus Christ.  Again, notice the absence of the mention of the Holy Spirit in the above verses.  He is there but behind the scenes.  The Gospel is about what Christ has done for us in his death, burial and resurrection.  Paul preached Christ and him crucified.  When we are baptized we are proclaiming that we have been saved by Christ’s work and we are now followers of Christ because we have been given new life; the life of Christ.  Our baptism is not a picture of how the Spirit came down upon us.  Baptism is a picture of us being joined to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; we are followers of him, not the Spirit.  Christ said take up your cross and follow me, not the Spirit.  I am not trying to play down the Spirit’s role but he is given to lead us into the knowledge of Christ and to glorify Jesus, not himself.

One passage that I think drives the point home is found in Acts 19. 
Act 19:1  And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. Act 19:2  And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Act 19:3  And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” Act 19:4  And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” Act 19:5  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus

We see that when you were baptized by John you did so in repentance professing to believe his message about the coming Messiah.  You identified with his message.  The reason Paul tells these believers (they were already converted) that they needed to be rebaptized was they were to identify with Christ, not John and not the Holy Spirit.  This shows that baptism doesn’t save since they already were believers and it shows why only immersion is proper baptism because it alone illustrates Christ’s work.  We are not baptized to point to the Holy Spirit. 

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