In my previous post I described how we can become a member of the Body of Christ, the universal church of believers, through one baptism. That one baptism is also called rebirth. The Bible also speaks about a doctrine of baptisms (Hebrews 6:1-2). I believe that out of that one (most important) baptism, other baptisms will follow. Let's take a look at the baptism in water.
In Old Testament times the Jewish ritual of ceremonial washing was quite common. Because of continual sinning, people needed to be cleansed again and again. In the New Testament John the Baptist announced a new form of ritual cleasing: the water baptism as a sign that people had truly turned their backs to sin. He called on the people to seriously repent from their sinful life and to be baptized. He did no longer use the ceremonial wash basins, as was the Jewish custom, but he went to a place where there was plenty of water. John 3:23 says about it, Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized.
Jesus came to John as well, to be baptized, which is a crazy idea of course, because Jesus was without sin. He did not need to repent, let alone to be baptized for the washing away of His sins. Yet, Jesus persuaded John to go ahead and do the will of God, Jesus answered, “For now this is how it should be, because we must do all that God wants us to do.” Then John agreed (Matthew 3:15, CEV). I love that, Jesus sets the example for all of us and humbles Himself. He could have said: 'dear John, I don't need any baptism'. Who could have contradicted Him? But He purposely decided to be obedient and do the will of His Father.
We can read how years later this new form of baptism (ritual washing) is being continued by the disciples. Paul challenged the people of his time, And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name (Acts 22:16). Here, we see again the principle of washing away sins. Through Jesus our sins are forgiven, through water baptism our sins are being washed away. That is why the apostle Peter says we should not look at baptism as a ritual cleansing of dirt, but as a pledge of a clear conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21). Personally I do know a lot of people that have seriously given their life to Christ, they have turned away from their old life, but they still have a guilty conscience which keeps them from feeling truly free. Often it turns out they have not been baptized, which symbolically would wash away their sins. They know their sins have been forgiven, and yet they carry them around.
In the New Testament we can read many scriptures about water baptism and as I have written in my first post, the arguing about baptism (at what age it should take place and how much water should be used) has resulted in many church splits and family feuds. Personally the words of the Lord Jesus were enough to convince me not to join that discussion: 'we must do all that God wants us to do.' The New King James translations says, It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness. If you are in doubt about the water baptism, would you please take some time to think about Jesus' words?
Apart from the baptism in water there is something as the baptism in/with the Holy Spirit, which I will discuss in the next post in this series. I hope you will read and think with me!
I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8)