Posted by: jiminmontana | June 23, 2013

Baptism – Why Immersion?

The following post is a letter which I shared with a friend about baptism via immersion.

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Dear Sis:

I always appreciate our interactions at the store and I apologize for not being able to really answer your thoughts about membership at church with regard to immersion. Because you are honestly working through this issue and asking the right questions, I’ve spent a few hours before work to lay out the issue of baptism based upon thirty years of my relatively ardent studies.  I find that most people today are not willing to spend their time and energy to do much of anything really well.  That may be permissible when flossing one’s teeth, but I find it to be simply horrible when doing ministry and speaking about the things of God. Thus, I have attempted to answer your concerns as best I can in honor of the Lord and in honor of you, a daughter of the King.

I hope that you will have time for these considerations and follow up with me when you can.

Why Be Baptized?     (an overview)

If your answer is, “Because the Bible tells me to!” — that’s good enough.  But there are differing opinions about HOW to baptize and WHY to baptize.  In Romans 10, Paul makes it clear that being zealous for obedience without understanding has caused problems for God’s people in the past.  It’s good to be zealous and obedient, but “according to knowledge”.

Baptism is something that a Christian does as an act of obedience AFTER having come to faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.  There is no “baptismal regeneration”.  You can think of it as “putting on the uniform” of the Kingdom of God.

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We were all born natural subjects of the World which is in rebellion to the Kingdom — through water baptism, you inform the Devil that you are no longer one of his citizens, but have expatriated your citizenship from the doomed World-system to the Kingdom of God.

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By submitting to immersion, you are showing that you agree that Noah’s Flood was a good thing and that parts of who you are also need to be dealt with very severely.  This is your response to God as having a good conscience before Him.  His response to your baptism is to start inspiring you to a life of increasing maturity which is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

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A person who refuses to be properly baptized cannot expect God to inspire them and empower them with supernatural wisdom and ability through the challenges and opportunities in life.

Salvation (Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification)

In order to be baptized in water, a person must first be born again in their human spirit.  This problem we have goes back to Adam in the Garden of Eden.

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When Adam rebelled against God, be died in his human spirit (zoe).  Adam unplugged his spirit from the Throne room of God when he chose to reject God’s reign from that Throne.

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He lost his innocence and he lost his immortality as a human being.  Adam became “free” — untethered to Life.

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Having committed spiritual suicide, Adam progressively died in his soul (psyche).

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Leaving innocence, Adam progressively learned pride, wrath, violence, foul speech, etc. until he ultimately died physically.  Messiah reverses this process for those who Trust in Him.

At Justification, the new saint is instantaneously plugged back into the Throne room.  In God’s courtroom, the person is declared to be forensically righteous by God the Father and legally adopted into the Family.  Then the saint moves into the “living room” as it were and begins the process of Sanctification: living as one set apart to mature into the righteousness of Christ while retaining those personal qualities which make you unique.  Maturing, your laughter becomes increasingly righteous as you enjoy those things which give the Lord pleasure.  Your weeping becomes increasingly righteous as you no longer lament the loss of those things you cannot keep and your heart increasingly breaks for those things which cause God pain.  This is the perfected righteousness of one’s soul.  Finally, we look forward to the imminent moment when the Lord will call us Upward and we are to be instantaneously Glorified with a better immortality than Adam ever knew in the Garden.

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Connection to the Past (and Future)

Baptism is an act of your will which makes it clear to everyone that you are a member of the Body of Christ.  A lot of things have changed about how we “do Church” in the last 2000 years.  The Apostle Paul would see a lot of things that were very strange to him: electric lights and electric guitars, etc.  But he would recognize baptism.  Baptism is an ancient practice that spans the centuries and ties us together as one Body in the Lord.

Baptism did not start with the NT Church; it is an OT practice going way back to the times of Moses.  And baptism will continue as long as the Earth continues to spin around the Sun — uniting all the people who call on the name of the Lord from different times and languages and nations and customs.

The Baptism of Jewish Proselytes

Most Jews are born of Jewish parents, but that is not always the case.  When non-Jewish adults (Gentiles) convert to Judaism, they are called proselytes.

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All orthodox Jews today must do the following:

1) profess faith in the one God, Jehovah (YHWH),

2) males must be circumcised,

3) attempt to follow the 613 rules in the OT,

4) keep a kosher lifestyle.

When the Temple was extant, Jews would also

5) give an offering (one was provided by the parents).

But a Gentile convert to Judaism must undergo one additional step and be baptized (make mikvah).  This is thought to purify the proselyte from the uncleanliness of life prior to becoming Jewish.  {There were MANY baptismal pools around Herod’s Temple which made it easy for the 3000 to be baptized at Pentecost/Shavuot — reversing the deaths of the 3000 slain when the Law came from Sinai at the first Shavuot in Ex. 19.}

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Once a Gentile satisfies these steps, he or she is considered to have all the rights and responsibilities of any and all Jewish people.

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This information is freely available in eBook format at this link with the term “bapti*” highlighted in yellow.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.xi.xii.html?highlight=bapti#highlight

The author is Alfred Edersheim, the Messianic Jewish genius who wrote many volumes in the late 1800’s to help Gentile Christians understand our roots in Judaism.

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Given over a century of critical consideration, his scholarship has been found to be unassailable and thoroughly trustworthy.  His four primary volumes are available at this link:       http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim?show=worksBy

As pertains to Jewish baptism, here is a quote from Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix 12 linked above:

            “The baptism was to be performed in the presence of three witnesses, ordinarily Sanhedrists (Yebam. 47 b), but in case of necessity others might act. The person to be baptized, having cut his hair and nails, undressed completely, made fresh profession of his faith before what were ‘the fathers of the baptism’ (our Godfathers, Kethub. 11 a; Erub. 15 a), and then immersed completely, so that every part of the body was touched by the water. The rite would, of course, be accompanied by exhortations and benedictions (Maimonides, Hilkh. Milah iii. 4; Hilkh. Iss. Biah xiv. 6). Baptism was not to be administered at night, nor on a Sabbath or feast-day (Yebam. 46 b). Women were attended by those of their own sex, the Rabbis standing at the door outside.”

One note, the idea of “proselytes” is not a Biblical concept, but came about for the preservation of unity within the community of Jews about a century before the life of Yeshua (Jesus).  Scripture does not explain or require that a gentile who wants to align his or herself with Israel need to go through the above protocol for conversion, bu the real concern was that converts to Judaism might not keep kosher and would easily profane the Sabbath and contaminate the community of observant Jews.

The Baptism of John

John’s baptism was “unto repentance” and was often found to be very objectionable by the proper Jews of his day.  John was the most pious man who had ever lived — the last of the OT prophets who had all the angst of the centuries crystalized in his soul.  He saw that Israel was about to receive her Messiah — and that Israel was not prepared.

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He was calling upon all Jews to purify themselves so that they might receive Him properly, just as all formerly non-kosher gentiles must be purified from their past lives outside the community.  Naturally born Jews were often indignant that anyone should suggest that they should require this very same baptism.  John rebuffed all those self-righteous Jews who came for this baptism without evidence of contrition.

Agreement with God regarding the World    { “baptism now saves you”  1 Peter 3:21 NASB }

Peter explains that baptism is a way of agreeing with God that Noah’s Flood was a good thing.  This passage of Scripture is the most misunderstood and neglected aspect of baptism today, but is essential to understanding immersion.  It takes faith for a human to agree with God that the destruction of the World by the Flood was a good thing — it’s scary.

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It is a process for us to turn over our affections and thoughts to the Lord, but Faith knows that everything the Lord does is Good.  Along these lines, we agree that the Crucifixion was both the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened.  From our perspective, some of those things that God does may not seem to be that good, but after years with the Lord we begin to learn from experience that He knows what He is doing.  The destruction of the World by water in the days of Noah was one of those Good things the Lord has done that most people thought was terrible.

            “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.”    —  1 Peter 3:18ff ESV

Unpacking all of this passage would take a few hours since the matter of Fallen angels breeding giants is clearly in view here — wild stuff.  For the matter at hand, baptism is said to correspond to the “salvation” which Noah received from the World-system (cosmos) when that system was destroyed.  Noah had been found to be “righteous”, but he was born as a citizen of a World which was under judgment.

Peter, a Jew, is clarifying two things:  1) that Christian baptism goes back to Genesis and 2) that it is not like the cleansing baptism of proselytes/John the Baptist.  Peter is saying that — having been Redeemed by the Blood — it would be unconscionable to remain as a citizen of this doomed World which the Enemy of God calls “home”.  (See 1John5 “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”) Thus, baptism becomes the saint’s best opportunity to publicly reject the World and the Devil while proving a switched allegiance to the Kingdom.

Through immersion, the saint has passed judgment against the World in alignment with the opinion of the Lord.  The next and final judgment against the World will be its destruction by fire — nuclear fire.  No longer will the Lord stretch out the dimensions of space which allow for the existence of the universe.  We currently exist as a transient bubble of smoky physicality surrounded by the spirit realm which is bearing down on our intrusion with unthinkable pressure.  When the lessons of history are learned, the Lord will cease to expend the energy required to give room for this universe and it will be will be “rolled up like a scroll” with all the mass of physicality being converted to raw energy per Einstein’s E=mcc

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Knowing and agreeing with God’s plan for the World, the saint MUST get unattached to this World.  Like the pilot who ejects from a broken airplane which is surely going to crash and explode, baptism is how the saint “ejects” from this doomed World-system.

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The forces of evil had been working through the generations to derail the coming of Messiah (e.g. murder of Abel) and had more recently inspired Herod to murder the toddlers of Bethlehem.  Yet, it was only after Messiah was baptized in water that Satan himself opposed Messiah face to face.  To Satan, submitting to water baptism is an act of defiance — an act of war.  Nowhere does Scripture imply that Satan can read your thoughts and know when you have been Redeemed, but when you come out of the drowning waters he knows that you have aligned yourself with the God of Heaven as a member of that Kingdom.  Therefore, it is to be expected that a newly baptized Christian will undergo a period of new attention and opposition by the Enemy.  It was only AFTER baptism in Matthew 3 that Jesus was tempted by the Devil in Matthew 4.  Your decision is a spiritual battle.  Expect similar treatment and follow the admonition of James in 4:7 — “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  It was for this very reason that the Sinless Messiah submitted to water baptism by John since declaring war on Satan was part of how Messiah came to “fulfill all righteousness.”  (Mat. 3)    Sprinkling just cannot recapitulate anything like the Flood.

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Holy Spirit’s Response

When you turned to the Lord for the forgiveness of your sins (Justification), something was done for you by God that you could not see or feel or hear.  In the spiritual realm around us, God plugged your human spirit back into God’s throne room.  You were also adopted as a child of God the Father.  (Jesus is the only person who is a “naturally-born” Son of God — not adopted)  As an adopted daughter, all the rights and responsibilities of that relationship become yours.  You move from the courtroom into the family room as a new child of the King.  As a child, we need a tutor.  Just as Alexander the Great had Aristotle as his tutor, we have the Holy Spirit.  His role is to inspire us to maturity and empower us to be conformed to righteousness.

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This process of maturation as adopted heirs is laid out in Romans 8 — Paul begins with the “baby” concern of wondering “am I still in trouble with God?” when he assures you that “there is now no condemnation”; and Paul ends with you being “more than a conqueror” — mature and dangerous.

At danger of being too metaphysical, it is important to recall that the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep — BEFORE the Creation story even began.

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[Gen 1:1-5 ESV] 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

So we see that Water was a reality before anything was made.  Water is THE primordial element which existed before Creation.  And the Spirit of G-d “hovered” over the face of the waters.  That word for “hover”  is very rare in Scripture, used just three times (click here) and it is meant to convey the idea of moving back and forth in a manner which is soft rather than forceful.  Also, the root contains the idea of “cherishing” or “being affected through the emotion of a pure love”.

waters cloud

When a person submits to this immersion into water, even though an aspect of the sinful nature is still evident, you are showing G-d that you want to go back, as it were, to that most ancient time when the Spirit was moving on the face of the waters.  You are placing yourself in a position to enjoy that interaction as if you had never done anything wrong, but had lived a long life of perfect obedience to the Lord.  In your human spirit, this has been made a reality by the merit of the Just One on your behalf.  And the Spirit is willing to interact with you in a manner which is not forceful – it will be incumbent upon you to yield to the Spirit’s wooing to your spirit and for you to obey.  And to enjoy the soft strength that comes to empower your obedience

Sharing in the Lord’s Experiences

When a Believer is baptized in water, he or she is acting out the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is a symbolic act of drowning, being buried (at sea), and coming back out of the water anew.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.  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 know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.   — Rom 6:3-7 ESV

Again, the goal is to enjoy the provision of God which enables us to “walk in newness of life” as citizens of the Kingdom unfettered by a foolish regard for this doomed World.  Baptism heralds a change in how we do life because of a reconsideration of all things according to God’s opinion and God’s empowerment.

Personal Application of this Information

As you mentioned having been sprinkled in the Methodist tradition, I must say that their method is detached from our Jewish roots and, thus, defunct.  Ancient Christians would not be able to see the sprinkling method of baptism as something recognizable through the centuries, but as an unwholesome error which tears a Believer away from his and her connection to antiquity — even the first book of the Bible as well as all of the lives of all of those Believers who were hoping for the Messiah to come.

As your friend and brother in the Lord, I implore you to submit to immersion as an act of obedience to the King.  I would never ask you to be a submissive person, but it is a beautiful thing to witness a mature and strong person, such as you are, be submitted to the only One who deserves it.  The saints rejoice, the angels sing, and the Devil says, “There goes another one off my census.”

Caveat:  Knowing these things, if you stubbornly refuse to submit yourself to God according to His clear directives, quit dabbling in the Kingdom.  Considering that Messiah was shattered by the Wrath of God on the Cross so that you may enjoy the elation of blamelessness before God forever, recalcitrance at the first test here would indicate a lack of revelation of all the Lord has done for us sinners.  Considering that gentiles through the ages would submit even to circumcision to join the Chosen People, this reveals a contemptuous reluctance to the altogether benign act of immersion.  Make your choice and pursue it as one who is either hot or cold. (Rev 3)  I hope that you choose obedience and I pray that pride for today will not bar you from coming exaltation at the King’s table.

May the Lord of Glory Bless You in All Good Things as You Yield to the Holy Spirit,

Fraternally Yours,

Jim

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