By Helen Murray
SEND A PRIVATE COMMENT
SEND ARTICLE TO A FRIEND
The most intriguing references to baptism in Scripture are where Jesus says to His disciples “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptised with the baptism wherewith I am baptised?” Matt 20:23.
“I came to send fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled. But I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished.” Luke 12:49,50.
Baptism, we are taught, is death to the old life and resurrection to a new life in Jesus. It is also an act of obedience and public demonstration of allegiance to Jesus in whose Name one is being baptised, with the anticipation that, as God’s Word says,, having publicly performed your oath, (and, we assume, maintaining that allegiance until death), Jesus will also acknowledge you before His Father in Heaven.
Jesus accepted baptism from John at the beginning of His ministry. He received the anointing of the Holy Spirit on that occasion, and was immediately sent out into the desert, for a hard trial, by that same Spirit. Obviously something was cooking, and the pathway wasn’t going to be any bed of roses! But clearly there was a plan that came into operation when Jesus was baptised.
So, baptism initiates an assignment or program. This program seems to be individualised, because Jesus was very aware of His personal baptism, program or assignment from early in His ministry. In Luke 12:50 Jesus talks about distress until his program is completed. He also attaches to this program a vision of what lies beyond it and is connected to it, and consequential upon it, namely the coming of the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
So baptism is more than a witness to a new life. It is actually entrance into an assignment that is personalised to an individual.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptised with the baptism wherewith I am baptised?” Matt 20:23. Jesus asks this question of disciples James and John, whose mother wanted them to sit at the right and left hands of Jesus in the Kingdom. “Oh Yes”, they naively reply, with some haste, because they were asking for something enormous and wanted a quick assurance. It was almost as if they knew they were asking too much which was embarrassing. The spotlight was now well and truly pointed at them and they wanted the matter dealt with quickly.
The response of Jesus is interesting and surprising. One might have thought He would demonstrate that they could not drink the cup that He had to drink, but He tells them they will indeed drink it. And indeed they suffered severely for their faith together with all the other apostles, as they became. Did they, by agreeing they could drink the cup actually draw that terrible fate towards themselves? We can’t know this because they were not the only ones to suffer for the faith. But Jesus did confirm they would drink it when they glibly said they could. Words are mighty powerful tools and we need to be aware of what we have in our mouths! James turned out to be the very first martyr, and John suffered boiling in oil and survived it.
As Harold Gram pointed out in his article “Let’s Baptise the Devil”, baptism has come for some, these days, to be a day of naming infants. There is no reference to that as common practice in scripture. However it’s not difficult to see how it might have come about. Baptism meant dying to an old life and entering a brand new one, with a new assignment. This could well go with a new name. Perhaps for Jesus the new name was “Lamb of God,” spoken prophetically over Him on the day of His baptism by John the Baptist. (John 1:29) and definitely referring to His assignment or job description, now actively set in motion.
In Rev 3:12 the Spirit says “He who overcomes … I will write on him the name of My God , and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name”. So, together with many other prizes, we receive a new name. Perhaps, in the physical, on earth, the new “My name” is “Christian” by which we are identified with Jesus as if it were our surname. It certainly says a lot about the role we are to play (assignment). It would be activated by our public declaration through baptism that we are now of the family of Christ. If we complete our assignment, (overcome,) we will have that new name from the Holy Spirit.
So baptism can have many parts – firstly entrance through death into life, identifying with Jesus as He identified with us, secondly a new family name, viz Christian, and thirdly a new role or individual and specific assignment to be completed.
Jesus knew the baptism that He was baptised with. What is the baptism that you, personally, are baptised with? It’s not quite the same as the baptism that Jesus received! But there’s Life in you that obliterates death. You have a new family name – Christian. And you have a very specific role that you have been appointed to play and to complete. Additionally, like Jesus, we can know exactly what that role is! And all that’s only down here on earth!
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.