Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christian Baptism (10/18/07)
TITLE: The Baptismal Controversy
By Doug Laird
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The first passage that came to mind this week was 1Peter 3: 15.
Baptism is a very sensitive and even divisive area of theology within the Christian Community. The “gentle and respectful” (1Peter 3: 15) diplomatic skills of our ambassadorship (2Cor.5: 20) certainly come into play when edifying believers regarding Christian Baptism.
At the risk of becoming “…your enemy by telling you the truth (Gal. 4: 16 NASB)”, let’s begin.
Granted, through the selection of specific verses and disregarding others, a pretty convincing case can appear to be made in behalf of the two extreme positions regarding baptism. One extreme is that without Baptism the individual is NOT SAVED and the other is that adding ANYTHING beyond faith in the completed work of our Lord amounts to blasphemy.
In all instances where the ritual of baptism took place, it involved an ADULT who had ALREADY been saved by believing in the in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no record of John the Baptist ever being baptized (by water ritual). The classic example of a saved individual without going through the ritual of water baptism is the thief on the cross. No Old Testament believers were baptized, but the male believers were circumcised as an outward sign of their identification with the family of God during that dispensation.
Our Lord was baptized by John to IDENTIFY with His pre-crucifixion ministry that was about to commence, and to IDENTIFY with His ultimate Work that He later accomplished in full (John 19:30) while on the cross. This clearly refutes ANY argument that Baptism is for the purpose of resolving the issue of ANY sin, “original” or otherwise.
NO religious ritual of Man, including Baptism, takes the place of His Work.
However, there IS a Baptism that takes place that IS a part of the Salvation process. It is the Baptism that God the Holy Spirit performs (John 1: 33/2Cor.1: 22/2Cor.5: 17) at the moment a person BELIEVES in the Person and Works of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3: 18).
The ritual of water Baptism, in keeping with the pre-Canon traditions of the early Church, is not heretical, PROVIDING that it is voluntarily done in recognition of what has ALREADY taken place by the function of God the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. It is not heretical as long as it is not seen as a REQUIREMENT being added to the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not heretical as long as it is a voluntary public testimony by an individual who desires to publicly acknowledge his/her acceptance and belief in the Person and Works of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The rituals of the Old Testament temple worship looked and pointed forward to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ that WAS to come. The Communion ritual of the Church Age looks back by bringing into remembrance the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ who has come. In NEITHER case, are or were rituals to take the place of, improve, validate, or reproduce what was, is, or will take place in the spiritual realm which was, is, or will be the Work of God.
Where the ritual of water baptism (not to be confused with the Baptism of God the Holy Spirit) crosses the heretical line, is when it IS promoted as a requirement of salvation. When ANYTHING is added, it is saying that His Work and/or our faith in it was/is NOT enough, which amounts to blasphemy.
Once the seed(s) of false doctrine(s) have been planted, the resulting rituals, customs, and practices are not easily uprooted and might even destroy the entire crop if it’s removal were to be attempted (Matt.13: 24-30).
Martin Luther, who was otherwise so well known for his stance concerning the eradication of anything that cannot be Biblically substantiated, apparently did not include infant baptisms when listing non-Biblical doctrines and practices that had infiltrated the Church.
The Baptismal controversy of our day is very similar to the (false) requirement of circumcision that many “saved” Jews of the first generation of the Church tried to bring into the Church is well documented in the Book of Galatians.
The “required” baptism is the Work of God the Holy Spirit at the moment one believes.
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