Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
July 7, 1997
Last Updated :
March 21, 2018
Water Baptism Is An Outdated Unnecessary Ceremonial Ritual, Minimal Benefits Of Water Baptism, Unnecessary For Salvation, Replaced By Baptism Of The Holy Spirit, Resistance From Harsh Inflexible Legalists, Doctrines And Traditions Of The Scribes Pharisees And Sadducees, Christian Social Clubs, Dictatorial Church Leaders, Denominationalism Divides And Destroys The Body Of Christ, Warnings Regarding False Brethren And False Doctrines, Opposing Views Regarding Water Baptism, Doctrinal Confusion In Many Modern Churches, Apostle Paul And Ananias, Water Baptism Does Not Wash Away Our Sins, Spiritual Growth And Maturation Of The Apostles, Salvation Was Initially Only Meant For The Israelites, Peter's Sheet Revelation, Abandon Misguided Beliefs And Outdated Practices, Water Baptism In The Early Church, Washed In The Blood Of The Lamb, Prophet Elisha And Naaman The Leper, Spiritual Baptism Without Water, Beware Of Legalistic Yoke Of Bondage, Are Belief Salvation And Spiritual Baptism Synonymous?, The Earnest Of The Spirit
It is because of this undeniable, powerful connection which is so evident between the Old and the New Testaments, the symbolic images which God has repeatedly used throughout Biblical history to make His Divine Plan known to us, and the fact that God will discard something once it has served His purpose and replace it with something even better, that I embrace my current position regarding water baptism. In other words, just as the Old Testament priesthood and the Temple sacrifices, services, ceremonies and rituals became obsolete once Christ had died on the Cross, so too, I have become convinced that water baptism is a part of the old school of thought -- and an unnecessary ceremonial ritual -- for the very same reason.
While water baptism can serve some positive purposes, such as acting as a witness of our faith to others -- assuming, of course, that there are nonbelievers present to whom it will serve as a witness -- as well as inspiring the faith of the individual who is being baptized, nevertheless, I do not believe that being dunked in a tub of water saves us in any way, or makes us more spiritual. In short, I believe that one can derive minimal benefits from water baptism, and that it is a hangover from the past. More importantly, I embrace the view that water baptism has in fact been replaced by the powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that one does not need to be baptized in water in order to be filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Like so many other things that we find in the Scriptures, water baptism was simply one of many archetypes and foreshadows which God used to bring us to the realities of the Spirit, including baptism with fire.
While I am personally convinced of this particular point of view, as we have already seen, there are certain Christians who hold a different opinion; some of whom can act rather harshly towards those people who do not embrace their view. The more extreme ones are quite the legalists, and it can be very difficult to break through their wall of reasoning and reach them. While everyone is free to believe as they wish, I can't help but feel that such people are acting much like the Scribes and the Pharisees of old. As you may know, Jesus quite often exposed them and rebuked them due to their legalistic hypocrisy. They were so bound by the rigidity and legalism of the laws, customs and traditions of the past, that they were incapable of exercising any flexibility, and they were not free. In fact, as Jesus told them on a number of occasions, they placed their own doctrines and traditions above the very Law and Word of God. Consider the following verses:
"In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
Luke 12:1, KJV
"Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
Matthew 16:6-12, KJV
"Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition."
Matthew 15:1-6, KJV
"He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."
Mark 7:6-13, KJV
In much the same way, I believe that certain denominational Christians have turned the issue of water baptism into such a complicated and confusing subject because they simply are not willing to let go of all of their preconceived ideas and misguided doctrines and traditions. If their church teaches a particular doctrine, they will stand by it and adamantly defend it tooth and nail; even if it is wrong, and does not adhere to the Scriptures. I have seen or heard about certain churches and denominations which act like smug social clubs where the pastor or minister rules supreme like a dictator. If a person dares to question what is being taught by that church leader, he risks being publicly reprimanded, or even worse, possibly being excommunicated from their fellowship, and ousted from that church. This is contrary to the Apostle Peter's warning regarding being lords over God's heritage, as we see here:
"Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
1 Peter 5:3, KJV
Some of my online friends have shared such stories with me, so I know that it is true. Not only that, but more than three decades ago, I likewise had a few bad experiences of my own with such people. As I have mentioned before, it is for this reason that I am against denominationalism. I am convinced that denominationalism is of the Devil, and that it divides and destroys the Body of Christ. It tore apart the First Century Church, and it continues to do so today as well. This becomes evident by a number of verses that can be found in the New Testament where the Apostles warn against false doctrines and false brethren infiltrating the Lord's flocks. Consider the following sample verses:
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:"
Ephesians 4:14-15, KJV
"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein."
Hebrews 13:9, KJV
"As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."
1 Timothy 1:3-4, KJV
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;"
1 Timothy 4:1-2, KJV
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;"
2 Timothy 4:3, KJV
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
Acts 20:28-30, KJV
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
Romans 16:17, KJV
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him . . . For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15, KJV
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Galatians 1:6-9, KJV
"And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:"
Galatians 2:4, KJV
"Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."
Philippians 3:2, KJV
"If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
1 Timothy 6:3-5, KJV
"But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."
Titus 3:9-11, KJV
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of."
2 Peter 2:1-2, KJV
"Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
1 John 2:18-19, KJV
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
2 John 1:9-11, KJV
As I noted earlier, the validity of water baptism is one hot button issue which divides and confuses many Christians. If you doubt that this is so, simply look at how many different perspectives the churches hold to today. Some of them teach that we need to be water baptized, while others insist that we do not. Some denominations teach that water baptism is absolutely essential for Salvation, while others say that it is a requirement, but that it does not affect our Salvation. Certain churches -- the Roman Catholic Church in particular -- require water baptism at birth -- or at least at a very young age -- while other churches teach that water baptism should only be performed on mature Christians who fully understand the significance of the ritual. So as I said, there is a lot of doctrinal confusion within the churches. Sadly, this leaves the poor sheep shaking their heads and wondering what they are supposed to believe.
Even the very meaning of baptism itself can be confusing if one is not familiar with the Scriptures. What complicates this issue even more is the fact that the words "baptism" and "baptized" are used in a variety of ways in the pages of the New Testament. In one sense, the words "believeth" and "baptized" -- as they are used in Mark 16:16 -- appear to be synonymous with each other. Do you know why? Quite simply, because to believe is to be baptized. Why do I state this? Let's take a closer look at Acts 22:16, which was shared by my friend on my BBS years ago, and then I will offer you a clear explanation. I am including the surrounding verses in order to put the verse in context:
"And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Acts 22:11-16, KJV
In the previous verses, Paul is recounting his experience with a Disciple in Damascus named Ananias, who was sent to Paul in order to heal his eyes, and so that Paul might also be filled with the Holy Spirit. This occurs in Acts chapter nine, which we will be discussing in the next part of this series.
Exactly what does Paul mean by being baptized and washing away his sins? Is Paul saying that he believes that being immersed in water washes away our sins? Obviously not. We all know that water cannot wash away anything other than physical filth. While it's possible that Ananias -- who Paul is quoting here -- may have believed so, I am not convinced that this was Paul's understanding at the time that this was written. From verses which I will share with you later on in this series, I get the impression that at some point, all of the Apostles began to realize that real baptism has nothing to do with water. The Apostle Peter seems to confirm this same thought when he writes the following. Please notice the words I have placed in uppercase letters for emphasis:
"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (NOT THE PUTTING AWAY OF THE FILTH OF THE FLESH, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:"
1 Peter 3:21, KJV
We need to recognize that during their time with Christ, and for many years afterwards, just as we Christians still do in this present day, the Apostles and Disciples were undergoing a constant growing process and spiritual maturation. They did not know everything, and their personal understanding of the Word and Will of God was constantly being expanded. A prime example of this is Salvation itself. Until Peter received his revelation in Acts chapter ten, the Apostles were convinced that Salvation was only meant for the Jews, and not for any of the Gentiles. After all, this is what Jesus had instructed them to do in the Gospels, as we see by the following verses:
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Matthew 10:5-6, KJV
"And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
Matthew 15:22-28, KJV
"Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews."
John 4:22, KJV
"Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only."
Acts 11:19, KJV
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Romans 1:16, KJV
Yet once the sheet revelation was given in Acts chapter ten, and Peter shared his vision with the other Apostles, they all gained a new perspective and a new understanding regarding what God required of them. They had to forsake the old idea, and the old way of doing things, in order to embrace the new idea and the new way; meaning Salvation for everyone, and not just for the Jews. As I mention in the series entitled "Are You Just a Baby Huey?", we need to be willing to do the very same thing. This does not mean that we should compromise the core doctrines of our faith. However, it does mean that we need to be willing to abandon misguided ideas and beliefs which find no support in the Scriptures. Furthermore, we need to be willing to forsake outdated traditions and practices which are no longer necessary, and which are only hangovers from the past.
As we have already seen, and will see even more later on in this series, in the early days of the Church, the Apostles and Disciples embraced water baptism as a necessary ritual. Perhaps they were simply following the example of John the Baptist, being as some of them had previously been John's disciples prior to following Jesus. However, as the previous verse from Peter's Epistle seems to indicate, there came a time when they began to realize that water baptism had very little real significance. It was simply a symbolic ritual which represented a spiritual truth -- that is, baptism by fire of the Holy Ghost -- and the latter is what is most important.
In my opinion, the end of Paul's statement in Acts 22:16 indicates exactly what is meant by "be baptized". What were his final words? He said "calling on the name of the Lord". In other words, it seems that being spiritually baptized is synonymous with calling upon the Name of the Lord and being saved; because when we call upon the Name of the Lord, that is what washes away our sins. It is only the symbolic act of being washed in the Blood of the Lamb -- and not in water -- which cleanses us, makes us spiritually whole, and saves us. This truth is very clear in the pages of the New Testament. Consider the following verses:
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
1 John 1:7, KJV
"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,"
Revelation 1:5, KJV
"And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Revelation 7:14, KJV
"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied."
1 Peter 1:2, KJV
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;"
Hebrews 10:19-20, KJV
"Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate . . . Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Hebrews 13:12, 20-21, KJV
"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
1 John 2:2, KJV
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1 John 4:10, KJV
Let me mention here that this reminds me of another Old Testament event which just so happens to also involve the Jordan River, and which likewise serves as an archetype or foreshadow of this New Testament spiritual reality in which we are spiritually healed and made clean by being washed in the Blood of the Lamb. I am referring to the story of the Prophet Elisha and Naaman, the latter of which was a leper, and also the captain of the Syrian army. As you may recall, Elisha instructed Naaman to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River in order to be healed. While Naaman initially took offense at the thought of doing this, he eventually did as the Prophet had instructed him to do, and he was healed of his affliction. You will find the story in the fifth chapter of the Second Book of the Kings.
To continue, when we call upon the Name of the Lord; when we express our belief in Jesus' Sacrifice on the Cross -- which means that we are symbolically washed in His Blood -- and when we believe that He rose from the Dead, we are in effect receiving a type of spiritual baptism. This acknowledgement and decision is totally separate and divorced from, and most certainly does not depend upon, the presence of water, and being physically immersed and baptized in water. To insist otherwise is to embrace a misguided doctrine, in my opinion.
In fact, requiring water baptism in any way, and especially adamantly defending the erroneous belief that it is required for Salvation, is to place a heavy, legalistic yoke upon the necks of potential Believers everywhere; just as the Jewish legalists repeatedly endeavored to do with the young Church during the First Century. As you may know, they even tried to do it with Jesus in the Gospels, but He would not let them. He silenced them every time with His wise answers. I discuss these topics in more detail in articles such as "Free From the Fear of Death: Law and Works vs Grace", "Dead to the Law: God's Laws Written on Our Hearts" and "Welcome to Greater Israel, USA!". I am reminded of the following verses:
"Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."
Acts 15:10-11, KJV
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1, KJV
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30, KJV
Simply put, I believe that once Jesus accomplished His Death on the Cross, spiritual baptism became synonymous with being saved, and that there is no difference. I mean, if we believe in what the Spirit of Truth testifies to us, and if we accept Christ, is that not the same as being baptized and sealed by that same Spirit? As I believe I explain in the article "A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: God's Promise of the Spirit", perhaps we do not receive a full-blown indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the moment of our Salvation, but I do believe that we at least receive a small portion of it as a sort of down payment, or what the Apostle Paul refers to as "the earnest of the Spirit". Let me emphasize again that this does not require immersion in water, as far as I can tell. Consider the following two verses:
"Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."
2 Corinthians 1:22, KJV
"Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit."
2 Corinthians 5:5, KJV
In my understanding, this may possibly be the very same thing that the Apostle Peter is saying. That is, that to believe is to be baptized, to be baptized is to be saved, and therefore "baptism doth also now save". It doesn't appear that Peter is talking about water baptism in that verse, because he clearly says "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh". That's why I conclude that he must be referring to spiritual baptism. Now, if what I am explaining here isn't exactly clear to you yet, please be patient, and perhaps you will grasp it better after I present a few more verses for your consideration.
Please go to part four for the continuation of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .