by Pastor Jim Jester
January 26, 2020
Scripture Reading: Matthew 3:11-12
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
If you ask a dozen Christians what is the meaning of baptism, you will get many different answers. Even among Protestant churches, one will get differing opinions on the meaning, purpose and mode of the alleged “ordinance” of Baptism. Some churches have split over these issues, or whether to observe the custom at all. The same can be said of the Eucharist (or Communion/Lord’s Supper). But are these symbolic practices, commonly called “the Sacraments”, really necessary?
Furthermore, we should ask, are these Sacraments necessary for what? Are they necessary for spiritual growth, or, for any kind of salvation? I realize that I am entering a controversial area of theology and some may disagree with what I have to say on this topic, but that is ok – we have liberty here. I hope these studies will answer such questions.
Common definitions of secular sources:
Baptism: (In the Christian Church) the religious rite of sprinkling water onto a person’s forehead or of immersion in water, symbolizing purification or regeneration and admission to the Christian Church. In many denominations, baptism is performed on young children and is accompanied by name-giving. – Apple Dictionary
Sacrament: a religious ceremony or act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace, in particular:
• (in the Roman Catholic and many Orthodox Churches) the rites of baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, ordination, and matrimony.
• (among Protestants) baptism and the Eucharist.
• also the Blessed Sacrament or the Holy Sacrament (in Roman Catholic use) the consecrated elements of the Eucharist, especially the Host: he heard Mass and received the sacrament.
• a thing of mysterious and sacred significance; a religious symbol. – Apple Dictionary
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines “sacramentalism” as “The doctrine that observance of the sacraments is necessary for salvation and that such participation can confer grace.” The word “sacrament” is defined:
“In the Eastern, Roman Catholic, and some other Western Christian churches, any of the traditional seven rites instituted by Jesus that confer sanctifying grace.
In most other Western Christian churches, the two rites, Baptism and the Eucharist, instituted by Jesus to confer sanctifying grace.”
Note that some of the things mentioned in these definitions we do not necessarily believe. Note also, that according to the above quotes, these “rites” were “instituted by Jesus” and they “confer” (grant) grace. But, is this really true? These ideas are found in theological sources, as well; and are held by most churches. Their main passage to support this:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” – Matt. 28:19-20
First of all, there is no mention of using water in this “baptism” – the context clearly emphasizes “teaching”. What are we to teach? The Word of God. One can imagine the concept of water with baptism, since sometimes water is within the context; but water is also a symbol for the Word of God. Therefore, it is the Word that we should be immersed (or baptized) in, not water. William Finck’s translation puts it this way:
“Therefore as you go, instruct all of the Nations, immersing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all things whatever I have commanded to you. And behold, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age!” – Matt. 28:19-20, CNT
The context of teaching remains foremost, but in addition, Finck also emphasizes that the “Nations” (i.e., of Israel) are to be immersed in the “Name” (i.e., Yahweh) of all the manifestations of our God (i.e., Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and His ways (i.e., laws). Furthermore, as we do this, Yahshua is with us until the end of the age. [Note: This is how I interpret the reasons for his capitalizations.]
Secondly, there is no proof, in the language Jesus used, that He intended this command to be a ritual or “ordinance” for the church. The phrase “in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” only appears once in the whole New Testament! Even if one could construe this to indicate some sort of binding ritual in code language, it is very unlikely, vague, and suspect; and we would expect to see it more often in the New Testament. The only verse that comes close to this phrase is 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” But the context here is very different from the account in Matthew. Therefore, in my opinion, a Trinitarian formula (this is not to deny the Trinity) is no proof of a rite or ordinance. A good rule of thumb that has always been recognized is that we cannot base a doctrine on just one verse.
In the Scripture reading, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but [in opposition to, or in contrast] he that cometh after me is mightier than I….” Mark and Luke’s account is a little more emphatic: “There cometh one mightier than I…” (Mk. 1:7). This strongly implies that water baptism is insignificant compared to the baptism of the Spirit.
The Old System is Gone
Most Christian churches refer to the Sacraments as “ordinances”. If by “ordinance” we mean a rite or ceremony, then there is no problem here. But if “ordinance” means “a law”, then we must assume, as the Apostle Paul said, the ordinances (laws) have been abolished.
For if that [O.T.] which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. – 2 Cor. 3:11
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances. – Eph. 2:15
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us... – Col. 2:14
The New Testament is clear that there is absolutely nothing we can do to merit salvation: “Not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9).
It is claimed by most theologians that Baptism replaced Circumcision and that Communion replaced Passover. This assertion is in all the theological commentaries and treatises. It may sound logical and valid, but the fact remains, as the Apostle Paul confirms, the Law (under the Old Covenant) was “done away” with. Since the Old Covenant is gone in relation to our salvation, we must ask; why should anyone try to attach anything to something that is gone? I believe it is futile, and an attempt to give rituals some legitimacy. Brother Finck gives insight into this:
“The early organized ‘church’ identified the seven so-called ‘sacraments’ seen in Catholicism, which many of the Protestant ‘churches’ have since reduced to two, in order to help justify a need for their priesthood: for only trained ‘priests’ can administer their ‘sacraments’, as the ‘church’ would have one believe. Yet we need not strive to demonstrate that they are twisting the Word: for Yahweh administers grace to the children of Israel, not some ‘sacrament’ or some ‘priest’, and He administers it freely – not upon any conditions! [For this see John 1:16-17; Rom. 3:24; 5:15, 17; Eph. 4:7; etc.] Never is the grace of Yahweh said to be contingent upon the believing Israelite’s performing any action in ritual. This I subscribe to the “Nicolaitans”, or “people-conquerors” as the Greek word means literally, who are mentioned at Rev. 2:6 and 2:15. For these are the professional priesthood who would appoint themselves rulers over our faith if given the chance – something Paul himself would not do (2 Cor. 1:24). Rather, the children of Israel have liberty from all of these things, in Yahshua Christ (Rom. 8:21; 1 Cor. 10:29; Gal. 2:4; 5:1, 13). Binding one to the performance of “sacraments” is contrary to the will and the Truth of Yahweh.
How could any ‘priest’ or ‘minister’ cleanse (baptize) with water that which Yahweh has already sanctified and cleansed? How may one seek cleansing with water, when we are told that sanctification and cleansing are through the Word (John 17:17; Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 3:21)? Out of the mouths of two witnesses, even three, is not this matter established?” – Finck
We conclude then, that the theory of Christian churches referring to Sacraments, as “ordinances” (as laws) is invalid. The rituals of the Old Testament were inferior and failed to help Israel live for God:
“For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God.” – Heb. 7:18-19, ASV
Since there was a setting aside of the former command (O.T.), why would a new counterpart ritual or substitute ritual be needed to replace the old ritual? We do not need a proxy-ritual. Since circumcision is not needed, then likewise, baptism is not needed.
Baptism Not Exclusive to Christian Churches
Some Christian sources have even admitted that Baptism did not start within the Christian church. Dr. Merrill Tenney, editor of the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible said,
“Baptism as a rite of immersion was not begun by Christians but was taken by them from Jewish and pagan forms... Since early Christianity was a part of the Judaism of Jesus’ day, it is without question that baptism in today’s church was originally Jewish.”
Water purification rituals are also customs of non-Christian belief systems. William Finck in his “Baptism in What?” essay, relates:
‘While there are many examples of “baptism” – ritual cleansing in water – in Greek literature, here I will cite one. In a play, Eumenides, by the fifth-century B.C. Greek poet Aeschylus, his character Orestes says at lines 448-452: “It is the law that he who is defiled by shedding blood shall be debarred all speech until the blood of a suckling victim shall have besprinkled him by the ministrations of one empowered to purify from murder. Long since, at other houses, have I been thus purified both by victims and flowing streams.” (Loeb Library edition of Aeschylus). Here we see that the Greeks believed that one may be cleansed of sin either by baptism (“flowing streams”) or by the blood of sacrifice (comp. Heb. 9:13).
The ancient Assyrians and the ancient Egyptians also practiced ritual cleansing, or baptism. The following passages are from Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, J. Pritchard, editor, 1969, p. 437: from an Akkadian inscription entitled “I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom”, which dates before 700 B.C., there is an exclamation that reads: “In the Gate of the Purifying Waters I was sprinkled with purifying waters”, which certainly describes a ritual. The exclamation is accompanied by others describing sacrifices and libations and incense-offerings in supplication to gods.’ – Finck
Mark Downey did a research into Baptism and discovered these facts:
‘The Encyclopedia of Religion points out that “the word baptism means to plunge, to immerse, or to wash... It signifies from the Homeric period onward, any rite of immersion in water... similar to many other rituals found in a number of religions.” In ancient Babylon, water was important as a spiritual cleansing agent in the cult of Enke. In Egyptian cults of Isis, the baptism of newborns was performed to purify them of blemishes acquired in the womb. The cold waters of the Nile River were used to baptize the dead in a ritual based on the Osiris myth of regeneration through water. It was symbolic of death to the life of this world. In the cult of Cybele, a baptism in the form of a blood bath from a bull was practiced. In the ancient Greek world, baptism was associated with immortality procured for the initiate in this life. The Hellenistic mystery cult believed that divine water possessed a real power of transformation. Followers of the goddess Cotyto became known as baptai, or “the baptized ones.” The Greeks even had a special priesthood known as Kathartai (from which we get the word catharsis), who specialized in purification with water. After the conspiracy of Cylon in Athens in 632 B.C., a water specialist named Epimenides of Crete purified the entire city with water. These baptizing religions of that period included rituals of either immersion or a washing of the body for purposes of purification, initiation, transformation of one’s life, the removal of sins, symbolic representation, the attainment of greater physical vitality, a new beginning, spiritual regeneration; all of which sound vaguely familiar to the denominations of churchianity.
Historians will tell you that all ancient religions recognized some form of water baptism with the aforementioned elements. Surely, our ancient Israelite ancestors were aware of the strangers’ gods as Jeremiah 10:2 warned them, “Learn not the way of the heathen.” A more serious time and place for our consideration is Judea at the time of Christ, which had been absorbed into the Hellenized culture under Roman rule. The prevailing religion is what later became known as judaism. The big question is, did they baptize by immersion? And the answer is yes. The next question is, did Jesus and His followers do the same thing? And the answer is no.
Interestingly, toward the beginning of the Christian era, jews adopted the custom of baptizing proselytes or converts to judaism. This baptism developed under the influence of Rabbi Hillel and stressed the importance of a new birth and spiritual cleansing. To this day, so-called Gentiles who would embrace judaism must undergo baptism in a mikveh (“the immersion”) ritual. To be really jewish, the convert is immersed naked, and when he rose from the pool of water, he was referred to as “a little child just born” and called “a true son of Israel” [sic].
In 117 AD, a bishop named Ignatius introduced the pagan concept of a mystical Christian baptism and was assimilated into the churches by a long succession of so-called “church fathers”. They include some the biggest heretics in Christian history. They believed almost everything about anything. Every person who had been immersed by these water charmers were instilled with the notion that it would wash away their sins and save their soul. Pagan superstition was now in the church. The baptism of Christ had been modified. This post-apostolic era should not be confused with the apostolic age, in which true Christian baptism was understood in the New Testament.’ – Downey, from his “Church of the Slam Dunk” sermon.
The Roman Catholic Church adopted many pagan trappings in converting pagans to Christ, but in reality, they paganized the early Christian assemblies. They had seven ordinances, including other pagan customs such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween, etc.
If the Sacraments were the Law of God there would be no need to study whether they are valid or not. We, as churches, have simply been taught to observe them. However, these rituals cannot be found in the Law (which was abolished) or the New Testament. Baptism is related to most of the ancient mystery religions, which clearly attached themselves to the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation.
Do Sacraments have any benefits for Christians?
Does it provide a spiritual benefit? The Sacraments may be meaningful to many devout Christians but there is no Scriptural proof of any spiritual benefit. Christians should not believe there are magical powers to these Sacraments, as many churches imply.
Does it make one more holy and closer to God? No. Holiness is a matter of dedication to the laws of God. Christians should always make choices in accordance with God’s revealed will. A Christian is humble enough not to boast about being better than another, nor do they seek such a position. Baptism only makes one wet.
Does it provide protection from satanic attack? There is no Scriptural evidence that rituals protect Christians from the assaults of “Satan”. The best protection is to make choices that do not expose one to temptations that may lead to sin. One should “avoid all appearances of evil” and shun the ways of the world. Of course, one should always be prayerful.
Considering these questions, we can conclude that there is no reason to receive the ritual of Baptism unless one is joining a church that requires it; or, one is naming their baby (sometimes called “Christening”) because their church recommends it.
Baptism Not Necessary
William Finck provides more history on Baptism from the New Testament context:
‘For some time the apostles continued to baptize people with water. This is, of course, evident at Acts 8:36-38, where Philip is found baptizing the eunuch from Ethiopia (who was obviously an Israelite living in Ethiopia, since he was found reading Isaiah and had traveled to Jerusalem to worship), and at Acts 10:44-48, where even though, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word”, Peter still sought to baptize those people with water. Many Christians defending water baptism point out these two places in Acts, yet they neglect to consider the rest of the story!
Later Peter realized what had happened in Caesaria (at Acts 10:44-48), and he related it to the other apostles who were in Jerusalem: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Prince, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:15-16). From this point on, water is not again mentioned in connection with baptism, anywhere in the rest of Acts. Rather, we shall see in the epistles of Paul and of Peter something quite different! Yet first, at Acts 18:24-26, Aquila and Priscilla met a certain man named Apollos, who “was instructed in the way of the Prince; and being fervent in the Spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Prince” yet he knew “only the baptism of John.” Did Aquila and Priscilla again use water baptism, to baptize Apollos in the name of Yahshua? No, they only “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
Ritual cleansing, of which the baptism of persons was a form (see it of the priests at Ex. 29:4-7; 40:12, and at Lev. 8:6), like the other “works” (rituals) of the law, had its time and place. Yet, Paul tells us time and again that the “works” (rituals) of the law have been done away with (see Rom. 3:19-28; 4:1-9; 9:11, 32; 11:6-7; Gal. 2:16; 3:2-10; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Heb. 6:1-2 and 9:1-14). Of course, Paul did not, as so many suppose; teach that the law itself was done away with. Quite to the contrary: “... yea, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31). The moral laws of God are eternal and cannot be done away with. However, under the New Covenant, Israel is under the favor (grace) of Yahweh, and is not to be judged by the law, but by that favor (i.e. Romans 6:14, 15).
I would not forsake having been cleansed by the Word, and sanctified in the Spirit, for the vain ritual offered by the traditions of men. While the baptism of John had its purpose, time and place, it is far exceeded by the baptism of Christ Yahshua, and as John himself told us that it would be.’ – William R. Finck, Jr.
Who was John the Baptist?
John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Yes, I said that correctly – I am aware that we are now in the New Testament, but Christ has not been sacrificed as yet. In this time frame, we are considering John under the Old Testament system. He is about to announce the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant.
‘We note that the baptism in fire is coupled with the baptism in the Spirit in Matthew 3:11 and in Luke 3:16. These passages give the word of John the Baptist. John speaks of the coming One who “shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire.” This baptism in fire is often taken as being parallel and synonymous with the baptism in the Spirit. The context however in both Matthew and Luke seems to favor another meaning [I would disagree slightly, in that both can apply, spiritually – J.J.]. Jesus’ Messianic work will be both cleansing and destructive. The “you” addressed by John included the people generally and might naturally embrace both classes, those whose attitude to Jesus would be believing and those who would refuse to believe… Some He would regenerate and purify through the Holy Ghost. Others He would destroy through the fire of punishment. This view is favored by… both gospels. In both, the destructive energy of Christ is coupled with His saving power… The wheat He gathers into the garner and the chaff He burns with unquenchable fire. – ISBE
John wishes it to be distinctly understood that he is not that Light, which the prophets of old had told them should arise; but is sent to bear witness to that Light. He has come as a herald to announce the approach of the King, and to call upon the people to prepare for His coming. Think not of me, he cries, ask not who I am; but think of the coming King, and make ready for Him, “…Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Matt. 3:3). How is the way of the Lord prepared? By calling the people to repentance: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil” (Isa. 1:16).
Why did John baptize Jesus?
As the forerunner of the new age (the Gospel), John had to fulfill the Law regarding sacrifices:
“And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water.” – Ex. 40:12
“…Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.” – Num. 8:7
Since the Christ was to be the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of Israel, the Sacrifice had to be washed (baptizo) before it was made. Christ had to be formally inaugurated into His public offices. For this purpose, He came to John, who was the representative of the law and the prophets, and thus is publicly recognized as the Messiah; whose coming the prophecies and types had for many ages witnessed. In coming to John our Lord virtually said, “Though sinless, and without any personal taint, yet in my official capacity, I stand and bring with me the sins of Israel, for which I am the propitiation.”
Christ’s baptism was also a symbol of the baptism of suffering that He was to face. “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished” (Lk. 12:50)! In coming to John, He dedicated himself to the work of fulfilling all righteousness and the law.
Does mode matter?
Since baptism, as a water ritual (“Hydrology”?), is not a law of God and therefore not necessary, the mode, be it immersion or effusion, becomes irrelevant. However, since churches have often split over the issue of mode, we should at least take a look at this as well. Pastor Mark Downey also did some research into this:
‘At one point in baptism’s history, starting around the second century, baptism was recognized as the divine light of Scriptures. This baptismal washing was called “Illumination”, because they who learned from the Word of God were illuminated in their understanding. They described the soul as being illuminated by the Spirit as they stepped into the font, but not being immersed, rather a recital of Scripture as water was poured over their head. Christian art ranging from the first to the tenth century represent the rite as standing in water while water is poured by hand or from a bowl.
In the Septuagint, baptizo and bapto usually meant to dip or wash with water. This does not imply full body immersion in order to wash, but rather submerging one part of the body at a time. Another Greek witness outside the Masoretic text is found in the Apocrypha, where Judith 12:7 says, “She baptized (ebaptizeto) herself in the camp at the fountain of water.” Using a little common sense, do you think Judith was submerging herself in the middle of the Assyrian encampment in their only source of water? Would you drink from such a pool? Most likely, the fountain of water was a well or natural spring where she was permitted at night, when the soldiers were sleeping, to go for “baptism” or, more simply put, to use the water to clean herself.
In the New Testament, there are over 100 occurrences of various forms of the word baptism, and not one can be proven to denote water immersion. The best they can do to imply immersion is to take a passage out of context, like Acts 8:38, to suggest that the person going into the water is affected by the preposition ‘into’: “And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” Could it possibly be that the person being baptized stepped into the water about ankle deep, and then water was poured or sprinkled over their head? The word ‘into’ serves to show that other methods besides immersion could have been possible. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the Greek word ‘eis’ (Strong's #1519) can mean ‘to’ as well as ‘into’, which would render the verse even further from submergible water levels. They just went down to the water rather than into the water. When Peter found a coin in the mouth of a fish, he was told to “go to [eis] the sea, and cast a hook.” Surely, he did not go “into” the sea for underwater fishing. But let’s say that eis does suggest immersion. The problem is that this was done before the baptism. If baptism means immersion, both Philip and the eunuch were already immersed – they were already baptized. If “going down into the water” means immersion, then the eunuch was immersed before he was immersed, which is a contradiction….
[It makes much more sense to understand Acts 8:38, “…they went down both into the water…”, as simply meaning, “they both went down within the banks of the river to fetch water.” – My comment]
If we can show that John’s baptism of Christ was not immersion, then most reasonable thinking people would agree that all other mentioned baptisms were not full body immersions either. Why then, did Jesus stand ankle deep in the Jordan for John to baptize him? That’s my premise. The purpose for which Christ was baptized was to be dedicated to His priestly office as the High Priest of God (Heb. 3:1). Jesus said, “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). David says in Psalm 51:7 LXX, “thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be purified: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.” This has overtones of racial purity and the restoration of separation that Christ was to bring. Most assuredly, John understood Israelite laws and customs of cleansing or baptizing that were separate and distinct from the pagan’s religious activities.
“…I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on My servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” – Acts 2:17-18.
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” – Acts 10:44.
“And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, that the gift of the Holy Spirit had also been poured out upon the Gentiles [or nations]” – Acts 10:45.
As you can see, no one went down into the Spirit; no one came up or out of the Spirit, and no one emerged from the Spirit. We do see that the action of the Spirit is to fall or be poured, or even descend. Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22 and John 1:32 are all in the context of the water baptism of Jesus. Every verse testifies to the action of the Spirit descending upon Him. The work of the Spirit and water baptism are mentioned together for a reason; i.e. they are not mutually exclusive. They are connected as proof of a form of birth, as Jesus referred to in John 3:5, “…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [That refers to our physical birth as children of God under the covenant. – My comment]
The way in which John connects his water baptism with the Savior’s baptism of the Holy Spirit is the main point. To conclude that both were not ministered in the same mode is without good reason. The disciples were not immersed into the Holy Spirit, but rather the Spirit descended upon them. Likewise, we can conclude that John did not immerse the multitudes into the water, but that he poured or sprinkled water upon them. In the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the influence of God descended upon the subjects. If there is any analogy to be seen in the baptism of John, the water was applied to the subject of baptism and not the subject to the water (as in full body immersion).’ [abridged] – Downey
We conclude then, that the mode of Baptism (if we use the custom at all) is best taken as some form of effusion or sprinkling because it is most frequently expressed so in Scripture:
Isaiah 44:3, “…I will pour my Spirit on thy seed.”
Isaiah 52:15, “So shall he sprinkle many nations….”
Ezekiel 36:25, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you….”
I believe the figures and types of the Old Covenant ought to be carried over into the New Covenant, for it already does so in various ways. Although the Old Covenant was abrogated in regard to redemption, its moral laws have been repeated in the New Covenant. In regard to election, the people of God remain the same in the New Covenant.
Brother Downey said, “Church ‘law’ (custom), a denominational ritual outside the purview of Christianity (full body immersion), cannot replace the love of Christ; the depth of water cannot deepen our understanding of God’s will; and the traditions and rituals of man can never be more powerful than the Word of God.”
The Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ did not exalt any so-called ordinance above the spiritual life. They did not place symbolism above service.
Gal. 6:15, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Col. 2:11-12, In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands [In other words, not physical.], in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ [Repentance, which is of utmost importance]: Buried [In what? Death!] with him [In a tomb, a cave.] in baptism [The interrelationship of the former ordinance – circumcision.], wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Gal. 3:27; For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ [not water] have put on Christ. [In other words, those immersed in Christ, act like Christ.]
Col. 3:10-11; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, [This includes: Baptism, or not baptized.] Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
These passages indicate that a traditionally accepted ordinance of the church is not nearly as important compared to living a real Christian life in service to Yahweh. Did not our Lord say, “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mk. 3:35). “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn. 4:34, ASV). And his brother, James, said, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves” (Jas. 1:22).
In review of this study, we have seen that:
The Scriptural imagery for baptism is best described as sprinkling.
Jesus was baptized to fulfill the Old Covenant law.
Baptism is not always with water, but rather with fire, the Word, the Spirit, suffering, death, and even Moses (I Cor. 10:2).
There are no proven Scriptural benefits from rituals.
Baptism is not necessary for the salvation provided in Christ.
Baptism has its origins in pre-Christian pagan religions.
The Old Covenant law is forever gone – there is no need for a replacement ordinance to that law.
There is no proof that Jesus intended to create a ritual or “ordinance” in His “Great Commission” to the church.
“Water baptism is like a special, one time prayer of physically pouring the symbolism of God’s Word and Spirit on the believer. No points scored, and no magic. The Christian life demands a continuation of discipline and discipleship.” – Downey
Therefore, let us always be immersed and surrounded within the fellowship of those of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.