Bible kid wow

Welcome to the final post in my biblical baptism series. These posts build upon each other, so check out the previous ones here:

  1. Introduction
  2. Is Scripture Descriptive or Prescriptive?
  3. Defining 'baptism'
  4. The Baptism of John
  5. Why Was Jesus Baptized?
  6. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
  7. The Baptism that Jesus Commanded
  8. The Biblical Purpose of Water Baptism
  9. Is Baptism a Public Demonstration?
  10. Harmonizing Grace, Faith and Works
  11. Is Baptism Required?
  12. Is Sprinkling the Same as Baptism?
  13. Does it Matter Why You Are Baptized?
  14. Should I be Re-baptized?
  15. Should Baptisms be Scheduled?
  16. What if Baptism isn't Necessary? What if it is?
  17. What if the Believer Dies on the Way to be Baptized?
  18. Baptism and a Wedding

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As I discussed in the introductory post for this series, I originally began this series of articles as a means of addressing disagreements I have with Jeremy Myers' conclusions on baptism, which can be found at redeeminggod.com/give-up-your-rites/

This post was written specifically to share on Jeremy's site message board in hopes of sharing what I strongly believe to be the truth on baptism with him and his readers.

While I disagree with many of Jeremy’s conclusions on the subject of baptism, I aim to disagree respectfully.

I'm interested solely in obeying and teaching what I understand to be the truth and saving souls.

I am disinterested in fruitless arguing.

Jeremy's perspective about baptism

Over the past several months prior to writing this, I read every post and comment in Jeremy's series on baptism, beginning with "Is Church Possible without Baptism and Communion?" (2/13/2012) and ending with "Rebaptizing Baptism" (3/14/2012).

In an effort to ensure fairness and accuracy, here is my understanding of Jeremy's view on baptism:

  • Jeremy views "almost all of Scripture as descriptive, not prescriptive. It tells us what was done, not necessarily what we must do. To learn what we must do, we look at what was done in the past, and then look to the Spirit's guidance and the wise counsel of fellow believers to determine what could be done today." (http://www.tillhecomes.org/buried-in-the-trees-and-sky/#comment-528255788)

  • Water baptism and communion aren't essential today.

  • Spirit baptism is what saves us.

  • Water baptism didn't originate with Christianity. Water baptism, in various forms, is found in most religions.

  • Jeremy defines the Greek word "baptisma" as "immersion" or "identification" and notes that baptism doesn't necessarily imply immersion in water.

    For example, when Jesus commanded the apostles in Matt. 28:19 to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jeremy says He wasn't commanding water baptism.

    "To the contrary, the phrase 'baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' may just be another way of saying, 'teaching them fully about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, helping them understand who God is and live more like God in our lives.'"

  • The baptism of John the Baptist was "a call to Jews to return to the true and proper Judaism..."

  • Water baptism, in the cases of John the Baptist, Jesus, and in the book of Acts was for the purpose of a public declaration.

    • John the Baptist's baptism was calling a remnant of Jews to "make a public declaration of their desire to follow God in righteousness and faithfulness."

    • Jesus "was making a public declaration about which type of Judaism He thought was best."

    • "Remember...in New Testament times, water baptism was simply a public declaration that you were dying to your past and were making a fresh start for a new future."

  • Because of the frequency and widespread understanding of water baptism in New Testament times and cultures, this public declaration would generate questions and evangelistic opportunities to share the gospel.

  • Christian water baptism was derived from Judaism and was adopted for its cultural significance.

  • Water baptism isn't the first step of discipleship.

    "As we age, we learn about God, sin, righteousness, and judgment...through nature, our conscience, and...the Bible. All of this, strictly speaking, is discipleship. ... Along the way, some of us hear specifically about Jesus, and are persuaded to believe in Him for eternal life."

  • Over the centuries, water baptism has lost its meaning and many people fail to understand its symbolism.

    Today, water baptism makes sense only if the person being baptized understands that they are making a public declaration of their desire to follow Jesus.

  • Because water baptism is simply a public profession and Scripture is descriptive, we are free—and even encouraged by Jeremy—to substitute other, more culturally-relevant public demonstrations that could accomplish the same purpose.

My perspective on baptism

I agreed with only about 10-20% of what Jeremy had to say on the subject.

I believe his conclusions are largely a house built upon sand.

For a thorough understanding of my view on baptism, I invite you to read my series on the subject in order, as each post builds upon the previous.

Here is a brief summary of my understanding:

  • Scripture is both descriptive and prescriptive in nature. I explain why in this article. If we can't agree on this, then it'll be difficult to agree on the remainder of my points, because I base my conclusions upon what I see in the New Testament.

  • I agree with Jeremy that baptism has largely lost its meaning today.

    However, I believe the reason for this is because for centuries, "believers" have assigned baptism a significantly reduced purpose than we see in the New Testament.

    In this post, I write about the biblical purpose of baptism. The answer is not to abandon the biblical practice, but to restore its meaning.

  • Jeremy and I agree that "immersion" is a great word to substitute when we read "baptism" in our Bible.

    We disagree, however, regarding the use of "identification" as a valid synonym. In this post, I wrote about the biblical definition of baptism. Improperly substituting "identification" can lead one to non-biblical conclusions.

  • I believe the baptism Jesus commanded was indeed water baptism, that the early church consistently practiced it, and the apostles wrote about it in their letters.

    The evidence from both Scripture and the Christian writers of the first few centuries is overwhelming. By contrast, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is shown to have occurred in two specific instances during the first century.

  • There is no indication in the New Testament that water baptism was performed because of its cultural significance.

    Thus, it is applicable and, in its original purpose, meaningful to believers in all cultures both today and until our Lord returns.

  • In the apostolic church and for centuries following the death of the apostles, water baptism was universally understood to be the point in time where the blood of Jesus washed the believer clean of their sins. Prior to their baptism, a person remained guilty of sins before GOD.

Please take time to study this subject (with your Bible and prayer alone).

If I understand baptism's importance correctly, then many believers are in great danger.

If you want to read my series in order, it begins here.

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Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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