A Friendly Dialogue Concerning Baptism

 

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I had a great conversation with a man named David concerning Baptism. Below is our full conversation. Whether you agree or disagree with our positions, it may help you better understand what baptism is and it’s relation to the gospel. Enjoy!

ME: Hey David, thanks for your comments concerning baptism. I appreciate your interpretation of Colossians 2:11-13. It is indeed an important defense for baptism by immersion. As you stated, it clearly symbolizes our own death, burial, and resurrection into Christ.

However, you seem to end water baptism there and disassociate it from “Spirit baptism.” Do you believe water baptism occurs after you are born again and receive the Spirit? If so, are you suggesting there are two baptisms, a water baptism and a spirit baptism? How do you interpret 1 Corinthians 12:13 when it says one faith, one Lord, one baptism?

Also, you mentioned Romans 8. In the two chapters preceding it, the Apostle Paul goes into detail about baptism. Scripture says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

Do you believe Romans 6-8, in terms of our union with Christ, is figurative speech? In other words, is Paul talking about the spiritual reality, the water baptism, or both. If it’s only talking about the spiritual reality, then can we be buried into “the spirit” and raised out of “the spirit?” How are we buried into the spirit and raised out of the spirit? I think spirit only would present itself a problem. That’s why most covenantal theologians have no problem with sprinkling instead of immersion because Romans 6 is merely symbolic.

It seems to me this passage is conjoining water and spirit baptism. Of course, its not the water that saves, but an appeal to God for a good conscience (1 Pet. 3:21). However, you appealing to God for a good conscience happens when you repent of your sins and trust God by faith that He will save you “at that moment.”

Also, I am interested in your interpretation of Colossians 2:11-13. I think the strongest argument is not just baptism by immersion, but what water baptism is. First, baptism is not an act of obedience, it’s a testing of faith. “You were raised with Him through faith.” Second, its not a work of obedience. This passage says the opposite. We were raised through faith in the working of God.” Therefore, baptism is more of a promise than an act of obedience post-conversion.

These are just a few thoughts I had. I know there are many questions I have asked you. Thanks for your time. I appreciate your blog and passage to serve the Lord. Have a great night!

DAVID: Thank you for your interest and your comments; I shall try and address your questions in order.

You asked, “Do you believe water baptism occurs after you are born again and receive the Spirit?”

Yes, I do believe that. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the spiritual mechanism by which we are born again into the body of Christ and occurs at the point of salvation.

You asked, “are you suggesting there are two baptisms, a water baptism and a spirit baptism?”

Yes, I believe there are two baptisms, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and water baptism.

You asked, “How do you interpret 1 Corinthians 12:13 when it says one faith, one Lord, one baptism?”

The reading of 1 Corinthians 12:13 tell us:
“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”
This is a reference to the unity we all enjoy as Christians; we have all been joined into one body by the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation.

You asked, “Do you believe Romans 6-8, in terms of our union with Christ, is figurative speech? ? In other words, is Paul talking about the spiritual reality, the water baptism, or both.”

I believe Romans 6-8 is referring to spiritual reality, not water baptism.

You asked, “If it’s only talking about the spiritual reality, then can we be buried into “the spirit” and raised out of “the spirit?” How are we buried into the spirit and raised out of the spirit?”

You do not specify any verses and I cannot find your specific language in the Bible. If you are referring to the area around Romans 6:4-11 it is translated:

“4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”

You asked, “First, baptism is not an act of obedience, it’s a testing of faith. “You were raised with Him through faith.” Second, its not a work of obedience. This passage says the opposite. We were raised through faith in the working of God.” Therefore, baptism is more of a promise than an act of obedience post-conversion.”

I believe water baptism is a matter of both faith and obedience. It is by faith Christians seek water baptism but by being baptized the Christian also follows the instructions given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 where it is written:

“18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Thank you again for your interest and your thoughts.

ME: Thank you for the logical, orderly response. I would like to add a few thoughts to your comments and give you the final word.

Your Response: Yes, I do believe that. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the spiritual mechanism by which we are born again into the body of Christ and occurs at the point of salvation.

My response: According to Acts 2:38-42, when were the people “added to the church?” Before or after water baptism? If believers are born again before water baptism and brought into the “universal church,” then why does the local church also require water baptism by immersion to become members? Doesn’t the universal and local church reflect the same reality?

Your response: The reading of 1 Corinthians 12:13 tell us:
“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”This is a reference to the unity we all enjoy as Christians; we have all been joined into one body by the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation.

My Response: I agree. I think the focus of this passage is on the idea of unity within the body of Christ. But I don’t think water baptism and spirit baptism are therefore separate events. Let me explain. In the book of Galatians, the Judaizers were rebuked by the Apostle Paul for adding physical circumcision to the gospel. They are telling Gentile believers one must be “circumcised” in order to be saved.

Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-27: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

If baptism were equivalent to circumcision, why does Paul still mention baptism as necessary to become united into Christ? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to say: “Look, people are also telling you one must be baptized in order to be part of the church just like they are doing with circumcision. Ignore these people. All one must do to be saved is “repent and have faith.” But he doesn’t say that and it would have been a perfect analogy since circumcision was the “covenantal rite” to become Jewish.

Your Response: I believe water baptism is a matter of both faith and obedience. It is by faith Christians seek water baptism but by being baptized the Christian also follows the instructions given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20:All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

My Response: The great commission is a great verse to reveal the new command Jesus gives. I am encouraged that you do accept water baptism as a matter of faith. There are many verses that explicitly categorize baptism as an act of faith (Gal. 3:26-27, Col. 2:11-13; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Mark 16:16 is the most notable verse since it corresponds with the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Belief and baptism are conjoined here in the Greek as modifying one another. It’s also important to note that this is not spirit baptism since the great commission encourages the church to administer water baptisms to those who “have faith and believe”, like the Ethiopian eunuch and Philippian jailer.

In the Matthew 28:18-20 passage, notice the sequence. First, Jesus tells them to “make disciples.” Second, to water baptize in His name. Third, to teach them to obey. Fourth, to comfort them that His Spirit will be with the disciples to the very end of the age. According to this passage, is baptism mentioned before or after one teaches them to obey? Is baptism included in the “all” I have commanded you? If so, why would baptism precede teaching them to obey? Would you agree that the only way to “teach someone the ways of God” is to receive the Holy Spirit? If so, then why is baptism the start of conversion rather than the start of obedience?

In conclusion, I want to make it clear I don’t believe in baptismal regeneration defined as an automatic sacramental union. That is why I oppose infant baptism. I am a proponent of believer’s baptism since one must have faith and the “cognitive ability” to understand the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Thus, one who is baptized without true belief or repentance can not be saved, no matter how many times they go under the water.

But that doesn’t therefore exclude water baptism from the spiritual reality. It all comes down to “the timing” in which conversion happens. I agree with you that water, repentance, and even our own faith doesn’t save us. It’s God who saves us when he applies His atoning work on the cross for our sins. Does that happen before faith as the Reformed Baptists would argue? Does it happen by “faith only” as the Grace Evangelical Society would argue? Does it happen by “faith and repentance” as the Southern Baptists would mostly argue? Or, does it happen by faith, repentance, and baptism as the Restoration movement/Churches of Christ would argue?

When baptism is properly defined as “faith”, just like “repentance,” I think it needs to be included in the gospel. If it is an act of post-conversion, then ironically, I think those who hold this view are adding to the gospel. They may say one must repent and believe, but they take baptism to be an act of obedience. And if it’s a “gift” a “promise” something that we receive during the moment of our salvation, then essentially people are getting baptized for the wrong reason. They are getting baptized to “show the world what has already happened,” even though they haven’t been saved. They want to be more mature disciples of Christ, so they get baptized, not knowing that they can’t even grow in their faith without the promise of the Holy Spirit, which comes after baptism.”

I was trained under The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to include faith and repentance so I understand your perspective. I truly had this presupposition for a long time. I trust you are a Berean and will search the Scriptures to see if what I am saying is true. Keep up the good work brother. All praise and glory to God.

DAVID: Thank you again for your interest in the subject of water baptism and salvation.

Here are my thoughts on your questions and comments.

Your response: According to Acts 2:38-42, when were the people “added to the church?” Before or after water baptism? If believers are born again before water baptism and brought into the “universal church,” then why does the local church also require water baptism by immersion to become members? Doesn’t the universal and local church reflect the same reality?

My response: At salvation Christians are added to the true church at the time the Holy Spirit baptizes then into the body of Christ. Only after they are born again are they baptized in water.
Water baptism as required by churches for membership may be an effort to follow the great commission. The eternal true assembly of believers and the local church may or may not reflect the same reality; in such matters the Bible must be the final word.

Your response in part: why does Paul still mention baptism as necessary to become united into Christ?”

My conclusion: The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an integral part of salvation; this is the baptism Paul references, not water baptism. While the baptism of the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ is the essential starting point for being born again and adoption into the family of God, water baptism comes only as a result of the changed status of the individual and has no instrumental part in the process of salvation.

ME: David, thanks for your comments sir. The last point I want to make regarding the Romans 6 passage is it’s difficult, based on the context of these verses, to deny it’s relation to water baptism. Why then argue for the mode of baptism by immersion if it doesn’t accurately reflect our union with Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection? So, you would agree with the mode of baptism as immersion, but this event reflects a previous spiritual conversion? So then, does conversion happen before faith, at the moment of faith, or when one has faith and begins to repent of their sins?

Moreover, this is not just an isolated verse. Many scripture passages relate to being baptized into the “name of Christ (Mk. 16: Matt. 28; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27), calling on the name of the Lord to be saved (Acts 22:16; Rom. 8, 1 Pet. 3:21). And most of these passages have in mind water baptism. The great commission, Ethiopian eunuch, Philippian jailer, and most importantly, Saul of Tarsus. He was told by Ananias, “get up, be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on his name.” To get up is an action verb and it has in mind location. This is not spirit baptism, but the time in which he is immersed by Ananias. I think you would agree with this, but you would argue either he was saved “when blinded by the light” or “when he called on the name of the Lord” shortly before his baptism.

Dr. Schreiner, who is a great theologian that wrote the Baker Exegetical study on Romans admits this, but his presuppositions of Baptist teaching doesn’t allow him to ascertain the thought of water and spirit baptism being conjoined. This is what he wrote:“Christians would have inevitably thought of water baptism since it was the universal initiation rite for believers in Christ. Moreover, Paul probably loosely associated baptism with water and baptism by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), since both of these occurred at conversion. Thus any attempt to distinguish between Spirit baptism and water baptism in the Pauline writings goes beyond what Paul himself wrote. Thomas Schreiner, Romans: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 1998), p.306-307. Stott is correct in saying that Paul was thinking of water baptism here, but it would never have occurred to Paul that baptism in water could be separated from baptism in the spirit (Contra Stott, 1994, p.173).

It’s amazing, based on his own commentary writings, that he still denies that water and spirit baptism happen at the same time. If Schreiner does, he would no longer be part of the Southern Baptist Churches because people would accuse him of “baptismal regeneration.” But the irony here is that he admits Pauline writings make it difficult to separate the two. When I asked Schreiner about Luther’s view on baptism (because Luther did hold to a sacramental idea of baptism, and of course, is the main proponent of justification by faith alone), Schreiner said Luther got it wrong. I think Luther was write when he said “faith has to cling to the water.”

It was a friendly dialogue. In my next post, I will explain each Scripture reference in detail. Thanks for reading. Have a blessed day!

4 comments

  1. Out of curiosity I am throwing some copper coins into the conversation you shared here. I have faith and have the Spirit of God within and I have been baptized into Christ. I have joined myself to a local body of believers, and I strive to obey God in all things. The fact that I obey God is based upon my belief: my faith. Was my baptism an act of faith or of obedience? Wasn’t it both? I certainly would not have been baptized if I did not have faith that this was God’s will and command. But then it is also a physical act, so it is also being obedient. In the sense which you have used to portray baptism, it is both an act of faith and an act of obedience.

    Please note the context of all scriptures which negate salvation by works, such as Ephesians 2:8. Aren’t each of these in direct reference to works of the mosaic law from which and to which salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus eventually came. Salvation was already by grace through faith, only previously they put their faith in the keeping the Mosaic laws to save them. Works flow from faith, and faith without works is not a saving faith—it is dead. I know I seem to be shifting the conversation to a different topic but this is intrinsically bound up in the previous discussion of baptism. (Is it a work or is it faith?) Yet, I do not think that such semantics are very profitable. If all in the conversation have faith in Christ, have been baptized and have the Spirit within, why quibble over words, which all led to the same end (our salvation) ? Unless, of course, you purport that one of the conversationalists in your post is in fact not saved. Please don’t take that as throwing down some sort of gauntlet, I only ask for the purpose of clarifying the focus, and in love, that we can all understand. The true test of every post, act and statement/conversation is: MOTIVE.

    A super abundance of God’s glorious benefits to you,
    Servant Sheldon

    1. Hey Sheldon. I completely agree. The Hebrews faith chapter makes this illustration well. By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain. By faith, Noah built an ark. By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, etc. The point is that faith and works are inextricably linked. They can’t be divorced from one another, and James encapsulates this idea when he says: “Faith without works is dead.”

      In the end, faith, baptism, and repentance doesn’t save us. God saves us. He offers the free gift of salvation to all who put their trust in Him. But these are visible signs of one who has been given the power of the Holy spirit.

      Baptism to me is more of a promise than a command. It’s a passive act. It happens one time. Another believer baptizes you. It’s a work of God by faith, according to Colossians 2:11-13. You are baptized into the name of “Christ”, not even your own name.

      Repentance is by faith, but repentance is a both/and. We must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. That is true according to Acts 2:38, but the Bible talks about repentance as a way of life. We are to repent of our old nature and conform each day into the image of Christ. Repentance to me falls more in line with sanctification than justification. However, I believe baptism falls in line more with justification than sanctification since its one time, and its strictly God who does all the work. Whereas repentance is more synergistic.

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