|Questions and Answers
Meaning: Testimony? Ceremonial Cleansing? Eternal Salvation?
Question: What is the meaning, or significance, of water baptism as practiced by John the Baptist? By the Lord's disciples during His ministry on earth? By the believers during their ministry after the day of Pentecost?
Answer: Churchianity has more than a few 'answers' to this question.
It washes away original sin
The Greek Orthodox Church practices the following:
"After the baby has been named, the Priest and the Godparents bring the baby to the Baptismal font and anoint him or her with holy oil on the forehead, chin, cheeks, chest, back, hands and feet. This is symbolic of the ritual followed by ancient soldiers before they went off to battle. The child is now a soldier in the army of Christ.
"The baby is then immersed into the font of holy water three times which is symbolic of the Holy Trinity. As the water is gently poured over the child's head they are now cleansed of the Original Sin.
"The Priest will then cut a small amount of hair from the baby's head as his or her first offering to God. The hair is cut because the child has come into this world without anything except the hair on it's head to offer.
"The baby is then dressed in the Baptismal clothing and is given Holy Communion for the first time. The child is now a full member of the church and is returned to the parents at the conclusion of the ceremony." (Leaflet obtained from Greek Orthodox Church in Westfield, NJ)
In water baptism we receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life
"A sacrament is a holy ordinance, instituted and commanded by Christ, in which, through the use of visible, earthly elements connected with the Word of God, an invisible, heavenly gift is imparted. Such a sacrament we have in baptism. In this sacrament we receive forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the devil, and everlasting salvation
"In baptism your child obtains not only a washing from sin but also a new life in Christ. . . . In baptism your child is born into the Kingdom of God and obtains a new spiritual life. As he later is instructed in God's Word he grows into a conscious personal faith, and the new life received in baptism is sustained and strengthened.
"It removes anxiety and gives you assurance to know that your child has been baptized and thus is a child of God." - (I Want My Child Baptized, Augustana Book Concern, Rock Island, Illinois)
It is a ceremonial cleansing that washes away governmental sins
It has little or no significance at all
"Again, if water baptism, as the circumstances with which the churches were pestered of old, trouble their peace, wound the consciences of the godly, dismember and break their fellowship, it is, although an ordinance, for the present to be prudently shunned, for the edification of the church, as I shall show anon, is to be preferred before it. Secondly, and observe it, ONE SPIRIT, ONE HOPE, ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM (not of water, for by one Spirit are we all baptized into One Body) ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL WHO IS ABOVE ALL AND THROUGH ALL IN ALL, is a sufficient fule for us to hold communion by, and also to endeavour the maintaining that communion and to keep it in the unity within the bond of peace against all attempts whatsoever. Eph. 4:1-6, 1 Cor. 1:12-16." ([John] Bunyan's Complete Works, A Reason of my Practice in Worship},
It is a testimony of one's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
"First then baptism is a memorial. When the believer goes under the water and comes up again he points by that very act to the past basis of his salvation, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"Second, it is a confession of sin. . . . The believer confesses that his sins were so great and so terrible that only the death of the spotless Son of God was sufficient to avail for his justification. The believer confesses his utter unworthiness and places his trust and hope only in the death and substitution of another.
"Thirdly, baptism is a declaration of our salvation. There is no saving merit in the ordinance. The Ethiopian was not saved because he was baptized, but baptized because he had been saved through faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
"Fourth, in baptism we announce our separation. When Israel passed through the Red Sea they turned their backs forever upon Egypt and set their faces toward Canaan. And if you were sincere when you received baptism, you publicly announced by that act, that you were dead to the world, that you renounced sin and the world, that you were dead to sin, and from henceforth you determined by the grace of God to live a life of testimony and fruitfulness to the glory of God.
"Finally, baptism is an act of fellowship and identification. . . . To identify yourself with those who were called Christians. . . ." (Water Baptism, What Saith the Scriptures?, M. R. De Haan, M.D., pp. 26-27)
"Remember that baptism is scripturally the first step of obedience after one has received Jesus Christ. Baptism was the outward testimony of the inward fact of faith." (Christian Baptism, Richard W. De Haan, p. 22)
"We believe the subjects for baptism are believers (Acts 8:36-38) and believers only. The order of Scripture is "believe and be Baptized." Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in testimony of his union with Christ, in His death, burial, and resurrection (Col. 2:12). The submersion pictures burial and the emersion pictures resurrection. The ordinance has no saving efficacy." (Doctrinal Statement, Mount Bethel Baptist Church, p. 10)
"We also believe Baptism to be a prerequisite to membership in a local church." (Doctrinal Statement, Mount Bethel Baptist Church, p. 10)
"The baptism of John was a national baptism for Israel, signifying their repentance because their promised King was about to manifest Himself." - (Christian Baptism, Richard W. De Haan, p. 9)
It means death
"Tenney on "Baptism and the Lord's Supper" (July 6 issue) touches on vital differences between Lutherans and other Protestants.
"As a Lutheran myself, on one point I must fault both. This is on the meaning of the word baptize. The Greek word baptize never means "dip." In "dip" an immediate withdrawal is implied, as might be in "plunge;" but those "baptized into Jesus Christ" or "into His death" are to stay there.
"The word baptize means the effecting of an immersion, fully or compendiously, whether by sinking, pouring, overflowing, or any other mode or method." (James P. Maier in Christianity Today, Sept. 14, 1962, pp. 15, 16)