BAPTISM-THERE’S A LOT GOING ON THERE!

Here’s one from our own, Lee Pierce!  Enjoy! -anita

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Baptism—There’s a lot going on there

Baptism, as one of the two sacraments ordained by our Lord Jesus (the other being the Lord’s Supper), is important to all believers for many reasons. Most Christians, if asked, would probably acknowledge that their baptism represented being in union with Christ. I always felt that baptism was a public expression of my love for, and fealty to, my Savior.

I recently came across some teaching which greatly expanded my understanding and appreciation of the rite of baptism. In an article penned by Rev. Matt Ryman, senior pastor at a Presbyterian church in Florida, he opened my eyes to some things I’ve never known or considered. He maintains that baptism is a two-way street. Let me tell you what I mean here.

The Westminster Confessions talks about baptism being a washing with water in the name of our triune God, the key word here being “washing.” In the first century, to baptize something was to wash it [see Mark 7:4]. Before Jesus became incarnate, the Jewish Law required ritual washing for purification [see Ex 30:17-21]. It was customary to have ritual baths available to the people and many such baths have been found in excavations on the temple mount and even in private homes. John the Baptist, in his ministry, changed the emphasis of baptism from one being a private ritual to one being more of a public act symbolizing repentance in expectation of the Messiah’s imminent coming.

John is quoted in Mark 1:8 as saying he baptized with water but Jesus baptizes (cleanses) with the Holy Spirit. In his article, Rev. Ryman notes: “As we watch the pastor washing dirt off a person with water, it serves as a picture of Jesus washing our sin off of us with the Holy Spirit.” So, like many of you, I can easily relate to the baptismal act and view it as a ritual cleansing of the participant. But Rev. Ryman wants us to understand that there is a whole additional dimension to this act.

Jesus came to the Jordan where John was performing baptism to crowds of people from the area (Mt 3:5) and asked John to baptize Him. This always puzzled me; certainly Jesus had no need to be cleansed of sin. John at first refused but Jesus prevailed upon him and finally, John agreed. Rev. Ryman explains, Jesus inaugurated His ministry by being baptized and, in so doing, He identified Himself with sinners. Further, he quotes from the writings of the well-known Scottish theologian, Sinclair Ferguson, who explains that Jesus is indicating (by baptism in the Jordan) how He will become our Savior. “…by standing in the [Jordan river] in whose waters penitent Jews had symbolically washed away their sins, and allowing that water, polluted by those sins, to be poured over His perfect being,” says Ferguson.

So, in one way then, baptism is a washing away of our sins, but, from Jesus’ perspective, He is taking those same sins on Himself. And a very powerful and poignant aspect of baptism lies just below the surface here. Though I’ve read the verses, I managed to miss the import that baptism also points to the cross of Christ. Jesus Himself referred to His death on the cross as a baptism [Mk 10:38, Lk 12:50]. Symbolically, at the Cross, God the Father, in response to our sin, poured out His wrath onto Jesus, instead of onto us where it rightfully belongs.

I was baptized quite a while back, but I wish I had known at the time more of these factors that relate to baptism. I knew I was making a public pronouncement of my love for Jesus, but there is so much more to it. If you haven’t ever taken the time to be baptized, you should make plans to do so soon.

Lee Pierce

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