• Jerry Starling

  • Search by Category

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 555 other followers

  • Pages

  • Blog Stats

    • 483,564 hits
  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Observations and Que… on Problem Texts: Mark 16:9-20…
    Alex Wiens on Why Did God Send Abraham…
    Kevin on QUESTION: Who Was Pharaoh Duri…
    Jerry Starling on QUESTION: Where Does the Bible…
    Lenin Dorsey on QUESTION: Where Does the Bible…
  • Top Posts

  • December 2016
    S M T W T F S
    « Jun   Jan »
  • Archives

Musing About Baptism

As a life-long member of the Church of Christ, I have had a keen interest in the subject of baptism as long as I can remember. In 1976, I wrote my Master’s Thesis on the subject The Use of Baptism in Exhorting Christians in which I demonstrate that the apostolic use of baptism when addressing Christians (i.e., in the epistles) was to encourage them to unity in Christ, purity in life, and surety in their hope. More recently, I have been tossing another idea around in my head about baptism for the remission of sins, an idea that deepens my understanding of Acts 2:38 considerably.

I grew up believing, with virtually all my brethren in the Church of Christ, that baptism is the point at which sins are forgiven, and my current musing does not take away from that at all. Rather, it deepens it.

But before I get into that let me relate another influence in my thinking on baptism. When I was a missionary in New Zealand (1967-71), I was privileged to study with a gentleman named Albert Croucher. At the time I was in my mid-20’s to early 30’s; Albert was in his 60’s (or beyond). I was a recent graduate of the Sunset School of Preaching (now the Sunset International Bible Institute); Albert was a man who’d been driven out of the Plymouth Brethren and the Baptist churches because of his views on the importance and necessity of baptism. We had a lot in common, but Albert had one take on baptism that was novel to me. Nevertheless, it has a lot to commend it.

Jesus used baptism as a metaphor for his suffering in Mark 10:38 when he asked James and John if they were able “to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” Note that this is in the present tense; that is, Jesus said he was even then undergoing this baptism. Albert used this to suggest that Jesus suffered throughout his life, from his baptism by John all the way to the cross, and that all of his suffering is encompassed in his ‘baptism of suffering.’ Thus his baptism was not a simple event, but a life-long process.

Likewise, he thought of the Christian’s baptism as extending from the time he was immersed into Christ until he was finally resurrected into glory at the last day.

This, while not directly relating to my musing about Acts 2:38, does have some affinity to it.

I had always been taught growing up that baptism was a part of God’s ‘first law of pardon’ for the alien sinner. Then, there was a ‘second law of pardon’ for the child of God who sinned, a law of salvation through repentance and prayer. Thus, baptism was for the forgiveness of past sins; repentance and prayer was for forgiveness of sins committed later.

But what if the word for (eis in Greek) in Acts 2:38 is read as its root meaning of into? So Peter would have answered, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ into the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

This would take remission of sins from being a single act of forgiving past sins to become a condition or state of remission that would continue through the Christian’s life. But before you say this would mean ‘once saved, always saved,’ remember that Peter not only spoke of baptism but also repentance. It is repentance and baptism into the remission of sins, not just baptism. Baptism without penitent trust in the Savior in whose name we are baptized means nothing more than a bath in water.

So, the continuing remission of sins into which we are baptized also implies continuing penitence before God and faithful trust in his Son. If we rebel against God and make shipwreck our faith, we lose the salvation he has given us, but ‘if we walk in the light as he is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sins.’ (1 John 1:7)

Looked at in this way, Albert’s idea of ‘continuous baptism’ makes perfect sense. I remember once hearing Reuel Lemmons talk of our having been immersed, plunged, buried into Christ when we were baptized – but he added that we are never told that we come up from out of Christ when we come out of the water.

Also when we look at it this way, we can see why the epistles, when they speak of baptism, use it to give us assurance of our eternal salvation, to urge us to walk in purity as we walk with Jesus, and remind us of our essential unity in him.

Baptism means all of these things to us because in it we become one with Jesus himself in his suffering, his death, his resurrection, and his new life of glory. In other words, baptism is about the heart and soul of the Christian’s good news message.

So, while some may believe we talk too much about baptism, I believe we need to talk about it more – but only if we take it in all of its dimensions and not limit it to the single point at which we are born again into the family of God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: