Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reasons Why Water Baptism Is Important And Relevant For Christians Today

Reasons Why Water Baptism Is Important And Relevant For Christians Today

The main reason a person would reject baptism as necessary for Christians today is a mid to late Acts dispensationalism that says the body of Christ did not start until sometime late in the book of Acts. That argument relegates baptism to a supposed transitional time for Israel immediately after the ascension until Paul could come with the full teaching of the body mystery. So some of my points below are in reference to that teaching.

Reasons why water baptism is important and relevant for Christians today.

  1. In His last great commission before leaving the earth, Jesus specifically commanded it. Matthew 28:19. This really should end the argument right here.
  2. There is not a single verse that says water baptism was for a transitional period and is not required for Christians today. If the first point didn’t end the argument, this one really should. However, 1 Corinthians 1:17 is severely misused by some to prove water baptism is not essential for today, but the context is overlooked. I repeat: there is not a single verse in the New Testament that clearly states water baptism was for a transitional time and is no longer relevant for today.
  3. Paul told us to consent to the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus Christ - 1 Timothy 6:3 (I know the context is not water baptism, but the point is made that the teaching for the church does not come from Paul alone and that Paul himself told us to obey the words of the Lord Jesus). So it doesn’t work to bring up the argument that Paul doesn’t repeat teaching on water baptism like he did the Lord’s Supper.
  4. Jesus is the head (Eph. 1:22; Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18) and cornerstone (Eph. 2:20) of the church, not Paul. So I would fully expect the teaching on salvation (John 3) and the one body (John 17:21) to be present in Jesus doctrine, which it is. Therefore, Jesus commandment to baptize in Matthew 28:19 is just as essential. This also means that teaching does not have to be present in Paul’s writings for it to be true for the church.
  5. Jesus and the apostles together form the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20) and they were all baptized. So was Paul. In fact, everybody in the early church was baptized in water. We follow their example (1 Cor. 11:1). Jesus wasn’t baptized for remission of sins, but to reveal Himself to Israel (John 1:31). Is the disciple above his master (Matt. 10:24)? We should follow Christ’s example and Paul’s example and the example of every apostle.
  6. Just like my Dad has always said that a straightforward reading of Genesis 1 indicates 7 literal 24 hour days, so a straightforward reading of the New Testament indicates that Christians baptize the converts.
  7. History proves this out as the vast majority of those who have correctly believed the gospel and the Bible as the infallible, inspired word of God have nearly all preached water baptism as the first step of discipleship and obedience after salvation. It is a small minority indeed who say that water baptism is not necessary for today. This should not be a major point in the argument, but it does prove that a straightforward reading of the Scriptures indicates that baptizing converts in water is something that Christ expects us to do.
  8. Water baptism is not a sign, unlike tongues and handling of snakes in Mark 16:17-18. Those are said to be signs that “follow them that believe”. Water baptism is never spoken of as a sign. A sign is a miraculous event that bears witness to the work of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues was one such sign (not a commanded ordinance), but water baptism is NEVER called a sign. Water baptism is not a miraculous event that the Holy Spirit performs after salvation, like speaking in tongues in the book of Acts. Instead, it is a step of obedience to the last great commission of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19.
  9. Did I mention there is not a single verse that clearly states water baptism is not for today? Paul spent the entire book of Galatians explaining that circumcision is not required for Christians. He made no such statement about water baptism.
  10. In Acts 15:23-29 when the apostles (and Paul was present) sent a letter to the Gentile believers, why did they not explain that water baptism was not necessary? Had the full revelation not been revealed to Paul yet? Was this still a transitional time? Why was the Philippian jailer baptized as late as Acts 16? The point is that doing away with water baptism severely complicates the understanding of the early New Testament church.
  11. And did I mention that Jesus Himself clearly commanded water baptism?
  12. To do away with water baptism, you have to invent a whole system of belief that connects a lot of fuzzy dots, pull out a couple tough verses (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16) to prove that water baptism was essential during a transitory time (which transitional time is not clearly stated in Scripture), disregard Jesus own clear commandment, say the body of Christ starts later in Acts when Acts 1:5 makes it clear the one body (by baptism of the Holy Ghost) is in existence at Pentecost, and in general complicate the matter (like trying to explain away James 2:24 as transitional).

Conclusion: It greatly complicates Scripture to explain away water baptism. Instead, we should simply follow the commandment and example of the Lord Jesus Christ and baptize believers in water as an outward picture of salvation (which also includes a picture of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection). Baptizing in water does not mean I have all the answers to all the tricky verses of Scripture, but it makes a whole lot more sense and it does mean I am following the commandment and example of Christ as the first step of discipleship after faith in Christ.