Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Baptism




Below is an excerpt of the Conclusion of my 24 page paper on Baptism and the Early Church Practice According to the Acts of the Apostles. I always am so glad to be finished my research papers, but when I put my heart into them, I always learn something new! Even something like baptism that I thought I knew so well (the beauty of education). Basically, my 24 page treatise is a struggle with the Word of God on the issue of Salvation and baptism. My conclusion on the matter of salvation and baptism was to be expected, but my conclusion on the nature of baptism and the meaning of baptism especially for the people of the church of today is where I found the new treasures! This paper would be dedicated to my father because it was for him that I struggled for weeks on this issue of baptism because he is professing Christ Lord and Savior, but chooses not to follow the command of Christ in baptism. I do not fully blame Him because baptism in the modern church (even among the baptists tradition) is not the baptism of the early church or the apostles. It is in many ways, but falls short in so many other ways. So here it is:


The Lord's Supper is memorialized to remember the Sovereignty of God in providing salvation through the blood sacrifice of His Son. But it is more than that! It is to look at God in fear and recognize His great glory and holiness that we fall short of and to recognize our insignificance without Him. It urges us to make Him Number One in our life, to make Him Master of our life. It is a means of worship only because God's name is glorified. The fame of His name is glorified because the salvation of decrepit sinners gives us a perfect view into His holiness and we must come to see, and smell, and feel, and hear, and taste this divine holiness in the ordinances of the church. And so baptism must be worship. It must glorify Christ. It can do this by confessing the name of Christ as the eunuch did in Acts 8,[1] it can do this by remembering the work of Christ in our hearts, and it can do this by being a prayer to God the Father lipped by the believing witnesses and the one being baptized[2], and it can do this by being a dedication of one's life to Christ Jesus forever. That dedication would be accepting Christ's Lordship forever in your life.
And so as we think upon baptism as worship, we forget about anything that it can do for us and remember everything that it can do for God. And it seems that this is the vision of the early church by placing baptism at the conversion experience. The one being baptized might not understand the glory of God in baptism immediately, but surely a person of faith in Christ Jesus should be baptized immediately![3] Then the explanation of the beautiful meaning of baptism and the work of the Spirit of Christ in the heart of men would be understood and it would bring nothing but rejoicing[4] and cause the name of the Lord to be glorified. The name of the Lord will be glorified in the person who is saved when that person understands his newness of life. And those who are believers already and are witnesses of the baptism will glorify the name of the Lord and rejoice in reflection of their newness of life and the newness of life wrought in yet another saved sinner. Baptism, then and only then, would become a sweet savor to the nostrils of God. Yet again, Satan has taken something so beautiful and turned it into a controversy and the church fights over everything about baptism, letting it dash into pieces the unity of the body of Christ that Jesus prayed for in John 17.
Now I lament with G.R. Beasley-Murray on how baptism is lacking in the church today:
"Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus, whatever else it came to imply, was in the earliest time a baptism 'for the sake of' the Lord Jesus and therefore in submission to Him as Lord and King. He that in baptism 'calls on the name of the Lord' (Acts 22:16) undergoes baptism in a prayerful spirit; it becomes the supreme occasion and even vehicle of his yielding to the Lord Christ. Here is an aspect of baptism to which justice has not been done in the Church since its earliest days: baptism as a means of prayer for acceptance with God and for full salvation from God, an 'instrument of surrender' of a man formerly at enmity with God but who has learned of the great Reconciliation, lays down his arms in total capitulation and enters into peace. Baptism is peculiarly appropriate to express such a meaning, especially when the Pauline depth of significance is added to it. No subsequent rite of the Church, such as confirmation, adequately replaces it. The loss of this element in baptism is grievous and it needs to be regained if baptism is to mean to the modern Church what it did to the earliest Church."[5]


[1] See Acts 8:37 and note 46 above. '

[2] See Acts 22:16, 'calling on the name of the Lord,' I think all would agree this is a prayer

[3] Acts 16:33

[4] Acts 8:39
[5] Beasley-Murray, G.R. Baptism in the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1962.) pg. 101-102

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