Summary: This is 2 of 2 sermons that share some common elements. This one addresses the idea that many Christian churches add theology rather than focusing on what scripture teaches us. In short, we need to focus more on being one Christian church rather than ge
Baptism has become a part of every believer’s life. At some point, we make the plunge, we’re cleansed from our sins, and take on the name as a Christian. But, Christians, as a whole, cannot agree on the proper way to baptize and the effect that bestows on us. Tonight, I’d like you to open your heart, consider that we all have bias, and look at what scripture says about it. I’d like to use baptism to show us how we are all connected together through our faith and our submission to God’s will.
Baptism, What Does It Mean?
The word baptism, by itself, is an untranslated Greek word âáðôßæù (baptiso). Some scholars have suggested that the word was left untranslated because a precise meaning was not known. But, by examining other Greek documents from the same time period we are able to see how the word was used in other contexts. It was used to describe ceremonial washings such as the purification of unclean couches, tables, cups and dishes which were ritually unclean. It was also used in Greek literature to mean a man wadding up to his chest in water, as well as describe ship wrecks and capsized boats. But, probably the most common use of the word appears to be our English translation of the word “dip”. One thing that is apparent. One thing is for certain, baptism involves a liquid and something going into it.
Church dogma, and the traditions of our various faiths have sometimes blinded us by allowing us only to see one meaning. We often put things up as dividers between our various denominations rather than finding ways in which we can share God’s word together. Baptism should pull us together, rather than push us apart.
I come from a tradition where the most common baptism method is from the dipping of water out of a basin and the water is poured over the head of the baptized. Some of you may be from traditions where immersion is the only accepted baptismal method. Some churches use tap water, and others only natural, flowing water for baptism, such as a stream or lake. The location, amount of water, and method of application vary greatly in the Christian churches. We’ve established a lot of way to separate ourselves from one another, rather than join together in fellowship.
Jesus was an example for us to follow. He was baptized in the Jordan river by John. Obviously a river has a tremendous amount of water, more so than any basin found in my church. Although He is the premiere example for us to follow, His is not the only baptism found in scripture.
In Acts 8, a Eunich is baptized by Philip. How much water was there? We don’t know. Luke only recorded “some water”. Most scholars believe, based on the geography of the area, that a shallow depression,(or wadi) filled with water in or near, a dry riverbed. How was the water applied? We don’t know that either, but we can be assured that this was approved by God as it’s been passed onto us through scripture.
Later on, in Acts 9, Ananias goes to the house where Saul was staying, places his hands on him and scales fall from Saul’s eyes. Shortly after, it only says “he got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18, NIV) which no explanation of where or how.
The Debate Continues
Throughout Christian history, theologians have argued about baptism: natural versus still water, a great pool of water versus a small basin, immersion versus pouring, and even the age of the baptized recipient. In many of these cases, churches and preachers have instilled man made rules to administer this sacrament.
Even in New Testament times there was an issue. Back to John 3:25 scripture records a disagreement about baptism. Here John records:
“An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” (John 3:25 -27, NIV)
(note: the word for ceremonial washing is not the Greek word baptism. However, discussion prior to John 3:25 is definitely baptism related with baptism used in verses 22 and 23)
Does John say, “They’re doing it all wrong! Stop them before it’s too late!”. No. Instead of explaining how baptism should be done, he later goes on to validate Jesus’ ministry. He had the opportunity to explain what made a baptism valid. Instead, he changed the subject to a more important idea. He changed the subject from baptism to Christ’s ministry. God had an opportunity to put into writing the exact procedures He wanted done. But scripture doesn’t do that.