Summary: The mission is simple, save mankind from their sin, pay the price so they can enjoy eternal life in heaven.
Original mission was to create man in His Image (Genesis 1:26). Mission accomplished on the 6th day of creation. However, sometime after, the Serpent deceived the woman. As a result, both the man and woman sinned, the image was gone. The new mission is to recreate the man and woman into His Image again.
To recreate the man and woman into the image of the Creator, mankind needs to be Born Again. Some would say “Mission Impossible”, Nicodemus said that when he said, JN 3:4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!"
Most of us are old enough to remember when Peter Graves was the star of “Mission Impossible” long before Tom Cruise came on the scene. Each week, Peter Graves would be given a tape recorder with a mission recorded on it. Each week the tape recorder and its content would self-destruct after the message was received.
Nicodemus sees this message as a Mission Impossible. How can a man be born again when he is old. That is the problem when we try to take the spiritual and make it physical. Jesus is on a mission, he has been given the task to tell mankind what they must do, and then pave the way for mankind to do what was needed. Nothing is Mission Impossible with God.
First Jesus says that we must be born of the water and the Spirit. Last week we addressed the issue that the water is Baptism. Having come to that conclusion from the text we must look now at Baptism.
The word is baptisma, the root word is bapto which means to cover wholly with fluid.
Some have taken this to mean a sprinkling. Somewhere in the late 200’s is when sprinkling was first done. The first instance of baptism by sprinkling was in 251 A.D., when a sick man, Novatian, afraid he would die unbaptized, had himself sprinkled “in apprehension of death” (Neander’s CHURCH HISTORY, I, 325).
In 753 A.D. Pope Stephen III legislated that “in cases of necessity” pouring water on the head “was acceptable” (EDINBURGH CYCLOPEDIA, III, 245-246). The practice came to be called clinical or hospital baptism (baptismus clinicorun).
In 1311 A.D. A council of bishops meeting at Ravenna in Italy voted that either sprinkling or immersion was acceptable for everybody (George A. Klingman, CHURCH HISTORY FOR BUSY PEOPLE. The practice of sprinkling then took over universally (except in the GREEK CATHOLIC Church), and has spread into Protestant denominations.
This is what others are saying today:
Some churches sprinkle or pour water on the person’s head. Most churches say there are several acceptable choices regarding the action involved in baptism. Others only immerse. Consider statements from various "Christian" denominations:
"Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant" - Church of the Nazarene Manual, 1972 ed., p. 33.
"What is the meaning of the word ’baptize’? ’Baptize’ means to apply water by washing, pouring, sprinkling, or immersing" - Luther’s Small Catechism, par. 244, p. 170.
"Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; the Baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person" - "Westminster Confession of Faith," par. 6.141, Presbyterian Book of Confessions, 1967 ed.
"How is baptism given? It is given by pouring water over the forehead of the person to be baptized ..." - A Catechism for Adults (Catholic), 1975 ed., p. 63.
What does the Bible say about this issue of Baptism? First we look at the word itself. Baptisma means to immerse. Paul makes this issue very clear in his writing to the Romans in chapter 6.
4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Paul makes the reference here that baptism is a burial. We do not bury by pouring nor by sprinkling, we submerge into the ground and completely cover with dirt. So it is with baptism, we submerge in the water, completely covering the body so there can be a death, burial and a resurrection.
There are other Greek words for "sprinkle" (RANTIZO) or "pour" (CHEO). Had God wanted to authorize these, the words were available; but instead He chose a word baptisma, which never means sprinkle or pour.
Therefore we understand that baptism must be by immersion. Well you might, what if there is no water nearby, just a canteen? Will God make an exception in that case? I don’t think so, but instead of looking for exceptions we should look for ways for fulfillment and obedience. In the case where there is no water nearby, I simply say, God will provide.