Church of God, New World Ministries

The Fundamental Doctrines - Part Three

“The Doctrine of Baptism”

The simple, unpretentious rite of baptism is meant to mark a miraculous change in you. It is to testify that you have embarked on a new, clean, right way of life that will end in complete satisfaction, unrestricted reward, total success and happiness unending. God wants you to realize this and take full advantage of His generous offer.

Most of Christendom understands in part that baptism is a fundamental doctrine of God’s religion. But too few capture the overwhelming concept which its symbolism is meant to instill. Let’s look back into the past, and come to understand more perfectly what God is revealing

From the beginning God has wanted men to be clean – physically, mentally and spiritually. He designed an elaborate ritualistic system for His Old Testament Church to impress this grand lesson. He meant for you and me to find in the New Testament the brimming spiritual fulfillment which comes through Jesus the Christ (Gal. 3:24).

Paul wrote the book of Hebrews to Jewish Christians to help make this plain. He shows how Old Testament ritual finds full spiritual expression in Christ. These Jewish people knew about the washings (baptism) of the ritual (Heb. 9:10). They knew about the prescribed cleansing of clothes, people, priests, (Ex. 19:10-14; Lev. 8:6).

But most people today have not understood the facts concerning the pre-Christian baptism of John. Recall that John the Baptist (one who baptizes) was accepted by his community. This was not some new and unusual action. Pharisees and Sadducees would have had no dealings with anyone contradicting the traditions of the elders (Matt. 15:1-2). Why, they even rejected Jesus because they could not fathom the spiritual application which He made of Old Testament instruction.

But they did accept John’s teaching about baptism. Sadducees and Pharisees – perhaps not yet having heard of Jesus – flocked to John wanting to be baptized. Evidently the unrepentant ones wanted only to receive a mark of religious distinction. They wanted to advertise their “righteousness” - to prate and brag about their acceptance by this recognized, rustic, prophet of God (Matt. 3:1-7; Mark 1:4-7).

But John was doing God’s Work. He was calling his countrymen to repentance, to change. He wanted proof that they were doing something to change their miserable and evil lives. He called out those who were not turning to God in heartrending contrition and obedience.

He would have no part in baptizing those who clung to their old evil ways – sins – dead works. His baptism was for the purpose of symbolizing spiritually clean people – those who had changed so much that they could take advantage of the Messiah’s upcoming sacrifice for the remission, - forgiveness – of their sins.

John was busily preaching and baptizing when Jesus came on the scene. Jesus set His seal of approval on John’s baptism by undergoing the very same rite as the people who were sick of their sins and longed enough for forgiveness that they “brought forth fruit” proved by changed, righteous, obedient-to-God lives. Jesus said His baptism “fulfilled all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15).

Later, after His death and resurrection, He expressly commanded His disciples to follow this very same procedure when they found people who would really accept, believe and do what He taught. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19-20); Mark 16:16).

Baptism is the symbolic door to righteousness. You must go through that door if you are going to enter into eternal life. There is no other way

Ritualistic washing can clean pots, pans, clothes and the skin. But water can do nothing to cleanse the mind of man – it cannot reach him spiritually. But John’s baptism added more color to the picture of God’s plan of salvation. It pointed to the Jewish need to improve in keeping the letter of God’s eternal law. It insisted that they should accept the government of that law. John recognized their mental approach to life must be in accord with God’s direction.

People must develop the discipline and volition to live by every word of God (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3). John knew that even more than this would be required if people were going to finally enter into the Kingdom of God. He said: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he (Jesus) that comes after me shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt. 3:11).

Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the ultimate baptism toward which we press. This is the highest form of baptism. The only way that sin – which is the result of distorted mental action-- can be remitted, scrubbed out, paid for, is through death (Rom. 6:23). If we were left to pay for our own sins, death would descend upon us and there could be no hope for the future. Only death! But God is merciful.

Even while we were yet in our sins Christ died for us. He paid the entire debt which encumbers us. We are free when we accept His payment in our stead and so we can live (Rom. 5:8-9).But that is not to say we just use the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and blithely pursue our own way. A complete change is demanded when such a great price has been paid so that we can live – for we would have died without this payment.

Since Jesus Christ has been willing to die for us, then we must be willing to die for Him. When we are baptized we picture our willingness to participate in death, just as He did, in order that goodness, Godliness (God-like-ness) will prevail in our lives (Rom. 6:3).We will imitate the way He lived. He didn’t break the law of God in one little particle (Matt. 5:18-20). Neither should we!

Christ died horribly, ignominiously, in order that people who recognize their shortcomings could be washed clean and given a new life, a changed, repentant, spiritual way of living. Baptism pictures the burial of our old ways. A willingness to let our old ways go down into the grave to moulder away to nothing, the putrisness of our own ways covered and eaten up by death. Read Romans 6:4-6 with these thoughts in mind:

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

We, because we are sinners, die in baptism from a spiritual point of view. We no longer allow the inordinate desires of our fleshly, sensual existence to control us. Christ became sin so we could live righteously, without sin, without breaking the law (II cor. 5:21).

You and I are to be spiritually crucified with Christ. Then, upon receipt of the Holy Spirit, His mind-spirit-enters us. We live as Christ would live. He gave Himself for us to that purpose (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6-10).The Christian is dead to the old ways of the natural man (Rom. 6:11-12). He no longer conforms to the way in which people naturally respond to life. His mind is renewed. He proves what God wants and does it (Rom. 12:2).

This way is entirely different. The spiritual immersion which accompanies water baptism cleanses the man’s mind. Materialistic, egotistical, vain, worldly, carnal, sensual stimuli no longer prevail. All ways that are contrary to the spirit are now abhorrent to the repentant, newly baptized convert.

That spiritual immersion – baptism-- is promised to all repentant people. On the day the New Testament Christian Church was founded, conscience-stricken converts implored the apostles to tell them what they needed to do to get right with God. Peter gave them the authoritative, simple answer: “Repent, and be baptized and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Those people, and all truly baptized Christian since, were baptized (immersed) into one body (the True Church of God) and have all been infused with the Holy Spirit, the holy mind of Christ.

To have that spiritual mind means that the filth of naturalness is washed out. The man now thinks, acts and does what God wants him to. He is a begotten spiritual son of God. One day he will be born into the very family of God to be with the Father and the Son forever.

Baptism brings together, in symbolic grandeur, three wonderful gifts from God: 1) the precious redeeming blood of Christ, 2) the water of regeneration, and 3) the Holy Spirit.

Baptism pictures the complete covering of a dead body, placing it in a watery grave. But as we have seen, much more is pictured in this illustration. Even as the old, dead body of the convert is entombed in baptism, it is literally washed and cleansed. This complete immersion and washing of the exterior symbolized the internal – mental – moral –washing and regeneration of the mind. A man is what his mind thinks (Prov. 23:7).

The baptized Christian comes up out of his watery grave with an altogether different mind – a different way of thinking about life and the way to solve his problems. It is as if he, like Christ, had been resurrected. The restrictions of the flesh no longer predominate and encumber.

Now values exist. A new life is begun. The old life – way – the old man – is left dead in the grave. Spiritual values take precedence. Every effort is made to satisfy God.

Not many people understand how God has intended, from the beginning, that all men should be baptized. You now know about this glorious fundamental truth of the Christian religion. Even if you are already baptized, there is probably much more that you need to know and do if you truly desire to serve God as He says.

Some who have been baptized into a worldly church have only gotten wet.  Until you fully realize that you have been transgressing God’s great Spiritual Law (the Ten Commandments) you are not yet ready for baptism. Once you are enlightened to understand this fundamental truth, you must truly repent and turn away from your old way of life and bring forth “fruit fitting for repentance”. Then, upon immersion into a watery grave, you will be baptized into the very body of Jesus Christ –the True Church of God. (I Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:18).

To learn all the fundamental doctrines of the Church of God continue following this series.  Part four will be coming soon.

 
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