Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 91 of The Berean Manifesto brought to you by The Ekklesian House.  This is Pastor Bill and over the next 15 minutes, or so, (a bit longer than a normal episode) we are going to start a new series on the elementary teachings of Christianity.

These are the milk of Christian theology.  What I mean by that is that these are the things we understand to be the very first basics that you should teach a new Christian you are discipling.  If there’s one thing I can take away from conversations with other Christians over the last few years is that these basics are not actually being taught.  Largely due to church culture focused on making converts instead of disciples.  I didn’t come up with this list, this comes straight from Hebrews 6:1-2 CSB, “[1] Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, [2] teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

Today’s installment will focus on number three in the list, “teaching about ritual washings.”  Or more specifically as you and I know it, water baptism.  We’re starting here because I see a lot of arguing going on right now over the issue of baptism, and most of what’s brought up seems to come from an uninformed point of view.

When we approach The Bible, sometimes we assume that every verse is scripture, but even the Apostles had to learn and grow as they were doing ministry, and we can trace those learning journeys in the Bible.  To best understand baptism, we are first going to follow the Apostle Peter’s journey concerning baptism.

The day after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, two of John’s disciples, Andrew and another man named John (the guy who went on to write the Gospel of John) became disciples of Jesus.  First thing the next morning Andrew went to find his brother Simon to tell his brother that he had found The Messiah.  Simon followed his brother back to Jesus who immediately renamed him Cephas meaning “rock” which in Greek is Petros that we pronounce in English as Peter.  Peter travelled with Jesus from then on; he was one of the five disciples at the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine, he was there both times that Jesus drove the payday loan sharks out of the temple with a whip, he baptized people in waters of the Aenon springs near Salim while Jesus rested on the shore and John the Baptist was ministering on the other shore.

The next reference to baptism recorded, where Peter is concerned, is at the ascension of Jesus where He tells the eleven remaining disciples to go make disciples and to baptize them, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Then on the day of Pentecost when all those in the upper room were filled with the Holy Spirit and spilled out into the streets speaking in tongues, Peter, in Acts 2:38 CSB says, “[38] Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Three thousand Jews from several nations responded to the Gospel and were water baptized.  Fast forward to Acts chapter 10 and we see that water baptism and the Gospel have been withheld from Gentiles by Jewish believers in Christ as they believed that the Holy Spirit and salvation was only for the Jews and they were even prevented from associating with Gentiles.  Peter has a vision where a large sheet comes down from Heaven full of unclean animals and a voice commands Peter to kill and eat.  Peter refuses as he’s never eaten anything unclean.  The voice tells Peter not to call unclean anything that God has made pure.

The next day men came to summon Peter to a Gentile centurion named Cornelius.  Peter goes with them, as he interprets his dream to mean that God wants the Gentiles and Jews to receive from Himself equally.  Peter shares the Gospel with Cornelius and The Holy Spirit fills everyone who had heard the Gospel message there, Acts 10:45 CSB says, “even the Gentiles.”  In verse 47 Peter asks, “[47] ‘Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’”

After Peter has returned to Jerusalem he is criticized by the circumcised, Jewish, believers for associating with Gentiles so he tells them the story of what happened ending in Acts 11:15-17 CSB with, “[15] ‘As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. [16] I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' [17] If, then, God gave them the same gift that he also gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?’”  That’s a quote from what Jesus told them during those last forty days after His resurrection, but before His ascension, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  In Acts 11:18 CSB the Jewish believers have the revelation Peter had before, it says, “[18] When they heard this they became silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.’"

Peter, however, seems to have had another revelation from his vision.  There’s not only no record of him ever water baptizing anyone else, but he goes on to write two books of the Bible where the only mention of baptism is the following, 1 Peter 3:20b-22 CSB, “[20b] In (Noah’s ark) a few-that is, eight people-were saved through water. [21] Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”  That’s a weird way to phrase that, but he wants to make sure the reader understands what he’s talking about.  As his contemporaries would have had no problem understanding the reference.  He says, “not as the removal of dirt from the body.”  The KJV translates dirt as “filth.”  In the original Greek, it’s the word:

G4509 ῥύπος rhupos hroo'-pos Of uncertain affinity; dirt, that is, (moral) depravity: - filth.

He’s says that he’s not talking about water baptism – he’s not talking about the removal of moral filth through ritual water cleaning/through dipping in water, but baptism into Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  It wasn’t the water that saved Noah and his family, it was the boat.  The water killed off the sin in the world and corresponds to Christ’s death.  But just as Christ’s death doesn’t save us, it’s His resurrection and our confession of faith that saves us.

Peter started with an institutionalized religious understanding of baptism to wash away moral depravity, then to the water baptism of repentance taught by John the Baptist.  He then applies that understanding to Jesus words about baptizing new disciples and water baptizes them, just as John The Baptist had.  Later he has this revelation that the Gospel and baptism aren’t just for the Jews, which grows into water baptism not being needed at all as one is declared clean by God at salvation. 

The Apostle Paul was of this same revelation about baptism.  After leading countless numbers of people to salvation, in 1 Corinthians  he says that he was glad he didn’t baptize anyone but the household of Stephanas so that none could claim Paul instead of Christ and in chapter 1 verse 17 CSB says, “[17] For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.”  So when we read all these scriptures written by Paul where He talks about baptism, the thing that he doesn’t do/the thing that he wasn’t sent to do, we know he’s not talking about water baptism, but spiritual baptism.

Romans 6:3-7 CSB, “[3] Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [4] Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. [6] For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, [7] since a person who has died is freed from sin.”

1 Corinthians 12:13 CSB, “[13] For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and we were all given one Spirit to drink.”

Galatians 3:27-29 CSB, “[27] For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. [28] There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. [29] And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise.”

Colossians 2:8-14 CSB, “[8] Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ. [9] For the entire fullness of God's nature dwells bodily in Christ, [10] and you have been filled by him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. [11] You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, [12] when you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. [13] And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. [14] He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.”

That last one is a good one.  Paul says we are baptized in Christ just as we are circumcised in Christ, not physically but spiritually.  I’ve heard the argument that you should go ahead and get water baptized just in case it is required.  The only issue I have is expressed well by Paul in Galatians 5 when he writes that if you pick back up one piece of religious law like circumcision, or in our case baptism, as a requirement for salvation then you have to follow the whole law and have nullified the work of Christ.

In closing we’ll look at two more scriptures that deal with the need to wash away that dirt, or filth, that Peter referenced before.

Ephesians 5:25-26 CSB, “[25] Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her [26] to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.”

Titus 3:4-7 CSB, “[4] But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, [5] he saved us-not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy-through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. [6] He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior [7] so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.”

The Gospel and the Holy Spirit regenerate, renew, and make us clean at salvation.  The physical and psychological healing needed from the ravages of sin is an ongoing process.  One that the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus, will not abandon us in.

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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