In These Last Days
Are we in the Last Days?
Rachel wrote: Mark 16:16 says he who believes and is baptized WILL be saved but he who DOES NOT believe SHALL be condemned. do you believe that baptism is essential?
Dear Rachel, God Bless your beautiful heart and thank you for writing. We can see you have put careful thought and study into this question. The question of baptism has long troubled Christianity in that there are many differing opinions on what the Bible teaches on this important subject. We as students of the Rightly Divided Word of Truth must not be swayed by the traditions and teachings of men but always look to the Scripture as our rule book of faith and practise.
Among the words written near the time of the beginning of Christianity the new Hebrew believers were exhorted "to leave" not "lay again", laws and ordinances including "the doctrine of baptisms" Heb. 6:2, these being among the elements that were to be left behind as the believer pressed on unto perfection
The N.T. teaching concerning baptism is distributed thus:
1. John the Baptist. This baptism falls under two headings: (a) It was a baptism unto repentance, in view of the near approach of the kingdom of heaven Matt. 3:1-2 (b) It was the work of John as the forerunner prophesied of by Isaiah in the fortieth chapter of his prophecy. (c) It was concerned only with Israel or with those who joined themselves to Israel, as the words "Comfort ye" of Isaiah 40 were concerned. (d) It was a baptism in water, that spoke of a future baptism with Holy Ghost and with fire. (e) It was specifically designed to make manifest to Israel the One Who was sent to be their Messiah John 1:30-34
2. The baptism with the Holy Ghost promised by John was fulfilled at Pentecost Acts 1:5.
3. During the Acts, water baptism and the baptism of the Spirit went together Acts 2:38, 10:47
4. During the first ministry of the Apostle Paul, baptism by water was practised I Cor. 1:16, but baptism never held the place in Paul's commission I Cor. 1:17 that it did in that of Peter (Acts 2:38). Peter could never have said: "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" as Paul did.
Baptism during the early ministry of Paul: (a) united the believer by burial with the death of Christ Rom. 7:6-4 (b) united Jew and Gentile making them "all one in Christ and Abraham's seed" Gal. 4:27-29 . (c) baptizing these believers into one body, with particular reference to the exercise of spiritual gifts 1 Cor. 12:13
5. After Acts 28, and the revelation of the Mystery we enter into a calling where shadows give place to the reality of the fulness of Christ Col. 2:17.
Baptism in the epistles of the Mystery is either that which unites the believer with the death and Resurrection of Christ Col. 2:12 or by which the believer becomes a member of the Church which is His Body Eph. 4:5.
Owing to the failure on the part of expositors and teachers to discern the change of dispensation consequent upon the setting aside of Israel at Acts 28, there has been a failure to discern the extreme difference that exists between baptism as taught in the earliest part of the N.T. or even in the earlier epistles of Paul and as it is taught in the epistles of the Mystery.
Galatians 3:19 asks a question: "Wherefore then serveth the law?" and the answer is: "It was superadded" (prostithemi). The Galatians were turning back to the weak and beggarly elements of the ceremonial law. "Now this law was not promulgated in the first instance to the Jewish people, but was a superaddition to the antecedent moral law is a matter of universal notoriety. It is well-known (says Whitby) that all these ancient fathers were of the opinion, that God gave the Jews only the Decalogue, till they made the golden calf, and afterwards He laid the yoke of ceremonies upon them." "The law was superadded in behalf of transgressions being ordained in the hand of a mediator".
The Christian Church has fixed its attention so much upon these superadded carnal ordinances and have modelled their doctrine of baptism so much upon these things which were imposed until the time of reformation that they have given little or no place to the one great baptism, which was not added because of transgressions but was an integral part of the Redemption of the nation, namely the baptism of the whole nation unto Moses at the Red Sea. That is the type that remains for us today, all others are carnal ordinances that have no place in the present economy of pure grace.
The baptism of Colossians two is not likened to anything that was introduced into the Aaronic priesthood or tabernacle service, it is likened to the initiatory rite of circumcision. Now in Colossians two this circumcision is the spiritual equivalent of that practised by the Jew, it is explicitly said to be "the circumcision made without hands", and repudiates "the body of the flesh" (sin is not in question, the revised text omits the words "of the sins"), and this is accomplished "by the circumcision of Christ". Now until it can be proved that the circumcision here emphasized is the literal carnal ordinance, the consequential burial by baptism will have to be understood of the spiritual equivalent too, and finds its type, not in the many baptisms of the ceremonial law, but in the one baptism of the whole nation at the crossing of the Red Sea. This "one baptism" forms an integral part of the Unity of the Spirit, which those who are blessed under the terms of the Mystery are enjoined to keep. The seven parts of this unity are so disposed, as to throw into correspondence the One Baptism in the One Spirit, thus:
One Lord One Hope One Faith One Spirit One Baptism One Body One God and Father
This sevenfold unity is composed of seven units-and to tamper with the repeated word "one" is to deny inspiration and to destroy the Apostle's insistence. We can no more believe that "one" baptism means two, i.e., "water and spirit" than we can import plurality into the realm of faith, hope or the Lordship of Christ. It is the custom of those companies of Christians who stress baptism in water, to call themselves "baptized believers". It is also, unfortunately the habit of many who see the spiritual nature of baptism in Colossians and Ephesians to allow this claim, but such are wrong. Members of the One Body are "baptized believers" for without this one-baptism membership of the One Body is impossible. To speak otherwise is to magnify the carnal ordinance that pertains to the ceremonial act, above the spiritual reality. The truth is that no company in the N.T. has ever known what true baptism really is, except that Church where baptism in water is absent and unknown.
Note the beautiful typology in 1Peter 3:18-22:
1. The Ark. It is clearly implied that the Ark represents relationship in Christ. Noah and seven other persons were IN the Ark, high and dry, so to speak, thru out the entire catastrophe. They were saved thru the flood waters of judgment in the baptism of the Ark. These verses do not teach baptismal regeneration, but rather ceremonial water baptism. Ceremonial baptism was the shadow, real baptism, the substance, is relationship in Christ. In verse 21 the putting away of the filth of the flesh refers to ceremonial water baptism which Peter contrasts with real baptism, the answer of a good conscience toward God. See also Romans 6.
2. The Flood Waters. As touched upon above, these represent judgment. The flood was necessary to destroy a humanity corrupted by intermarriage with fallen angelic beings, the spirits in prison mentioned in verses 19 and 20. So it can not refer to human souls in some place of conscious torment like purgatory or hell, as some teach. For further study see Appendices 23 thru 25 of the Companion Bible.
The Flood Waters can be applied typically to the judgment which took place at Calvary. Christ at Calvary was baptized into the wrath of God. All the waves and billows of that wrath passed over Him. Psalms 42:7 and Jonah 2:3. The believer does not fear the wrath of God which is to come. He is in Christ, the Ark.
He is saved by the death baptism and resurrection of Christ.
3. The Eight Souls. This was the number of the persons in the Ark, and it is significant. Such numbers as 6, the number of man, and 7, the number of perfection, are examples known to most Bible students. The number 8 is the number of resurrection, the resurrection of Christ in which all believers will share. It is the hope of the believer, and it will make fully known and manifest the truth of God as it is in Christ.
The unbelieving naturally cling to the ceremonial baptism. It ministers to the flesh. But no one shall experience resurrection and see God without the experience of the real baptism in this life.
Which baptism is for you?
The One Baptism that we as believers in this administration of the Mystery have is our spiritual identification with our Lord Christ Jesus. We are complete in Him. (Colossians 2:10) The word complete in the Greek means fulfill or filled to the full. We have the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as ours, as well as being raised with Him and seated with Him in the far above heavens (Ephesians 2: 6), a place where no sin or sinner has ever been or will be. We also find our citizenship papers are from this same place. (Philippians 3: 20) Furthermore, since we have been raised with Him by the operation of God (Colossians 2:12), death and sin need no longer have dominion over us. We are to walk worthy of our calling, putting on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24). We have obtained all of this by faith, and not of ourselves.
Paul writes and warns the Colossians in 2:2, that it is only through the "...acknowledgment of the Mystery of God and of the Father, and of Christ, in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge ", that they could find the wherewithal to walk in this world--not through the traditions, philosophies or the vain deceits of man. Behind all of these entrapments is religion, the mother of which is Babylon. No matter what form religion may take, idolatry is the foundation of its worship. The flesh is easily deceived into believing that the observation of rituals, holy days, doctrines, abstinences, and commandments of men will gain for the flesh, and hence the person a closer walk with God. This was the point of the attack being experienced by the believers at Colossae from the Gnostics and Judaizers.
Paul emphasizes to the believers that their completeness in Christ alone is sufficient. Religion would entrap the believer into holding onto something other than the Headship of Christ, which in this Dispensation of the Mystery provides our total life source.
Today the members of the Church of the One Body are also, as were the Colossians, subject to these attacks by spiritual wickedness. Our only Source for wisdom, knowledge, and power come from Christ who is our Life (Colossians 3:4), not from anything (including religion) of, or in the world. We can know Him by His Word. We can receive further wisdom and revelation about Him in His Word, and discover how completely we are identified with Him, and how by the One Baptism His finished perfect work was graciously implanted in us. Search the scriptures and see this identification for yourself.
The history books reveal that the question of baptism has been the cause of much bitterness, strife, and division. And the basis for these disputes has risen out of the failure to discern the dispensational differences that distinguish the ministries of the N.T. These can be divided up into three periods. Beginning with John Baptist it was water only with the promise of spirit baptism. Secondly, during the Acts period, it was both water and Spirit. The third period, the period that we live in today, followed Acts 28:28. The Pentecostal dispensation which began at Acts 2 came to an end because of Israel's unbelief. The only baptism that God honors for today is Spirit baptism.
Not long ago we heard a preacher give a commentary on Ephesians 4:4-6 where we find the seven unities to be kept by the Church. He had no problem giving a spiritual content to six of them, but the "one baptism" proved a problem, needless to say. One baptism means one, not two. What is it, water or spirit? It can't be both! The preacher saw the problem. He "solved" it by consulting at least 15 commentaries. All of them said it was water baptism! Consequently, each of us are faced with the responsibility of this decision: what will we believe, the Word of God or the commentaries?
The unities of Ephesians 4:4-6 are not to be made, but to be kept! They contain the only formula available to prevent divisions. If the churches kept these unities they would not be so powerless, and would not be the object of so much scorn and derision.
In I Corinthians 1:17, the Apostle Paul seems to have made a positive statement, For Christ sent me not to baptize, But to preach the gospel." Yet Paul had listed the names of three individuals he had already baptized. He also included the household of one of these he had baptized, so we don't know exactly how many Paul had baptized.
In the account of Paul, Silas, and Timothy preaching in the house of Justus in Corinth, (Acts 18:7, 8) we are told that many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized. Undoubtedly it was at that time that Paul had baptized those he named in the first Corinthian letter.
However, we are left with the question, "If Christ had sent Paul not to baptize, why had he baptized any of them?" In order to answer this question, and resolve the problem created, we must get a better understanding of the place of baptism. When John the Baptist began his ministry to Israel, he preached baptism for the repentance of sins.
Peter at Pentecost followed the same preaching as had John the Baptist, when Peter answered those who asked him, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) Peter ' s reply was, repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) Notice that Peter said that remission of sins was through Jesus Christ and the result of their baptism unto Him. Peter did not tell them, "Christ died for our sins" as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15:3.
If we will look at the context of the Scripture quoted first, 1 Corinthians 1:17, we see that Paul contrasts baptism with the preaching of the cross. This then is the answer to Paul's statement, 'Christ sent me not to baptize...lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. " (made void)
Paul was sent to preach the cross-the death of the Lord Jesus Christ-for the remission of sins, not the baptism as John the Baptist and Peter had preached. Paul is stating, "Christ sent me not to baptize for the remission of sins, but to preach the cross for the remission of sins. " Paul bad been given a further understanding of the place of baptism in the purpose of God.
Baptism was to be for the identification of the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:3,4) Therefore, Paul was not hypocritical in saying one thing and seemingly doing another. By baptism he was identifying those believers with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While much more could be said, we are necessarily limited, but we believe every essential feature has been considered so that you can pursue the matter in detail with every hope of attaining unto fuller light.
All God's Blessings, The Believers
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