30 June 2010 (Revee/Shavu'ot)|
Day #107, 5934 AM
More Things You Might Not Know
Yesterday we took a fresh look at circumcision and we asked ourselves the question:
When Abram was circumcised (and came under the full ownership of Yahweh), his male children and male servants were all circumcised too (because they were owned by Abram). Does this mean that in the New Covenant, with its replacement ordinance of baptism, that whole households followed in the steps of the head of that household on the same basis? Were children baptised in the same way that male babes were circumcised into the Mosaic Covenant? Or was baptism only by genuine confession of faith for adult believers of both genders?
To understand baptism properly, you have to see its setting as an integral part of Yahweh's Covenant. The New Testament finds in baptism fundamental parallels with the three greatest administrations of the Covenant which we will now examine.
1. The Noahic Covenant. The apostle Peter provides us with that parallel:
Like Noah, we pass through the judgment on sin by being immersed in water, and like Noah we pass unscathed through the very mode passed on sin, by arising from it secure and rejuvenated in Messiah. We are symbolically buried into Yah'shua's death and arise in His new life, living in the spiritual sphere in which Messiah lives. The flood was the type, and baptism is the antitype. However, as Peter notes, the water of baptism is powerless of itself to cleanse the flesh of sin, the power of cleansing residing exclusively in the death and rising of Messiah. Baptism therefore represents the establishing of the New Covenant and our personally entering into the benefits of it.
"For Messiah also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to Elohim, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Ruach, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us -- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward Elohim), through the resurrection of Yah'shua the Messiah, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of Elohim, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him" (1 Peter 3:18-22, NKJV).
2. The Abrahamic Covenant. The parallel with the Abrahamic Covenant, as we saw yesterday, rests with circumcision. Therefore Paul would say:
Uncircumscision here refers to an utter lack of acquaintance with the renewing work of Yahweh. The implication is that if a man knew the reality of which circumcision was the sign, he would know a divine 'quickening', just as Abram was quickened into new life, and became the new man, Abraham (Gen.17)! Consequently, Paul can say of believers, who know the quickening work of Yahweh in Messiah Yah'shua by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), that they are "the circumcision" because the reality has been fulfilled in them. Also, what circumcision was in the covenant of Abraham, baptism or full immersion in water, is to the New Covenant Israelite or Christian. This, as I pointed out last Sabbath and also yesterday, is hinted in the use of the word "seal". In Romans 4:11, circumcision is called a seal, and in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Ephesians 1:13, the same word almost certainly refers to baptism, an interpretation based on the use of the word "anointed" in 2 Corinthians 1:21 (also see Acts 10:38, referring to Yah'shua), and on the order of the words "heard...believed...sealed" in Ephesians 1:13. We can compare this directly with Acts 18:8 where believers "hearing believed, and were baptised".The relationship between circumcision and baptism is made explicit in Colossians 2:11-12:
"And you, being dead in your trespasses (Eph.2:1) and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven your trespasses, having blotted out the certificate of debt against us (the record of all the sins we did) - by the dogmas (ordinances - RSTNE, maleh chukat haTorah, full statute requirement of the Torah - OJB) - which stood against us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the [cross]" (Col.2:13-14, ISRV).
New Covenent believers enjoy the reality which circumcision figured, which reality is called the "circumcision of Messiah", being spiritual, not made with hands, of total effect, dealing with the body of the flesh, and it took place through baptism whereby we were brought into vital contact with the death and resurrection of Messiah, personally appropriated through trusting (faith) in the working of Yahweh. Thus, once again, baptism stands at the entrance to the covenant, and is so taught by the apostles as to display the unity of Yahweh's covenant dealings.
"In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of Elohim, who raised Him from the dead" (Col.2:11-12, NKJV).
3. The Mosaic Covenant. Paul's underlying assumption is that the Old Covenant possessed sacraments parallel to those of the New:
The Lord's Supper was prefigured in the drinking from the Rock (v.4) and baptism in the cloud and sea. Peter displayed baptism as the believer's escape from judgment and transition into the Kingdom of Elohim. Paul, by linking it with circumcision, showed baptism as the entrance upon enjoyment of the powers of the new age - and now he issues a profound warning against resting on the outward sign. There must be a life of obedience. The Old Covenant Israelite baptism symbolised separation - the passage through the sea separated them from the Egyptians whilst the cloud separated them to Yahweh. But neither of these separations was displayed in their subsequent life for they displeased Yahweh by disobedience and worldliness. Since this was the case, obviously the outward signs could not save them and they perished in the wilderness. And this, Paul says, is for our admonition and warning: no matter how wonderful the truths of baptism, or how the New Testament associates sign and thing signified as though inevitably joined together, there must be no leaning on the sign as such - it cannot save. It points back to the mightly saving acts of Yahweh-Elohim and forward to a life of obedient trusting. It is only in connection with the Flood that the New Testament specifies the relation of type to antitype (1 Pet.3:21) but the treatment of the two others topics surely warrants the same expression. In the one covenant of Elohim, now expressed finally, baptism fulfils all that was expressed by the earlier Old Covenant ordinances.
"Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Messiah" (1 Cor.10:1-4, NKJV).
John the Baptist called people to repent, promising remission of sins and sealing the promise in "a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4, NKJV - see Mt.3:2,6). He pointed forward to the One who would baptise with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), the token of whose advent was the visible descent of the Ruach (Jn.1:30-34). At Yah'shua's own baptism, water-baptism and Ruach-baptism were combined, and therein lies the pattern of New Testament baptismal blessings, for the Ruach is intimately linked with physical baptism, always being present in those whose hearts are right (Jn.3:5; Ac.238; 9:17-18; 10:47; 1 Cor.12:13; 2 Cor.1:22; Eph.1:13; Tit.3:5). Since the Ruach is present at baptism, it is the Ruach who accomplishes the spiritual operations of which the water is the outer sign and seal (e.g. 1 Cor.12:13; Tit.3:5). Equally, the Ruach is the Gift promised (e.g. Ac.2:38).
The other leading idea in Yah'shua's baptism is that of Sonship. Following this, not only sonship itself (Gal.3:26-27) but all the spiritual blessings necessary to sonship are associated with baptism: remission of sins (Ac.2:38; Tit.3:5; Heb.10:22), new birth and entrance to the Kingdom (Jn.3:3,5; Tit.3:5), designation for union with Yahweh, participation in the work of Messiah, and incorporation into His Body, that is, Messianic Israel (Mt.28:19; Ac.8:16; 19:5; Rom.6:1-11; 1 Cor.12:13; Gal.3:27).
It follows, then, that baptism is one of the most important ordinances in the New Covenant and to ignore it is to scorn all that attaches to it!
But there is more. Two events which constantly bracket New Testament references to baptism are the death and resurrection of Messiah. On the day of His baptism, He was publically declared to be the COVENANT-MAKER. The words, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased", point back to the foretold King and Servant of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, two figures associated in the promised (New) Covenant (Is.55:3). The gift of the Ruach additionally recalls the covenant-maker of Isaiah 59:21. When the Master Yah'shua had established the Covenant, He sealed the benefits to His followes by baptism. This ordinance is every bit as important as the former ordinance of circumcision and like circumcision was never optional for the true believer.
The blessings, however, are not derived from the rite of baptism itself, but from Yah'shua. So whilst the blessings are conjoined to the rite, they are none the less enjoyed only through the activity of obedient faith (trusting) following the rite. This is made very clear by the apostle Paul:
The obligation of this topic and rite is our obligation to a life of practical holiness or set-apartness through commandment obedience. The apostle first says that baptism has effected a union with Messiah in His death and resurrection, so that, for the believer, there has taken place a death to sin, and a new life to righteousness (v.4). He then tells how this death and life are to be enjoyed experimentally: by a daily reackoning of oneself dead and alive - in other words, by the activity of obedient and costly trusting (faith) (v.11). The blessings are not automatically operative in the believer because of baptism, but baptism is still an essential marker in that believer's life, required by Yahweh. Baptism is the public testimony of Yahweh that these blessings have been secured for the believer if he responds in the manner required. Baptism is therefore for the witnesses an obligation to hold the one being baptised accountable to his covenant. Baptism therefore points back to the work of Yahweh, and forward to the life of faith. Without it, that link does not exist.
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Messiah Yah'shua were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Messiah, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to Elohim. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to Elohim in Messiah Yah'shua our Master" (Rom.6:1-11, NKJV).
Now as most of you know, not everyone who is baptised posesses the thing signified as well as the sign (Ac.8:21-23; cp. Jn.13:10-11; 15:1-6). Clearly back in the New Testament, as today, not all candidates for baptism were publicly authenticated by Yahweh as was, for example, Cornelius (Ac.10:47), and the case of Simon (Ac.8:15ff) shows the principle upon which the Messianic Community (Church) normally acted. Unfortunately, the administration of this covenant-rite has been administered to fallible human judgment so that not all who have been baptised should have been baptised. As one minister rather bluntly remarked a couple of centuries ago: "I am not at all convinced that some of the people I have baptised were not the same miserable bastards afterwards as they were before". From this observation, which I can confirm, we must ask ourselves two hard questions:
Man, without a concrete revelation from Yahweh, cannot, in my option, possibly know the full extent of another man's conversion but must administer this ordinance on the basis of an intelligent confession of faith in the Master Yah'shua the Messiah. And the fact that the Master confirms that there will always be tares growing up alongside the wheat until the final reaping by the angels (Mt.13:24-30) further suggests that this admission of those who are not regenerated into the physical Messianic Community (Church) is not only inevitable but perhaps also purposeful, for there has always been a serpent in Eden to test a believer's resolve, obedience and loyalty to Yahweh.
- 1. Can we know if a person has been regenerated through repentance before we baptise him? and,
- 2. Should we know if a person has been regenerated through repentance before we baptise him?
The problem is that whilst a confession of faith may be genuine at the time there may be hidden seeds of doubt that will later sprout that will turn that man's heart away from the Master. I absolutely do not believe that in the vast majority of cases Yahweh would reveal that future to a minister responsible for deciding whether a baptism should go ahead or not for the simple reason that every man must be given the opportunity to complete his choice-making process for salvation-future cannot be known until all the little salvational choices have been made along the way too, and not just the initial one to be a follower of Messiah at the point of conversion. What I do think a minister must do is sufficiently discern the Ruach's testimony about someomne coming for baptism who is not converted but it only making a plastic show of one for whatever devious reasons and to deny baptism to someone who is a liar either to himself and/or to Yahweh and to the Messianic Community.
This places a heavy burden upon the minister who is not infallible. Yah'shua said:
Salvation depends on first trusting Yah'shua and second being baptised whereas condemnation results when there is no trusting. Only Yahweh totally knows who is trusting and who is not. Baptism is not some magical rite to guarantee someone will not be condemned yet someone who refuses to be baptised when he can will not be saved either! There is a fine difference between the two which is why Yah'shua does not include a failure to be baptised as a sign of condemnation.
"He who believes (trusts) and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe (trust) will be condemned" (Mark 16:16, NKJV).
There is considerable disagreement in the Body of Christ as to whom baptism should be administered and when. One group (which I agree with) insists that baptism must only be administered to those who can give a personal testimony, whatever their antecedants or past history. Others urge that whilst all accounts of baptisms in the New Testament relate to adult believers, in no case has this adult grown up within the visible Messianic Community (Church) because all are converts from without. Thus, they claim, the attitude of the Messianic Community towards those born within its bounds must be decided on the basis of general scriptural principles relative to believers' families. This they use to justify infant baptism, using the fact that circumcision was administered to 8 day-old babies as evidence that small ones could be entered into covenant even before they were capable of making a choice. However, unlike circumcision, baptism uniquivocably requires repentance from sins, something an infant is incapable of doing:
When John the Baptist's disciples were baptised without having received the Gift of the Ruach (Spirit) and later sought to become the disciples of Yah'shua, they were baptised again because the Baptism of the Ruach was tied the the Baptism of Water administered by Messiah! Since all the blessings of Gospel baptism are intimately tied together, then it seems pretty clear to me that in order to receive them, and for them to be signed, only an adult can make this decision for Messiah and receive the sign (baptism) assigned to it. In this matter we resolutely take the Baptist position for there can be no doubt as to its correctness. It accords properly with the etymology of the Greek verb baptizó which means total immersion, and indeed the English verb 'immerse' would have been used in the original King James Version had not Church of England biases been inserted at the behest of the English monarch. Immersion also expresses the reality of burial with Messiah (Rom.6:4). And whilst proponents of sprinkling can indeed find secondary precedents in such passages where the Ruach is "poured out" onto believers (Ac.2:33; cp. Is.32:15; Ezek.36:25-26) and other aspects of union with Messiah such as "planted together" (Rom.6:5) or "putting on" Messiah (Gal.3:27), these can only ever be at the expense of the primary and essential meaning, thus nullifying the Word of Elohim.
"Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Yah'shua the Messiah for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Ruach haQodesh" (Acts 2:38, NKJV).
Another argument in support of child baptism is made on the basis of scriptures which speak of whole households being converted and baptised:
This passage does not tell us that any infants were baptised, nor does it imply that other members of the household (such as servants) were forced to be baptised against their will in the manner they might have been circumcised under the Old Covenant (Gen.17:26-27) had they been Hebrews. Indeed there is no scripture in the New Testament which so much as suggests than any infant was ever baptised by any method (immersion, pouring or sprinkling). Rather, when we hear of whole households embracing the Gospel it appears that they did so because they all believed the message and so would have qualified for immersion:
"Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped Elohimd. Yahweh opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptised, she begged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Master, come to my house and stay.' So she persuaded us" (Acts 16:14-15, NKJV).
Here it is made plain that each member of the household of Crispus was individually converted. Paul "baptised the household of Stephanas" (1 Cor.1:16, NKJV) who became the bikkurim or firstfruits of the Gospel in Achaia (v.15) but again we are not told if all the household were adults or whether only adults were baptised and the small children excluded. We cannot argue out of silence.
"So they said, 'Believe on the Master Yah'shua the Messiah, and you will be saved, you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Master to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptised" (Acts 16:31-33, NKJV).
"Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Master with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptised" (Acts 18:7-8, NKJV).
Moreover, there is no historical evidence from the apostolic era that the apostles ever baptised in any other way but by full immersion or that they only baptised adults - those capable of making a rational decision for Yah'shua. It has always been the position of this ministry, except in rare exceptions where there can be no doubt as to the mental ability and presence of spiritual fruits, to baptise a child under the age of eight. And ordinarily we recommend that they wait a bit longer, depending on their mental and emotional maturity. Therfore there is no fixed age by which a child should be baptised in order to be in good standing with the community. Since traditionally children aged 12 have been regarded to be mature enough to enter the Bar/Bat Mitzvah covenant to obey the Torah, we believe that a mentally sound youth is ready to be baptised before this age. It must be a personal choice which must be respected. No one must every be pressured into being baptised against his or her will.
So now we need to answer the question we began this devotional with. Do women need to be baptised? I think we have already answered that one because we are told that Lydia was baptised. So that matter is closed. Women were baptised for themselves apart from their husbands who might have been believers so that in this respect there is no parallel between baptism and circumcision. We have also seen that babies were not baptised in the same way that babies were circumcised in the Old Covenant. Therefore we can confidently state that baptism was only ever administered following a genuine confession of faith for adult believers of both genders, male and female - no-one could be baptised without their consent because their owners had chosen to enter the household of faith by this rite.
This itself tells us that the New Covenant is of an altogether higher order than the Old Covenant it replaced, a Covenant based on "better promises" than the Old (Heb.8:6). But it should be clearly understood that the New Testament nowhere gives licence for the liberal and promiscuous belief that Yah'shua in any way abolished the ownership or headship principles delineated in the Old Testament - there is no such thing as coheadship in marriage in the New Covenant, a common heresy amongst evangelicals today.
Messianics, many of whom are still thinking out of an Old Covenant mindset when it comes to conversion, need to realise that conversion in the New Covenant is 100% a matter of free will by both genders. A husband who converts to Christ cannot therefore force an unbelieving wife to be baptised against her will because of his headship position. She must have genuine free choice. If she chooses to remain with him, he much draw her in the same way that Messiah drew him, by the force of attraction. She is still subject to him and must raise his children and run his household in the manner he desires but she herself cannot be denied her faith or lack of it.
Circumcision was the rite of passage into a schoolmaster covenant into the nation of Israel and was partly by force (for infants) and partly by choice (for example, Ruth the Moabitess). Baptism is the rite of passage into the New Covenant and New Covenant Israel. It was by immersion for those old enough to make a reasoned choice and for both genders. It is a picture of repentance from sin, burial into Messiah's death, and arising in His resurrection power cleansed from the guilt and stain of sin. It is a covenant to follow Messiah Yah'shua in all things. It marks in real space and time the beginning of a new life and the end of an old one. As such it is commanded on all who are able to have the ordinance performed on them and to neglect it is to disobey Yahweh and to inturript the smooth flow of His grace into lives already touched by Him.
If you believe in Yah'shua with all your heart and in the New Covenant of Messianic Israel, you should be baptised at once!
Comments from Readers
"I think an important part of understanding the connection between circumcision and baptisim is to understand how Elohim in the Mosaic Covenant gave an outer physical image of inner spiritual realities that would be unveiled in and through Yah'shua...
"For instance, the Levitical Priesthood commanded was an image of how Yah'shua, the Head Priest, and the Body of Messiah, the Priesthood submitted to Him, would serve and worship Elohim.
"Its understanding that the outer was given as a reflection of the inner that we may understand that the commandment that had been given to circumcise a baby 8 days after his physical birth is a physical outer image of what takes place in the inner spirtual reality with baptism...
"A person who was born again, who is spiritually a new born baby in Messiah, having the veil of the Flesh removed by the circumcision without hands, the circumcision of Messiah.
"And even as an adult had to physically circumcise a baby, so the new born in Messiah must be baptised by someone who is mature, or an 'adult' in the faith.
"Even as a child must be born before they can be circumcised, so a person must be born again before they can be baptised...
"It's because of this that babies and children who have been physically born but have not yet repented and been spiritually born again cannot be 'spiritually circumcised' in baptism.
"Parents, desiring to honour Yahweh, may rather dedicate their children to Him, and seek to raise the them in the love and fear of Elohim, praying for them that in Yah's way and time, their child may be saved, truly spiritually be born again, and then baptised!" (DP, South Africa, 1 July 2010).