The Christian Church has consistently taught baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sin. Other Christ-honoring churches have relegated baptism to a secondary or tertiary role in the disciple’s life. A short study of the chronology of baptism is helpful in determining its purpose.
In the fall of AD 57 Paul appeared before a Jewish audience in Jerusalem, an event revealed in Acts 22:6-16. In relating the purpose of baptism, however, he referred to an event in Damascus about AD 35, some 22 years earlier. A Jewish Christian named Ananias came to the blind Saul of Tarsus and told him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”
Seeing the events chronologically clarifies baptism’s purpose. In AD 35 Ananias administered it to forgive the sins of a repentant Saul. In AD 57 the Apostle Paul still believed it had been administered 22 years before to forgive his sins, even though he believed in Jesus and had repented of his sins.
Keep those words in mind as you read Romans 10:5-11, a passage often used to prove baptism’s irrelevance. Paul wrote Romans in the spring of AD 57. In the fall of AD 57 he referred to AD 35, 22 years previous, to explain why he needed to be baptized after having faith in Jesus, after repenting of his sins, after confessing Jesus as God’s Son, verses used by many to prove baptism has no role in conversion.
While faith, repentance and confession led him to forgiveness, only baptism finalized forgiveness. If Paul remembered baptism’s purpose from 22 years before, it’s unreasonable to think he would have changed his doctrine between spring and fall of AD 57!
Since Ananias and Paul both considered him a sinner before being baptized, how can people now claim they’re forgiven before being immersed? If Paul joined faith, repentance and confession with baptism, will we dare separate them?
Our response to Jesus Christ proves our spiritual barrenness or fecundity. Whether we’re wayside, hardpan, thorny or black loam soil. People often say, “I can never be as dedicated to God as so and so.” The Holy Spirit challenges us, “Yes, you can be, and yes, you better be.”
Where, then, will we stop maturing as a disciple? At age 12, or 30; age 50 or 80? Or earlier than 12 or later than 80? At what age do we think we can’t continue developing as a Christian?
Think of it like this: if everyone in our family or church replicated our commitment to Jesus—if God used us as his prototype Christian—how much faith would the family have? In what condition would our church be? Would we need to hold services every week, according to our attendance record? Could the church pay a minister’s salary if everyone gave our level of gift? Indeed, could we pay any church bills, or support a missionary?
Abraham began his spiritual sojourn at 75 years of age. He finished it at death 100 years later. Because he continually trusted and served God—growing in spiritual grace through every experience—God made him the human father of billions of believers. How many people would our level of faith bring to Jesus?
We determine where, if at all, we stop maturing as Christians. But he forewarned: Jesus promises salvation only for those who never stop serving, never stop maturing and never stop deepening their faith in God Matthew 10:22, 24:13. Fini
Many opinions exist about Jesus. Many have always existed. The only appraisal of worth is God’s. To Jesus: “You are my Son...” Mark 1:11. To others: “This is my Son...” Luke 9:35. We cannot escape the clarity and finality of this Scriptural Truth: Jesus Christ is God the Son! Whether we like it or not, accept it or not, live by it or not.
The only issue we control is the impact his Godhood and Lordship have on us. We can intellectualize the issue, making it merely a subject of discussion. But that is an insult Jesus will never tolerate. He insists that we personalize both his Godhood and Lordship. That he’s our Father, we’re his children; our Savior, we’re his saved; our Lord, we’re his slaves; our Master, we’re his disciples.
We depend on him, not only for every breath we take, but for every opinion we have, every idea we discover, every insight we enjoy and every conviction we hold. Whatever he says or claims, we believe without reservation. Wherever he took a stand on any issue, we resolutely take ours.
And what if others disagree or take exception? TOO BAD FOR THEM! Moses changed from “Who am I to serve God?” to “Who is Pharaoh to oppose God?” We’re like Moses as Christ’s believers: how dare any mortal think his ton of opinion outweighs God’s ounce of truth? And if critics persist in their arrogant opinions, we will as clearly, as strongly and as confidently declare Jesus Christ’s authority as God’s Full and Final Revelation to humanity. End Part V
Ooh and aah over the infant Jesus. Ever after, bow before him in worship, adoration and obedience. For at age 12, and ever after, to this day, to all days to come and to the eternity which follows, Jesus Christ RULES!
Sioux war chief Red Cloud wanted peace with the whites in 1866. He discovered that pacific intervention on his part only encouraged white incursion into Sioux Powder River lands.
In an 1866 council, he took a militant stand. There would be peace if the white man left Sioux land. If the whites stayed, there would be war. He believed that the Great Spirit gave the Sioux their land. Having received it, Red Cloud intended to keep it. He said what he meant and meant what he said: he meant to keep his land.
Regardless, he lacked the authority to keep his land. Forces beyond his grasp and control had already been exerted by the hated white men. Indian possession of the West had, like Indian possession of the East, been superseded by white culture. Not that population displacement was new at the time. See Judges 18:27 following for an example.
Jesus never faced the issue; he always possessed in himself ALL AUTHORITY over HEAVEN and EARTH. He proclaimed that in Matthew 28:18, having proved it in ministry, death and resurrection. It didn’t just come to him then. He knowledgeably possessed it at least by age 12.
Which brings us to the point of this blog. Jesus IS and manifests himself AS the Lion of Judah, claws extended, ripping through Jewish traditions in which they took refuge, thinking them safe; and establishing new concepts of the spiritual life that never had before or has since been approximated, let alone surpassed.
His extended claws also shreds the pretensions of confidence we construct to shield us from the fears of our inadequacies. They abolish by a 1000 failures the few score successes we enjoy. They unleash creation’s fury against fallen humans who subjected it to frustration. Teaching us to be ashamed for looking at nature, not God, for our help, our values, our peace of mind. End Part IV
The little girl heard a bugler’s notes as a band marched by on the street below her house. Without having taken a lesson, she went to the piano and flawlessly played the bugler’s melody. Without knowing, three-four year old Jenny Lind had discovered her destiny. Enchanting Jenny Lind, 4-5.
The little three year old could pick chords. At four he played from memory. At five composed. At seven composed free-hand, without going to a piano. At eight played Handel and Bach. Did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart instinctively know he had found his destiny? Durant, The Story of Civilization, X, 384
Prodigies do exist, to this day: in music, intellect, religion, Saul of Tarsus in Judaism an example Galatians 1:14.
The boy Jesus, all of 12 years, paid the first of many visits to Jerusalem in his formative years. In his introductory visit he had an epiphany that he clearly understood. At least by then he knew: he embodied the Godhood within himself as the Son of God.
It’s one thing to be a prodigy in the arts, in the mind and in religion. But at age 12 Jesus knew he embodied GOD in himself. That’s history-altering, world-changing. That’s why, as a mere lad he conversed on a level field with older and aged scholars in Moses. Here was the lad who recognized himself as the Living God in human form. Which realization he never lost, continued to prove and finally, as an always perfect human in suffering during ministry Perfected his perfection by a Perfect sacrifice to forgive sin. End Part III
As a 40 day baby Jesus proved sovereign in authority. At age 12 he proved sovereign in perspective. (Chapter 2 of the author’s Face to Face with Jesus has a fuller account. Chapter 1 re-creates the epiphany Jesus enjoyed as the basis of Chapter 2.)
The Passover Feast over, all children 12 and older found their families and with them joined caravans heading home. Except for 12 year old Jesus. He stayed near the Temple in Jerusalem, informing no one of his decision. Thinking he had departed with relatives, Joseph and Mary had no fear leaving without him.
Only after the day’s travel, and all children found their family camp and camp fire did their anxiety burst into terror: Jesus couldn’t be found. Returning to the city the next day they searched--keep the word in mind—every place they could think he might be. To no avail. To increasing dread and despair. The next day—the third—in desperation they entered the women’s court of the Temple to look.
What to their astonishment did they see but their 12 year old sitting among the teachers as a peer, not only listening to them but asking them questions. Some specially-gifted youths would be welcome as listeners. Posing questions to learned doctors astonished them. And when they asked him questions their mouths fell open before his profound understanding.
In an agony of relief Mary clattered forward, grabbed the boy and hugged him. Then, remembering the nerve-wracking anxiety he caused, pushed him arm’s length and scolded him: “Why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!” Luke 2:48. They never expected the answer he gave, but be on guard. What he said to them astonishes us still. Even as a boy Jesus held his own against Jewish Doctorates. What chance would ours have against him? End Part II
At what age do we want Jesus to be? A baby in Bethlehem? Someone over whom we can hover; murmuring soft love words; cooing our concern; admiring his little fingers and toes; hugging and kissing him tenderly?
Warning: that’s the only time he isn’t dangerous to us. The only time he’s dependent on us to meet his needs. Beyond infancy he rules and we submit. Even then, at 40 days of age—40 days!—he flexed his potential. Having been saved to see God’s Messiah, Simeon cradled him in his arms, looked wonderingly into his face and...foretold his authority over all humanity Luke 2:28-32, 34-35.
The beginning of that authority became obvious by his second birthday. Wise Men from the east came seeking him. When finding him, they rejoiced. When seeing him, they bowed and worshiped him. HIM, understand, not HIM and Mary, who stood nearby, watching. Having worshiped him as Israel’s King, they opened presents worthy of and designating a King. He alone the King, understand, not He the King and Mary his consort. Just when the Holy Spirit had the perfect opportunity to express Mary’s importance to the Kingdom of God, he instead expressed her irrelevance.
And the 2 year old had only begun. End Part I
By the early 1800’s Western Europe hadn’t experienced plague for 100 plus years, smallpox retreated before Jenner’s inoculation and Yellow Fever paid only periodic visits. Though other less-developed societies still knew the harshness of pestilence, they lacked the living standards of Western Europe.
Then, out of a clear blue sky thunder claps of cholera deafened the West. Convinced of their conquest of pestilence, the outbreak stunned the ruling classes, the medical field, the economists and the politicians. The “new prosperity” they envisioned on the horizon shrank below it, under the haze of an epidemic that carried off at least 50 million people. Armies of Pestilence, 162
How like humanity’s fate in every age, including ours. Just when it seems we have gained control, catastrophe wrenches it from us. Just when we begin to emerge from an economic collapse occasioned by human greed, world events shatter the recovery into economic depression. Just when our Space Ships carry payloads into space without difficulty and space travel seems safe as our freeways, a Space Ship shatters on impact with the earth’s gravity.
Calamity visits; cataclysms hound; unseen forces wreak damage we didn’t see coming. It’s all enough to get our attention; it’s never enough to elicit our repentance. It’s enough to scare us; but never enough to terrify us before God. It gives us pause; but never long enough to let Bible truth educate us.
Though preachers must always preach God’s word, they often function as mere wall flowers. A story from the Country Houses of 20th Century England illustrates. The upper classes built and enjoyed those houses, to which they invited carefully screened peers for parties, hunting trips and discreet political discussions.
One such house hosted 1000 people, who came and went as they pleased. What interested me was the role of the hosts’ chaplain at the party. After each breakfast he read “a few short prayer”, after which everyone went wherever his pleasure took him on the estate until the next meal.
He read “a few short prayers”. Few...short...canned prayers. Nothing heavy. Nothing challenging. Nothing worthwhile! Nothing taking his effort. Mere religious form.
If a preacher is good for anything, it should be as a spokesman for God to his people. Should he excel in anything but that, he is really good for nothing! Forgive him his sins and bear with his faults, but hold him accountable for faithfully preaching God’s word.
Human enterprises can begin small and grow large. Google founded in 1998, Facebook in 2004 and Amazon in 1994 as examples. They can also, after expansion to many, shrink to fewer, one or none. Sears an example of the former, Blockbuster the latter Tower Records the last.
The kingdom of God on earth began with one man, Abram, Genesis 12:1-2. He alone carried that heritage 100 years before God added one to it in a baby called Isaac. He carried it in himself until, at age 60, his wife gave birth to twins Esau and Jacob.
Quietly, unobtrusively and privately, Jacob shared the heritage with Isaac for 75 years, outlasting his father’s personal disregard for God’s word and will. From an appetite for red stew Isaac would have forfeited the promise God made to Jacob before he was born Genesis 25:21-34.
Rebekah, because she didn’t forget the promise God made—what mother could?—outwitted her husband’s rejection of God and saved the birthright privileges God promised Jacob. She sent him away when Esau’s fit of rage determined to kill him. Rebekah sent him to her home country. If she had known how long Jacob would be gone, and she would never see him again, she may not have been so willing to part with him.
Jacob flourished numerically in Rebekah’s homeland by fathering through four women 12 sons and 1 girl in 20 years. For the first time in history God’s kingdom had multiple members.
Anointing Joseph as savior when the kingdom grew to 70 members seemed to exalt him to carry the kingdom’s torch into the future. But no, God separated Judah from the brothers when he insisted that Israel allow the brothers’ return to Egypt for provisions. However, some 20 years passed before Judah would be revealed as the progenitor of the Messiah Genesis 49:8-11.
From 12 men, fathering 12 tribes, God reduced leadership of the kingdom to one man and one tribe. The tribe of Judah would thereafter be the focus of messianic expectations. On one occasion the messianic line would be reduced to a single male as its repository II Kings 11:1-4.
Nevertheless, with one or many, that LINE remained intact, never collapsing into a shambles or vanishing. Nothing in history before then, at the time, or afterwards eliminated God’s kingdom. Nothing in history since, and certainly now, has or can. Anyone who endeavors to be the assassin of God’s kingdom finds himself instead under the STONE that crushes all enemies to dust Matthew 21:44.