Monday, January 22, 2007

WHAT BAPTISM?


A study of Mark 16:16

What Baptism?

In Mark chapter 16 - The Lord Jesus has risen from the grave, and before He left them to go to heaven He gave them the great commission to evangelize the world. This is usually read from the last chapter in Matthew, but today I wanted to read this great commission from the Gospel according to Mark, because I want to address the subject of Baptism. There are many confusing doctrines of Baptism floating around. I would like to lay the groundwork for a very basic understanding of Baptism.

As you know, Baptism is one element that is very often used in the church, and therefore we must understand the first principles of Baptism very well. In the Old Testament dispensation many people have strayed from the teaching of the Ceremonial Law by focusing on the external aspects of each of the ceremonies.

They developed spiritual myopia. And this is how they arrived at a works gospel that was an abomination to God. They focused on the works themselves, instead of the spiritual meaning of these rules and sacrifices. But the New Testament churches have done the same thing with Baptism. Instead of focusing on the spiritual meaning of Baptism, they have developed requirements for the mode of Baptism, like: “You must be dipped in plenty of water, over backward, down under” and “you must be at least 18 years old”, and other such requirements.

We will not get into such debates about paedobaptism and about immersion versus sprinkling. Rather we will focus on the meaning of Baptism and whether it is required or not, and about the many Baptisms that exist in the Bible. That is why the title of this article is not: “Why Baptism?”, but the title of this article is “What Baptism?”, for there are many different kinds of Baptisms in the Bible.



The Great Commission

Mark 16:15
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Mark 16:16
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Mark 16:17
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

Mark 16:18
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Mark 16:19
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

Mark 16:20
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with THE signs following. Amen.

In verse 20 the Greek Textus Receptus says "THE signs", instead of just signs. It means that all the five signs that are listed in verses 17 and 18 shall follow all of them that believe. From the context we can see that all six verses belong together. The Lord gave us, and He gave them a command, “Preach the Gospel”, and the result of this preaching is shown in verse 20.

Many of today’s churches focus on verse 17, which speaks of exorcising demons and speaking in tongues, and they will conveniently forget the three other signs of verse 18. But the Lord says that all five signs shall follow all them that believe. It means that believers everywhere shall pick up rattlesnakes, and they shall not be harmed by these creatures. They shall drink strychnine and not be harmed by it.

They shall go into hospitals and empty out the hospitals by laying their hands on the sick. And they shall do these signs to demonstrate that they were sent by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, do we see this happening anywhere?

No! Therefore it means that we have misinterpreted the words of our Lord.

What did we do wrong?

We have forgotten what the Lord said in Matthew 13. This chapter, Matthew 13, is in the centre of the Gospel according to Matthew, and it conveys the central thought of HOW God has written the Bible: God has written the Bible in such a way that those who are not guided by God the Holy Spirit will not understand the Bible. To them the Bible will be like any other book written by men, and to them it will be just like a history book, and to them it will be full of contradictions. This is HOW God wrote the Bible.

Matthew 13:10
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

Matthew 13:11
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

In other words, to some it is given to know the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to others it is not given. That is why the Lord Jesus spoke in parables.

Matthew 13:34
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:

Does God convey the idea to us that Jesus spoke many more times in parables than most churches want to admit He did?

And that is indeed true.

Mark 4:34
But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

Indeed it is true that Jesus spoke many more times in parables. And when we read the Bible we should be aware of this, so that we do not fall into the errors of legalists and the errors of Arminians who have degraded the precious Gospel of “Christ crucified”.

Is it possible that the Lord Jesus spoke in parables in the Gospel of Mark 16:15-20?

Indeed, when we read verses 17-18 we see that these verses do not convey the Gospel plainly, but if we look at them as parables they do speak of the Gospel, particularly in the area of evangelism.

Mark 16:17
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

Mark 16:18
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

However, verse 15 does not read as a parable. Verse 15 is a plain command to bring the Gospel to every one who wants to hear it. Obviously, the words “every creature” do not refer to every creature in the absolute sense. We do not preach the Gospel to cats and dogs, but we preach the Gospel to every one who is willing to listen to the words God has spoken. Verse 16 also is not written as a parable, but verse 16 is written in such a way that it can be easily misunderstood by those who read the Bible in a superficial way. Verse 16 is written in such a way that those “to whom it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven” will understand it, but those “to whom it is not given” will misinterpret it to their own destruction. At this point many of those who hear me will cry foul, and they will accuse me of propagating a gospel of Hyper-Calvinism.

But all I have done is simply read to you what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 13:11.

What is wrong with that?

My accusers have no answer for this. Let us now turn our eyes to Baptism. Verse 16 speaks of a required Baptism. Let us now delve into this subject. But first we need to realize that we cannot understand the real meaning of Baptism if we have not understood the real meaning of salvation. So let us first establish a few principles on the subject of salvation.



First Consider Salvation

In Ephesians 2:8 you find here the entire Gospel of salvation bottled up in one verse. This is the shortest, and the most elementary form of the Gospel. This is the simplest way I can present to you the entire Good News of salvation by grace alone, and the entire Gospel of Christ crucified, and the entire Gospel of salvation to the glory of our God who alone reigns sovereignly and supremely. All that is found here in one verse, verse 8, because the context wherein this verse is found elaborates on all that I have claimed it to be. Beginning at Verse 4.

Ephesians 2:4
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Ephesians 2:5
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Ephesians 2:6
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Ephesians 2:7
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:8
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Ephesians 2:9
Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others who never become saved, and even though we were by nature the enemies of God, He loved us and placed us in Christ, so that Christ could be our representative, so that we could be raised up together with Christ. And even though we wanted nothing to do with Christ, nevertheless the Lord Jesus Christ became our sin-bearer, and qualified to be our substitute before the throne of Justice, and qualified to be our sin-offering to atone for our sins, because He was the Lamb that God had provided for us for this purpose. What a grace.

What a gift, totally undeserving, and totally free, totally according to the good pleasure of His will, and not according to what we have done, nor was it according to what we were going to do. It was a free gift of grace, God’s gift to undeserving sinners. Because of our sins we were on a slippery slide into Hell, for Hell is what people deserve for insulting Almighty God. We needed to be saved from that predicament that all mankind is subject to. All mankind have sinned and therefore all mankind is on a slippery slide into Hell, “for the wages of sin is death”, and the death that God has in view as the payment for sin is not physical death, but is the second death of suffering for an eternity in the Lake of Fire.

Therefore God has placed us in Christ. He became our representative. But God has not done this for everyone in the world, for not everyone is saved. Not everyone seeks the glory of God. Not everyone loves the Christ of the Bible. Not everyone sees Him as the Judge of all the earth. For if we do seek the glory of God, if we do love Christ, and if we do look forward to His coming as the Judge of all the earth, we should know that all this does not come out of our own good heart, for that is not the nature of our heart. All this was put into our heart as a gift from God, together with the faith that also was a gift from God. Now, that is the message of Ephesians 2:8.

It is a message of the gift from God, because the Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins about 2000 years ago on the cross of Calvary and He sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts to make us aware of what He already has done for us, and to give us the faith to believe all this, because we read it here in the Bible.

Ephesians 1:4
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Ephesians 1:5
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

God says here that the Father has chosen us, and placed us in Christ before the foundation of the world. The Father predetermined our destiny and made us adopted children of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. All this was signed and sealed when Christ died on the cross. The entire transaction was confirmed and delivered in our lifetime when God the Holy Spirit made us born from above. And thus, to suggest that Christ’s atonement was incomplete and must be completed by us doing a work, such as submit ourselves to the ceremony of Baptism, is an insult to Christ, and is an insult to God Almighty. When God says that Christ has done all the work, and has completed the task fully on the cross without our presence, and without our approval, then who are we to protest this statement from God in the Bible, and to design our own plan of salvation whereby we must also do some work for our salvation. But this is what people have done with the words of Mark 16:16.



What Baptism?

When people are not good students of the Bible they assume that the words in our English bibles are truly the inspired Word of God. Some even dare to assume that the words in the NIV are truly the inspired Word of God. This is the pinnacle of stupidity.

What then did people consider the Word of God before the NIV came into existence?

Did the people have no Word of God before the KJV came into existence?

Of course they did, but the Word of God could only be read in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. But since most people do not read any Greek or Hebrew, a good English translation is an acceptable alternative. It is not perfect, but it is better than having no Bible, for if only the Greek and Hebrew versions were available then most people would have no Bible. But the KJV is an excellent Bible because it is an almost word by word translation. However, cults have come into existence because they adhered to the words in English, rather than search the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Great errors and heresies have been stamped out of the ground, simply because they did not search for the true meaning of a certain verse here and there. And so it is with Mark 16:16. And so it is with the concept of Baptism. When we read Mark 16:16, it seems to say: Mark 16:16 "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

And thus this verse portrays two contrasting sides. On the positive side are those who believe and are being baptized. On the negative side are those who do not believe and are not baptized.

But why does this verse not say that?

Why do those who are not baptized not present in this verse?

Is it not because we have totally misunderstood this verse and we have in our mind substituted the word “baptized” with the words “baptized in water”?

But does it really mean ”baptized in water”?

How many baptisms are there in the Bible?

It is true that the meaning of "Baptism" is indeed the washing away of our sins, but "Water Baptism" is not that. Therefore we must first come to an understanding of the word "Baptism". Allow me to list for you thirteen different kinds of Baptisms that appear in the Bible.

Mark 1:4 BAPTISM of repentance.

Mark 1:4 BAPTISM unto the remission of sins.

Matthew 3:11 BAPTISM with the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:11 BAPTISM with fire.

Matthew 3:16 BAPTISM of Jesus by John (Jesus had no sins).

Mark 10:38 BAPTISM relating to the Cross experience.

Matthew 28:19 BAPTISM into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 2:38 BAPTISM into the name of Jesus Christ.

Acts 10:48 BAPTISM in the name of the Lord.

Acts 19:5 BAPTISM in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Romans 6:3 BAPTISM into Jesus Christ.

Mark 16:16 BAPTISM that is required for salvation.

John 3:22,John 3:26, John 4:1-2 BAPTISM by the Apostles before Jesus went to the Cross.


How can we sort all of this out?

And if this was not enough to get people confused about the subject matter of Baptism, God says in:

Ephesians 4:5
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism”.

In other words, God says that there is only one Baptism that truly is the washing away of our sins. When we search out our concordance we find that there are six Greek words which have to do with Baptism or to Baptize, or to dip. Two of those have always been translated to dip, and are never used as synonyms for the washing away of our sins. And thus we can safely leave those two out of the present discussion. Of the four remaining Greek words one has always been used to identify John the Baptist, which should have been translated John the Baptizer, for that is the literal translation of his name. And thus the remaining three Greek words are actually in view in the present sermon. These are the Greek words with Strong’s Concordance numbers 907, and 908, and 909. Each one of these three words have been used in five different ways. These are:

1) The Old Testament ceremonial washings with water.

2) The Old Testament water baptism of John.

3) The New Testament water baptism commanded by Jesus.

4) The baptism of the Holy Spirit.

5) The baptism by fire.

And thus, since each one of these three words have been used in five different ways, we are back to the rule that the meaning of a certain Greek word depends on its context. The context should define what the meaning is of that word that has been translated to Baptize or Baptism. In general, the word to Baptize or a Baptism means to Wash or a Washing. Let us now focus on:



The Baptism by Fire

What is the meaning of the washing away of our sins?

When were our sins washed away?

Well, there was only one day in all of history that our sins were washed away, and that was when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary at about 3 O’clock in the afternoon. That was the only time in history that any sins were washed away.

Mark 10:35
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

Mark 10:36
And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

Mark 10:37
They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

Mark 10:38
But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

Mark 10:39
And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

Mark 10:40
But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Which Baptism is in view in verses 38 and 39?

The Lord Jesus is going to suffer on the cross, and He calls it a Baptism. We should read this as a washing. The Lord Jesus is going to wash away our sins that are cleaving to Him, and He is going to wash them away by enduring the penalty that was required for each of them. That penalty is the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. Only if Christ is God could He endure such a penalty without being consumed.

Therefore, which Baptism, or which washing is in view in this passage?

It is the Baptism by fire, or also called the washing by fire.

And what did the Lord Jesus promise James and John?

They too would be baptized by this fire.

Does this mean that James and John would be crucified, like the Lord Jesus?

Well we know that James was not crucified, he was beheaded. And John was not crucified either. John lived to a ripe old age, and instead of being crucified he was exiled to the island of Patmos. What then did the Lord Jesus mean when He said to them, “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized”.

How do we interpret these words?

Well, we have read earlier in Ephesians 1:4-5 that all the elect, all those who have been chosen by the Father, and that certainly includes James and John, were in Christ before the foundation of the world. If we were in Christ, then we were crucified with Christ, we died with Christ when He died, we were buried with Christ when He was buried, we were raised with Christ when He rose from the tomb, and we ascended with Christ into the heavenlies when He ascended into heaven.

Most certainly, these are things which the Bible affirms in several places. And thus, when Christ endured the penalty of Hell, and He came out at the other end of Hell, we too went through Hell with Him and in Him, since He is our representative in the spirit.

This is how “we indeed did drink of the cup that Christ drank of; and with the baptism that He was baptized withal we were baptized”, not physically, but in the spirit, because He is our representative in the spirit.

This is our Baptism by fire. That is why God will never send us to Hell again, because we have already been there. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”. James and John did suffer persecution, but these words that Jesus spoke in Mark 10:39 did not refer to their life of suffering. The context demands that these words apply to James and John being in Christ from before the foundation of the world.

But who then would sit on Christ’s right hand and on His left hand in glory?

Every believer, every saint, everyone whom the Father has chosen, is spiritually already seated with Him on His right hand and on His left, according to what we have read in Ephesians 2:6. And after He has raptured us up on the Last Day and has taken us into the glorious new creation, we will also physically be on His right hand and on His left.

What a glorious salvation God has in store for us!

But now we have to consider another kind of baptism



The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

John the Baptist preached before the Lord Jesus came on the scene. John said of Himself that he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. We should be aware that when we bring the true Gospel, we are like John crying in the wilderness of this world. Like John we will have very few on our side, for the true Gospel has never been very popular. And when John spoke of the Lord Jesus, he said,

Mark 1:7
And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.

Mark 1:8
I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

What Baptisms do we see in verse 8?

When John said, “I indeed have baptized you with water”, this was the Old Testament water baptism of John. John’s Baptism was a baptism of repentance, but it did not wash away any sins. John’s Baptism was only a sign pointing to a future Baptism that was a washing away of sins.

What is the second Baptism that we see in verse 8?

It is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When John said, “he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost”, John referred to the New Testament Baptism of the Holy Spirit in which the sinner is transformed into a saint by being born from above, and simultaneously he receives the mandate to propagate these words of the Gospel into all the world. In Matthew 3:11 we see the same event as in Mark 1:8, but here we see three baptisms simultaneously in the same verse. Again John the Baptist proclaims that his baptism is nothing compared with the Baptism that the Lord Jesus Christ was going to bring.

Matthew 3:11
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

What three Baptisms do we see in verse 11?

We see John’s baptism, we see the Lord’s Baptism with the Holy Spirit regenerating our soul, and we see our Baptism by fire on the cross. Now, which Baptism is in view when the Lord says in:

Ephesians 4:5
“One Lord, one faith, one Baptism”?

It is the Baptism that brings about the forgiveness of our sins. Only the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the forgiveness of our sins.

Now, let us ask ourselves, what is:



Water Baptism Commanded by Jesus

In Acts 8, Philip the deacon had been preaching among the Samaritans and many Samaritans believed. Even Simon the Sorcerer believed, because God performed many miracles by the hand of Philip.

Acts 8:12
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 8:13
Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts 8:14
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

Acts 8:15
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

Acts 8:16
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Acts 8:17
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:18
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Acts 8:19
Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:20
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Acts 8:21
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Acts 8:22
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

Acts 8:23
For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

What do we see here?

Simon the Sorcerer claimed to believe the gospel, and was baptized, and remained unsaved. These people were baptized in water in the Name of the Lord Jesus. This was the Baptism that the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples in Matthew 28:19, but it did not save anyone. Of course not! This was only a ceremony. A ceremony could not save anyone in the Old Testament, and neither can it save anyone in the New Testament dispensation. Only the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism whereby people are saved, because only the Baptism of the Holy Spirit changes a person from sinner to saint. Water baptism does not save anyone, and never has. Water baptism is only a sign of the washing away of sins that hopefully has, or will, be performed by God at a time and place when He wills, and not at a time when we subject ourselves to water baptism. And so, armed with this knowledge, we return to the problem of Mark 16:16, where apparently a baptism was required. Remember that this was the great commission to bring the Gospel into all the world.

Mark 16:16
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

If this Baptism is required, could this be water baptism?

Absolutely not!

This cannot be water baptism, since water baptism does not save anyone. This refers to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This refers to the Baptism that accompanies the forgiveness of sins. And that is why for those on the negative side this Baptism was not mentioned. Paraphrased Mark 16:16 simply says, “He that believes and has been born from above by the Holy Spirit has been saved, and those that do not believe shall be condemned”. And this is a truth that is repeated many times throughout the Bible.

And so, in conclusion, we can say that the integrity of salvation by grace has been preserved. No one can say that there is something we must do in order to be saved. And water baptism is not a requirement for salvation. Many people have been saved without ever having been baptized in water.
AMEN.

By Alfred Chompff

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