Joshua: Baptism Sunday

Brian Clark

Joshua: Baptism Sunday

A book from a few years ago is entitled, “Baptism, The Water That Divides”. It is a good treatment of baptism as it is practiced by different communions around the world. The question at the top is a good one and it deserves a good answer. A Biblical answer. Read the following very, very carefully.

Monday…Ullrich (Huldrich) Zwingli lived in the 16th century. He said that “all of the learned doctors before me were wrong” on the subject of baptism. He maintained that baptism was an outward symbol of inward grace. In other words, baptism was symbolic (only symbolic) of what had already taken place, that is salvation. That view is held by most American Christians and that view is wrong. Baptism is not just symbolic. Baptism is an occasion. On that occasion, something truly incredible happens. Paul says that at that moment, the Holy Spirit places us into the Body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:12,13. Did you catch that? Does that sound merely symbolic to you?

Tuesday…Are there exceptions to baptism? Can one be saved apart from baptism? Note: when we say ‘baptism’, we mean immersion since that is precisely what the Greek word means and it was the only type of baptism practiced by the church for centuries. Now, back to our question: are there exceptions? Yes, there are…but, and this is critical, we do not make rules/law by exceptions. Exceptions are just that, exceptions. Note these exceptions carefully: 1) Old Testament saints. These did not need Christian baptism because, like the thief on the cross, they lived and died under a completely different set of circumstances. See the book of Hebrews for a complete understanding of this as well as what Jesus said at the Last Supper. 2) One who has never heard the Gospel. This is tricky and we want to tread carefully. I believe in the ‘available light’ theory which simple states that one is responsible for what it is possible to know. For instance, a baby is not responsible. Neither is one who is mentally handicapped. However, one must take into consideration Romans 1:18-20 and especially Romans 2:14,15.

Wednesday…One who cannot be baptized may also be an exception…think of a car breaking down in a remote desert. The man in the car sincerely repents and cries out to God to save him and forgive him. Can he be saved? My opinion is, yes. Note: my opinion. I base this on several passages which speak of the incredible grace of God. I would never pin my hopes on this if I were not a Christian; I offer it only as an exception and an opinion. Google: “God’s grace” and see what you think.

Thursday/Friday…When Israel crossed the Jordan, they were ushered into a promised land. When we are baptized, we symbolically have ‘crossed over’ into a new life which contains a fabulous promise—Heaven! Want to have some fun with the Thursday/Friday segment of this article? Google the occasions in the New Testament where baptism is mentioned and you will get this clear picture: after one repents, Jesus is to be confessed as Lord and then the penitent is to be baptized by immersion in the name of ‘the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ It is insufficient to leave out, “for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit” when one is baptizing.

So….our conclusion: yes, one should be baptized!

by Dale Holzbaue