Thursday, October 6, 2016

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:15-16 (KJV).

immersion-in-waterThe above passage is questioned as authentic due to its absence in earlier manuscripts.  Most translations have a simple footnote stating, “Verses 9-20 do not appear in two important Greek manuscripts.”  When this first appeared there were objections against this information.  The King James translators did not have access to the earlier manuscripts of the New Testament.  Consequently, there is the possibility that a scribe inserted the reading after verse 8, especially since it is not found in those earlier manuscripts.  If Jesus, Mark, nor the Spirit stated verses 9-20, do the other 26 books address the subject of verses 15-16?  Jesus did include it in Matthew 28:19-20.  Since he did, what the Spirit inspired others to say on the topic is important.

A believer recognizes the need to obey Jesus.  Since the Lord commanded baptism in Matthew 28, a follower cannot ignore, reject, or put it off.   Why would he?  When Peter was asked “What shall we do?” he answered the question, but did not immediately stop preaching (Acts 2:40-41).  Yet, immersion of the 3,000 did take place the same day.  How far into that day is unknown, although the responding crowd suggests an extended time to accomplish that joyful event.  It is noticeable that in spite of the number of responses and the logistics of accomplishing this monumental task, there is no suggestion to wait for a more opportune time.

When Saul of Tarsus was asked, “Why are you waiting,” what did he do (Acts 22:16 NKJV)?   He didn’t wait until the following week nor an Easter Sunday.  He did not need a vote by the church to validate his decision.  Baptism is not a church ordinance.  God adds, not man (Acts 2:41, 47).  What did the Ethiopian desire when Jesus was preached to him (Acts 8:36)?  Did any of them introduce negative arguments against the practice?  Yes, Paul and Silas allowed the jailer to tend to their wounds before immersing him and his family, but no one argued that it wasn’t necessary.  Why should we?

In Romans 6, Paul paints immersion in two ways.  First, a dead person is being buried (vv.  3-4).   In 59 years of preaching, I’ve buried only those who have died!  The person was “dead” because he had died to sin!  So a dead sinner is buried and raised from that death to life as a living saint.  Second, a person accompanies Jesus in his burial as one who has died to sin.  Jesus died to destroy sin and be a sin sacrifice for us.  We die to sin and are buried with him.  As Jesus was raised from death, so are we.   The resurrection of Jesus accomplished the purpose he came to fulfill.  We are raised with him to enjoy that new life which he offers.  Who would not want to experience what Jesus made possible by following that divine picture?  That’s what the 3,000, the eunuch, Paul, the Samaritans, Simon the Sorcerer, and the 12 at Ephesus did (Acts 19:1-7).  What would one have to change in order for baptism to NOT fit this divine illustration?

Sadly, there are extremes taught on this subject.  Extremes have a tendency to hide the truth.   Some leave the impression that we are saved by the act of getting wet rather than from the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood (1 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 10:22)!  Some quote the first eleven words of 1 Peter 3:21 KJV as if that is the complete context.  The impression left is that baptism is our savior.  Why is “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” ignored?  Without that resurrection, baptism would be nothing more than a Saturday night, fully dressed, soapless bath!  Others read Paul’s word “burial” but substitute another action which we would not engage in when burying a friend, neighbor, or loved one!

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”  (Acts 2:41 (NKJV)).

Immersion in water is the result of one’s faith and the desire to obey Jesus’ command as soon as possible.  Until he does, his faith has not been validated as a living one!