A few weeks ago I had a reader question the validity of water baptism, claiming that the only true baptism came through the washing of the word. Here is what he said.
The brazen laver exists no more as it’s function is over, nor does the baptism of John. Those who believe in it are clinging to the old covenant of rituals. We are now washed by the water of the word Ephesians 5:26 (KJV) ”That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,”. The brazen laver and the water it contained was a symbol of that which was to come -’The Word’. and the washing has to be by the word not by any water, even if it is in theJordan River.
I agree that baptism comes by way of integrating the word of God into ourselves by way of the Holy Spirit. Through this process our basic nature is conformed to God. However, I also believe that our physical actions can initiate the involvement of the Holy Spirit in support of our ministry. In this regard our action of being baptized in water is the outward demonstration that initiates the leading of the Holy Spirit in support of the ministry God has given us. My studies have revealed that each component of the Tabernacle (which was the place where God dwelt with His people) is prophetic of the ministry of Jesus. So, when the vale that separated man from the Holy of Holies (the place where the High Priest could talk directly with God) was torn in two, it effectively prophesied that all men now have the opportunity to change their nature to that of the High Priest, such that everyone is now capable of preparing themselves to entering into the most intimate relationship possible with God.
In a similar way, the Brazen Laver (that was used exclusively by the priest for washing in preparation for ministry) was fulfilled by Jesus in His Baptism by John in theJordan. This cornerstone of Christianity called baptism was given so that we could all partake of the ministry of Jesus. Now, to be perfectly clear, the ministry of Jesus is spiritual warfare, which is bringing down the evil spiritual powers that are often the source of the evil actions of men.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
The Gospels give us many specific examples of the spiritual warfare of Jesus. When we look at these examples it becomes evident that this warfare, all-though spiritual, required some form of physical action. It is as if the physical actions of Jesus triggered miraculous actions by the Holy Spirit. So for example, healing and other miracles were preceded by a touch or by spoken words.
So when Jesus declared, “I am the bread of Life” for example, His words were followed by the multiplication of the loaves for the multitudes that followed Him. Even the greatest spiritual warfare victory of all time involved the willing surrender of His body to torture and crucifixion. The miracles followed came in the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of His Holy Spirit that empowers our actions.
And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you (Luke 10: 18-19).
The reason I bring these subjects up is because water baptism can be the physical action necessary to initiate the action of the Holy Spirit to launch us into ministry. I might add that I have seen the baptisms and heard the testimonies of adults who have been baptized in water and they bare witness that the physical act of water baptism brought the power of the Holy Spirit upon them. Their baptism of the word was sealed by their physical act of water baptism. When I have questions of this nature I often look to the early church and the actions of Jesus and His immediate followers. Certainly, one can not go wrong by following their example. So, in regard to these questions I can state that disciples of Jesus baptized more people than John did, which indicates that Jesus encouraged them to do so.
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again toGalilee(John 4:1-3).
In addition, the grand commission Jesus gave us, tells us to go into the world baptizing all in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The question has to be; was this a call to simply pour water over people or to teach them about God and conforming to Him. I think the later. This is the washing in the word. Jesus gave us His life as a model for us to emulate. The words that we cleanse ourselves in are the Gospels. They tell us about the life and words of Jesus. Therefore, they are a reflection of the actions and words of Jesus, which are the waters that give us a perfect self reflection such that we see ourselves as God sees us.
Jesus had already washed in the word of God as is evident in the Gospels. He was also without sin and therefore did not require cleansing. So why did He do it?
He knew that those who followed Him would seek to do the things that He did and greater things as well. He also did it to fulfill the prophesy of the Tabernacle that required all priests to cleans themselves prior to ministry. This physical action is required for our ministries to be truly empowered from on high. These things are confirmed when we look to the early church we see Peter preaching and converting thousands with a message of a baptism that leads to receiving the Holy Spirit.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
Peter spoke under the power of the Holy Spirit and they were cut to the heart and sought the change Peter offered by way of water baptism. These actions launched a massive growth in Christianity. Why should we do differently?