Baptism Ė Part 2

Thanksgiving over water and the act of Baptism

Thanksgiving over the water The act of baptism with water and the Spirit
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Genesis 1:1-4, 9:8-11; 1 Peter 3:18-22, Thanksgiving over the water (1/31/18)

Immediately before the candidate is baptized, the pastor offers a prayer of thanksgiving over the water, celebrating Godís mighty acts of salvation through water. Hereís how it begins:

Exodus 14:1-29, Thanksgiving over the water (2/1/18)

Take special note in the story of the parting of the sea that not all of Godís acts of salvation through water are in water. The people of Israel stayed dry; only the Egyptians got wet.

The prayer of thanksgiving over the water continues:
Remember that we have already learned about the hardening of Pharaohís heart.

Joshua 3:1-17, Thanksgiving over the water (2/2/18)

God worked the same miracle to serve as Joshuaís credentials as he had for Moses. Just as the people of Israel came out of Egypt by passing through the sea dry shod, they entered the Promised Land by crossing the Jordon River dry shod. The prayer of thanksgiving over the water continues:

Luke 1:30-33; Matthew 1:18-21; Luke 2:7, Thanksgiving over the water (2/5/18)

The Gospels emphasize that Jesus was born, just as we are born, into a human family, from a human womb. (Possibly there is an implied "Unlike all these so-called gods that are always springing up from foreheads and sea foam and whatnot.") The prayer of thanksgiving over the water continues by reminding us of this mighty act of God:

Matthew 3:1-6, 13-17; Mark 1:1-8; Matthew 3:13-17, Thanksgiving over the water (2/6/18)

My Greek teacher pointed out at various times that there are several kinds of baptism (remember that Noah was baptized by staying dry! 1 Peter 3:20-21). He usually said there were nine, although Iíve never been able to come up with that exact number. I have done a few counts and gotten different numbers each time. I think once I found 13 types of baptism.

Johnís baptism was for repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Why, then, would Jesus be baptized? He himself said that it was "to fulfill all righteousness." John Wesley suggested that this was necessary for Jesus to "fully perform every part of the righteous law of God." Bathing is required in Leviticus 14-16, to achieve cleanness from a number of unclean conditions. In particular the high priest is required to bathe before a special sin offering, made once a year for himself and the whole people (Leviticus 16:1-34, especially vss. 4, 24, 26, 28); this may be what Jesus is talking about. Jesus later said that John was a prophet, and prophets often anointed those chosen by God for some special task.

Whatever Jesus is talking about, however, he insisted on being baptized by John, and we are baptized, too. The prayer of thanksgiving over the water reminds us that Jesus "was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit."

Mark 10:35-40, Thanksgiving over the water (2/7/18)

I Ė like the other disciples Ė have always thought that John and James had a lot of nerve to be asking for special places in Jesusí kingdom. Recently, though, I realized that Jesusí response is a trick question: "Can you be baptized like me?" Now think about this. The only baptism they ever saw Jesus go through was Johnís baptism in the River Jordan. They say, "Sure! No problem!" It turns out he was really talking about his baptism yet to come, the baptism of death and resurrection. The prayer of Thanksgiving over the water continues:

Mark 26:16-20; Matthew 28:16-17, Thanksgiving over the water (2/8/18)

The disciples had a hard time accepting that Jesus had risen from the dead. They had seen him die, and nobody had ever risen from the dead before, right? Well, except for Lazarus. And the little girl. And the son of the widow of Nain. And the little boy raised by God for Elijah. But basically nobody, so they didnít believe it. When he appeared to them all the first time, did he say, "Hey! Do you believe now that I did it?" No, he said, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."

Then he spent 40 days with them, and just about the last thing he told them, one of the few saying we have from this period, was, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

The prayer of thanksgiving over the water reminds us of this important point, in case we have forgotten:

Acts 8:26-39, 19:1-7, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/9/18)

John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize "with the Holy Spirit," and Jesus repeated this immediately before he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:4-8). A unnamed Ethiopian court official is the first recorded Gentile convert made by the disciples after the resurrection. Although the text doesnít specifically say that he was baptized "with" the Holy Spirit, it is clear that the Spirit was present from first to last. Johnís baptism in water for repentance was still popular, although whenever the apostles found out about it, they rebaptized in the name of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit. (Tongues are optional, however.) Having concluded the prayer of thanksgiving over the water, the pastor baptizes the candidate:

1 Corinthians 6:10-11, 12:12-13; Hebrews 10:22, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/12/18)

Pastor Craig often points out that there is nothing magical about the water, and remember that some baptisms in the Bible had nothing to do with water. Nevertheless, in some way that we donít totally understand, we are washed clean by the Spirit when we are baptized into the Church with water. We are born of water and of Spirit when we are baptized with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Acts 16:16-34, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/13/18)

A lot of things happen when Paul and his group get to Philippi, but the one Iím interested in today is the baptism of the jailer and his family. Paul and the others were arrested for trying to convert people to Christianity, an act that was illegal in the Roman Empire. (Itís illegal in some parts of the world today, by the way.) When they were freed by an earthquake, the jailer figured they had escaped, and he was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him. The jailer was so impressed by what Paul and his friends had that he wanted some of it, too. "What must I do to be saved?" he asks.

Now hereís the important point. Itís his belief that saves him (vs. 31), not baptism. He and his family are baptized to mark their belief. Earlier in the baptismal liturgy that we are studying, the candidates have professed their faith, and now the pastor baptizes them.

John 3:22-4:3, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/14/18)

The quotations in the book of John are a little tricky sometimes. Remember that Greek has an opening "quotation mark," but no closing quotation mark. Since John was writing after decades of thinking in the company of the Holy Spirit about what had happened, he is inclined to offer his own comments and explanations about an event or saying at the end of his record of it. Many translators think that vss. 31-34 are comments from John the disciple, who wrote the book; others think they were said by John the Baptist. Either way, "John" utters the words of God. Both John the Baptist and Jesus, or his followers, baptized.

Luke 3:15-18, 7:18-30, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/15/18)

John the Baptist made a clear distinction between his baptism, with water for repentance, and the baptism of the Christ, with the Holy Spirit and fire. John was a charismatic preacher, and hordes of people came to him for baptism. After he was thrown into prison, he needed some encouragement. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus was, indeed, the Christ.

Well, anybody can say he is the Christ! Many false messiahs had made this claim. Jesus answered by telling them to tell John what they had seen for themselves Ė namely, that the prophecies of Isaiah were being fulfilled (Isaiah 26:19, 35:5-6, 61:1). Not everybody can be the Christ! When Jesus goes on to praise John, the crowd is satisfied that they did the right thing in accepting his baptism.

Colossians 2:6-12, 3:1-14, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/16/18)

We have been baptized: excellent. Itís not enough to stop with baptism, however. We must now "walk in Christ," which means to do what Christ would do. Abandon the old life, put on a new life.

Joel 2:26-32, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/19/18)

The idea of the Spirit of God filling and changing Godís people is not new with Christians. Actually, itís much older than the prophet Joel, because we see it in the book of Judges, for example. Even so, Joelís words are probably the most memorable description of Godís Spirit working for our salvation.

Acts 2:14-33, 37-38, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/20/18)

I said yesterday that Joelís words are probably the most memorable description of Godís Spirit working for our salvation. Certainly when Peter stood up to preach on the day of Pentecost, Joelís words were the ones that came first into his mind. Peter makes a direct connection between the work of the Holy Spirit, repentance, salvation, and baptism.

2 Peter 1:1-10, The act of baptism with water and the Spirit (2/21/18)

Wow! Simon Peter, first among equals of the disciples, says that I have obtained a faith of equal standing with his! Thatís the Good News of Jesus Christ. Now the for bad news: Peter urges me to go on and become a much holier person than I am now. In the UMC baptismal liturgy, the pastor baptizes us, but then invokes the Holy Spirit to work within us to make us faithful disciples.

Matthew 5:14-16, 28:19-20 (2/22/18)

Our own baptism is no excuse for resting on our laurels. Once baptized, we need to work with the Spirit to become faithful disciples. Our personal salvation should make us more enthusiastic about the Gospel than ever before, and in particular, about taking it to the world.

John 3:1-8; Titus 3:5-7 (2/23/18)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, so he was a great believer in works righteousness Ė keep the Law and traditions, do the right thing, and you will be saved. Thereís really nothing there about the Spirit, and to the extent that he thought about the Spirit at all, he probably associated it with the prophets and judges of the distant past. On the other hand, he was open-minded enough to realize that Jesusí works showed that he came from God. Jesus starts from Nicodemusís acknowledgement of Jesusí credentials and tries to explain the Spirit to Nicodemus. Nicodemus never seems to understand it during this meeting, but later he defended Jesusí right to a hearing (John 7:50-51), and he participated in Jesusí burial (John 19:39). Probably he had given Jesusí words more thought in the meantime.

More of Baptism
Scriptures, Declarations and Responses
Thanksgiving over water and the act of Baptism
The ritual of Baptism and reaffirmations

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