by Pastor Mark Downey
|Continued from Church of the Slam Dunk Part I|
We've been looking at the sacred cow of full body immersion baptism. Baptism is not really the best word, biblically speaking, for the practice of submerging oneself in a body of water. I think what has happened is cognitive dissonance; when two things are so similar that the original intent is ignored for something else. Our race has suffered from being shortchanged on important principles of biblical events such as the Flood account of Noah being borrowed by non-Adamic cultures. After awhile, every stranger has their 'flood' legend, and the presumption becomes that it was worldwide, rather than local. If baptism is something other than water immersion, then their New Testament exegesis of Old Testament types and shadows cannot be supported. They try to incorporate the parting of the Red Sea as some sort of baptizo on the Israelites, however, if you recall, it was Pharaoh's army that experienced the full body immersion. And it was not Noah and his family that received the full body immersion during the flood.The principle of the original has been lost or is not recognized. Just as God's chosen people don't know who they are, we have a situation today where the wrong people are calling themselves Israel. It behooves us, therefore, to identify the principles of baptism from Genesis to Revelation. That's why I did a 6 part series called the "Shining Light of Glory". By the way, at one point in baptism's history, starting around the second century, baptism was recognized as the divine light of scriptures. This baptismal washing was called Illumination, because they who learned from the Word of God were illuminated in their understanding. They described the soul as being illuminated by the Spirit as they stepped into the font, but not being immersed, rather a recital of scripture as water was poured over their head. Christian art ranging from the first to the tenth century represent the rite as standing in water while water is poured by hand or from a bowl.
Probably the worst injustice to our understanding of what constitutes baptism is the unilateral, arbitrarily narrow minded definition of just one single word: immersion. This not only reflects a willingness of active ignorance, but an agenda which will be explained later. After an examination of the etymology of the word baptism, as told by the immersionists (that its only meaning is "to make whelmed", which they conclude means "to cover with water" or "to immerse"), it is easily observable, even to the neophyte student of the Bible, that the immersionists are taking license of great latitude to argue their point. Could it be that we, as Bible believing Christians, can literally be whelmed, but water is only secondary in a figurative consideration? In trying to get a handle on this word whelmed, or even overwhelmed, I'm going to take a little latitude as well to see if we can't get our understanding of baptism to be more compatible with God's intentions.
In Webster's, whelm is defined as: 1) to turn upside down; cover or engulf; 2) to overcome in thought or feeling. Strong's also conveys the idea of covering and to clothe for the word overwhelmed. Don't we read in Acts 17:6 that Jason and his Christian brethren got the jews and lewd fellows of the baser sort in an uproar, accusing them of turning their world upside down? Do you think it was because of full body immersion, or that they were taking the Gospel of the Kingdom to be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations? The context, of course, is White nations. Wouldn't that about cover it? But what would all this missionary zeal engulf, or accomplish? Getting a lot of people wet, or showing the Way to overcome the world as did Jesus? Overcome means to subdue or conquer, as a means of success and victory. "This is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith" (I John 5:4).
Do we clothe ourselves in liquid righteousness, or are we clothed in white raiment of the overcomers (Rev. 3:5), anointing our eyes so that we may see (v. 18)? Do we see anything under water, or do we see with the Holy Spirit? What a shameful irony that there can be no light in the nakedness of the jewish mikveh while one's eyes are closed in darkness. Adam and Eve's nakedness (or ignorance) was covered with figurative leaves (or excuses), but their sins remained a transgression. Their fall from grace is our story is well, for all that is in the world for us to overcome. I will not belabor the etymological evidence any further than to say the Greek words baptizo and bapto, and their related words offer such a broad range of lingual applications that any rabbit trail investigation one wishes to pursue, it soon becomes self evident that an insistence upon a sole meaning of immersion is a losing proposition. In fact, it is not limited to immersion alone. This is important when understanding the use of water in the Old and New Testaments.
Ancient Israel had the laws of sanitation, not the law of immersion, which employed ablutions, or washing the body for common sense matters of health. Don't you think that God knew that for us to be compatible with each other, we should wash ourselves so that we don't stink? Even though some Christians get slam-dunked, they still have BO. It was the pagan world that performed ritual baptisms for the purpose of creating an overpowering, or overwhelming mental obsession; a preoccupation with fanaticism, so much so, that it was as if they were intoxicated. That's why they probably didn't notice all of the charismatic perspiration. Revelation 14:8 speaks of this obsessive-compulsive behavior with Babylon causing all nations to "drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." Wine itself is said to be baptized when water is added to it. Could it be that a cruel joke is being played on Christians with biblical baptism being watered down?
In the Septuagint, baptizo and bapto usually meant to dip or wash with water. This does not imply full body immersion in order to wash, but rather submerging one part of the body at a time. Another Greek witness outside the Massoretic text is found in the Apocrypha, where Judith 12:7 says, "She baptized (ebaptizeto) herself in the camp at the fountain of water." Using a little common sense, do you think Judith was submerging herself in the middle of the Assyrian encampment in their only source of water? Would you drink from such a baptismal pool? Most likely, the fountain of water was a well or natural spring where she was permitted at night, when the soldiers were sleeping, to go for baptism or, more simply put, to use the water to clean herself.
In the New Testament there are over 100 occurrences of various forms of the word baptism, and not one can be proven to denote water immersion. The best they can do to imply immersion is to take a passage out of context, like Acts 8:38, to suggest that the person going into the water is affected by the preposition 'into': "And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." Could it possibly be that the person being baptized stepped into the water about ankle deep, and then water was poured or sprinkled over their head? The word 'into' serves to show that other methods besides immersion could have been possible. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the Greek word 'eis' (Strong's #1519) can mean 'to' as well as 'into', which would render the verse even further from submergible water levels. They just went down to the water rather than into the water.
When Peter found a coin in the mouth of a fish, he was told to "go (eis) to the sea, and cast a hook." Surely he didn't go into the sea for some underwater fishing. But let's say that eis does suggest immersion. The problem is that this was done before the baptism. If baptism means immersion, they were already immersed; they were already baptized. If "going down into the water" means immersion, then the eunuch was immersed before he was immersed, which is a contradiction. The slam-dunkers must admit that "going down into the water" is not immersion, or that immersion is not baptism. Wasn't the act of baptizing performed after they had gone "down into the water"? It had to be.
If we can show that John's baptism of Christ was not immersion, then most reasonable thinking people would agree that all other mentioned baptisms were not full body immersions either. Why then, did Jesus stand ankle deep in the Jordan for John to baptize him? That's my premise. The purpose for which Christ was baptized was to be dedicated to His priestly office as the High Priest of God (Heb. 3:1). Jesus said, "all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me" (Luke 24:44). David says in Psalms 51:7 LXX, "thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be purified: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow." This has the overtones of racial purity and the restoration of separation that Christ was to bring. Most assuredly, John understood Israelite laws and customs of cleansing or baptizing that were separate and distinct from the pagan's religious activities.
The writers of the New Testament were well aware that the words 'baptize' and 'purify' were synonymous. All ceremonial laws of the Old Testament for cleansings and purifying required sprinkling or pouring; never immersion. In Numbers 19:13, a man was unclean or defiled (from a variety of sources: touching a dead body, or having a mongrel mentality, etc.) and separated from his community until "the water of separation" was sprinkled upon him. Baptism, then and at the time of Christ and now, conveys the principle of separation, i.e. light from dark, clean from unclean, good from evil. The words purge, cleanse, wash and sanctify are used interchangeably in the Bible. According to Numbers 8:15 and 21, the Levitical priests were purified, or baptized by cleansing and washing. When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John hesitated, probably being in awe of the moment, and the Lord reassured John that it was necessary to fulfill the right principles of the law. Jesus may have been reflecting upon Joshua 3:8, as John was about to deliver all authority of the government and the priesthood of old Israel to Him, we read, "thou shalt command the priests ... when ye are come to the brink of the water of the Jordan, ye shall stand still"; in other words, the edge or shore of the water. All lakes, rivers and streams are different. If immersion were meant in the Bible, it would have to explain to us to go a certain distance away from the shore to reach a certain depth, depending upon the nuances of different waters, in order to submerge the entire body. On the other hand, we don't have the problem of scriptures trying to articulate itself, when it harmonizes with the rest of the Bible.
After John sprinkled or poured water upon Jesus, after the manner of the law, it was over and Christ moved from the edge of the water to dry land and a voice from the sky said, "This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I have found delight" (Mt. 3:17). The very mentality of God from the heavens descended upon Jesus and whelmed Him. He was now divinely covered. It was not until He came out of the water that He was immersed with the shining light of glory.
If you are familiar enough with scriptures, you will know that water is a common metaphor for the Spirit of God. The two are mentioned together in several scriptures. Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom" (John 3:15). If being born of water proves immersion, context would dictate that being born of the Spirit is done by the same manner. If the word baptism depicts a mode, then the action of baptism by water should be identical to the action by baptism of the Spirit. The gist of Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:30, Acts 1:5 and 11:16 is an undeniable association that water and the Spirit have with each other. They all basically say that John indeed baptized with water, but that Christ shall baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Well how's that work, pastor? Let's read and find out.
"It shall come to pass in the last days, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on My servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days" (Acts 2:17-18). "Who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen (or alighted - Ferrar Fenton) upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the authority of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 18:15). "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message" (Acts 10:44). "And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, that the gift of the Holy Spirit had also been poured out upon the Gentiles (or nations)" (Acts 10:45). "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them in the same way as upon us at the beginning" (Acts 11:15). As you can see, no one went down into the Spirit; no one came up or out of the Spirit, and no one emerged from the Spirit. We do see, though, that the action of the Spirit is to fall or be poured, or even descend. Mt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22 and John 1:32 are all in the context of the water baptism of Jesus. Every verse testifies to the action and work of the Spirit descending upon Him. The work of the Spirit and water baptism are mentioned together for a reason; i.e. they are not mutually exclusive. They are connected as proof of a form of birth as Jesus referred to in John 3:5.
The manner in which John connects his water baptism with our Savior's baptism of the Holy Spirit is the point. To conclude that both were not administered in the same mode is without cause. Even as the disciples were not immersed into the Holy Spirit, but rather it descended or fell upon them, we can also conclude that John did not immerse the multitudes into the water, but that he poured or sprinkled water upon them. In the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the influence descended upon or was applied to the subjects. If there is any analogy to be seen in the baptism of John, the water or element was applied to the subject of baptism and not the subject to the element (full body immersion).
Didn't we read in Joshua 3:8 that when they came to the edge of the water at the Jordan, they stood still? How could Jesus have been immersed if He was standing and motionless? Are we to think that John did not fulfill the right principles of the law? Baptism is in such a mess today because of the discombobulated logic of desperate immersionists who have painted themselves into a corner advocating that baptism can mean nothing else. They are spiritually stillborn in the emulation of alien mysteries. They practice the preeminence of ritual, whereby their baptism is the hub from which all else becomes the spokes supporting the wheel. Priestcraft is a self-serving occupation that spawns many big wheels in the business of religion. A Christian does not need to be afraid of manmade regulations for self-verification. Imposing guilt upon nonconformists is not proving what the perfect will of God is. Only the moral and spiritual principles of God is what the Christian needs to concern himself with. We cover ourselves in faith by not being conformed to the world.
Most religious systems of today, including the Judeo churches and even the slithering denominational baggage that creeps into Christian Identity, are thoroughly indoctrinated and controlled by some form of priestcraft which rely upon a slam-dunk mentality. If the components of our Christian faith are dependent upon a central ritual, is it any wonder, then, that as a matter of people control, the churches changed the mode of baptism and, in the process, lost the meaning of baptism as well? Our food today is processed and we are worse off for it. We don't need no stinking process! We can eat an apple right off the tree, and we can have ritual water baptism without the process of ritual immersion. Slam-dunking out of a legalistic concern is a prescription to be sacramentally effective, and there you will find the hidden hand of magick and the mystery religions of the ancient pagan cults. The beast of the field can still make a basket and score points without the razzle dazzle, but the people love to have it so. We can obey the baptismal injunction without being pharasaically legalistic. We don't have to get ridiculously and piously dripping wet.
In order to understand the gradual corruption of baptism; how it was first applied to unsaved adults and later to infants, two factors must be grasped. The first was pagan superstition engulfing the churches which led to an all-controlling clergy. The second is the rise to power of the first state church and its bishops under the Roman emperor, Constantine in 312 AD, and its subsequent political/religious clones. Thousands of years before, the mystery religions attached idolatrous and supernatural properties to water. A question for the immersionists: If, as they admit, the water itself does nothing, what difference does it make? Pagan priests taught that certain waters contained the efficacy or effectiveness to cleanse religiously and save one from their sins. What's the difference in tweaking that a little to certain modes of water applications? The priestcraft would teach that certain waters had been impregnated with virtue from the good gods. They believed such waters had power and so, it naturally followed that the power to administer the ritual lay within the power structure of the priest and their covert initiates; perhaps today by unwitting dupes.
At the end of Pastor Pete Peters radio broadcast of 11/19/03, he got a phone call asking him if the person doing the baptizing has to be like us, and he replied that it doesn't matter if the person doing the baptizing (immersing) believes in certain things (like Identity): "They just gotta be Christians." Talk about the mindless blind leading the blind, huh? These pagan beliefs, which were slightly skewed from Christian orthodoxy, were rampant in the days of the early church, and for hundreds of years before and after. And they're right there in the churches today. In 117 AD, a bishop named Ignatius introduced the pagan concept of a mystical Christian baptism and was assimilated into the churches by a long succession of so-called 'church fathers'. They include some the biggest heretics in Christian history. They believed almost everything about anything. Every person who had been immersed by these water charmers were instilled with the notion that it would wash away their sins and save their soul. Pagan superstition was now in the church. The baptism of Christ had been modified. This post-apostolic era should not be confused with the apostolic age, in which true Christian baptism was understood in the New Testament.
When you hear references to full body immersion during these periods of the early church, it is either the jewish mikveh of judaism or the pagan trappings of the emerging priestcraft. There were thousands of early believers who abandoned the organized ritualistic church and became independent of the mysteries. They were known as 'separatists' and nonconformists. They held to the simplicity of the believer's baptism and the Lords Supper, rejecting the paganism of the bishops. Because of this, they were driven out of society, or hunted down and executed by the state religious system. Constantine furthered the processing of people with Christianity's expansion and growth as an accepted part of society with infant baptism, a ritual requiring no faith, whereby all members of the empire could be brought into line with the state church and thus, in support of the state. Nevertheless, the practice of a believer's baptism persisted and survived as an underground movement in various times and places throughout the Middle Ages.
Anybody who accuses me of saying they dunked babies is missing the point of mystical baptisms which sprinkled as well. The true Christians found that it was virtually impossible to reform the establishment churches dominated by the majority of people, including government leaders, who were not committed Christians and who were raised through pagan ritual in the church. What some people do not recognize is that God, in His infinite wisdom, chose something mankind could relate to in the physical act of permitting ones self to be baptized. Regardless of what mode of baptism you subscribe to, it is a work. Although we know that we are saved by grace and not works, the point is not that baptism is a work of man ... it is. The point is that baptism has been so thoroughly spiritualized with whatever doctrines, including the kitchen sink, that the physical aspect is not recognized (cognitive dissonance). In other words, all the mysterious word twisting to justify immersion, eclipses the act of baptism itself. This is not how our faith should be taught. "Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing (baptismos, Strong's #909) of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do" (Mark 7:7). Do you immerse your dishes in the kitchen sink? False teachings are usually sandwiched between the verities of truth, hiding to resonate plausibility. And the people love to have it so, not because it has the appearance of truth, but because of the priest, the magician or the ringmaster having you jump through hoops.
One of the Catholic saints who originally evangelized Britain had a convert and candidate for baptism, who was a tough old barbarian chieftain. In those days, the Roman church still baptized by immersion in streams and rivers. Because the stream beds were treacherous with white water conditions, the evangelist made it a practice to carry a sharp pointed staff, driving it solidly into the floor of the stream to steady themselves in the course of the baptism. The evangelist had just finished baptizing the chieftain, when to his horror, he saw red swirling up around his staff. He had driven it through the foot of the chief. Emotionally shaken, he asked him, "Why didn't you cry out or let me know?" And, the born-again, saved and forgiven, risen-with-Christ new member of the universalist church responded, "I thought it was part of the service."
Most people fail to appreciate the modern luxury we enjoy when it comes to running water, indoor plumbing, pipes, faucets or sewer lines, compared to 2000 years ago when people got their water from wells, streams, lakes, rivers and springs. Today, we don't need to go down to the river to baptize 100 or a couple thousand souls! Back then, the logistics of baptism were dependent upon water availability, usually having to go to the source itself, preferring clean water. Back then, people would avoid standing water, as it was usually stagnant and dirty. Running water was often called living water because it brought life. Living water is also a term for the Holy Spirit. Isn't it odd that if "much water" (as in John 3:23) is required for baptism by immersion, there was a convenient and practical source of much water close to populated areas where much preaching and scriptural activity was going on, and yet, there is not one case of anyone ever being immersed there? Not even a hint. That place is the Sea of Galilee. Could it be that it was not used, even though it had much more water than a little old spring, because it didn't have flowing waters as did other places where baptism by pouring did take place?
It is said that John baptized "in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there." Enon (Strong's #137) means a place of springs, located in Palestine. Enon signifies the fountain of On, a mere spring sending forth a rivulet. Such springs were numerous in that vicinity, as the expression 'hudria pollos' (rendered "much water") suggests many springs, rather than a sea or large lake. The logistics this area offered for baptism would have been a comfort and convenience sufficient to induce John to select that locality as the theater of his operations of which immersion would be an unreasonable and impracticable inference. The probability is that 'Bethabara' (John 1:28) was the house at which John made his home while baptizing, and that he selected this location for the convenient accommodation of the great numbers of people, baptizing them in the house, in the yard, in the neighborhood, in the wilderness or at, near to, or in the river as circumstances dictated. The situation was being in proximity to fresh water to perform the baptism by pouring, not accessing mass quantities of standing water.
There are gobs of arguments that can be leveled against full body immersion, and that's the purpose of this message. There are a myriad of peripheral issues which I did not address, such as the other baptisms mentioned in the Bible, salvation, the Holy Spirit, redemption, the church, grace, etc., but if God wants us to know the truth, He will compel our hearts to keep searching until we find it, even though we may pass through the baptism of fire along the way. This is our racial destiny; to live in the truth, in the spirit of God. And this truth makes us one. True baptism is salvation's symbol, if we are to understand the salvation explained in Luke 1:71, "We should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us." It is a lesson in racial purity, known as holiness, when we identify and separate ourselves from the stranger, the pagan gods and heathen ways.
In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, the heroes of faith all had one thing in common ... they were immersed in a Church of Christ ... ? Noooo. They all had confidence from God that they were right with Him and could overcome any adversity because they were covered by a covering that other races did not have. If a person is baptized in a way other than the principle of how Christ was covered, they glorify another gospel.
There was a negro preacher and he was baptizing a pickaninny and he dunked his head under water and brings him up and asked him, "ya'll believe?" And the boy says, "I all believe." The preacher did it again and asked him, "ya'll believe?" And the little boy, coughing and sputtering said, "I all believe." Once again, the preacher dunks him in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and asked him, "do ya'll believe?" And the gagging choking boy replied, "I all believe." At this point the preacher looked at him sternly and asked "what chu all believe in, son?" and the pickaninny exclaimed "I all believe yo tryin' to drown me!"
I believe Jesus walked on water and when Peter tried it, he almost drowned. He was almost totally immersed amidst the raging storm because doubt crept into his mind. It was Peter's lack of faith that he went down into the water. Surely Jesus knew what He was talking about, explaining which is the great commandment in the law (Mt. 22:36-40). It was a trick question and He answered them, saying ... it's full body immersion?? Noooo. He said love God and love your neighbor, meaning your own kind, separated from pagan mysteries. The first century apostolic church had love in their racial community. You were either part of that unity or you were out. As you may know, they adopted the fish symbol as their logos. What you may not know is that it was really a dolphin. It's doubtful that they knew that a dolphin is not really a fish. But they did identify with its behavior of joyfully leaping together out of the water. The reason dolphins do this is to get air. We, as God's Adamic creation are given the breath of life which fills us with God's Spirit. Jesus came that we might have life, not just from breathing air, but that we might have it more abundantly than anything in the animal kingdom, or anything that isn't Christian. The Babylonian horse thief comes to steal and destroy the life of a Christian.
When we acknowledge our life in Christ, it is a time of love and great joy, which the early church found in the one baptism, one faith, one Lord (Eph. 4:5). After this lengthy dissertation, you may be wondering what Kinsman Redeemer Ministries does for water baptism. As I mentioned earlier, this one baptism which we share, is merely a punctuation of something far greater. It is the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. The grammar is not complete or in force unless we abide with the rules of proper English. "For I tell you indeed, that until the heavens and the earth shall pass away, not one jot (period) or tittle (comma) shall disappear from the law, until all has been accomplished" (Mt. 5:18). If we have a candidate requesting baptism, without objection from our church members, we will conduct it like the Lord's Supper with witnesses. The person wishing to be baptized then presents their testimony of faith and, in effect, swears that they have surrendered their will and life over to the care of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. On this day, they publicly declare that they have made the decision to follow Jesus and to not forsake Him. Being the pastor, I would then take a small container of water and pour it over the head of the believer, and recite a prayer of thanksgiving.
Water baptism is like a special, one time prayer of physically pouring the symbolism of God's Word and Spirit on the believer. No points scored, and no magic. The life before us demands a continuation of discipline and discipleship. That's it! No frills, no spills. The simplicity of Christ is rendered. If one wishes to move into deeper waters, they do so at their own risk. Having exhausted my study, I am confident that I am right with the Lord. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'for thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Rom. 8:35-39).
I thank you for wading through this subject with me. I hope you see the Light. "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:6-9).