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Baptism: A Spiritual Perspective

Our Freedom

There has been a lot of discussion and debate on the blogs I have visited lately, and no little heat generated, on both sides of the issue of baptismal regeneration. But, one thing that is obviously missing is the spiritual perspective and meaning of baptism.

Baptism is one of those topics that men love to argue about, but never come to a settled agreement on. The career of men on the face of the earth dictates that he win, by argument, or by force a rational and true definition of what God means in His Holy Scriptures, and I cannot exclude myself. It matters not a tittle that that same Holy Scripture says that God cannot be known that way, the arguments persist. Men of the flesh do what men of the flesh do: they jostle for position and pummel their opponents, so that they can secure for themselves that cherished place of peace and rest, but it is only in their minds; it is a restless rest that robs them of their peace, as long as there is conflict. Men love puzzles and mysteries also, and to decode or piece together the mystery of Godliness is the ultimate prize.

Men have never tired of asking “what must I do to be saved?” and they cherish the idea that they have discovered just what it is they must do, more than they cherish God’s free gift. But, the question is nonetheless valid, and the answer is very much related to baptism. Does baptism save us? The Bible says so. Baptism does save us, but it is not sprinkling, dipping, or dunking. We must confess, if we think that there is something that we can add to the finished work of Christ, that we are in error. Our salvation has absolutely nothing to do with anything that we can think, do, or manufacture, by way of the flesh, and Scripture make this abundantly clear. If the Bible says that “baptism saves us” we must not jump to the conclusion, that we participate in any way, in the work that only Christ could do. We must then admit that there is yet another greater, deeper, application of God’s word that is yet unrevealed to us. The flesh, in any capacity, is useless as a means of achieving God’s pardon. Likewise, baptism contributes nothing in our ability to achieve holiness, or to attain understanding. If we do not confess and believe that we have no part in our salvation, then we are deceived, deluded, and damned. If we fail to grasp the spiritual significance of baptism, we have simply, FAILED, for the significance is that it does save us, if we can comprehend that significance. It is that sign that we have died. My father is dead, and if at times I want to believe that he still lives, I only have to return to the graveyard and look at the tombstone to be brought back to my senses. That stone reminds me of the day that my father died. He is dead, and I am dead, and my baptism in water stands as my reminder, that I am really dead to this world’s enticements, when I become disillusioned by that same world and flesh.

There is a principle here that is not just for the New Testament. That principle stands as a monument in the lives of all those who have experienced spiritual life, going all the way back to Able. Also, baptism means nothing apart from the “cross.” The principle of the cross and the principle of baptism are inseparably linked “in Christ” and understood only in His act on Calvary. All of Scripture, from beginning to end, is an exposition of these two principles, for living life in the “good land.” Without a spiritual understanding of these, there is no “new birth.” There is no supernatural life, there is no deliverance, there is no “taking the Land,” there is no answer to Jabaz’s prayer of expanded boundaries, there is no chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews, there is no killing of Goliath, and there is no Christian life. What I am trying to communicate is that there is no life without death, and there is no new life without resurrection, and there is neither without the separation or crisis distinguished by baptism, which is our burial or immersion into the death of Jesus. Does baptism save us? You bet, as does the cross, because they are of the same stuff, the same fabric, both cut from the same piece of Spiritual material. Death and burial, if they are real, cannot be separated. We may choose to hide the body of a loved one in some secret place, a closet, then have a memorial service and say many good things about the person and return home to adorn the dead body. How long can this go on undetected? It won’t be long before our lie becomes apparent. Dead bodies must be buried. “A seed of corn must fall to the ground and die, or it remains alone.” Death, real death, is the key that unlocks the door to the “good land.” It is finding ourselves, reckoning ourselves, dead with Christ, daily, continually, always dying to life in this world, and then submitting ourselves for burial, as it were, to all that this world has to offer. “There is nothing in this world that I desire,” Christ has become my all-in-all, He is the very breath of the new life I live. “Know you not that you have died with Christ. How can you then live anymore in this world?” Being baptized is being immersed in all that Christ is and means, and that is salvation, is it not? And if we are not baptized in Christ then we have not the life of Christ.

The Way of Freedom

I have come to cast a fire on the earth; and I wish that it was already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I constrained until it shall be accomplished!” (Luke 12:49-50)

But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38)

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)

Here we have a few verses that are not normally considered in the discussion about baptism. I suppose the question is whether or not these verses are to be regarded when we discuss church order, liturgy, or rites. Many would say that there is no connection between what is being said here and the command to be baptized, like Acts 2:38 and others, but are they correct? Wouldn’t you agree that it is necessary to understand what Jesus and Paul and Peter are talking about before we move out into the water and turn something glorious into a mere church ordinance, form, or sacrament?

I have come to cast fire upon the earth…,” was the result of Jesus’ resurrection, and is one of the purposes of His coming in the first place. What was that fire? It was that thing that turned the world upside down. It was the heat generated by the withdrawal of many from this world’s system of doing things. It was the nonconformity of born twice saints submersing themselves in the New Order of the Spirit, which caused the spontaneous combustion of such things that were found to consist of “wood, hay, and stubble.” It is the apparent differentiating of what is of this world, including its religious organizations, from what is of Christ. The blazing of the Spirit, in the people of God, through the parched fields of this planet cannot prevent combustion. The fire that Jesus cast on the earth spread rapidly, and burns to this very day, whenever the Spirit is released. When the Spirit of God comes in contact with the spirit of this world a fire is sure to erupt, and it is fair to say, that where there is no fire, there is no Spirit. The inability to cause a fire should be of grave concern to those who profess to be Christian. The Spirit filled Christian does not have to go looking for kindling, it is all around them, just like the darkness, it is everywhere, the light is simply “light.”

But, “the light” is related to these individuals in a special way, death and resurrection. In this last sentence is the answer to the baptism of which Jesus was constrained to perform. In the previous verses of Luke 12 Jesus is looking at this crowd of followers and no doubt grieves as He gives advise about not being greedy, and worrying about food, and clothing, and the cares of this life. Then He breaks out at verse 49 about His purpose of burning things down, division, and baptism. “What are you saying Lord, what are you talking about,” you can almost hear His followers saying. Those people were in a hopeless position, and Jesus knew it, and with the prospect of His Passion just up ahead He was distressed, and He longed to have it past. The solution that those followers needed was locked away in that cross. In that passion was the “freedom” they needed to be free to understand what He had just told them. His baptism, and their baptism loomed heavy on the horizon, and it meant death for them all, the only way to life.

But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38)

This baptism of which He speaks is forever linked to the cross. It is the way, and the only way, but it divides and separates. It is a question of being delivered out of “the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:12,13). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” (1 Cor. 15:50). It matters not how well we perform our ceremonies of baptism, or how much we improve the flesh, or how culturally relevant we become, it is still the flesh, and flesh is flesh. Are you beginning to understand what Jesus is saying? Water baptism means nothing apart from Spirit life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal,” (John 12:24-25). We have our share in His cross, to “…fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” (Colossians 1:24). Does this sound like freedom? I suspect that it does not to many, but this is the way of the cross, and of life, and of freedom.

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)

There is so much more that could be said, but let me make some final points. Paul here is talking to all those who say that “baptism saves you.” Don’t you realize that it is about death, Christ’s death, and that we must make it our own. “Know ye not” that you have the curse of death on you, and that you will cross one threshold or the other, into life eternal, or into forever death? The tremendous power gained through Jesus’ baptism into death is equal to the immensity of the thing done on the cross. The effect of the cross in our lives should be commensurate with that.

Well, what have we finally come to in all of this, a better ceremony, a prettier certificate, a solemn event, or the understanding that we have to enter into a new understanding of the cross, the resurrection, and the burial of our Lord, Jesus? The cross is not just the preliminary event in our Christian life, “where we first saw the light;” that is but the threshold, the beginning. It is not here meant to deprive us of some worldly pleasures. It is not the thousand pound weight that crushes us. It is the way of freedom and life, no less than it was for Joshua, or Moses, or Paul, or Peter, or any of the saints of old, and we, as was our Lord, should be “constrained” till the freshness of this baptism is accomplished in us.

There is an old world and there is a new world, and in between the two there is a tomb. “I have been crucified with Christ,” but my burial is by consent. Our loved one may die and we may choose to believe that they are alive, and not bury them. It is only when we are convinced that they are, indeed, dead, that we commit them to the grave. My baptism confirms my death, and no memorial service will do, while I stash the body in the closet; our sins will find us out. We must die, and we must be buried. My baptism is my confirmation that I have been cut off from this world and a citizen of another world. Everything that is of the flesh, of this world, must die, all my talents and attributes, all my desires and longings, and all my selfishness and vanity, all my entertainment and gluttony, it is all of this flesh and world, and has been rejected by God, and must die. Only what is of faith and trust in Jesus will survive. Most new Christians come across the threshold pulling a wagon with all their flesh in tow. Their great desires to now use their talents to build something for God must be put on the altar along with their very “self,” then God will be heard to say that it is accepted, and the aroma sweet.

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7)

Steve Blackwell

7 replies on “Baptism: A Spiritual Perspective”

Prodigal,

I have to admit I am not a little ignorant of internet terms, and had to look up your use of the term “BOF,” and what I found was,

BoF or BOF is an acronym for:

* BEST of Friends, formed by J. Myers
* Buffer Overflow, a type of exploit for certain software bugs
* beginning of file, a computing term. See also end-of-file
* Basic oxygen furnace, a furnace used in steel production
* The chemical formula of boron oxyfluoride
* Body-on-frame, an automobile construction technique.
* British Orienteering Federation, the running sport involving navigation with a map and compass
* Board of Finance, a body that reviews local government budgets in USA
* Battalions of Fear, the debut album of Blind Guardian
* Balls of Fury, a comedy film
* Breath of Fire, a video game series
* Balls on Face, or Teabagging, a sexual act
* Baptism of fire (more commonly, Baptism by fire), a soldier’s first experience under fire in battle
* Best of Five, a question format commonly used in british medical exams
* Birds of a Feather (disambiguation)
* wikt:bof is also a French slang word.
* Boys Of Florida (Florida,NY) usually as a negative connotation
* Bit of Fun, a term for “just joking” and also an acronym for the website Bit of Fun
* Bangladesh Ordnance Factory

So I am assuming you mean “birds of a feather” and I agree.

My grandson just stuck his head into my office an informed me that we have to leave and go to Lafayette Indiana for him to partisipate in a homeschool basketball tournament. Must go .

Thanks again,

Steve

BOF,

I love the way you put that answer to “God is so hard”. Yes, Christ told us unless we hate our current lives we will not truly live. I thanks God I hate my life here, because it gives me hope in a btter one that He wil give to all those who love Him. I am not even close to dying to my “self”. I don’t know how I will ever get there, but like you I thank God that by His grace I haven’t turned away either. Satan tries very, very hard to get me to throw up my hands and say what’s the use? But, God is my high tower and I believe He will be my Friend because He said He would be. I need only keep leaning on and running to Him no matter what happens.

God bless and thanks for the comments.

Baptism of Fire,

What beautiful words.

That tree of knowledge has hid so much from those who now believe they have reached the pinnacle of truth through their own minds. I also shared in that, and thought that I understood. Only five years ago I was brought to the real light of the Gospel through a crisis that I now cherish as the threshold that I had to pass over to enter the way of the Cross. I have also learned that not many desire that way, which turns out to be the “offense” spoken of in Scripture. I would not trade that one “failure” for all the supposed successes; it was the key to my greatest success, life by faith.

Thank you again for those kind words, they are worth more than money, coming from one who understands.

Blessings friend,

Steve Blackwell

Thank you for this article. It is a light shining in cyberspace darkness.

25 years ago I don’t think I fully understood what those baptismal waters were all about. I was responding to Christ’s love. I didn’t really understand what He had done for me on Calvary that day. I didn’t know what “death to self” would mean experientially in the years to come. I don’t think many of us do. I knew Jesus loved me, I knew I once was blind but now I see. And I knew His seed had been planted in some well toiled soil. But when I went under those baptismal waters I made a covenant with Jesus and therefore with death.

Thank you for pointing out that this life we have in Christ cannot be intellectually attained. Not in bible colleges, not in schools of theology, not through extensive studying. And neither can it be attained through “trying hard”. It is a great evil to think we can ever improve on our enemy, the flesh, the very thing that Jesus nailed to that cross.

The cross is no easy matter. It was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. But to us who have been blessed to go this way it is our very life. Because in this cross, this way, we have found the one we truly desire— Jesus himself. The cross is liberty and friendship with Christ. He has no fellowship or friendship with our “flesh”. The Spirit cannot have fellowship with the “flesh”. What has light to do with darkness?

Someone just recently said to me, “God is so hard”. I replied “Yes, but only to our flesh because He knows our flesh is our greatest enemy.” Not the devil, not our persecutors, not our trials. But our flesh. And He has given us the solution to this problem of our putrid flesh and it is the cross. The cross and baptism are inseparable. Thank you for also pointing this out.

Many thought this was “a hard word” and turned away. Jesus asked them, “Will you turn away also?” They replied “Where else have we to go? Only you have life”

Am I “dead to self” yet? No, I am not. But by His great grace I have not turned away.

I have often pondered, what does a dead man look like? What does the fruit of a dead man look like …. it can only be Christ himself.

Dear brother Steve,

Your words are the same witness to me that mine are to you. We desperately want the truth but, like you have said, it’s not something we can approach like learning a trade. We don’t learn unless we are renewed in our hearts and minds.

I have felt less like a Christian these last few weeks than ever, but my faith is actually more solid. I am learning to not go by how I feel, but I believe the Spirit is teaching me that how I can know I am in Him is shown by what I want. “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” The best evidence that we are in Christ is that we are never satisfied with where we are in relation to Him.

Grace and peace to you brother! Keep the fires burning!
PK

Prodigal,

Greetings friend.

Jesus makes all the difference for all of us who hunger and thirst for more of Him. He breaks down all of our partitions and brings His body “together.”

We are incapable of approaching spiritual things as if it were a math problem. If I try harder, if I study more, I’ll learn it. If I learn it, then I’ll know it. If I know it, I’ll apply it. Now, I have it. But the spirit realm is not like that. We need to go back and extract the revelation without accommodating the flesh. “No man comes to the Father unless the Spirit draw him.” If the “light” in our head is going to come on it has to be the Spirit that does it. This wonderful truth has been hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to little children. We can have spiritual truth right in front of us and be incapable of seeing it. For this reason visionary men and women, men and women who have “seen” the truth know that they have received a gift and do not boast, but our humbled by His generosity.

If we could all see, but we do not all see? It is our job as servants to bring others into the light with meekness and gentleness, and you have exhibited those characteristics in a way that proves the earnest of our Lord’s Spirit.

The Lord is leading His flock into the bonds of true fellowship in these latter days, which I am convinced are the days of the Last spiritual feast, the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a wonderful time to be a child of God, and to experience His Spirit moving in and amongst His Church.

All truth already exist, but the Spirit brings it into remembrance. The Spirit will teach us everything we need to know, and it is not resembling the things I thought I knew, but it is very, very, good.

Jesus told the scripture experts of His day that, “You are in error because you don’t know the scriptures.” They ate, slept, and breathed the Scriptures, but they were blind to what those scriptures said. They “could not hear the voice of the prophets that were read every Sabbath.” A lifetime of study will not produce one revelation. You cannot study hard enough to get into the spirit realm. Christianity is not an academic exercise. The Gospel of the poor has become the gospel for the rich today. Intellectual endeavor is the way for the modern church. God is not a man that He can be approached as another man. I am finding out so much and I am continually amazed at the simplicity of it all; “from faith to faith;” “the just shall live by faith;” what a wonderfully simple thing. As we trust God He reveals Himself to us, a little here, and a little there.

Praise His Name, there is nothing else I want, but to see His face.

Blessings Prodigal,

Steve

Wow! Well said Steve.

I love your “body in a closet” similitude. And you really do explain what baptism into Christ is. It is not an external act, but an inward dying to self and being immersed by the Holy Spirit into the death and life of Christ. It is plain as day that we are dying outwardly every day. It is not so clear that many who have been baptized are dying “daily”. But that is what God wants to work in us: the death of our “self”. Unless we die to ourselves inwardly and spiritually, all outward actions are meaningless.

I have seen where people point back to when they were baptized as the point where they “crucified the ‘old man’ and were made alive in Christ”, but like you said, they drug that flesh into the water and brought it back out with them. It is the inner man that needs rebirth. Jesus said “the flesh is no help at all”. I want to be free of this sinful flesh, this body of death, and it is my inner man that longs for this release. Death to ‘self’ and then bodily death are both gateways to life in Christ Jesus.

Thanks again for your thoughts and your prayerful support!

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