History of baptism
Posted by adventbiblestudy on June 4, 2011
When did the concept of baptisms begin? Many people would think the answer is found in the New Testament, and it is. But it is not the answer most people would expect to find.
KJV 1 Corinthians 10:1. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2. And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3. And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4. And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul records a few interesting details about baptism. According to Paul, the nation of Israel was baptized in the sea, and under the cloud. Paul is referring to the crossing of the Red Sea. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Exodus 14:21-22.
Were they submerged in water? According to Moses, they crossed over on dry ground. How could Paul call this a baptism if they were on dry ground? Exodus 13:21-22 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. Paul is obviously referring to a spiritual baptism. To find the answer, we have to consider the following questions: Where did they come from? Where were they going?
Bible study consists of three levels of interpretation, the physical, moral and spiritual. An inductive study compares things which are the same, similar and related. Comparing physical things is often the first and easiest step. As physical details are studied, the Spirit will reveal spiritual details. In this case, we will consider another physical crossing of another physical body of water. Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. (12) Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. (13) And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap. Joshua 1:11, Joshua 3:11-13.
The Red Sea was the first crossing. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Exodus 14:27. They crossed the Red Sea to escape pursuit of the Egyptian army. Israel was leaving Egypt on a journey to the promised land. Now the spiritual lesson is beginning to unfold. Paul was comparing baptism to the spiritual journey from slavery, represented by physical Egypt, to the promised land.
The second physical crossing in this journey was the river Jordan. John performed his ministry at the Jordan river, preaching and baptizing many people.
KJV Mark 1:5. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
When considering the spiritual meaning of a text, or subject, you have to study all of the related texts. A study of the Jordan shows another story with spiritual implications. It was the scene of one of the few people healed of leprosy recorded in the Old Testament.
KJV 2 Kings 5:14. Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Who dipped himself in the Jordan seven times and why?
KJV 2 Kings 5:2. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
KJV 2 Kings 5:9. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
Naaman, a Syrian has the privilege of being one of three people recorded in the Old Testament, who had been healed of leprosy. Why was he healed in the Jordan, and what connection does that have to John’s baptism? When studying God’s word in a spiritual light, every detail matters. John baptized unto the remission of sins. Naaman was baptized as a treatment for leprosy. Moses provides the spiritual connection between the two in the book of the law.
Deuteronomy 24:7-9 If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you. (8) Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do. (9) Remember what the LORD thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt.
Moses compares slavery to leprosy. He actually goes a step further by reminding Israel to follow everything they had been taught. Moses is making the connection between sin, slavery, and leprosy. This is a common analogy, but one which not easily located, or proven using the scriptures. Bible study is not what it used to be. Many of the proof texts for such analogies has been lost, or forgotten. Remember when people could explain scripture with scripture? The Bible contains examples, and stories about this subject. The connections are made by studying, and comparing individual words referring to the same subject. There is another story about a man in a chariot being baptized to compare and consider.
KJV Acts 8:29. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31. And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37. And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
How much did this man know before being baptized? What prerequisites did Philip place on baptism? Too often we see problems arise when people begin reading more into scripture than what is actually there. More often then not, the time they spend trying to fit their own rules and regulations into scripture distracts them from the simple message. Like the message we find when we continue to study the Jordan. Naaman was not the only person baptized in the Jordan.
KJV Mark 1:9. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
This shows a simple, spiritual connection between Jesus, and His relationship with this world. Too often this world is only associated with sin. By being baptized in the Jordan, Jesus reminds us of His gift, the remission of sin. He also reminds us of the illustration between leprosy and sin, and how He has the power to cure, as well as forgive sins. This was repeated in His ministry on earth a number of times. By being baptized in the Jordan, Jesus reminds us, He walked the same path, saw the same trials, and suffered the same things we do. It reminds us, He has seen it all, and understands the temptations, and disappointments we go through. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan also reminds us how far His forgiveness reaches. Naaman was a Syrian. This illustrates the fact, forgiveness is not only for the Jew, but for the whole world.
Jesus was without sin. Some may ask, if baptism represents a remission of sins, why did He have to be baptized?
KJV Acts 11:16. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
Luke 3:21-22 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, (22) And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
It is difficult to explain these texts in a physical nature. It raises the question, did Jesus have the Spirit before He was baptized? It is much easier to understand these types of questions from a spiritual aspect. To understand the spiritual, we need to let scripture explain scripture.
KJV Galatians 3:27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
KJV John 3:5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
This is an important lesson on the subject of baptism, which spiritually represents the transformation from a sinful nature, to the nature of Christ, without sin. Paul compared baptism to a spiritual burial.
Romans 6:4-8 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (6) 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. (7) For he that is dead is freed from sin. (8) Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Now it is easy to see, John’s baptism, for the remission of sin represented the burial of our earthly ways, and the resurrection unto a new way of life, putting away the old way of sin, serving it no more. Coming up out of the water represents a walk in the newness of life. The Spirit landing on Jesus in a physical form spiritually represents our aid in that transformation. It is not only a spiritual transformation, but includes a physical change as well.
KJV Isaiah 44:3. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: