WAS JOHN’S BAPTISM
OF THE LAW OF MOSES?
"And this is the record of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not: but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they said unto him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esias." Here John pointed his interrogators to Isaiah 40:3 where the (then) unknown person of John was prophesied as the forerunner of the Messiah. John 1:19-23.
Some years ago my curiosity sent me on a fact-finding missionthrough the Scriptures to find out why the priests and Levites, who were sent to inquire of John, did not question John’s mode of baptism. His identity and his reason for baptizing were questioned but not the method he used to baptize. I finally had to conclude that John was practicing a baptism that was fully in step with the law of Moses. Had John’s baptism been contrary to Moses, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been obligated by law to stone him to death. Lev.26:14-20. And they would gladly have welcomed the opportunity, for John had said to them, possibly in the presence of a large body of citizens lining the shore, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" Matt. 3:7. Not exactly the politically correct thing to say to pompous, proud, self-righteous rulers. But, then, John hadn’t been schooled in the art of diplomacy; he just told it like it was and let the chips fall where they may.
After further study of baptism in general, including ceremonial cleansings in the old and new testament, and comparing Scripture with Scripture,(1 Cor. 2:13) it finally dawned on me that there is (are you ready for this) NO Scriptural authority for one person to immerse another in water. It is patently foreign to the Word of God. Yet immersion has been promoted and defended over the centuries, apparently by inflexible, hard-headed traditionalists (Col. 2:8), as if it was a proven mandate from God.
CHRIST’S BAPTISM AT THE HANDS OF JOHN
"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad Him, saying I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, suffer it to be so now [John] FOR THUS IT BECOMETH US TO FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS. Then he suffered Him.(Matt. 3:14-15)
I have a question, but I would first like us to take a quick look at Matt. 5:17-18. Christ is speaking, and He says to John: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets, I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Now recall the words of the Lord Jesus when He said to John, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness…" (Matt. 3:15) Christ came to fulfill the law and He completed the task in the river Jordan at the hands of John the Baptist.
My question is...
HOW COULD CHRIST HAVE FULFILLED ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS BY BEING BAPTIZED OF JOHN UNLESS JOHN’S BAPTISM WAS ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF MOSES, WHICH CHRIST CAME TO FULFILL?
Brethren, by baptizing Christ (and the multitudes) in a manner acceptable even to the nit-picking, fault-finding, legalistic, tradition-bound Sanhedrin– the religious, self-righteous think-tanks and enforcers of Judaism – John showed that his baptism was, indeed, a continuation of the law of Moses, which was by sprinkling, NOT immersion, for, as already noted, bodily immersion by another was unheard of under the Mosaic system. Compare immersion with "sprinkling the unclean" in Numbers 19:11-22, and other sprinkling references enclosed.
John’s baptism is referred to as a purification. (John 3:25-26) It would be interesting to know how many evangelical ministers, who think of themselves as spiritual descendants of John, refer to their baptismal services as purification rites? No doubt few, if any.
There are 53 references to "sprinkle…sprinkled…or sprinkleth" in the O.T.; 5 references to the same in the book of Hebrew; and one such in 1 Peter 1:2. But not once in the 30,442 verses in the Bible will one find immersion being practiced!.
A FRIENDLY CHALLENGE
Who can present Biblical evidencethat the mode of Baptism in the early church was water baptism by immersion. Who can present Scripture that com- mands Christians to go into all the world and immerse new converts in water?
"But Mr. Thompson, it says right here in Acts 8:38-39 that Philip and the eunuch ‘went down both into the water; and he [Philip] baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, etc.’ This has to be by immersion otherwise Philip could have taken a flask of water and sprinkled the eunuch. Doesn’t this prove immersion?" Sorry. All it proves is that both went down into the water, Philip baptized the eunuch, and both came out of the water. Centuries ago, "scholarly" speculation and guess-work took over at that junction and the doctrine of immersion was born.
My friend, try to answer these questionswith the evidence you’ve just presented. What was said by Philip? What mode of baptism was used (pouring, sprinkling, dipping or immersion? If by immersion, how many times was the eunuch immersed, and was it forward or backward?) Brethren, no Court in the land would rule in favor of immersion based on imaginary, unsubstantiated evidence. (Prov. 30:6)
Have you ever wondered why Paul, God’s chosen apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13; 15:15-16) gave no instructions in his 13 epistles, as to how the ritual of water baptism was to be performed? Yet we’re told that we Christians have been "furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:17) Additionally, have you ever wondered why no such instruction can be found in the epistles of James, Peter, John or Jude, or in any of the four gospels? Yet, we’re "furnished unto all good works!!!" (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Brethren, we will all do well to heed the warningsof the apostle Paul, who wrote: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ…For the time will come when they [professing Christians] will not endure sound doctrine but…they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." 2 Cor. 11:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4.
To cope with the ever-present danger of drifting from the "simplicity that is in Christ,God has given us our marching orders, such as 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 2:15, and the example of the Bereans, Acts 17:11.
Furthermore, we should be able to learn from the mistakes of others; the Galatians, for example, who sadly wilted before the enemy in their day. To them, Paul wrote(and beyond them to us) - "STAND FAST THEREFORE IN THE LIBERTY WHEREWITH CHRIST HATH MADE US FREE, AND BE NOT ENTANGLED AGAIN IN THE YOKE OF BONDAGE!" Gal. 5:1
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