The TRUTH about BAPTISM -by Andrew Strom. Last week we looked at the fact that the Lord's Supper in the New Testament was not a mere "symbol" or ritual, but rather something loaded with spiritual 'LIFE'. It is the same with Water-Baptism. The fact is, there is NOTHING that Jesus instituted for the church that is a mere ritual or symbol. Everything REALLY means what it says. The rituals and 'outward shadows' were all left in the Old Testament. The New Testament is the REAL THING. So could it be that Baptism is far more important than we have been led to believe? The Baptist churches that I was brought up in basically teach that Baptism is an "outward symbol". And then there are the older denominations who do not even immerse people in water, but rather "sprinkle" babies who are too young to believe - and then claim that they are "baptized"! But the saddest thing of all is that there are multitudes of SPIRIT- FILLED believers in our churches today who have never bothered to be baptized by full immersion as a believer - because even the Spirit-filled churches often treat it as a mere "symbol" too. Many of these people speak in tongues and have truly been filled with the Holy Spirit. But as far as baptism goes, they figure they will "get around to it" someday, but there is no urgency. I believe this is very wrong. The fact is, when people do a study on Baptism in the Bible, they are often quite shocked by how strong the Scriptures are on this subject. If you get a Concordance and look up every verse containing the words 'baptism' or "baptized" then you will be amazed at what you find. As I said in another article, the first thing we notice is that people were always baptized STRAIGHT AWAY in the Bible. There was no waiting for six weeks of "instructional classes"! Even if it was the middle of the night, baptism was so important and urgent that it was done immediately. (See the Ethiopean Eunuch in Acts 8:35-39 and the Thyatiran Jailer in Acts 16:30-33 for good examples of this. -Actually, you should look at every conversion in Acts - chapter 2, ch 8, ch 10-11, ch 19, etc.) The other thing we notice about Baptism is what is SAID about it in Scripture. Mostly these are things that we would NEVER say about it today - lest we be called a "heretic". When you study these verses, you begin to actually see that Baptism could be a 'SALVATION' issue. -That is how strong these Scriptures are. People's salvation really could be at stake over this. If you don't believe me, take a look: The apostle Peter told the people to "Repent and be baptized" for the FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS (Acts 2:38). And Paul was told: "Arise and be baptized, and WASH AWAY YOUR SINS" (Acts 22:16). Jesus said: "He who believes and is baptized SHALL BE SAVED" (Mark 16:16). And the apostle Peter spoke of "baptism that now SAVES YOU ALSO" (1 Peter 2:20-21). But for those who think Baptism is a mere "symbol", there is more: Paul spoke of baptism as a 'circumcision' (a "cutting off") of the old sinful nature (Col 2:11-12). He also spoke of us being 'buried' with Christ in baptism (Rom 6, Col 2:12). In fact, Paul spends an entire chapter of Romans talking about what Baptism does for us! (Rom 6). He says: "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore BURIED WITH HIM through baptism into DEATH" (Rom 6:3-4). Do you know that the Bible NEVER speaks of Baptism as a mere "symbol"? I believe that from God's point of view, when someone is baptized there is something powerful that occurs in the spirit realm (which we can't see with our physical eyes). There is a literal "cutting off" of the old man. There is a burial of our past life into "death", so that we can live a new life in Jesus. All of this begs the question: "What about someone who has not been baptized?" Well, according to Scripture, you would have to say that their 'old man' has not been truly cut off or "buried with Christ" and therefore how can they live as a New Testament Christian? How can they say they have obeyed God and obeyed the gospel? How can they say they have had their sins fully "washed away" like Paul did in Acts? How can they say, "If we DIED with Him we shall also live with Him" when in fact they have not 'died' with Him at all? -They cannot answer any of these questions properly, and therefore you would have to say that through their disobedience to a basic COMMAND of Scripture they must surely be putting their very SALVATION at risk. -That is all I can conclude on the matter. And this does not just apply to a few people. It applies to vast multitudes of Spirit-filled believers who simply have not bothered to obey God in this vital area. Some churches are half-filled with such people. This is simply not good enough. We need to realize too that baptism in the Bible was always by "full immersion" in water. As every Greek student knows, the word 'baptizo' literally means "to dip or immerse". People are supposed to be "BURIED" under the water in baptism! That is what it is all about. You certainly can't be "buried" with sprinkling or 'pouring', can you? -These methods were invented by MAN over the centuries and they simply WILL NOT DO. So who is qualified to baptize? Well, as we saw last week, we are ALL "kings and priests" and there is absolutely nothing to prevent any Spirit-filled believer at all from baptizing someone else. In fact, Paul himself was baptized by a simple "disciple" named Ananias - not by some great leader. I was 20 years old (and certainly not "ordained" or anything) when God led me to begin baptizing people. It has truly been my joy to baptize dozens and dozens since then. One time when I was 23 I was in Fiji on a mission trip accompanying a more senior evangelist, and one night in Suva the Holy Spirit really began to move. There was no-one else to do it, so I was asked to walk down to the beach in the middle of the night (pitch-black) and baptize seven people in the ocean! I have to say, I have never felt closer to the book of Acts than I did that night. Another time I got a phonecall asking me to baptize about 23 people in a swimming pool. Again, it was a feeling uncannily like the Book of Acts that I had that day. This is exactly the kind of thing that we are missing in the church today! -The feeling that we "could be in Acts"! -We almost never feel that way. And yet most of the things we are missing are very simple. I tell you something - when "ordinary" Christians begin to do the simple things, like baptize people in bathtubs and rivers and break bread in their homes and move in the gifts of the Spirit - THAT is when the sense of "being in Acts" can sweep in again. And anything can happen. Christianity actually becomes EXCITING! Releasing the whole body to be involved in these things is very important. That is what "tomorrow's church" will be all about. So we need to start challenging our friends and ask them some simple questions that we have not "bothered" with before. Like- "Have you been baptized?".... "Would you like to be??" God bless you, my friends! Kindest regards in Christ, Andrew Strom.