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Water Baptism


Water Baptism
By Andy Zoppelt

What it Means

"Primarily a frequentative form of bapto, 'to dip,' was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another, etc. Plutarchus uses it of the drawing of wine by dipping the cup into the bowl." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)

The Greek definition of Baptize, "Gk baptízein to immerse = bápt (ein) to bathe" (The Random House Webster's Dictionary)

The word baptize is actually a transliteration rather than a translation of the Greek word. So what you have is a word that has not been translated. The churches during time when many of our scriptures were being translated, were practicing the sprinkling of babies as the mode of baptism. Therefore the translators were prejudicially inclined to transliterate baptizo, hiding its real function and meaning. To translate baptizo into immersion would have been a direct challenge to the practice of sprinkling. The word given in the Greek dictionaries would be better translated immersion. In Luke 3:21, we read: "When all the people were being baptized…" In our scripture in Luke 3:21, it would have been better understood, if the word was translated rather than transliterated. Example: "the people were being immersed…" Translating would have ended the controversy as to mode.

Even today's modern translators continue with the transliteration of baptizo, probably for the same reasons they did in the past. Why do we therefore continue to transliterate baptizo? It must be that it would be offensive to the baby-sprinklers and therefore limiting the circulation.

Consider for a moment the great commission, as it is called, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…." (Matt 28:19-20)

It would be the Great Offense to many churches that practice sprinkling, commanding them not only to "make disciples," but also to immerse repentant sinners.

Purpose Of Baptism

Enough said about the mode of baptism, it is a point that I do not want to belabor. Let us now turn our attention to the "reason" for its practice, for this is at the very heart of the subject.

John the Baptist plainly stated the reason for his baptizing, "I baptize you with water for (Gr., eis, into or result of) repentance" (Mt 3:11).

This speaks of purpose, in other words, "I baptize you because or the result of repentance." Earlier in Matt 3:7,8, john was warning them "… to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."

Baptism was more than a "symbol" of salvation, it was a stand, a commitment, a seal of their repentance to follow Christ and His teaching. Repentance implies a total "turn" from the world, friends and family if need be. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)

When the first Jewish converts repented and were baptized, they were perceived and marked as being separated and living apart from their previous Jewish roots. Where in reality, they were reestablishing their roots. Baptism to the pharisaical Jews, was not perceived as a simple symbol, it was understood as a change in life and position that threatened and condemned the pharisaical Jewish way of living.

Today's baptisms are rarely followed by a radical change in life and position, so no real threat is imposed. We maintain much the same life and often have the same "besetting sins." If fact, because we are baptized without attending fruit, we are justly criticized for being hypocrites by the world. Our foundation of repentance and baptism is greatly flawed.

Salvation today is based on the sinner as to whether or not they will accept Jesus Christ. One would think that Jesus was on trial. This flaw is later evidenced when Jesus does not follow up on their selfish, self-centered demands, they get angry and leave. They kind of dis-receive Jesus, if you will. This only points to the problem of sending the wrong message to the sinner at the beginning.

The word "saints," means the "consecrated" or separate ones. It is similar in meaning to the word church, where church means the "called out" ones. Therefore repentance coupled with baptism is a stand that one is dead, separated from the world and called out to be a functioning part of the many-membered body of Christ. They are dead to their old lives and the world and called to an unselfish, loving and holy walk with the Lord. True repentance will produce the fruit of the Spirit that will be productive to the building up of the living body of Christ. Baptism is meant to represent our public confession and stand that we have come out of one life and resurrected into another. When we are baptized, we are making a statement of change, change of authority, change of friends and family if necessary, a turning away from sin and a clinging to Christ and His word. It should be like a wedding vow, "For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part." Baptism implies that you will no longer permit sin to have "dominion" over you. In Heb 12:4, it says, "In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." In other words, we have not kept our commitment to fight against sin at all cost. our baptism was therefore meaningless and without a real foundation in repentance. When we made a decision in baptism, we made the decision to forsake our old life with its sins and to rise up in a new life of obedience and commitment to Christ life.

our walk is the evidence of our fruit and not our talk.

Incidentally, "repent" is from the Greek word metanoia, which means a change in mental attitudes and conduct. It is a 180-degree change. In Romans 12:2, it says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo, we get our word metamorphosis from that word, a change in form) by the renewing of your mind (nous)."


Putting it all together, in repentance we make a complete change in the "direction" of our attitude and behavior, we are therefore changed personally as our minds and thinking are constantly renewed in its commitment to be committed to giving ourselves over to Christ. Old things are passing away as a result and all things are becoming new. Christ is in us and we are living by His life (not Satan's, excusing our sin through grace!). I live to please Him and obey Him. I keep His commandments, love the saints with a sacrificial love and function within the community of saints.

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