A LETTER TO JEB ABOUT BAPTISM

The way I see it Jeb (not his real name) is that reading the New Testament as a whole points me to following Jesus only and by the Holy Spirit which he has promised me.  This applies to all questions!

I have followed Jesus for decades. But following Jesus and obeying His commands is not just a matter of interpretation but sensitivity to the Holy Spirit who has been given freely to us. It involves taking into consideration what things have been revealed to each of us in our journey.

I was baptised as an infant and from early age till about 12 I knew His care in the midst of dysfunctional parenting and some dreadful childhood experiences. But I always wanted to serve Him and “extend the work of Christ and His kingdom” to the best of my ability as I was taught by ministers I respected. Then at age 20 my long search and constant prayer that had been wrung from my innermost person for 10 years was answered and I trusted in Christ through the witness of two East Africans and was overwhelmed by His great affection for me and my company, His amazing grace, His re-birthing me from above, His great and manifold promises, and more, plus the amazing realisation that I was known by Him and that I had come to know “the only true God and Jesus whom he sent”.

I thank God that he does not judge me for my omissions nor for anything that I am supposed to do. His Son’s death for me is sufficient.

Sometimes it takes a long while for things to be worked out and we grow in maturity gradually. Slowly. One of the many things to learn as I progressed was the meaning of baptism and the when? And by whom? And the how? –and I often sought answers from Baptist people. But I could not be convinced of the importance of “believers baptism” as they called it.

All the while I saw God do amazing things, experiencing the Baptiser in Holy Spirit, healings, deliverances, gifts of the Spirit etc. For most of this time I was not baptised in water but I knew I was baptised into His death and risen with Him and knew I was seated in the heavenly places in Christ! So the idea of being submerged in a water baptism after all this wonderful witness by the Holy Spirit in my spirit, did not seem all that vital.

However I came to believe by the Holy Spirit that it was time for me to be immersed as a believer. I have no problem with believers being baptised convinced by the same Holy Spirit. The concern I have is over those who preach that it is necessary to be baptised in water to be saved with the alternative being condemnation. This is simply untrue and patently legalistic and is often proclaimed by people who wish to purely maintain their own viewpoint reflecting a denomination of ‘party’ or a historical tradition, and worse—often by threats, warnings and authoritarianism.

Surely it is more important to be immersed into His death and resurrection and to know him in “the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death . . . . .” than to be dipped in water by some ranked pastor in a tank in a ‘service’ and then to show no fruits or maturity in the Christian walk.

To recognise a believer I don’t think many of us would check if he had been baptised in water but rather, what are the fruits of his life, what are the evidences of his faith.

Do you really think that by omitting water baptism leads to believers’ rejection by God–amounting to trillions of saints down the ages? Is such a warning written large in every book of the New Testament? No. Instead we constantly read it is by grace we are saved by faith—in hundreds of places, emphatically stressed by Paul and the other apostolic writers.

The implications of this hard and fast doctrinal emphasis by some is awful .

Are we going to be condemned over the adherence of a doctrine or not? If we are, then it’s doctrine that saves us and not the holy name and sacrifice of  Jesus. Or it’s what we do that saves us. Unthinkable!

Just imagine the famous Christian leader John Wesley fronting Jesus at the judgment—is he going to be shown the left hand door? Wesley  believed and taught tens of thousands that “the whole Church of Christ, for seventeen hundred years together, baptized infants.” So is Wesley who lived in the Spirit and turned the whole of England to Christ, is he going to be condemned?

Is that really what God our Father is like—a despot who watches to see if His children who receive His Son and then if they fail the baptism test , He sends them to everlasting punishment? NO. It’s all about relationship with Jesus and the Father and abiding in Christ, being in Him and He in us. It’s all about knowing Him.

The good news is so simple.

Does Jesus command us to be baptised anywhere in the new covenant scriptures?  You may quote to me the one at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.  But that is referring to much more than mere water. Much, much more.

Is Jesus recorded as water-baptising anyone? Were the 12 apostles thus baptised by Jesus?

Of course what our resurrected Lord did say to his disciples was “You will baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”, following John’s prophecy “I baptise in water but He will baptise in the Holy Spirit”.

Yes, I know the apostles regularly baptised believers in the name of Jesus. But do we do all of the things the apostles did or directed because we are afraid of losing our salvation? Let’s be balanced, please.

Paul insists on head-coverings worn for women who pray or prophesy and said that if anyone thinks otherwise he is being contentious. Do you insist on that? Do you insist that women ‘remain silent in the churches’? Do you follow Paul’s instructions about remaining single because ‘of the present distress’?

Oh Jeb!  It’s all about knowing Him, hearing Him. This is all about an intimate “I-thou” relationship. It’s the exchanged life as Hudson Taylor called it. It’s so simple but why do people make the Christian walk so complicated, so cluttered up with dogma that divides?

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