THE CLOCK OF GOD, Part 4, MARK OF THE CROSS

Goodnews Christian Ministry

"Go all through the city, all through Jerusalem, and mark a cross on the foreheads of all who deplore and disapprove of the filth practised in it." ---Ezekiel 9:4

CHAPTER 12

A Baptism of Repentance



"...and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
All Judea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins."
Mark 1:4-5

_____________

It is written in the scriptures that God's covenant must be marked on the flesh of our body.

"My Covenant shall be marked on your bodies as a Covenant in perpetuity." (Gen.17:13).

This is a tenant of the Law, and we have seen by the action of the Holy Spirit that its directive applies even to Christians. Not by the knife of circumcision as was the case in the old covenant, but by a sprinkling of water in baptism.

John told those who came to him, "I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am...and he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matt.3:11).

From that day to this, baptism has been the introductory seal applied to all who gain entrance into the Christian community.

Paul taught that the water of this ritual touches us in Christ's death, bringing His death into our flesh. In this respect it mimics the Mosaic Law's essential rule regarding atonement -- that the cleansing of God requires a cutting away of the flesh.

Influenced by Jewish scholars (who focus on bodily cleansing) many Christian educators have proposed that Christ's ritual of baptism by water stems from the lustral purifications practiced by members of the Essene cult. This proposal, wrong to the core, shows the immense paucity of understanding Bible scholars often have for the genius of God.

The Essene ritual was all about bodily purification -- a Jewish obsession in the first century. Because the winds blew dust and sand around every day, and because members of this sect were perpetually coming into contact with unclean people in the market places and streets of their towns and cities, the cleansings had to be repeated constantly.

Jesus, on the other hand, had no concern for the flesh. He had no concern for bodily cleansing. What Jesus offered was the purification of the soul through forgiveness. One time for all time. Male and female alike.

The Christian rite of baptism has nothing to do with bodily purification; instead, it has supersceded the Jewish initiation ritual of circumcision -- the cutting off of the flesh required by the covenant.

It was the will of God that membership in Christ extend far beyond the infant male Jewish community.

With baptism, God extended that membership to the whole world -- to males, females, babies and the aged alike -- instantly and without bloodshed. The Holy Spirit equalized the planetary community and forever destroyed the scalpel that locked so much of the society out of salvation's membership.

With water, God kept the Law, marking the covenant on the flesh. And He extended that mark to all flesh, not just Jewish male flesh.


The Cleansing of the Soul

While the first stipulation of the Law requires a mark on our physical bodies, a second directive of the Law concerning atonement is that God's forgiveness requires our repentance. This second condition is spiritual.

"If they sin against you -- for there is no man who does not sin -- and you are angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they are led away captive to a land far or near, "

"if in that land of their exile they come to themselves and repent, and in the country of their captivity they entreat you saying, 'We have sinned, we have acted perversely and wickedly', "

"and if they turn again to you with all their heart and soul in the country of their captivity...and pray, turning towards the land you gave their ancestors, towards the city you have chosen, and toward the Temple...hear their prayer and their entreaty, uphold their cause, and forgive your people the sins they have committed against you."
(2 Chron.36-39).

This was Solomon's entreaty to God when he dedicated the Hebrew temple.

That very night God appeared to Solomon and answered his plea. "...if my people who bear my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, I myself will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land." (2 Chron.7:14).

From that day on (from the moment Solomon dedicated the temple) confession of sins and repentance became essential elements of the Hebrew religion.

Inherent in Solomon's words is a prophecy of the destruction of the Promised Land, the captivity of the House of Israel in Babylon, and the mechanics of the rescue which would reverse all this.

Jesus, when He came to facilitate that rescue, did not do away with the elements of Solomon's petition to God. He kept the template of this petition, but He redefined the meaning of the "land", the "city" and the "Temple".

The land of promise, Jesus said, was the kingdom of heaven. The city of Jerusalem was the holy city hidden within that kingdom, and the Temple, John revealed, were Jesus and God themselves (Rev.21:22).

The rescue did not involve a physical journey around the world. It is a spiritual conversion from wickedness into the righteousness of God -- a journey that must begin on Solomon's terms -- in the humility of contrition and repentance.


Baptism of the Spirit

That conversion is manifested by the entrance of the Holy Spirit into a person, and is called 'being born-again' (John 3:1-8). Always occuring in the astonishment of the discovery that Jesus is God, it comes webbed in repentance and the vow to obey God. It is the second of the three baptisms in Christ revealed by the Gospel. (Mt.3:11).

The Holy Spirit does not need a sacrament (a law) to enter into us. The entrance of the Spirit is completely spiritual and occurs entirely through faith. More than that, as we will see later, the three baptisms of Christ: water, Spirit and fire, often come at different times.

In some people the indwelling Spirit causes them to speak in tongues, but usually the presence of the Spirit is much more subtle.

We can always be certain that the Holy Spirit is inside us if we are trying to follow Jesus' teachings, because the essential function of the Spirit is to lead us in His footsteps.


His Death Becomes Our Own

We give up this body by accepting the mark of His death on ourselves by being baptised and we gain a new one through faith and repentance. In other words, two actions are occuring simultaneously -- the physical loss of our fleshly body and the spiritual acquisition of another.

The water that touches our body is invisibly cloaked in the blood of Christ. When we are touched in it, His death becomes our own.

This is how God made us participants in Christ's crucifixion.

Paul said that God allowed Jesus to be taken out of the city when He was crucified in order that we might know that His sacrifice was taking us out of the penalty and terms of the Law.

His leaving sinful Jerusalem, then, and being transported out to Calvary Hill was metaphoric.

By marking us through the Law, God has freed us from bondage to this sinful world and made a way for us to leave it legally, so that, in leaving, we do not have to be fugitives from the law.

"Go away, go away, leave that place, touch nothing unclean. Get out of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. But you are not to hurry away, you are not to leave like fugitives. No the Lord will go in front of you, and the God of Israel will be your rear-guard." (Is.52:11-12).


Baptism by Water is a Legal Act

Legally separating us from the Law, baptism is the last act of the Law on us. It is the one booth we must stop at on our way out of the prison of Satan because it provides the lawful seal that legally unchains us from the Law's power.

This is why Paul said, "Through the Law I am dead to the Law, so that now I can live for God. I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now, not with my own life, but with the life of Christ who lives in me." (Gal.2:19).

Baptism by water, therefore, does not cleanse us. It unchains us. It is the legal stamp that takes us out of our legal bondage to the old covenant.

So while it is in faith and spirit that we come to the life Jesus offered, it is in the flesh that we lose our bondage to the Law.

By his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus has offered atonement to every person on earth for sin. It is an atonement that frees us from the Law as soon as we publically declare our intent to follow Christ.

The Law itself has defined the format our legal declaration must take.

We must accept the blood He shed for us in the same way that it was given -- physically. Baptism is that legal acceptance -- it is the covenant physically marked on our bodies in accordance with the rules of scripture.

That is why the new covenant is marked on our flesh with the water of baptism (Gen.17:13; 1 Peter 3:21), under conditions of deep repentance (Ps.32:5; Chron.7:14).

When the mark of the cross touches our bodies with water and physically anoints us in God's new covenant, at that moment, Paul said, His death becomes our own, legally.

It is legal because the mark is administered through the Law -- by the priests and ministers of church theology. (Remember, in Christ every Christian on earth has been made a high priest in the lineage of Peter).


Blood Sacrifice Brought to an End

Since the earliest days of man's creation, humankind has been fascinated and obsessed with blood sacrifice to God. Even the Aztecs and Inca's in the new world, outside of contact with the peoples across the ocean conducted these bloody rituals.

There is something innate in man to drive him so universally to this kind of worship. And it is in keeping with this universal desire that God has instrumented His merciful formula for atonement.

God addressed this need in the very beginning, with Abraham.

He led Abraham to the rock of Mt. Moriah with his son, Issac, in tow and put it in Abraham's mind to lift a blade against the boy as a sacrifice. Abraham, full of faith, complied. But God stopped him.

Human sacrifice will not be a part of Hebrew worship. Instead, said God, I have supplied a substitute. Above Abraham's head there was a ram entangled in the brush.

Moses incorporated this event into His Law, and thereafter, for the guardian of the Law, the substitute became all the helpless animals of later Hebrew sacrifice.

But God was not thinking of animals when He appeared to Abraham. He was referencing His own Son. His Son was to be the substitute.

The being about to be sacrificed was ourselves. We are born on this planet under the penalty of the Law and therefore under a sentence of death. So we are like Issac, about to be struck by the knife of God's Law because Satan has contaminated us with his fatal sin.

But God has stopped the knife. He provided a substitute in the form of His own Son, Jesus Christ, who went to the cross in our place. He died there so that we do not have to. And so we have been redeemed by a blood sacrifice.

This answers two of the deepest mysteries in the Christian covenant.

Why did a God of pure and infinite love purposely cause His Son to be the subject of intense torture and a violent death on a cross; and why, when everything that Jesus taught about the love of God being spiritual, do we have to come into that love through a physical and legal action marked on our human flesh?

The major reason lies in God's ordination that the Law of Moses be kept in precise terms until its entire purpose is achieved. (Mt.5:17-19). Because God in His infinite goodness is perfectly obedient to the Law, Jesus could overcome the Law only by completing it.

That is why He followed the Mosaic template so closely.

And because He has tempered the Law with mercy, He has made the Law not only perfect but ultimately righteous as well.

Another reason concerns humanity's innate obsession for blood sacrifice. In order to change that obsession, God had to address it directly.

All humanity is born into the captivity of sin and for this reason stands condemned to death by the dictates of God's Law. Jesus set us free from the bondage of this Law. Yet he did it in a very legal way -- in a way that did not violate the Mosaic code.

That is what the crucifixion is -- it is a legal payment made in our name. And baptism by water is our own legal public vow to accept His payment as our own.

The water in baptism duplicates the nails and blood of the cross by physically touching our bodies in Christ's sacrifice.


As a Just Judge God Must Keep the Law

In His power and authority God could have said that the rules of Moses were too violent, and swept away the decree of the Law. But God is ultimate justice. It is judges among men that bend the rules and show partiality to close friends.

God does not bend the rules for anyone.

If He did, His justice would not be perfect.

And as far as the violence itself is concerned, it's very viciousness deeply underscores the intense contrast between good and evil. Wickedness is not innocuous or benign.

Unless counteracted by Jesus, sin kills everyone it touches.

So that we might see the reality of this truth, God has constructed both a creation and a salvation to reflect it.

In that reality, the wicked strike out continuously at the people who love God and His peace, but their deadly and slanderous daggers have no impact on the life that lies within the flesh of those they try to harm.

Instead, they kill themselves, because this world is a test, and anyone who chooses to pursue violence, strike only themselves and fail the exam.

We were all born in this world condemned to eternal death because of Satan. Our choice in this life is one of finding a way out of this hell's destiny, not of being thrown into it.

Jesus came to offer us redemption from a sentence already decreed. He brought us a way of escape from a sentence already passed. Because of Satan every person on earth is going to die -- everyone who refuses to accept God's only path away from that fatal verdict.

When Christ appeared, all mankind sat on death row awaiting the execution of the Law's decree. He came to us as the governor's Son, in His hand a pardon from the sentence and freedom from the prison.

Those who choose to follow the Way of Life specified by Jesus receive pardon from the Law's decree and are transported by faith out of death's prison into reconciliation with God, bypassing the preordained execution.

Everyone who rejects Christ's divine offer and chooses to follow Babylon's way of life, remains attached to the fatal destiny of the place where they were born. They remain locked in Satan's bondage and doomed to share in Satan's destiny.

So the only offer is life. Jesus brought us a chance to escape -- a chance to live forever.

Jesus did not want to go to the cross. So that we would understand this, he asked God to remove the 'cup' of the cross from him if it were at all possible. God did not; therefore it wasn't.

God was showing us that the Law was so powerful and binding that even He could not spare His Son and still rescue us from the penalty it imposed.

Because God had given His oath of authority to Moses, He was bound by the rules that were set down by Moses. That made everything that Jesus did legal even by this world's standards.

Jesus told his disciples that the things he did were done so that the Law and the Prophets would be fulfilled. He said, "scripture cannot be rejected". (Jn.10:35).

By keeping scripture on purpose, Jesus made the prophecies self-fulfilling, showing that he was not completing prophecy, but obeying the Law.

On the surface it seemed like prophecy because who in the world was inspired enough to sift through a sealed scripture, written in academic terms whose secret meanings eluded even Judaism's finest scholars, and not only decipher it, but understand it so completely that He could fulfill its terms?

"...So will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him; for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before: 'Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has the power of God been revealed?'

"Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground. Without beauty, without majesty (we saw him), no looks to attract our eyes...he was despised and we took no account of him."

"And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried. But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low. Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed."
(Is.53:1-5).

If God had Jesus go to these lengths to see that the words of the Old Testament were precisely fuflfilled, there can be no doubt the lengths to which He will go to see that all the words of the New Testament will be kept as well.

Jesus kept scripture because it was the law, and as such it was binding on both man and God. And by keeping it, He led us out of it.

That is how we gained our freedom.


Those Who Refuse Baptism Block God's Offer

If the Law was so powerful that Jesus had to die on the cross because of it, then it stands to reason that we will remain completely bound in it if we do not accept the baptism of water that Jesus offered us as our only way out of it.

It was not enough for Jesus simply go to the cross in spirit, and it is not enough for us to be baptised only in spirit.

His death was physical and it has to touch us physically in order for our chains of bondage to be broken.

Jesus had himself baptised as an example for us to follow even though John said that He did not need it. (Mt.3:13).

Jesus did not need baptism because he had no sin in Him. "Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin, and that in him there is no sin..." (1 John 3:5).

So that he could show us how completely locked into the Law we are if we refuse to be baptised, Jesus said that the pharisees blocked the salvation that God had in mind for them by refusing to receive John's anointing:

"All the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God's plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him, the Pharisees and the lawyers thwarted what God had in mind for them." (Luke 7:29-30).

This passage of scripture says that they thwarted God's purpose for them by refusing to be baptised.

The meaning is uncontestable. The Gospel shows that it is God's intention to offer salvation as a free gift to anyone who wants it, even to people like the Pharisees, but in order for them to receive that salvation, they have to accept it legally not just spiritually.

Until we have been baptised with water we cannot say that Jesus died for us personally.


Baptism of Fire

Baptism does not assure us of salvation, but it imparts a grace around us that keeps us safe from spiritual harm, allowing us both freedom and time to make the journey Jesus marked out for us.

Just as the Israelites had to follow Moses through the wilderness of Sinai on a long journey towards the 'Promised Land', so do we have to follow the path that Jesus provided for us in the form of his words.

This journey, because it constantly pits us against the teachings and behavior of an unholy world that is hostile to the commandments of the Gospel is called a passage through fire.

It, too is called baptism and is the third and last in the divine series of baptisms required to bring us to salvation.

When Isaiah commanded us to 'leave that place' (Is.52:11), it was this pilgrimage that his words referred to. This journey is our escape from Babylon. (Jer.50:8).

The first baptism, that of water, imparts a grace of time, allowing us to grow into God's will by progress. It provides us a 'time of mercy' to make the journey through our baptism of trial by fire.

Under Hebrew law there was no grace of time. Every stumble condemned the one who fell to death. In Christ, however, progress itself is perfection. "Only the man who makes progress, as the blameless do, can be my servant." (Ps.101:2,6)

The time of God's grace is extended through repentance, but cut short by apostasy.

Therefore, God's grace is made variable by our own actions. "But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruits...yes, even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire." (Luke 3:8-9).


Peter's Decree

When asked what was necessary for salvation in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter answered that anyone who wants to come to Jesus must be baptised in His name for the forgiveness of their sins.

"You must repent," Peter answered "and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38).

This proves that even though we spiritually repent in deep faith, we cannot be saved unless we have been physically unchained from the Law which condemns us.

Even Jesus, himself, declared baptism essential. "Unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5).

Because there is an incident in the Bible where salvation occured outside of baptism, some have questioned this need. When Christ was crucified, one of the thieves who was on the cross next to him asked Jesus if he could go into heaven with him when he died. Jesus agreed.

Since the thief had apparently not been baptised in Christ's name before his crucifixion, some have argued that this proves that baptism with water is not essential to salvation.

There is something we need to remember here. According to Paul, baptism with water is our share of Jesus' crucifixion. It is the way we share in His death.

The thief shared in Christ's actual crucifixion, right next to him at the very same moment. He shared in Jesus' death in a very real way.

Second, there was no Holy Spirit on earth yet when this event occurred. "As scripture says: from his breast shall flow fountains of living water. He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive; for there was no Spirit as yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified." (Jn.7:38-39).

The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, 52 days after the crucifixion. Therefore, the thief was in a different venue than the rest of us. He was never baptised with the Holy Spirit -- which is our share in Jesus' new life; and as we all know, essential to salvation under the new covenant.

This means that the thief came to God in the same way that Moses and Abraham and John the Baptist did; through faith, but under the old standards. His situation is unique as far as Christians today are concerned.

Without repentance and conversion, baptism cannot save us.

Yet without baptism, there can be no salvation at all: "Unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5).

"You must repent," Peter told them, "and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38). This is a New Testament commandment.

Peter issued this binding directive because Jesus did not steal us from the Law; he took us out of it legally, by a legal act.


The Law Still Exists

In some Christian circles it is commonly taught that there is no law; that Christ did away with it completely when he nailed it on the cross with himself. Thus, many Christians believe that there should be no discussion or mention of the Law at all because they see any such mention as an anachronism.

But the Law ceases to exist only for those who have been baptised.

We have seen that Jesus did not take away the sins of everyone -- only of those who believed in Him and were willing to accept His death as their own. For all the others, their sin remains.

If this were not so, there would be no reason to preach repentance in His name. His action would have crucified the need for repentance and preaching altogether -- meaning that everyone on earth today would be sinless.

This, of course, is not true. The world is still filled with sin and it is only those who have been baptised in the name of Jesus who have broken with sin.

Jesus and a baptism of repentance are preached today because so many people still remain under the influence and penalty of the Law. Far from being gone, the Law is still very much a part of this world.

Baptism by water is the only action by which the Law can be taken away.

By legally separating us from the kingdom of this world, baptism in Christ actually takes away our citizenship in it. In its place we have been offered citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.

There is no dual citizenship. We cannot be citizens of both the kingdom of heaven and this world at the same time.

Once baptised, we are stripped of carnal citizenship and become foreigners to this world, existing in it as ambassadors for Jesus with all the rights and privileges of that office including diplomatic immunity from the Law.

God expects us to obey the rules of this world while we are in it, but we are no longer tied to the world court.

Spiritually, the world court is ruled by the Law of Moses and it is this law that condemns everyone in the world to death (most of them, because they are considered Gentiles (pagans), and therefore outside of the Law's mercy).

Those inside the Law are condemned because they cannot keeps its terms: "Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law!" (Jn.7:19).

Anyone who has not been baptised falls under the rules and dominion of the world court and is fully subject to all the penalties specified by the Law of Moses. The same is true of those who fall from grace.

This judiciary is not a court of men. It is ruled, instead, by angels and its composition consists of all the penalties in the Old Testament. It brings plagues, famine, earthquakes and all the assorted disasters specified by the Law. It is not God's judgment -- God's judgment comes later. It is a reaction to sin built right into the mechanics of creation.


Baptism Replaces Circumcision

At the time of Paul, the law was measured by circumcision because it was this procedure which brought the Jewish male into the covenant of the Law. Because baptism does the reverse, taking us out of the Law, the two represent polar opposites of the same process.

Both circumcision and baptism represent a 'cutting off of the flesh' for purification:

"In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision not performed by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body of flesh. This is circumcision according to Christ. "

"You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead."
(Col.2:13).

The Law existed even before God authorized Moses to make it known to us. We know that because death and suffering were already going on in this world before Moses was born.

As we have seen before, Moses did not invent the Law, he was simply authorized by God to explain it.

Moses gave the Law to the world by divine authority, but Moses was a man; he was not God and his words did not come from heaven.

"I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that a man may eat it and not die."
(John 6:32-51).

Even though God gave the words of Moses divine authority, the words he spoke were not God's own words. They are, however, the words that govern this world and that are bringing this world to an end because of wickedness.

The words of Moses form an irrevocable template for disaster in the face of sin.

While the words of Moses describe harsh punishment for sin, the words of Jesus offer reconciliation and peace because Jesus came to save us from the Law and all of its rigorous penalties.

Since we live in a world that is essentially unbaptised, most of the people of this world are still bound to the Law that condemns them.

The only way to escape this law is baptism in God's offer of reconciliation in the name of Jesus.

Because two-thirds of the world's people are unbaptised, most of the world still stands condemned by the Law. God has offered baptism as a way to save all these people from eternal death.


The Destroyer

Coming with the water is an invisible spiritual cloak that guards against the Avenger of Death. For this reason, it can be argued that baptism should be administered as early as possible.

Who is this great spiritual Destroyer?

This potent figure in scripture is the very reason why all churches in the beginning baptised babies so universally and so quickly after birth. His presence was referenced most vividly in an Old Testament declaration by Ezekiel. (Ez.9:1-11) who forsaw seven spiritual figures representing the decision of Christ.

One of these was a 'man in white' who went about the countrysides of the world and marked crosses on everyone who confessed themselves for the Lord.

Following this man in white were another set of angels -- the six Avengers of Death who destroyed all who were not marked on their foreheads with a cross in the Blood of the Lamb.

This prophecy hearkened back to the Israelites in Egypt who marked the doorstops of their houses in Egypt with the blood of the paschal lamb so that the Avenger sent by God would pass over their homes when he came to destroy all the first-born in Egypt.

All of this, of course, was a foretelling of Christ and the baptism in His name which would divide the world -- separating the people of God from the people of Satan.

Up until this century, all churches baptised babies on account of this prophecy; especially because Ezekiel's pronouncement warned that the order of annihilation applied even to children. (Ez.9:5-6).

While it is entirely conceivable that God can save someone who is unbaptised, to willfully not be baptised despite all the cautions in the New Testament that baptism is essential to salvation, blatantly puts God to the test.

It is like jumping off a building to prove that God will protect you.

To ignore the commandments of Jesus and the apostles simply to prove a personal theological ideology is deliberate rebellion against God. Refusing to be baptised, or to put off being baptised in the face of these commands, is purposeful disobedience of the scriptures.


Baptism of Babies

At the time of Christ, baptism was offered immediately and freely to anyone who asked for it.

Although he reprimanded the Pharisees for their sins, John the Baptist did not refuse to baptise anyone who came to him at the Jordan river. He would have baptised the Pharisees, too, if they had desired it.

In Acts 2:41, Peter and the apostles baptised over three thousand people in a single day.

There were no waiting periods and no age restrictions. Not at first.

The restrictions came with theology. As theologians tried to wrestle with the meaning of baptism and their understanding of its implications (since it is a legal act), liturgical restrictions began to increase.

Today, all sorts of rules apply, and infant baptisms are sometimes rejected completely.

When he was speaking about the Great Flood (when God saved only 8 people on earth by water), Peter said, "That water is a type of the baptism which saves you now, and which is not the washing off of physical dirt but a pledge made to God from a good conscience..." (1 Peter 3:20-21).

In the case of babies, this pledge is affirmed by the guardians of that child, usually the parents. It is like a loan of grace given to the child through the co-signature of the parents.

But there comes a time when each person must consecrate the pledge on their own. They are made free of the bondage of the Law immediately by the water, but when they reach the age of reason they must confirm their baptism by faith so that the Holy Spirit can come into them.

This event, sacramentally, is called confirmation and involves an anointment with oil, or a laying on of hands before the witness of the church.

In those churches that have renounced the sacrament of confirmation, infant baptism is generally frowned upon, but that leaves the child in its infancy unprotected from the prowling of the Avenger.

For almost 2000 years all Christian churches have been baptising babies.

Practically none of these baptisms was ever repeated during the child's lifetime. Since virtually all of Christianity has received their baptism in the Lord in this way, it stands to reason that infant baptism is effective and fully meets the criteria of God.

If the baptism of babies were not sufficient to satisfy the demands of the Law, virtually all of Christianity would have been lost to God on a technicality of theology.
God came to save, not to destroy.

He did not go to all the trouble of spending billions of years to create an environment for our salvation, and when it was ready, sending His Son to die on the cross, just to axe it all on a legal technicality.

The fundamental question, therefore, is not whether babies should be baptised, but whether or not baptism itself is essential to salvation.

There are so many references to the demand for the water of baptism in the scriptures that there can be no doubt of its necessity.


Every Christian is a Priest

Jesus not only described it as essential, he had himself baptised by water to prove it. He wanted baptism to go to everybody. That is why He did not restrict the power to baptise by placing it in the hands of a special elite group. He made it easy.

Every baptised Christian on earth has the same power to baptise another into the faith of Christ as does the highest official of the largest Christian church.

The essence of the Law in Jerusalem was the temple. By its authority, the temple had authority over the seat of Moses and thus had absolute dominion over the Law.

Jesus referred to himself as the temple when he said, "Tear this temple down and in three days I will rebuild it."

John revealed that Jesus was greater than the temple: "In the spirit I saw Jerusalem, the holy city , coming down from God out of heaven...I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple..." (Rev.21:10, 22).

Jesus said, "I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them." (Mt.18:19-20).

The presence of Jesus gives every group formed in his name, authority over the Law on earth; and because Jesus is greater than the temple in Jerusalem (Mt.12:6), those who are formed in His name actually have more authority over the Law than did the priests of the Sanhedrin who governed the temple in the land of Palestine.

Once baptised, each person becomes, in himself, the temple of God because Jesus and God now dwell within that person's soul and body.

"Didn't you realize that you were God's temple and that the Spirit of God was living within you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple." (1 Cor.3:16-17).

The power derived from this restructuring of the temple gave faith full authority over the Law. That is why Christian leaders were able to restructure it according to the directives of Christ.

And that is why every Christian can perform legal baptisms in the name of Jesus Christ. Possessing the temple inside them, those who gather in His name have more power than the Sanhedrin.

Our power to control the Law through faith is not for the purpose of making Jesus a slave to our own theology, but to pass the crucifixion of Jesus into the flesh of the world through baptism.

It gives us the means to set up churches and legally baptise the world in Christ's death so that the mercy of Jesus can be spread to every person on earth.

When the disciples tried to stop a man who was not one of their own group from working miracles in Jesus' name, Jesus told them, "You must not stop him...Anyone who is not against us is for us." (Mk.9:38-40).


Our Obligation to the The Chair of Moses

That which is legal only satisfies the Law. It is not a tacit guarantee of holiness as far as God is concerned.

In the Book of Revelations, all seven of the churches that the Holy Spirit sent messages to were legal, but they were not all equally holy.

Jesus taught that what God wanted from us was obedience to His words.

Therefore, while it is true that we are no longer subject to the Law as far as salvation is concerned, we are obliged to keep the Law and obey the traditions set down by the ministers of the church so that righteousness is served.

Jesus said, "The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do; since they do not practice what they preach." (Mt.23:1-3).

Jesus has called us into obedience, both to his commandments and to our church.

In the early church, as Christianity was growing and the people were beginning to learn that there were indeed wolves disguised as rams among the faithful, a debate arose about the role of baptism in such cases.

What if a scoundrel, disguised as a minister were to baptise a person? How could the Holy Spirit go into a person at the direction of a dissolute sinner?

Influenced by the Holy Spirit, they decided that it is the faith of the believer that makes the sacrament work, not the faith of the one who is performing the baptism.

While the minister of the Law is doing his part, simultaneous with that, the angels of God are administering an invisible cross on the soul of the baptised person, and it is that mark which gives grace.

While there have been many honest and holy ministers in Christ, the Law has a long history of reprobates administering it as well; so God has created a sacrament which has neutralized their impact.


If a Good Law Cannot Save, Then a Bad Law Cannot Kill

Not only can good theology not save us, bad theology can't hurt us if we live obediently in the words of Jesus.

Our faith protects us.

Jeremiah said that in our time, the least would know God as much as the greatest. (Jer.31:34). In other words, because of the Gospel, the most illiterate Christian on earth knows as much about God as the most brilliant professor at the best Christian university.

Knowledge of God comes from the Holy Spirit, not from an education, and salvation comes from Jesus Christ, not from this or that church.

No church can offer eternal life.

The churches offer Jesus and it is Jesus alone that imparts eternal life into those who do His will.

When Paul said that Jesus has taken us outside of the Law with him, that is what he means. A Mormon or Samaritan who puts the words of Jesus into practice is as acceptable to God as a Lutheran or Catholic or Fundamentalist or Baptist who does the same.

God has used the church to promote baptism on earth and to bring us to the four Gospels of the New Testament for salvation. If we are baptised and live our lives in the faith of Jesus we will be saved.

Baptism is not a gift of the church, it is a gift of God.

Jesus died on the cross so that all men on earth could be baptised in his death and thus separated from the penalty of the Law.

This is why few Christian churches require converts from other Christian churches to be re-baptised. Most of them recognize that every baptism in Jesus Christ is an authority greater than the church in which that baptism has taken place.

While Many people think that baptism is a legal initiation into a particular church, i.e., baptised Catholic or Seventh Day Adventist or Baptist, etc., it is just the opposite.

Baptism doesn't bring us into theology, it takes us out of theology.

Paul was very upset when the churches started to fragment into theological clusters. "Has Christ been parceled out?" he asked.

Today, of course, there are tens of thousands of such assemblies, many of them claiming to be the only church on earth that Jesus really loves. They are wrong because baptism does not parcel us out as tradition has done with the churches.

Baptism gathers us into one invisible Body of Christ.

It is baptism that makes us all one Church.

The fact that it is made complete by faith in Jesus Christ is signified by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.


Baptism of the Spirit Comes at the Discretion of God

While infants receive the Holy Spirit after they have received the water of baptism, some people receive the Holy Spirit before they have been baptised.

An example of this occured at the time of Peter:

"While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the pagans too, since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God."

"Peter himself then said, 'Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?' He then gave orders for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ."
(Acts 10:44-48).

What this shows is that the three baptisms of Jesus do not always come together at exactly the same time.

When Peter later went to Jerusalem and was asked about this situation he said, "I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, 'John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit'. I realized then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ..." (Acts 11:15-17).

A person can be baptised in fire and the Spirit before they receive the water, as with those who have lived in Christ long before being formally baptised, or by the water before they receive the Spirit, as in the case of infants who are baptised in the Lord at the beginning of their lives.

In both cases, the need for baptism is accomplished the same.

The baptism of the one who waited until the end of his life is no greater than that of the baby who received the water in the very first weeks of life.

Whenever the water is received, it satisfies the Law's demand by marking us with Christ's crucifixion, and for this reason, it does not ever have to be repeated.


We Must Follow God, Not People

"God says this: Put yourselves on the ways of long ago; enquire about the ancient paths: which was the good way? Take it then, and you shall find rest. "

"Instead they have said, 'We will not take it'."

"I posted look-outs on their behalf: Listen to the sound of the trumpet! But they answered, 'We will not listen'. "

"Then hear, you nations, and know, assembly, what I will do to them. Hear, earth! I am bringing a disaster on this people: it is the fruit of their apostasy, since they have not listened to my words and, as far as my Law, they have rejected that."
(Jer.6:16-19).

The people that Jeremiah was referring to were not atheists, they were following their own intuition about God. Through self-interest, they were trying to conform God to their own personal theological bias, and it is this bias that their ministers were teaching the people to follow.

The most important lesson Jesus taught the world was that he, alone, was the source of salvation. Our faith must be in Him alone. We cannot trust our own intuition and we cannot trust our religious leaders. How many times do we read about spiritual leaders who have misquided those who follow them?

The Jews could not trust the priests or scribes or pharisees. Because they chose to follow the teaching of their Rabbi's and reject the commandments of Jesus, the Jews did exactly what the rebels of the House of Israel did when they mutinied against God in the passage out of Egypt across the Sinai at the time of Moses.

Through willful rebellion, they blocked God's plan for them. To appease them in their defiance, Aaron, the High Priest (Moses' brother) built them a false idol in the form of a golden calf.

This shows clearly that we must listen to God and do precisely what He says, no matter who tells us otherwise -- even an official of the Church.

Aaron was the High Priest. He was the image of the Hebrew church. His golden calf symbolized the theological structure that opposed the Christ whom God had sent to save Israel. This shows us that we must always be on guard against religious leaders who try to compromise the teaching of God in order to appease the will of the people.

Our personal theological ideas, and those of others, cannot be our guide. It is Jesus we must listen to. We must do exactly what He commanded.

Jeremiah said, "The priests teach whatever they please and my people love it, but when the end comes, then what will you do?" (Jer.5:31).

God will hold each of us personally responsible for our own behavior with respect to Jesus Christ.

If we defy Christ, we will not be able to fall back on our ministers and churches or on our own intuition and say that, because we were falsely led, that we are innocent.

Jesus proved this when he said, "Call no man on earth 'teacher' because you have only one Teacher: the Christ." (Mt.23:10).

Because Jesus said that baptism is essential to salvation, and because the apostles repeated this admonition emphatically, no theological argument to the contrary can have any meaning.

NEXT
Clock of God, Chapter 13,
"The Kingdom of Heaven"

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