When I was baptized as an infant, that is, anointed with oil in the Catholic Church, I felt and knew nothing.
When Jesus Christ took hold of me and gave me the gift of repentance nearly 27 years later, people at the Alliance Church gently persuaded me to be immersed in water. I did not seek or desire to be water baptized, but I submitted to the ordinance, thinking that perhaps something good would happen if I did. Besides, I saw it mentioned in Scripture.
Pastor Ernest Regier baptized me in their church baptistery “in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” I noticed nothing new during or afterwards. I think I was slightly disappointed, and perhaps even wondered why or how I was somehow falling short.
Then, about a year later, while attending the Southern Baptist Christian Training Center in Saskatoon, I was subtly pressed by others to be immersed again, this time “into the local Body of Christ.” They did not recognize my water baptism in the Alliance Church, though I did not believe it was invalid or that I needed to be rebaptized.
Believing I did not need to be baptized again, I nevertheless submitted to them, so as not to offend or cause division. But I did wonder if something might happen, and nothing happened, except that I got wet in a ceremony performed by Henry Blackaby, “in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Then in 1976 we came to realize the Name of God. We realized that His Name was not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Those are titles or descriptions, but not names. Peter, the Scripture says, called upon people to be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ:
“Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 MKJV).
Peter also baptized Cornelius and his household in the Name of the Lord (Acts 10:48). And this is how Paul baptized the Ephesian disciples:
“And hearing, they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5 MKJV).
Realizing we were not water baptized using the Lord’s Name, “Jesus Christ,” we asked Gerald Roberts, a United Pentecostal preacher, to baptize us in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, which he did, not in a baptistery, but in a lake. I thought that perhaps this time, something was going to change; there is power in His Name, not in His titles.
Still nothing happened and nothing changed. Spiritually, I felt no more from the water immersions as an adult than as an infant when anointed with oil as a Catholic. Not that we should be expecting or looking for feelings to guide or please us, but I now realize that…
…there was no witness of the Lord in any of those immersions. Seeing that others had declared that their water immersion experience was special, making them feel good, I was left wondering if there wasn’t something wrong with me. Now I understand that God was teaching me that the physical ordinance of water baptism is not necessary, no matter how it is done or by whom.
In fact, it is no more necessary today than was circumcision after Christ came. The same goes for any ritual or ordinance. Our lives are hid in Christ, and we no longer have need of physical ordinances, among which is the common practice of what is most often referred to as the “Lord’s Supper”.
I was not receiving a witness of God of water baptism because it was not required by Him. So you ask, “But what about the Scriptures you just brought up, and the fact that Peter, Paul, and others baptized in water? Are we not to follow the counsel of Scripture?”
To which I answer, “Circumcision was once required by God of Abraham and his descendants. Are we not the seed of Abraham through faith? Are we not his children? Yet, we are not circumcised in the flesh and have no need to be; so with water baptism, an external sign having had its day, as with the sacrifices, the Temple, and the Levitical priesthood.”
As to the symbol and shadow of water baptism, we have the real thing; we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. Concerning “The Lord’s Supper,” we eat His flesh and drink His blood as we partake of Him, believe and obey Him, and fellowship with the brethren, His Body. As for circumcision, we are circumcised not where the seed of our flesh comes forth, but where the seed of our spirit comes forth, and that is the heart.
We are to be crucified with Him. Will we have someone nail us to a wooden cross? Because we are to take up our cross (Matthew 16:24), will we take up and carry a wooden one everywhere we go? There are those who have done these very things.
Shall we buy literal white garments and literal eye salve, as called upon by the Lord of the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:18)? Shall we use a literal iron rod to rule over nations when we overcome, as promised by the Lord to the Church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:27)?
If our eye offends us, shall we literally pluck it out? If our right hand offends us, shall we take an axe and chop it off and cast it from us with the hand that is left (Matthew 5:29-30)?
Shall we literally wash one another’s feet as a token of love and humble service to one another (John 13)? I have witnessed very proud and stubborn people, who have nothing to do with the Lord, washing one another’s feet.
No, we shall do none of these things. Here is what we do and shall continue to do, by the grace of God:
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 MKJV).
There are those whom I have baptized in water who continue in the faith of the Lord. There are the more numerous whom I have baptized who no longer walk in faith. And there are those who have continued for years to walk in the faith of the Lord who were never water baptized. Do all these not say it all?
The Lord has revealed to me that we need not be baptized in physical water, and we need not baptize others in physical water. He has washed us in His blood and made us “clean every whit” (John 13:10).
Also, many years ago, He revealed to me that the many verses men interpret as pertaining to water baptism refer to spiritual baptism instead, such as Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 12:13 & 15:29, and Galatians 3:27.
September 30, 2009