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Baptisms are Jewish ceremonial rituals carried over from the first covenant law system. They were common and varied in purposes. Heb. 6:1-2; 9:9-10 Although the Jewish law system was "nailed to the cross" with Christ, the only one who truly keep the law, it was some 60+ years later before the believing Jews understood that. In the transition period (Jews & Gentiles becoming one in the body of Christ) as recorded in Acts, there were many accounts of both Jew and Gentile being water baptized in conduction with their conversion. That practice diminished after Acts 15 when it was made clear at the council in Jerusalem that the Gentiles were not to keep the Mosaic Law. Being a Jewish ritual, it was not for Gentile believers to practice. Acts 15:5-29 Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, 'It is necessary to circumcise them (Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’ So God made no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. There was no instruction for the Gentile believers to DO pertaining to the law keeping, only 4 things to NOT DO. After the "wall of separation" (Eph. 2:14-16) was removed (the law system separating Jewish and Gentile believers), you don’t see baptism being practiced by Gentile believers as it was part of the law system that was replaced by the reality in Christ. It was over 60 years before the Jews understood that the Church which is Christ body was not under the law but grace. (Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:6-13) "becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" There is great confusion and controversy over baptism in today's Christianity. When most people hear baptism today they think splash, some kind of water. Some say it is sprinkled, others poured others say immersion while others say it is an outward sign of an inward work or it is required for salvation. Example: There are 4 baptisms in Matt. 3:1-12. John came preaching in the wilderness, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming will baptize you with the Holy Spirit & fire. John preached the baptism of repentance, practiced a ceremonial water baptism and foretold of the Holy Spirit baptism and the judgement fire baptism some would receive. Baptism is required for salvation, but the agent has never been water! 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3; Acts 19:5 (no water here in any verse) 1 Pet 3:18-21 the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through (not in or by) water (God’s judgement). There is also an antitype which now saves us baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh [by or with water], but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No one on the ark got any of God’s water judgement. They stayed dry in the ark (a type of baptized into Christ) and were saved from the judgement water that took all the rest of mankind. The symbolism of water baptism depends on the context. It can refer to a ritual cleaning, a rite, death, conversion, etc. Baptism itself is a transliterated Greek word which means to completely change the character, state of condition of something by something. It refers to the resulting condition rather than the action of doing. By looking at the resulting condition (the baptism), it clarifies what the agent was that made the change.
It is important to note that water baptism is a command from our Lord Jesus and must be done as commanded. 1. An unbeliever should not be baptized. 2. It is only for adult who is mature to decide for God. 3. Water baptism should be by immersion symbolizing the burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 4. Water baptism should not be delayed after salvation.
The symbolism of water baptism is a conversion from the unbeliever to the believer of God in Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36: 25-32).
I believe that we receive our salvation at the completion of our baptism and not prior to it. Baptism represents a burial as Christ was buried with the sins of the world upon Him. What do we bury a living or dead soul? We bury one dead because of sin into the watery grave with Christ and we raise from the grave a newly resurrected soul now in and of Christ freed from the sins of our past to start our walk in the Lord as an obedient child of Christ. Romans 6:1-14 The thief on the cross is not a legitimate argument to make baptism unnecessary as it is often used to suggest that point. The thief on the cross was still under the Old Law of Moses with no requirement to be baptized and Christ (God in the flesh) certainly had the authority to forgive him of his sins without baptism because Christ hadn't yet died for anyone's sins. When Christ died for the sins of the world, He died for the sins of the past, present and future for all who are and would become faithful, obedient servants. And even now when we fail and fall short, Christ is our advocate pleading for us to be forgiven when we sincerely repent of our sins and strive to walk in light and not in darkness.
Baptism is symbolic of our death with Jesus and our rebirth as new creatures in Him. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith _of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." KJV, (emphasis mine). Other translations say 'faith in Christ' but the KJV says it best. We are given the faith of Jesus from God, Ephesians 2:8-9. The Berean Study Bible says this, ''Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away. Behold, new things have come." 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 continues explaining the thought. In baptism we die a symbolic death as we are immersed and, a symbolic rebirth as we are raised up again to the newness of life as a person ready to learn how to share the Gospel and live a Christ-like life.
Acts 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized by with the Holy Spirit. When we believe the gospel, First Corinthians 15:3-4 That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day, according to the scriptures. We are sealed by that Holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 1:13. Born of God, born again. Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the Holy Spirit in whom ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. That Rapture of the church. Most of the early converts were Jewish and had to repent, change their mind, of believing their false gospel of keeping the law to believing on Jesus as the only way to be saved. Paul was one of them who was later saved by grace. He was also the apostle to the gentiles but also to the Jews. Romans 1:16.
John baptized with water, but the one who came after him baptizes with the Holy Spirit. I find it hard to understand when people say you are saved by grace and it's not works that save you, and with their next breath they say you have to be baptized a certain way. I believe the true baptism is from the Holy Spirit and nothing else.
Baptism is not a symbol, rather, water is the symbol for baptism. Baptism saves. In it [Noah's Ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. (1 Peter 3: 20-21)
To appear before God, an official priest must be clean both physically and spiritually. This was true even in the ancient pagan religions. In the Jewish religion, the priests, (the Levites), were required to wash with the water in the brass laver located just outside the Holy Place before entering. Later on, near the Christian era, the Essenes developed a system of further washings and immersions intended to emphasize their own priestly function independently of the Jerusalem temple activities. John the Baptist, of the Aaronic line, (and possibly an Essene member) offered a baptism for all Jews so they would not need to depend upon the Levites for priestly functions. They were thus prepared for the advent of the Messiah. Of course, at the time the official temple priests didn't recognize John's baptism. The water baptism of Christ was into the Melchizedek priesthood, thereby giving all Christians a degree of priesthood superior to the Levitical priesthood. The Christian baptism of spirit and fire goes beyond water baptism into higher degrees of priesthood, such as implied by the five fold ministry (Eph 4:11). So, to answer the question, baptism is a sign or indication of an acquired priestly function the believer didn't formerly have.
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