Immersion in Water
"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ,
let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation
of repentance from dead works
and of faith toward God,
of the teaching of immersions,
of laying on of hands,
of resurrection of the dead
and of eternal judgment.
And this we will do if God permits," Hebrews 6'1-3.
let every one of you be immersed
in the name of Jesus Christ," Acts 2'38.
Immersing Believers in water is one of two the things Jesus commanded His People to do. (The other is keeping the Lord's Supper.)
And immersion in water is the first one for the a Believer to consider. It was first for Jesus in His walk with His Father.
As His conversation with John shows, He was submitting Himself to the will of the Father.
As soon as He came up out of the water the Holy Spirit came upon Him and the Father spoke His approval from heaven.
He was carrying out His desire to fulfill the first commandment: "... love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength," Mark 12'30:
"Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be immersed by him.
And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be immersed by You, and are You coming to me?'
But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he allowed Him," Matthew 3'13-15.
He made it clear that He knew exactly what He was doing, as should we. And He left His personal example for Called-Out Ones.
Believers, too, can present their bodies to be immersed as an act of righteousness.
As Romans 14'17-18 says:
"... the kingdom of God is ... righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men".
When He commissioned His Disciples He put immersion in water in a primary place of importance. He commanded then to:
"Go ... and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Matthew 28'19.
And Peter was true to his Lord's command when he called his hearers on the Day of Pentecost to:
"Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ," Acts 2'38.
From then on thousands of new Believers were immersed and were shepherded through Christ's foundational teachings.
They were "confessing Him" with their worshipful obedience, as He said:
"... whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven," Matthew 10'32.
When a person hears, believes and obeys the word of Christ, the Holy Spirit confirms in the Believer what Christ has confirmed in heaven.
All this is by faith. It is "by faith we understand" (Hebrews 11'3) and our faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10'17).
The Holy Spirit conveys Christ's powerful Kingdom understandings and experiences to us through the word. Among these understandings immersion in water is a major one.
BUT DO YOU KNOW?
Apparently there was gross misunderstanding among some of the Believers in Rome. They were saying that by continuing to sin they were demonstrating the greatness of the grace of God.
To them Paul said: Certainly not! "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"
So he asked them:
"... do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into His death?" Romans 6'1-3.
Some had their foundational understandings all askew! They needed to be reminded about some powerful Kingdom realities.
Paul wanted Believers to understand that they were immersed into Christ and His death by the Spirit. So he reminded them:
"Therefore we were buried with Him
through immersion into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together
in the likeness of His death,
certainly we also shall be
in the likeness of His resurrection
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him,
that the body of sin might be done away with,
that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
or he who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him ..."
"... in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,
by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
buried with Him in immersion, in which you also were raised with Him
through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
having wiped out the handwriting of requirements
that was against us, which was contrary to us.
And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
having disarmed principalities and powers,
He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it".
Ungodly ideas about God's grace may swirl around Believers. But we have the privilege of knowing the unshakeable position we have in Christ.
Immersion in water is a powerful facet of the manifold wisdom of God and it's worth remembering that the enemy opposes it. And, there is blessing for those who are immersed.
OF AGE TO KNOW
To start off with, there is one factor that needs be acknowledged regarding the children of believing Parents.
Some children believe at a young age. And that's a marvellous thing. It arises from being in a godly family and among Believers and encountering God's word.
However, they have yet to possess the adult level of understanding, personal responsibility and accountability which repentance, faith, immersion in water, the Lord's Supper, etc, all require.
The person who has truly received Christ and possesses these things is "of age". They are able to speak for himself or herself understand what they are doing and take responsibility.
Being of age is crucial to a Believer's spiritual growth. It's then they possess the New Covenant Kingdom understandings of being immersed in water.
The Lord has provided some "of age" examples:
The young Mary has to be the first. Her faith, worship and understanding was acknowledged by the angel's greeting: "Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you," Luke 1'28.
He added: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God," Luke 1'30.
How did she find favour with God? Like her famous forebear, Abraham, she believed God's word. And it was accounted to her for righteousness, as it was him!
She was at the stage, personally and spiritually, to accept this commission and face the challenges of her immediate future, Luke 1'26-39.
Showing her trust in God she responded to the angel's statement:
"Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word".
Mary was "of age" indeed!
A Jewish couple made it very clear that their son was of age! Almost all of John chapter nine is taken up with the incident that caused them to speak out.
They were being called on by Pharisees to take parental responsibility for what he said and did after Jesus had healed him of blindness. But they refused.
They were not willing to take the consequences for the strong way their son was rebutting the Pharisees' threatening questions.
They said: "He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself"! Their son spoke for himself confidently and clearly, refusing to back down. His conduct revealed that he was of age!
Timothy is another example. Paul describes him as "a certain disciple" and the son of a believing Jewish woman and unbelieving Greek father and was well spoken of.
At one stage Paul called on him to be circumcised because of the Jews in that region who knew that his father was Greek (Acts 16'-1). Timothy understood Paul's concern and willingly yielded himself to it.
He had known the Scriptures from childhood which, Paul said, "... are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Timothy 3'15.
Later, as a believing young man, he was called to be an example to all:
"Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity," 1 Timothy 4'12.
About Moses being of age Hebrews 11'24-27 NKJV says:
"By faith Moses, when he became of age
refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God
than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt;
for he looked to the reward.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king;
for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible," Hebrews 11'24-27.
Although Moses may not have been as young as the healed man, or Mary or Timothy when he became of age the basics are the same.
So, those who desire to be Immersed in Water, and who desire to participate in the Lord's Supper, should be of age in order to rightly carry out these commands of Jesus, as these examples show.
It's common in most cultures to recognise, or even set, a time when a child reaches an age to be able to speak on their own behalf.
It's intention to define a time when children can be held accountable to society for their words and actions (instead of their parents being held accountable). One description that's used is "age of accountability".
This falls in the transition from childhood to adulthood, beginning at puberty. At about the age of 12 logic and abstract understandings are dawning. Wisdom is perhaps some way off!
These are the adolescent years of multi-faceted transitional growth.
With self-discovery, independent decision making and responsibility for personal actions builds confidence. Some time during these years the person is judged to have "come of age".
"Of age" thinking is held by societies and philosophies. In New Zealand some "of age" things, such as marriage and qualifying for a driving licence are laid down legally.
This thinking is shown in laws requiring parental approval through to laws giving full independent decision-making and self-responsibility.
Some Believers think that this immersion should take place immediately following a person's confession of faith in Christ - as per the examples in the Book of Acts.
This idea needs a bit of thought.
For instance, those early Believers on the Day of Pentecost were aware of the teachings of the Hebrew Bible. In addition, they were all adults with adult responsibilities and accountabilities.
And they knew that being immersed could result in serious persecution or even death for them. (As it for many Believers in some parts of the world today.)
In addition, there are the unbelievers' misunderstandings and false accusations. In one place it was claimed that:
"... these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king - Jesus," Acts 17'7.
Nevertheless, they were/are still immersed.
Elders are responsible for ensuring that those who desire to be immersed in water are convinced and understand what it is they are entering into.
For instance, those who have grown up among the Believers may feel they ought to be immersed.
Reasons for immersing someone, such as to help them overcome spiritual problems or to help personal needs, etc, are wrong reasons.
However, asking them about their understanding of repentance, faith toward God and their kind of spiritual experience with gentle questions could help them.
For someone the issue could be: is it of their own free will that they are asking? It may be because others are being immersed or because someone has told them they should.
Above all, no one should have the idea that being immersed in water saves them.
As with a few other New Testament words, "baptise" and "baptism" are given meanings that differ from their plain translations.
In fact, they are used to validate a number of different ceremonies.
But the true translation of these words, and their New Testament examples, show that only one can be valid.
The New Testament Greek noun is baptisma and means "immersion" or "submersion" (Strong's Concordance). The verb is baptizo (pronounced bap-tid-zo) which means "to immerse" or "to submerge".
The English words "baptism" and "baptise" convey another meaning by being anglicised rather than translated.
There are some adults who say they have been "baptised" - as babies. But what most of them experienced was being sprinkled with water in a ceremony that is often called "christening".
This teaching claims regeneration, salvation (and more) for the sprinkled baby as certain words are pronounced over the child.
However, in later years the adult "baptised" person is likely to believe these things to be true.
The New Testament describes two examples of immersion in water that actually took place:
Acts 8'27-39 says: "they came up out of the water" to explain Philip immersing the Ethopian believer.
Matthew 3'13-16 says: "came up immediately from the water" to explain John immersing Jesus.
IMPORTANCE OF ELDERS
Elders overseeing these immersions can make all the difference especially when the Holy Spirit moves in giving gifts and blessings.
For instance, when Paul immersed some Disciples in Acts 19'1-6 "... he laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied".
John the Immersionist could surely only stand and watch in amazement at what he was seeing:
"When He had been immersed, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'," Matthew 3'16-17.
Prayer. Dear Father, thank you for the powerful understandings of Jesus' life, death and resurrection that are expressed when a Believer is immersed in water.
And thank you too for the particular understanding that we who have been immersed can reckon ourselves "to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God".
In Jesus' name. Amen.