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 ...," Hebrews 6'1-3.
and let every one of you be immersed
in the name of Jesus Christ ..." Acts 2'38.
Jesus commanded His Followers to do two things: be immersed in water and keep the Lord's Supper.
Immersion in water came first in the Lord's life. His conversation with John in Matthew 3'13-15 shows that He was submitting Himself to the will of the Father.
When He came up from the water the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Then the Father gave His approval from heaven.
He was carrying out the first commandment to "... 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 says:
"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. He was leaving an example of the righteousness of the Kingdom of God that He wanted His Followers to do.
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".
Being immersed is an act of righteousness. Believers have the privilege of serving Him by presenting their bodies to be immersed.
He put immersion in water in the primary place of importance when He commissioned His Called-Out Ones 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 the Lord's command on the Day of Pentecost. He had explained from the scriptures that Jesus is their Messiah. Many responded by asking what they should do.
"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 discipled in Christ's foundational teachings.
Being immersed in water amounted to confessing Christ as Lord. It's a worshipful act, an act of righteousness that is registered in heaven:
"... whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven," Jesus said (Matthew 10'32).
When a person hears, believes and obeys the word of Christ, the Holy Spirit confirms in them what Christ has confirmed in heaven.
The Holy Spirit conveys Christ's powerful Kingdom understandings and experiences to us through the word.
It's "by faith we understand" (Hebrews 11'3) and that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10'17).
READY TO BE IMMERSED?
The first-ever born-again Believers to be immersed in water were those who responded to Peter's preaching on the Day of Pentecost.
They had come to Jerusalem from different parts of the world for the Feast of Pentecost and would have been familiar with their Hebrew Bible, that is, the Old Testament.
A great noise arose from the Disciples when the Holy Spirit came and filled them. All those gathered for the Feast were shocked by it.
Peter came forward and spoke to calm them before preaching.
Because everyone had common Biblical background he knew they would understand what he was about to bring from the Scriptures.
He told them that this is not just a loud noise “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel".
He went on to preach, leading them to understand that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in their Scriptures.
When he had finished, the crowd asked "Men and brethren, what shall we do?".
Peter responded: "Repent, and be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ ..." (Acts 2'37-38).
"Then those who gladly received his word were immersed ..." Acts 2'41. They were ready for immersion!
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 thinking about.
For instance, as has been said, the first-ever Believers on the Day of Pentecost were aware of the teachings of the Hebrew Bible. And they, like many others, were adults who have adult responsibilities and accountabilities.
Also, they knew that being immersed could likely result in serious persecution or even death for them. As it is with some Believers in various parts of the world today.
They suffer from misunderstandings and false accusations like those in Acts 17'7. In one place it was claimed that:
"... these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king - Jesus".
DO YOU NOT KNOW?
Two strong messages were written by Paul that conveyed some powerful understandings about being immersed in water.
The one most referred to among Believers is the one written to the congregation in Rome.
Apparently there was misunderstanding about what the spiritual understandings of immersion in water are.
Some were doing sinful things and justifying them saying their lifestyle demonstrated the greatness of the grace of God.
He was astounded at such thinking and 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.
Paul wanted it to be understood by all Believers that they were immersed into Christ and into His death by the Spirit and the powerful outcomes.
So he goes on to remind them, telling them:
"... we were buried with Him through baptism 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,
knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.
Death no longer has dominion over Him.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all;
but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin,
but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord". Romans 6'4-11.
And what's more Colossians 2'10-15 says:
"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".
These are truly wonderful understandings of what the Lord has done for us Believers.
Ungodly ideas about God's great grace may swirl around, but Believers have the privilege of knowing the unshakeable truth in Christ.
Being immersed in water is one aspect of the manifold wisdom of God. It signifies the Lord's victory over the powers of darkness in the immersed person's life.
Believers can "walk in newness of life" by the power of the Holy Spirit. And this act of immersion is intended to be a constant reminder of that power.
?CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS
But what about the children of Believers?
In the New Testament it is adults who are immersed in water. Those two strong messages that Paul wrote, he wrote to those who could understand what he was saying.
The fact that he wrote them shows that those who desire to be immersed in water should understand what they are doing.
Some Believing Parents find themselves in a quandary about their children being immersed. It's likely to arise at a time when there's an announcement about an upcoming immersion in water event.
One thing should be first and foremost in their understanding and that is immersion has nothing to do with salvation.
Also, it is not a kind of initiation, or membership, or something to be done because it's tradition. Neither is it just the occasion to profess openly to being saved.
Believers are called to think in terms of the Word of Christ, about themselves and their children.
Some children who, for as much as they can, believe in Jesus. Usually they have been brought up having at least one believing Parent, move among Believers and have learned God's word.
Nevertheless, they have yet to possess the level of understanding, personal responsibility and accountability which repentance, faith, immersion in water, the Lord's Supper, etc, all require.
It's then they are able to process the New Covenant Kingdom understandings of both being immersed and for participating in the Lord's Supper.
Consider these examples:
The young Mary has to be the first. Her faith 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? She believed His word, the way her famous forebear, Abraham, did. And, like him, God accounted to her for righteousness.
She ready to accept the commission that was put to her and face the challenges it would bring, immediate and future, Luke 1'26-39.
Showing her trust in God her response to the angel's statement was:
"Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word".
What a wonderful example!
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, indeed!
Timothy is another good example. He's very much on the level of many young Believers. Paul describes him as "a certain disciple".
He was the son of a believing Jewish woman and unbelieving Greek father and he 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.
Jesus said His Called-Out Ones should teach new Believers “... to observe all things that I have commanded you ...” (Matthew 28'20).
And immersion in water and participation in the Lord's Supper are two of His commands. All Believers will agree that they be carried out with understanding, like Him.
BY THE WAY
Most societies and cultures recognise a time when children can be held accountable for their words and actions (instead of their parents).
One description that's used is "age of accountability" - when a child matures to be able to speak on their own behalf.
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, still 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".
This "of age" thinking in New Zealand includes such things as marriage and qualifying for a driving licence, both are laid down legally.
Of course, these things begin with parental involvement with progress to fulfilling laws, giving full independent decision-making and self-responsibility.
AND WHICH "BAPTISM"?
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.
ELDERS WHO ARE ABLE
Elders are responsible for making sure that those who desire to be immersed in water understand what it is. Misunderstandings and ideas can be held that are unscriptural and may be held unwittingly.
No one should be immersed to help them overcome spiritual problems or to help with personal needs, etc.
Someone might need to be asked if they are asking of their own free will? Are others being immersed or because someone has told them they should.
Perhaps someone who has grown up among Believers may feel they deserve to be immersed.
Above all, no one should have the idea that being immersed in water saves them.
The presence of Elders overseeing immersions can make all the difference, especially when the Holy Spirit moves in giving gifts and blessings.
As in Acts 19'1-6. When Paul had immersed some Disciples "... he laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied".
When John immersed Jesus, he 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.
Elders who are able to act in harmony with the moving of the Holy Spirit during an immersion make a difference for the person Believer immersed.
PERSONAL YET "PUBLIC"
A Kingdom immersion is threefold
As an experience with God it is personal.
As an open ceremony for all to observe it is "public".
And as the Holy Spirit is involved it is heavenly.
In addition it is a great encouragement to the Body of Christ who surround the person being immersed.
Jesus left the example of immersion for His People. By His humility He submitted Himself to John to be immersed in water - as a act of righteousness to the Father. His will is that His Called-Out Ones follow Him.
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.