Friday, October 19, 2007

Debating Alien Immersion (Gospels)

In order to fully understand the issue of baptism in the New Testament, it is first necessary to catalogue each use of the word. In the four gospels, the subject of baptism isn't nearly as well developed as it is in the later New Testament. All occurrences of words belonging to the same work group as "baptize" can be categorized as follows (References to John 'the Baptist' alone are excluded):

  • John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3)
  • Priests and Levites ask John why he is baptizing if he is not the Messiah, the Prophet, or Elijah. (John 1:25)
  • John baptizes with water in a river. (Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:5, John 1:26)
  • John says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33)
  • Jesus says his baptism by John is to 'fulfill all righteousness'. (Matthew 3:15)
  • Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21)
  • Jesus and his disciples begin baptizing others. (John 3:22-26)
  • Jesus refers to his suffering and death as 'baptism'. (Mark 10:38-39, Luke 12:50)
  • Jesus asks whether John's baptism was from God. (Matthew 21:25, Mark 11:30, Luke 20:4)
  • Jesus commands us to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

Conclusions from the Gospels: The main conclusion that one can draw from the treatment of baptism in the Gospels is that it is strongly connected with the idea of repentance. John's baptism was a baptism of repentance that prepared the way for the Messiah. Jesus commands the baptism of those who become his disciples (Matthew 28:19), and it seems that he and the Twelve already began this initiation rite during Jesus' earthly ministry (John 3:22-26). Nothing yet points us to any discoveries about this idea of alien immersion, but it is important to establish at the outset that baptism is is for those who have been made disciples (believers), that it is performed in connection with repentance (thus it is a turning point), and that it was done by immersion in water.

As I stated in the first post regarding this baptism debate, I am being assisted in my studies by some very good books. Most of the material in this post has been condensed from the chapter on "Baptism in the Gospels" in Believer's Baptism.

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