The Jews, who became Christians, plagued the Christians with circumcision as being essential to salvation, but the Jewish council decided against their own tradition (Acts 15). Paul leaned on Moses to hand out this potent argument and decision:
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law ad boast of your relation with God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed in the law, and if you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God (Romans 2:17-29).
THE COMMAND TO BAPTIZE IS THE CHRISTIAN COMMITMENT TO JESUS THE CHRIST
Baptism, what does it entail and why is it most essential? The answer is that it represents the most important act in a person’s life when he/she die to the world and are reborn as new beings in Christ Jesus. What did the Apostle Paul think “baptism” was?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with h in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:3-11).
Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restrained until faith should be revealed. So that the Law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified
by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ were have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:23-29).
See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him you also were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disquality you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:8-23).
WHAT DID BAPTISM MEAN TO JESUS THE SON OF GOD?
The word “baptize” means to immerse and to put a person completely under water. Water is the liquid that can wash clean and take away the unpleasant things that a person may have come in contact with or collected him/herself. Jesus, too, had spent thirty years before He felt the need to be washed clean of any unwanted particles that would have hindered the Holy Spirit to live in Him. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus the Christ and he used the Jordan River to do so. The key to understanding the reason for “baptism” was Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus (John 3:3-8).
In those days John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he (John) who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (40:3) when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight” (Matthew 3:1-3).
I (John) baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:11-17).
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him (Jesus) like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11).
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22).
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him (John the Baptist), “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands ne whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have witness that this is the Son of God (John 1:24-34).
Jesus answered him (Nicodemus), “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8).
WHAT WAS JESUS TEACHING HIS FOLLOWERS ABOUT HOLINESS?
The Holy Spirit does not live in objects like the Ark, or buildings like the temple, or on a mountain, but in a human body that has been purified by Water and the Spirit, also regarded as a rebirth or new birth. If the Son of God himself felt the need to be washed before the Holy Spirit could indwell him, how much more should his followers want to be washed clean by baptism? Then, even after Jesus was baptized, he let is feet be cleaned and even anointed, and commanded that the disciples keep washing each others feet (Mark 14:1-11; Luke 7:36-50; John 13:5-14). Jesus expressly promised that if the disciples lived according to is instructions, the Father and He will make their home with the disciples. Paul was very specific what the Holy Spirit needs from man to turn him in a suitable temple.
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.
So then, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provide we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:6-17).
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were consecrated, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me, but I will no be enslaved by anything. “Food is me meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” — and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
And God the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? Forit is written,”The two shall become one.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (I Corinthians 6:9-20).
BAPTISM, DID IT AND DOES IT HAVE REDEMPTIVE MERITS?
Views on the merits of baptism became divided and conclusions have been formed from deductions and presumptions. Essentially baptism was and is an initiation rite of informed candidates into the kingdom of God or into the Body of Christ the Church. There is a similarity between Hebrew circumcision and Christian baptism that would allow for infant baptism. The households of Cornelius and the Philippian Jailer must have had children when they were baptized (Acts 10; 15). And of course the Gentile converts would have wanted their children in the Church based on Jesus teaching alone, that is if it was available at such an early date. Peter came to his own conclusion regarding the meaning of baptism. The New Testament does not give us a conclusive answer, but Saint Augustin did and most of Protestant Christianity has endorsed is view. So, we too must decide whether we can be buried with Christ and live godly in a world that rejects us as it did our Lord.
In him also you were circumcised made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12).
And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belong the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them,laying his hands upon them (Mark 10:13-16).
At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; bt whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, doe he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:1-14).
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him (I Peter 3:18-22).