Why I Cannot Practice Water Baptism!
A Sermon Delivered November 15, 1959
By’ PASTOR CLARENCE E. KRAMER
At Berean Church Holland, Michigan
and over WJBL, 1260 K.C.
Whenever someone teaches a doctrine that is contrary to popular opinion, most people automatically reject it without thinking it through. This is especially true in the matter of water baptism. Christendom has always practiced water baptism, though in many differing modes and for many different reasons” Some teach that water baptism actually contributes to one’s salvation while others teach that baptism is only a witness of some inward transformation. But though most baptizes differ among themselves as to the significance of the ceremony, yet they all band together to reject the sufficiency of the one divine baptism by which the Holy Spirit places the believing sinner Into Jesus Christ.
A remark often heard is: “How can you say that the whole Church has been wrong all these centuries and now only you have the truth about baptism.” Let us first remember that we do not know if all believers practiced water baptism even though. the church as a whole did; and don’t forget there Is a difference between all believers. and the religious hierarchy of Christendom. But further, is it so strange that most have been misled regarding this truth? it will not be so strange to the one who knows the tragic history of Israel And Martin Luther must have been faced with the same problem when he, a mere ‘monk, challenged the entire church of Rome on the question of Justification by faith. Truth has never been popular, and spirituality is not usually found with the majority. Rather than look around us to see what others believe, lest we be found different, we should stand for God’s truth in spite of its unpopularity and the church’s indifference to it.
Now, we believe that the one basis of fellowship among all believers is the blood of Jesus Christ witch saved us from our sins. Our relationship with the blessed Son of God is what relates us to each other. I love every Christian not because they all agree with me doctrinally but because they all love my Lord, and we are brethren in Him. Water baptism should never be made a basis of Christian fellowship, unless, of course, water baptism makes us children of God, which no true evangelical, Bible believing Christian teaches or believes.
As for me, I cannot practice water baptism because: 1. WATER BAPTISM IS AN OLD TESTAMENT ORDINANCE (Hebrews. 9:10).
In Hebrews 9:10 we read, regarding Israel’s worship under the law:
“W1Iich stood only in meats and drinks, and divert washings and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”
The Greek Word for “washings” in this verse is baptism or baptisms. This incidentally shows that water baptism in the Bible is a ceremonial purification aid not a symbol of death and burial. There were no immersions under the old covenant or law. John the Baptist’s disciples had a dispute with the Jews In John 3:25 about purifying, not burying.
This first covenant (now the old covenant)”had also ordinances of divine service and a worldly sanctuary” (Hebrews 9:1). The religious worship of Israel under the law consisted in “meats and drinks and divers baptisms.” So water baptism was a part of the law worship and not a “New Testament” ordinance as so many try to make it. One need only read Exodus and Leviticus to find there the numerous ablutions and purification ceremonies. In Leviticus alone there are some twenty references to washings or baptisms. The laver, an important piece in the Tabernacle furniture, was used to wash or baptize the hands and feet of the officiating priest.
Then we read, in Hebrews 9:10, that the various regulations of the law, including baptisms, were “carnal ordinances” (the “and” after “washings” is not in the original). Water baptism as a ceremonial cleansing was a physical ceremony, a shadow of good things to come (Hebrews 10:1) which never could “make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Hebrews 9:9). It would be interesting to contrast this passage with First Peter 3:21 where the baptism which “doth also now save us” is a baptism that does meet the demand of “a good conscience toward God,” something which a water ceremony could never do. This baptism is the antitype of Noah’s baptism and must surely refer to the death baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ who experienced God’s wrath for us on Calvary. We are safe from God’s wrath being in Christ the same way that Noah was safe from God’s wrath while’ in the ark.
We also read in Hebrews 9:10 that water baptism was “imposed on them until …. “Here was law. it was not left up to the believer’s conscience; nothing was ever’ said about it not being absolutely necessary. It was “imposed,” but only temporarily. Like the law covenant itself which was “added because of transgressions, till the seed should come” (Galatians 3:18) water baptism was a temporary institution.
Many fine Bible believing Christians who are sure that believers today are not under the law, still insist that believers ought to be under the water. But the water is part of the law. Whatever we do with the law we must do with the water, and since the believer is not under the law he should not be under the water!
Further, I cannot practice water baptism because:
II. WATER BAPTISM IS NOT A PART OF THE PAULINE REVELATION (First Corinthians 1:14-17
The important question regarding water baptism is not whether or not it is taught in Scripture. It very plainly is, and for that reason I believe in water baptism. But is water baptism to be practiced today? This is the vital issue. Though God’s Word does teach water baptism, it also teaches the need for blood sacrifices, circumcision and speaking in tongues. I believe in these things too. But are they to be practiced today?
How can we know what is to be practiced today and what is not? By what principle of Bible study can we rule out some things that do not seem to fit, and hold on to others? The key to this important problem is in the Word itself. God has dealt with men in various ways under differing programs. God is now dealing with men in grace, and this dispensation of grace under which we live was first revealed to the Apostle Paul who made it known to us in his epistles (see Ephesians 3:1-9; Colossians 1:24-27; Romans 16:25), This is why we must be “Pauline.” Some things once commanded by God are now strictly forbidden (compare Genesis 17:9-14 and Galatians 5:2-3). The Word of God which is specifically addressed to us today is that revelation committed by the glorified Lord to the Apostle Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). Pauline truth is our guide, and all truth must be taught in the light of this revelation
Now what does Paul command in regard to water baptism? Absolutely nothing! There is not one command in the Pauline epistles to the effect that members of the Body of Christ should practice water baptism. Paul himself says he was not sent to baptize (Read First Corinthians 1:17 again). True, he did baptize some, as he also spoke in tongues, but water baptism was not a part of that particular revelation he received from the Lord for us. He was not sent to baptize and neither are we.
Now if Paul was working under the same commission as Peter (and the one most believers today are trying to obey) he could never have said: “Christ sent me not to baptize.”. Peter was sent out under the commission of Mathew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-17. Under that commission, Peter and the circumcision apostles were told to baptize all nations and he that believed and was baptized would be saved. Furthermore, miraculous signs would follow those who believed. Read the commission in Matthew and Mark again and see all it commands. This “great” commission’ definitely required water baptism.
But Paul was not sent to baptize and hence could not have been working under that commission. What was his commission? It was a new commission for the new dispensation of grace which he received from the Lord in glory (Galatians 1:11-12: Ephesians 3:1-3). Water baptism is not included in this commission or in the program for this d1spensatlon. (see Second Corinthians 5:18-20)
Finally, I cannot practice water baptism because:
III. THE “ONE BAPTISM” IS THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT MAKES US ONE WITH THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Ephesians and first Corinthians
Paul does say a great deal about baptism but it is not water baptism. In Ephesians as part of the unity of the Spirit the one baptism. The following verses w1l1 show what this one baptism is:
Romans 6:4-4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
First Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Colossians 2:11-12 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
It is Quite obvious a simple reading of these important passages that the one baptism that is common to every believer, irrespective of denomination, is the baptism into Christ and His Body. This baptism occurs the very moment one believes the gospel. If this baptism is by water then water baptism saves, for it is a baptism into Christ.
But it is only God who can save and only the Holy Spirit who can put anyone into Christ. In Romans 6:3-4 we are told that those who have been baptized into Christ (by the Holy Spirit) have been baptized into His death. It is in His death that we died to sin (Verse 2). Since we died with Him we were also buried with Him by means of that baptism into His death; buried, not in water but in His tomb. And when He arose we arose with Him to new life.
This is not symbolic language for water could never symbolize crucifixion, burial in a rock tomb or resurrection to new life. This is all a spiritual reality which we are to reckon true by faith. This baptism into Christ transforms the life and breaks the power of the sin nature. Could water ever do this? Only God can, and God did, by making us one with Christ through this divine baptism.
This divine baptism, then, presents a spiritual obligation. Because we have been baptized into Christ and thus have died to sin and are now alive unto God, we are commanded to “reckon” ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans. 6:11). Our baptism into Christ is the only true basis for Christian living. We died to sin only in Him and are alive spiritually only in Him. Put water here and we miss the whole lesson God would teach us. Yea, we miss the power to live pleasing to Him!
Thanks be unto God for His wonderful gift:
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God
is the object of the faith; the only faith
that saves is His faith.
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Believing Christ DIED, that’s HISTORY.
Believing Christ DIED for YOU SINS and Rose again that’s SALVATION.
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