BAPTISM (ACTS 2:38)



BAPTISM WAS AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH FROM THE VERY BEGINNING (ACTS 2:38). BAPTISM IS A RITUAL CLEANSING THAT SIGNIFIES THE REMOVAL OF IMPURITY AND SIN; IT REPRESENTS REPENTANCE FROM SIN AND TURNING TO GOD FOR FORGIVENESS AND PURIFICATION.

THE WORDS "BAPTISM” AND: BAPTIZE" WERE ALREADY USED IN JUDAISM TO REFER TO A RELIGIOUS RITE FOR CLEANSING. THE LAW OF MOSES ESTABLISHED THE USE OF WATER TO CLEANSE PEOPLE FROM CEREMONIAL DEFILEMENT (NUM. 19:14-19). LATER GENTILE CONVERTS TO JUDAISM FROM PAGAN RELIGIOUS WERE ADMITTED TO JUDAISM ONLY AFTER FULFILLING CERTAIN OBLIGATIONS, WHICH INCLUDED THE STUDY OF THE TORAH, CIRCUMCISION, AND A RITUAL BATH TO WASH AWAY THE IMPURITIES OF THE GENTILE BACKGROUND.

JOHN HAD THUS PREACHED "THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE BAPTIZED TO SHOW THAT THEY HAD REPENTED OF THEIR SINS AND TURNED TO GOD TO BE FORGIVEN" (LUKE 3:3). JOHN'S BAPTISM WAS AN ASPECT OF HIS ROLE IN PREPARING PEOPLE'S HEARTS TO RECEIVE THE MESSIAH (LUKE 3:4-6), AND THOSE WHO HAD RECEIVED HIS BAPTISM AND REPENTED OF THEIR SINS WERE THOSE WHO WERE PREPARED FOR JESUS' MESSAGE (LUKE 7:29-30).

AFTER HIS RESURRECTION, JESUS COMMANDED HIS DISCIPLES TO BAPTIZE NEW CONVERTS (MATT 28:19). CHRISTIAN BAPTISM IS UNDERSTOOD AS DYING AND RISING WITH CHRIST, SIGNIFYING THE DEATH OF THE OLD LIFE AND THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW (ROM 6:1-4; COL 2:12). THUS BAPTISM SIGNIFIES A CHRISTIAN'S SPIRITUAL UNION WITH CHRIST (GAL 3:27), AND WITH HIS CHURCH, BAPTISM THUS BECAME THE RITE OF INITIATION IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY. FOR THIS REASON, MANY INTERPRETERS SEE BAPTISM AS THE CHRISTIAN EQUIVALENT OF CIRCUMCISION, THE RITE THE INITIATED MEMBERSHIP INTO THE NATION OF ISREAL UNDER THE OLD COVENANT (COL 2:11-12). WHATEVER THE CONNECTION WITH OLD TESTAMENT CIRCUMCISION, BAPTISM SIGNIFIES A CHANGED HEART AND A CLEAN CONSCIENCE THAT COME FROM GOD'S FORGIVENESS (DEUT 10:16; 30:6).

AS A RITUAL CLEANSING, CHRISTIAN BAPTISM SIGNIFIES BOTH FORGIVENESS OF SINS (ACTS 2:38; 5:31;10:43; 13:38; 26:18) AND THE RECEPTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (ACTS 2:38). MANY INTERPRETERS SEE BAPTISM AS THE OUTWARD CONFIRMATION OF THE INWARD "SEAL" OF THE SPIRIT, WHOSE PRESENCE IS A "GUARANTEE" OF THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE THAT AWAITS GOD'S FAITHFUL PEOPLE (2 COR.1:21-22)

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