Our Beliefs: 7. Water Baptism

Posted on 02/12/2017 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

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Please click one of the offering plates in Second Life or at http://almcyberchurch.org, and give as the Lord leads.


by Benjamin R. Faust

I have a reason to rejoice
I have a reason to clap my hands
I have a reason to lift my voice
and sing praises to the great I Am

I have a reason to move my feet
and take the Gospel into the street
I have a reason to lose my will
and let Jesus take full control

For you have set me feet to dancin'
You have filled my heart with joy
You have freed me from my passions
and filled me with the Holy Ghost

You have set my heart on fire
Fill my soul with your desire
and Melt me Lord 'til
only you remain!

by Benjamin R. Faust

I praise you Lord
I praise you Lord
With all of my heart
With all of my soul
With all of my strength
I praise you Lord

For there is nobody like you
in heaven or on earth
Who is worthy to receive
all my praise
And I praise you with all that I am
Yes I praise you with all that I am

I'll serve you Lord
I'll serve you Lord
With all of my heart
With all of my soul
With all of my strength
I'll serve you Lord

For there is nobody like you
in heaven or on earth
Who is worthy to receive
all my praise
And I'll serve you with all that I am
Yes I'll serve you with all that I am

I love you Lord and
I'll love you Lord
With all of my heart
With all of my soul
With all of my strength
I love you Lord

For there is nobody like you
in heaven or on earth
Who is worthy to receive
all my praise
And I love you with all that I am
Yes I love you with all that I am

by Benjamin R. Faust

You are holy
great and worthy
All creation is
full of Your glory
Angels prostrate
fall - and with one voice proclaim
Glory and Majesty to
Whom for all eternity reigns! (He reigns!)
(Him for all eternity)

To Him who sits on the throne
Glory and honor and praise
forever and ever
And to the Lamb who was slain
And set us free from the grave
and those who know Him are free

*** Choose your connection speed and listen to the audio to hear the introduction. ***

For a few weeks now, we've been going through our Statement of Beliefs.

And you can find the items we're covering by going to almcyberchurch.org and clicking the "What We Believe" link, or here in Second Life by clicking one of the "Church Information" signs.

As as we've done for all the other items on our list, I'd like to begin by clarifying the reason for sharing these beliefs with you.

That reason is NOT because these beliefs will somehow make you more spiritual than those who disagree with them, nor is it to cause division or give some sort of prerequisite to unity.

Our unity is in the Spirit -- only He can truly make us one, despite whatever differences in doctrines or beliefs we might have accumulated.

So our trust should not be in those things, but only in Christ.

As Proverbs 3:5-6 (TLS*) says,

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not dwell in or rely upon your own understanding.
6 Know Him in all things, and He will direct your paths, making them plain and straight.

And also keep in mind that these beliefs are not infallible truth, for none of us are infallible. The truth is, we ALL see through a glass dimly, and the conclusions your mind embraces as indisputable truth just might be wrong.

So today, let's recognize that the mind is only a tool we have been given to use in this world of form; it is not the one who leads us into all Truth -- that's the job of the Holy Spirit. So while we are obviously using the mind to formulate words and express concepts today, let's remember that these words are only pointers, and have no real value in themselves, their only value being to redirect our attention OFF of them and onto Him instead.

So let's bring our attention back into the Presence of God in His Holy Temple, the body in which You and He currently reside, and feel His Breath, His Presence, His Life there, for He is the One to whom any worthwhile teachings point.

And now, let's read the next item on our list.

7. Water Baptism

Water Baptism by immersion is a symbol of total immersion in the Spirit. Through it, we publicly identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Okay. So this description could give the occasion for offense. I obviously don't know the denominational backgrounds of everyone who might be hearing this message in Second Life, on the radio stream, on the podcast, on YouTube, on our various website, etc. But I'm certain that some of your minds have embraced the definition of water baptism as a sprinkling, a pouring, or some other variation that does not involve immersion.

But let's take a moment to let the realization sink in that baptism is a symbol. The act itself does not hold any mystical, magical, or supernatural powers, and instead only points to something spiritual.

The word translated "baptism" in the New Testament writings comes from the following meaning, from Strong's Lexicon:

"To immerse, submerge; to make fully wet."

And that's why we use that terminology in this statement of belief. If you were sprinkled or had some water poured over your head, I'm not here to say the spiritual thing to which that symbol points did not happen or is any less real.

Let's consider the example of one of the theives who was crucified next to Jesus.

Luke 23:39-43 (NKJV)

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us."

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong."
42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."

43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

And then... Jesus spirited him away and both sprinkled him with and immersed him in sanctified water, to ensure that His promise could be fulfilled.

Well, okay, so I just made that part up.

When speaking of the fact that we are all one body, the body of Christ, the New Testament writer says this in 1 Corinthians 12:13 (KMV*)

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.

And this is the spiritual truth that water baptism symbolizes: immersion in the Spirit of God, drinking freely of that water that flows from the throne of God, and thereby being joined together as one in, by, and through the Water of Life, the Holy Spirit of God.

Now that is not to say the symbol does not have relative importance. Earthly symbols are meant to point us to a spiritual truth, or a non-physical reality. They are also an opportunity for stumbling, as the earthly mind assigns to them the importance that rightfully belongs to that which they merely symbolize.

This is similar to communion, which we will cover in the next part of this series, about which Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me."

Okay. Now for the value of water baptism. If you've been water baptised, you probably remember it well -- unless, of course, you were baptised as an infant, and we'll talk about that in just a moment.

Your baptism was probably in a public gathering, and served as a declaration to everyone that you were a part of the family of God, and a partaker in His Spirit, that Spirit in which you have been immersed and filled, that Spirit which makes you one with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

And that physical act, that symbolic event, hopefully tuned your awareness into the immersion in and filling with the Spirit of God.

Many people have had significant spiritual experiences during water baptism. And the first one was Jesus.

Matthew 3:13-17 (NASB)

13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him.
14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?"
15 But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him.
16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,
17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

So Jesus was baptised, or immersed, in water. And, as though he was given a glimpse through the veil to the spirit realm, John saw the spirit descending like a dove, and heard God declare, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

And those two experiences were ALSO symbols. The Holy Spirit is not a physical bird. And the sounds that came from heaven were not the meaning of those words. For us, they would have been in English, or whatever your native language happens to be.

But all those symbols were necessary to be understood by beings in their human state, observing through their human minds.

So while the symbolic experience was incredible, if it pointed to nothing besides itself, it would have been nothing more than first-rate entertainment.

But instead, it pointed to something beyond itself. The water baptism symbolized the immersion in and filling with the Spirit of God. The form of the dove that descended symbolized the formless Spirit of God. And the human words that came from heaven symbolized, or pointed to, the identity of Christ and the pleasure of God in Him.

Powerful symbols in that they represented and pointed mankind to things He otherwise would not have been able to see.

Okay. So I said we would touch on infant baptism. And while I don't want to spend much time on that, I believe it has relative importance.

Infant baptism is not something that was mentioned anywhere in the New Testament writings. The earliest Church did not seem to practice it. Instead, baptism was always a choice, a personal declaration.

Infant baptism actually started during a time in which infant mortality was high. Since it was believed by some that water baptism was required for Salvation, they began to baptise their infants as soon as possible to prevent their eternal damnation.

Some groups cite the example of Jesus, in which children and infants were brought to Him, and He touched them, telling His disciples to let them come to Him, for "of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." This, however, does not say He baptised them, but that He "touched" them.

There are other New Testament passages which seem to combine water baptism and the Salvation and washing away of sins that act represents. And indeed, they are, symbolically speaking, one and the same. But the symbol points to that which it symbolizes.

If someone were to make an action figure that looks like you, well that would be interesting for sure... But it would be only a symbol of you, and would not actually BE you. You could stick it in a deep freeze or boil it in oil, and YOU would neither freeze nor cook to death. You could cut off its head, and YOU would survive quite nicely. Well, unless those actions were performed by someone well-versed in Voodoo.

But let's try to imagine, if you will, that plastic dolls can see only things made out of plastic. A plastic Barbie who leaves her plastic house might drive in her plastic car to go on a date with a plastic Ken. In our fantasy, she wouldn't know that a child (or an adult if you're my wife) is the only moving them around and pushing their plastic automobiles.

I realize that's a real stretch of the imagination, but hang in there with me for just a minute.

How would you make them aware of YOU? You're not plastic. They can't see you. They CAN experience you, because you're moving them around, but to them, that's not proof that you exist. How would you point them to something beyond their own ability to perceive?

Well, you COULD make that action figure that represents you, and move him or her around and talk to them through it. And some of them would believe.

You could devise various plastic symbols that closely represent non-plastic reality, so that they get momentary glimpses beyond the world of plastics and see into your own reality.

Well, our physical reality is fleeting. It is here for a moment, and then is gone. And there is a veil, the veil of the fallen and inordinately exalted human mind, which obscures the realm of the spirit from our view.

And so, to bridge the divide, God gifts us with symbols which are meant to point us to that which our human minds cannot see.

Water baptism points to spiritual baptism. The thief on the cross did not have the opportunity to participate in that physical counterpart of baptism into the Spirit and Family of God. All He had was the realization of the Truth, and His total dependance upon Jesus to grant him forgiveness for his sins, and mercy from God.

The thief had wilfully sinned, and the thief wilfully confessed his sinful state and sought forgiveness from God.

An infant, on the other hand, cannot wilfully sin. And while some state that one must be forgiven from both original and actual sin, and infants are born with original sin, we should consider that Jesus not only had a sinless Father, God, but ALSO had a fallen human mother, Mary, and therefore inherited original sin, or the nature of sin.

Since He was the Son of both God and man, He had the equal ability to either sin or not sin. And His water baptism was a powerful symbol of His choice and the spiritual reality connected with that choice.

Does that make sense?

Okay, to bring this back down to earth, I'll conclude infant baptism with this... (and we can all take a deep breath and let that information journey go)...

If you were baptised as an infant, that's perfectly okay. You can think of it as having been dedicated to God, which is most definitely a Biblical practice. But your parents can neither save you nor condemn you to hell.

No ritual or practice or symbolism can save you. Only Jesus can. And He says, "Whoever thirsts, let him drink of the Water of Life freely."

"We have all been made to drink of the same Spirit."

Have you put your trust in Jesus? Have you personally decided to do so, and to walk with God?

Well, if the Spirit leads you to do so, it certainly wouldn't hurt to be baptised in water now as a public outward declaration of your baptism into that same Spirit, and I encourage you to do so.

But do not trust in symbols or rituals or traditions to save you. Water baptism won't do it. A sinner's prayer won't do it. Becoming an official member of a church won't do it.

Only the finished work of Jesus can save you, and you can partner with His Saving Grace by simply trusting in what He has done.