- Baptism Questions - some questions I'd like to sort out
- What Did Baptism Mean? - a look at how the Greek terms get used and translated in other literature
- Baptism without Water - a look at baptism references that are not talking about water
- Baptism and Culture - It seems Christianity adopted a common custom of the time.
- The Heart of Baptism - What is at the heart of this ritual
- Who Can Baptize? - Do we think Matt 28:18 - 20 is addressed only for the clergy?
- When Should Believers Be Baptized - At what age? At what level of maturity?
- Baptism With The Holy Spirit - comparing immersion with water and with the Holy Spirit
- Baptism Summary Thoughts
If Jesus had come to a culture that didn't practice something like water baptism, would He have invented this ritual for them, or would He have done something different that would make sense to that culture?
I have heard that John the Baptist and the early Church were not the only ones immersing people in water in those days. It seems Gnostics had a similar ritual, and so did segments of Judaism.
Evidently, baptisms were used by a wide variety of religious groups known to the early Christians in order to give witness to purification, to commitment, and to inclusion (rites of initiation and passage). http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?1327Another quote:
Alfred Edersheim describes the Jewish rite thusly, "The person to be baptized, having cut his hair and nails, undressed completely, made fresh profession of his faith before what were designated ‘the fathers of the baptism'... and then immersed completely, so that every part of the body as touched by the water" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol 2, p 746). He rightly argues that the information "must be regarded as proving that at that time (previous to Christ) the baptism of proselytes was customary" (Ibid. p. 747). http://firstcenturychristian.com/answers/answers_074.htmOne more from Christianity.com
But in first-century Judaism, baptism had a different meaning. In the book of Leviticus, God instructs Jews to cleanse themselves from ritual impurities, contracted through such acts as touching a corpse or a leper. Washing primarily fulfilled the legal requirements of ritual purity so that Jews could sacrifice at the Temple. Later, as "God-fearers" or "righteous" Gentiles expressed their desire to convert to Judaism, priests broadened the rite's meaning, and along with circumcision, performed baptism as a sign of the covenant given to Abraham.It seems Christianity adopted a common custom of the time. They likely changed it some, and gave it a new meaning.
Humor me if you can, imagine for a moment...
Imagine Jesus coming to earth as a baby, and for some reason he ends up in Canada. When He grows up he hears there is a crazy guy just outside of town doing some crazy stuff. His name is John, not me, a different crazy John. It turns out to be the second cousin of Jesus. John has somehow convinced the masses to turn from their selfish ways and turn back to following God. The change is happening in their hearts, but they also want to make a visible statement, some sort of sign to tell the world that they are changing.
This group of Canadians has never identified washing in water with spiritual change. They had no religious customs involving people getting dunked in the rivers or lakes. These people live in Canada remember. Water is frozen in Canada for the majority of the year.
So what do you think this group of Canadians would do eh? And what sort of religious rite would Christians have created if Jesus had come to Canada?
Would the ritual have included a sweat lodge?
Would the people have gotten a religious tattoo?
Would the people have bought a T-shirt with a common slogan?
Would everybody get a bracelet to remind them to consider what would Jesus do?
I know some of this sounds silly. But I am having a hard time imagining what they would have done.
Or do you think Jesus would have insisted that these Canadian Christians build special indoor baptismal tanks so they could start practicing this foreign ritual?
What do you think?
So my next question is: What is at the heart of this ritual? I don't believe God is as interested in religious rituals as He is primarily concerned with the heart. So from God's perspective, what is He wanting from us here?