Part 2 - The Rite of Baptism - What is Baptism?
What does Baptism mean or signify? Is there something of significance that actually takes place during the rite of Baptism? Or is it symbolic?
“Know you not that as many of us as were baptized into Yahushua Messiah [does not to include the Father and the Holy Spirit as was previously discussed in Part 1] were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Messiah was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead, is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Messiah [Christ], we believe that we shall also live with Him; knowing that Messiah being raised from the dead dieth no more [He, like us when we are resurrected, had immortality bestowed upon Him at His resurrection.]; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died [He died because He did not possess immortality at that time], He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto Elohim [God]. Likewise reckon [consider] you also yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto Elohim through Yahushua Messiah [Jesus Christ] our Master. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto Elohim, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto Elohim. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:3-14, emphasis added). In order to know and understand what it means to be under grace and not under the law [the “law of sin and death” and not the Ten Commandments], please click the shaded area to read our study, Under Law/Under Grace. If you are still sinning then you are not under grace but are still under the law of sin and death.
Baptism is purely symbolic and has no special power in and of itself to do for mankind what is needed and as discussed in this passage of Scripture. Baptism reveals to us what should have already happened in a person’s life. There should have been a death to sin and self. If that has not taken place in one’s life then when that person is buried in Baptism, he is buried alive and cannot possibly “walk in newness of life” because “the old man of sin” has not died yet. Many are led into a false experience not having begun with death to self and sin and continue to live a life of sin filled with guilt. "There is therefore now no condemnation [guilt] to them which are in Messiah Yahushua, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). They have never experienced being “born again” and continue to serve the sinful nature of fallen mankind. Paul makes this statement in Romans 6:2: “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (emphasis added). Have we died to sin? If we have not, then we will continue to sin.
Baptism is much like the marriage ceremony. When two people become husband and wife, their hearts should have been united prior to the wedding ceremony. The reason there may be so many divorces is because this has not taken place prior to the marriage ceremony. So with Baptism.
Let us examine Ephesians 2:1-6. “And you hath He quickened, who were dead [past tense] in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had [past tense] our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But Elohim, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins [past tense], hath quickened us together with Messiah, (by grace you are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Messiah Yahushua” (emphasis added). The way you lived before you came to Messiah should be radically different from the way you live after you have come to Messiah. It is not just a modification of the old man of sin. It is death to the old man of sin, and a new life marked by the fruits of the Spirit of Elohim which abides in you. "Whosoever is born of Elohim doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of Elohim" (1 John 3:9, emphasis added).
“But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of Elohim dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of the Messiah [Spirit of Elohim], he is none of His. And if the Messiah be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him [Elohim] that raised up the Messiah from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up the Messiah from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:9-11, emphasis added). We are “born again” when the Spirit of Elohim comes to dwell within these mortal bodies of flesh. And “if the Messiah be in you” you will not continue to sin for the Spirit of Elohim shall “quicken your mortal bodies” enabling you to live a life of righteousness. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
Many after they have been baptized do not live a Spirit filled life. How can I say that? Am I judging? No, I am fruit inspecting. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such is no law. And they that are Messiah’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:22-24, emphasis added). They have died to the old man of sin and have begun to experience the new life in Messiah. “For if you live after the flesh, ye shall die [the second death which is eternal and from which there is no resurrection]: but if you through the Spirit [not in your own strength] do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live [eternally]” (Romans 8:13).
Dying to self is not a once in a lifetime matter, but as Paul put it “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Every day we will have our fallen, inherited, human nature to contend with, and every day we must die to its desires and lusts and live to the Spirit by allowing the Spirit to dwell within us (Ephesians 2:3).
Many contend that it is impossible to live in this life without sinning. I have heard ministers from the pulpit tell the congregation that they sin all day, every day. Can you imagine a minister saying such a thing? Living a life of defeat and in servitude to sin. The gospel tells us that “Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin unto death [eternal], or of obedience unto righteousness? But Elohim be thanked, that you were [past tense] the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness” (emphasis added). “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to Elohim, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:16-18, 22, emphasis added).
Many are judging what I am saying by their experience which might consist of “sinning and repenting” and would tell me that you cannot stop sinning. But is that what the Bible would tell you? No, it is not what the Bible would tell you. In fact, it would tell you quite the opposite. We are not to judge our lives by what we experience, but we are to bring our lives into conformity to what is revealed in the Bible. 1 John 3:6, 9 have this to say on the matter. “Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” “Whosoever is born of Elohim doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of Elohim” (emphasis added). “You must be born again . . . so is everyone that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8). This is what Elohim says about sinning and repenting. “Thou hast forsaken Me, saith Yahuwah [the LORD], thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out My hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting” (Jeremiah 15:6, emphasis added).
Many take it for granted that they will continue to sin until Yahushua returns and changes us. John did not think so. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Yahushua Messiah the righteous” (1 John 2:1, emphasis added). “If any man sin.” Some of us, including myself, have struggled with this concept for many years. I remember the early experience I had when I first became a “child of Elohim.” I had been a drug addict, alcoholic, and so on prior to being told the “gospel.” In Minnesota where I lived at the time, we have what we call “sap oaks.” They are oak trees that retain their dead leaves throughout the winter on their branches. When spring comes along with its warm temperatures the leaves begin to fall from the trees as the sap comes back into branches. So it was with me. As I spent time reading the Bible and praying “the desires and lusts of the flesh and the mind” were falling off from me. My life was changing, and it was not because I was trying to change it or being told to change. It was just happening quietly, but visibly to those who knew me and knew what I had been like. “The kingdom of Elohim cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of Elohim is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). If there was ever someone who Paul was describing in Ephesians 2:1 it was me. “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” We marvel in reading the gospels how Yahushua raised the dead back to life. But here I was being raised back to “life” after being “dead in trespasses and sins.”
Elohim asks this question in the Old Testament “Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). Jeremiah had answered that question ten verses earlier in Jeremiah 32:17. “Ah Yahuwah Elohim Behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee” (emphasis added). “I can do all things through Messiah, which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, emphasis added). Elohim does leave us alone to battle with our fallen natures, but with our permission and invitation, He comes to dwell within us by His Spirit. He stands “at the door and knocks” (Revelation 3:20) waiting to be invited in. He will not force Himself upon us but waits politely for our invitation. When we realize our need, we will gladly accept “all” that He offers.
It is the work of Elohim’s Spirit “to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 15). That is where His work for us begins and ends when He by His Spirit has changed us into His likeness. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of Yahuwah, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of Yahuwah” (2 Corinthians 3:18, emphasis added). And that process called sanctification should have already begun prior to the rite of Baptism. There must have been death to self and the Spirit of Elohim must have been invited in, in order for us to “walk in the newness of life.” Each day that needs to take place where we die to self and invite Elohim’s Spirit to dwell within transforming us into His likeness. “I die daily.” Self can arise anytime when given the opportunity. We must stay committed and submitted to Elohim!
This is what is called salvation. Elohim salvages our wreck of a life and restores us back into His likeness.