IS BAPTISM A MERE WATER RITUAL?
T. PIERCE BROWN
Those who ridicule the idea of water baptism having anything to do with our salvation have often been prone to ridicule it by calling it a mere water ritual. We are sad to admit that a large number of those connected with the Lord’s church seem to think that going through the act of being immersed in water constitutes scriptural baptism and results in their salvation. This is not so, but gives no one the right to refer to God’s ordained plan as a mere water ritual.
I recently read a long treatise by one who claims to have been a student of Greek and Bible for about 65 years who admits that the basic word means “to dip,” but claims that it took on other meanings, such as “to dye,” “to overwhelm,” and eventually came to mean “to identify,” with the thought of merging and relating. Like many false doctrines, his is almost right. The truth is that although the basic meaning of the term, “baptizo,” commanded by Jesus always involved the idea of dip, plunge, immerse or overwhelm, the thing commanded by Jesus was never merely getting dipped in water. In fact, we can think of no act that Jesus commanded that involved merely going through the act.
Is singing which God ordained merely saying words set to music? Is scriptural praying just muttering words to God? Is the Lord’s Supper merely taking some grape juice and eating a cracker? We admit that it is probable that many who profess membership in the Lord’s church go through those processes, assuming they have done something significant. That gives us no right to deny the value doing what the Lord said do, in the way the Lord said do it, with the attitude and purpose the Lord intended.
So, although the word “baptizo” might be translated “dye” because when a garment was dipped in a liquid dye it resulted in coloring the garment, the word does not mean “dye.” Although the word may be translated “wash” because if a person washes something, he may do so by dipping it in water, the word does not mean “wash.” Although when a person is scripturally baptized in water in submission to Christ as Lord, he is identified with Christ, the word does not mean “identify.” Scriptural baptism involves belief in Christ, but that does not mean that the word “baptism” means “belief.” Scriptural baptism involves repentance, but that does not suggest that the word “baptism” means repentance. Scriptural baptism involves submission to and identification with Christ as Lord, but that does not imply that the word “baptism” means either submission or identification.
Most who deny the importance of water baptism take such passages as Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” and ridicule the idea that baptism into Christ is baptism in water. Anyone who understands scriptural baptism knows that merely being dipped (baptized) in water is not the same as being baptized into Christ. This gives no one the right to say, “Real baptism and water baptism are not the same. Water baptism is merely a ritual. Real baptism is being identified with Christ.” Of course they do not tell us exactly how and when God ordained that this identification takes place. The truth is that the identification takes place when one is scripturally baptized — immersed in water upon an acceptance of the Lordship of Christ, demonstrating that acceptance by turning from sin and confessing his faith in Christ.
Even if God had ordained a specific ceremony for marriage, it would not mean that the reality of marriage is found in the mere ceremony. But it would mean that if God had ordained a specific ceremony, it would be very unwise to scoff at the ceremony and assume that a real marriage, approved of God, could be achieved without the ceremony. Of course God did not ordain a specific ceremony, so any ceremony which is recognized by the society in which one lives as a commitment to and identification with each other as husband and wife is authorized of God. It might be as simple as giving her father some whale blubber and taking her to his igloo, or merely taking her into his tent after she had agreed to be his wife. In any case, if there were not this God authorized commitment and identification, there would be no marriage, but simply acts of fornication.
Since God ordained a specific way to show our commitment to and identification with Jesus as Lord, which involves immersion in water for the remission of our sins, having accepted him as Lord and turned from sin, anyone who scoffs at God’s ordained plan is scoffing at God. Make sure you accept the Man and the plan in God’s way.