Hebrews Lesson 57 June 8, 2006
NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
This is the beginning of one of those passages that people debate. They get all upset every now and then because they think this means they can lose their salvation. Actually the real tough section doesn't come until verses 4 through 6 and we are probably not going to make it out of the first 3 verses this evening. So we will have to wait until I get back from the trip to Israel before we get into the hard stuff. So I get to teach the hard stuff when I get back and have jet lag. I just love the way things work out sometimes.
NKJ Hebrews 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Here is what we need to recognize at the very beginning. This word "therefore" can translate any number of Greek words that we find at the beginning of a verse or section where there a conclusion is being drawn or an inference is being made. The Greek word that is used here is dio. It has a little stronger sense than the standard word that we would expect to find here which is oun. It throws our attention right back to what has been said. It tells you that the writer has made several points in the previous verses and on the basis of what has been said. You can almost say "because of what I just said" or "on account of what I just said" or "for the reasons just stated." Now we move on to this conclusion and this point of application. So what precedes this verse is encapsulated in "therefore."
Just for review this section begins back in verse 11. This is one of those challenge sections in Hebrews. Remember that I pointed out that there is a didactic or teaching section, and that is followed by an application or challenge—an exhortation section. Within that exhortation there is a warning in each of these sections. In the first two sections the warning and the exhortation are identical. But in this section the exhortation or challenge or application began in 5:11 and extend down through the end of chapter 6. But the warning section itself is primarily encapsulated in verses 1-8. So this is the warning section 1-8 or more specifically 4-8. So the "therefore" draws from what he just said. And what he just said is to really reprimand them for their spiritual condition. They have become dull of hearing. The word "therefore" that we saw indicates that they have become lazy, complacent about their spiritual life. In fact they have gone into a reversal. They have regressed in their spiritual growth and their spiritual lives such that they have become dull of hearing. Rather than being at a stage of maturity where they could explain and teach the word in verse 12 he says…
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
That word "first principles" that you have in the Greek is stoicheion. It has to do with the building blocks of anything. In philosophy they had a certain set of first principles. In some of the philosophical thought in early Greek it was the first principles, the basic elements of the matter of the universe. They were earth and water and fire and air. Stoicheionwas a word that was used to describe those first principles. Here we are talking about those first principles related to Christianity or the ABC's of Christianity or foundational doctrines to Christianity. So he says because they regressed they had to go back to first grade and second grade, the basics. And he goes on to describe this as milk in verse 13.
He says, "You have to take in milk because you are unskilled. You are not practicing the message of righteousness. You are not putting that into application in your life for you are a babe."
The word that we saw for babe is the Greek word nepios. Although ina few places it is used to refer to an infant, it is primarily a word that is used in a very negative sense to describe someone who is much older that is acting like a baby. It has a negative sense. It is not like brephos or teknionthat refer to a spiritually new recently converted believer who is a spiritual infant; but someone who should be older, should be acting more mature has had the time and the opportunity to act mature but instead they are acting like a spiritual baby. Then he concludes by saying…
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
That is those who are mature, those who by practice. That is where we fail. People come. They listen to the Word of God. They keep their doctrinal notebooks together. They learn a lot, but they don't go home and practice it.
They don't make it a priority to think about the issues of life and say, "Okay, I need to face every decision as if it is a crisis doctrinal issue and I need put into practice those spiritual skills – those problem solving devices that we all know."
So because they don't exercise or discipline themselves in the application of doctrine, they have lost the ability to discern good and evil. So we had several extended lessons on practicing the doctrine of discernment. Discernment only comes from a reservoir of doctrine in your soul. It is not something you can accumulate or pull together in just a week or two or even a year or two.
So when we read verse 1 he is saying, "therefore because you have become lazy."
You have become backward in your spiritual growth because you are spiritual sluggards. Therefore let's go forward. Let's advance. That is the challenge and mandate that we find in verse 1.
Then there is a participial phrase "leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ." That word for elementary is the same word we had back there in verse 12 translated "first principles." It is the Greek word stoicheion. It is the ABC's related to Christ. The ABC's related to the basics of Christology.
There are a lot of folks who sit back and say right now and say, "I have gone through some of those lessons on Christology and they are not exactly basics."
I have had people who should have known better tell me that. They are basics. If you listen to what the writer of Hebrews is saying, he is saying that they are basics. Salvation, redemption, reconciliation, atonement, propitiation - all of these are basic. Let's get beyond these. Let's not be like some churches where pastors have 2,000 different sermons all on salvation. They never get beyond that. Whatever they are talking about it comes back to the same verse the 502nd time or the 831st time but it is always the same thing. You never get beyond the basics. So we start off with this statement to leave, but it is tied to the main verb.
"Let us go on to perfection."
That is the challenge in verse 1. That is the main verb. It is present passive subjunctive. It has the sense of something that is to be a predominant characteristic. That present tense indicates something that is ongoing, something that is habitual, and something that is characteristic.
Now when we look at it in the English we say, "Let us go on."
That seems to be a command. Why isn't that in the imperative? That is just a function of Greek grammar. It is a subjunctive mood, but it is called a hortatory subjunctive. That means that the writer is giving a command to his readers, but he is going to include himself in the command. So it is "let us" rather than "you go do". He is saying "let us." Just as I am pressing on or advancing to maturity, I am challenging you to join me in that same challenge, to press on, to go forward, and to advance to spiritual maturity. So that is the essence of this verse.
He says, "Therefore let us advance to perfection."
The word perfection is the form of a word that we have seen many times. It is teleiotes which means maturity, not perfection in the sense of flawlessness. That is what everybody thinks of in terms of perfection and then there are always a few people in denominations that down through the years that think that you can have sinless perfection. That is only because they have a very diluted watered down narrow sense of sin. Sin only consists of the terrible two or the fearsome five or the nasty nine. It is easy not to commit those two, five or nine sins.
If you start thinking about arrogance and you go home tonight and you get by yourself for a little while and before you go to sleep you start thinking about all of the ways that arrogance manifests itself in your life, we suddenly realize that everything we do is permeated by self- absorption at times. Sin is much deeper and much more profound than we want it to be. It is not just overt sins. It is not just certain things that we find offensive. It is something that is deeply embedded in our constitutional make up as fallen creatures. That is what happened to Adam when he ate from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He was changed profoundly, internally and constitutionally. He is not sick. He is dead – spiritually dead. That affects being is affected. Every aspect of his being is affected by his fallen nature.
Now if you are trying to witness to a Muslim or if you are trying to witness to a lot of secular Americans, they don't believe that they are sinners. They don't understand what that means. They restrict the meaning of sin in a lot of ways. Muslims think of sin only in terms of something that is blasphemous to Allah. So murder, adultery, mass murder, genocide and terrorism aren't sinful. It is only sinful if it is a direct affront to Allah. Muslims believe that men are born basically good. The Bible says that that is not right. We are all born basically evil. It's not the book "I Am Okay, You Are Okay". The Bible says that I am not okay and neither are you. We were born that way and we are going to stay that way apart from the grace of God. So we start from the position that man is inherently evil. When you look at those sweet little babies or you have a sweet little baby and you look at that cute little baby, it is just a sin nature wrapped up in flesh. That is why the Bible calls the sin nature flesh. It is a bundle of sin right there. As cute as it is, as sweet as it is; it is sinful. It is fallen. It is totally depraved. Every aspect of its being is depraved. That is what total depravity means. Total depravity doesn't mean it is as bad as it can be. It just means in the totality of its being every dimension of its soul is affected by sin and is fallen and is under the condemnation of God.
This is one of the great watershed doctrines and beliefs in history – whether or not man is basically good or basically evil. For those of you who are more politically inclined I would encourage you to read a book by Thomas Soul called Conflict of Vision. Thomas Soul is one of the most profound political thinkers around today. He has done an excellent study of understanding why there is a conflict in the basic worldviews of people. I have never forgotten the introduction, the prologue, to his book. He talks about the fact, he raises the issue – why is it that when you talk about different political, social issues whether you are justifying sex between a couple of homosexuals and legitimizing their sinfulness or whether you are talking about how you are going to deal with the illegal immigration issue; whether you are dealing with economic issues such as taxation, issues related to Marxism, socialism, capitalism, no matter what these issue are- isn't it interesting that no matter what the issue is or and how the issue may be, for example, immigration being related to capital punishment that if you believe one way on immigration you probably believe a certain way on capital punishment. You probably think a certain way on legalization of homosexual marriage. And all of those people will always tend to think the same way about these disparate different issues. They will all line up over here and the people who line up in the other view line up over here. Why is it that you always find people on this side of the political or economic or social issue and you always seem to find the same people lining up on the other side of the economic, social or political issue even though those economic, social and political issues don't seem to relate to each other? What is the underground, presupposition that is really determining this? Soul does a magnificent job of showing that people who end up on the conservative side are people who down through history believed that mankind is basically evil. Man is basically fallen. People who end up on the liberal side socially or economically or politically all believe that man is basically good.
So what this shows you is that what the Bible says about the nature or condition of man is going to have a major impact on the things that you think about in life – how you view your role as a parent. If you think babies are basically good, that is going to influence your view of your role as a parent. If they are basically good, you don't need to paddle their little behinds. You don't need to teach them to control that little sin nature because they don't have one. You just let them run free and let them make their own decisions and discover life and let them make their own mind. But if you believe that it is a little sin nature wrapped up in a bag of flesh, then what you have to do is teach them self discipline and control. You have to realize that it is your job as a parent to give them that sense of right and wrong and self-mastery. If you don't do it, no one else will. It is not the school's job. It's not the Sunday school's job. It is not the job of the church. Those things are the job of the parent. If you believe those things are the job of the parent then you are not going to be on the other side because the other side based on the assumption that the child is basically good, thinks that the government can handle their training and the public schools can do all of those things and the parents don't think they need to be that involved. It will just come naturally.
So all of these things boil down to whether we think man is basically good or basically sinful. The Bible makes it clear that we are not perfectible. There is no such thing as perfection in the Christian life. It is maturity. That is the idea here. We are to press on to maturity. Even as mature believers we will still sin because we have a sin nature within us that is capable of committing heinous horrible shocking sins. It is just as capable as it was before we were saved. There may be some times that you commit some sins that shock you, shock your friends, shock your family, but you are still saved.
That is what we are going to get into when we get to the second part. You don't lose your salvation, but if you continue in that state there may be dire consequences, irreversible consequences on your spiritual life if you continue in your carnality beyond a certain point. So the challenge here is to press on to maturity.
Now to press on to maturity automatically implies the opposite. There are some things that you are not going to do. What the text says that we are not going to do is to lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. Now before I get to that last phrase I want to go back and clarify that participial phrase at the beginning that I skipped over.
That participle is probably a participle of manner. They are not defined in the Scripture. "In this manner we are going to press on"; "in this manner we are going to press on in this way by leaving behind these elementary principles" The idea of leaving behind is the Greek word aphiemi which is the same word that is used for forgiveness over in I John 1:9. It means to leave or to forgive or let go and in some cases to desert or to quit. That is the literal meaning, but it is used in a metaphorical meaning in the sense of leaving something behind moving on to the next stage. So we have the idea here of "in this manner we are going to press on to maturity". We are going to leave behind the discussion of basic ABC's of Christianity. In other words if you want to press on to maturity you have got to grow up. You have got to get off of the milk of the word of God and onto the meat of the Word of God.
There was a cover story article for Moody Monthly Moody Bible Institute, which is Jim's old alma mater. He went to school up in Chicago. It is named after Dwight Moody. I remember this article stood out in my mind. I read this 35 years ago. The title of the article was "Grow Up Baby Brother". Of course it dealt with the weaker brother issue but that was the title of the article – grow up. Yet nobody today wants to grow up. Nobody today has a vision for producing maturity. To produce maturity you have to have in depth Bible study.
I had a conversation this morning with the young man who is driving this RV around the country for Logos. The company decided on this marketing tool to try to make the person in the pew aware of the fact that they have got these great Bible study programs that aren't just for pastors and men who know Greek and Hebrew and the languages and all of that. It is something that is very easy to use for the average person in the pew. So they decided that they would take this RV and go around the country and get different churches to host them. They would come in and put on their demo to acquaint people with what is available. It is a great product and I think it has tremendous benefits not just for pastors but for anybody. I am not sure that it is for everybody; I am not selling it or encouraging it other than for pastors to buy it. It is a good tool for them to have. They have been very disappointed in this marketing. They have had big churches that have volunteered to host them –
big churches that don't teach the Bible. They get 30-40 people show up in a church of 4,000-5,000 and wonder what is wrong. It is because they are going to churches that don't emphasize Bible teaching. If you don't emphasize Bible teaching no one has a value for the study of the Word of God. So they would rather than go and spend $500 or $1000 on a computer program on the Bible, they would rather go on vacation for the weekend. So again and again and again city after city after city they have had a problem. They came to Houston and we have over 100 to 120 people that are supposed to show up which is pretty good compared to 13 that showed up two nights ago in San Antonio. It is a matter of do people want the tools to study the Bible. Are they really interested in Bible study? But we live in a world that is characterized by these Hebrew sluggards today and not a world that is characterized by Christians who want to seriously pursue spiritual growth and spiritual maturity and the Word of God.
Part of it is that they don't realize that there are negative consequences for failure. Negative consequences aren't that you will lose your salvation in the sense that you will lose your eternal destiny in heaven, but as this writer points out you will lose rewards. You will lose rewards and blessings both in time and eternity and you may also reach a point in your spiritual regression that is a point of no return and you can't recover and you are going to go through the rest of your life an example of divine discipline and you will live your life as a test, an object of testing for everybody around you. How many people want to be that way - the reason that God has left you alive to be a real pain in the rear to everybody around you and let them grow to spiritual maturity. That is basically what he is saying here in Hebrews 6.
So he says, "Let us press on."
This is a command. This is a mandate for all of us. Let's not relax and regress. Let us press on to maturity.
Now one of the interesting things about this last phrase is that it clearly shows that these are saved people. They are regenerate. His readers are regenerate. They are not unregenerate. They are regenerate because of the word '"again". That implies that they have already laid the foundation.
Now the word that is foundation here is a word that is picked up and used in a couple of other key passages. What is the foundation?
NKJ 1 Corinthians 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
He is the foundation. It has to do with the person and work of Christ. All of that is tied together. We get it in an encapsulated form at the Lord's Table. The foundation is Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ and what did He do? If you understand that and believe it then you are going to have an eternal destiny in heaven.
Who is Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ is not just a man. He wasn't just a great prophet. He wasn't just a great teacher. He wasn't just a religious innovator which is a lie that has been promoted for 200 -300 years of the Enlightenment ever since the 1700's. Jesus Christ is as the Bible claims, the eternal Second Person of the Trinity who has become flesh. He is eternal in His deity. He is only finite in terms of the beginning of His humanity. He is fully God and He is fully man. He is the foundation. Who He is is crucial to what He did because He is who He is and He is absolute perfection, sinless, born of a virgin. Therefore He didn't inherit a sin nature. He is without sin and lived His life without sin. He didn't inherit a sin nature. He didn't receive the imputation of Adam's original sin. He did not commit any individual sins which we studied already going back to our study in Hebrews 4:14-6.
NKJ Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
NKJ Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
NKJ Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He was impeccable. Because of that impeccability He is qualified to go to the cross. So who He is can't be separated from what He did. What He did was to die on the cross as our substitute. In His own body He bore our sins on the cross. He was in our place. He was our substitute. He paid the sin penalty so that it was taken upon Himself. He couldn't do that if He wasn't who He was. If He wasn't eternal God and true humanity in one person, He couldn't do what He did. You can't separate "the who" from "the what" and you can't separate "the what" from "the who". You can't have "I believe Jesus and I will go to heaven" and not believe in who He is. Once you understand those basics then you can go forward in your Christian life. That involves a lot of different doctrines as you develop that.
Another passage is Ephesians 2:20.
NKJ Ephesians 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
Here the Apostle Paul is using the metaphor of a building to picture the church. This is the invisible organization that is made up of all those in the Church Age who believe in Jesus Christ as there savior. Here He pictures the apostles as the foundation, the cornerstone that holds things together is Jesus Christ.
So when we come to Hebrews 6:1 this is a metaphor that has been used again and again in the Scripture that this foundation relates to the person and work of the Jesus Christ. So we are not going to lay it again. This is a present middle participle. The middle voice means to lay something down. The active voice means to go down or to cast down. But the middle voice means to lay something down; thus it is used with themelios to lay down a foundation.
So this is the foundation of Christianity. It relates to two things.
- The repentance from dead works.
- Faith toward God.
These are two sides of the same coin – repentance from dead works and faith toward God. Now before we interpret this last phrase, we need to remind ourselves - who is he addressing here? To whom is he speaking? He is talking if you remember to believers who are Jewish, probably Jewish priests well-schooled in the Old Testament in the sacrifices and the offerings. They came out of the Levitical priesthood for the most part. He is talking to them in terms of their religious background.
Now repentance is one of those words that everybody gets all confused about. This morning when I was teaching my class over at the college I asked a rhetorical question and a couple of the students haven't figured out that I ask a lot of rhetorical questions and so they answered.
I said, "What is necessary to be saved?"
I heard three people say, "Repentance."
What is the first thing you have to do to be saved?
Now that is not what the Bible says.
What is the one book in the New Testament that you would want someone to read if you wanted them to understand the gospel and go to heaven? What book would that be? Not Romans. Not Song of Solomon either. It would be John. John 3 is a good chapter.
NKJ John 20:31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
The Gospel of John is written primarily (everybody agrees with this – liberals and conservatives) written to tell people how to get saved. How many times do you have the noun for repentance or the verb for repentance in the Gospel of John? None! You find the word faith 93 times in the Gospel of John.
NKJ John 3:18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
It doesn't say anything about repentance.
NKJ John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Where do you hear repentance in there?
Earlier in the chapter Nicodemus says, "We know you are a great Bible teacher."
He is kind of beating around the bush.
Jesus says, "You are not going to see the kingdom of Heaven unless you are born again."
Did He say repent? No, he didn't say repent. Nowhere in the Gospel of John do you have the word repent. So if repent is a necessary step in the personal order of salvation then you can't get saved reading the gospel of John because he never tells you to repent.
So let's go back to the drawing board on repentance. Now there are some people in the GES that believe that every passage of repentance – that mentions repentance in the New Testament – is really addressed to believers in their post salvation experience. I am just not quite ready to go there. There are a couple of passages where I am not convinced that it is addressing unbelievers. But it is a good point. For the most part the noun and the verb for repentance focus on something that takes place in a believer's life, not an unbelievers' life. But I think there is a place here where repentance may be addressed to what happens at that beginning stage.
Now the word "repent" here is the noun metanoia. It means a change of mind or a change of thinking. It is not an emotional term. One of the things that I found early on when I started dong a little cross cultural work in Kiev and M… (Jim is here so he is very familiar with this) is that the Russian word for confess in I John 1:9 is remorse. Have remorse. That changes your whole meaning. The emphasis is on feeling guilty, having remorse for your sins, trying to impress God with how sorry you are that you committed some sin. So if the translation that you use has a word that indicates remorse or emotion or guilt (which is true in many languages) then you really have to do some work at correcting that impression. It is even true in English. If you look up repent in Webster's Dictionary, remorse is one of the definitions of repent. But that is not what the Greek word means. Metanoia - meta is a preposition meaning after and noia is from the noun for thought. It is a change of thinking and not a change of emotion.
There is a word for that. It is metamelomai and it means remorse or to feel sorry for something. Sometimes they are connected. Sometimes we have remorse that leads to repentance. We feel sorry for things. We realize that we really blew it. So we have sorrow. We feel sorry about things. It leads to a change of mind. But, it is not the emotion that is important. It is the change of mind. It is the change of thinking. It is the repentance that takes place. So what they are changing their thinking about in this phrase is not particularly related to Christ but it is repentance from dead works. That is the focus of their change of thinking. As Jewish believers in Judaism in Pharisaical first century Judaism, they thought that it was their good deed – their religious observance – that impressed God. It was by praying seven times a day and by going to the temple and by making sure (especially if they were influence by the Pharisees) that they didn't violate not only any of the 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law but they didn't want to violate any of the oral tradition as well which was built up like a fence around the Mosaic Law to make sure they wouldn't violate that - all of the traditions of the Pharisees. That was their idea that if they if they avoided the violation of any of those commands then could impress God and God would approve of them. So there had to be a foundation laid there where they realized that none of that counted for anything.
All of their good works – all of their righteousnesses – were as filthy rags the Scripture says. It doesn't say that all of your unrighteousnesses are as filthy rages, you already know that. It says all of your righteousnesses that are filthy rags. All the good deeds that you think impress God – getting up early in the morning reading your Bible, praying, going to church, witnessing and all the things we do. We think it impresses God. It is the right thing to do, but we don't do it to impress God. We don't get any brownie points for it. If we do it in the Holy Spirit, then it is part of our spiritual life and our responsibility. We are fulfilling our responsibilities as believers, but we don't do it to get God's grace and to get His approval.
So at the beginning of their spiritual lives they had to recognize that dead works didn't get them anywhere so there had to be a change of thinking there. They had to reject the legalistic thought of Judaism. The opposite of that was that instead of trusting in repentance and good works they would have faith toward God. The object of their faith would be toward God – not just a generic faith toward God. If you took this verse out of context in isolation then you might think that "all I have to do is believe in God and I am saved." But you see that is why you have to compare Scripture with Scripture and compare the total context and realize that it isn't simply believing in God that gets you saved. You have more specific passages in the Scripture that tell you that the focus of your faith is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. When you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, then at that instant God the Father imputes to you the perfect righteousness of Christ. He sees that and declares you to be righteous. It is all done simultaneously. But there is a logical progression. There is imputation, justification, and regeneration where you are born again. You receive a new human spirit, a new spiritual life. So this happens at the very foundation and is the beginning of that new spiritual life. So the first thing he mentions is that in order to go on to maturity we have to set aside the teaching on these basic doctrines. Basic doctrines begin with salvation by grace. That is foundational.
Then we come to the next phrase.
NKJ Hebrews 6:2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
"Of the doctrine of baptisms." That is the second thing that is considered basic. It is interesting because most people don't understand the doctrine of baptism. If there is any doctrine other than salvation that has been argued and fought over as much as anything else down through the history of the church, it is over baptism. Then he goes on to say...
"the laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, eternal judgment"
What does that signify?
All of that is considered basic doctrine and going beyond that is what is important for the spiritual life. So we are going to spend some time understanding the doctrine of baptisms.
This is the plural of the noun. It is the genitive of the noun baptizmos. It is the teaching related to baptisms.
I have noticed that there is a lack of courage among most Bible translators. The New American Standard translates baptizmos washings, instruction or teaching about washings. The New King James Version transliterates the word baptism. But if you look at the ESV which is a new translation that has just come out and the Holeman which is also a recent translation translate it washings. So you avoid the whole debate about baptism if you translate baptizmos washings. Now you are somewhere else. Everybody is a coward when it comes to this word.
The reason we even have the English word baptism is because theological cowardice. Back in the early church, back around the 3rd of 4th century, somewhere early on they started sprinkling instead of immersing which is the main idea in the verb baptizma. Then after Constantine got saved and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and started merging church and state eventually, it got to the point in many European countries that in order to be a good citizen of the state you had to be a good member of the Roman Catholic Church. Entry into the Roman Catholic Church was through baptism - infant baptism. You were sprinkled as a child so it enters you not only into the church but also the state. So you join the church and the state and you have this church-state confusion so that your citizenship in the political state is identified with your membership in the Roman Catholic Church.
If you come along and challenge the Roman Catholic doctrine of baptism, it is a political statement as well. You are committing an act of treason and tyranny. So it is the death penalty. This is what happened. Later on for example in Zurich which was the headquarters for one of the great reformers, Zwingli, when some of his students came to the Baptist understanding that you don't get baptized when you are an infant because you haven't made a decision to trust Christ and that it is only valid if it is after you are saved, it was treated as political treason so the death penalty was imposed, which ironically was drowning. So they took them down into the lake there in Zurich and drowned them. So you have all of these wonderful things that go on.
So when they started translating the Bible from Latin into English you have this political-theological football of baptism. If you translate it dipping or immersing you have taken sides in the theological debate and you might be considered a traitor politically so let's avoid the whole thing and transliterate it. Instead of translating it from baptism into immersion we are going to create a new English word, baptism. It is just as ambiguous and nebulous as the original. Everybody will be confused and we will avoid the whole issue. So historically translators have taken cowardly positions like this a number of times to avoid the issue. That is what they have done here in many of the translations, translating it washings.
So we are going to look at the introduction to baptism here and we won't get through everything. We will cover it more when I get back.
The Greek word is baptizo. The noun is baptizmos. It means to dip, to plunge or immerse. That is its core meaning. But it has a significance that is different from that. The significance is that of change. It indicated that. You can go back and trace this through classical literature and many different examples. It is used through Classical Greek. All kinds of different people were baptized. Socrates was baptized. Plato was baptized. Aristotle was baptized. Alexander the Great was baptized. Everybody was baptized but it doesn't always mean that they were immersed in water. It is some sort of initiation or change is taking place such as hot metal is baptized and becomes cold metal. Or, a young soldier a Greek Hoplite in the Greek army after he finished training would take his spear and dip it into a bucket of pig's blood and that would identify it with the blood indicating that there was a change. Now he was entering into the warrior class. He was a blooded soldier. He had finished his basic training.
This is the idea of baptism. The dictionary meaning is to dip, plunge or immerse. Its significance is usually that of identification of a change or an initiation, the beginning of a new phase. A change has taken place with the object or the person or event. So they are moving from one thing to another. So that is the main idea of baptism. So in the Bible there are various different baptisms. In fact there are 8 different baptisms in the Scripture. They are all representative identifications. Three of them are ritual baptisms. That means if you do the math that five of them are real baptisms.
The three ritual baptisms all involve water. A couple of the other ones involve water also but in a different sense.
- The first of the ritual baptisms is the baptism of Jesus. This is a unique baptism. It is identifying Jesus with the plan of God. Jesus came down to the Jordan in Matthew 3:13-17 to be baptized by John the Baptist. This was the initiation into His public ministry and His identification with the Father's plan of salvation.
- The second baptism which actually shows up first chronologically in the New Testament. It is broader and it is different. It is the baptism of John the Baptist. This is not the same thing because Jesus wasn't a sinner. John the Baptist was calling sinners to repentance so that didn't apply to Jesus. The baptism of John the Baptist identified the person who was being baptized in the water with the kingdom of God. It is interesting. I got into a funny argument with somebody not too long ago. Dr. Chafer had a lot of wonderful things to say but Dr. Chafer was a Presbyterian. Presbyterians believe in sprinkling. If you have never read it in Chafer's Systematic Theology, he has a very detailed and wrong explanation of how John the Baptist's baptism was sprinkling. But he was a Presbyterian.
A lot of people don't realize it, but a lot of the faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary in the early years and even up into the 70's were ordained Presbyterians. I had Dr. Ed XXX for history. He baptized (sprinkled) all of his children. Ed Bloom who was one time the pastor of here also sprinkled. Dr. Walvoord sprinkled his children. Back in the 40's he was the pastor of a Northwest Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth. There were a lot of Presbyterian influences there. He was wrong about that. You can't get sprinkling out of baptism. This was John's baptism.
- Then you have the third baptism in the New Testament – believer's baptism. This is indicated in Matthew 28:19-20 and other passages such as Acts 2:38, 41, 8:36-38. You get into Acts 19 which is pretty late in Paul's career. He is in Ephesus and the disciples of John the Baptist show up. Here are a lot of Old Testament believers who have been baptized with John's baptism. They show up in Ephesus and they have never heard anything about Jesus or the Holy Spirit or the cross. They show up and what is Paul's first question? "Whose baptism were you baptized with?" They said, "John." He said, "No. We are going to go down and get baptized in the name of Jesus."
That is done immediately. Water baptism for the believer was a visual representation of what took place in terms of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptism of the Holy Spirit and positional truth (just the name positional truth) are such abstract terms that some people don't understand them. Just as communion gives us these two elements, the unleavened bread and grape juice or wine to picture the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, so we have a real simple training aid for sheep. Remember that sheep are sheep not because they are warm and cute and cuddly. They are dumb and stupid. Being a sheep is not a compliment. We have this simple little training aids so that we can come to understand these important complex things. So believer's baptism was pictured in water baptism.
It is a picture of what happens to every believer at the instant of salvation that they are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection so that we are cleansed from sin positionally and enter into a newness of life. Romans 6:3
Those are the three ritual baptisms.
There are 4 dry baptisms.
- First of all there is the baptism of fire which is judgment at the end of the tribulation. Those are identified with fire and judged.
- There is in the life of Christ the baptism of the cross where He is identified with our sins. There is the baptism of the cross. He told Peter "Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
- The third one is the baptism of Moses. This is in I Corinthians 10:3. Of course the only people that got wet then were the Egyptian soldiers. The people who were dry were the ones who were saved. All of those who were identified with Moses and his faith in God followed him through the Dead Sea, stayed dry, and were delivered. It was the Egyptians that got wet.
- The baptism of Noah. Then I Peter 3:20-21 talks about baptism. It doesn't use that word specifically until you get to verse 21.
NKJ 1 Peter 3:20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
NKJ 1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us -- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
The eight folks on the ark didn't get wet; but they got saved. Everybody else got wet.
We will have to spend a little time on this verse. It is not saying that you are saved by water baptism. Remember the people who got wet with Noah died. They all drown. But it is a type. The word that is used there is antitupos. What happens with Noah is the anti-type. It is the type and baptism is the anti-type. So it is a picture once again of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. We will tear that apart and look at it because it is one of those things that everybody always wonders about.
Peter makes it clear right there in the appositional phrase "not the removal of dirt from the flesh". It is not water baptism that saves you which is what Church of Christ teaches you and a number of others.
So we will go through these passages on baptism and take a look at baptism and the significance and importance of baptism in the Church Age when I get back from Israel in about 3 weeks.
Let us bow our heads in closing prayer.