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Hebrews 6:1-2 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 25 secs

Hebrews Lesson 58  July 6, 2006

 

Hebrews 6:1-2

 

This is where we stopped some three weeks ago. Last time I started talking about the 8 baptisms of Scripture. I have a note here that as we ended class last week I was adding up the different baptisms that are in the Scripture. For those of you that can count (I don't get along with numbers at all), it was my father who was tutoring calculus at the University of Houston when he was 15. I didn't get those genes. I got the liberal arts genes. Last time when I think I said that there were 8 baptisms. I enumerated all 7 of them! I had a note that when I got back I would correct that and run through them. We are going to go through them in some detail during the rest of the hour. There are two categories of baptisms – real baptisms which are dry baptisms and ritual baptisms which are wet baptisms. The five real baptisms are the baptism of Noah, the baptism of Moses, the baptism of cross, the baptism of fire, and the baptism of Holy Spirit. We will go through those in detail and look at the passages as we go through the evening. Those are the five. Then the three ritual baptisms are the baptism of John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus Christ which though He was baptized by John the Baptist it is a different baptism because John's baptism was technically repentance for entry into the kingdom. Jesus was perfect. He was without sin. There was no need of repentance on His part. So His baptism was a unique baptism. Then there is the believers baptism identified in the early church. We will get into that this evening as well. 

 

So let's go back to Hebrews 6:1. I want to look at some aspects of the exegesis of these first couple of verses that I glossed over the last couple of lessons. 

 

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,

 

It starts off with a "therefore." When we see a "therefore" in the Scripture, we have to see what it is there for. It always connects no matter what the Greek word is. It always connects a previous thought with a subsequent thought. So what we are reading in verses 1-8 in the first part of Hebrews 6 is directly connected to what the writer began to state back in verse 11. 

 

As I pointed out in terms of the structure of Hebrews you have five basic sections in Hebrews. It starts with a didactic or teaching section that is heavily based on Old Testament Scriptures. That was the Bible that most people had. They didn't have all of the New Testament yet. By the time Hebrews was written, probably 50-60% of the New Testament was written – maybe a little more. They were primarily dependent on the Old Testament for their spiritual growth and their spiritual sustenance. That seems kind of odd to us, but that is exactly what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy in that famous passage that we often quote in II Timothy 3:15-7.

 

NKJ 2 Timothy 3:15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

 

NKJ 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

 

NKJ 2 Timothy 3:17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

The Scriptures that his mother and his grandmother had to teach Timothy when he was young didn't include any of the New Testament. It was all Old Testament. It emphasizes how important it is for believers even in the Church Age to know the Old Testament as the foundation and background to the New Testament. 

 

Back in 5:11 down through the end of 5:14 (the end of chapter 5) they are challenged. This Jewish group of Christians who are now beginning to waffle and fade back in their Christian life and revert back to Judaism instead of pressing forward are challenged and confronted and rebuked by the writer of Hebrews. He tells them that by now they should have more difficult doctrines explained to them, but they have become lazy and dull of hearing. 

 

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.

 

I want to hone in on that phrase (oracles of God) because we have a very similar phrase in 6:1 that flows out of this. 

 

The Greek word there is stoicheia.  That indicates the basic ABC's. That is talking about the ABC's of the oracle, the revelation of God. That is talking about Old Testament Scripture. 

 

Now if you skip down to 6:1, there is a slight shift. It is not the same Greek word even though perhaps your English Bible uses the same word. It shifts from stoicheia to archeArche indicates the primary or the foundational doctrines of Christ – not just the oracles of God, but of Christ. In the last week or so as I have been working through this passage and consulting various commentaries to see a number of things, I have seen writers articulate their position. They talk as if 6:1 is talking about the basic principles of Scripture. It is not. There is a shift there. It goes from the oracles of God in 5:12 to the elementary or foundational principles related to Christ or about Christ in verse 1. This is important for us to observe.

 

The "therefore" that we see in 6:1 builds on this rebuke that the writer levels against them in 12-14. They have fallen back. They have reversed course. They can't eat solid food any more. They need solid food in order to grow. They need to press on to more advanced doctrines. That is the challenge of 6:1. 

 

The basic verb here is the verb phero. Here it means to press on or to advance. It is a present passive subjunctive, not an imperative. It is a first person plural. In Greek you would use a subjunctive mood with a first person plural to indicate something that includes both the speaker and the hearers. Let us press on. We all need to press on, not just you. The writer includes himself in that process. We all need to move forward in the spiritual life. 

 

The "us" indicates that both the writer and the hearer are being carried forward by God the Holy Spirit. It is not their power that produces spiritual advance; it is God the Holy Spirit. Both the writer and the audience need to be dependent upon God the Holy Spirit. This is the primary command. In the English we have this participial phrase that gets inserted between the therefore and the command so we lose some of the thrust of how this comes across in the Greek. It follows too slavishly the order of the Greek word.

 

Literal translation:  Therefore let us go on to perfection. 

 

The word there for perfection doesn't mean to be perfect, flawless, or sinless. It is the word for the attainment of a goal or the idea of maturity. 

That's the main sense – to press on to maturity. We are to press on to spiritual maturity. That is where life begins in the Christian life. It is not being a child. It is being an adult where you have the capacity to enjoy and work out all the doctrine that you have and live on the basis of the capacity developed through spiritual growth. So the command is for all of us to move on to spiritual maturity. 

 

It is based on a foundation. That foundation is Jesus Christ. I want to pull in two cross-references here because they emphasize for us the basis or foundation that we have. 

 

NKJ 1 Corinthians 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

 

This is the word used in 6:1. 

 

There it is talking about the foundation for repentance. We will look at it in a minute. That foundation relates to Jesus Christ.

 

NKJ Ephesians 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,

 

Jesus Christ is seen throughout the New Testament as the foundational element for Christianity. Having that in our background, we have studied this. 

 

This is the next element in the phrase that I want to look at – elementary principles. This word is not the same word that is used earlier in chapter 5 for first principles, stoicheia. This is the word arche. It is the same word that has the idea of beginning in John 1:1

 

NKJ John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

It has to do with first things. It is a similar concept to stoicheia - first principles, initial principles. It indicates the commencement of something, an action, a state, a process, a beginning. The main idea is underlined there for you. It is the basis of further understanding of something or a foundation. So when we are talking about ideas or doctrines, it is talking about that which is the foundation for all other doctrine. The foundation in the Christian life of course, is what? It is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our foundation. We understand that He is fully God and fully man. That is who He is. That is His person. Because He is fully God and fully man, He is able to do what He was supposed to do which is to go to the cross and pay the penalty for human sin. That was His mission and He was fully qualified to accomplish that. In His humanity He did not sin. As we have studied in Hebrews 4:14, He was without sin. He is therefore qualified to go to the cross as our substitute. So these are the elementary principles.

 

The next phrase is "of Christ". This is one of the interesting little grammar things that probably drives you nuts, but I like to play with. It is the elementary principles of Christ. In the Greek this is a simple genitive. You have to interpret the genitive. That is where a certain amount of subjectivity comes into play. There are about 25 different ways or nuances to a genitive in the Greek. Of course context is going to eliminate about 80% of them. But sometimes you have legitimate options between two. You have to weigh them. 

 

You have to look at each one and say, "If it is this, what would that mean? How would that impact other Scriptures and how would that impact other doctrines?" 

 

So you have to work out flowcharts almost. If you take option A, that would mean this. That would impact this verse that way. Option B you go this way. Option C you go that way. This is what is involved. 

 

This is what is called an objective genitive. That means that the action flows toward Christ. It is the elementary principles or the foundational doctrines about Christ. It is not Christ's foundational doctrines. What is the difference? Christ's foundational doctrines would indicate the basic things that Jesus taught. That is different from basic doctrines about Jesus. That is what this writer is talking about. He is talking about basic doctrines related to Christianity and the Christian life which is related to the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the foundational things or the foundational doctrines about Christ. So if we were to retranslate this to get the thrust of the first verse, it says…

 

Literal translation:  Let us press on to maturity by leaving the foundation teachings about Christ.

 

Then we have a participle that I skipped over. That "leaving" is somewhat ambiguous the way some translators translate participles. That is fine because in a good translation any ambiguity in the Greek should be present in the English so that the pastor can interpret. The translator shouldn't be interpreting. Those of you who have an NIV have a translation that has been interpreted by the translator. Like my good friend Dr. Wayne House says it should be the New International Commentary not the New International Version because they have adopted a theory of translation called dynamic equivalence. It means you make a lot of judgments about idioms and other things that impact translations to make it a little more easily understood by people. But the more you do that the more the more the translator interprets as opposed to just translating.

 

This is an instrumental participle of means. That is what he is talking about.  We have to move beyond the basics. It is important to get the basics down. That salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. These are all the basics of a deep understanding of the Word of God. That is what he is saying. Interpretation is the job of the pastor, not the translator.

 

This is an instrumental participle or an adverbial participle of means. 

 

That is what he is talking about. We have to leave. We have to move beyond the basics. It is important to get the basics down, to understand the essence of God, to understand the doctrine of the trinity, to understand the person of Jesus Christ in His hypostatic union, to understand the basics of salvation (that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone and not by works.) We need to understand the basics of who angels are and who demons are and who Satan is. These are all basics. But, we have to if you are going to grow and mature as a believer where you have a deep understanding of the Word of God so that impacts your life and thinking in a more profound way, you have to go beyond the basics. You have to press on. That is what he is saying. You press on by leaving, by going beyond the foundational teachings about the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

Then he is going to give us a list of 6 things. Actually it is three pairs. They are six things that are primarily understood as characteristic elements of the teaching of the apostles in the early church. They are moving beyond the foundation. The foundation is Jesus Christ as we have seen in passages earlier. I Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20. We are going forward.

 

Kataballo is the word for not laying again. It is a word that is used for laying a foundation. If you were a construction engineer in the ancient world and you were going to lay the foundation of a building this is the word that you would use. So we press on by leaving the elementary principles, pressing on to maturity, and not laying again the foundation. 

 

What is the foundation? There are 6 elements in the foundation. They are paired up. The first pair is repentance from dead works and faith towards God. The second pair has to do with ritual – teaching about cleansing or teachings about washings or baptisms and the laying on of hands. The third pair in the last part of verse 2 is resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. So these three pairs are to be understood in conjunction with each other. We are going to work through them a little bit.

 

Now the first group is not laying again the foundation from dead works and of faith toward God. So this presents both the negative and the positive. It is negative in the sense of changing your mind away from dead works and toward faith toward God. 

 

The Greek word here for repentance is the word metanoia. It has the idea of changing your thinking. I like to think that it is just change. 

 

Now most people don't like that. 

 

When I was up in New England people would say that is one of those words that New Englanders hear and they say, "Chh-aa-nnnge? We don't change." 

 

A lot of people are like that. They don't like to change. One thing in life is sure is that we are going to change and most people don't like it. They want everything to stay the same. But the Christian life is ultimately all about change. 

 

NKJ Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

 

That is change. That means that we have to have the humility, teachability, objectivity to recognize that many things that we hold near and dear may in fact be dead wrong. We have to have the objectivity to change and to honestly look at the evidence. We need to look at what our life is based on and what our life is committed to in order to make those changes. The foundation for that in the Christian life is change in relationship to what a person thinks gets them approval from God. Every world religion, every system of religion from Eastern religions to various Western religions or primitive religions like animism and spiritism are all oriented to somehow the individual makes himself presentable to God or acceptable to God. Somehow we are going to do things that gain God's approbation and approval. First century rabbinic Judaism was no different. In first century rabbinic Judaism they had all manner of ways which the individual could make himself presentable to God. So that is what the writer is talking about here. He is summarizes all of those works as dead works. The foundation that his readers laid is that they turned away from those dead works. There were all of the rituals involved in Levitical offerings and sacrifices and everything involved with the temple worship. After having gone to Israel in the last few weeks and having been up on that Temple Mount and looked at the drawings and the models of what the Temple was like and how massive it was. It was enormous. What an impression it would make on the individual who wanted to get close to God. For these priests who have turned completely away from all of that pomp and circumstance and all of the ritual and all of the works that were involved in that and to just simply trust in Christ was a major effort. You could see why it would be very difficult for them to turn their back from it. There were centuries of tradition that were all wrapped up in rabbinical Judaism. 

 

But they were to turn from dead works and turn toward God. So we have to make a couple of points here related to repentance. First of all repentance is never a mandate for salvation. It is implicit though. What I mean by implicit is that whenever you trust Christ as Savior you have changed from trusting one thing to something else. So in that sense there is an implied repentance. What you normally get from a lot of people is that you have to repent or feel sorry for your sins or have some element of remorse. That is not what the Bible talks about. In fact the gospel of John doesn't mention the word "repent" one time. John was written according to John 20:31…

 

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.

 

So this is the gospel that is written with the primary objective of teaching you who Jesus is so that you can believe on Him and have eternal life. And it never mentions the word repentance as something that is necessary for salvation. Furthermore we know that in the light of John the Baptist's ministry, it was a vital part of his message. 

 

NKJ Matthew 3:11 "I indeed baptize you with [by means of] water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with [by means of] the Holy Spirit and fire.

 

Right away we see three baptisms in that one statement – John's baptism, baptism by means of the Holy Spirit, and the baptism by means of fire. We will get into that in a little bit.

 

So repentance was part of the message of John the Baptist. That is related to what audience? To Jews.  here seems to be this emphasis that in talking to Jews there had to be this specific emphasis on repentance from the religious ritual and from the religious attempt to impress God. So that had to be emphasized. And it is in passages such as Acts 20. 

 

NKJ Acts 20:21 "testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Paul recounts the way he has evangelized Jews and Gentiles. He says that his ministry was characterized by testifying or witnessing to Jews and also to Greeks that is Gentiles. 

 

That is an interesting way of setting that up. That is what he emphasized. There need to be a change of thinking about God moving from a position of atheism or polytheism to a belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Second Person of the Trinity and the one who paid the penalty for all of our sins.

 

Other passages in the book of Acts also use this phraseology of repentance.

 

NKJ Acts 3:19 "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

 

Peter in his second sermon in the book of Acts when he has explained the gospel, he then challenges the people. 

 

So repentance is part of that message. Who is he addressing? Again he is addressing a primarily Jewish audience that there needed to be a change. Why? They had just rejected Jesus as Messiah. So there needs to be a reversal. 

 

In fact there is an interesting aspect of this verse. The times of refreshing was a code word for the Millennial Kingdom. So it appears that even as late as Acts 3 when Peter is preaching the gospel to the Jews there is this potential or contingency that even then if they would respond and turn to Jesus and accept Him as their Messiah, the kingdom would come and this would void the fifth cycle of discipline that did come in 70 AD. There is at least that contingency that if in that interim period between 33 AD and 70 that if the Jews had turned and accepted Christ, then the Millennial Kingdom would have come. Now that kind of boggles our minds because it is "what if" history. But that supports the view that there is real contingency in the plan of a sovereign God. That has to be treated as legitimate contingency. You had a great study on Arminianism and Calvinism from Jim Myers while I was gone. This is the problem with Calvinism. In Calvinistic theology they want to reject the fact that there is any contingency. Their god is too small to deal with real contingency. We believe that God is large enough and great enough to still bring about His purposes no matter what His creatures decide. He is so great that He can bring about His desired ends however human volition goes.

 

Hebrews 9:14 is a passage that also mentions dead works.

 

NKJ Hebrews 9:14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

 

This was a major issue for this particular audience. They wanted to go back to those dead works of ritual and legalism to try to impress God. As he says in Hebrews 6:1…

 

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,

 

Then we come to the second pair that is mentioned here. 

 

NKJ Hebrews 6:2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

 

Both of these have to do with ritual in the Christian life. Remember, this is a very important thing to understand in terms of interpretation of this passage. There is a lot of debate over what is meant by the terms that are used here. The New King James translates it the "doctrine of baptism." If you are looking at the New American Standard or the NIV, it may have washings there instead of baptism. There is some debate here. Is this talking about their Jewish experience or is this talking about their post salvation doctrine? If it is post salvation doctrine, the primary idea would be baptisms. If it is talking about what was going on before in their rabbinic Judaism, then the idea would be washings. There is a lot of debate over that. It seems to me that the most important element of this passage for our interpretation is that we are talking about the elementary or foundational doctrines about Christ. So we must understand that whatever else is being said here. It is talking about that which relates to Christian doctrine not false rabbinical theology.   

 

So let's look at what happens here. There are a lot of interesting things in this passage. I am sure that I don't have as great a control of this passage as I would like. It is somewhat challenging. Hebrews 6:1-8 is one of the most debated sections in all of Scripture.

 

The "doctrines of baptisms" is literally teachings about baptisms. The Greek word that is used here is the Greek word baptismoswith the mos ending. This is a noun from the verb baptizo, and  mos denotes any act. When a noun ends in mos it denotes the acts as a fact. It is a factual act. The other word that is used in various passages related to baptism is the noun baptisma. So we are looking at a mos ending or a ma ending. The difference is that the mos ending is looking at the act as a fact whereas the ma ending looks at the result of the act. As a result of that in the New Testament the mos ending is used for the ceremonial washings of the Jews. Outside of Hebrews, it is only used two other times in the New Testament. So, that is a difficult thing to look at. If we are talking about foundational things related to Christ, how do these ceremonial washings of the rabbinical theology influence that? It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. On the other hand the other word that I mentioned, baptisma with the ma ending, is a word that is always used in passages either related to the baptism of John the Baptist or the baptism of Jesus or the believer's baptism. There is a consistent use here. Now there is some debate over Colossians 2:12, but that is based on a textual variance. So you do have a problem there. 

 

NKJ Mark 7:4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.

 

That is our word. That has to do with the normal act of washing.

 

NKJ Colossians 2:12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

 

That phrase is clearly talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are many manuscripts that use baptismos. Actually it is a textual problem because a majority manuscripts use baptisma which makes sense and fits with the consistent usage of the text. So we can't really include Colossians 2:12 in this use. The other two places in the New Testament where baptismos is used are our passage Hebrews 6:2 and Hebrews 9:10. So there is not really a lot of data here. That is the point I want to make. People jump to certain conclusions on the data of one verse outside the writer of Hebrews. He may be nuancing this word in a special way because of the way it is used and understood within that Jewish background. 

 

We saw when we were in Israel that this emphasis on ritual washings was extreme. Outside what would have been the temple wall in the second temple period the first century before Christ and the first century during the period of Christ, I am going to show you some pictures of what was called miqveh (plural, miqvote). Outside of the entry way to the temple (not inside the temple wall) what was called the Huldah gates named after Huldah the prophetess mentioned in the Old Testament as anyone coming to the temple would do, they would bring their sacrifice. But before they enter the temple precincts they would go through a process of physical cleansing. This was stressed heavily in rabbinic theology. 

 

When we were at Qumran there were miqvote everywhere – places for ceremonial washings. They weren't swimming pools. In fact they had a sauna up there at Masada. We didn't understand that it was 115 degrees when we were on Masada. We tried to figure out why anybody would want to sit in a sauna when it was 115 degrees. 

 

This is a picture outside the entry way to the temple. You can identify a number of miqvote. There were 30 across the front of the entry way to the Temple. The interesting thing as we will see in Acts 2 when Peter preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost and there were 3,000 who responded in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, they immediately baptized them. 

 

Now some folks would say if they didn't have this information in front of them, "Where in the world are they going to baptize 3,000 people that day?"

 

Well, they had 30 baptismal pools right there in front of the Huldah gates and they had 11 apostles to do the baptisms. It was logistically very possible for them to baptize 3,000 on that particular day. It was only 250 to 275 per apostle. It doesn't take that long if you have a good assembly line going to get all of those believers baptized. 

 

There were steps going down. The men would come. There was privacy there. They would take off their robe so that there was nothing between their skin and the water. This was ceremonial cleansing. They would dive into the water and come back up and put their robe on. Then they would take their sacrifice and go into the temple. This shows the importance and the emphasis on washing in the Jewish ritual under rabbinic Judaism. 

 

That brings us to the point where we need to study what the New Testament teaches about baptism. The odd thing that we see here in this verse is that not only does it use a different form than usually used for ceremonial washings, but it is in the plural. 

 

Now one of the things that I have come to appreciate over the years is that in theology you often have people pair up. One person takes one side on one issue and somebody takes the other side. They sort of square off. It is either this position or that position. In some cases (not all) both are true. In other words, a word like baptismos here may be used because it is general enough to where it is an umbrella term that would include both the ceremonial washings of the rabbinic teaching and the baptisms of the New Testament. That would be the sense of the plural there. It includes the idea of repentance from the ceremonial cleansing to the true rituals as taught in the New Testament. So we have to look at these different baptisms. We began this last time. I gave you a run down on what they were and reviewed them in the introduction. Now I want to go through them in a little more detail.

 

Definition:  It is always important to define our terms. Baptism is one of those doctrines that is a continual source of confusion and distortion especially as it is related to both the believer's baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit. The streets have run with the blood of Christians over this doctrine of baptism. For example during the period of the Reformation after Martin Luther began the Reformation by nailing the 95 disputations or theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, he began a movement where there was a shift away from the legalistic teaching of Roman Catholicism. But not everything that Rome taught that was wrong got left behind. Many of the reformers continued to hold to a certain amount of allegorical interpretation, especially when it was related to prophecy. They also held to baptism by sprinkling and they held to infant baptism. They still held to this idea of the merger of church and state. That became a major issue. Since the time of the emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity, there had been this identification of Christianity with the political state. As a result entry into the church, they became identified with entry into citizenship. They become one and the same thing. How do you enter into the church? You enter the church through infant baptism. It is also the same time you enter into citizenship in the state. Therefore to come along and say that infant baptism is not relevant or is invalid is to also make a political statement. That is treason. So this was taken very seriously. In the Reformation you have the example of Swiss reformer Zwingli who had three of his students come to an understanding that the Bible taught that baptism should come only after a person had put their faith alone in Christ alone and that infant baptism meant nothing. They were tried for heresy. They were convicted and sentenced to death by drowning. How ironic. Zwingli had them held under. They wanted to be baptized and held under so he had them held under until they died. But that was how people felt about these things. That was how they believed. Theology mattered. There were 100's if not 1,000's that were martyred for these convictions of baptism. 

 

I often ask the question - what makes a Baptist a Baptist? I have asked that question of Baptist friends of mine. I did and internship at a Southern Baptist church when I was in seminary. I asked the minister what made a Baptist a Baptist. I don't know what his answer was, but it was wrong. In fact I have only met one man who knew what made a Baptist a Baptist. He was not a believer. He was a Jewish urologist. He was the only one who knew the answer to this. There are two things that make a Baptist a Baptist and neither one of them have anything to do with Jesus Christ. Number one is the belief in separation of church and state. Number two is a belief in baptism by immersion. That's it. That is what makes a Baptist a Baptist. You say, "Wait a minute. All the Baptists I know believe that Jesus died for their sins. They believe in the trinity and they think that you have to believe these things to be a Baptist." You have been fooled too. Baptists will tell you right off the bat as soon as you try to pin them on a doctrine that they are a non-creedal people. Do you know what that means? That means that there is no doctrinal statement that you have to affirm in order to be a Baptist. They will fight and die for that. They have! That is why the Southern Baptist Convention for the past 30 years has been fighting this battle over the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scripture. They couldn't appeal to a doctrinal statement that all Baptists had to affirm in order to be Baptists saying that you have to believe in the infallibility of Scripture. So they had to fight it with awful political infighting and everything else within the denomination. So that becomes an issue. So baptism has been the source of quite a bit of contention and fighting over the years. 

 

But, guess what. The reason I am saying is because I heard one pastor say not long ago that he didn't know what to teach about baptism because it has been so divisive - like the gospel of grace hasn't been divisive, like the dispensations haven't been divisive, like the pre-trib rapture hasn't been divisive, like the trinity hasn't been divisive, like tongues hasn't been divisive. I mean everything is divisive. We have to teach what the Word of God says. Every doctrine at some point or other - you have one who takes one view and another takes another view. Sadly they think that the other is the enemy and they start fighting each other instead of the real enemy. So we have to pay attention to what the Word teaches. The word baptism is from the Greek verb baptizo which means to dip, to plunge or to immerse. It is an action that signified the identification of someone with an action, a person, an object or a new status in life. Let's talk about that a minute. The literal meaning of the word meant to dip, plunge or immerse. You would take a piece of clothe and you would immerse it in the dye and bring it out.  You would make sure that the dye permeated all of the fabric so that it would be of a solid color throughout. That is one way in which the word was used. It has its literal meaning of immersion, of dipping.  It was also used in a figurative sense. The figurative sense indicated identification with someone just as the fabric when placed in the dye was identified with the color so when you took certain objects and dipped them or immersed them in something it identified them with whatever they were immersed in. For example in the Greek army Xenophon in the 4th century BC described how new recruits in the Spartan army dipped their spears into pig's blood before they going into battle. This identified the spear as having been changed from being a hunting spear to now being a warrior's spear. Euripides in the 5th century BC used the word to describe a sinking ship. As the ship sank, its character or nature was changed. The wood became identified with the water. It no longer floated. It sank. 

 

That is the idea there. There is a literal meaning to dip, plunge or immerse and a figurative sense – what it indicated which is identification with something. That is primarily how the word is used in Scripture. It emphasized identification with something. There are as I said earlier 8 baptisms in the Scripture. Three of them are ritual water baptisms. I am going to mention them first but we will study them last. The three ritual water baptisms are first of all the baptism of John the Baptist. This is when John the Baptist identified the person going into the water with the kingdom of God. That was what he was doing. He said to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. He would take the person and immerse them in water. This was an identification of that person with the kingdom of God. This baptism was unique to John and to his ministry. 

 

We have to remember this because between the Apostle Paul's Second and Third Missionary journeys which is a long way into his ministry (early 50's, about the same time he is writing to the Corinthians) he was in Ephesus. He spent two years in Ephesus. And he had a Bible school in Ephesus. They met at a rented space in the school. They had a regular meeting there. It was the school of one of the philosophers there. He trained men to teach the Word and evangelize. They went out all over the Roman province of Asia. That is the map that we see every Sunday morning when we are studying the 7 letters to the 7 churches. They started churches all over the Roman province of Asia. Now while he was in Ephesus there was a group of disciples of John the Baptist. They hadn't heard anything about Jesus, the Messiah, or the crucifixion. They hadn't heard any of that. They just knew that they had been to Israel, probably to go to Passover one year. There they heard John the Baptist and they were baptized with John's baptism. Then they left and they went back home to Greece. They didn't hear anything else after that. Then Paul comes along and he teaches about Jesus Christ. So they come in Acts 19. Let's just turn to Acts 19 because I want to emphasize this. 

 

NKJ Acts 19:1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." 3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism." 4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."

 

They hadn't heard the basics at all.  All they know is what John the Baptist taught them.  

 

Now would that be the first question that you would ask them?  It wouldn't have been the first question that I would have asked them. But obviously this is an important issue because it is the first thing the Apostle Paul asked them. 

 

This is a future tense.

 

In other words what Paul is saying here is that John taught a classic Old Testament gospel - that God is going to provide a Savior in the future. So their belief was a future oriented belief in the future coming Messiah. That made them Old Testament saints. These are believers. I think I misstated that in the last lesson. That is one reason I am emphasizing this. They are believers. They are Old Testament saints. But the dispensation has shifted. They are now in the Church age. Salvation has been accomplished. That Messiah that they believed would come has come and has completed the payment for their sin. 

 

NKJ Acts 19:5  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

When they heard this they were what? 

 

That is the first thing that Paul did. He told them that they had not been baptized with the right baptism. In other words it is important to be baptized in the name of Jesus. So, let's just march right down to the water and get baptized right now. This happens at the same time that he writes the letter to the Corinthians. 

 

Let's jump over there briefly because this is often distorted and misunderstood. 

 

NKJ 1 Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

 

NKJ 1 Corinthians 1:15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.

 

What Paul is saying here is that the Corinthians had used baptism as a means of creating a division. 

 

Some were saying, "I got baptized by Paul. I am better than you." 

 

Others said, "I got baptized by Peter." 

 

"I got baptized by Apollos." 

 

They were using it as a point of division. Even in the early church they are already abusing and misunderstanding the doctrine of baptism. 

 

Paul doesn't say, "I thank God that I didn't baptize any of you."

 

There is a big difference. He isn't saying that baptism isn't in effect today. He is saying that he is thankful that he didn't baptize many of them. That is the thrust of what this is saying. 

 

"If I had baptized more of you, you would create even more division." 

 

At the same time he is writing to the Corinthians, he is telling the disciples of John in Acts 19 that they didn't get baptized with the right baptism. 

 

"Let's immediately go down to the water and get baptized in the name of Jesus." 

 

So see you can't use I Corinthians as an argument that baptism wasn't in effect or that Paul didn't believe that it was important. Acts 19 which happened at the same time he writes I Corinthians 1is emphasizing the importance of believer's baptism. So they were baptized in the name of Jesus. 

 

NKJ Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

 

What is happening here? Why do they speak in tongues here? You have to remember that Acts is a transitional book. What you have in the book of Acts is three groups of people who speak in tongues. Who are they? First of all there are the Jews that are saved on the day of Pentecost. Then the second group is the Gentiles with Cornelius in Acts 10 when Peter gives them the gospel. The third group is here. Why? 

Because these represent three groups of people - Jews, Gentiles and Old Testament Saints. All three of them have to enter the church in the same way. That is under the authority of the apostles. That is what this is indicating.  In each one of these instances an apostle is present. That is why it is referred to as a Jewish Pentecost in Acts 2. Some refer to Cornelius as the Gentile Pentecost. It is not that everybody is speaking in tongues. It is showing that these three events are tied together and that they are all under the authority of an apostle. It is showing that there is only one church. There is neither Jew nor Gentile. There is no division in the church because they are all going to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. They are all going to one body. We will get into that next time when we deal with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That is why this is important. We start with the first baptism of John the Baptist. You have to understand that to understand Acts 19. That impacts our third type of baptism which is believer's baptism. 

 

The second one is the baptism of Jesus. When Jesus came down to the Jordan at the beginning of His ministry, He came to John to be baptized. He is not being identified with repentance and the kingdom like everyone else. He is being identified with the Father's plan and purpose for His life. It marks the beginning of the public ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it is that entry into public ministry and His identification with the Father's will. So when He comes down to the Jordan and John the Baptist immerses Him in the Jordan, it is at that time that you have a voice from heaven. 

 

NKJ Matthew 3:16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

 

NKJ Matthew 3:17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

 

It is an audio-visual demonstration of God's authorization of Jesus Christ and His public ministry. 

 

The third that is mentioned in the New Testament is the baptism of believers. This is indicated in Acts 2:38, 41, 8:36-8 and Acts 19:5-6. They are baptized in the name of Jesus.

 

These three water baptisms involved four factors. 

  1. The person who performs the baptism. We will call that the agent of the baptism. It is going to have a grammatical significance when we get there.   
  2. The element that is used provides the identification. We see water. We see fire. We see the Holy Spirit. That is the element that provides the identification.  In ritual baptism it is water in all three instances. 
  3. The third factor is the person who is being identified with something. 
  4. Fourth, there is a new status that the person is identified with. The person going to John the Baptist is identified with the kingdom. Jesus is identified with the Father's plan. The believer is now identified with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a connection between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and water baptism. This is what isn't taught and is rarely understood. We have to take time to take each of these apart piece by piece so we can put it all together.   

 

We will look at the real baptisms next time.