Writings Vol. One
9. THE BAPTISM OF JOHN AND OF THE LORD BY HIM.
A SLIGHT difference in the form of the word distinguishes
the Jewish baptisms from those of the New Testament. The Jewish baptism is
baptismos, that of the New Testament, baptism. The difference in meaning is,
that, while baptismos speaks of the transient act only, baphisma speaks of the
result of the act, a state induced. The Jewish ones were transient and might be
repeated; the Christian introduces into a permanent condition. And this was
true in measure of John's baptism, the forerunner of our Lord. To his baptism
we next come, to learn from it what we may as to the Christian rite.
John's baptism was a baptism of repentance to prepare people for the coming Lord. Hence it was a purification - a "baptism of repentance,"- and marked out and separated a remnant from the mass of the people to escape the coming judgment. He stands himself aloof from the nation, not going up to Jerusalem, though the son of a priest, but in the deserts until the time of his showing unto Israel. In his dress and food he shows the same separateness. He preaches in the wilderness, telling the people that they must not think to say within themselves that they have Abraham for their father, because God was able of the very stones to raise up children to Abraham. The multitudes came therefore to his baptism, confessing their sins, and were baptized of him in Jordan, the river of death, as owning that all was over with them as to natural claim, and divine mercy in a Saviour alone could meet their need. They are therefore baptized for, or rather unto remission of sins, awaiting this in hope, though not yet having received it. John's baptism is thus a baptisma in bringing into a state of discipleship to John, which was necessarily however to merge into another and higher condition when He whom John heralded should appear. John's disciples at Ephesus, when they have heard from Paul the complete gospel, are thus baptised with Christian baptism. (Acts xix. 5)
Nevertheless the Lord Himself comes expressly from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. What was the meaning of this in the case of One who could indeed have no need of repentance, nor sins to confess? That the Lord could be in this a pattern of "believer's baptism" is a strange thing for any one with the least intelligence of Scripture to maintain. Was He baptized as a penitent believer, who was Himself faith's object,- not a Christian, but the Christian's Christ? And was it for Him to "fulfill all righteousness," to take His place as that He was not? Surely the Father's witness to His own beloved Son should check this strange and unworthy thought.
And yet there is a certain resemblance which we should not overlook. There is a fulfillment of righteousness in it which He plainly declares, and in which He joins others with Himself: "thus it becometh us." Who are intended by this "us"? It has been said that it means John and the Lord; but it does not seem as John in his baptizing others could be said to fulfill righteousness; and it does seem as if rather those who were being baptized would be associated with Him who was submitting now to baptism. It is, in fact, the first step in righteousness for the sinner to confess his sins. But how could there be any parallel to this in the Lord's case? Just in this, that He could confess for them the sins whose burden He was to take upon Him-self! Righteous indeed was He who could diminish nothing of what was in its awful penalty to be alone His own!
The moment we realize this meaning in His act every thing comes into solemn harmony. Jordan, in which He is baptized, is indeed the river of death, and in the death He took was His confession of sin and its desert. At an after-time, He spoke of it under the same figure as here, a baptism with which He was to be baptized. (Mark x. 38.) Then the place in which this baptism takes place is just as He emerges out of His private into His public life, ending His own individual life where He enters upon His ministry for others, receiving from His Father the attestation of His own perfection, and that anointing of the Spirit by which He becomes, in actual fact, the Christ,that is, the Anointed! "Therefore doth My Father love Me," He says, "because I lay down My life that I might take it again ;" and when in this symbol He pledges Himself to lay down His life, the attestation of delight is heard.
Thus it should be plain that the Lord's baptism by John signified what was absolutely unique and peculiar to Himself. It was not an example for us, but a precious witness for us of the work for us which He now took up, only to lay it down with full accomplishment.
10. THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM.
CHRISTIAN baptism was not instituted till the Lord rose from the dead. He did indeed baptize, though not personally, but by the hands of His disciples, while He lived upon earth; but this seems only to have been akin to John's baptism. We have only the briefest notice of it (Jno. iii. 22; iv. x, 2). And it is plainly after His resurrection that we find the only commission of which we have any account, and which contemplates all the nations of the earth, and continuance till the end of the age. (Matt. xxviii. 18-20.) There are various reasons for this, as we may shortly see; but one is apparent, that if the "one baptism" of Christianity is connected with its "one Lord," or the kingdom in its present form, it is only as risen that He says, "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," and upon this He bases the commission, "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations."
Let us turn back from this, then, to examine what the Lord had said before this, as to entrance into the kingdom then not come. It is in immediate connection with His announcement of the Church, and to the same person : "And I will give unto thee the keys (not of the Church, but) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. xvi. 19.)
The fact that this is said to Peter only has been misinterpreted by many so as to reduce it to comparative insignificance. It has been supposed to limit the possession of the keys to him alone, and has been applied to his double opening of the kingdom, first, on the day of Pentecost, to the Jews, and then, in Cornelius and his friends, to the Gentiles. Thus the import of the announcement is wholly in the past, and we of today have but little interest in it.
But can it be possible that this is all? Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven something for which there is no need to-day? Has the kingdom been just opened and then left open? Is there no need of reception into it, and no power to receive? Are people born naturally into it flow? or what else?
That the keys are for admission can scarcely be disputed. It is the proper use of a key to open; and where the Lord in Matt. xxiii. i 3 charges the scribes with shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men, He shows in Luke xi. 52 how they have done it: "Ye have taken away the key of knowledge." Knowledge must needs be one key to a kingdom springing out of the sowing of the seed of the Word. The taking it away must prevent discipleship. Here is one key, then, certainly, and the apostle at Pentecost and in Cornelius' house was plainly using this key to open the kingdom to them.
But were these the only occasions? And when Paul preached everywhere the kingdom of God, was he using the key any less than Peter? Or when he says, in Gal. ii., that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto him as the gospel of the circumcision had been to Peter, did he mean in either case that no one else had commission from God to preach it? Peter had in an eminent way the keys, no doubt, but no exclusive right: and this is plain; for if these words "to thee" excluded others, then the next clause gives him as exclusive right to bind and to loose; but that he had not this is proved absolutely by the Lord's extension of this elsewhere: "Whatsoever ye shall bind," etc.
Moreover, if Peter opened the door at one time to Jews, at another to Gentiles, this is opening the door twice, but it is not using two keys; nor could two keys be needed, if this were all. We have seen what one key is, but we must still find another : where shall we find it?
ii. THE COMMISSION TO DISCIPLE.
It is after our Lord is risen from the dead that he proclaims Himself now in actual fact the King of the kingdom. All authority is His; and his kingdom being a kingdom of the truth, He sends His disciples out with a commission to disciple all the nations. Here the power of the keys, then, is committted to them all, and certainly not to Peter only. Besides, it is not even as apostles He commissions them. They are not called such in the passage, and had it been intended that theirs should be an exclusive right, it would surely have been intimated. But it is not so; and the words of the commission are,- "Go ye, therefore, and disciple all the nations, baptizing them unto the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost : teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always,even unto the consummation of the age."
It has been thought by some, because "all the nations" is the general expression for the Gentiles, that Israel is not in the commission; but if not, to whom did Peter apply it on the day of Pentecost? was it not to Israel? It is clear that he does so apply it, and that if Israel were, as we know they were, Lo-ammi, then they were simply part of the "all nations" to whom the gospel of the kingdom now was being sent. Thus alone can we escape from many serious difficulties, which at once disappear, if this be in fact the truth. The common version translates "teach all nations," but puts "make disciples" in the margin. The revised more correctly puts the latter into the text. Strictly it is, not a verb with a noun following, but a simple verb, "disciple," and this has its importance: for in the former case, it would be disciples that would be to be baptized, while, as it really is, it is the nations who are to be discipled, by baptizing them.
Now, if "discipling" be introducing into the kingdom of heaven, we have here the other key that we were just now seeking. Nay, we have the two, "baptizing and teaching," and in the last recognize the one which has already been named as such by our Lord Himself, "The key of knowledge." This confirms, if it were needed, that baptism is indeed a "key," which if we look on to Pentecost, we shall find the apostle using. For when the Jews are pricked to the heart by the proclamation of the King of the new kingdom, and cry out, "Brethren, what shall we do?" he replies, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
To this we must return. Let us notice first more fully the words of the commission: "Disciple, baptising and teaching," show in their order that the teaching is that which perfects the disciple,- necessarily, because a "disciple" is a scholar: the baptism only gives him his place as that; it is authoritative reception into the school. It is the marking off, in a world which has rejected Christ and His words, of those who receive them and thus acknowledge Him. It shows that the kingdom is not territorial, that people are not born naturally into it, that it is individual now, not national, as in the case of Israel. The meaning of it as a symbol shows much more than this. Whether this subjection to Christ is real or not remains to be determined, and is not to be settled beforehand by the baptizer; although, of course, that in which it is professed must not be suffered to lapse from its meaning and be trifled with by frivolous use. But the King welcomes freely, and the place in the kingdom is after all a conditional one.
This baptizing is "unto the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The name, not the names, of the Triune. This is the Christian revelation of God; and what is not done in this way is not Christian. The "name" in Scripture gives the real character of what it stands for; and the name here is the truth of the Godhead as now made known to us: thus "baptism" and the "faith" are once more, as in Eph. iv. ("one faith, one baptism,"), connected together.
" Unto" is here manifestly more correct than the "into" of the Revised Version; for baptism cannot bring into this or any other faith, but attaches one to it. Thus we have also the plain confirmation of baptizing being discipling; for what else does being baptized to a faith mean but that?
We are told, however, that "Jesus made and baptized disciples" (Jno. iv. i), and that this gives a contrary thought. But, in fact, it only emphasizes what is true, - that it is the Word, the teaching, that really makes disciples, which is of course true. If we think of what is implied in discipleship, the Word is necessarily the fundamental thing, the water but the formal, although that too may have importance. Who would say that the dying thief was not a disciple, although he had no opportunity of being baptized? On the other hand, to say that Jesus "made and baptized disciples" does not necessarily mean that they were disciples first, as the second part of the statement may be explanatory of the former, and needed to complete the idea to be conveyed: as when it is said (Ex. xxix. 7), "Thou shalt pour it upon his head and anoint him," these two things are really one, and not different acts; and the last expression but explains the former.
12. THE EXECUTION OF THE COMMISSION.
ON the day of Pentecost, Peter uses the keys, as we have seen. First, he preaches the kingdom: "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." Then, in answer to their question, "What shall we do?" he replies, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." " In" the name here might perhaps be better rendered "at." It is that same epi with a dative following, which often signifies "dependent on." Hearing of Jesus as Lord and Christ, and thus witnessed to by the gifts of the Spirit, at that name they were to repent and be baptized, baptism being the confession of His authority. They would then receive themselves the wondrous gift.
Israel had formally rejected Christ, and were outside His kingdom now begun. Repentance and the open acknowledgment of His authority were now necessary that their sins might be remitted, and themselves be sealed with His distinctive seal.
It cannot be doubted that the apostle puts baptism here as something to precede the gift of the Holy Ghost. It has been doubted,- and denied,- that he so intends to make it precede the remission of sins. And it has been contended that, instead of this, baptism unto the remission of sins means (like baptism unto the name of the Godhead) unto the faith of the remission of sins.
But there is this difference, that "the name" at once indicates doctrine,-he faith; and there is nothing similar to that here. We have also the kindred expression used by Ananias, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on His name." (Acts xxii. i6, R. V.) Here one would think it would be too plain for doubt that baptism was represented as (in some sense,) the washing away of sins. It has, however, been objected that the person is active in washing away his sins, passive when they are remitted; but this is a distinction that vanishes when we take the original. Both verbs are in what is called in Greek the middle voice: hence we might as well translate ' baptize thyself" as "wash thyself from thy sins "- this is the form. Yet we know, as to the first, he could only put himself into the hands of others.
But this view of "remission" is thought to be contrary to all Scripture. On the contrary, it helps much to the understanding of one passage which is Scripture as much as any other. For it was to Peter as well as other disciples that the Lord said, after His resurrec-tion, "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whose sins ye retain, they are retained." Now, if the baptism of these three thousand at Pentecost was in fact the remission of their sins, then there is a clear illustration and example of what our Lord meant. In fact, if it be not found here, I know not where in Scripture we may find it. If baptism be in any sense for the remission of sins, then it is a remission committed to disciples, and whomsoever they baptize, they in that sense remit his sins.
Perilously near to Rome, some may think; but how can we get nearer to Rome than by blinking or denying Scripture? The words are there: we have only to look them in the face as friends, to find that they are in perfect harmony with the fullest and freest gospel, - that they set it forth, not cloud it,- that sins washed away by the blood of Christ alone, and sins washed away in baptismal water are in no wise contradictory to one another, just because they are not on the same plane at all; as different from Romanist or ritualistic teachings as the Romanist keys of heaven from the scriptural keys of heaven's kingdom upon earth.
The Protestant thought of the keys is right, and it is not right: it is true in measure, yet is but a partial truth taken for the whole. The Romish view is bastard Judaism, wholly untrue and thoroughly mischievous: it is "the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews but are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." God has not made men heaven's door-keepers, to admit or exclude; and that remission of sins, which the blood of Christ assures to every one who in faith looks to Christ for it, needs and can have no go-between to dispense. Even in Judaism it was the cry of the convicted sinner, ' Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; Thou delightest not in burnt-offering." (Ps. Ii. i6.) The Jewish sin-offering was of no avail to wash away sin in view of eternity; and the Jewish priest's lips could never pronounce a passport through death into eternal bliss. God reserved this ever in His own hands; and the Jews, when they heard the divine words of peace from the lips of One who could really utter them, showed, even in their unbelief, a truer knowledge than that of Rome: "Who can forgive sins," they ask, "but God alone?"
Protestantism is right, therefore, in maintaining that as to this, Christ's ministers have no higher commission than to proclaim the gospel. And yet it is in this very way plain that when the Lord says to His disciples, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted," He cannot be speaking of the preaching of the gospel.
Whose sins do I remit when I preach the gospel? Whereas the words here are as definite as can be, and in the reverse order from what they would be on the other supposition: not "whose sins I remit, do you pronounce to be remitted," but "whose sins ye remit, they are remitted,"-that is, "I pronounce remitted."
But this cannot be, then, eternal, absolute remission; and if baptism be one of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, we have seen by our Lord's own parable, that forgiveness in it is conditional and revocable. ' I forgave thee all that debt," says his lord to the uncompassionate servant; yet he "delivered him unto the tormentors till he should pay all that was due unto him." (Matt. xviii. 32, 34.) This is expressly called a parable of the kingdom of heaven. It is a kingdom which is now in men's hands to administer; and such remission is the only one that man can pronounce as to the individual, a conditional, hypothetical remission. Not indeed in a legal sense; not because, if discipleship be true, there is yet danger of not fulfilling the conditions; but because "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord ' alone "looketh on the heart." (I Sam. xvi. 7.) And this, as we have seen, harmonizes with all those conditional passages of the New Testament, which are simply for the searching of the hearts of professors as such, wholesome for all, and which those who know best God's grace have least cause to be afraid of.
The kingdom of heaven is the sphere on earth in which Christ is owned, in the midst of a world which has rejected Him. There may spring up seed where underneath is still the heart of stone, and fruit never be found. If men sleep,- and they have slept,- the enemy may sow tares right among the wheat. Nay, the whole form of the kingdom may change to the likeness of the kingdoms of the world, and the leaven spread in the lump till the whole be leavened. Thus there is need of testing, where tares and wheat grow up together to the harvest: hypothetical remission is the only possible one, save for Him who still "knoweth them that are His." (2 Tim. ii. 19.) According to the mind of the Lord, however, the door of the kingdom is that by which men pass out of the world into the sphere in which He is openly acknowledged and obeyed; and baptism, as a key of this door, is the au-thoritative washing away of their sins, that they may come in,- conditional, because in man's hand it could he nothing else,- yet witnessing of what is in the Lord's heart for men, and of what His hand has accomplished too: a gospel preached in symbol to the eyes of men, whose full significance we have yet to inquire into.
13. THE SAMARITANS AND THE EUNUCH.
SAMARIA receives the word of God, and "when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." (Acts viii. 12.) Here too it is seen how clearly the remission of sins must be hypothetical, even in the best hands. One who with the rest "believes and is baptized" is found to have "neither part nor lot" in the matter. Here too we find that, even after baptism, the Holy Ghost does not come on them until Peter and John come down from Jerusalem, and lay their hands on them. But there is nothing that seems to add much to our knowledge of what is now before us.
Leaving Samaria, Philip baptizes the eunuch on the road to Gaza; and here there is nothing to remark, except that, by the common consent of editors, with the amplest foundation in manuscripts and versions, ver. 37 is to be omitted. I do not myself attach much importance to it. If baptism is discipling, faith in the heart is what is looked for from a disciple; and "If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest" only puts the responsibility of this upon the eunuch. However, there is no need to discuss what is not Scripture.
14. CORNELIUS AND THE GENTILES.
THE case of Cornelius is of interest to us in this respect, that baptism here comes after the gift of the Holy Ghost; and as it is impossible to suppose that those whom God thus signally owned as His could have been yet unforgiven men, there is at once made apparent the difference between the forgiveness of sins as between God and the soul, and baptismal remission at disciples' hands. The identification of these two, as with the Campbellites, is thus absolutely set aside.
There is also here no laying on of hands to communicate the Spirit, and this precious gift is seen as no supplement of baptism, no effect of an ordinance at all. It might be before or after, it might be with laying of apostles' hands or without. And it is noteworthy that this is the beginning of the work among pure Gentiles, and that we never hear in their case of the laying on of hands for this at all. The words of the apostle in Galatians (chap. iii. 2) are entirely in accord with the case of Cornelius.
15. BAPTISM UNTO CHRIST,- TO HIS DEATH.
WE will now go on to look at baptism as a symbol, and to see how its teaching in this way agrees with its place as authoritative discipling or reception into the kingdom of heaven. Its symbolic teaching is most fully developed in the sixth chapter of Romans. We will take this as given in the best translation known to me, and any points that are in dispute can be considered as we come to them.
"Are you ignorant, that we, as many as have been baptized unto Christ Jesus, have been baptized unto His death? We have been buried, therefore, with Him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we are become identified with Him in the likeness of His death, so also we shall be of His resurrection; knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. For he that has died is justified from sin."
It must not be supposed that all this is the interpretation of baptism; but it is all in close connection with it; and it is necessary to see where the line is to be drawn, and what is or what is not interpretation. In this translation the change of "into," as in most translations, to "unto" has been strongly protested against, although "baptized unto Moses" (i Cor. x. 2), holds its place as generally perhaps as "into Christ" does here. The Revised Version indeed, even in Corinthians, puts in its margin "Greek, into Moses." But we have seen already that that is making the Greek more peremptory than it is. First, as we have seen, and as is confessed by all, means "into" or "unto." But "into Moses" gives no just sense; for there was no position "in Moses" answering to the believer's position now "in Christ;" and this alone it is, evidently, which has led to the difference in the translation of two plainly parallel expressions. Apart from all else, the single consideration that "into Moses" cannot be the meaning in the one case would naturally rule out "into Christ" in the other. The translation objected to simply brings them into harmony.
"Baptized unto Moses" has, as we have seen, the force of "set apart to Moses" as disciples. So those who were baptized with John's baptism were John's disciples. So have we found the Lord bidding to "disciple, baptizing." "Baptized unto the name of the Father" is discipled to the truth of what God is. "Baptized unto the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts xix. 5) must be similar in meaning. After all this, "baptized unto Christ Jesus," as the true force of the words would surely seem to need no insisting on.
But baptism unto Christ is baptism to His death. It is a Christ who died who meets the need of the sinner; risen as He is His death remains in its virtue for the soul. If we put in connection with this John's baptism in Jordan, the river of death, we shall find the harmony and the difference between John's and Christian baptism. John too baptizes unto death, with the baptism of repentance; death being the wages of sin, and those baptized of him confessing their sins as justly entitling them to death the due of sin. But John could not yet baptize to Christ's death; for He had not died. Only in the Lord's significant action do we see the foreshadow of this, when to fulfill all righteousness He takes His place in this death which these repentant ones have owned their due. But now in Christianity we come into Jordan after Christ has been in it; the death to which we come is still our due, but it is His death. Here the gospel-note sounds, and the baptism becomes Christian: "therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death."
Let us take another illustration,- this time from Old Testament history: "Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha; and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood up on his feet." (2 Kings xiii. 20, 21.) Elisha was in his life in many ways a type of the Lord Jesus, and here he is so in his death. We have in the miracle a vivid illustration of baptism, just because it is a vivid and beautiful picture of salvation by the gospel. The man is dead, and so they bury him: burial is but putting the dead into the place of death. He is let down into the grave of one that had died before: be is buried with Elisha. So buried, he touches the one who had preceded him in death, and he is quickened out of it: he stands upon his feet a living man. Let us notice, then, as to this burial with Christ: burial implies death, not life; you bury the dead, not the living. How dead? dead with Christ, since it is burial with Christ? No: for it is only the one who is alive in Christ who can be dead with Him, and the man buried with Christ is buried to touch the dead Christ, and to live. Dead with Christ means dead to sin, as we see in this chapter; but none can be dead to sin, who is not spiritually alive. Buried with Christ does not, then, imply dead with Christ, as might be thought.
Buried because dead in sins, then? That is nearer to, but is not yet, the thought. The death we see pictured in John's baptism is the death which is the due of sin, and not the inward condition, which is but the inveteracy of the sinful state itself. The death here is that into which Christ came; but He did not come into a sinful condition, but under its penalty. Hence burial with Christ is the owning of the penalty, which faith anticipates before it comes, finding Christ as having taken that place, that we may live. Baptism is therefore but a typical or acted out gospel; with a significant protest against ritualism, also: for the baptism is, as the word itself shows and the apostle's argument as well, but immersion, burial, Christ alone must give the life; and thus it does not go on, as Colossians in our common version teaches, to resurrection. It is the confession of death, for which we are put into Christ's sepulchre, that we may live. We are buried with Him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. What is sought is the power for a new walk; but itself cannot give this: it is a baptism to death and not to life.
But we need to look closely at what follows in the apostle's argument. "For if we are become identified with Him in the likeness of His death, so also we shall be "Identified" seems free as a translation; the word means, as a note upon it says, "grown together," and the rendering of the Revised Version, with most commentators, "united," seems preferable. There is no "Him" in the original, but it is necessarily implied; and the passage so read argues that if the truth intended by baptism be a reality in the soul, and in it - "the likeness of His death "- they were really, not merely professedly, united with him, then the result would be seen in the practical "likeness of His resurrection,"- that "walk in newness of life," of which he had just before spoken. The resurrection of the buried man was the result of having touched Elisha; and perfectly sure is the result where Christ has been touched in faith. This touch becomes indeed a full identification, and the apostle goes on now to show the deliverance from the power of sin that would hinder the blessedness of a walk with God. Here he goes beyond what baptism in itself symbolizes, to show what identification with Christ involves, namely, the crucifixion of our old man in the cross of Christ, that the body of sin may be annulled. But this does not come within the scope of our present inquiry.
i6. DOES BAPTISM SYMBOLIZE RESURRECTION.
THUS far, then, Romans; and plainly it does not go on to resurrection. Walking in newness of life, the likeness of resurrection, is what is to follow. But in Colossians (chap. ii. 12), in perhaps every version, we have resurrection included : "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him, through the faith of the operation of God who hath raised Him from the dead."
There is, however, an alternative rendering. The word for "wherein" in Greek also means "in whom," and Meyer and Wordsworth in their commentaries adopt this. The second "Him" in the verse is also wanting, and we may, instead of "with Him," say "together." Thus it will stand: "Buried with Him in baptism, in whom also ye are risen together, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead." This rendering I have no doubt can be fully justified. The primary meaning of the word baptisma is acknowledged to be "immersion," and though one cannot always insist upon this, as has been already urged, yet in the meaning of "burial" given to it both here and in Romans there seems good reason for accepting immersion as the mode which harmonizes with the thought. It may be said that in raising one from the water, the figure of resurrection is necessarily found. But though this follows, it is not really in itself part of the baptism.
But there are much more sufficing reasons. For, supposing it were fully admitted that in baptism we were symbolically raised up with Christ, yet how would this consist with the latter part of the sentence "through the faith of the operation of God"? Faith as the instrument would here be but a disturbing element as far as the figure is concerned. Baptism could not be a figure of anything "through faith" of something else! On the other hand, if it be not figure, but reality, then we are really raised up with Christ through faith, but in an ordinance; which is Campbellism, but not Scripture. Nor need I take it up here.
The other translation makes all simple: we have only to remember that resurrection and quickening lifegiving are not the same thing. There is a double contrast in Colossians here which is instructive. In ver. 13 we have, "And you, being dead, hath he quickened;" in ver. 12, "buried with Him in whom ye are risen." As burial is putting the dead in the place of death, so resurrection is the living being brought into the place of the living. It is by faith in Him who has raised up Jesus that we step into the ranks of those spiritually alive.
17. THE PUTTING ON OF CHRIST IN BAPTISM.
FOR the doctrine of baptism, as Paul teaches it, we have but one more passage to consider. It is the statement in Gal. (iii. 27), "For as many of you as have been baptized unto Christ have put on Christ."
This "putting on" is, of course, clothing: we have it elsewhere as an exhortation,-" put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." (Rom. xiii. 14.) Here it is evidently practical; and clothing often stands for practical righteousness,-.---always, I believe for something wrought out, as is a garment, thread by thread.
But when we speak of putting on Christ, this garment which covers the shame of our nakedness is, of course, nothing self-wrought. We are hiding ourselves in Another; we are arraying ourselves in a comeliness not our own. And this, we see at once, is the idea in baptism: we are immersed unto Christ. Self is owned as ruined, undone, and Christ is sought to as a refuge from self, a Substitute and Representative before God; before men also our glory and our hiding-place.
This is the meaning of baptism: it is not, of course, what as an act (sacramentally, as people say,) it accomplishes. It in no way supposes this, that the apostle goes on to argue that in Christ there is no distinction of class or sex, and that if Christ's, we are Abraham's seed. He gives the ideal, the profession: we are that, or else untrue to it, for Christ on His side refuses none that come to Him.
Moreover in the words used, we have not, as so many suppose, any implication of necessary activity in the person who "puts on" Christ. The same word, only compounded with the preposition "upon," and in the first aorist middle, exactly as here, is used in 2 Cor. V. 2 for our "being clothed upon with our house that is from heaven," and we might there speak of "putting on" the resurrection body, or here of our being "clothed with" Christ. The responsibility of the baptismal place belongs to the one in it, however the grace of God may have wrought in putting him in. To a child who has been baptized in infancy - allowing for a moment that God has given them the privilege of this,- one could say, "You were clothed with Christ."
The exhortation in Rom. Xlii. 14 is not inconsistent with this. It is, what we have not in English, an in imperative in the past (the aorist), and means, "be as one that has been clothed with Christ."
i8. THE BAPTISMAL SALVATION OF PETER.
ONE passage outside of Paul's writings remains to be considered. Connected with the verse before, it literally reads: "Wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water; which also, a like figure, now saves you, baptism (not a putting away of filth of flesh, but a request of a good conscience unto God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." There is a general agreement that "the answer of a good conscience," upon which so much has been built, is not correct; though the word is a difficult one.
"Question," "inquiry," "request," as variously given by commentators, will any of them give the sense, only we must get the right connection. Alford has, for instance, "the inquiry of a good conscience after God;" whereas the meaning must be rather, from what we have already seen, "the inquiry for a good conscience." The conscience cannot be good, that is only inquiring after God. It is, as we have seen, what baptism means, the confession of a need which God alone can satisfy, and which it requires the death of Christ to meet. Alford reads also, "which, the antitype of that which doth now save you also, even baptism." This makes the water of baptism the antitype of the flood, which is out of all scriptural proportion. The word used (though the original of our word "antitype ") is applied in the only other place in which it occurs in Scripture to the "holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true" (Heb. ix. 24)-types in contrast with antitypes. If any thing more than figure, then, be needed to explain the word, the rendering of the common version, a "like figure," is certainly right. Water in each case, with a like significance; the water of death, in the flood, yet salvation to those whom it upbore in the ark; the baptismal water similarly death, and saving because His death.
For this, however, you must bring in resurrection. Death, if there were no resurrection, would be awful defeat and ruin. "He was raised again for our justification." And thus in a figure baptism saves by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
This, as is evident, is the same doctrine as Paul's. Scripture is, as it must be, of a piece throughout.
19. "BORN OF WATER."
THE doctrine of baptism is now complete. But there is one passage so commonly taken and by many more than ritualists, to refer to baptism, that one can hardly be excused from saying a few words about it, in proof that it does not apply to baptism at all. It is that in which the Lord says to Nicodemus that "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The proof may be given thus :-
i. If this spoke of baptism, it would prove that without baptism no one could be saved.
2. It would also make it a magical ceremony by which to the degradation of the Holy Spirit of God, He would be made to unite with water to beget a soul to God!
3. The being born of God is a spiritual process, and the one so born doth not commit sin, and his seed abideth in him. He has eternal life, not one that can perish or allow him to be the sinner that he was be-fore (I Jno. iii), which is not true of the baptized as such.
4. Cornelius had the Spirit, and was certainly born again before he was baptized at all To be born of water and the Spirit, two elements must come together, and thus it could not be that any would be born again except in the moment of baptism.
6. The apostle Peter assures us, we are born again by the word of God preached in the gospel. (i Pet. i. 23, 25.)
sents: "washing of water by the Word" (Eph. V. 26) is how Christ sanctifies and cleanses His Church.
8. The Lord's words to Nicodemus refer to Ezek. xxxvi. where Israel is prophetically seen to undergo the needed change in order to enter the kingdom at a future day.
9. And the Lord uses these terms not with an ignorant man, or mere convicted sinner, but with a teacher of Israel.
10. So that He might well marvel at his want of knowledge, which He could not have done, if He were speaking of the unknown effect of a rite not yet instituted in its Christian form.
This evidence is abundant and conclusive that the "water" of which men are born again is not baptismal water, but the word of God. Another expression, "the washing of regeneration" (Tit. iii. 5), often used in the same interest as the former, says nothing of baptism or of water at all.
20. CONVERSION TO ENTER THE KINGDOM.
To all the preceding argument as to admission into the kingdom, Matt. xviii. 3 has been objected as decisive against it. The words are indeed as positive as to the kingdom of heaven as those to Nicodemus about new birth are to the kingdom of God. Attentive consideration will show that they both apply in the same way, that is, to the kingdom set up in power when the Lord appears. It is of this the disciples must have been thinking when they asked, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven ?" A small thing comparatively to be greatest here: a very different thing to be greatest there.
Chapter Ten HOUSEHOLD BAPTISM.
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