About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Take a journey in the
imagination of your mind. There
you are, standing along the edge of the
Now let your imagination
carry you three years down the road.
John is dead. You're
about to learn that his baptism of repentance is only half of the
baptismal story. Jesus fills
you in on the other half of the story (Matthew 28:19 and 20).
He tells you and the other disciples to go into the entire world,
baptizing and teaching everyone to obey everything He taught.
A revelation strikes you like a heavenly lightning bolt.
John's baptism is associated with repentance.
The baptism Jesus is requesting of you to perform is associated
with obedience. That's a
commitment to obey every last thing Jesus ever taught.
"This sounds like serious stuff", you think to
There has been, and still is, much debate over what constitutes a valid baptism. Some baptize babies; others don't. Some immerse; others sprinkle. Some baptize in a river: others in a baptismal tank. Some baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; others in the name of Jesus. Some provide weeks of instruction; others offer little instruction. Some say water baptism is necessary for salvation; others say it's not. Some say it's the entrance into the church; others say it isn't.
Now let your imagination
jump ahead to the year 105 A D. That's
about forty years after the Apostles Peter and Paul were executed.
You're a new believer in the third generation of Christians and
you want to be baptized in water. Your
friend sits down with you and explains the process.
Many, if not most, Christian communities follow the baptismal
instructions as printed in the second century liturgical book of
ecclesiastical rules known as the "Didache". The
process seems like a long drawn out affair, but you're willing to forge
on. Much of the second century
rules concerning water baptism are documented by Hyppolytus (170 - 235
AD) who actually pointed out the water baptism in the nude was
The first thing you and
those who will baptize you do is fast, something that takes a bit of
effort on your part. Once
your fast is over, and you take nourishment, you're instructed in
Christian living, doctrine, and the meaning of baptism.
It takes a few sessions but the instruction concludes with a time
of personal interrogation. You
squirm in your seat when asked if you're living in adultery.
Like most Roman men, you had your affairs, but that was in the
past. You're than asked if
you're employed as a soldier, a civil servant, an actor, an artist, a
gladiator, a magician, or a manufacturer of metals that could be used in
the production of idols. Knowing
that your marital status and employment doesn't disqualify you from
being baptized, you're anxious to head over to the river, but you're
told; "Not yet. There's
Over the next number of
days you endure a series of exorcisms, the last of which is performed by
the local bishop on a day called "Holy Saturday".
You sigh a deep breath. The
last demon apparently has left your body.
The bishop then seals your forehead, ears, and nose, with the
sign of the cross.
Finally, you're standing
at the edge of the river. As
instructed, you take off all of your clothes.
In front of everyone, you sheepishly strip yourself naked, as do
others who are being baptized with you.
You ask yourself; "Where are Adam and Eve's fig leaves when
you really need them." Of
course, fig leaves would defeat part of the purpose of baptism.
It's seen as a spiritual bath.
So you take a quick glance around to see the other naked bodies
and conclude that it's okay. "We're
all in the same naked baptismal boat", you think.
You just wonder why one has to be physically naked to take a
Finally, it's your turn. You
wade out into the deep. You're
anointed with the oil of exorcism. You
denounce the devil, affirm your faith, and then you're shoved under the
water, not one time but three times; once for the Father, once for the
Son, and once for the Holy Spirit. Upon
rising from the water you're anointed with the oil of thanksgiving,
after which you head off to the local bishop once again to be anointed
with oil one last time. On
the way over you consider manufacturing and bottling your own oil.
"I could make a small fortune selling oil to the
church," you say to yourself. Once
the bishop seals you with the sign of the cross, you become an official
member of the church. You
can now participate in congregational activities such as the holy kiss
and communion, because water baptism is also seen as the entrance into
the church. A few holy
kisses would surely be appreciated at this point.
Now beam yourself forward
to today's Christian reality. You're
glad that you don't have to expose every hill, valley, and crevice, of
your naked body while standing with other naked believers in a baptismal
line. That being said,
you're still confused over the various views and practices of baptism.
There is, however, one thing you are sure of.
Turning from your self directed life the Bible calls sin and
genuinely affirming your commitment to obey every last thing Jesus ever
taught forms the foundation to water baptism.
Yes, baptism is a matter of repentance, but it's also a matter of
obedience, a word that is fast fading from our Evangelical vocabulary.