About Jesus - Steve Sweetman 

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Baptized Into Church

"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV).  The word "baptized" reminds us of water or Spirit baptism but in this verse Paul used the word in reference to being baptized into one body, that being the Body of Christ, the church.  Have you ever thought about being baptized into church? 


When Paul used the word "body" in the above context and in other similar contexts he was not thinking of a group of people like the Canadian parliament or the U. S. congress who are "a body" of elected officials.  He was thinking along the lines of a human looking body.  Ephesians 4:16 makes this clear when he said the body is "joined and held together by every supporting ligament (NIV)."        


In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul said, "You are the Body of Christ".  I know that many people view this body language metaphorically.  It's imagery, picture language describing the nature of church.  On the other hand, there are some, like me, who see this a bit differently.  


Paul said, "You are the Body of Christ".  He didn't say "You are the symbolic Body of Christ."  Think of it this way.  When Jesus was on earth all of who God is lived in Jesus' human body (Colossians 1:19).  Once Jesus returned to Heaven (Acts 1:10 - 11) God was no longer on earth in human form.  He, therefore, returned to earth by His Spirit to live in the believers (Acts 2:1 - 5), otherwise known as the Body of Christ, the church.  In one real sense of the word church is God's present day earthly human body in which He lives.     


Paul said that we were baptized into the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:13.  Our English word "baptized" is transliterated from the Greek word "baptizo", which means "to submerge or immerse".  Baptizo wasn't a religious Greek word.  If you lived in first century Judea and you washed your tunic in the Jordan River , you'd be baptizing your tunic in water.  


When Paul said you "were baptized into one body", the phrase "were baptized" is a Greek aorist passive indicative verb.  Aorist means that at one specific moment in time you were immersed into the Body of Christ.  Passive in this context means that the Holy Spirit was the one who submerged you into the Body of Christ.  Indicative means that your baptism into the Body of Christ was a literal, undeniable, experience. 


The word "baptized" in this verse might lead to some confusion since we relate baptism with water or Spirit baptism.  English translators could have translated "baptizo" as "immersed" or "submerged" in this verse. The text could correctly read, "You were submerged into the Body of Christ," thus eliminating any possible confusion with water or Spirit baptism.       


I'm not convinced that Paul was speaking symbolically when he said that the Corinthian believers were baptized into the Body of Christ.  I certainly don't believe he was talking about joining an organization we call church.  Neither do I believe he was talking about going to church or having casual Christian acquaintances.  He was talking about being immersed into the lives of those to whom the Holy Spirit has joined us by immersion into the Body of Christ.  Once submerged into Christ's body we become vital parts of the body, performing our bodily functions and responsibilities with those to whom we have been placed alongside.  This is Paul's point throughout 1 Corinthians 12.    


Our western world individualistic approach to life and church makes it difficult for western Christians to view and experience church as being immersed into the lives of people. We think in terms of being joined organizationally, not joined relationally.  This impersonal, non-relational, approach to church distances us from those to whom we are immersed into.  It defeats the purpose for the existence of church.  If we could grasp and implement Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 12 it would transform the western church into the Body of Christ it was meant to be. 


I believe our western world's individualistic approach to church will change.  Many people believe another revival will produce this change but I don't believe it will.  Western world Christendom has experienced many revivals over the last few centuries, none of which have brought lasting change to church structure.  I was very much involved in the Charismatic Movement of the 1960's, 70's, and 80's where "body ministry", as it was called, was an important aspect of the movement.  It didn't take long for body ministry expressed through personal relationships in the Body of Christ to evolve into denominational style organizations. 


I do believe change will come.  As each year passes our western world anti-Christ culture is demanding with more intensity that we conform to its unbiblical lifestyle or else pay the penalty.  This, along with God's judgment on our western nations will force us to live as those who have been immersed into the lives of each other.  This will be the means of the church's survival and purification.  It may be a painful process, as it has been for believers in places like China and Iran , but for those who make the change, they'll never want to return to our western world, often unbiblical, individualistic traditions of church.  



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