Part 4 - What About Gentile Water-Baptism?
If water baptism is thus associated with cleansing the nation Israel for its ministry in her Kingdom, where does the baptism of Gentiles under the commission of Matthew 28:19 fit in? Even here with the Gentiles, water-baptism At That Time demonstrated ‘cleansing’ – and again it is clearly associated with Israel’s Kingdom program… well before Paul’s “body of Christ” is formed.
Remember that the priests were not the only people to be baptized. It also occurs in connection with the cleansing of lepers. Leviticus 14:9 addresses this, “... Also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.” The “nations [Gk. ethnos, Gentiles]” of Matthew 28:19 were of course considered “unclean” by Israel and thus must be baptized in water – be cleansed – in order to gain access to Israel’s Kingdom and acceptance into God’s favor. Both Israel and the Gentiles at that time needed to acknowledge their need of cleansing. The Israelite’s water-baptism would qualify them to be God’s Priests in the kingdom to come on earth - the Gentiles water-baptism would them be the recipients of those things of God’s favor… through a faithful Israel.
WHAT ABOUT US TODAY?
The fact that water-baptism pertained to Israel’s Kingdom program only.
Water-baptism has NO PLACE at all in the Pauline “Mystery [musterion, “secret” program of God today for the Gentile “body of Chris.,” which consist of both “Greek (non-Jews) and Jew,” all being seen today by God as being 'Gentiles [non-Jews].'
“Where there is neither Greek [non-Jew] nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11 (KJV)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond [slave] nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 (KJV)
- Water-baptisms was Israel’s ceremonial washings participated in UNTIL the Nation Israel and its program were ‘set aside.’
- By contrast, “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2) came into effect as it is today after the Acts period when Paul set Israel aside and turned to the Gentiles as seen in Acts 28:28. Today’s age of the pure grace of God will continue UNTIL The Resurrection of All Grace-age Believers Who Will “Appear In Heaven With Christ” (cf. Col. 3:4).
Paul here clearly explains “the fall of them [Israel]” and how long Israel’s kingdom on earth will be delayed.
“11I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather Through Their [Israel’s] Fall Salvation Is Come Unto The Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them [Israel] be the Riches Of The World, and the Diminishing Of Them [Israel] The Riches Of The GENTILES; how much more their fulness?” Romans 11:11-12 (KJV)
“For if The Casting Away Of Them [Israel] be the reconciling of the world [Gentiles, see ‘the world’ in v11), what shall the receiving of them [Israel] be, but life from the dead?” Romans 11:15 (KJV)
“For I [Paul] would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery [formerly held secret], lest ye [Israel] should be wise in your own conceits; that Blindness In Part Is Happened To Israel, UNTIL the fulness of the GENTILES be come in.” Romans 11:25 (KJV)
With ‘the fall of them [Israel]’ (v12) in view, God prepared and raised up Paul as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13). It was through Paul that He brought “salvation to the Gentiles” TOTALLY APART from fallen Israel and Her Kingdom Program with its law and religious ceremony and rituals which are set in abeyance. Thus Paul could write;
“… for Ye [the believers of today’s ‘grace dispensation’] Are NOT UNDER THE LAW, but UNDER GRACE.” Romans 6:14 (KJV)
Following the raising up of Paul the practice of baptism clearly underwent a total change. The first real indication of this in the scriptural record is found in Peter’s experience at Cornelius’ house in Acts 10. As the Lord began to prepare Peter and the 12 to recognize the change in God’s program for the Gentiles taking place in mid-Acts (e.g., Acts 10:28). He also prepared Paul for A Change In Baptism. As Peter addressed those assembled in the Gentile house of Cornelius, he received a shock:
“To Him [Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” While Peter spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them [Gentiles] which heard the word. And they of the circumcision [Israel] which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that On The Gentiles Also Was Poured Out The Gift Of The Holy Ghost (Acts 10:43-45).
This was a significant departure from the program that Peter til then had been working under! With that change, all the Gentiles had to do to receive the Holy Spirit was to “believe.” This was much like the Gentile, Abraham, who “BELIEVED GOD and HIS FAITH WAS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (cf. Rom. 4:5-8). This was in sharp contrast with the previous requirement for Israelites, to “repent, and be baptized … for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (cf. Acts 2:38). So, seeing what had happened, Peter then hastily water-baptized those at Cornelius’ house, saying “Can any man forbid water that these [Gentiles] should not be baptized?” (See Acts 10:45-48). Clearly water baptism was not functioning in the same way as it had previously with Israel. Paul’s own attitude toward baptism reflects this change. Paul wrote;
“I [Paul] thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephannas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. FOR CHRIST SENT ME [Paul] NOT TO BAPTIZE, but to preach the gospel [of the grace of God]” (I Corinthians 1:14-17, Acts 20:24).
Certainly. if Paul was working under the commission given to the other Apostles, he could never have said this above!
When God interrupted Israel’s prophetic program and ushered in “the revelation of the mystery [Grk. musterion, mystery]” (Rom. 16:25). By the very nature of things God had interrupted Israel’s water baptism. Then, as Israel “diminished” (Romans 11:12) through the later Acts period, so water baptism gradually diminished in importance, for a new sort of baptism emerged on the scene to take its place.
Today there is no priestly nation and no class of people exalted “above” others. Today, under pure grace, God is now reconciling both Jews and Gentiles to Himself in “One Body” simply through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary (Eph. 2:13-18). “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body” (I Cor. 12:13) and thus “baptized into Christ” INTO “HIS DEATH” (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:3), NOT into water at all. Today there is no place for a religious water ceremony. No visible human rite or ceremony can place us “into Christ.” The “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 is effectual and invisible. It concerns believers of all races being set into the “one Body” of Christ and this performed by “One Spirit” upon one’s expression Faith In Christ Alone – not by the ritual or rite of a religious preacher or priest.
The mechanics of this ‘positional truth’ – of being “IN Christ”– by this Spirit baptism. So completely adequate is our position in Christ by virtue of the work of His Holy Spirit that we are told;
“… ye are complete in Him [In Christ]” (Colossians 2:10).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath [already now] Blessed Us With All Spiritual Blessings In Heavenly Places In Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Considering such completeness Christ has afforded us, we ask: What could possibly be accomplished by water-baptism today that Christ and His finished work at Calvary have not already accomplished?
If this question is faced honestly, it will soon be apparent that not only does water-baptism have no place in God’s pure grace program today. To practice water-baptism today is to cast a pall (a cloud or vail) upon the glorious, all-sufficient, finished Cross-work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world [kosmos], why, as though living in the world [kosmos], are ye subject to [religious] ordinances,” Colossians 2:20 (KJV)
We thank God that “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body.” God forbid that we should add water to that “one baptism” which unites us to Christ, making us “complete in Him.”
(Portions adapted from by Richard Jordan, President of Grace School of the Bible.)