THE SUBJECT of baptism has been a subject of great controversy throughout the centuries. Many false and erroneous theories have been advocated which have tended to confuse the minds of God's little children. This is due to the fact that theologians have attempted to supplant a theological meaning of the term that is foreign to the classical meaning in order to prop up their false theories in trying to hinge salvation on the volition and work of the creature. This has narrowed the conception of the term, baptism, to that ceremonial use of water to admit members into an organized body here upon earth termed the church. I do not believe the term is so narrow in its scope. When I think of baptism I like to meditate upon the classical meaning instead of the theological use of the term.
To baptize is to immerse, submerge, envelope, overwhelm or sink; to dip, wash, or drench; to consecrate; to completely subdue. This is the essence of the classical meaning. Even theologians who advocate sprinkling as the proper mode of baptism admit this. I think that baptism in literal water is figurative and typical of the baptism that is essential unto salvation. No man is able, empowered or authorized to do that. This is the work of God.
I want to call your attention to one Scripture that will conclusively prove that water baptism is not meant every time the term is used in the Scriptures. Jesus said as recorded in Luke 12:50, "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." The word straitened means pained. He was undoubtedly speaking of His baptism in death. He was speaking of the time when death would envelop Him, when He would be overwhelmed with suffering and submerged into death. This statement was made approximately two years after His baptism in Jordan. (I think His baptism in Jordan was pointing to, and figurative of, His baptism in death.)
Now, let us consider Romans 6:3. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" Paul did not say or hint at water in this expression. If Paul had said, know ye not that as many of us as were baptized in water were baptized in Jesus Christ and into His death; then, the modern theorists would have something to base their arguments upon. Since he did not say this, let us take for granted that he said what he meant and meant what he said. He said, "were baptized into Jesus Christ." Can any man immerse one into Jesus Christ? We may baptize in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost but man cannot baptize into Jesus Christ. I believe that God chose His people in Christ in the annals of eternity before time ever began. "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). "Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom. 8:29). The entire family of God was baptized into the body of Christ by God, our Father. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body: so is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body" (Cor 12:12,13). "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10). If we were chosen in Him, created in Him, and baptized in Him, we were mysteriously in Him being bone of His bone as He accomplished the law to a jot and tittle while He sojourned in this world of sin and sorrow. I believe that as Jesus performed the law to a jot and tittle, Jehovah could see the entire family of God performing it as they were members of His body, being baptized in Him. The one baptism spoken of in Ephesians 4:5 is that performed by God, the Father in the Son through the operation of the Spirit upon His children. This baptism is essential unto salvation but cannot be performed by man.
Yes, God's children were "baptized into His death." They went down with Him into death because they were chosen, created, and baptized in Him. If we be children of God we paid the penalty of death in Him! This being true, just is completely satisfied in Him for each and every child of God. Nothing can be charged to them.
We have touched upon the subject of baptism relative to all the family of God being baptized at once together into Jesus Christ and into His death. Now, we want to meditate upon the experimental phase of baptism. We want to consider the individual, personal baptism that is experienced by each and every child of God. This experimental phase of baptism is progressive in its application as we shall see, the Lord willing. It begins in regeneration and ends in the immortalization of the body. John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins as recorded in Mark 1:4. All those who made manifest that they were in possession of this baptism by confessing their sins be baptized in the river Jordan, (Mark 1:5) which was an outward manifestation of being in this condition. The rule is according to the words of Jesus as recorded in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The form of the verb used shows that it is not water baptism that is under consideration. The present tense of the verb shows that it is a condition they are now in. They are overwhelmed, immersed, or enveloped now. Are they now enveloped in water by the administrator? No, they are now enveloped in repentance by the Holy Ghost! This being submerged in repentance affects the cry for deliverance or salvation from their sins. This salvation is promised in this statement by Jesus. The hope of each child of God, who is so baptized in repentance by the Holy Ghost, is salvation from their sins through the merits of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When one is baptized in water he outwardly manifests this condition and hope through the grace of the Father, the merits of the Son, and guidance, operation and revelation of the Holy Spirit.
"John answered saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" (St. Luke 3:16). The effect of the Holy Spirit baptism is regeneration. The souls of God's people are baptized into death and resurrected unto life here in time; and, the bodies of God's people shall be baptized into death and resurrected unto life immortal into the great beyond – the end of this sphere of time. This is that for which we patiently wait and hope.
The natural soul trusts in natural man being inspired by the natural carnal spirit. This is the soul that sins. It shall die (Ezek. 18:4). All people are born naturally in this condition. When it pleases God to baptize the soul of one of His people by the Holy Spirit, He kills and makes spiritually alive the soul. Yes, the soul is overwhelmed, immersed, and submerged into death and resurrected into a new life. The soul that has been so wrought upon by the Holy Spirit shall never die. It is a new creature. According to Psalms 107 the experience of the redeemed is, "Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their troubles and he delivered them out of their distresses." This is brought about by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We read in Luke 3:3, "And he came into all the county about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." This does not say baptism of water but of repentance. This means that you must be overwhelmed, submerged, and immersed with repentance unto salvation not to be repented of (2 Cor. 7:10). When you are overwhelmed with repentance you abhor yourself; you repent in dust and ashes. When you abhor yourself you die to the love of self. You sink into despair; you are immersed in trouble and distresses. AS He did not leave Christ in the grave He does not leave your soul in despair but raises it up a new soul. This is verified in Psalms 23:3, "He restoreth my soul." You are then a new creature motivated by a spiritual soul. The mortal soul which is subject to death, has been baptized with immortality. This makes the soul immortal. Now, you are an immortal soul dwelling in a mortal body. This body has not yet been baptized with immortality. That will be the crowning work of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says in Romans 7:24, "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Paul realized the sinfulness and mortality of his body. All God's children are possessed with the thorn in the flesh and infirmities of the flesh. Our bodies are subject to weaken and die. We cannot do the things we would because of the evil that is present in our fast decaying bodies. The body becomes lame and tottery with age. Our bodies become weak because of disease. Our natural eyes become dim and our natural ears deafen. Our memory fails and our ability to comprehend is affected. Our natural minds fail to function as they once did. I feel that as we experience these things we become more and more desirous of the immortalization of the bodies. "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Rom. 8:23). Yes, the bodies of the saints shall be baptized into death and shall be completely submerged, enveloped, swallowed up, or baptized with immortality. "So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:54). This will be the answer to the prayer as recorded in 1 Thess. 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The baptism in water is figurative of this baptism that is essential unto salvation. This is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God: which is a figure of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. See 1st Peter 3:21. There are two kinds of conscience. There is a natural conscience and there is a Holy Spirit conscience. A good conscience is a Holy Spirit conscience. I believe that God's people are wrought upon by His Spirit and are made anxious to follow Jesus in baptism. They are desirous to outwardly manifest this faith in the Father baptizing them in the Son by the Spirit by submitting themselves to baptism in water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. As the candidate for baptism is passive in the hands of the administrator in the act of baptism in water, so he manifests his faith in being in Christ as He went down into the grave and came up out of the grave. As baptism into Jesus Christ and into His death is the door of entrance into the Church which is the one invisible body including all the children of God, so baptism in water is the door of entrance into the church in its organized form upon earth.
John required those whom he baptized to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. I believe such characters are the only ones worthy to be received into the organized Church. When one comes confessing his sins, and considering himself as the chief of sinners and less than the least of all saints, speaking of his unworthiness, my heart goes out to him and I am given to fellowship him. When such an one comes testifying that his hopes for salvation from sins is solely based on the grace of God and the merits of the Lord Jesus, I consider him as a proper subject for baptism in water into the fellowship of the organized Church. None but those who have been baptized with repentance would come bringing such testimony from the heart desiring a home with God's people. The Church receives such into their fellowship and one properly ordained will gladly administer the ordinance to that character.
I realize that I have just hinted upon this grand subject. These thoughts are my earnest and conscientious convictions. If they be true, may God be praised. If they be false, charge them to my ignorance and vain imaginations. May God bless this to your comfort and edification, if it be His will, is my prayer for Christ's sake.
Elder E.J. Lambert
"Tried in the Furnace" Pgs 140-146