Sunday, April 16, 2006

baptism in america, pt.2

I don't know why, but for some reason that USA Today article (see previous post) really got me thinking.

And the more I have thought about it, I think the biggest reason that people don't care to get baptized anymore is because people just don't see the point.

Nobody thinks that baptism is essential for salvation anymore.

And, well...I don't think that I do either.

I mean, I think that it is commanded. I think that it is good and right and pleasing to God. I think that there is no good reason for you NOT to be baptized if you believe Christ is who He says He is and want to allign your life with His. I think Christ did it and taught us to. I think the apostles did it and assumed that every other Christian would to. And...I think that it is proper.

But essential? My opinion is that it is not our place to use such a word when talking about baptism. My opinion is that we should concern ourselves with obedience, and leave the figuring out of what is essential and what isn't to God. Because...regardless of what we think or believe, you know He gets it right every time.

And frankly, God is probably saying, "Wait, wait, wait...who said anything about "essential"? I just want you to do it because it brings you and I closer together and it connects us on a level that is, granted, deeper than you are able to currently comprehend...but I didn't think that would matter. I just figured you would want to. Man, I wish you guys would stop worrying so much about what is going to happen between you and I when you die, and start concerning yourselves a little more with what could happen between you and I right now."

You know, this time three years ago I could have looked at my wife and said, "Babe, let's not do the whole wedding thing. I mean, we can still move in together and have sex and eventually start a family without actually getting married and going through all that ritual and ceremonial mumbo-jumbo. Let's just skip all that."

I could have done that.

But it would have robbed my wife of the opportunity to get all her friends and family together; get dressed in all white; and slowly walk through the middle of the room while every person in attendance stands to their feet and glues their eyes to her radiant face. It would have robbed her of the one day in her life when she gets to be, all day long, far and away, the most beautiful and important person in the world. And it would have robbed her of the opportunity to hear me declare, in front of almost every person we know, that I love her and want to live the rest of my life loving her, loving only her.

Yeah...I could have done that. But it would have been stupid and selfish. And I would have sacrificed a blessing to my own soul, because my mind reasoned it was unnecessary.

But still, I could have done that. Because, in the secular and practical sense, marriage is not "essential"...but it sure is better.

I think that it is absolutely vital that we start teaching our people that there is power in baptism; that there is mystery and beauty in baptism; that baptism is a privledge, an honor, a joy, not a have to, but a get to. We need to start teaching our people the importance of baptism as a connection to Christ, to our rich history and to one another.

Oh, if God's people could begin to see baptism again for what it truly is...

Is it logical? Probably not.
Is it practical? I don't know.
Is it essential? I couldn't care less...
Because it is wonderful.

And it is ours to claim and freely partake in.

Why aren't Americans getting baptized anymore? Because we, Christians, have spent all our time and energy speculating on its possible effect on our deaths...rather than rejoicing in its powerful effect on our lives.


Jake said...

I disagree.

bill said...

i don't believe you.

The Anonymous Human said...

okay, all Rick Keck aside...

I think the problem is probably all semantics. Don't you love the English language! I think there are a lot of people who would say baptism is essential for salvation. But I think if you changed just one word in that sentance, almost everyone who professes Christ would agree with that statement. Because you're right about several things, one of which is that baptism is commanded. Both by Christ and by Paul, I think there would be few who would argue with that. So the question is this, when God commanded Abram to circumcise himself to join in the covenant with him, was it the literal removal of the foreskin that made that covenant a covenant? No, of course not, it was the Word of God. The same is true here. Is it the actual dipping in the water that produces eternal life (both now and forever)? No, it was the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. The shedding of blood by the perfect Lamb of God. By His wounds we are made whole. So what word should we change? We could change 'baptism' with 'obedience". Would you say obedience is essential for salvation?, this debate is about baptism, so let's leave that in there. What about th word essential? No, that's the whole debate...And salvation is at the core of what we're talking about. So, how about this: Baptism is essential TO salvation. See what I did there? Kept salvation and baptism and essential in there, but didn't hinge salvation ON baptism, but made it seem incomplete without it. Man am I clever. But seriously, what if we think of it this way. What if for a momment we put Baptism in the same catagory as Repentence. I don't think this is so far a stretch since that one time when the church was just getting going and no body knew anything about nothing so everybody was confused and they figured that that guy who's yelling at them just spent three years with the Son of God, so he just maybe might know something about the subject of eternal life, so they decided to ask him what it took for salvation. They had already believed (since they had been cut to the heart as the good book says) so now what? Well the Rock pulls this one out saying, "REPENT and be BAPTIZED for the forgiveness of your sins." So there's several ways to look at this. On one hand, Rick would say, "SEE to be saved you have to do these two things!" Bill Wolf the heretic would say, "no no no, since their sins have been forgiven, they need to repent and be baptized." Well Paul asks this question, "should we just keep on sinning, knowing that there is nothing in the whole world that we could ever do to seperate us from Christ?" How would you feel when they catch the guys that raped that stripper at Duke if their excuse was, "Well, Jesus will forgive me, so I figured it wasn't that big of a deal." Probably feel a lot like we do when we think of the terrorists who flew planes into the world trade center for the Glory of God. Something's a bit off. Something doesn't match up. So what gives? Well, I think you'd say a follower of Christ would have to be repentant of their sins. That repentance was a basic lesson taught by Christ himself (just ask the woman caught in adultry). I certainly wouldn't want to be the guy standing in front of God on judgement day who accepted him, but then raped and molested little children because he knew Jesus would forgive them. Whether or not God puts him on the right or left, well, frankley that's up to God. But I sure wouldn't want to be in those shoes. Can't like those odds. So then, I think it would be safe to say that anyone who is serious about their relationship with Christ would be serious about their repentance. They would claim it was essential to their faith. That it would be impossible for them to follow Jesus without repentace. That without repentance, their conversion wasn't really serious. That without repentance, the words they said didn't really have any meaning. So take everything I just wrote and insert Baptism into it. On the issue of essential FOR salvation, won't touch it with a seven hundred and seventy seven foot pole. But if you want to ask if it is essential TO salvation...well, I think he's already spoken.


Betsy said...

so did we not have a relationship until we got married or what?

Dustin said...

be careful, you could get fired from a Restoration Church for believing that baptism isn't essential for salvation! Walking on thin ice Bill Wolf!

And yes, i agree with you 100%.