Posted by: pastortomvabeach | June 18, 2012

Thought for the Week June 24, 2012

Let’s continue our trek through Hebrews 6:1-2. The writer says, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. He encourages us to get the foundation right and then go on to “perfection” or “maturity”. In his statement he enumerates six topics or building blocks of the foundation: 1) repentance from dead works, 2) faith toward God, 3) doctrine of baptisms, 4) laying on of hands, 5) resurrection of the dead, and 6) eternal judgment. These six areas are elementary teachings that every Christian should get inside them as early as possible because they pave the way for growth to maturity.

We have discussed the first two and showed that the third actually includes more than one “baptism” since the word is plural. Let’s look at one or two baptisms that are foundational.

Paul says in I Corinthians 12:12-14, The body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. The “body” to which he refers in the “body of Christ” or the church (see Ephesians 1:23).

Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, Paul says, is a member of this “body”. As a believer in Christ, you and I don’t have a choice whether we are in “the church” meaning the universal church of Jesus Christ. The biblical picture is one of a living “organism” not “organization” which is directed individually and collectively by its head, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22). We are each and every one connected to the resurrected Savior, Jesus.

How do we get connected? I believe this is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit would be the one who reaches our unbelieving hearts when He convicts the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit shows us we have sinned against God, shows us the righteousness of God because of what Jesus did on the cross, and then reveals the consequence of rejecting Christ which is judgment. Once He has our attention, He then guides you into all truth…He will glorify Me… John 16:13-14, by arranging for us to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, through someone He has appointed.

After we get to hear the gospel, He prompts our hearts to believe and, when we do, Paul says the Holy Spirit, Himself, regenerates and renews us (see Titus 3:5). “Regenerate” means to give us new life. This is why the Bible says we are “born again from above” and that we are “new creations in Christ Jesus” (II Corinthians 5:17). Paul also says that we’ve been made to “drink into one Spirit”. This means that the Holy Spirit lives in us imparting the life of Jesus Christ, the living water, into our spirits. All of this makes every Christian, in every aspect of his or her being (body, soul, spirit) and every area of life (work, home, social, spiritual, etc.) completely immersed as a member of the body of Christ – baptized into His body.

If you’re a believer in Jesus today, that’s you! You can’t avoid this baptism unless you choose not to believe in Jesus. You don’t have to request it, the Holy Spirit does it for you! If you are a member of the universal church of Christ and He says the “body” needs you, it goes without saying that every Christian should attach him or herself to a local body and be a regular part of the life and activity of the “body”. The Bible nowhere envisions a Christian who is detached from a life-giving connection with a local body.

Water baptism is what is called an ordinance or rule of the church. It is a practice that Jesus commanded believers to follow. Some describe it as a rite or ceremony we follow but I like to see it as a means of connecting further with the Lord rather than an entrance ritual since one doesn’t have to be baptized to be a Christian or a member of the church. It is, however, a very important and vital step of growth because it is one of the first tests of obedience.

Jesus gave us the example of obedience in being baptized by John the Baptist to show He identified with sinful humanity, even though He had no sin. He did it, He said, “to fulfill all righteousness.” As obedient followers, we ought to do the same. In water baptism we say to the world, I am identifying with the Creator and Savior of the world by taking the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit upon myself. I am telling everyone, I’m in the family of God.

The powerful part of water baptism is the picture and, I believe, spiritual application of identifying with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection. When I am submerged in water there is no doubt that, if I was left there, I would be dead. Under the water I am buried from sight. As I emerge into view I am demonstrating the new life that Jesus has given me by His own resurrection and saying, it is mine! Paul made this application in Romans 6:4, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.

I believe this is more than a symbolic ritual but that the Holy Spirit applies this vivid acting out of death, burial, and resurrection to our lives to empower us to “walk in the newness of life” from that point on. We are showing, by our obedience, that resurrection power is alive in us and we choose to live that way. Did you notice I said, “choose”? Remember, we didn’t get a choice on whether or not we would be baptized into the body of Christ. Water baptism, on the other hand, is a choice. Though Jesus commanded that we do it, He never forces us into the water. Every Christian is free to decide and, I would say, should decide do it.

Two baptisms, each officiated by a different person, but both vital to our foundation and growth in Christ. The only question is, have you experienced them? If you haven’t trusted in Jesus Christ, what’s holding you back? If you have, and you have not yet been baptized in water, why not? The Hebrews writer says, let’s go on to maturity. Is he speaking to you? Just a thought.

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