Categories
Bible Insights

Two Kinds of Baptism

John Baptizes with Water and Jesus Baptizes with the Holy Spirit

The third chapter in the book of Matthew focuses on John the Baptist and makes the transition to Jesus, the star of the rest of the book. This chapter also contains some teaching from John. He quotes Isaiah and calls for the Jewish people to repent.

Then he tells us some information about himself in contrast to Jesus. He says Jesus is more powerful than he, and that he’s not even worthy to carry Jesus’s shoes (Matthew 3:11). Later on Matthew quotes Jesus as he talks about John.

Jesus says no man has ever lived who is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). When we combine these two verses, we see John the Baptist as the most important man ever, yet he is nothing compared to Jesus.

Reading that John isn’t worthy to carry Jesus’s shoes has always grabbed my attention. However, this causes me to miss something more significant in this verse.

John says he is baptizing people with water to signify the repentance, that is, their sorrow for the wrongs they have done and their commitment to turn things around and make a fresh start. Many churches treat baptism this way. This isn’t bad, but they could do better.

John the Baptist says Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. Click To Tweet

This is because John talks about a second type of baptism, it comes from Jesus. John says Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. We later see the Holy Spirit connected with fire, tongues of fire, in Acts 2:3–4, the baptism from Jesus.

Jesus’s baptism is a Holy Spirit baptism. Too many churches miss this in their sacrament of baptism. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s easier and less confronting to focus on the baptism of John the Baptist instead of the more confusing, risky, and powerful Holy Spirit baptism from Jesus.

It’s time we give more attention to Jesus’s Holy Spirit baptism and consider what it means to the way we understand our faith and apply it to our lives.

When we baptize people, we must baptize them with Holy Spirit fire.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 1-4, and today’s post is on Matthew 3:11.]

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Church 53: Home for Holy Week

Our journey is over. I’m sad and excited at the same time. Our spiritual sojourn of fifty-two churches has ended. Reunion with our home church, church 53, community looms large.

Today is Good Friday and our Easter celebration will be in two days, but I can’t wait for Sunday. I desire a preview, a reminder of our home church. I want a sneak peak of what lies ahead. We head off for our church’s Good Friday service.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

Good Friday Service

This time, I leave my journal at home—on purpose. I’ll not take notes tonight. Documenting my observations isn’t the point: experience is, community is, and family is. Especially God. I assume a packed place, arriving early to find a good seat, but there’s plenty of room when we get there. We sit and wait. I want to soak in the place. It’s been too long. I need to remember.

I don’t seek out others, but it’s not long before a friend comes up to chat, and then another, and another. With a half hour before the service starts, the minutes pass quickly, as friends fill the time with smiles, hugs, and conversation.

Some can’t believe it’s been a year, that our journey is over. But a few didn’t know we were gone. This is the downside of a larger church. Absences can too easily go unnoticed. This isn’t a lament, just an observation.

Including the balcony, the place seats 475, but the space seems small. Compared to the last two churches, it is. The worship team congregates on the stage.

Our worship leader just had wrist surgery. He won’t be playing guitar for a while, and tonight he’s restricted in what he can do. There are two others on guitar (one acoustic and one electric), a bass guitar, a keyboard, a drummer, and two backup vocals. I recognize most of the musicians but not all.

They launch into song, with launch being the operative word. It’s loud and energetic, worship at its fervent fullest, packed with joy and abounding in celebration. Though a few of the churches approached this, and Church #51 (The Megachurch), came close, these folks take worship to another level, being polished and Spirit-led at the same time.

People on stage jump and dance, with more movement in the congregation than I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t need to wait to feel God’s presence or seek him. Without question, he is here.

We sing for forty-five minutes and our pastor gives a brief teaching before we return to song. It’s nice to be able to raise my hands and arms without worrying over committing a faux pas that might disregard local conventions.

After ninety minutes, most with us singing, the service ends. I don’t want it to. But our spent musicians have little left to give, especially our worship leader, whose sweat-drenched shirt confirms he gave his all to God.

I stand, looking for people I don’t know so I can talk to them. My journey has made me more aware of seeking out visitors and those on the margins. Though I spot several to approach, others are already reaching out to them. That’s what a church should do.

Now feeling free to move about, I seek out friends. It doesn’t take long. Some conversations are brief, while others go deeper. We share prayers and give hugs. A few promise to email me, and I make plans to meet another for coffee. After half an hour, the crowd begins to thin, but it takes several more minutes for Candy and me to meander to the door.

One friend says, “Have a Good Friday,” and then questions her wording, given the sadness of Jesus’s death.

“It’s good for us!” I say. She nods in agreement.

“Besides, without Good Friday—”

“There’d be no Easter,” we say in unison.

I tarry at the door for a final conversation as the sanctuary goes dark. We’re the last to leave. After two and a half hours, I’m still not ready to go home.

But we’ll be back in two days. Tonight is a foretaste of what is to come.

Sunday Morning Easter Service

It’s Easter and we’re returning home to our church, the people we love and miss. This marks our first Sunday back since last Easter. I expect a joyful homecoming and a grand celebration: personally, corporately, and spiritually.

We arrive early to meet our kids. While our daughter and her husband attend this church, our son and his wife make an hour drive to spend Easter with us, beginning our day together at church.

My plan is to lay low today, but friends spot me as we enter the sanctuary. They’re glad to see me and I, them. They’re not sure if I’m back for good or just visiting. They seem relieved when I confirm our adventure wasn’t a church shopping exercise and our plan all along was to return after a year.

Our reunion takes place in the aisle, and we’re blocking people, so I excuse myself and look for my family. Even arriving early, there aren’t many places left for six, but they did find a spot. Instead of roaming around to talk with others, I sit down and soak in the ambience.

There’s nothing special about the building, except perhaps its age. Located in the central downtown district, the sanctuary is over 150 years old. Though not in disrepair, it’s far from contemporary. Even with many enhancements, a dated feel pervades.

Our pastor welcomes everyone, telling visitors what the regulars already know: there’s no plan for the service today, only a general intent. Its length is unknown, so it will end when it ends. He reiterates that we have freedom in worship.

We may sit or stand or kneel. We may dance or move about—or not. As is our practice, the children remain with us during the service, worshiping along with the adults but often in their own way. There will also be adult baptism later in the service. A couple of announcements appear via video.

With the place now packed, he asks the congregation to move toward the center and make room for those still needing seats.

The worship team is largely the same as Friday, but they changed out a couple of members and added a violin. They start the service with a prayer and then kick off the first song.

The energy level is high, up a notch or two from Good Friday. Some of the songs are the same. Candy says most of them are repeats. She’s probably right.

After thirty minutes or more of singing, we hear a brief message. The church is in a yearlong series—I’ve kept up by listening online. Today the lesson is about Abraham and Sarah, her scheme for her husband to produce a child through her servant, and his bone-headed acceptance of her suggestion.

Our pastor ties this in with Easter: We all make mistakes, and we all need Jesus, who offers forgiveness and provides restoration.

Our pastor requests all elders to come forward to conduct the baptisms. The elder assigned for this service goes to the front of the church, and I join him—so much for keeping a low profile. Our fellow elders and staff assemble with us.

Easter Sunday Baptisms

Our pastor shares the basics of baptism. The rite is the New Testament replacement for Old Testament circumcision, which he touched upon in the message. Some say baptism symbolizes the washing away of our sins, a ceremonial cleansing, which publicly identifies us with Jesus.

Other creeds say baptism by immersion portrays the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Can’t we embrace both perspectives?

People desiring baptism may come forward as the worship team leads the congregation in more songs. Even before hearing the full invitation, one person shows up and then another. A line forms.

For many churches, baptism is a somber affair, conducted with reserved formality. Not so for us. We treat it as a celebration with unabashed enthusiasm.

Our church leader prefers baptism by immersion, but the floor of this 150-year-old building lacks the structural integrity to support the weight of a baptismal pool. Instead, we use a traditional baptismal font, with the goal to get as much water on the recipient as possible.

I talk with the second person in line, making sure she’s there for the right reasons. With much joy, she anticipates taking this step as part of her spiritual journey. I pray for her as we wait our turn.

The music is loud, and I’m not sure how many of my words she can hear, but God understands them all, and that’s what counts.

After the other elder douses the first person, a raucous celebration erupts from the crowd, applauding and cheering her public step of faith. We’re next.

We step up to the font, and I cup water in my hands. “I baptize you in the name of the Father . . .” releasing the water over her head and then returning for more. “And the Son . . .” I get more water. “And the Holy Spirit. Amen.” As the throng shows their approval in unequivocal terms, I hand her a towel to dry off.

There’s not much room, so I try to usher her to the side and make room for the next baptism. But she won’t budge. Her adult daughter is next. We gather around as another elder conducts that baptism. Afterward mother and daughter share a joyous hug, while friends hover nearby to share in the jubilation.

I return to the line of candidates, talking to the next person and baptizing her as well. We baptize a dozen or so this morning—and more will happen at the next service. What a glorious Easter and the perfect time to return home.

With the baptisms complete, I remain up front as the worship team continues. I sing along while I scan the crowd. Everyone is standing, and I don’t see an empty spot anywhere, including the balcony. Even the back looks full. I wonder if some people stood the entire service, unable to find a place to sit.

After a couple more songs, the worship leader concludes the service and the crowd slowly disperses. I rejoin my family, wanting to focus on them instead of searching for visitors and friends. We eventually make our way out after ninety minutes. Some have already arrived for the next service, which starts in half an hour.

The End of a Pilgrimage

Today is an amazing reunion, a grand celebration, and a fitting conclusion to our yearlong pilgrimage.

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

The Four Parts of the Great Commission

Explore Jesus’s Parting Words

A few weeks ago we looked at Jesus’s final instructions as found in each of the Bible’s four biographies of him. Melding these together, we came up with three steps. First is to follow Jesus, second is to wait for Holy Spirit power, and three is to go and tell others.

Looking specifically at Matthews record of Jesus’s words in Matthew 28:19-20, we have the passage many people call the Great Commission. In this we have four action verbs.

Go: Step One of the Great Commission

Jesus tells his disciples they are to go. This is the opposite of stay. But staying is exactly what they do. They stay in Jerusalem—as initially commanded—waiting for the Holy Spirit. But once the Holy Spirit shows up, they continue to stay.

It isn’t until a wave of persecution sweeps through the church in Jerusalem that Jesus’s followers scatter. Finally, this forces them to go, as Jesus instructed.

Matthew doesn’t record where they are to go, other than everywhere. Luke, however, gives more details in the beginning of his writing in the book of Acts (Acts 1:8).

There Jesus says that under Holy Spirit power he wants his followers to tell others about him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world. (Again, notice that being filled with the Holy Spirit proceeds the going phase.)

From these four locations we can interpret four areas of ministry. Jerusalem, which is where we live; Judea, which is our own people group; Samaria represents other people who live nearby; and the ends of the earth mean everyone else.

Make Disciples: Step Two of the Great Commission

As Jesus’s followers go on their missionary journeys, they are to make disciples. He doesn’t say to make converts, though the implied prerequisite for discipleship is following Jesus. Instead he says to make disciples.

Conversion is a onetime effort. We make the decision to follow Jesus in an instant, but discipleship takes a lifetime. Too often the focus today is getting people to say “yes” to Jesus.

Evangelists track their number of salvation decisions, but they seldom talk about the difficult follow-up work of making disciples. In fact, they often convert people and then leave, with no discipleship work whatsoever—abandoning their converts and letting them flounder.

Since Jesus doesn’t talk about conversion—even though it’s implied in making disciples—we can wisely surmise that Jesus cares much more about disciples than decisions.

Jesus cares much more about disciples then decisions. Click To Tweet

Baptize: Step Three of the Great Commission

For our third action word we read baptize. This is phase one of making disciples. Notice that baptism doesn’t come before the instruction to make disciples, but after it. It’s the first aspect of making disciples, not a prerequisite for discipleship.

Some people, however, place baptism ahead of discipleship, often stopping at baptism and never making any effort to disciple the people they baptize. This brings us to the fourth word in the Great Commission.

Teach: Step Four of the Great Commission

The fourth action step in the Great Commission is to teach. Like the word baptize, teach is part of making disciples. It’s phase two of the discipleship process. And though baptism is a onetime action, teaching is ongoing. Teaching is the long-term effort of making disciples.

There are other aspects of teaching, which Jesus doesn’t detail in this passage, but we can infer from his actions we read about in the Bible. After teaching comes application, in which the disciples go out and do the things they learned about.

We see this when Jesus’s disciples baptize others (John 4:1-2), heal others (Matthew 10:1, Mark 6:7), and point others to Jesus (Luke 10:1).

In these last two instances, they must go. This takes us full circle, implying that the final step of discipleship is to go and repeat the process.

From Jesus’s charge in the Great Commission, he wants his followers to go everywhere, make disciples, baptize, and teach them.

How does this apply to us today?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 26-28, and today’s post is on Matthew 28:19-20.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

What Does Baptize Mean? Where Did Baptism Come From?

Where Did Baptism Come From?

In Baptism, We Turn from Sin, Follow Jesus, and Receive the Holy Spirit

Another concept that only appears in the New Testament is baptize and baptism. Baptize occurs fifty times, and its counterpart baptism appears twenty-one times.

These two words often show up in the Bible’s four biographies of Jesus and especially in the book of Acts, as well as a few times in Paul’s letters and once in Peter’s.

Some Bible scholars attempt to connect New Testament baptism with the ceremonial washings of the Old Testament. But this comes across as a weak explanation.

We first see these words in John’s ministry, when they pop up out of nowhere. The Bible gives no historical understanding for the basis of baptism. And it doesn’t explain the significance of the practice. However, the people act as though they comprehend what baptism is.

We get the best clue about the origin of baptism when Jesus poses a question to his detractors. He asks them if John’s baptism came from heaven or was of human origin.

The chief priests and elders discuss the question. Knowing that either answer will be problematic for them, they tell Jesus they don’t know (Matthew 21:25).

The Bible gives us three forms of baptism:

John’s Baptism

John, who we call John the Baptist—because he baptized people—precedes Jesus in ministry. He points the people to Jesus and preaches a message of repentance (Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:5, Luke 7:29-30, Acts 19:4). We can think of repentance as to stop doing wrong, to make a U-turn from our errors (our sins).

Jesus’s Baptism

John paves the way for Jesus and for his baptism. John says that Jesus will baptize people with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, and Luke 3:16).

However, we get a sense of an intermediate step where Jesus’s disciples baptize people who believe in him and are committed to following him John 4:1-2. It’s a baptism of salvation (Mark 16:16). Holy Spirit baptism doesn’t occur until after Jesus dies, resurrects, and returns to heaven.

In baptism, we turn from sin, follow Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

Holy Spirit Baptism

Before Jesus leaves the earth, he tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit that Papa promised to send them (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, and Acts 2:38). This completes what John had foretold, that Jesus will baptize with Holy Spirit fire.

Today’s Baptism

Today our baptism can include all three aspects of these New Testament baptisms: turning from sin, following Jesus, and receiving the Holy Spirit.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

New Testament Words

Some of the Bible’s Most Significant Words Don’t Appear in the Old Testament

I use the Bible to study the Bible. That is, I tap one passage to help breathe understanding into another. Sometimes when investigating a specific term, I do a word search to find out where else and how else Scripture uses it.

Some Bible scholars give extra attention to the first time a word appears in the Bible, asserting that the initial usage frames subsequent occurrences.

To give a complete picture of how I study the Bible, I also rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me into a deeper, fuller, and more holistic understanding of what I’m studying.

In studying the Bible, I’ve come across some words, important words, that only appear in the New Testament. I can’t go back to the Old Testament to consider a deeper context or give me a basis for understanding.

Here are some of the key New Testament words that don’t appear in the Old Testament:

Pharisee and Sadducee

Two New Testament words are Pharisee and Sadducee. Pharisee, appearing ninety-nine times, and Sadducee, coming up fifteen times, don’t show up at all in the Old Testament. Pharisees and Sadducees are both factions of Judaism, which implicitly enjoyed more unity in the Old Testament than in the New.

Learn more about Pharisees and Sadducees.

Pentecost

Pentecost is a significant event in the early church. It occurs fifty days after Resurrection Sunday (Easter), when the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus’s followers in dramatic fashion. The Holy Spirit empowers team Jesus to share his good news with others with amazing power.

This is a gift Jesus promised to give them, which he told them to wait for in Jerusalem. Interestingly, Pentecost only pops up three times in the Bible, and this New Testament word doesn’t appear at all in the Old Testament.

Discover more about Pentecost.

Breaking Bread and Break Bread

Though not a New Testament word, but a phrase, breaking bread and break bread only appear in the New Testament. And then they show up just a total of four times. Should we understand this as a euphemism for Communion or for any time people share a meal? Could it be both?

Discover more about breaking bread.

The Lord’s Supper

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper when he taught it to his disciples at Passover. So it’s not surprising that the phrase isn’t found in the Old Testament. Two common words for the Lord’s Supper are Communion and the Eucharist.

Neither of these words appear in the Bible. In fact, the Lord’s Supper only appears once in the biblical text.

Learn more about communion.

Rabbi

Another New Testament word is Rabbi. Though we might expect Rabbi to be a common Old Testament term, it isn’t. Rabbi only appears in the Gospels and then just three of them: Matthew, Mark, and John. Most of its sixteen occurrences are a title of respect used to address Jesus.

Discover more about Rabbi.

Synagogue

Appearing sixty-nine times in the Bible, synagogue is another New Testament word. It’s in the four Gospels, appears often in Acts, and pops up twice in Revelation. That’s it.

In the Old Testament, the people had the tabernacle and later the temple as their only place to worship God. In the New Testament we still have the temple, but we also have synagogues sprinkled throughout the area, I suspect one in each city.

Though the people built these synagogues, it wasn’t God’s idea, and he gave no biblical command for them to do so.

Discover more about Synagogues.

Baptize and Baptism

For our final New Testament word, we’ll consider baptize, which occurs fifty times, and its counterpart baptism, which occurs twenty-one times. These two words appear often in the four Gospels and especially in the book of Acts, as well as a few times in Paul’s letters and once in Peter’s.

We first see these words in John’s ministry, when they seem to pop up out of nowhere. The Bible doesn’t explain the significance of baptism, but the people understand what it is.

Discover more about Baptism.

Key New Testament Words

There may be other important words that only appear in the New Testament. When I come across more New Testament words, I’ll add them to this list. In upcoming weeks, we’ll dive into these New Testament words and explain them in greater detail. Come back to learn more.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.