BAPTISM . . . When water is . . . more than water

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Reference: Matthew 28:18-20 )

Yes beloved, it is the same verse for today that was for yesterday. “Sip of Scripture” from Third Way Cafe split the verses into two to cover the two days, but Reading the Anabaptist Bible has the same verse excerpt for both days. Which in a way is kind of ironic because the editors of the book said “As Hans Schlaffer awaited execution, he reflected on the fact that the baptism in water, following teaching and faith, followed the explicit command of Christ. However, as the ‘external sign’ of a spiritual baptism, it was the ‘least important’ aspect of baptism.” Why, you might ask, did the editors include this verse twice?

I do not know, or at least I have not heard their reason. But if I might speculate – baptism was an important issue and event for both the historic Anabaptists and the state church. For the state church it was a life event of infants entering and being accounted for in the community – which had various repercussions – financial, religious and social. For the historic Anabaptists it was an important event, but only because it was the outer sign of what had been inner changes leading up to it, and implications for the rest of the person life. The act itself, water being poured over the head, was something one believer could do for another, and in fact did. In the state church it was a grand event performed only by ordained clergy. That is one of the reasons it was such an affront to the state church.

But baptism in the state church had no meaning to those baptized. Most times it was infants who were baptized and whom the historic Anabaptist believed were innocents, not in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. And more importantly had not been taught and were not disciples – yet. The historic Anabaptists said let them grow and mature, come to an age of accountability and learn what it means to serve and follow God. Then when they have come to this important place in their lives, baptism as an outer symbol of their new life. Hans Schlaffer, who the editors quote, said, “We go on now to speak about what the Lord says about how to baptize those who believe or have already believed in the past. In Matthew he says baptize them, understand well, those whom you have taught, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:16; Matt. 28:18-20). This is said about water baptism or the external sign. This is for all of us the least important part of baptism but [the part] about which the world is most resentful.”

The world did resent their stance, or at least the world that they lived in at the time. Baptism now – whether infant, adult, or coming to faith again – is tolerated and accepted. It is how one practices and lives out one’s faith that comes under scrutiny and debate.

May you beloved live up to your baptism, both the outer sign and the inner transformation. Selah!

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About Carole Boshart

I have two blogs on WordPress. "A Simple Desire" which is based on the daily "Sips of Scripture" published and sent out by Third Way Cafe. "Pondering From the Pacific" is based on my reflections on the world - sometimes religious/spiritual, and sometimes not so much.

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