Go Figure

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Thursday, December 3, 2015
(Acts 1:5) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 2:17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: Both of the above verses refer to the coming of the Holy Ghost/Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to fill, indwell and empower the New Testament church. A fundamental rule of Bible study is “...comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1CO 2:13). It has been well said that the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. Much light can be shined on a verse or topic by comparing it with other Scriptures which explain or expand upon that verse or topic. Our featured texts today actually set the stage for a lesson in how NOT to compare Scriptures. Baptists have essentially always maintained that the only proper subject of baptism is a penitent believer of the gospel and that the proper mode is only by immersion in water as a figure of the saving death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (ROM 6:3-5; 1PE 3:21). Jesus was temporarily buried deeply in the heart of the earth where He would fulfil the sign of Jonah who centuries earlier was temporarily buried deeply in water (MAT 12:40). Jonah experienced a temporary watery burial which was an anticipating figure of the burial and resurrection of Christ; in baptism by immersion we have a temporary watery burial which is a commemorating figure of the burial and resurrection of Christ. It is the assertion of many Pedobaptists (those who hold that unbelieving infants should be baptized) that the rite of baptism need not be administered by immersion in water (after all, this could imperil the infant), but is appropriately done by sprinkling (aspersion) or pouring (affusion). One argument that some Pedobaptists have forwarded utilizes our featured texts. The reasoning goes thus: “In Acts 1:5, Jesus describes the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost as a baptism. In Acts 2:17, Peter says that the coming of the Holy Ghost was a pouring. Ergo, baptism is by pouring.” The Pedobaptist supposes this to be an unanswerable argument for his position. But (in the words of old King Ahab), “...Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off” (1KI 20:11). The supposed unanswerable argument is about to be weighed in the balances, and found wanting (c/w DAN 5:27). 1. The phrase “...ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost...” (ACT 1:5) refers to the EVENT of the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the church at Pentecost. It is a figurative description of His coming. 2. The phrase from Joel 2:28-32 which Peter quotes in Acts 2:17, “...I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh...” also refers to the EVENT of the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the church at Pentecost. It likewise is a figurative description of His coming. 3. The Pedobaptist Affusionist (pourer) then takes these two symbols (pouring and baptism) and makes the one define the other, when they were never meant to do so. Rather, they described the EVENT of the coming of the Spirit by different figures. 4. The coming of the Spirit was also described by the Lord Jesus as a drinking which would result in a flowing out (JOH 7:37-39). Here is another colorful picture of the Spirit's arrival. If the Pedobaptist's method of interpreting Scripture (defining one figure with another figure) is applied to this text then it could also be concluded that baptism is actually by drinking water and then (you may fill in the blank here). 5. The coming of the Spirit was likened unto a pouring, inasmuch as when the Spirit did come upon the church it came from above and was “...upon each of them" (ACT 2:3). 6. The coming of the Spirit was also described as a baptism (i.e., immersion) since it “...FILLED all the house where they were sitting” (ACT 2:2) and indeed “...they were all FILLED with the Holy Ghost...” (ACT 2:4). That sounds pretty much like they were overwhelmed (as when a person is overwhelmed by immersion IN water). It may be noted that sufficient pouring into a vessel (cup, tub, the church) will result in an immersion of whatever is in that vessel anyway. The aspect of pouring does not forbid immersion (although such a method of immersion makes the water the mobile element instead of the object being immersed). 7. The Spirit's coming was described as a drinking and flowing out inasmuch as the Spirit obviously got INTO the saints (“...they were all filled...”) and this caused a dramatic change in their lives as the power of that Spirit flowed out from them in the gift of tongues, in the power to preach the gospel and in the victorious, bold, clarity which replaced their wavering doubts. Indeed, subsequent to the Day of Pentecost, all true saints who have been properly baptized into a local church are “...made to drink into one Spirit” (1CO 12:13), and should thereafter manifest the fruits of the Spirit flowing from them in faithful, victorious Christian living. 8. The error of the Pedobaptist is trying to make one pictorial figure of a reality define another pictorial figure of that same reality. This is wrong. Symbols are not meant to point to each other, but to the reality which those symbols represent. For example, the coming Messiah was poetically called a Root (ISA 11:10) and a Branch (JER 23:5). When Messiah came into His anointing/ministry, John the Baptist described Him as a Lamb (JOH 1:29). Does this mean that a root is a branch is a lamb? No, these terms are simply different pictorial figures of the Lord Jesus Christ. 9. Pedobaptists are notorious for the errant reasoning just described. They often say that N.T. baptism is come in the room of O.T. circumcision, since both are outward marks of inclusion in God's church. NO! That both rituals relate to God's church is true, but that does not mean that circumcision is to be equated with baptism. If that were the case, why do the Pedobaptists perform the N.T. ordinance upon baby girls? Only baby boys were circumcised under the O.T. law. If O.T. ordinances like circumcision are figures of N.T. ordinances, then there should be a N.T. ordinance as a counterpart to every O.T. ordinance. Such is clearly not the case. O.T. ordinances were figures of Christ and His work. Circumcision was a figure of the cutting off of Christ from the land of the living for our offenses (ISA 53:8 c/w ROM 4:25; COL 2:11). It anticipated a future reality and that reality was not the ordinance of baptism (which itself is a figure, 1PE 3:21), but rather the suffering and death of Christ for His people's salvation. Baptism is a figure which looks back upon the same reality, but with an added glorious dimension: Christ was not only cut off, being delivered for our offenses (ROM 4:25) but also resurrected from burial, raised again for our justification (ROM 4:25). Our eternal salvation is incomplete without His resurrection from burial in the heart of the earth (MAT 12:40). We are saved “...by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1PE 3:21). God “...hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1PE 1:3). “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet dead in your sins” (1CO 15:17). Thus, baptism is a superior figure of Christ, for unlike circumcision, a cutting off which only pointed to our inclusion in Christ's death, baptism speaks of our inclusion in His resurrection! In every way, the N.T. is superior to the O.T., even in its pictures of Christ. Circumcision pictured one thing, but baptism pictures something far more glorious. Peter said of the N.T., “...we have also a more sure word of prophecy...a light which shineth in a dark place...” (2PE 1:19). With better light, one gets better pictures.

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