Saturday, April 22, 2006

Continuing on Romans 6, I made a brief check into the origins of baptism to try to understand Paul's usage.

For a start, the Jews adopted the practice as part of their rite of initiation of new believers into the Jewish faith. There are however, differing thoughts on the origin of Christian baptism; but its practice among Jews to me is good enough evidence to assume that baptism was already a common thing in the apostolic times.

Our contemporary practice of baptism on the other hand, has reached to a point where it has very little to do with the original meaning of the rite in the apostolic community. Understanding the baptismal practice of the biblical times would help us have an idea how and why Paul uses it in Romans 6 and how the hearers of the word would understand the message of Paul.

According to Ward, the basic truth is that the meaning of baptism is rooted in the baptism of Jesus - not only his baptism in Jordan - but his baptism of death, to which his water baptism was a prelude. As such, the people's understanding of baptism is tied to the death of Christ - a participation of Christians in the death of Jesus Christ - as the very core of the meaning of Christian baptism. It is the very heart of baptism.

With that, Romans 6 is not at all a surprise to the hearers. The point in Paul's words however, is that when an individual has been baptised as a sign of his death with Christ, the sign must be an expression of what actually is, i.e. death to the old way of life; therefore, there is no way one should sin so grace may abound.

Picture by Tara R

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3 comment(s)

  1. Meaghan,

    I heard a sermon about baptism that I found wonderfully insightful. The concept of baptism goes back to the Exodus. The gist was this: crossing the Red Sea was symbolic.

    Our pastor (well, actually, now former pastor) showed that when the children of Israel crossed through the Red Sea, they went down the bank, through the water and out the other side. This guy was quite a historian, and I would take his word for it on these things.

    Interestingly enough, the Egyptian armies followed them into the water, but were smashed when the wall of water collapsed and drowned them.

    Exodus 14 (NIV)

    21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided,

    22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.


    26 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen."

    27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea.

    28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

    The process of baptism is/was done to symbolize this. When we walk through the water, our enemy (Satan), can no longer pursue us. In fact, he is eliminated. As Christians, baptism even takes this one step further. Death itself, through the law, no longer can pursue us.

    There is a lot too this, but this is just a thought to 'ponder'.

    God Bless

  2. Hmm ... interesting. I have not thought about it that way. Yup, let me ponder over it and see. Will come back to you, so do watch this space!

  3. Doug,
    If you do come back here after such a long time, I have to apologise my thoughts about it have not come up to much. I am not too sure about its allusion to baptism, it being not mentioned in the OT. But as you have said, the pastor is an historian :) he must know something we don't.