"Yet a baptism I have to be baptized with, and how I am being pressed till it should be accomplished!" Luke 12:50. I think no one would say this has reference to baptism in water. Surely all will acknowledge it is a figure of speech.
Immersion in water or other liquid is baptism; whenever the word is used otherwise, it is a figure of speech. This is one of God's convincing ways of teaching - figures of speech. Baptism was supposed to cleanse. It did not do it, so far as the heart was concerned. It has already been shown in this series, that, like the law, it demonstrated man's need of a Savior.
Our Lord was going into something that would actually cleanse. He was going into death. When he calls it baptism, it is a figure of speech. He uses the figure, because His death was going to do what baptism was supposed to do - put away sin. He was made Sin for our sakes, II Cor. 5:21. When He was on the cross He was regarded by His Father as the guiltiest Person in all the universe. He was Sin! He bore our sins. When His Baptism into death cleansed sins, it cleansed OUR sins, Thus He fulfills all righteousness.
His resurrection proves that the sins he bore were gone. This is doubly proven by Hid reception into heaven, and His being seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heights, Heb. 1:4.
Baptism in holy spirit began at, or near the day of Pentecost, Acts 1:5. It was then that believing Jews became a body, separate, in God's sight, from unbelievers. I say, "in God's sight," for those Jews themselves, did not seem to ever fully recognize their separation. They were cleansed, also. This work of uniting them into a body, and cleansing them, is figuratively called baptism.
I said, a few lines above, that believing Israelites seemed never to fully recognized their separation from unbelievers. This is easily accounted for by their ritualism. The ecclesia had the same ritual that Israel had observed before the birth of Christ, with baptism added. It is all fleshly. The real significance of none of it was known, except by a very few. Circumcision pointed to the fact that flesh had no standing with God; baptism proclaimed the need of cleansing from sin. What they saw in these rites, however, was fleshly privilege had precedence. This explains why the Jewish ecclesia so soon displaced Peter with James, whose sole "qualification" for the headship of the ecclesia, was his flesh-relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, writing to Corinthian saints said, "For in one spirit we are all baptized into one body," I Cor. 12:13. Here, again, we have baptism as a figure of speech. He had already said baptism was no part of his ministry. God, by the spirit, cleanses us, and unites us to the ecclesia which is figuratively called the body of Christ.
In Col. 2, we have a most enlightening lesson, which the "church" today almost completely ignores. Saints are warned to not let anyone despoil them through philosophy, (which the apostle explains to be human tradition), and empty seduction, (which means the elements of the world). This latter is declared in Gal. 4:8-11, to be Judaistic ritual. Saints have been despoiled in this respect, and the result is the same as it was in the Jewish ecclesia - the church no longer differentiates between believers and unbelievers.
Neither human tradition nor Jewish ritual, is in accord with Christ. The entire complement of the Deity is dwelling in Him, and we are complete in Him, Who is the Head of every sovereignty and authority.
We are circumcised in Him, in the striping off of the body of flesh in His death, which is here figuratively called circumcision. Being so intimately identified with Him in this, it is a fact that flesh has no standing with God. If we realized this, we would not be despoiled by philosophy and empty seduction. But, Oh, how we love the flesh! Even saints love it, when they allow themselves to listen to seducers. This is why the "church" is continually looking for fine, handsome men, with "great" intellects, to fill their pulpits.
Baptism, as a figure of speech, is found here. "Being entombed together with Him in baptism, (in Whom you were roused together also through faith in the operation of God, Who reuses Him from among the dead, you also being dead in the offenses and the uncircumcision of your flesh), He vivifies us together jointly with Him," etc. No one may claim the circumcision mentioned is actual circumcision. Both are figures of speech.
This passage shows us why the apostle can say we are complete in Christ. God has done for us what circumcision was supposed to do, but could not. He has saved us without the assistance of flesh. He has cleansed us. He has united us to Christ and to each other. Nothing remains to be done, to make us complete in Him. Any "finishing touches" added to that which is complete, spoils it. Just so, every effort of the "church" to make us more complete by ritualistic observances, such as baptism, which is so prominent in Christendom today, is much worse than superfluous.
We are free from every demand of Judaism. Even the decrees that the Jerusalem ecclesia issued, to govern saints among the nations, (Acts 15), have been taken out of the way. Having already had all that baptism was supposed to do, (and could not do), we are not to be judged in food drink, festivals, (Easter, for instance), new moons or sabbaths. None of these are for us. We are not to be bound by them. We are not to be enslaved under them. The body is of Christ.
Such things as advertised humility, ritual, or fine church houses, (parading what is seen), are not for us. They puff up people in their fleshly minds. We need to hold the Head. Out of Him comes the growth of God - the development in faith that every saint needs. Those forbidden things do, indeed produce a growth, and oh, how proud Christendom is of the "growth!" But it is not the growth of God.
We died with Christ away from the elements of the world - Judaism, (and baptism is one of the rituals of Judaism) - and we are not to be subject to decrees, in accord with the directions and teachings of men.
There is one baptism, even as there is one body, one spirit, one expectation, one Lord, one faith and one God and Father, Eph. 4:4-5. It is just as reasonable to recognize two bodies, two spirits, two expectations, two Lords, two faiths and two Gods, as it is to recognize, as Christendom does, two baptisms - one in spirit and one in water.
In the Galatian epistle the Judaistic system and the evangel of the Uncircumcision are contrasted. One is law; the other is faith. One is flesh; the other is spirit. We are exhorted to be walking in spirit. Thus, we are told, we may not be consummating the lusts of the flesh.
Christendom has a different evangel. It is a mixture of the evangel of the Circumcision and that of the Uncircumcision. The Jerusalem influence, which almost wrecked the ecclesia of Galatia, has wrecked Christendom.
To the saint who is walking in spirit, Christendom presents a deplorable picture. Receiving honors from men, it cannot believe God. In much of its teachings it is far from God. Titus was told to reject the sectarian person, Titus 3:10. Christendom rejects every person who is NOT sectarian. Sectarianism is classed as one of the works of the flesh, Gal. 5:19-21. "Christians" will draw their cloaks about them, lest they come in contact with adulterers, prostitutes and drunkards, unaware that they are practicing something that is just as bad in God's sight, and just as fully condemned in His word - sectarianism. Having a fleshly "religion," the "churches" abound in enmities, strife, jealousy, fury, factions, envying, idolatry. In order to enlist the young, many of them encourage and sponsor revelry.
Under the Jerusalem influence, they seek for men of prominence and "personality," as much as Israel desired Saul for king, and as proudly as the Jewish ecclesia promoted James over Peter, because of the fleshly advantage enjoyed by the former.
Church houses are built for show - parading what is seen. In the cities and larger towns, they have what they call plants - buildings with dozens of rooms - the outfit costing many thousands of dollars. The "church" that is out of debt is a rarity, in the larger places. The flesh predominates in their activities. They are looking for worldly honor. I repeat, they cannot believe God.
If we build a meeting house it should be modest, and constructed for comfort, and, most certainly, in keeping with our means. Our meetings should be for praise, and for teaching and hearing the word, and for fellowship. The ability to teach - not oratorical ability - should be the touchstone by which our teachers are judged. Simplicity should characterize what we do. Ritualism should be totally absent. Only such formality as will guarantee orderly procedure, should be had.
Recent efforts in Savannah, Ga., indicate an ecclesia may be establishes there in the near future. I also held meetings in Brunswick, Ga., and DeLand, Fla., recently.
Favor by mail from October 20 to November 30, (mostly subscriptions): Mrs. M. M. Koeneger, "C.", E. Wuinee, E. W. Wheelock, Los Angeles Ecclesia, D. Mann, R. Lutkin, A. Bischoff, Mrs. Frances M . Bryon, R. L. Genter, Claude Poer, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Labaugh, Mrs. Cora Patterson. Thanks to all.
"Sects" is mentioned in Galatians, as one of the works of the flesh. How completely Christendom ignores this! Members of churches will discuss and denounce the vile sin of unchastely, drunkenness, etc. They should be denounced. But these same church members are unaware that they are practicing something that is condemned in the scriptures, when they hold to sects.
Teachers are largely responsible for this. Any man who has studied Greek knows that the word which the King James Version translates "heresies," in the passage under consideration, is a word that means a religious party, without reference to whether that party teach truth or error. Yet they go on telling their hearers that the word means a doctrine that is at variance with the teaching of their particular denomination.
If you have ordered a set of Messengers on Baptism, you should receive them when you receive this issue, or a day or two later. If you do not please notify me promptly.