Monday, November 16, 2009

One Man, Three Baptisms

For Christians in every denomination, baptism is one of the two most common sacraments or religious rituals; the other being marriage. This week your faithful Kingdom Bloggers will write about their own baptism experiences.

For most, baptism is the first experience we have as we attempt to be obedient to the scriptures - or at least follow religious practices and protocol. Here is a list of the stuff we do to participate in obedience to Christ (this is a Catholic list, but true in every church I have been in). I find most folks don't even know what some of the words mean, therefore; I have provided a scripture reference and very brief definition along with a few links for the naysayers.

Sacraments of Christian initiation:
* Baptism - Submersion/sprinkling with water identifying with the death and resurrection of Jesus. (Matthew 28:19)
* Confirmation - The laying on of hands to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation of salvation. (Acts 8:19)
* Eucharist - Communion with wine and bread. (Luke 22.19)

Sacraments of healing:
* Penance and Reconciliation - Confessing our sins one to another. (James 5:16, 2 Corinthians 5:19)
* Anointing of the Sick - For healing. (James 5:14-15)
* Exorcism - Casting out Demons, deliverance. (Luke 9:1-2)

Sacraments at the service of communion:
* Holy Orders - Call to ministry. (Ephesian 4:11)
* Matrimony - Marriage between a man and a woman. (Hebrews 13:4)

As an infant, I was baptized somewhere in East Haven, CT. For obvious reasons, I don't remember the event. For many, a "Certificate of Baptism" and possibly a snap-shot may be the only evidence that the ceremony of baptism or Christening (Baptism, anointing with oil, and baby dedication wrapped into one.) ever took place. For others, they have given to baptism as a sign that they have made a commitment to Christ, and this is a public display of their faith.

Well, as usual, this rebel didn't do any of it that way. I was sprinkled in 1958, born again in 1978, and as a believer I was told that my "original" baptism was viable religious work of God, appropriately done in the sight of God. The same as a marriage before one was saved. I didn't need to get married again - or have "Christian" vows. Well, they were the experts, right? You know seminary and all.

In 1991 I started to attend a Baptist church. I should have known with a name like that I was in for a challenge. The pastor invited me over for lunch, and gave me the speech out of the Southern Baptist Play Book. The only question he had for me after our little "talk" was "so what Sunday are we going to do this?" And by the way, you need to dedicate your kids too. I started to complain, but he showed me the Biblical reason for that too. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

So, I signed up for the family plan.

Before I tell you the rest of the story, let me tell you what baptism is not.

- It is a not a welcome ritual into the family of God. Salvation by faith is. Romans (10:9-10)
- It is not a "way to Heaven." Baptism is a "ritual" like communion with significant symbolic meaning. HERE is an article that seems pretty well written. All that to say it is not regenerative.
- It is not just some other thing that we do in church. For 2,000 years, believers have been baptized into a convent of "repentance and faith," as Jesus was in the Jordan by John. Jesus is our model, though He never sinned, He showed us how, and why - just like He did with communion.
- It is not optional based on this verse: "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it." Luke 11:28
- It is not specifically a "public witness." Our public witness is loving others in a such a way that unbelievers marvel at it. It is serving others in such a way that all men see our good works and praise God.

Baptism is for us to identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Through baptism we descend into the tomb; a place of death, and come out of the waters a new creature - symbolically of course. It is an expression of love for our savior, one that has faith in Him to receive us into glory.

The first Christian baptisms took place on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Need to see how you measure up to real Christianity? Check out this BLOG.

My day came, and in typical Southern Baptist tradition they filled the baptismal tank with freezing cold water. They stood us before the congregation and we were to publicly affirm our faith in Jesus as our personal Savior. As a Charismatic, I asked if I could give my testimony in tongues with an interpretation. After all, that is one of many evidences of salvation, is it not?

I told them about my struggles with alcohol, my need for God and of course my need for salvation from my sin. I quoted Psalm 40.

I went on too long, so they hurried the others through theirs.

A few of us donned our white robes and ascended the stairs to the "diving board." All I could think of on my spiritual day was the words to that old 70's song. "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am; stuck in the middle with you." It seemed spiritual at the moment.

My turn came as I stepped into the water and the pastor looked at me and said, "David, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." He leaned me back into the water, and I saw a flash of white light. The next thing I remember was him holding me in his arms saying, "I almost lost you there brother."


I made my way up the stairs to the applause of the congregation as the organist was played "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus." In the dressing room I wept. Something was gone, and something was new. I still can't describe it, I just know it happened.

That was baptism number two.

Number three was a baptism with fire. It is same one that is described in Acts chapter 2. When I first met the Lord, no one told me about that one. Like everything else in my walk, I read about it, and then I asked for it. I feel like I've taken too long - so that's a story for another time.


Tony C said...

Great post! I found myself chuckling and relating to several of the things you have gone through in this post.

I had a circling debate with a pastor once about baptism, and the reason it circled and never concluded was because neither of us had enough understanding on the subject matter to pull it out of a downward spiral. I've since come to a better understanding...I hope he can say the same.

Did the family plan include burial plots at a discounted 'members only' rate and complimentary pens?

David said...

@Tony - religion is a funny thing. God counts the hairs on our head, and religion tells Him how many is suitable.

I sold my burial plots, they told me I was goin to live forever.

photogr said...


Southern Baptist eh? I know what you went through. That baptism didn't really set me a fire but gave me peace that I finally went public and commited. Perhaps I was too immature to understand or really didn't know my true calling.

Now the baptism by fire(?)recently really turned me up side down. Don't have enough time to describe that here. I think you know what I mean.

Great reading your stories as always.