Barry Newman's Blog

September 3, 2009

Biblical Baptism (part III)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 10:59 pm

Misunderstood Passages in the New Testament?
There are a number of passages, generally understood to refer to literal water baptism, which may actually be examples of metaphorical usage.  Canon Knox, a previous Principal of Moore Theological College, argued that some references to the baptism of John the Baptiser (Acts 18: 25, 19: 3), a reference to being baptised into the name of Paul (1 Cor. 1: 13) and another to being baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19: 5) as well as a reference to being baptised into Moses (1 Cor. 10: 2) all relate to coming under the leadership and instruction of those people, being immersed in their instruction rather than being immersed in water. (In later discussion the first four texts are treated as though they provided examples of literal water baptisms and for his views on baptism, see Knox, D.B., “New Testament Baptism” and “Addition to Manuscript on Baptism”, in D. Broughton Knox: Selected Works, Birkett,  K. (ed.), Matthias Media, Kingsford, NSW, volume II, Church and Ministry, 2003, pp. 263 – 309 and 311-315 respectively.)  Both Canon Knox and Bishop Robinson, a previous Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, suggest that though 1 Peter 3: 20 refers to the water of Noah’s flood, the word “baptism” of the next verse relates to the suffering, associated with their salvation, that the readers were experiencing.  Perhaps the understanding is that their suffering tested and confirmed their salvation. (For Robinson’s views on baptism, see Robinson, D.W.B., “Towards a Definition of Baptism”, The Reformed Theological Review, xxxiv, (1), 1975, pp. 1-15.)  Though Robinson tends to be more tentative than Knox, they view the use of “baptizo” and “baptisma” in Rom. 6: 3, 4; 1 Cor. 12: 12, 13; Gal. 3: 27; Eph. 4: 4 – 6 and Col. 2: 12 as metaphorical, the passages referring to something like being immersed in, engulfed in or enveloped in the death of Jesus or Jesus himself, or being enveloped or overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit.

                    Romans 6: 3, 4
Romans 6: 3, 4: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death.  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  In some sense Paul writes metaphorically when he associates what happens to those who are related to Christ, to the death and resurrection of Christ.  In similar vein, “baptizo” could be translated, with a metaphorical understanding in mind, as “immersed” or “enveloped”.  “Being enveloped in Christ” refers to the reality of “being in Christ” – being identified with Christ such that in his death we have our sins dealt with. Furthermore being in him we have a new life before God as Jesus came into the new life of his resurrection.  When children are very young they are represented by their parents.  Their parents stand up for them. In a sense they are enveloped by their parents.  Being “in Christ” is being firmly associated with him.  He represents us.  We are enveloped or immersed in him.

                    1 Corinthians 12: 12, 13
1 Corinthians 12: 12, 13: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body”.  Paul uses the word “body” metaphorically and later clearly identifies this body as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12: 27).  Similarly, the phrase, “baptised … into one body” can be understood metaphorically with the translation being, something like, “engulfed in one body”.  The work of the Spirit is not dependent upon a literal water ceremony.


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