Barry Newman's Blog

November 17, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:16 pm

Understanding “Immersing” in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Matthew records three situations where the word “baptizo” is part of the text – the water baptismal ceremony carried out by John the immerser, the reference to the one who would be immersed in the Holy Spirit and fire and Jesus speaking to the disciples before his departure. The first situation employs a literal rendering of the verb, the second a metaphorical usage.  What of the third situation?  If “baptizo” is understood metaphorically, Matthew 28: 19b, reading something like, “immersing them in all that pertains to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, the difficulties referred to above disappear and additional insight is given into what Jesus is saying.

The text now makes an explicit reference to what the disciples of the future need to be taught, something which otherwise would only be implicit in the instructions Jesus gives. It allows for the fact that some early Christians did not think it necessary to carry out water baptisms in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, whatever they actually made of verse 19. It explains why the Acts of the Apostles only records water baptisms in the name of Jesus the Christ or Jesus the Lord.  It recognises the difficulty of making disciples from the Gentile world.  It recognises the difficulty that the disciples would have of seeing the necessity of engaging with the Gentile world.  It provides an explanation as to why there is no actual command of Jesus to be baptised in a water ceremony.  It provides a partial understanding of why the writers of the other Gospels did not consider it essential to refer to “baptising in the name of …” which otherwise one would expect them to do so, if it were indeed part of a command statement made by Jesus at the end of his earthly ministry.  It underlines the idea that the command that Matthew refers to is a command that is especially important to record for a Jewish audience.  It answers any objection that the mandatory requirement of such a ceremony seems to be inconsistent with the grace of God revealed in Christ.

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