The Focus of Baptism in the New Testament -- By: Richard E. Averbeck
GTJ 2:2 (Fall 81) p. 265
The Focus of Baptism in the New Testament
An investigation into the ideology of water lustration and/or baptism in the Hebrew OT, the LXX, the Mishnah and Talmud, the Qumran Manual of Discipline, and NT passages relating to the baptism of John the Baptist and Christian baptism leads to the conclusion that Christian baptism should be understood as being oriented toward commitment. More than being a means by which the initiate declared that he had trusted in Christ for eternal salvation, it was particularly associated with repentance and discipleship. In the apostolic age, to be baptized into Jesus the Christ was to make a commitment to Him as Lord and Master and to declare that one would adhere faithfully to the lifestyle expected of Christ’s disciples.
Baptism is an issue around which many discussions have taken place. There are conflicts concerning mode (immersion versus sprinkling, etc.). Some are concerned with the issue of adult versus infant baptism. Another issue concerns the efficacy of the act itself (i.e., whether it is the occasion for the work of God in regenerating a person or a testimony of the fact that this regeneration has already taken place, etc.). Certain groups within ecclesiastical circles deal with it on an altogether different level. They are concerned about the issue of baptism because of the difficulties that it presents for their ecumenical efforts. How can groups that disagree on external form as well as the meaning of the rite itself be meaningfully united?1
It is self-evident that the issues which are crystallized and discussed in relation to baptism within any given circle depend upon the
All biblical passages quoted in this article are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise stated.
GTJ 2:2 (Fall 81) p. 266
overall theological framework, ecclesiastical tradition, and/or contemporary concerns of that specific circle or group of believers. There tends to be a certain vested concern with which the particular person or group becomes preoccupied. This is natural and not necessarily wrong. However, sometimes these vested concerns have the effect of misdirecting our attention.
The goal of this article is to make an effort to understand the essential thrust of Christian baptism in the context of the day in which it was instituted. This does not mean that the writer has no interest in such issues as mode. But such concerns could be approached with more finesse if founded upon a proper understanding of the background and implications of the rite at its foundation.
There are many avenues of influence that prec...
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