This is a submission to The 4 Controversies Contest under the subject: Religion.
Should Water Baptism be a Requirement for Church Membership?
That’s the question I want to tackle in this argument and debate presentation. Although I find pastors and theologians are indeed well thought of in their convincing stance in requiring a candidate for membership to undergo water baptism, I find it falls short in distinguishing the three components of baptism, namely: water, death and Holy Spirit.
1. Baptism by water was showcased by John in the desert region where the Jordan River was for repentance for the forgiveness of sins - Mark 1:4; John 10:40; Peter also baptized with water – Acts 10:37-48; Philip preached and baptized with water as well – Acts 8:12; Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist – Mark 1:9
2. Holy Spirit baptism performed by Jesus Christ – John declared he came baptizing with water to reveal Christ to Israel, who will baptize with the Holy Ghost - Acts 1:5-8; Acts 19:3-11; John 1:29-34; “For by one Spirit we are baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles.” 1Corinthians 12:13
3. Baptism unto death – Every believer baptized into Christ is baptized into death. Christ did not die by drowning. And there was no water in his grave. He died hanging on the cross – Matt 27:35-66; Rom 6:3-4; 1Cor 15:29
Having enumerated the above, Apostle Paul speaks of a fourth kind of baptism, which is,
4. Baptism unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea – those who were immersed crossing the Red Sea chasing the Israelites drowned while the Israelites crossed the sea as if it was dry land. 1 Corinthians 10:1-2
Now, Apostle Paul speaks of one and only one baptism that identifies us with Christ in Ephesians 4:5, saying, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called --- One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of All, who is over all and through all and in all.”
The question then becomes, “which among the above baptisms should Christians observe today?” Water, death or Holy Spirit? Or the 4th one that Apostle Paul made mention of?
Here lies the controversy that Bible scholars, theologians, ministers and believers are faced in injecting their own interpretation of Biblical doctrines.
Today, we can truly say that there are doctrinal, evangelical, fundamental, non-denominational, non-sectarian Christian churches that do not perform water baptism as a prerequisite to membership, identification, or for remission of sins because they believe in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when one accepts the saving grace of God. Those who do, neither agree on what manner of water baptism is acceptable and appropriate. Some believe in sprinkling; others believe in soaking or immersing.
Believers in the “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” openly declare their faith in worship services, gatherings or meetings where a call to salvation is offered. Once the Holy Spirit indwells, they are welcomed with open hearts and rejoicing in identifying them as born again believers. There is no need to put them through the ritualistic water baptism. Neither is there a need to belittle them. Their interpretation is just as valid as those who practice water baptism.
*Neither water baptism nor the Lord’s Supper is to be regarded as a means of salvation; they are, however, a scriptural means of testimony for the church in this age. (Matthew 28:19; Luke 22:19-20; Acts 10:47-48; 16:32-33; 18:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:26). - See more at: http://www.knowing-jesus.com/doctrinal-statement/#sthash.Br6u8zLU.dpuf
My personal take away regarding this controversial issue is summed up in Colossians 2:9-23 with Apostle Paul, saying,
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him, you were circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ having been buried with him in baptism and risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead…
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive in Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with his Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the basic principle of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! These are all destined to perish with use because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Therefore, I say, each individual has the freedom to submit oneself to the form or method of baptism one chooses. Most importantly, this ritualistic baptism should not be a requirement for membership or a hindrance to joining a congregation of believers because one’s salvation is sealed once one accepts Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior. Moreover, today, people are mobile. They move around the globe during their lifetime. Believers do not lose their salvation when they are transplanted. Believers are eternally secured.
In conclusion, let us be reminded that when a born-again Christian switches membership (proselytes) with another church and is required to go through the ritualistic water baptism again, after having been saved, Hebrews 6:1-10 tells us to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on unto perfection ... not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do if God permit: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
So be it. Come, Lord Jesus.