…  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Saducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” … – Matthew 3:1-3 and 7-11 (NIV)

*   *   *

The water itself is merely an outward sign. I once heard of a River Brethren minister whose faith was deeply shaken when, emerging from being dunked in the river, he felt no change come over him. It’s not the outward act, then.

Pondering that had me realizing that the cleansing I feel in the midst of every gathered Meeting for Worship is, in itself, a baptism.

If the water had any efficacy, then one of my Church of the Brethren friends would not have backslidden so thoroughly so soon after being dunked in the tank – she would not have dropped out of Bible study and let her ex-husband move in, along with all of his problems with the bottle and other women, at least before she repented and broke free.

Christians forget that baptism is a rite of the Old Covenant – according to my Bible Dictionary: “The word baptizo in Jewish usage first appears in the Mosaic laws of purification (Exod. 30:17-21; Lev. 11:25), where it means washing or cleansing. Jews baptized proselytes. John’s baptism was connected with repentance so that Jews might be spiritually prepared to recognize and receive the Messiah, and it differed from the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:16; John 1:26). …”

Even today, Orthodox Jewish women are required to go to the temple for a ritual bath of cleansing after every menstrual period; I remember reading of a family in South Africa that decided to move elsewhere when the 260-mile trip became too burdensome.

*   *   *

He hath promised to redeem us from all Iniquity, wherefore let us hope in his Word, and not grieve his Holy Spirit, whereby we are sealed unto the Day of our compleat Redemption. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

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