Baptism is Needed for Salvation but Jesus Baptised No One


بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

One of the most important themes of the New Testament is the baptism of Jewish believers into the Christian faith, thus heralding the Spirit into their lives. In one of the more contentious passages of the Bible, Jesus allegedly made the following statement [1]:

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

This verse ties salvation to being two fold, of belief and of baptism. It is known that baptism began with John the Baptist, hence his title and that Jesus himself was baptised by John in the river Jordan. This idea of being dunked in water for a ‘rebirth’ gained providence among the followers of Christ and thus the tradition of being ‘overwhelmed/ dunked in water’, literally: to be baptised, became a pillar of the Christian faith. However, when we read the New Testament, although Christ himself tied baptism to salvation, he did not baptise anyone [2]:

although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.

It is of utmost importance to understand why Christ did not himself baptise anyone. You see, it’s a bit of a problem, as being baptised with water is a tradition that was not supposed to continue. When John the Baptist was questioned by the Pharisees concerning his baptism he stated [3]:

questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

According to the Jewish leaders, only the Messiah was to baptise (literally: overwhelm) the people. Upon finding John doing this strange practise of baptising with water, a practise not found in the Old Testament, they challenged him. In another Gospel, John the Baptist says:

baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Therefore, it is interesting to note that when the Messiah came, he would not baptise with water, but with the Spirit. Hence, when Jesus came, as the Bible rightfully says, he baptised no one with water, but some Christians did continue this tradition. We must ask ourselves two important questions:

  1. If John expected the Messiah to baptise with the Spirit and not with water, why do Christians still baptise with water?
  2. If Christ himself baptised no one with water, why do Christians still baptise with water?

It would then seem that baptism by water is not only an archaic process, but one which was and should have been absolved with the appearance of the Christ. One exegete says of this practise [4]:

And therefore as Nonnus observes, it was a false report that was made to the Pharisees; at least in part, so far as concerns the act of baptizing: though it may be this is observed, not so much to show the falsehood of that report, as to correct what is said of Christ’s baptizing; lest it should be understood, as if he baptized in his own person; whereas he did not, that not so, well comporting with his greatness and majesty: wherefore “the king did not baptize in water“, as Nonnus expresses it.

The Persic version indeed suggests, as if both Christ and his disciples baptized, rendering the words thus, “Jesus was not alone who baptized, but the disciples also baptized”: whereas the truth of the matter is, that Christ did not baptize in water at all.

Funnily enough, I came across one lexicon which explicitly declares that baptism by water is akin to an ancient Greek practise of dunking a pickle in a water solution:

to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe, to overwhelm.

Not to be confused with 911, bapto. The clearest example that showsthe meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C.

It is a recipe for making picklesand is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that inorder to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped'(bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in asolution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g.Mark 16:16. ‘He that believes and is baptised shall be saved’. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!

Remember kids, when you’re baptised, it’s like being a pickle! We should also recall, that when you are baptised, according to the above quoted lexicon you are like a pickle, a vegetable. As it is commonly known and ironically so, to be a ‘vegetable’ in medical terms is to be, “One who is severely impaired mentally and physically, as by brain injury or disease.” [6]

Still however the answers as to why Christians still dunk themselves in water when (1) John the Baptist declared it would be archaic, and (2) Jesus himself never did it, are left to be desired.

wa Allaahu ‘Alam.

Sources:

[1] – Mark 16:16, Bible.
[2] – John 4:2, Bible.
[3] – John 1:25, Bible.
[4] – “John 4:2” – The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible.
[5] – “Baptize” – NT Greek Lexicon, KJV.
[6] – “Vegetable” – The Free Dictionary.

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