Discussion All Areas Of Systematic Theology
For whom was the ritual of baptism intended? Was the proper mode immersion, sprinkling, or pouring? What did and didn't it actually accomplish for those who underwent it? What do you guys think?
It seems to me that baptism was intended for both Jews and "Gentile" Israelites since there are examples of both receiving it (Matt. 3:5-6; Acts 10:47-48). It also seems as if the proper mode was a form of sprinkling or pouring in keeping with its connection to the old covenant ritual washings (Heb. 6:2; 10:22 cf. 1 Pet. 1:2). And it seems that it accomplished, among other things, nothing less than the pardon of sins (Acts 2:38) which brought salvation (1 Pet. 3:21) and entrance into the kingdom of God (John 3:5).
Good thread to discuss about this. Really, it doesn't matter which mode of water baptism but it was one of the Jewish ceremonies (Matt. 3:15; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Heb. 6:1-8; 9:8-10) and it was ceased at the parousia of Christ. This water baptism/washings were only for those who were under the Law/Circumcised. The Uncircumcised Israelites ("Gentiles") were not required to be baptized unless it was necessary for some reasons (1 Cor. 1:14-17).
We need to keep in mind that Peter, James, and John were sent to the Circumcised (or Jews from every nations and those who lived in Judea, keeping the Law of Moses) while Paul was sent to the Uncircumcised Israelites (Gal. 2:7-9).
I agree with you that baptism ceased at the parousia of Christ at the end of the age. However, what kind of reasons would make it necessary for uncircumcised Israelites ("Gentiles") to be baptized if they were normally not required to be in the first place?
Also, do you believe baptism actually washed away the sins (Acts 22:16) of those for whom it was required?
Perhaps the reason Gentile converts were being baptized initially was due to a lack of understanding and clarification on the issue. Paul seems to be thankful that he did not continue the practice of baptizing once the scope of his mission had been fully realized and established (1 Cor. 1:14-17).
You bring up a good point about 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 where Paul explicitly said that he "was not sent to baptize (with water)" whereas the original 12 apostles were explicitly commanded to make disciples through "baptiziing" until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).
I think the reason for this distinction is related to the fact that Peter and the Twelve were "apostles to the circumcised" wheras Paul was "the apostle to the uncircumcised" (Galatians 2:7-11). It was the issue of circumcision that separated the "Jewish" sect of Israel from the "gentiles" sect (Acts 15:1).
Since there is no evidence in scripture that Paul ever baptized an "uncircumcised" person, I would agree with your thought that Peter may have baptized the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:42-44) because the apostles hadn't yet decided that Mosaic requirements would not be imposed upon the "gentiles" (Acts 15:1-9). Of course, Paul occasionally converted Jews as well, so he did baptize a few of them (1 Corinthians 1:13-17).
Moreover, "baptism" was clearly part of the Mosaic Law (Hebrews 6:2; Hebrews 9:10) and the mode by which the Messiah was to purify Israel in the last days (Isaiah 52:15; Ezekiel 36:24-26). Even Jesus, as a circumcised Jew, was required to be baptized "to fulfill all righteosness" (Matthew 3:15)