The Death Knell of Water Baptism
Colossians 2:8-23 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after THE RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also YE ARE CIRCUMCISED WITH THE CIRCUMCISION MADE WITHOUT HANDS, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh BY THE CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST: 12 BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM, wherein also ye are RISEN WITH [HIM] through the faith of the operation of God, who HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, HATH HE QUICKENED TOGETHER WITH HIM, having FORGIVEN YOU ALL TRESPASSES; 14 BLOTTING OUT THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, NAILING IT TO HIS CROSS;
15 [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 LET NO MAN THEREFORE JUDGE YOU IN MEAT, OR IN DRINK, OR IN RESPECT OF AN HOLYDAY, OR OF THE NEW MOON, OR THE SABBATH [DAYS]: 17 WHICH ARE A SHADOW OF THINGS TO COME; but the body is of Christ. 18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 20 Wherefore IF YE BE DEAD WITH CHRIST FROM THE RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD, WHY, as though living in the world, ARE YE SUBJECT TO ORDINANCES, 21 (TOUCH NOT; TASTE NOT; HANDLE NOT; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) AFTER THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”
This post is meant to be read in light of my recent post on The One Spiritual Baptism. That post builds up a larger, much more significant, context upon which this post can stand firm and grow. With that being said, few passages in the Bible do more to evidence the cessation of water baptism than Colossians 2:8-23. It is powerful for many reasons but in this post I only want to focus on it as it relates to the biblical use of patterns. We have to beware of “one of these things is not like the other”-type scenarios when interpreting scripture. For instance, if there are things listed in succession that all follow a certain rhythm or flow, you cannot make something in that line break from the pattern just because such a break would support your closely (but erroneous) held doctrines or traditions.
The Previous Example [Ephesians 4:4-6]
Concerning this matter of biblical pattern consistency (a subset of proper biblical exegesis), in my last post I included the example of:
Ephesians 4:4-6 “[There is] One Body, and One Spirit, even as ye are called in One Hope of your calling; 5 One Lord. One Faith, One Baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all.”
If we pay close attention to the pattern, we see that there is::
- One SPIRITUAL Body [The body of Christ per 1 Cor. 12:12 and Rom. 12:5].
- One SPIRITUAL Holy Ghost [self-explanatory]
- One SPIRITUAL Hope [Christ and His Gospel per Col. 1:23 and 1 Tim. 1:1].
- One SPIRITUAL Lord [Even Christ, God the Word made flesh per John 1:14]
- One SPIRITUAL Faith [being God-wrought, see 2 Cor. 4:13; 1 Cor. 12:9; Gal. 5:5].
- One SPIRITUAL Baptism [see Colossians 2:8-14 above].
- One SPIRITUAL God and Father [God the Father is a Spirit per John 4:24]
Now if we have a long pattern of things spiritual and we then say, ‘well no, we have to make one of these things carnal…’ — we have a problem. If all else is spiritual and we say that the one baptism is not spiritual, but carnal, it breaks the clear flow and intent of the structure of this passage. You simply cannot insert an ordinance, an earthly type, when none of the other parts of the picture being painted can be deemed carnal, symbolic, or an ordinance of some type. Consistency dictates that we view the “one baptism” in the same manner and light that we deem all of the other listed “One’s” — and that is as something spiritual and not natural/ physical/carnal.
Our Current Proof-Text Considered
Likewise, Colossians 2:8-23 has a similar structural pattern. Before looking at it, consider that the passage as a whole is a warning from God commanding us not to be spoiled through the philosophy and vain deceit of men. We are not to allow the commandments and traditions of men, their vain arguments and reasonings, to bring us into the bondage of the rudiments of the world. The entire passage is an exhortation to stand fast in our true Christian liberty and to not be enslaved again with nailed-to-the-cross ordinances. We are not under circumcision! Nor are we under Old Testament side (pre-cross) diverse washings / baptisms. That which is Spiritual has done away with that which is carnal; the blessed Antitype has made the types representing Him obsolete; so, as with physical circumcision, so also with the divers (physical) baptisms (washings).
Notice that in verse 11, we see circumcision (spiritually discerned) and we know that physical circumcision, for religious purposes, was done away with in the New Testament when the spiritual was accomplished at the cross. Now skip down to verse 16 and note how the old ordinances concerning food and drink prohibitions were done away with. Notice that in the same verse holy days, new moons, and Sabbath observances were done away with. They were done away with because they were all shadows of things to come; when the Antitype came (Christ) and when He completed His work (the Gospel) there was no longer any needed for blood, water, food, drink, or day-related shadows — Christ, through His spiritual baptism on the cross, fulfilled them all — including John’s Baptism which pointed to Him and His work.
If we go down to verse 20, the question is asked “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?” We then see in verse 21 that we are free from unscriptural “touch not; taste not; handle not” mindsets along with the commandments and doctrines of men. But did you notice something? Did you notice something exceedingly important and glaring? Did you notice that in the midst of those things that are now obsolete (circumcision, food/drink prohibitions, holy day observances, ordinances, the commandments and traditions of men, etc.) God mentioned baptism. The ordinances of ceremonial sprinklings, pourings, and dippings (be it with blood, water, or ash) are done away with; again, this includes John’s Baptism, or what most simply deem as “water baptism” in our day.
Christian churches (whether true or counterfeit) continue to engage in John’s Baptism even though all such baptisms (plural), all such divers washings, have been done away with at the cross. Water baptism is just as obsolete as physical circumcision because these types are no longer necessary (which is why the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, mentioned spiritual baptism right after spiritual circumcision). Water baptism is just as obsolete as the subsequently mentioned dietary restrictions, holy day observances, etc. The context is clear; thus, we simply cannot state “all of these other things are clearly obsolete, and written specifically in this passage to highlight their obsolescence, but we are going to ignore baptism because we want this particular water ordinance for our day.”
When we read in verse 11 “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” we can know that this spiritual circumcision, this cross-work circumcision, makes physical circumcision of no spiritual worth. We are not to hang onto it in remembrance of the spiritual circumcision; we are to leave it be (as far as any religious use or meaning goes). Likewise, our spiritual baptism (wherein we are buried with Christ in baptism) likewise makes physical (water) baptism obsolete. Now just in case people miss this, God drives the point home even further by declaring meat and drink rules, obsolete; respecting of holy days, obsolete as well; new moon and/or Sabbaths, likewise obsolete; taste not, touch not, handle not mentalities – also done away with as obsolete; the traditions and commandments of men, altogether done away with completely.
One is hard-pressed to argue that all of these things are done away with except the ordinance of water baptism. I think it is abundantly clear that, as with all such ordinances, John’s baptism (which is what water baptism is in our day) was nailed to the cross with Christ – along side all of these other ordinances. Even though, as I aim to discuss in subsequent posts, some of the believers continued to engage in water baptism during the transitionary period covered in the Book of Acts (along with other such Old Testament practices), nonetheless, water baptism is as gone (for us in our day) as circumcision; prohibitions against pork; the observance of the feast days; prohibitions against touching certain things; etc. It simply took some time for these quickened Jews to let go of their centuries old, Old Testament practices completely.
No Greater Burden [Where is Water Baptism?]
Now, to be as accurate as possible, we should note:
Acts 15:19-20, 28-29 “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and from blood… For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”
The only Old Testament restrictions that carried over were those restrictions that pertained to fornication and to, in a limited sense, diet. Most dietary restrictions were put away per Colossians 2:16,21. However, for the sake of the conscience of the weaker brethren, and seeing that the life of the flesh is in the blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11-14; Deuteronomy 12:23; John 6:53-54), a few of the restrictions were reaffirmed. However, notice the absence! There is no mention of a need for circumcision, or for water/blood ordinances (including water baptism), or for the observance of days, or for any of the stricter dietary rules and regulations. When considered in context, water baptism is gone… it has no more to do with us today than prohibitions against pork, requirements for circumcision, or blood sacrifices and the burnt offerings of animals.
Now, I know that the above alone will not be enough to convince many; it is often hard to let go of cherished ordinances and traditions. Nonetheless, when put into the greater context of all of the other proof-texts put forth for spiritual baptism and against a modern day water ordinance, it becomes clear that we should say, along with the Apostle Paul, “I thank God that I baptized none of you… For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:14).
Finally, if you desire to continue on in a water ordinance, that is your choice; I will not judge your salvation. All that I ask is that you do not judge us (those of us who abstain), and that you do not deem us heretics, simply because we see no biblical warrant to continue a made-obsolete-by-the-blood-of-Christ ordinance.
To God be the glory!