Thursday, May 22, 2014


Dr. Paul Manuel—1989

Second Temple Jerusalem Mikvah (Ritual Immersion Pool)

Because of the size of this study (72 pages) I include below the break only the Table of Contents and the Introduction. The entire study is available here as a pdf.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Belief and baptism

Belief and Baptism (Mark 16:15-16) 
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

We are here to witness the baptism of someone who experienced a variation of this event much earlier in his life, when he was very young. In the New Testament, however, there are no instances of infant baptism. That is because baptism accompanies decisions a child cannot make and his parents cannot make for him, such as confession of sin and repentance from sin.1 Another personal decision baptism accompanies is belief, which raises two questions.
  • First, what must a person believe?
  • Is there a prescribed subject for this faith, or can he believe anything he wishes?
  • Second, when must a person believe it?
  • Is there a proper sequence to these steps, or can he do them in any order he wishes?
Jesus answers both questions with the final instructions he gives the disciples before his ascension.2
Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."
Jesus says here that it matters what a person believes, that it is not enough to believe in...
  • Magic or miracles,
  • Aliens or angels,
  • Flying pigs or fairy tales,
  • Santa Claus or even yourself.
For baptism to mean what God intended, a person must believe the gospel, "the good news" about Jesus—that his sacrifice redeemed you from paying the penalty your sin required. That is the message his disciples carry "to all creation," because it matters what a person believes.

Jesus also says here that it matters when a person believes the gospel, that his belief must precede his baptism, and he cannot reverse the order without potentially ruining the outcome. According to this passage, life ends in one of two ways: salvation or condemnation. According to Jesus, "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." Does that mean a person cannot be saved unless he is baptized? ...No. At Calvary, Jesus promised salvation to a condemned man who expressed faith in Jesus yet could not be baptized.3 Jesus includes baptism in these final instructions to indicate what is expected of disciples not what is essential for them. This distinction become clear when Jesus says, "whoever does not believe will be condemned." Baptism without belief accomplishes nothing. What matters is when a person believes the gospel, because belief must precede baptism, and belief is the requisite to salvation.

As you witness this baptism, it presents a duel opportunity, a chance to rejoice with the candidate in this expression of faith and to review with him the essentials of faith. Belief is the beginning of knowing God. As you become more aware of His will for your life, you realize the need to revise your thinking, your speaking, your doing, in countless ways. When that task seems overwhelming, and you wonder at the complexity of what is expected for your sanctification, adopting the character of God, remember the simplicity of what is essential for your salvation: only having faith in God because of His gracious provision through Jesus of pardon for sin.

For the Bibliography and Endnotes, see the pdf here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

On baptism and rebaptism

On Baptism and Rebaptism
Dr. Paul Manuel—2006

In Judaism, where the practice of baptism originated, it was (and still is) a form of ritual purification, cleansing the participant from the external defilement of life in a fallen world. Gentile converts to Judaism underwent immersion to remove the impurity of an idolatrous past. It was a ceremonial act that followed repentance and faith. Hence, baptism was for those capable of making a commitment to God. The early church, beginning as a reform movement within Judaism, employed baptism similarly, immersing those who repented and expressed their faith in Jesus as the messiah. There, too, baptism served both as a form of ritual purification and as a public testimony of a person's commitment to the Lord.

After the first century, as gentiles began to outnumber Jews in the early church, the practice of baptism began to change. Some Christians regarded it as a counterpart to the Jewish practice of circumcision or as a necessary requisite for salvation. These attitudes led to the practice of infant baptism (paedobaptism), which, in turn, led to alternative modes of application: pouring (affusion) and sprinkling (aspersion), instead of immersion (submersion).1

The problem with such views is that they run counter to the teaching of scripture and to the tradition in Judaism, whence baptism derives. They also complicate matters for those who were baptized as infants and come to faith as adults. Does their earlier experience count, or should they repeat the procedure?2

Baptism is not necessary for salvation, otherwise the thief on the cross could not have gone to "be with [Jesus] in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Rather, baptism demonstrates outwardly the transformation God has already accomplished inwardly. The ceremonially cleansing effect of baptism also means it was not necessarily a one-time event. While every Christian should be baptized after he believes and repents, there are other occasions in life when it might be suitable to purify oneself anew as an act of consecration to God.3

For some of the candidates today, baptism signifies a renewed dedication to Him, and that is certainly a good reason. Understanding this background helps us to answer the question: Should a person who was baptized as an infant repeat the procedure as an adult? Given that baptism presupposes a commitment to God, which an infant cannot make, the answer is "Yes." Without such a commitment from the candidate, baptism has no meaning, at least, none the Bible recognizes. Therefore, it is appropriate for an individual to express his devotion in this way, whatever his experience as a child.4

While all Baptists hold to believer's baptism (credobaptism) by immersion, there are some differences among them on this subject. Judaism and the early church practiced single immersion, but some later groups of Christians used trine immersion, appealing to Jesus' command before his ascension.5
Matt 28:19 ...make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Most Seventh Day Baptists use single immersion, but the tradition of the German Seventh Day Baptist church has been trine immersion, and the candidates have decided to follow that practice today. Because Jesus commanded baptism, it is a requirement for church membership, but it is not—I repeat—not a requirement for salvation. That God accomplishes "by grace...through faith" (Eph 2:8).

Friday, May 2, 2014

The necessity of purity

The Necessity of Purity 
Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

We are here to witness the baptism of these candidates. Each one came from a different religious tradition but, through God's providence, they have all come to the same decision. They have all realized The Necessity of Purity. Because it is important that they understand the significance of what they will do today, I asked each of them two questions. First...
  • Is baptism necessary for salvation?
The answer, of course, is no. Baptism is not required for salvation. If it were, then Jesus' promise would have been for naught when he said to the repentant thief on the cross next to him...
Luke 23:43b I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.
According to Jesus, baptism is not necessary for salvation.

The second question I asked them was more difficult. Accepting that baptism is not necessary for salvation...
  • Is baptism necessary at all?
If baptism is not a requirement for salvation, and if salvation is the goal we seek to attain, then why should we bother? Why go to this trouble—finding a body of water, assembling the church, making a public spectacle—if baptism is just a quaint custom? While there are several possible answers to this question, perhaps the simplest is that baptism is necessary because Jesus commanded it. In his final instructions before his ascension to heaven, Jesus said...
Matt 28:19 ...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
According to Jesus, baptism is necessary.

As I said, obedience to Jesus' command is not the only reason for baptism. In fact, when I asked them why they wanted to be baptized, they gave another reason, that baptism signifies a cleansing from one's old life apart from God and a fresh start to one's new life with God.

When we come to the Lord, we break from our sinful past and pledge ourselves to live righteously before Him. Baptism is the ceremonial purification marking that decision, the symbolic removal of what once defiled us and made us unfit for God's service. Ananias, a Jewish believer from Damascus, understood the importance of this act and, after Paul's conversion, said to him...
Acts 22:16b baptized and wash your sins away....
Baptism washes away the impurities of the past.

The candidates do not have to list for you the specific sins they are washing away this day. That is not why you are here. Your role is to witness the event, to rejoice in their decision, and to support them. It is also to register your expectation that you will see their commitment to God bear fruit.

There should be one other consequence of your being here: It should remind you of your baptism, of how you broke from your sinful past and pledged to live righteously before the Lord. How have you been doing lately?

As these individuals make their commitment to God this day, I encourage you to renew your commitment. If you have not lived up to the expectation you raised at your baptism, resolve with them to be different. The Necessity of Purity should be an abiding concern for all believers. Thankfully, cleansing is a renewable resource, for...
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.