A Biblical Examination of Baptism
Baptisms Under the Law

Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

  1. Baptisms (Washings) Under the Law (Hebrews 6:1,2).

"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."

Here Paul is encouraging these Jewish Christians to leave the "staring line" of salvation and continue to grow on into maturity.  In Verse 1, the word "principles" is the Greek "ARCHI" and means "elementary."  The word "doctrine" is not the usual Greek word translated "doctrine"; instead, it is the Greek "LOGOS" and means "the word."  In other words, they were to leave the elementary teaching of the Word of Christ (i.e. salvation), and go on into maturity ("perfection").  When they were saved, they were justified by Christ's righteousness, not the righteousness of the Law, for "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4).

In Verse 2, the word used for "doctrine" is different from the word used in Verse 1.  In Verse 2, the Greek "DIDACHE" is used and means "instruction."  The word "baptisms" is "BAPTISMOS" and is referring to the ceremonial washings the Jews had practiced under the Law.  This is distinct from "BAPTISMA," as used for the ordinance of water baptism.  These "baptisms" (washings) are those spoken of in Mark 7:4,8...

"And when they (Jews) come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables ... For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do."

The laying on of the hands may have reference to Exodus 29:10 and Leviticus 8:14, which could have been included in the ceremonies of consecrating the priest.  It may also include reference to the practice of the laying on of the priest's hands on the scapegoat in Leviticus 16:20,21.  In other words, do not go back to the old practices your fathers did under the Law, for "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness."  These were the "dead works" and "the foundation" they had previously built upon in Verse one--prior to being saved.  It was from this foundation they repented (Greek, "METANOIA," changed their mind) and sought justification through Christ.  Allow me to paraphrase the last part of Verse 1; I believe this will shed some light on it's meaning...

"Not laying again the foundation of dead works under the law, from which you previously had changed your mind (repented) and put your faith in God (That is, by accepting God's Word concerning His Son)."

What does Verse 2 mean by the "resurrection of the dead" and "eternal judgment"?  How were they to leave these in proceeding on to maturity?  These relate to and would affect ALL mankind; whereas, the "baptisms" and "laying on of the hands" were to Israel, ONLY, under the Law.  In other words, do not just dwell generally on a resurrection and eternal punishment, for there is much more to be revealed in the New testament concerning both.  The Old Testament didn't say anything about those being resurrected in Matthew 27:52,53, the resurrection bodies at the Rapture (1st Corinthians 15:51,52 and 1st Thessalonians 4:16), the resurrection of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, or any of the specifics spoken of in 1st Corinthians 15, the Great Resurrection Chapter.  Let's go on into maturity since we are saved, not reaching back for the ceremonial practices which are no longer valid.  Let's not just be satisfied with the basics we have learned, about the resurrection and God's judgment, which is the "milk of the Word"; let us continue to study and learn more.

"For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." (Hebrews 5:13)

We can never be thankful enough for our salvation, that is why in Hebrews 6:1 it does not say "forgetting" but "leaving" the starting line and learning more about God's Word.  We have some Christians today who are singing "Standing on the Promises" and doing nothing more than "sitting on the premises"!  Only by reading and standing on God's Word can one grow strong enough to lay aside our little "security blankets" of religious practice and traditions which we have previously learned.  The only way to grow into a mature Christian is to digest the Word of God.

"But GROW in GRACE, and in the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2nd Peter 3:18)

Years ago we had a Jewish man speak in our church, a wonderful Christian with a great testimony for his Saviour.  One evening my wife prepared the most delicious pork roast for dinner (and the Jewish man was staying with us while speaking in the church).  He joined us at the dinner table.  Can you believe it, he refused to eat that pork roast; we could not get him to take a bite of that pork roast!  I remember kidding him about not being under the Law; but, to no avail--he wouldn't touch that pork roast.

Some ingrained religious practices are hard to remove.  Peter was one who had to outgrow the Law after he was saved.  God's grace and patience was extended to him as he had to sever the strings that still attached him to the dietary portion of the Law.  Concerning the things that were forbidden under the Law, God gave this Word to Peter in Acts 10:13,14...

"And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.  But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean."

Yes, Peter was growing by God's grace and in the knowledge of God's Word, as he went on to be a mighty force in God's Army!  Growth and maturity will always be relative to the time spent in the Word of God.  May I challenge you to honestly examine yourself and see how far you have come toward spiritual maturity since you have been saved.

  1. Baptism on the Cross (Luke 12:49,50).

"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?  But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"

With Christ's presence on the earth, a fire was kindled; the fire of human hostility that would stir up separation and persecution against Him and His followers.  The fire was ignited by John the Baptist when he announced to Israel...

"...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)

The self righteous Scribes, lawyers, and Pharisees sought to persecute Him, all through His earthly ministry and to the cross, with undiluted hatred and hostility.  Hebrews 4:12 gives us the effect of God's Word on the human mind.

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword..."

Yes, standing for our Saviour will always cause division with the world, and with friends and close relatives who reject Christ and His Word.  Often a fire of opposition will be kindled as a result of witnessing to your parents, brothers and sisters, or other relatives.  That is when we realize that the relationship is not the same as it used to be.  As a Christian grows, it soon becomes evident they have a much closer relationship with other Christians than they do with their own relatives.  Christ prepared His followers for the inevitability of just such occasions in Luke 12:51,53...

"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division ... The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."

Are you standing in silence with the match in your hand, or have you started a fire with a burning desire to proclaim God's Word and identify yourself with Christ?  Yes, the Word of God does divide as does the sharp two edged sword.  We might well remember Christ's words on the cross, while bearing your sins and mine...

"...My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Christ was separated from the Father, while on the cross, so you and I would never be separated from Him in eternity.  This is the baptism He was referring to in Verse 50; used, metaphorically, of the cross...

"But, I have (yet future) a baptism to be baptized with."

He was identified with the sinner, being immersed into death with the sins of the world upon Himself.  Notice "I have," His water baptism had already been accomplished by John the Baptist; thus, this baptism was yet future, upon the cross.  It is interesting to note the reason our Lord spoke the words, "How am I straightened till it be accomplished" (Vs. 50).  Here the Greek word for "straightened" is "SUNECHO" and out of twelve occurrences in the New Testament, is used nine times by Luke.  It means "constrain, hold in or pressed in."  For example, in Luke 22:63, the Greek word "SUNECHO" is translated "held."

"And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him."

What was constrained or held, concerning Christ, prior to His going to the cross?  We believe this was the power of His deity, which He could have exercised to prevent His being placed on the cross.  As Christ was Perfect God as well as Perfect Man, He possessed all the attributes of deity (God).  Revelation 1:18 makes this clear...

"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell (the position) and of death (the condition)."

The Lord Jesus Christ has the power to take any life at any time He so desires.  No power on earth could have put Christ on the cross, or kept Him there, had this not been His will.  In Matthew 27:40,42 they challenged our Lord on the cross with these words...

"...If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross ... He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him."

Not only could He have come down from the cross, He could have struck everyone of them dead in an instant.  Only because of His love did He restrain or withhold Himself from doing this.  There is no question as to the power of His deity; if He could resurrect a dead body back to life, He could surely take a live body and render it dead!  Which is more difficult, to kill a live body or bring a dead body back to life?  Our Lord had this to say of Himself in John 10:17,18...

"...I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again..."

His divine love for the Crown of His Creation, Humanity, was what restrained Him from destroying all who sought His destruction.  His love is the answer to our Verse in Question...

"How am I straightened (restrained or His power withheld) till it (the cross) be accomplished?" (Because of His love!)


Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

P.O. Box 573
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
Telephone (507) 859-2519

Web: www.heritagebbc.com

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