By Pastor Mark Downey
Revised August 2014
Scripture Reading: Acts 2:37-41
Researching the subject of baptism has taken many twists and turns in an attempt to discover the truth. In our series, "The Shining Light of Glory", not only were many parallels made between biblical light and water baptism, but also that they were one and the same. This prompted some curiosity as to why there is such a diversity of interpretations as to what baptism really is and where those dogmas come from. After reading assertions about full body immersion-styled baptisms that came from the pagan mystery religions, I began research to prove whether or not this was true, because I didn't want to advocate something that was contrary to the Word of God. However, what I discovered was far from such a simple premise.
Over the expanse of time, the history of baptism has become very convoluted. I dare say that if you ask a dozen Christians what the meaning of baptism is, you'll get a dozen different answers. After half a year, I had traversed, in depth, hundreds of articles, dozens of books and prayerfully seeking what God would have us do. "Seek, and ye shall find" (Mt. 7:7). I think I've found some unconfusing resolves to this issue. It is not my intent to create controversy or jerk anyone's emotional chain. Neither is it my fault if some teachings are found wanting and deserve scrutiny. For some this will be a hot button for immediate argumentation, void of scholarly debate. Much of what is said, however, is arbitrary and not in harmony with the rest of the Bible. Many of their arguments are self-serving unrelated quoting of scripture which anybody can use, such as 'the truth shall make you free, brother!'
I've known many pastors whose sermons are jam-packed with Scriptures that sounds like they know what they're talking about, but their Bible-thumping is not germane to the subject. It seems as if they are incapable of defending their position (other than their canned denominational contentions), or they're just incompetent. I feel like the guy who said, "Hey, the emperor has no clothes!" We'll see how much water baptism holds. Let's not fear an investigation and the possibility of changing our minds. Let's not be intimidated by those who say, "If you're not properly baptized like us, you'll be terribly disappointed on the day of judgment." And then they throw Matthew 7:23 in your face where Jesus is saying, "I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." And yet, in John 10:27 Jesus says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." Nothing is said about baptism as a criteria for Christ's elect, because it has to do with race, not water. Or they may try to inflict Romans 8:9 on you: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His", which has nothing to do with water baptism.
The preceding examples of taking Scriptures out of context to justify full body immersion are just some of the things I was told by Ted Weiland and Doc Stephens at the 1989 Pete Peters' Bible Camp in Colorado. I still have the paperwork from that 'baptism class' on file, and after 20+ years, have come to the conclusion that I was taking the word of man, rather than the Word of God in what I should believe. Back then, the presumption was that "for Christians of all denominations, baptism is accepted and readily becomes part of the ritual of that person's particular doctrine." Now, being more mature in Christ and not taking for granted what any man has to say, I can see how that statement opens a Pandora's Box for every wind of doctrine. If there is only one baptism, according to Ephesians 4:5, do you think the Lord wants us to accept a plurality of denominational baptisms? Wouldn't there have to be more than one doctrine if there were more than one ritual? I find this ambiguous notion of baptism unacceptable. As we'll see shortly, the rituals of man have more to do with churchianity than Christianity, especially dealing with the machinations of the priestcraft. It is this class of religionists that frustrates our race and the advancement of blessings upon our faith.
My sarcasm in the title of this message is intentional. In the sport of basketball, overpaid, sweaty, Masai negroes violently force a ball through a hoop and the fans love to have it so! This is called a 'slam dunk', whereby points are scored in a game. As we wade through the history of baptism, we can also observe the complicity of church hierarchies fulfilling Jeremiah 5:31: "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means [in the Ferrar Fenton, it reads "the Priests trick with their hands"]; and My people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" Well, after coming to the end of an exhaustive search, I am compelled to stand up to the priestly dunkers; particularly in Christian Identity, to debunk the craft of ritualistic baptism as nothing less than scoring points in a game of ceremonial theology. The church at Rome adopted many pagan trappings in their converting pagans to Christ, but in reality paganized the early Christian assemblies.
I believe God has a mission for Israel in the Identity Movement, and the unchristian means of full body immersion is one of the things we must overcome if we are ever going to move from passive to proactive Christians in the body politic. Jesus certainly taught the rejection of pagan rituals. Both before and after Christ there were many forms of baptism, which are clearly the adoption of pagan mysteries. Advocates of the mystery cults believed their sacraments had the power to give its adherents an advantage in attaining immortality in a mechanical or magical way. This pagan mentality crept into the churched beliefs that God imputes or credits righteousness to a sinner, and thus guaranteeing our salvation. In other words, the only way God can accept us is to translate us into Christ. Of course, modern equations of the mysteries will deny any similarities that insist upon personal experiences before translations of faith can happen. The analogy is that you can't start a car without a battery. The problem is that people aren't cars. We are physical, not mechanical.
Contrary to the reinterpretations of what Jesus did, when the Eunuch asked Philip to be baptized, he was told, "if you believe with all your heart, you may." Our faith starts with belief. Whatever mode of water Philip administered, it was merely a punctuation of something far greater. What is that greater import? To think and act like Christians, not ancient pagans. We do not imitate the sacrifice of Christ, as little gods, paying for our sins. "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). What does this mean? Immersion in water OR embracing the resurrected Christ in a new sense of racial community under the covenants of God? The colloquial would be getting our act together as White Christians. When our old self is buried in connection to the death of Christ, it is not through a reenactment of symbolic ritual that the Lord cancels our sins. Christ gives us a new start in life; not from water baptism, but rather "being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). Faith is not trying to believe in full body immersion regardless of conflicting evidence. Faith is daring to act according to the Laws of God, regardless of the traditions of man. If immersion were the Law, there would be no need for debate or this sermon. However, it is not farfetched in relating baptism to some of the ancient mystery religions which clearly attached themselves to the Catholic church and the Protestant Reformation.
Historically, 'baptismal regeneration' (whether pagan or not) was the belief that salvation, or eternal life, was conditional upon water baptism. It is predicated upon man-made authority to define the who, what, when, where and whys; such as the proper mode and administrators necessary for the religion. "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." (John 1:12). Faith gives one the power to become; meaning future tense. The Greek word for 'receive' is lambano (Strongs #2983) and means to take or to get hold of. Therefore, rituals cannot secure instant power or authority. A ritual cannot get a hold of what believing demands. There just aren't any magic handles which mythological superstitions try to grab onto. Baptism does not cause anything to happen, like the pagan rituals were supposed to do.
We need to know what the ancients did so that we don't treat God like a pagan god. When David decided to change the mode of carrying the Ark of the Covenant in the same way that the pagans carried their idols, God killed a man and stopped the multitudes from corrupting the symbolism of the Ark. The early church was called The Way and was not a religion based on formulas or trying to build a better mousetrap than God. Likewise, how can anyone think God's Spirit will dwell among us if we treat Him like David did. Why should God honor pagan baptisms corrupting the work of Christ? I found that the ancient pagans not only baptized by immersion, but by other ways as well. And so did the Christians, which makes it all the more confusing. Suffice it to ask, then, what were the underlying principles of such practices, and how were they different from the way Christ and His disciples viewed baptism?
As I relate to you these pagan parallels, the slam dunkers, no doubt, will cry foul! Sorry, but I offer no disclaimers that any similarities or semblance of characters and their accompanying principles are anything other than purely coincidental.
We should note that an ordinance is an absolute command and some people consider baptism an ordinance. Some Christians believe that it was the principle of ordinances that were nailed to the Cross. Baptism has been confused with sacraments, which means a mystery or a secret. As such, baptism has become a mystery because the sacrifice of Jesus has no value unless, like the Roman Catholic Eucharist, it is turned into a reality (literal flesh and blood; called transubstantiation) enjoyed only by those accepted by the hierarchy to partake of the rights and privileges of the religion. The mystery can only be understood by the direct operation of a mystical spirit. About half of Southern Baptists (heavily influenced by Freemasonry) are not baptized for this purpose. Without undergoing the initiation, they rename baptism an ordinance to be obeyed. This vicarious ritual leads the believer to an arrogant perspective and status with God, in which to proselytize others to duplicate their personal experience. Christianity does not have initiates advancing in degrees to get closer to God.
The mysteries insist upon the drama of Christ coming to us to instill faith. The idea is that through the ritual, Christ will come to you personally. Does Romans 10:17 say, "Faith comes by Jesus responding to your ritual"? No. It says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." The pagan mind redefines faith as a matter of sacraments. The ritualistic-rejecting reformers clearly identified the Catholic/Babylon system of religion where the priest/preacher/ringmaster administers the sacraments. Faith plus baptism does not equal salvation, any more than faith in man's traditions plus ritual equal pagan regeneration. The practice of baptism in pagan religions seems to have been based on a belief in the purifying properties of water. Among the ancients, anyone who had stained himself with homicide went in search of waters that could purge him of his guilt.
The Encyclopedia of Religion points out that "the word baptism means to plunge, to immerse, or to wash... It signifies from the Homeric period onward, any rite of immersion in water... similar to many other rituals found in a number of religions." In ancient Babylon, water was important as a spiritual cleansing agent in the cult of Enke. In Egyptian cults of Isis, the baptism of newborns were performed to purify them of blemishes acquired in the womb. The cold waters of the Nile river were used to baptize the dead in a ritual based on the Osiris myth of regeneration through water. It was symbolic of death to the life of this world. In the cult of Cybele, a baptism in the form of a blood bath from a bull was practiced. In the ancient Greek world, baptism was associated with immortality procured for the initiate in this life. The Hellenistic mystery cult believed that divine water possessed a real power of transformation. Followers of the goddess Cotyto became known as baptai, or "the baptized ones." The Greeks even had a special priesthood known as Kathartai (from which we get the word catharsis), who specialized in purification with water. After the conspiracy of Cylon in Athens in 632 BC, a water specialist named Epimenides of Crete purified the entire city with water. These baptizing religions of that period included rituals of either immersion or a washing of the body for purposes of purification, initiation, transformation of one's life, the removal of sins, symbolic representation, the attainment of greater physical vitality, a new beginning, spiritual regeneration; all of which sound vaguely familiar to the denominations of churchianity.
Historians will tell you that all ancient religions recognized some form of water baptism with the aforementioned elements. Surely, our ancient Israelite ancestors were aware of the stranger's gods as Jeremiah 10:2 warned them, "Learn not the way of the heathen." A more serious time and place for our consideration is Judea at the time of Christ which had been absorbed into the Hellenized culture under Roman rule. The prevailing religion is what later became known as judaism. The big question is, did they baptize by immersion? And the answer is yes. The next question is, did Jesus and His followers do the same thing? And the answer is no. Let's turn our attention to the most disturbing aspect of this subject, the jewish influence on Christianity.
First, we must clarify that these 'jews' were not God's chosen people, but rather the 'mixed multitudes' that returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, bringing with them "the traditions of the elders" (a corrupt contradiction of the Old Testament), which Christ soundly denounced. Most of these early followers of judaism were not racially pure Judahites; although some were pure, yet had a mongrelized mentality (like Paul). Add to this demographic, mongrel Edomites who were assimilated into Judean society. It was very close to what Zionism is today. Their pronouncements, therefore, polluted the memory of the prophets and Moses. True Christianity has no obligation to accept anything jewish or racially mixed.
We can get a really good handle on this nonsense about Christianity owing its roots to judaism by looking at the baptism of that era. Dr. Merrill Tenney, editor of the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible said, "Baptism as a rite of immersion was not begun by Christians but was taken by them from Jewish and pagan forms... (hold on to your cowboy hat - this is where it gets funny)... Since early Christianity was a part of the Judaism of Jesus' day, it is without question that baptism in today's church was originally Jewish." Obviously, he does not question the identity between racial Judahites and practitioners of judaism, the latter of whom killed Christ, nor does he seem to understand the significance of a mystery sacrament falsely becoming a New Testament ordinance.
I was startled to read about the admissions of baptism on the Jews for Jesus website, which is really a 'fifth column' euphemism for 'Jews for the Conversion of Christians to Judaism". Let's learn a new jewish word today, and that word is mikveh. Their yiddish website says, "Baptism is as Jewish as mikveh. The Hebrew word tevilah (translated "immersion") is used in the benediction recited during the mikveh ritual. Certainly no one would dispute that mikveh is a Jewish ceremony." The mikveh is very ancient, but is still practiced by jews to this day in a way virtually unchanged since the time of Christ. These talmudic traditions came from the Pharisees and as many jewish racketeers engaged in the kosher food tax scam, so too were there jewish rivalries about the rules of the mikveh, although one way or another all were by the mode of immersion. There are at least ten chapters in the talmud with complex rules regulating baptism. According to the talmud, every part of the body (even each hair) must be immersed. Contemporary jews simply call it "the immersion." The mikveh also represents the womb and the grave. When a person immerses, he is temporarily in a state of the non-living, but when he emerges, he is resurrected with a new status. This is not the “resurrection” I read about in my Bible. The talmudic mentality is that the ritual represents places of non-breathing, the end points of the cycle of life and death. Furthermore, it is an outward sign of the changes that the Holy Spirit is making in their hearts (warning: get your barf bags ready!) going from one level of holiness to another. Hmm, like Masonic degreed maybe? This is the pagan bill of goods being sold to Judeo-Christians that baptism is an outward sign of our faith after 'being saved'. They must feel pretty smug about themselves, don't you think?
Interestingly, toward the beginning of the Christian era, jews adopted the custom of baptizing proselytes or converts to judaism. This baptism developed under the influence of Rabbi Hillel and stressed the importance of a new birth and spiritual cleansing. To this day, so-called Gentiles who would embrace judaism must undergo baptism in a mikveh ritual. To be really jewish, the convert is immersed naked, and when he rose from the pool of water, he was referred to as 'a little child just born' and called "a true son of Israel" [sic].
We see the same thing today with universalists slam dunking born again spiritual Israelites right out of the jungle with a bone still in their nose. They are not “born from above” because of baptism. Archeology proves that the construction of these baptismal mikvehs in ancient times were more important to the antichrist jews in that it took precedence over the building of synagogues. That should make you wonder why some are so adamant about full body immersion, even in our Christian Identity community. To the jewish mind, the mikveh went to the extreme of baptizing pots and pans and eating utensils manufactured by goyim, or immersing in the mikveh before Yom Kippur to sensitize oneself to the holiness of the day. Notice that a bottle of "Ivory" dishwashing liquid detergent has the kosher seal, a U within a circle, on its label.
By the way, after these converts to judaism were baptized, they were then allowed into the Temple to make sacrifices. Did Jesus have anything good to say about the activities going on at the Temple? In fact, He got violent, didn't He? Do you think His meeting with John the Baptist was entirely different than what was going on in downtown Jerusalem? I do. And I'm going to tell you about that in Part 2.