Misc. Passages, Including Various Other Uses of the Word(s)
Normally Translated as "Baptism."
A. Baptism was considered to be one of the basic, foundational truths
Hebrews 6:1 - ...the elementary/basic teachings about Christ:
[including:] "instruction about baptisms..." (The focus of
this passage: Let us stop dwelling on these "basics" and
move on to maturity. It's time to "grow-up"!)
The word "baptisms" is plural. This could be a reference to both
New Testament concepts of baptism, treated as separate entities: the
reality (Spirit-baptism) and the symbol (water-baptism).
- Treating them as separate entities would be quite natural for the
book of Hebrews. Throughout the book, there is a constant focus on
the contrast between the "reality" and that which is but a
picture or "shadow" (symbol) of the reality. (See Hebrews
8:5 and 10:1, for two examples. The primary focus in the book of
Hebrews is on the Old Testament "pictures,"
contrasted with the realities.)
- Treating them as separate entities would contrast with other
passages which view them as two parts of one event. These
two perspectives would complement each other.
Note: Some interpret this verse as a reference to some of the Jewish
ceremonial rituals that involved the washing of various things. They
support this, in part, by noting that the word "baptism" is
used this way, in Hebrews 9:10 (see below), and that the book of
Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. According to this view, the
plural use of the word ("baptisms") makes reference to the
numerous ceremonial washings that were practiced. This interpretation
would claim that these washings can be considered part of the basic teachings
given to the Jews, to teach them about Christ, because the
washings taught (symbolically) various spiritual principles about salvation.
B. Symbolic washing or cleaning of something.
The washing of hands, eating utensils/containers, before a meal.
- Mark 7:4, 8 (KJV); Luke 11:38 - These were man-made
traditions, rather than Scriptural commands. Jesus condemned the
religious leaders for focusing on these ceremonial rituals (which
their ancestors invented) and ignoring the more important Biblical commands.
Ceremonial washing as part of the Jewish sacrificial system
(given by God, in the O.T.).
- Hebrews 9:10 - The O.T. sacrificial system (including the
ceremonial washings) was given by God to be a "picture"
that taught about spiritual realities & about what Jesus would do
as both our high priest and our sacrifice.
C. Being overwhelmed by calamity, trials, death, etc.: Described as a "baptism."
Luke 12:50 - Jesus' suffering and death on the cross
- Mark 10:38-39; Matthew 20:22-23 (KJV) - The apostles, like their
master (Jesus), would also be overwhelmed by trials and suffering,
and (except for John) would be put to death because of their loyalty
to Jesus. (John was the only apostle to die a natural death.)
D. Two O.T. "pictures" which can be used to illustrate N.T.
truths about baptism and salvation
Events associated with Israel's departure from slavery in Egypt
- Background: The experiences of the Israelites, as they left Egypt
and journeyed through the desert, are like a picture, to teach us
various spiritual principles. Their physical deliverance
("salvation") teaches us lessons about our spiritual
deliverance (salvation). See v. 6a.
- 1 Cor. 10:2 - As regarding their "oneness," they were
all "baptized" into Moses - which parallels our baptism
Events associated with Noah's Flood
- 1 Peter 3:21 - The flood waters (in Noah's day) are a picture of
our baptism. Eight people were "saved" through water (the
flood) by the ark. This is a picture of us being saved
through water (baptism) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Note that Peter emphatically states that his focus is not
on the washing of a person's body (water-baptism), but on something
that is the result of Spirit-baptism: the cleaning of one's
conscience. Peter tells us that all this it is possible only because
of Jesus' resurrection. [One additional comment about our conscience:
now that it has become "good," it is our duty to keep it
that way - see v. 16.]
E. One ambiguous passage (difficult to interpret) - "baptism for
1 Corinthians 15:29 - Paul alludes to people (not necessarily the
Corinthians) who did this. One issue is whether this phrase is being
used literally (and in reference to water-baptism) or figuratively
(in the sense of being overwhelmed by calamity, trials, etc.). The
Corinthians understood what Paul meant; we don't. But we do
know that nothing in this one verse is intended to
contradict the message of the rest of the Bible. This means that any
interpretation that introduces ideas that contradict the rest of
Scripture cannot be correct.
Maybe there were people somewhere (not necessarily the Corinthians),
who were symbolically expressing the faith of others who had
trusted Jesus but were not able to be baptized. (This could occur if
the person turned to Jesus just prior to his death.) In this case,
Paul's argument would be this: If there is no resurrection from the
dead, then it's rather silly to be baptized in the place of others
who are now dead! [Note that nowhere does Scripture command
such a practice.]
In the immediately following verses, Paul uses the idea of being
"dead" figuratively. He mentions his being persecuted, and
describes it as "dying daily." If the idea of "being
baptized for the dead" is intended figuratively, similar to the
verse that follows it, then the passage would have this idea: If
there is no resurrection from the dead, why make a commitment to
Christ [baptism], since it could endanger your "well-being"
- you could suffer persecution for it! If there is no resurrection,
why be miserable... why not rather just have fun and enjoy life? (V. 34)
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Dennis Hinks © 1999