Baptism

 “John’s baptism–
where did it come from?
Was it from heaven,
or from men?
(Matthew 21:25)

Concerning my own baptism, I felt a little like the chief priests and elders to whom Jesus addressed His question. Was I really baptized or not? I didn’t have a good answer to my question any more than the men in the temple had a good answer to Jesus’ question.

I had been baptized as an infant, “sprinkled,” as is common in many denominations. Later, as a teenager, I had been confirmed into the church. But I had never made a conscious personal decision to be baptized, specifically “immersed,” as some denominations declare is necessary for true baptism. I couldn’t help but wonder:  Was I really baptized or not?

In the summer of 2008 the question began surfacing in my mind from time to time. It was not a worry, but it was an unsettled matter. I was well beyond the point where I had made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and to submit my life to Him. I knew full well that the Holy Spirit resided in me, that I had received God’s promised baptism. But still, I had never experienced the ceremonial dunking that symbolizes the demise of an old way of life and the beginning of a new life with Christ. Did it matter that I had never done so?

I decided to share my question with my Friday morning ladies’ group, and they too saw the issue as important solely because it was bothering me. We discussed my choices. I could make plans to be immersed, or I could determine it unnecessary.

At that point in time, if I’d had access to an easy way to receive immersion baptism, I believe that I would have just done so and ended the matter. But I didn’t have one. First, our Chapel did not have a place to baptize by immersion. Second, since by this time it was autumn, I couldn’t picture one of our ministers and me in the chilly lake waters drawing a crowd of curious onlookers. Third, neither could I imagine the pastor of a local church that practiced immersion baptism agreeing to baptize me at large as an individual of whom he knew nothing about.

My options were limited, and I didn’t see a good one in the bunch. So I did what came naturally. I let the matter sit unsettled. After all, I was considering the matter more out of what I saw to be desire than necessity. So as time moved on, other issues of more immediate importance replaced the one of baptism, giving little time for its continued consideration.

Then a couple of months later I awoke on Thanksgiving morning to a very clear remembrance of a dream that had concluded just prior to my waking. In the dream I stood atop a large earthen dam with an older gentleman who was impeccably dressed in a topnotch suit. Chunks of dirt were occasionally coming loose from the side of the dam and sliding down to the ravine below. But I noticed that people in automobiles were still safely crossing the dam.

Below the dam, large construction vehicles were working, maneuvering in the mud and in a stream of water that increased in size to become a river as it meandered out of sight around a curve. The gentleman beside me was leaning on a railing and looking at the river. He turned and looked me in the eye to deliver a message.

 “It is an eight week course,” he said.

“Eight weeks?” I questioned.

“Yes,” he said. “But you are already a week into it.”

I awoke to consider the obvious:  eight weeks minus one week left seven weeks to go, but until what? I didn’t know, but I knew what I wanted it to mean: healing, of course.

Before I go any further, I must clarify that I do not believe that every dream is a specific message from God (though I must remain open to the possibility that I am wrong). I am a vivid dreamer, though, and I often recall my dreams. But for the most part, they are ordinary dreams. But when a dream is a specific message from God, it has a different quality that makes it stand out from the norm. There is a “knowing” that is associated with it.

So after waking from this dream and doing the quick math, I sat down at our computer to look ahead seven weeks on the calendar. Seven weeks would be January 22, 2009. I could hardly stand the waiting. I passed the seven weeks in countdown mode.

When the Big Day finally arrived, I was joyfully ecstatic. I spent the day cleaning my house from top to bottom and cooking, while singing one praise song after another. By dinnertime, the house was spic and span and our meal was in the oven, so I decided to treat myself to a candlelit bath.

As I sat soaking in the bathtub, thinking that plenty of time remained that evening for God to heal me, I suddenly heard God say quite clearly, “I have a surprise for you.”

In my mind, I believe I yelled, “Yippee!” But before my thoughts had time to go any further, God added, “Go under the water. I’m going to baptize you.”

The moment changed from one that was all about me to one that was all about God. When I stopped crying, I dipped below the surface of the water and then rose up a new person, one who knew that God cared about even a forgotten issue of my heart.

God answered a big question that day, though the question answered was not the one that I had originally asked. So the original question remains: Did God baptize me that day because immersion is necessary or simply because it was a desire of my heart?

I don’t know.

Undoubtedly, people who profess immersion baptism as the only baptism that matters will answer the former, while those people who think otherwise will agree with the latter. But I believe that some people, like me, will see in this event their sovereign God who has freed His people from all rules and regulations. If the question of the manner of baptism had become a stumbling block to my faith, and obviously it had, then God’s desire was to remove it.

Without question, that is exactly what God did. He set me free from the doubt in my mind concerning the legality of my sprinkled baptism. In an act of grace, God spoke up to end not the debate over baptism, but my imprisonment to it. God ruled. The Judge had spoken. The matter was settled in me, once and for all.

.

Note added March 22, 2016:  My original concern was was with regard to my failure to be obedient in this matter up until that time. God knew that my heart did want to do as He had said, but that my mind could not think of a way. So God made a way, and I took it. Complete obedience is important. Even Jesus was water baptized.