The Secret Power of Water Baptism
It Is More Than an Outward Sign of an Inward Change
Jackson Snyder August 12, 2001
Epistle of Barnabas 11:5. "His water is faithful."
Matthew 14:27. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." 28. And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." 29. He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Yahshua; 30. but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Master, save me." 31. Yahshua immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32. And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
Psalm 18 NJB: He Pulled Me From the Water
Epistle: 1 Peter 3:18 Baptism Saves
Gospel: Matthew 14:22 Yahshua and Peter on Water
You may purchase or download a new translation of the Epistle of Barnabas at www.Apostolia.us.
Also, check out Sinaiticus there:
In our service of the Word today, all the passages have to do with water, specifically, being saved from or through water. The Psalmist testifies that
“Yahweh reached down from on high, snatched me up, pulled me from the watery depths, rescued me from my mighty foe, from my enemies who were stronger than I.”
This is a prophetic foreshadowing of Christian baptism – being snatched from the depths of watery death by the Almighty – saved from drowning in water. We see Peter acting out the psalm by asking Yahshua if he could walk out on the murky depth of the lake in the middle of the thunderstorm. Yahshua saves him from the water by extending his hand. Finally, Peter testifies to the event years later in his epistle, identifying his near drowning with Yahshua’ descent into the waters of death. He also mentions the boat-builder Noah’s salvation from the flooding of a sinful world. Peter makes a bold claim: “It is the baptism corresponding to this water which now saves you.” Please keep Peter’s idea about baptism as a form of salvation in mind; we’ll come back to it later.
First Infant Baptism
My first appointment as pastor was unusual: I was only a certified lay speaker. I had little education then, but a lot of enthusiasm for the job. I didn’t even have the authority to baptize. But that was OK; I didn’t believe in child baptism anyway. I put off being credentialed for nearly 2 years because I wasn’t going to baptize babies. Finally, though, they made me get the license. Just after I finished the licensing procedure, one of the young mothers in our church gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. This dear mother spoke to me one Sunday about BAPTIZING the baby. I told her we could do it in a couple weeks.
Baptizing, Christening, Dedicating
The next Sunday, the mother reminded me to set the date for the baby's CHRISTENING. I arranged it for the next Sunday. When I phoned her to explain the service, she replied that it would be good to do the DEDICATION right away because it was important. But she was confused about the meaning of the Sacrament. She had at first asked for baptism, then called it christening, and finally dedication. And here I was, a pastor of three years who didn’t really believe in any of these things for infants. But my church believed in it. How could I reconcile baptism, christening and dedication to do what was expected and, in the process, teach the congregation about it?
I decided that if I wrote the service myself, we might all get a better understanding. After all, there is a lot of confusion about baptism, christening and dedication, and I didn’t even know the difference. So I composed a service based on the Baptism Covenant recorded in the old red hymnbook. Here’s what I learned:
The dedication part is a vow taken by the parents, grandparents and the congregation, dedicating themselves to the child’s upbringing in our faith. Promising to become examples of His grace in all circumstances. A child can only be dedicated through the dedication and effort of the family and congregation. It is up to loving adults to see that the child is raised in the truth. It’s not a child’s responsibility to raise himself. A dedication service is of no value if those who raise the child don’t take it seriously. Teach a child a way to go and he won’t depart from it, advises the Bible.
Then the christening part consists of the application of the child's "Christian" name. That’s an old fashion idea, isn’t it, bestowing a Christian name that has eternal meaning? Bible names, as you know, always designate character. They mean special things. There’s a man in the Bible named Mahershalalhashbaz, and that was only his first name.
Yahweh says to Isaiah, “Take a big piece of paper and write about Mahershalalhashbaz.” You’d need a big piece of paper for that! His name means, “Your enemies soon shall be destroyed.” We don’t have to go that far, of course. Gabriel Thomas is a very good Christian name. It means “Gabriel’s Twin.” Gabriel means “the Almighty’s Champion.” Gabriel is the messenger angel who prophesied the birth of the Messiah. Thomas the twin was the wise disciple who wanted proof. Nice choice in Christian names. When we christen a child, he or she must wear that name forever. It’s to be written in a scroll in Heaven.
(At this editing, there is a popular actor with this name, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.)
Finally, the baptism part of the service is the most important. Water is blessed by the Almighty and applied to the child who is then presented to the congregation. I realized that my first baptism candidate, Stephanie Marie, was not a repentant sinner. She was only a babe. Surely she would never remember the feel of the water on the forehead, the vows of the family or the "coos" of the congregation. "How could this baptism be efficacious," I thought to myself? "Am I to do something in the church’s will but out of the Father’s will?"
Well, it had been a terrible week, and this was to be my last Sunday morning in the church. I was moving to Florida after 3 years pastorate. I’d been struggling with my own personal problems and the rigors of ministry. I was in college, just finishing up the term’s exams. I hadn’t slept the night before and it really showed. It was a long drive to the church, about 50 miles, and I had car trouble. The church ushers hadn’t prepared the sanctuary as I had asked. When I got there, the copy broke down, and I was late in. There were more people in church than I had seen there before. I was nervous.
I prayed as I played the piano, "Master Yahshua, I'm sorry, but I just can't do this today." Too distraught. Too tired. Too stressed. But then later on, we poured the baptismal water into the font and blessed it. I began to feel the joyful anticipation of the baby’s sponsors and the congregation. Suddenly there was a strong anointing, an effervescence. Problems, distractions, tensions all of a sudden seemed distant. I put my hand in the water and decided that if I were going baptize, I’d do it in faith.
When I laid my wet hand on that tiny head and spoke the precious name of Yahshua, I felt a measure of grace unlike ever before. I was baptized in power, and I felt power go forth into that child as if Yahshua had performed the ritual himself. Yes, the Holy Spirit became my salvation from the water of depression in that instant. And as the power flowed, the precious child received grace in abundance. A protecting force came down that would encompass her through her childhood, preserving her for the Lord Yahshua and his purposes until she could make her own decision. That wonderful anointing lasted through the rest of the church service and on into the challenges of the day and week ahead. I then decided that I would not hesitate to baptize another infant again. There was secret power in it!
Preservation and Protection
Here is what the Almighty showed me through this experience. Infant baptism is valid and valuable in that we as people can only do so much: we can dedicate the child, christen the child, bless the water, baptize, raise the child in the faith in so much as we are willing. However, the Almighty One does even more through the water, through the years, through the Son. When faith and intention is serious, the Almighty pours out grace into the child through the waters. The child is saved in the sense that he or she is preserved unto the time when a personal decision can be made. This is what Peter meant when he said that baptism now saves you. Everybody has a free choice when they mature. But until the choice is actually made, the grace of baptism remains, wooing and directing – saving the growing child. The Spirit will not violate free will; but he works in a ministry of protection until the appointed time of decision.
Baptism of children is a powerful, powerful act made even more effectual when the sponsors and congregation actually do what they vow during the ritual. All must take their part in raising the child in Our Only Hope of eternal salvation. If you actively participate in the rest of this service, the Almighty is going to expect you to fulfill your vow in raising Gabriel Thomas in the faith. It is a serious commitment that parents, grandparents, sponsors and congregation make. It is a long-term commitment: sometimes a life-long commitment. It should by no means be taken lightly. This boy’s eternal destiny is at stake. Are you ready to make such a promise?
Well, since that first child baptism I’ve certainly changed my view about the whole thing. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure to take part in many baptisms. As a Methodist Congregation, I’m sure you have, too, and kept your vows. And today it’s a privilege to be a part of Gabriel Thomas’s salvation. Praise Yahweh, Father, Son and Spirit. I’m sure we’ll never forget this moment!
There is one other wonderful aspect of baptism, no matter how or when it is done, that is downright spiritual but seldom mentioned. You see, there is a secret power in it that I’m going to let you in on now. You must never say, “I was only sprinkled.” The Almighty does a mighty work in a person when she is baptized. The water has much less to do with it than the faith that is put into it and the grace that pours forth from it. You were not just sprinkled, you were baptized; and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Prove it to yourself. When you were baptized in faith, Father’s grace left a spiritual impression or subliminal imprint on your soul. Although you may not recall anything about it, if you grew up and made your choice for Yahshua, that spiritual memory remains and can be brought to the surface as a witness to you now.
I’ll give everyone a chance to experience the spiritual memory of baptism after we baptize Gabriel Thomas. For the water in the font remains holy as long as the candles are lit. I’ll ask each one of you to come forward and I’ll “sprinkle” a little holy water on your hands and say a few words. Because it will be done in faith, spiritual memories will surface. You will relive your baptism, even if it was a hundred years ago, and be thankful. So let’s begin.
The Service of Baptismal Covenant