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THE WATERY GRAVE
And the New Birth
HILE our Lord tarried at Jerusalem following the first Passover festival after the beginning of His public ministry, there came unto Him by night a certain ruler of the Jews. The visitor was of the Pharisees and a member of the great Sanhedrin, or supreme council of the nation. There is significance in the circumstance that Nicodemus sought Christ by night. Read John 3:1-21. We must credit the man with a genuine desire to learn of the doctrines taught by the newly recognized Prophet from Galilee, whose fame was already widely spread; but it ap pears that pride of station or fear of criticism led him to seek an interview under cover of darkness and privacy.
Speaking for himself and probably for his official associates, Nicodemus thus addressed the Savior: "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
Without waiting for specific questions, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The learned Jew expressed surprise, if not incredulity. "How can a man be born when he is old?" he asked; "can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Even after further explanation of the plan provided for the salvation of mankind, the eminent Rabbi and Sanhedrist exclaimed: "How can these things be?" Our Lord's reply must have been humbling if not humiliating to the man: "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not
these things?" The conditions of citizenship in the kingdom of God are so simple that even the unscholarly may understand and obey.
Beyond question the second birth specified to Nicodemus as so thoroughly indispensable that without it no man can ever see the kingdom of God is baptism by water, and by the ministry of the Spirit or the Holy Ghost.
The efficacy of baptism as a means of securing remission of sins and of attaining entrance to the Church of Jesus Christ, which is the kingdom of God, lies in the fact that this is the ordinance prescribed by Divine authority, whereby the Savior's atoning sacrifice may be made operative and effective. Salvation is not to be had for the mere asking; it is nevertheless made accessible to all through faith and prescribed works.
Simple as is the outward or physical process, there is profound symbolism in the baptismal rite. As seen, Christ compared it to a birth, an entrance into a new world or state of being. No such symbolism obtains in baptism except by complete immersion in water and a coming forth therefrom.
Water baptism has also been very impressively compared to burial and resurrection; and the comparison is meaningless except the baptism be by immersion followed by a rising from the watery grave. Paul evidently so knew, as his words attest: "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." (Rom. 6:3-5; see also Col. 2:12).
Christ Himself was baptized "to fulfill all righteousness," and His baptism at the hands of John was by immersion, as is evidenced by the fact that He "went up straightway out of the water."
Have you read the story of the contrite Ethiopian eunuch, treasurer to Queen Candace? After listening to Philip's exposition of the Scriptures, as the two rode together, the Ethiopian desired baptism, and, Philip consenting, "he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing." (See Acts 8:26-39). Did Philip, who was directed in this ministry by the angel of the Lord, err in administering baptism by immersion?
Theologians are generally agreed that for centuries after the time of Christ immersion was the only mode of authorized baptism; and philologists testify that the very word "baptize" is derived from the Greek verb meaning to immerse or bury. The Holy Scriptures prescribe baptism by immersion as essential to salvation, and none other form is validated by the Word of God.
To the Nephites on the Western Continent the resurrected Lord appeared soon after His ascension from the Mount of Olives. He gave the people explicit instructions as to the way in which the essential ordinance of baptism by immersion was to be administered.
Baptism as prescribed by revelation in the present age is after the same pattern; and every baptism administered in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by immersion. (See Doctrine & Covenants 20:72-74).
THE BAPTISM OF FIRE
Power of the Spirit
WE believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:-(1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Articles of Faith 4).
John the Baptist proclaimed the necessity of repentance and of baptism by water, which latter he administered to all who came in contrition seeking admission to the kingdom of God. With equal fervency, this voice crying in the wilderness foretold a second or higher baptism, which, however, John was not authorized to give. This he characterized as the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, ordained to follow his administration, and to be given by that Mightier One, whose preeminence John delighted to proclaim. This was the Baptist's testimony:
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." (Matt. 3:11).
That the Mightier One referred to was none other than Jesus the Christ is thus set forth in the words of John: "Behold the Lamb of God. . . . This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. . . And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." (John 1:29-33).
In His incisive instructions to Nicodemus respecting the works essential to salvation, the Savior did not stop with the specification of the watery birth. Baptism by immersion in water, though administered by one invested with the power of the Holy Priesthood, is incomplete without the quickening effect of the Spirit. "Born of water and of the Spirit" is the indispensable status of every man who shall gain admission to the kingdom of God.
While yet in the flesh our Lord specifically and repeatedly assured the Apostles that after His departure the Comforter or the Spirit of Truth would be sent unto them; and the scriptural context plainly shows that these expressive appellations have reference solely to the Holy Ghost. Amidst the solemnities of His ascension, the Lord reiterated these assurances of a spiritual baptism, saying: "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." (Acts 1:5).
A rich fulfilment was realized at the succeeding Pentecost, when the assembled Apostles were endowed with unprecedented power from heaven, being filled with the influence of the Holy Ghost so that they spake in tongues other than their own as the Spirit gave them utterance. An outward manifestation of this Divine investiture was seen in the tongues of flame which rested upon them severally. The Lord's promise, so miraculously fulfilled upon themselves, was repeated by the Apostles to those who sought their instruction. Conditioned upon their repentance and baptism in water, Peter assured the penitent Jews that they should "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38).
That the bestowal of the Holy Ghost is an ordinance requiring higher authority than that by which water baptism may be performed is evidenced by Scripture. Philip-not