Water is one of the most widely known and essential parts of God's material creation. It is the primary constituent of all rain, fog, oceans, lakes and rivers. It is an important part of every living creature in the world.
When God began to order his creation, His spirit "moved upon the face of the water" (Genesis 1:2). The quality and availability of water has had profound effects upon the development of culture and civilization.
God Put Water Between Life And Death
All mankind and all animals must have water. Some species can go farther or live longer on small amounts of water, but all must have some moisture. Man will die without water. He can perish of thirst.
Someone might object, "Do you mean to tell me that if a person is out in the desert, that just because he cannot find a little water, a good and merciful God will let him die?" That is correct. God has set a law in His material creation that without water, a person will die.
"But why did God do it that way?" I don't know. "Could He not have made man so that he could live without water?" Perhaps He could have, but He did not. "But don't you feel guilty and judgmental to insist that just because a person does not drink water or receive it in some form, he will die?" Not at all. God made the rules. I did not. God put water between life and death.
This same truth applies to vegetation. Some of the world's richest soil is in deserts, but without water that soil cannot grow anything. Why did God make it that way? I do not know. He just did.
God Put Water Between Thirst And Satisfaction
Normally a person gets thirsty several times a day. Thirst is the body's way of telling a person that it needs more water. A person may drink juice or tea or something else, but normal thirst will be satisfied only when the body has received enough water in one form or another. The body must have water - H20.
Why did God do it that way? I do not know. Even before a person knows that there is a God, he knows that moisture stands between thirst and satisfaction. God, the Creator, made it that way.
God Put Water Between Filth and Cleanliness
Water is the world's most basic solvent. It is the fluid generally used to wash our dishes, our clothes, and our bodies. Water is the agent used in most cleaning processes. It is often mentioned in the Old Testament for physical and ceremonial cleansing.
God Put Water Between Sin And Life
In the early pages of the Bible, we read of man's fall from God's grace and his subsequent wickedness. Every thought and imagination of man was continually wicked before God, and "it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth." (Genesis 6:1-7).
One great man, Noah, found grace in God's sight, and God instructed him to build an ark to save himself and his family. Finally the flood came "...and every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark" (Genesis 7:23).
God saved Noah from the water by the ark. He saved him from wicked humanity by water. The apostle Peter wrote, "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (II Peter 3:6). In Noah's time, God put water between sin and life.
God Put Water Between Bondage And Freedom
When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, God divided the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to walk across on dry land. This initiated their freedom from oppression and pointed them toward the Promised Land.
As Pharaoh's troops tried to pursue them, God allowed the walls of water to collapse upon them and to destroy them. "Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians: and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore" (Exodus 14:30). In the days of Moses, God put water between bondage and freedom (I Corinthians 10:1-4).
God Put Water Between Sin And Sanctification
When God let Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He provided them with the Tabernacle, a moveable sanctuary to be used until the building of Solomon's Temple.
Before the priests could enter into the Holy Place of that Tabernacle to minister to Israel's spiritual needs, they were required to wash themselves with water and so to be sanctified to God (Exodus 40:11-16). Similar washings were enjoined by God through Moses in order to cleanse and sanctify the people for God's service (See Numbers 19). We do not know WHY God required these things, but there is no doubt that HE DID REQUIRE THEM. In the Old Testament, God put water between sin and sanctification.
God Put Water Between Sickness And Health
The great Syrian captain, Naaman, was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. He was told by Elisha, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean" (II Kings 5:10).
Naaman at first was furious to be commanded to do a thing which made no sense to him, but his meek and wise servants said, "My father, if the prophet had bid thee to do some great things, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean?" (II Kings 5:13).
When Naaman humbled himself and obeyed God's instructions, "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (II Kings 5:14).
Do you mean that the water alone healed him? No. God healed him. Then why did he have to dip in water? Because God's prophet told him so. Does that mean that hie obedience earned his healing? No, it still was a wonderful gift of God. Do you think that a good, loving God would have allowed him to go back home a leper just because he refused to dip himself in the River Jordan?
What do you think? In the days of Naaman, God put water between sickness and health.
God Put Water Between Blindness And Sight
Once Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth. Taking compassion on him, Jesus spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle with which he anointed the blind man's eyes. And He said to him, "Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam. He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing" (John 9:7).
What gave the man sight? God? Christ? Faith? Obedience? Water? All of these things were involved. Of course, the power was not in the water alone, but the Pool of Siloam was involved in keeping Christ's commandment, and when the man washed, he received his sight. In this case God put water between blindness and sight.
God Put Water Between Sin And Salvation
Before Christ ascended back to God, He told His disciples: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:18-20).
This baptism, commanded by Christ with all authority in Heaven and on earth, is a burial (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:12), in water (Acts 8:36-38), for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), to wash away sins (Acts 22:16), to put one into Christ's body (I Corinthians 12:13), and to put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). It is a part of Christ's Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16), and it is commanded (Acts 10:48).
The people on the day of Pentecost were not saved before they were baptized. The apostle Peter commanded, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Some religious leaders have asserted that "for the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38 means "because your sins have already been forgiven." But the very same expression is used in Matthew 26:28 where Jesus said that He would shed His blood for the remission of mankind's sins. Did Jesus die BECAUSE MANKIND'S SIN HAD ALREADY BEEN FORGIVEN or in order for them to be forgiven? Acts 2 shows that these people had not already been saved, for "with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying , Save yourselves from this untoward [crooked] generation" (Acts 2:40).
Newness Of Life In Christ
Saul of Tarsus was still in his sins even after believing in Christ, repenting of his sins, and confessing Christ as Lord (Acts 9:1-9). Then Ananias told him, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Later, Saul (who became the apostle Paul) recounted his conversion in Romans 6:1-6. There he stated that baptism puts one into Christ and into His death and that in Christ we are raised to walk in the newness of life. God put water between the old life of sin and the new life in Christ.
This expression, "newness of life," is reflected in Christ's statement, "Except a man be born again...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:3-5).
Some, because of a sectarian prejudice against the Lord's commandment of baptism for the remission of sins, find it difficult to believe that water can have anything to do with one's salvation. But the Bible teaches that Christ cleansed the church "with the washing by the word" (Ephesians 5:26). Christians are said to have had their "hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" and their "bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22). The apostle Paul calls this spiritual process "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]" Titus 3:5). All of these passages involve the "water" and the "spirit" - being born of the water and spirit - walking in newness of life. And there is no Biblical reason to think that "water" in these passages means anything else than water - H20. God put water between sin and salvation.
But someone may say, "That means that you believe in `water salvation.'" We believe that God saves a man through obedience to His Word. Baptism in water is a part of His Word in the New Testament just as dipping in water was a part of His Word to Naaman and washing with water was a part of His Word in sanctifying priests in the Old Testament.
Salvation By Faith
Another may object, "We are saved by faith in Christ, and therefore nothing else is required." But faith in Christ does not EXCLUDE obedience to Christ; faith DEMANDS obedience. Scriptures that teach salvation by grace, or blood, or repentance, or obedience, or baptism do not EXCLUDE faith. Why should passages about faith EXCLUDE baptism?
But one may say, "We are saved by grace and therefore we can do nothing on our part to deserve salvation." And it is true that we will never earn or deserve our salvation. But does this mean that we do not have to believe, or repent, or otherwise obey the Lord?
If one is saved by faith only, he is saved without repentance. These are two separate acts of obedience. One can believe and not repent. The Rich Young Ruler believed on Christ but went away sorrowful and disobedient (Matthew 19:16-22). Many of the Jewish rulers believed in Christ, but they would not confess Him because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue, and they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).
There are many verses in the New Testament that teach that we are saved by faith, but there is a vast difference in being saved by faith and being saved by faith only. The only place in the New Testament where the expression "faith only" is used is in James 2:24 where the inspired writer says that man is not justified by "faith only." The faith that saves is the faith that obeys, and Jesus Christ has made being "born of water and of the Spirit" a part of that saving faith.
What About The Thief On The Cross?
Sometimes people object to teaching that baptism is an essential part of God's plan for us by saying, "What about the thief on the cross? He was saved, and he was not baptized." Whether the thief was baptized with John's baptism or not, one cannot prove. But the thief did not live under Christ's law because Christ's testament did not take effect until after His death (Hebrews 9:16-17).
The thief could not be "baptized into Christ's death" because Christ had not yet died. He could not be "buried with Christ in baptism" because Christ had not yet been buried. He could not "rise with Christ to walk in newness of life" because Christ was not yet raised. He could not obey the Great Commission because it had not yet been given. He could not be added to the church because it had not yet been established.
But soon afterward, on Pentecost, those who had helped to kill the Messiah believed, repented, and were baptized, and they were added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:41, 47). Along with faith and repentance, God put water between sin and salvation.
"Water...Does Now Also Save Us"
This is why the apostle Peter says that even as eight souls were saved by water in the days of Noah, baptism does now also save us (I Peter 3:20-22).
Through the grace of God, by the blood of Christ, through obedience to God's will, because of faith in Christ and in God Who raised Him up, water does now also save us - even baptism. Surely baptism is a figure. It is a figure of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. The question is, what does water, after that true likeness or figure, do? And the apostle Peter says, "It saves." God put water between sin and salvation.
One may ask, "Do you mean that God will allow a person to be lost just because he refuses to obey this commandment?" Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Beware of those who try to make "water" mean something else. Beware of those who, in the name of faith, belittle a clear commandment of Christ. Beware of those who talk much of grace and who thereby try to belittle God's laws.
Baptism is important, not because of the will of men, but because of the power and authority of Christ. He has made it a part of His gospel. God has put water between life and death. The Bible says, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]" (Acts 2:38).
New Testament Christians admonish today as they did in the first century, "...arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).
By Owen Cosgrove
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