Last month our family celebrated the birth of my fourth granddaughter, Penelope Joy. And this month, we celebrated her baptism as her parents obeyed Christ’s command to bring her to the renewing waters.
The Sacrament of Baptism has been a stumbling block for many in our ministry. More times than I can count I have been told that our Baptismal theology defies all reason. I have been told this by both Jewish and non-Jewish people, and frustratingly, even by those who already believe in Y’shua as Messiah. Many years ago, a “Messianic-Jewish” leader actually called me a heretic on his radio show because I believed in infant baptism! What God gave us for our unity we have made a point of division, even in the Church.
Now truthfully, I understand, perhaps, why some Christians stumble over Baptism. They have so far removed themselves from their Jewish context that for them, they have no pegs to hang that biblical teaching on, and so they woodenly receive the command as merely an outward expression of faith giving it no power of its own and rejecting what seems to be the clear teaching of Scripture. (See 1 Peter 3:21.)
But what truly defies all reason is the Jewish believers in Jesus who reject the saving power of Baptism. St. Paul makes a clear connection between Baptism and circumcision and equates the two. Trust me, no Jewish family would wait until a boy has grown to an “age of accountability” before they would have him circumcised! A Jewish lady asked me, jokingly, when we were having a bris for Penelope (I think she was commenting on the fact that I had another girl!) and I told her to come for her spiritual bris and to witness Pippa’s baptism. (She did come too!)
That day the lectionary cooperated so well with me, as it often does. The Torah reading for the First Sunday in Lent is Genesis 22:1-18. This portion is the well-studied text appointed in the synagogue for Rosh HaShanah, called the Akedah, or The Binding of Isaac. For Jewish people, it demonstrates Abraham’s faithfulness as he, defying all reason, follows God’s command to sacrifice his son. God provided a substitute for Isaac in the ram, and He provided a substitute for us in the Lamb, His own Son. How much easier it is to follow God’s command to bring our children to the waters of Baptism, than it must have been for Abraham to take Isaac to Moriah! But God, who informs our reason through faith by the Spirit, leads us to those waters that cover us in Christ!