The Bible foretells of a last days apostasy. Apostasy is really defined by a falling away from the authority of the Word of God; the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles.
This principle was illustrated for me very clearly recently when I visited a church where they practice baptism by "sprinkling." There was a bird-bath like bowl on a pedestal situated near the pulpit. The candidate for baptism or confirmation that day was a beautiful eight year old girl. She was committing her life to Christ and the sincerity of her dedication was lovely to behold.
She repeated her vows, and then the pastor touched the top of the baptismal font with his finger and then the little girl's head as the ceremony near its conclusion. He said to her, "I hope you will always remember your baptism."
As I watched this event I couldn’t help but think back to the early days of Christianity when the candidate for membership in Jesus' church was fully submerged in the water, symbolically identifying with Jesus' death and resurrection.
Baptism originally comes from the Jewish custom called "mikveh." It is part of the betrothal ceremony. The bride and the groom each take separate ritual immersions, a symbol of spiritual cleansing to prepare for their betrothal.
After the betrothal, the bridegroom leaves to prepare a home for the bride. When he is finished, he will come for her and they are formally married. Therefore baptism is the commitment we make to wait for Jesus and remain faithful to Him until He comes for His bride which is His church.
In the early days of Christianity our commitment was illustrated by a full submersion. Today, some merely get sprinkled. Is that symbolic of a partial commitment that results in the last days’ apostasy? It may be, but there are times when baptism by sprinkling is appropriate. People who are elderly, handicapped, sick, or without access to sufficient water sources, can be baptized through other means. Baptism is first of all a commitment of the heart and mind to Christ. That little eight year old girl’s dedication to Jesus was certainly a "full submersion," at least in her spirit.
When the service was over and everyone had left the sanctuary I remained behind. I went over to the baptismal font and lifted the wooden lid and looked inside. It was empty, bone dry with a lone seashell whimsically decorating the inner bowl. I was sickened. That little girl had been baptized with the dry flesh of a man's finger, certainly not a Biblical precedent by any means.
That child may or may not remember her "baptism," but I certainly will remember it…very sadly.
Copyright 2011 by H.D. Shively