Baptism: Soaking in the Holy Spirit

In Romans 6:4 Paul gives us a wonderful analogy of baptism as a death and rebirth, later explaining that believers emerge as a “new creature” (2 Cor 5:17).  As it turns out, the word “baptize” shows us how the transformation actually takes place.

We know that Bible Greek uses different words that have roughly the same meaning, but carry a different nuance. Take, for example, the two Greek words that mean “immersed,” baptiso and bapto; both of which are used in the Bible.  In John 13:26, Jesus “took the morsel and dipped (bapto) it…,” while in the Great Commission we are commanded to make sure that the new disciples we bring to Christ are baptized (baptizo). 

The difference between the two words is well illustrated in a 2nd century recipe for pickles.  In the instructions the author says that “in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution.”  Both verbs concern the immersion of the vegetable, but the first is a quick in-and-out while the second is a prolonged soaking.  The first dip here is important (as any good pickle-maker will tell you) because it softens that tough outer skin which otherwise would resist the influence of the spices.  In the second dunk, the baptizing, the vinegar permeates the vegetable, altering its very nature. [1]

So, if one is merely submerged (bapto) they essentially remain the same while a baptism (baptizo) effects a permanent, internal change.  If you think about it, the pickling process then can provide a good analogy of our new life in Christ.  Our decision to accept the Gospel – to declare Him Lord of our life – is a kind of bapto.  That tough outer shell we stubbornly maintained as part of our human nature is now softened by our repentance.  This decision allows us to be baptizo by the Holy Spirit who begins that life-long work of changing our nature into Christ’s image.  This change comes about because in this new life, as we arise from the grave (as symbolized by the water baptism)  we are surrounded by – immersed (baptizo) in – the Spirit of God.

I’m quite excited by the vision provided by this process!  Maybe we Christians should start using the humble pickle as a symbol or our regeneration.  Think about it:  We could print bumper stickers that proclaim, “I’ve been pickled for Jesus!”  And then in VBS we could have the kids sing, “Jesus wants me for a gherkin” (instead of a “sunbeam”).  Or maybe the next popular-Bible version should render Matthew 5:13 as, “You are the pickles of the earth, but if the pickles have lost their seasoning…” But you know, now that I think about it:  given the “vinegariness” of some Christians, it’s probably best to not press the analogy too far.


[1] This information was taken from Strong’s Concordance, based on material attributed to James Montgomery Boice, Bible Study Magazine (May 1989).


Doug Ebert; Rock Hill Church

†2014, all rights left on the cross.

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