There is a great deal of controversy over baptism. Before Christ baptism was common and done more than once in the life of an Israelite according to their traditions.
Baptism, The Ritual
At the time of Christ it was used to signify a major change in the nature of how you governed your life. There was a Baptism in the days of Moses and the Exodus.
1Co 10:2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
Ex 19:14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.
The word clothes is from simlah which can mean wrapper, mantle, covering garment and it is a permutation for the word cemel meaning an image, statue, idol through the idea of a cover assuming the shape of the object beneath. The word wash is normally from rachats, or words like nipto shataph and duwach but here it is from kabac meaning washer, fuller or treader. What they were doing was far more significant than their laundry.
We see the word used in Genesis 49:11:
"Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:"
Neither the word garment or clothes is the simlah we see Exodus 19:14 for the word clothes. The Hebrew language is often filled with symbolism and metaphor. David says:
"Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Psalm 51:2
The whole idea of these ritual washings has nothing to do with water, soap, and scrubbing behind the ears. It is not the outward visible ritual but the spiritual cleansing that only God can do.
The change of any Baptism must go deeper than the symbol and form.
Washing has always been a part of the purification rituals of many nations and peoples. Herod and his ministers used baptism and so did Jesus' Cousin John son of Zacharias. Some believed his activities were associated with the customs of one of the largest political groups at the time, the Essenes. Ritual bathing played an important part in some of the Essene convocations.
John's Baptism was different than Herods. While Herod's kingdom depended on applied membership, statutory enactment and court enforced contributions, including the prosecution of Pharisee lawyers and the bookkeeping of the Scribes. John's kingdom operated only by charity and love with no more guarantees than faith and hope. Both baptized their members with water but only Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit of God by which the kingdom of God operates and flourishes.
Baptism, The Jurisdiction
Just as Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness we are also told that it is belief that is an essential quality of baptism. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mr 16:16
We know that John only Baptized with water, "I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." Mr 1:8 [Lu 3:16, Mt 3:11, Joh 1:33]
When Jesus said that we needed to believe and be baptized was he talking about being baptized with water or with the spirit?
Although Jesus was Baptized, demonstrating some validity to the ritual of water baptism he himself never baptized anyone with water.
Joh 4:2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
We know that he did baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles were told by Jesus in Acts 1:5, "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." In Ac 2:3 the text speaks of " cloven tongues like as of fire" and then in Acts 2:4 we see, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost..."
It seem reasonable to assume that Jesus was talking about having faith in the Holy Spirit of God and the baptism of that same Holy Spirit and not merely being dunked or dipped in water. Someone who is immersed in water with words said over them and comes up thinking he is now a Christian may be nothing more than deluded. If you just add water you just have an Instant Christian.
John's call was to repent and be baptized. Jesus' call was no different. The idea that one can conjure up the Holy Spirit with rituals and magic words is the very essence of superstition and witchcraft.
Accepting the Lord as your Lord is more than lip service, more than just saying Lord, Lord.
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord,
and do not the things which I say? Luke 6:46
But still the practice was a custom amongst Christians and repeated down through the ages. Like the ceremony of matrimony baptism played an important part in the social structure of God's Kingdom. It marked a serious choice for the convert that altered his relationship with the world and the congregation of the People.
Baptism took many forms and often battles and questions about the form could cause divisions amongst the people. The very ritual used to set the faithful a part from the world was used by dogmatic leaders to divide the people in controversy over the form rather than leading to the spirit of brotherhood and love.
There was also infant Baptism done by pouring and sprinkling that caused some concern in those days but later harshly divided the people and became a seed bed for persecution and abuse.
A closer examination of the history surrounding some of these early reasoning may gives us a new insight into the controversy that developed
These records are dependent on the separate and distinct nature of the Church and its ministers of the congregation of the people.
We also will require the formation of recognized congregations and Churches of Record based on biblical precepts of the kingdom of God, including two or three witnesses and a chain of agreement with in the record of the people.