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The Betrothal Ceremony

• Greg Boyd

Jesus orders us to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is the betrothal (similar to “engagement”) ceremony in our relationship to Christ.

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The Great Commission states that we are to make disciples and baptism them. This is intended to be the first act of discipleship for new Christians. So it is clear that we are supposed to be baptized as Christians. But there is a lot of confusion about what baptism is and is not.

1. Baptism is not an “optional symbolic gesture”. Rather, it is the ceremony that initiates you into the new covenant and the community of faith. This is why it is ordered, not merely recommended, by Jesus.

2. Baptism is not “magic”. Many people hold the view that baptism literally washes away sin and saves you in a very direct way. But God is not a god of technicalities. Baptism is commanded, but it is not salvation itself. We know that the thief on the cross was not baptized and yet Jesus assured him that he would be saved. Some people have repeated baptism in the hopes of washing away sins that have occurred since the last time they were baptized. It is our faith and our relationship with God that saves us, not the act of baptism. The Bible instructs us to be baptized only once (Eph. 4:4-6).

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Topics: Baptism, Covenant, Discipleship

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 28:19-20

    Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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14 thoughts on “The Betrothal Ceremony

  1. Roma Myers says:

    I found this to be a very clear teaching of what baptism is.
    Thank you for your podcast also.
    I would like to have study notes or guide. Is that possible?

  2. Chloe says:

    Hi Roma,

    The notes that are with this sermon can be found at the link below and then click on where it says ‘show’.

    I got there by going to sermon resources/sermons, then clicking on the picture of the video of the sermon, and that’s where the notes are.



  3. Jim LePage says:

    Hi Roma – Another way to get to the link Chloe mentioned is by simply clicking the blue “FREE DOWNLOADS FOR THIS SERMON” button on the right side of this (or any sermon video) post.

  4. L. Taylor says:

    Great lesson – love the idea of the betrothal ceremony. One major question though – if one is unwilling to go through the betrothal, how can one become married?

    Gal. 3:26-27 says “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” So it seems to me that baptism is part of putting on Christ. But then if you haven’t been baptized, how can you be saved? And what about 1 Peter 3:21? That seems pretty straight forward to me about the necessity of baptism for salvation.

    Some things about this lesson seemed absolutely fantastic to me, but other things seemed inconsistent. Without being buried into Christ, I genuinely can’t understand how someone could be resurrected with him, yet baptism is the process of being buried with him (Romans 6:1ff).

    That’s just what I see from scripture – I wish I could have further discourse on this topic. I’d love to see Greg answer some questions!

    Thanks as always for your lessons!

  5. L. Taylor says:

    Sorry, one more verse that I’d really like to have expounded. Greg said that baptism doesn’t wash away your sins, but then what are we to make of Acts 22:16? It looks a lot to me like that’s what is said there. Am I incorrect?

  6. S. Gardner says:

    I’d also like to know the answers to L. Taylor’s questions. I have not found a teacher whose teaching that resonates with my understanding of Scripture as much as Boyd’s. But I am also curious about these questions that Taylor raises. The lesson was beautiful and very much like I’ve taught it, but I find an inherent tension with what Greg affirmed and what Taylor asks.

  7. Scott Boren says:

    Excellent questions regarding baptisms. Let me weigh in with a few comments. First, while baptism is tied to belief in the NT, it is never made a condition. We don’t have concrete evidence where the question about a person’s unwillingness to be baptized is addressed. Second, the thief on the cross is told by Jesus “today you will be with me in paradise.” Obviously he was not baptized. Third, baptism is a sign of reality, a public display of what has occurred to us in our turning to Christ and the new life that we experience. I am sure that there are many who misunderstand baptism and see it as a proforma religious hoop and therefore don’t see its significance in their relationship with Jesus. Is God’s saving arm bigger than our misunderstanding? Well of course. I’m so glad that his salvation overcomes my misguided theology. I’m sure we will all enter into the Kingdom seeing lots of places where we got it wrong. When we look at Acts 22:16, baptism is not an actual washing of sins, as if the act is what saves us. In the first century, actions public actions had significant meaning. If you take away the final phrase in the sentence, “calling on his name,” then the meaning of the sentence completely changes. It would turn baptism into a proforma salvation hoop, similar to some kind of paying of membership dues to a club. If then a person does not enter into the betrothal period through the betrothal ceremony, again I think we have to look at the reality of God’s saving grace and his ability to draw us into a relationship with him, even though we might not get it right. However, with this new understanding we can be freed to see the proper role that baptism plays in our lives with Christ.

  8. Michael says:

    And would that new understanding and proper role be that the Scriptures clearly teach that baptism is that by which God has chosen to wash away sins and has determined to make it the “ceremony” that demarcates one being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light?

  9. Michael says:

    Could we have a faulty view of repentance and still be saved by God who seems to make a repentant heart a requirement to be saved by His wonderful grace in Christ? What other aspects of the process of salvation can we misunderstand and still expect to be blessed with salvation? In Col 2:12 Paul says that baptism, the invisible circumcision, is done through faith in the power of God. I don’t think we need to hedge so much about baptism being the consummation of the new birth into the new covenant and into the new Kingdom.

  10. Nicole says:

    I really like that your baptisms are performed by the people, not just the clergy. We can all baptize each other, don’t need professional God people to do it. Just need to be genuinely committed to following Jesus. Love your teaching, Greg.

  11. Mark Steele says:

    This is in response to the sermon titled the Betrothal Ceremony. I recently finished reading the book Myth of a Christian Nation which led me to your website for a visit. The book was good and made some very valid points. The reason I chose to view a video on baptism is because this one single act of obedience to Christ is where one can tell a lot about the teachings of those who call themselves teachers of the Word. Jesus said baptism saves you (Mk. 16:15,16). You said it does not.
    The thief on the cross was not baptized according to what Jesus said to do because Jesus had not yet spoke these words prior to His death. Salvation is based upon the words of Jesus, not the thief on the cross.
    The urgency of baptism you read about in the book of Acts (which you talked about) is for the same reason Jesus said, it saves. This is a simple message that is made complicated by men who want to make scripture fit their beliefs.
    I would look carefully at 1 Pet. 3: 18-21 and decide whether or not to still spread the message that baptism does not save. The doctrine that baptism does not save is in direct opposition to Jesus and the scriptures.

  12. Tim says:

    At Mark and Micheal: Guys, did you REALLY listen to the sermon? He didn’t “complicate” baptism at all. He simply put it in it’s proper context. He didn’t demean it at all either. Remember at the beginning when he stated that our theological views are based on our view of God? God is a just God but not a legalistic God. That’s what makes the New Testament so wonderful-GRACE! Thank God that He seeks a relationship with us instead of a bunch of rules followers. Please listen to this sermon again and study this subject out trying to rid yourself of presuppositions. 🙂

  13. Keith says:

    I just want to add to the comment from Mark Steele that in regard to the thief on the cross you are correct. The great commission that included baptism wasn’t given until after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:19) many religious denominations and non-denominations have adopted teachings from one another thus creating confusion through the years. Roman Catholics, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist all adopted the the same mode of baptism starting with Catholicism. It wasn’t until God gave revelation to how he intended it to be understood and led many to the scriptures on how it was done in the 1st Century beginning with the Apostles. Everyone coming into the body of Christ were baptized once they came into the knowledge of the truth to who Jesus was and is today. It is the first fundamental step to receiving Christ. Once you’ve heard ( because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Romans10) of him and believe then you were commanded to be baptized washing away your sins. It is the first foundation that is layed in your journey with YESHUA/JESUS, but many skip that part. That’s why God put Apostles, Prophets, Evangelist, Pastors and Teachers in the body for the perfecting of the saints until we all come into unity (Ephesians 4: 11-15), but many rebel and obey not the truth which breeds an onslaught of deception and misinterpretation. In order to catch the revelation in its entirety you must be born of water and spirit in order to see or enter the kingdom of Heaven. (John 3:5-7) Shalom

  14. Johnson says:

    very good

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