Dr. Couch, what is going on in Ephesians 5:26? What baptism is this? Some hyper-dispensationalists say that immersion was only during the period of John the Baptist and is not now applicable during the church age.
ANSWER: They are wrong! Paul spoke of his baptizing some of the
Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:1:13-17. He separates water baptism from
the gospel in this passage. Paul writes, "Christ did not send me to
baptize, but to preach the gospel, …" (v. 17). And of course Philip
baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39. Philip was a deacon in
the Jerusalem church but he baptized outside of a church setting, and
did so near the seashore.
Ephesians 5:25-27 is about spiritual
baptism and how Christ sanctified His church. The cleansing is not by
water but by the sanctifying ministry of the Word. There is no way one
can turn this into water baptism, though the passage speaks of the
cleansing of the church "by the washing of water with the word." This brings about a cleansing that He "might present to Himself the church in all her glory, …" (v. 27).
Read carefully Ezekiel 36:24-28 that describes the work of the new
covenant. This work will take place with the Jews after they have been
brought back to the Holy Land (v. 24), during which time the larger
portion of the Jews will be converted by the work of the Holy Spirit (vv
26-27). The church presently benefits by this spiritual "washing" of
the Spirit though the church does not fulfill this spiritual work. It
will be finalized or fulfilled when the Jews are back in the land.
That's what the passage teaches.
But my main point is that the
"sprinkling of the clean water, that will cleanse Israel from their
filthiness" is a spiritual work done by the Spirit. One more verse down
explains this. "And I will put My Spirit within you" (vv. 25-26).
Thus, Ephesians 5:25-27 is about the work of the new covenant with
the church. Water baptism is the picture of this event; it is a
spiritual work, and not a literal work of being immersed in water!
I hope this helps. Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch