Archive for August, 2020

A Study on the Origins of Baptism

By Larry A. Smail

Old Testament Forms of Cleansings

This study on baptism may, no doubt, be one of controversy to some. I may make enemies even while using the words from scripture to discuss the actions of baptism. This is one topic that, possibly, instills more arguments than most any other Bible related subject matter. Churches have divided over this topic.

Baptism was not a word used in the early days of the formation of the Israeli people. (The Israeli people were, also, known as the Hebrews, Jews, and Israelites.) However, the Lord commanded water cleansings in those very early years of God’s Chosen People.  These commands were announced through Moses in regard with the priesthood and various other issues of the day needing purifications. For the sake of space, I am not going to go into a lot of detail on the issues of the times demanding “washing to become clean,”

In Leviticus 8: 6, we see the “water cleansing” demands for the ordination of the Hebrew priests. Aaron and his sons were the Levitical priests in those early days of the forming of this nation of Israel. Scripture states the priests were required to be ceremonially washed or cleansed, or purified, or one could say a form of baptism.

In the books of Leviticus and Numbers, purification or washing rituals were told to the people by Moses through the Lord’s commands. Various issues would lead to a time of uncleanliness. Ceremonial cleansings were part of these issues. Some of those washings were required for the touching of unclean things or the dead; childbirth; menstruation. upon being cured for leprosy and certain bodily discharges.

The above-mentioned Old Testament commands dealt with the nation of Israel.

John, the Baptist

Israel, for many, many years, was controlled by a number of Gentile nations. King Nebuchadnezzar completed Israel’s demise in 586 B.C. He destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and carried off or killed remaining Jews. At the time of Christ, the Romans were the oppressive Gentile nation over Israel. However, as we study in the New Testament writings another man of the Lord appeared upon the scene of Israel. John, the Baptizer, or John the Baptist was his common title. John had one purpose in his brief time during his ministry.  John was to go to the nation of Israel and announce their promised kingdom was at hand. The Jewish kingdom had NOT been a sovereign nation since the days before their defeat by Gentile forces well over 500 years in the B.C. era. John was giving the Israelites hope from the Roman oppression for their kingdom was just out in front. Of course, a kingdom requires a king. Israel, to see the fulfillment of these promises had some demands to do. The nation of Israel was to turn around, or repent, from their unbelief and accept this fact of the coming kingdom and king. The nation was to, also, be baptized after repenting of their unbelief. This action is known as John’s Baptism of Repentance. (See Matthew 3: 11.) Notice the entire nation of Israel had to comply in this situation.

John, in Matthew 3: 11, also, told Israel that he baptizes, or cleanses, with water, but the one coming after John would BAPTIZE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT! This would be Christ! (More on Holy Spirit baptisms later in this study.)

Shortly, a man entered onto the scene. This person was the Promised One who John had told the people about and he was the Christ! Jesus, the Christ, was baptized in the Jordan River. An interesting fact needs to be explained at this point. One might ask why this sinless man needed baptized. The answer is quite simple. Christ reached the age of thirty. To be a high priest of Israel a man had to be thirty years of age. Jesus reaching that age was now ready to begin a ministry among the Jewish people hence he was now cleansed as per Jewish law or baptized. Do you remember where it was mentioned above of Aaron the high priest being ceremonially cleansed or washed? Jesus was such a priest!

Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom Ministry on Earth

For the next three years of Christ’s ministry Jesus himself did not perform any baptisms.  (See John 4: 2.) Christ’s purpose, during this first dispensation, was to preach of the kingdom of God and have Israel believe who he was. However, we know from John 4: 1-2, the disciples were doing some baptisms to the JEWISH PEOPLE ONLY. This is important to remember. See next statement.


The disciples, for the most part, stayed true to Jesus’ command with one notable exception with Peter. And that act of Peter was directed by Christ. (Acts 10.)


Disciples After the Cross Ministry

We are, now, at a place where another controversy may be viewed. Some facts  are needed to set the stage. Jesus while on earth never reneged on those words to go only to the lost sheep of Israel. Peter, James, and John… were only ministering to the Jews. In fact, this was their mission after the cross. The books from James through Revelation are directed to believing Jews. Remember this! You may ask why?  Again, the answer is quite simple. Paul told the readers in Romans 15: 8 that Christ came to be a minister, or servant,  to the JEWS (Circumcised) to fulfill  and confirm the prophecies or covenant promises of Abraham to Israel , and the fathers of Israel, in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy or grace. Jesus came to Israel to fulfill the promises to the fathers of the Abrahamic Covenant. Gentiles were NOT part of those covenant promises.  Exodus 19: 5-6  the Lord told Israel they were to be a nation of priest and a holy nation. Isaiah 49 wrote additional words about this covenant and Israel was to be a light unto all nations. (Gentiles)  Do you see how it all ties in?



Another controversy erupts when someone states. Yeah, but Jesus told the disciples in  Matthew to go to all nations with the Great Commission. This too is easily explained. Jesus words here were still dealing with Israel’s purpose way back from those Exodus 19 words.

In Exodus 19: 5-6, as stated above, the newly formed people of Israel had the promise they would become a holy nation of priests to take the word to the Gentiles. Since Israel failed way back then, and again during Christ’s ministry, Jesus, after the cross, was giving Israel another chance to become that holy nation. This time the disciples were to continue preaching to the Jews and get the nation to believe. See below. So, the Great Commission was, now going to the disciples to continue to preach to Israel and have the nation believe. Again, notice the nation of Israel had to believe. Under GRACE, individuals can be saved. This applies to the Jews, too, now! More on GRACE later.

The Bible must be rightfully be divided to understand. These are known as dispensations. There were three major dispensations in the New Testament. Jesus while on earth  was the first dispensation for the JEWISH PEOPLE to BELIEVE


WHO HE WAS! Christ was their Promised One. If the nation of Israel would have believed who Jesus was, they could have had their kingdom as told by John the Baptist and the Old Testament prophets. It was that simple! Israel failed big time!

This is important so a repeat is needed. After the cross, the second dispensation occurred. Israel was being given, yet, another chance for their kingdom and covenant promises. The disciples’ role was to convince Israel that the crucified Jesus was their Messiah. Peter’s sermons were directed to the JEWISH PEOPLE ONLY! The Jews were to repent of their sin of unbelief and the crucifixion of Christ. The people were to then be baptized. This ceremonial cleansing was to PURIFY THEM FROM THEIR SIN OF UNBELIEF AND REJECTION OF CHRIST. (See Acts 2 and 3.) Water baptisms were still in play to cleanse the nation of Israel. Peter’s sermons are full of words indicating he was talking to Jews. That needs to be another study, in itself, to prove.


Again, do you see how this all fits together?

This is NOT the Church

Oh boy, I am asking for more trouble now. Almost all pastors categorize these believers being preached to by the disciples  as the founding of the church. To be clear, these people were part of the JEWISH ASSEMBLY. So, to be factual these people may be called a church but, more correctly, if you choose to use the word “church”  they were a Jewish church of believers in Christ. In fact, the Greek word used for the “church” translation is ecclesia which means A CALLED-OUT ASSEMBLY. This assembly in early Acts consisted of those Jews who had believed Jesus was, indeed, their Promised One. After believing Peter’s words about Christ they were then baptized as per Jesus customs as a form of purification or cleansing. THESE BELIEVING JEWS WERE STILL LAW-KEEPING JEWS! AND THEY STILL AVOIDED THE GENTILES!!!

The disciples ask Christ if the kingdom was going to be restored now. Jesus said it was not for them to know. Why? The coming kingdom depended if they succeed to


have Israel believe. The nation did not believe.

In Acts 1:3, the RISEN CHRIST WAS PREACHING  ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Nothing changed in regard to the importance of the kingdom. In Acts 1: 3, Jesus reminded the disciples they would be BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT!  

So, there are many words in Acts 2-3 to prove these people in Peter’s sermons were Jews. I am not going to take space to show all the proofs at this time, but the words all are dealing with unbelieving Jews and those who repented of their unbelief of Christ and were BAPTIZED. Peter is still following Mosaic Law to cleanse or purify these now-believing Jews. NO GENTILE TALK HERE!

Peter, James, and John… were still law-keeping Jews. This is important to remember. We can know this as fact by studying Acts Chapter 10 where Peter did NOT want to go to a Gentile home. Going to Gentiles would be breaking the law. (See Acts10: 28.) Peter and the other Jews saw the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit even before his sermon was completed. This had not happened to the Jews he had preached to. Peter even with the Holy Spirit entering into theses Gentiles still followed up with a water baptism. Peter was following Mosaic Law to cleanse or purify the Gentiles.


Also, see Acts 11: 19, where scripture states, of the word being spoken to NONE BUT JEWS. These were the believing Jews who scattered due to persecution after Stephen’s murder. See below. Still No Gentile talk here.

Paul’s Ministry to the Gentiles

Following the murder of the Holy Spirit inspired, Jewish believer named, Stephen, Israel lost their chance to become that holy nation of priests. (See Acts 7.) God chose another extremely zealous Jew named Saul, later Paul, to begin work towards that Great Commission of going to all nations, but from a different direction. The Word from the RISEN CHRIST would be going to the Gentiles without Israel and the Jews.  Israel was now in a state of decline. They would be no longer of importance and off the scene by 70 A.D.

The next proof these believing Jews were NOT Christians, as we envision


Christianity comes twenty years or so later at the great Jerusalem Council. Here the disciples and believing Pharisees were against Paul’s ministry of faith and the gospel of Grace to the Gentiles. WHY? They were demanding Paul’s Gentiles follow Mosaic Law to be saved. Remember this is around twenty years after the cross! (See Acts 15 and Galatians 2.) Their agreement: The disciples would stay with the Jews preaching the gospel of the kingdom and Paul would continue with Gentiles preaching the gospel of GRACE!

In Acts 11: 26, the Holy Spirit guided Luke to write that in Antioch was where these Gentile,  faith-based believers were called Christians. These people were of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH through faith only. Again, the Jewish Church were believers as to who Christ was, but were still law-keepers. In other words, they were still involved in a works-based religion and NOT FAITH and only Faith. Hope you can see the difference.

Paul’s Gospel of Grace

The gospel of GRACE is found in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4 where Paul wrote: “Now I remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the GOSPEL, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered it to you as of first importance which I also received that CHRIST DIED FOR YOUR SINS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES, AND WAS BURIED, THAT HE WAS RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES.”


It does not matter which verses are read they mean the same, and that is you are saved by believing with faith. So, true Christianity consists of those who believe that gospel as recorded by the Apostle Paul of the Gentiles.  Salvation comes from complete faith in those words. NO WORKS!



No works for salvation. Baptism is a work.

If anyone is baptized as a means of salvation it would be as crucifying Christ again. See more on this below.


SO, if someone of this current dispensation believes and trusts through FAITH in the gospel of grace as outlined above, they are a true Christian.  Baptism is NOT required to be a faith-based Christian. A faith-based, gospel of grace believing individual is baptized with the HOLY SPIRIT. That person is purified and cleansed through the actions of the Holy Spirit due to the faith of those individuals of the gospel of grace. This Holy Spirit baptism occurs the moment you truly believe with 100% faith. This occurs through the actions of the RISEN CHRIST THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. Remember John the Baptist’s words that he (John) baptized with water, but the One coming after John, the Christ, would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Read Acts 19: 2-6. Paul came upon some believers. He asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. The people said they had not heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul asked, “ into what then were you baptized?” They responded into John’s baptism of repentance, or water baptism… Paul, laying his hands upon these believers,  BAPTIZED THEM WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT!  These individuals had believed in Christ by Apollos, a Jewish believer.

Also, study Acts 18: 24-28 about how the Jewish believer, Apollos was using John’s baptism of repentance until he was expounded upon with the way to God more accurately. Times of transitions were occurring.

Hebrew 6 records the words to struggling Jewish believers. They were having difficulties walking away from the “WORKS” religion to one of true faith. The writer, who I believe was Paul, detailed much in chapter 6. In brief, he wrote to believing Jews of going back to a works religion after hearing, and being enlightened,  through the gospel of grace would be as crucifying Christ again.  The same applies to faith-based Christianity.

What Are Some Works

Today many people pick and choose works from the Bible to justify their actions


or their denominational or legalistic beliefs.  Some examples are: tithing, belonging to any certain denomination; Saturday sabbath versus Sunday sabbath; eating certain foods; not-eating certain foods; water baptisms; sprinkling over immersion, walking an aisle, going to the altar… or anything one deems a MUST TO PLEASE THE LORD FOR “SALVATION”! All of these mentioned and more are LEGALISTIC WORKS! However, if you wish to be baptized, since this is the study, you are free to do so under GRACE. BUT, to be baptized with the intent baptism is required for salvation then you are committing the same as placing Christ back on the cross.


More on Rightfully Dividing Scripture

Here is another place of potential controversy. The books James, 1,2,3, John, 1,2 Peter, Jude and Revelation were directed to those believing Jews. I refer to these books of the Bible as the Jewish Epistles. Some of these books begin telling the reader these words were written to those exiled Jews. For instance, James 1: 1 states to the twelve tribes of the dispersion. 1Peter 1: 1 states, to the exiles of the dispersion. 2 Peter 3: 1 states that this is Peter’s second letter to those of 1 Peter. These writers are still involved trying to get Israel to believe and be baptized as per their orders from Christ. Revelation features many. many words directing the reader to the Jews. Those seven assemblies are believing Jewish “churches” They were all law-keeping but believing Jews. Peter, at the time of his writings, realized his life was ending, but he had come to an understanding of Paul’s faith and grace ministry. See 2 Peter 3: 15 where the man told the Jews to, now, look to the words of Paul for salvation.


Where to stop with such a study is difficult. I could keep typing more information on this subject, but I hope these words of this study are understandable.






Read Full Post »

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls at low tide

Laurie and I went hiking along a Rails-to-Trails ending at a locally well-know area called Buttermilk Falls. Seems many falls are named Buttermilk falls. Pennsylvania has been hit with little rain in recent times and the flowers and creeks are showing that fact.  Normally, in the above photo, water is coming over those rocks on the right, too.

We enjoyed our time together, but we were disgusted at the amount of garbage all over. ATV trails are abundant since these vehicles are not permitted on the trails and gates have been erected, they simply travel all over causing much erosion. Also, they are carrying bags of trash with them and other garbage and dumping it along the trail.  One pile of trash was across the creek along a trail and placed as such to be removed when the stream gets a normal flow.

Red-spotted Newt in the land stage.






Read Full Post »


Early Sunday morning I needed time to reflect so I went for a walk. I would see five different hen turkeys, but only one poult. The sun came out and the insect life fluttered around everywhere…namely butterflies. I took a lot of photos of them whenever opportunity occurred.

Monarch Butterfly on a Joe-Pye Flower


Swallowtail on thistle. I believe this one is the Spicebush Swallowtail.


Tiger Swallowtail


Great Speckled Fritillary


Blue Vervain




Read Full Post »

Along The Allegheny River

Freshwater Drum

I have been fishing off and on, several times to a local pond where I caught Bullhead Catfish and Carp. I enjoy the site, fir the walk to arrive is about one mile and I never see anyone. Today, however, I ventured early south of Kittanning to fish along the great Allegheny River. Action was god for a time, as I caught three Smallmouth Bass rather quickly. Also, I caught something and the weight either broke the line or cut the line with sharp teeth. Regardless, the certainty of a catch lasted a millisecond.

Cardinal Flower

I had another very hard hit and assumed I had caught a nice catfish, by the way it rolled upon retrieve. But, I soon saw the peculiar shape of a Freshwater Drum. Locally, they are often called Sheepshead. The action soon stopped and I failed to get anymore hits, so I walked along the shore to take some photos.


Read Full Post »

The Drake Log cabin in Apollo, Built around 1816.

Recently, my wife, Laurie, happened on a write-up in our local newspaper. An event was mentioned. That event was the Armstrong County 4-H Historical Adventure. I called to get information. We decided to participate.

This event was from August 7 through to the tenth. Twenty sites were to be discovered in our travels.

St. Patrick’s Episcopalian Church in East Brady. Built in 1867.

The 4-H supplied a clue sheet f the various sites of the county. I formalized  the routes to travel. here is where my knowledge of the county roads really paid off. I traveled many back roads looking for wildlife, as well. (By the way, we saw two bucks, doe and fawns and a flock of gobblers.) 

Every locale on the clue sheet featured a 12X 12 white cement block with the emblem: 4-H painted on it. Underneath each block was a plastic bag with placards of that particular site. The laminate placards had information of the site. The 4-H people supplied a lanyard to place each placard.

I took plenty of photos of the two day adventure for us. We finished up prior to noon on Saturday  the 8th.

Some photos are included here.

Coaling Tower used to fill railroad cars with coal. Used 1930 -1957.












John Ford Statue in Ford City. FC was founded in 1887.


Armstrong County Memorial Wall


My ancestors died in 1863 during the Civil War.







Grace Presbyterian Church in Kittanning. Built in 1910.


Marshall House in Dayton. Built in 1868.

Grist mill stones in Dayton









Old McCain House, currently, the Armstrong County Museum. Built in 1842.


Nellie Bly Marker in Cochran’s Mill.


Lock #8 Dam. Built between 1928-1931.

Read Full Post »

Locally we have had some very hot days over the past weeks.  Hot, humid weather isn’t my favorite weather by any account. However, I do venture out for some two or three hour hikes early in the mornings at times. Recently I hiked in State Game Lands 105 in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania hoping to see a bear of two.

The morning atmosphere was humid as easily viewed across the deep watershed that maintains the Allegheny River. I took some photos of distance hills with the humidity visible.

I didn’t find any bear sign this day, but I did see two young gobblers and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks.

I saw some Monarch Butterflies, too.




Red Admiral Butterfly


Monarch caterpillar



Read Full Post »

A beautiful day of relief was in store and the plans to visit Keystone safari were final.  The walk though zoo-like atmosphere is located near grove City, Pennsylvania.

We spent over two hors looking at the wildlife. Laurie enjoyed watching the Giraffe feeding on lettuce. I enjoyed watching the little kids smiling upon seeing the various wail critters.



Giraffe close-up


Easter island head!


Read Full Post »