Revive Mississippi is probably a well-intentioned evangelical group that’s full of wonderful people. However, their mobile baptistry unit is ill-conceived.
The trailer, which has a cattle watering troughs designed for baptisms-on-the-go, is equipped to be hauled on location for various church activities in which the gospel will (theoretically) be preached and then people encouraged to get dunked.
Baptism, in the Christian faith, is the immersion of a believer in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19) to represent dying with Christ and being raised again with him (vicariously) into a new life, and serves to symbolize the doctrine of Regeneration. The down-and-up model of immersion demonstrated in the Scripture is meant to correspond with Christ’s burial and resurrection (Colossians 2:12).
However, baptism is an ordinance of the church and is meant to be conducted among the congregation of believers as a public profession of faith in Jesus. The idea that people aren’t baptized because it’s too inconvenient to go down to the local church house (a reason for the trailer’s creation given in local news reports) probably indicates someone hasn’t been converted to begin with.
Would a real believer not travel a few miles to be baptized?
In John 3:23, we discover that John the Baptist was baptizing near Aenon near Salim because “there was much water there” (immersion takes a good deal more water than sprinkling). This was a spring (which is what Aenon means) likely on the west side of the Jordan river (the other side from Jerusalem), because John 6:23 says that’s where Jesus first encountered John the Baptist.
John the Baptist is also said to have baptized at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (John 1:28), which was a term distinguishing it from Bethany right outside of Jerusalem (where Jesus’s friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived). Sometimes the town was called Bethabara in antiquity.
When John baptized at that aenon, or spring, running into the Jordan River at Bethany west of there (probably because the spring was much cleaner than the river itself), the Scripture says that “all Jerusalem and Judea” went out to see him to be baptized (Matthew 3:5).
From Jerusalem, Bethabara or Bethany Beyond the Jordan was about 25 miles, or a full day’s walk across arid and treacherous desert. Yet, anyone remotely interested in baptism walked into the barren wilderness to be baptized.
Should we expect less of believers today? A mobile baptism unit in a state like Mississippi (the most religious state in the union) which has just under 110,000 churches listed in its directories (that’s 2.29 churches per square mile and 1 church for every 29 people) is hardly necessary.
Baptism, a sacred ordinance of the church, should not be a cartoon novelty.
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