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The Swimming Pool Baptistery

by Bob Yarbrough

The second year after we moved to the farm we were all sitting around the dining room table one Sunday afternoon. My immediate and extended families had come over for lunch, and we were having a great time visiting after the meal. Our son, Mark, called for everyone’s attention so we listened as he presented an idea to us. He suggested that we all pitch in and order one of those above-ground swimming pools (24 ft. diameter, 31⁄2 ft. deep), and install it in the back yard of our house as an investment for the future of our families. At the time we only had a one year old grandchild and a twinkle in the eye of our daughter. The discussion became a little comical because in attendance were at least 8 people between 70 and 90 years of age who would never dip their toes in the pool. However, the sales pitch was accepted, we all chipped in, and the pool was purchased. As it has turned out, it was a great investment, because through the years our six grandchildren, my brother’s eight grandchildren, plus youth groups from the church, have enjoyed the benefits of the swimming pool on the farm. And when no one was looking, my wife and I have gotten wet a time or two.

The pool has not been without its problems however. It is very difficult to maintain. I have had to replace the lining, the filter, and the pump. Supplies are always needed; and the pool needs a weekly cleaning. The proper balance of chemicals is difficult to regulate. But I would say that the positives outweigh the negatives, for watching one’s grandchildren spend an afternoon in the pool having major fun is a great and pleasant reward. There’s something about knowing that you have made children happy that takes on a life of its own. It pleases a father or a grandfather to do good things for his children. Jesus said, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake: If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”(Matt. 7:9-12). It pleases our heavenly Father to do good things for His children; and, by the way, it should be our aim to please Him in all that we do also.

The very best thing we ever did with the swimming pool was to convert it into a baptistery one Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2006. It was on that day I was convinced that we had made the right choice of installing a pool in our back yard. Our three oldest grandchildren had been talking seriously with their parents throughout the spring about their love for Jesus and their trust in Him. Their parents told them that God loved them so much that He gave his one and only Son to die on the cross for their sins, and, that if they believed in Him they would have everlasting life(Jn. 3:16). We were thrilled beyond measure when the children expressed that belief to us. Then in accordance with Matthew 28:19, the children wanted theirdads to baptize them, so we declared the pool a baptistery that afternoon. The neat thing about it was that all of our families were present, even our Indiana family visiting for a couple of weeks. Grandparents “on both sides” of the families were in attendance. The pool was cleared and our son, Mark, baptized his two children, Kayla and Jacob; and then our son-in-law, Chip, baptized his son, Josh. Singing, praying, and tears of joy were all a part of that afternoon of rejoicing! I suspect that shouts were heard in heaven from many family members who had gone on ahead (Heb. 12:1-2). Who knows, perhaps that scene will be repeated again sometime soon with others in the family. I pray that it will be so. In the meantime, our kids will keep on swimming!

What a beautiful picture that baptism represents! In earlier days of Jewish history, even before the Christian era, baptism represented a form of ritual cleansing. Archeologists have unearthed Jewish mikvaot (ritual cleansing pools) which provided for a form of self-baptism. A typical use of the mikveh woud have been for a Gentile who embraced Judiasm to walk down into the pool reciting the shema, “Hear, o Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4).  Since the early church was first Jewish (see Acts 2), it was natural to transfer the idea of a cleansing into the ordinance of baptism to represent a cleansing of an old life and putting on the clothing of a new life in Christ (Gal. 3:27). Christians also added another significant meaning to baptism – that of representing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How meaningful it is to express to those who witness a baptism that the candidate is dying to the old life, is buried into a watery grave, and comes up out of the watery grave to a new life in Christ.

What a beautiful symbol to express what Christ has done. After all, that is what Jesus did. He died, He was buried, and He was resurrected so that we could have new life in Him. The Apostle Paul explained this point so carefully, “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:3-4). Baptism was demonstrated for us by Jesus himself (Matt. 3:13-17) and commanded by Him before He ascended. He told his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). In its simplest form, baptism is a public identification with Jesus Christ. In that sense, it is similar to a wedding ring worn to symbolize the marriage of a couple in love with each other. Baptism is symbolic of salvation, a public confession of faith, and a witness to the work of salvation within a believer of Jesus Christ.

How unfortunate that Satan has used the commanded act of baptism to divide God’s people. We sometimes develop “loaded” questions (ie., “Do you believe baptism is essential for salvation?) designed to solicit a yes or no response. The conversations following can spark lively (sometimes heated) debate. It is sort of like asking a man, “Did you stop beating your wife?” Any way he answers, he’s sunk. We should rather “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:14) and “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). It seems presumptuous to me, however, to dictate to God how he must save a repentant sinner. I wonder how the thief on the cross would have reacted to all of this? I know for sure that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). I also know that “it is by grace that we are saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Finally, I know if I boast of my baptism, then it is the work that prevents my salvation by God’s grace. I am baptized in obedience to the command of Jesus andas an expression of my faith in Him so that others may know that in Him I take my stand for all eternity.

So, we baptized the three children on that Sunday afternoon with a host of witnesses standing by. Some who are older may relate to baptisms in a creek, a pond, or a river. I can remember as a kid at church camp in Louisiana, we first used a nearby creek for a baptistery. That worked for a while until we discovered there were some alligators lurking about. Then a swimming pool was built on the camp premises and that was an ideal situation. Many, many young people gave their lives to Christ and later were baptized in that camp swimming pool. Well, how about that!-a swimming pool as a baptistery. Now that’s a great idea!

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33