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Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God's Transforming Work

Baptism is more important than you think, but not for the reasons you suppose.

John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology at Lipscomb University, and Greg Taylor, former missionary in Uganda and Managing Editor of newWineskins, have co-authored a book on baptism entitled Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God's Transforming Work.

Baptism Cover

ďToday, as the church seeks to recover its roots in the early church, there is a great deal of talk about baptism. There is a widespread conversation about our baptismal identity. People who never used that language before, and others who took their baptism for granted are recovering the performative and transformative nature of baptism. Hicks and Taylor draw a compelling picture of our baptismal identity and call us into a spirituality shaped by baptismal waters.Ē

Robert Webber, Myers Professor of Ministry, Northern Seminary

"Brilliantly written, Down in the River to Pray is the most significant book on baptism to come out of the Stone-Campbell movement and should have wide influence in the larger Christian world. Hicks and Taylor winsomely portray a God who yearns for a restored relationship to humanity and who powerfully effects that restoration through the transforming action of baptism. Every congregation should thoroughly study this biblical, historical, theological, and practical portrait of baptism. Anyone longing for a deeper experience of God should read this book."

Gary Holloway, Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tennessee


Table of Contents

Introduction: Gathering at the River

1. Diving into the Divine Community

Biblical Streams

2. The Headwaters of Baptism in Israel
3. The Restoration of Israel: Spirit and Baptism in Luke-Acts
4. United with Christ in the Depths: Paul and His Letters

Historical Streams

5. Quiet Water: The Early Church
6. Troubled Water: The Reformation
7. White Water: The Stone-Campbell Movement

Theological Streams

8. Drowned in the River: Baptism and Justification
9. Seeking the Kingdom: Baptism and Sanctification
10. Transformed Unimmersed Believers?

Practical Streams

11. Mixed Bathing: Baptism and the Church
12. Navigating the River: Practicing Baptism Today


13. Revisioning the River


Baptism is more important than you think, but not for the reasons you suppose.

Many believe baptism is simply the sign of salvation already received. Others believe it is an indispensable command that legally divides those heading to heaven from those going to hell. Baptism is more important than either think.

Baptism is a performative, or effectual, sign through which God works by his Holy Spirit to forgive, renew, sanctify and transform. It is a symbol by which we participate in the reality that it symbolizes. We must not reduce it to a mere symbol or sign that only looks to the past without any present power or reality. Baptism is more important than that.

Neither is baptism, however, the technical line between heaven and hell. It is not primarily a loyalty test or a command satisfied by legal performance of the rite. We must not reduce baptism to a line in the sand. Such a reading of baptismís function reduces its significance to a technical legal requirement. Baptism is more important than that.

While baptism is both a sign and a command, it is more. While it signifies participation in the gospel and submission to it is obedience to the divine will, baptism points beyond itself and effectually participates in Godís transforming work. God is at work through baptism to transform fallen humanity into his own image, to transform the fallen human community into a people who share the life of the divine, triune community.

Godís goal is to conform humanity to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29-30). Transformation is Godís fundamental aim. Everything God does, everything God commands, serves that goal. Baptism serves that end. Baptism must never trump, negate or simply point to a faint testimony of transformation, but transformation must always shape and determine baptismal theology.

Baptism is important because it serves the end of Godís transforming work. It is more important than a sign or a command because its significance lies in its function as a means of transformation into the divine image and inclusion in the divine community where divine presence empowers transformation. It is not simply one among many commands, but neither is it the command. Baptism is Godís transforming work and serves the divine goal of transformation.

Read the review by Duane Warden, Professor of Bible at Harding University.

Leafwood Publishers
1409 Hunter Ridge
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
1-877-634-6004 (toll free)


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