There are many types and anti-types in the Bible. Many are deliberate Old Testament stories or characters that foreshadow principles revealed in later days. Deliberate or not, there is a parallel to baptism seen in a well-known Old Testament story – the healing of Naaman.
On the surface, some parallels are clearly evident. Both involve washing in water; both persons are healed and made purely clean. Beyond that, a closer look at Naaman reveals an attitude seen over and over today in people’s reaction to the process of salvation.
Read 2 Kings 5:1-14. You, like myself, may be surprised by Naaman’s reaction when he is presented with the solution to an impossible problem. He had an incurable disease, one that would only lead to a lifetime of misery and decay and inevitable death. A cure was freely offered – why the reluctance to take it?
However, we see the same reluctance today in reaction to the simple prospect of baptism. Some want fanfare instead, for a great man of God to come and wave his hands over them and say something grand. Others want an easier way. Do they really have to get wet? Is dipping in that cold water really necessary?
The fact is that baptism is indeed a simple, even foolish act in the eyes of the world (1Cor 1:18) But it is the only way to be cleansed. Naaman was blessed to have servants to talk sense into him. They tell him, “If the prophet has told you to do something great, would you have not done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13). We too are presented with an impossible problem: the incurable disease of sin in this life, with the prospect of agony, torment and eternal death in the next. We can’t heal ourselves, nor can we buy a healing like Naaman tried to do with gold and silver (2 Kings 5:5). We should be willing to do whatever we are asked, no matter what it is. If God asked us to do something grand, wouldn’t we do it? How much more when He says, “Wash, and be clean?”
And in truth, salvation is the greatest, grandest act of our lives. It is the power of God working in us the miracle of healing. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). It contacts the priceless blood of Deity on earth. What’s more, we are told that angels and God Himself rejoice at our salvation (Luke 15:10). That should be fanfare enough for anyone!
Naaman wondered how the filthy river of Jordan could possibly heal his leprosy. Couldn’t he have stayed at home and washed in the better, cleaner rivers there? But it wasn’t about the water; it was about Naaman humbling himself and obeying the instructions given. With us also, it’s not about the water, or “removal of the filth of the flesh” (1 Pet 3:21). No matter if the river is as dirty as the Jordan or crystal clear. At the point of yielding and obeying, like Naaman eventually did, our souls are washed clean from the disease of sin and we are left without a scar, pure and clean and white “like the flesh of a little child” (2 Kings 5:14).
Like Naaman’s servants, I ask this: if you had a terminal disease, and the doctor came up with a cure and prescribed it to you free of charge, wouldn’t you take it to save your own life? How much more would you do to save your eternal soul?
Heather Auman (2019-01-27)