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051 – The Example of Naaman

Welcome to A Faith that Obeys Podcast. This is the last scripture in our lengthy series about baptism and, it is quite a scripture. This story is found in the Old Testament, so you might wonder how an Old Testament scripture could be related to a New Testament baptism. Surprisingly, this scripture is very popular for the pro-baptism proponent and is used to prove that water baptism is connected to the washing away of sin. Let’s read it and see what we can discover.

2 Kings 5:1-14
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

A Foreshadow of Baptism

Well, I don’t really suppose there is much to discuss here. It is pretty obvious that Naaman washes himself and the leprosy goes away. This appears to be a foreshadowing of what will happen in baptism and it seems, on the surface, like a pretty good scripture to use in support of the claim that baptism washes away sin. I can certainly understand the “foreshadowing” nature of the claim but, I also see some problems.

First, Naaman was not baptized in the common sense. He has nobody helping into and out of the water. He was told to do this to himself. He is not immersed just once, he is immersed seven times! That’s inconsistent with the New Testament pattern. Yet we are left with the fact that Naaman is cleansed of his leprosy when he is washed.

So, is this scripture a good scripture us use in order to demonstrate that New Testament baptism washes away sin? Maybe, but not for the commonly used reasons.

When I hear someone using this scripture as a pro-baptism scripture while pointing to the water and how it washed away Naaman’s “sin.” I get a little uneasy. When I hear this line of thinking it reminds me of the problem inherent in this entire debate for the last 500 years. All too often, people point to the water or to the event of baptism as being effective for the removal of sin. It is time for this old tired argument to die. When we liken Naaman’s story to baptism we tragically miss the point. Like Naaman’s story, this entire debate is not about baptism. It’s about obedience. That’s the issue for us and that’s the issue for Naaman.

A Defining Moment

This story about Naaman, probably better than any other story we have looked at in our entire series, illustrates this most clearly. Naaman was not cleansed because he dipped himself seven times in the muddy ol’ Jordan river. His servants knew that and told him as much. Naaman is healed because he was desperate enough, hungry enough and humble enough to simply obey the word of God as it was delivered to him. Naaman was healed because he obeyed. Elisha could have told him to do anything. He just happens to tell him to dip himself in a river. Because he obeyed, Naaman is cleansed. This scripture is a magnificent example of why the argument is not about baptism, it’s about obedience. Naaman’s obedience is what saved him from his disease. Naaman’s servants saw it and got Naaman on the right track of obedience. Listen again to what the servants said.

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

Folks, obedience is the key to everything. God never bestows his favor on a person until they obey. We can not obey unless there is a command and when there is a command we have no choice but to obey if we wish to step into God’s grace. We always see the verb “do,” as in “perform this action,” attached to a command which demands obedience. And obedience always contains action.

Baptism is Faith in Action

The example of Naaman is a great foreshadow of New Testament baptism, not because he got wet but because of his obedience. Naaman was rescued from leprosy, not because he dipped himself in the Jordan but because had a faith that obeys!


Dana Haynes
Listen Now – Podcast 051 – The Example of Naaman

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