I was interested to learn this parallel of groups operating in Christianity today from my pastor, Dr. Robert Shriner, who shared this in a sermon message. Some of the groups that operated during the time of the New Testament are still operating in the Christian movement today.
First of all, there were the Sadducees. They were the theological liberals. They were caught up in the rubrics of “proper” worship. They donned their garb and followed the rituals. They were experts at religion. Not so much focused on faith. Too busy to be concerned about mission and outreach to the lost.
A second group was the Pharisees. They were the archconservatives. They put emphasis on the teachings of men, not just the teaching of the Bible. They elevated writings of individuals who wrote their own interpretations of biblical theology. These guys practiced religion, but missed faith.
The third group was the Nazarenes. You might recognize the name because they gathered in Nazareth, and Jesus was one of them. They are ancestors or related to the Essenes. Truthfully, they are a radical group that would not bow to the Roman emperor. They died because of it!
Some famous Nazarenes would not only include Jesus, but also John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer. The Nazarenes went to the temple not to offer sacrifices, but to teach and preach. They offered baptism by water for purifying sin. This was common even in their days of the Qumran community. This is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Nazareth was one of these Essene communities. They practiced baptism. They also participated in meals with bread and wine, and it became a communal meal. Some might call it communion. Essenes became the first Christians.
When they looked at baptism, they declared it provided forgiveness of sins. Baptism brought a person into a relationship with Christ. That meant that they were no longer controlled by sin. They were liberated. They were victorious. Their guilt was removed.
Many years later, Martin Luther identified baptism as something that influences you every day, not just an event that took place when you became a Christian or as a young child. Luther described it as a posture of forgiveness that is ongoing.
This baptism occurred in a different way, with fire, at Pentecost. And that Pentecostal power occurs every day since that first Pentecost, and Christians experience it every day.
The promise from Scripture is that “these signs will accompany those who are believers.” It’s a power that can’t be denied.