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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Teach the Word - Not the Gospel of the Fathers: Baptism

Water Baptism

Nicolas Poussin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.  Matthew 28:18-20
These verses, known as the Great Commission, instructed the Disciples to baptize and teach their converts.  In obedience to this directive, a believer should submit to water baptism as soon as possible after placing faith in Christ.  The Bible contains hundreds of verses relating salvation to faith and belief, indicating that salvation is obtained by placing faith in Christ.  There are only a few verses that associate salvation with water baptism.  Water baptism is, however, the most widely held method of making a public profession of faith in Christ.  Furthermore, orthodox churches have traditionally associated baptism with the forgiveness of sins.
From the time of the second century until today churches have held differing beliefs about the timing and effects of water baptism.  Although “households” believed and were baptized, the baptism of infants was not documented in the Bible.   But church history indicates that some Christians were beginning to baptize their babies during the first few centuries.  On the other hand, during the third and fourth centuries many people practiced ‘death-bed’ baptism.  They believed that only pre-baptismal sins were removed at the time of water baptism.  Therefore, they put baptism off until the last moment so that they might enter heaven in their purest state.  The deathbed baptism theory was based on the assumption that baptism, rather than faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, was the agent which removes sin.
Most often the Bible indicates the order of our conversion experience as “repent and be baptized”.  The following section of scripture emphasizes the importance of oral confession prior to water baptism.  In this narrative, Philip had just explained how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Christ found in Isaiah 53.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.  Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"  Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."  So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.  Acts 8:36-38
It would appear from Philip's statement that this baptism depended upon the eunuch's belief that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of God.  Water baptism was identified from the time of John the Baptist as an act which accompanies repentance.  When infants undergo ritual baptism they are incapable of contemplating repentance.  Most churches which practice infant baptism also acknowledge the need for a confirmation at the age of accountability.  This system presumes that the child will grow to understand the lost state of their soul and will embrace Jesus as their savior.  But the conviction of sins by the Holy Spirit cannot be induced by man - it is a sovereign act of God.
God has granted free will to every person and each soul will be judged for their own life.  A child’s free will is never possessed by its parents.  Parents cannot pass salvation down to their heirs.  That is why it is said, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren”.  Parents can dedicate their children to the Lord after the model of Hannah with Samuel.  But God only knows whether they will respond to the cross and be saved.
Many adult Christians have been blessed by making their own declaration of faith in Christ during a second baptism, although we have no direct biblical mandate that would require a person to be baptized into Christ more than once in their lifetime.  Nevertheless, we do find a clear account of salvation prior to water baptism in the salvation of Cornelius.  After responding to Peter’s preaching, Cornelius and the people gathered at his house were then baptized after the fact.
“Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  Acts 10:47 - [end excerpt from Foundations of the Faith]

My Personal Experience

I was baptized in water as an adult, thinking that I was joining the body of Christ. At the time of this first baptism, I had know idea who Jesus was, or that I was a sinner. One day, while I was driving on a road trip and listening to someone's personal testimony, I believed upon Jesus Christ for salvation. Immediately I was changed, filled with the Holy Spirit - and I knew that my sins were forgiven. About a year later I was baptized in water in obedience to Christ and as a public confession of my faith. NEITHER of these baptisms saved me nor accomplished any further forgiveness of my sins beyond the forgiveness had I received when I believed on the finished work of Jesus Christ.

 

The Theological Problem with Infant Baptism

 

Even Anglicans acknowledge that infant baptism is sign rather than an act of salvation, and yet they honor it as a tradition.

 

Articles of Religion (39 Articles)
As established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the twelfth day of September, in the Year of our Lord, 1801.

XXVII. Of Baptism.
"Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.

The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ."

The question remains, where did Christ "institute" the baptism of children in the Bible? Show us the verse!

 

Infant baptism remains the right of each parent. But the problem raised by the practice is, "How is one saved from their sins?" By personal faith, or by ritual? And shouldn't the same discernment of the body and blood by required at baptism as it is at the sacrament of Eucharist? And is there a danger that the infant, once baptized, might neglect the importance of personal faith?

Can the teachings leading to confirmation take the place of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit in revealing the wrath of God from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men? And mightn't this quandary be a contributing cause of the "nominal church?"

Return to Tradition

Most likely because of the "diversity" of doctrine in today's Protestant churches, some ministers are returning to the traditions of the Early Church Fathers, instead of remaining steadfast in the teachings of the Apostles. They are teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. But heretical church leaders abounded even before the New Testament was written. In fact, Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude had to address the errors within the church as they were writing their epistles.

Teach the Word - Not the Gospel of the Fathers

"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." Colossians 2:6-10