06 August, 2005

Historical Thoughts on Baptism



Baptism is a time when a child of believing parents(or new adult convert who has not been previously baptised) is brought into the covenant of grace and is made a member of the body of Christ.

This rite has become superstitious in a lot of the mainline denominations that baptize their children. This is a very sad and even Satanic attack on the sacrament that the Lord Jesus Christ has instituted to be the visual image of the bond between Him and his Bride.

This should cause us who hold to the old paths to know the doctrine, defend the doctrine, and above all to love the doctrine as the mark that separates the believer from the world.

This next Lord's Day, Owen Justice will be baptized at the Associate Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. I would like to include some documents that discuss baptism for your edification:

Westminster Confession of Faith

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.
II. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.
III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.
IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.
V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.
VI. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.
VII. The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.

Belgic Confession of Faith

We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law, has made an end, by the shedding of His blood, of all other sheddings of blood which men could or would make as a propitiation or satisfaction for sin; and that He, having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, has instituted the sacrament of baptism instead thereof; by which we are received into the Church of God, and separated from all other people and strange religions, that we may wholly belong to Him whose mark and ensign we bear; and which serves as a testimony to us that He will forever be our gracious God and Father.

Therefore He has commanded all those who are His to be baptized with pure water, into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, thereby signifying to us, that as water washes away the filth of the body when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled upon him, so does the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit internally sprinkle the soul, cleanse it from its sins, and regenerate us from children of wrath unto children of God. Not that this is effected by the external water, but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God; who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and to enter into the spiritual land of Canaan.

The ministers, therefore, on their part administer the sacrament and that which is visible, but our Lord gives that which is signified by the sacrament, namely, the gifts and invisible grace; washing, cleansing, and purging our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving unto us a true assurance of His fatherly goodness; putting on us the new man, and putting off the old man with all his deeds.

We believe, therefore, that every man who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal ought to be baptized but once with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same, since we cannot be born twice. Neither does this baptism avail us only at the time when the water is poured upon us and received by us, but also through the whole course of our life.

Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children. And indeed Christ shed His blood no less for the washing of the children of believers than for adult persons; and therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of that which Christ has done for them; as the Lord commanded in the law that they should be made partakers of the sacrament of Christ's suffering and death shortly after they were born, by offering for them a lamb, which was a sacrament of Jesus Christ. Moreover, what circumcision was to the Jews, baptism is to our children. And for this reason St. Paul calls baptism the circumcision of Christ.

The Second Helvetic Confession of Faith

The Institution of Baptism.

Baptism was instituted and consecrated by God. First John baptized, who dipped Christ in the water in Jordan. From him it came to the apostles, who also baptized with water. The Lord expressly commanded them to preach the Gospel and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). And in The Acts, Peter said to the Jews who inquired what they ought to do: Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37 f.). Hence by some baptism is called a sign of initiation for God's people, since by it the elect of God are consecrated to God.

One Baptism.

There is but one baptism in the Church of God; and it is sufficient to be once baptized or consecrated unto God. For baptism once received continues for all of life, and is a perpetual sealing of our adoption.

What it Means To Be Baptized.

Now to be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family, and so into the inheritance of the sons of God; yes, and in this life to be called after the name of God; that is to say, to be called a son of God; to be cleansed also from the filthiness of sins, and to be granted the manifold grace of God, in order to lead a new and innocent life. Baptism, therefore, calls to mind and renews the great favor God has shown to the race of mortal men. For we are all born in the pollution of sin and are the children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, freely cleanses us from our sins by the blood of his Son, and in him adopts us to be his sons, and by a holy covenant joins us to himself, and enriches us with various gifts, that we might live a new life. All these things are assured by baptism. For inwardly we are regenerated, purified, and renewed by God through the Holy Spirit; and outwardly we receive the assurance of the greatest gifts in the water, by which also those great benefits are represented, and, as it were, set before our eyes to be beheld.

We Are Baptized with Water.

And therefore we are baptized, that is, washed or sprinkled with visible water. For the water washes dirt away, and cools and refreshes hot and tired bodies. And the grace of God performs these things for souls, and does so invisibly or spiritually.

The Obligation of Baptism.

Moreover, God also separates us from all strange religions and peoples by the symbol of baptism, and consecrates us to himself as his property. We, therefore, confess our faith when we are baptized, and obligate ourselves to God for obedience, mortification of the flesh, and newness of life. Hence, we are enlisted in the holy military service of Christ that all our life long we should fight against the world, Satan, and our own flesh. Moreover, we are baptized into one body of the Church, that with all members of the Church we might beautifully concur in the one religion and in mutual services.

The Form of Baptism.

We believe that the most perfect form of baptism is that by which Christ was baptized, and by which the apostles baptized. Those things, therefore, which by man's device were added afterwards and used in the Church we do not consider necessary to the perfection of baptism. Of this kind is exorcism, the use of burning lights, oil, salt, spittle, and such other things as that baptism is to be celebrated twice every year with a multitude of ceremonies. For we believe that one baptism of the Church has been sanctified in God's first institution, and that it is consecrated by the Word and is also effectual today in virtue of God's first blessing.
The Minister of Baptism. We teach that baptism should not be administered in the Church by women or midwives. For Paul deprived women of ecclesiastical duties, and baptism has to do with these.

Anabaptists.

We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that newborn infants of the faithful are to be baptized. For according to evangelical teaching, of such is the Kingdom of God, and they are in the covenant of God. Why, then, should the sign of God's covenant not be given to them? Why should those who belong to God and are in his Church not be initiated by holy baptism? We condemn also the Anabaptists in the rest of their peculiar doctrines which they hold contrary to the Word of God. We therefore are not Anabaptists and have nothing in common with them.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 comments:

vedrafamily said...

nate,
we'll be there. can't wait to witness the sign of grace.
-vedras

Eva Lemmon..? said...

Oh boy! (No pun intended)

Julio said...

I wish I could be there, beholding that most wondrous act of our covenant-making God! What great joy! Please, do post pictures if you can.

shawn said...

Hey Nate, just a quick distinction on your definition of Baptism.

"Baptism is a time when a child of believing parents... is brought into the covenant of grace and is made a member of the body of Christ."

I know your doctrine, and so I'm not trying to "teach" you anything.
But it seems that this language lends itself to the false "Baptismal Regeneration" doctrine.

1. Can it be better said that one is recieves the sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace, visibly, as opposed to being "brought into" it?

2. Which body of Christ? Visible or Invisible? As you quote - "Visible"

3. I think that though the Anabaptists have done great damage in denying the membership of their children to the Visible Church, you have in the Auburn Avenue bunch (which is not at all a new doctrine, though new to them and their old standards) an equal sin and stumbling block to their children. It appears that they deny the Visible/Invisible distinction and therefore make their children members of the ONLY Church - the Historic Church. How confusing because at least it confuses what the Sign and Seal really is, and at worst it teeters on Presumptive regeneration.

4. Funny how Reformed and Presbyterian people have no problem telling their children that they have a descending obligation upon them to be Christ's people based upon a Covenant made with a man (Abraham), and yet they deny up and down the same principle when it is reversed. In other words, if you make a social covenant with God, and pass this faithful covenant down to your posterity, this is an unlawful binding? Based upon what? Gal 3:15

5. Tam and I too wish we could be there to witness such a visible gospel picture.

God bless Owen! and may Owen bless God.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Jesus say he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Obviously, I agree the shedding of blood has been taken care of. And the cerimonial laws are not needed. But how can one say that the Jesus is the end of the law, wouldn't he be more of a continuation of the covenant made with abraham?