Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. ROMANS 6:3-4
Definitions Commonly Found - How will each stand "the test of God's Word"?
WordNet Dictionary: [n] a Christian sacrament signifying spiritual cleansing and rebirth; most churches baptize infants but some insist on adult baptism"
Webster’s 1912 Dictionary: n. to baptize, to dip in water, akin to dip, bathe, v. The act of baptizing; the application of water to a person, as a sacrament or religious ceremony, by which he is initiated into the visible church of Christ. This is performed by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring.
Westminster Confession (28.1): Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ.
The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism: Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament instituted by Jesus Christ,(Matt 28:19) to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death, burial, and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Him;(Romans 6:3-5; Col. 2:12; Gal 3:27) of remission of sins;(Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38;22:16) and his giving up himself unto God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.(Roman 6:3-4)
Harvest Christian Fellowship: Membership Curriculum Section VII -Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
Christian baptism, is symbolic of God's redeeming work in us through Christ sealed by the presence of God's Holy Spirit. Submitting to the sacrament of baptism means the believer trusts this atoning work of God, as the triune God. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: identifies the believer with each member of the trinity; declares allegiance to God as the one God who is three persons. Christian baptism is the form of a ceremonial washing like John The Baptist’s pre-Christian baptism for repentances of sin and preparing the way of the Lord. Christian baptism is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins. But unlike John's it also signifies spirit wrought regeneration and new life, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as God’s seal testifying and guaranteeing that one will be kept safe in Christ forever. Baptism is a commandment of Christ to his believers, and not an option.
Matthew 28:19 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.
Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Ephesians 5:25-27 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13-1413 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Baptism carries these meanings because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation. Christian baptism is founded and centered on the Gospel.
Romans 6:3-73 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Colossians 2:11-1211 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
1 John 5:11-1211And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
To whom is baptism to be administered? Baptism is to be administered to all those who actually profess repentance toward God, faith in and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to none other.
Matthew 3:6 ...and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
Matthew 28:19 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,
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Acts 2:37-38 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:36-38 36 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?” 37 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.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
How is baptism rightly administered? Baptism is rightly administered by immersion, or dipping the whole body of the party in water, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, according to Christ’s institution, and the practice of the apostles, and not by sprinkling or pouring of water, or dipping some part of the body, after the tradition of men.
Matthew 3:16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and Hesaw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
John 3:23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.
Matthew 28:19-2019 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, 20 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.
Acts 8:38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Colossians 2:12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
What is the duty of such who are rightly baptized?It is the duty of such who are rightly baptized to give up themselves to some particular and orderly church of Jesus Christ, that they may walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Acts 2:41-4241 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 5:13-1413 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
Acts 9:26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.
1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Luke 1:16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
Who are the proper subjects of the Lord’s Supper? They who have been baptized upon a personal profession of their faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance from dead works.
Acts 2:41-42 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
After considering the preceding questions (to whom, how, duties), how does baptism define the dynamics or make up of the visible/local church?
Often in many of today's Christian churches, baptism is 'the discarded jewel', even of many Baptist churches. Confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and a misplaced and distorting cultural conservatism all beset most churches today in their practice of baptism. The Southern Baptist Convention’s own study has suggested that only 40 percent of baptisms in cooperating churches are “first time” baptisms of converts. The majority of baptisms are either re-dedications or transfers of membership from other churches.
If baptism is so clearly described in the pages of the New Testament, what should it look like in the life of a local congregation today?
Andrew Fuller wrote in 1802 that the proper practice of baptism promotes “piety in individuals, and purity in the church.” Baptism itself is a summary of our faith. Baptism is a confession of sin and a picture of repentance. Baptism is a profession of faith in Christ. It reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and death as he identified with sinners and of his resurrection, and it portrays the radical nature of conversion. When rightly practiced, it distinguishes believers from unbelievers, the church from the world. It is, to cite Fuller again, “the boundary of visible Christianity.” Therefore, it should protect the church from nominalism. Baptizing only those who profess to be converted, and give evidence of it, is a foundational matter for a congregation that would be healthy, sound, and growing.
Baptism as an act of public worship, is a sign that leads to the One signified, therefore, magnifying and glorifying God. Baptism strengthens and encourages our faith not just for the one being baptized but also for every believer who witnesses a baptism.
Further Discussion- Early Church History and Other Views of Baptism that may have a hand in confusion of the theology of biblically based baptism.
Some within the Christian confession claim that baptism should be classified as a minor issue. Such a sentiment is misdirected, for baptism is regularly connected in scripture with belief and salvation. Baptism as spoken to by this lesson is the initiation rite into the Christian church. Those who label it as minor are imposing their own categories onto the Scriptures instead of listening to the Scriptures.
Timothy George, author of “The Reformed Doctrine of Believers’ Baptism” reminds us that those who practiced believer’s baptism during the Reformation risked “persecution and martyrdom,” and hence did not view baptism as a minor matter. This lesson is not claiming, of course, that a right understanding of baptism is necessary for salvation. Still, to say that a right understanding of baptism is unnecessary for salvation does not lead logically or biblically to the conclusion that baptism is inconsequential. Baptism is important precisely because it is tied to the gospel, to the saving work that Christ accomplished in his death and resurrection.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that baptism should be administered to infants. The reason for this is that the Catholic Church believes that baptism is necessary for salvation, and the act of baptism itself causes regeneration. Therefore, in this view, baptism is a means whereby the church bestows saving grace on people.
Ludwig Ott, in his “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” gives the following explanations: Baptism is that Sacrament in which man being washed with water in the name of the Three Divine Persons is spiritually reborn (p.350; Ott gives John 3:5; Titus 3:3; and Eph. 5:26 in support of this statement)
Baptism, provided that the proper disposition (Faith and sorrow for sin) are present, effects: a) the eradication of sins, both original sin and, in the case of adults, also personal, mortal or venial sins; b) inner sanctification by the infusion of sanctifying grace. (p. 354)
Even if it be unworthily received, valid Baptism imprints on the soul of the recipient an indelible spiritual mark, the Baptismal Character. . . . The baptized person is incorporated, by the Baptismal Character, into the Mystical Body of Christ. . . . Every validly baptized person, even one baptized outside the Catholic Church, becomes a member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. (p. 355)
The Protestant Paedobaptist view in contrast to both the Baptist position and belief, and to the Roman Catholic view above, another view is that baptism is rightly administered to all infant children of believing parents. This is a common view in many Protestant groups (especially Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches). This view is sometimes known as the covenant argument for paedobaptism. [The word “paedobaptism” means the practice of baptizing infants (the prefix paedo- means “child” ]. It is called a “covenant” argument because it depends on seeing infants born to believers as part of the “covenant community” of God’s people. This argument is based at least in part on: a) Infants were circumcised in the Old Covenant and baptism parallels circumcision. (Col. 2:11-12) and; b) Household Baptisms reported in (Acts 16:15, 16:33, 1 Cor. 1:16, and Acts 2:39).
A moment in church history concerning baptism:On May 1, 1523, two men, Ulrich Zwingli and Balthasar Hubmaier, stood by the moat of Zurich and were discussing baptism. Both were educated men, pastors who had broken with the Roman Catholic church. Both were championing the Bible as the sole source of Christian truth and practice. Both, according to Hubmaier’s account, agreed that day that the practice of infant baptism should be discontinued.
But the discussion by the moat was only a snapshot, for Zwingli would go on to become a ferocious persecutor of those who rejected infant baptism as well as the originator of a unique theological defense of infant baptism. Hubmaier, for his part, would continue to question infant baptism, eventually taking the decisive step of “rebaptism,” though for him and his party what their opponents called “rebaptism” was not rebaptism but simply true baptism, and would become the first systematic defender of the practice of “believer baptism” in the Reformation period. As Zwingli and Hubmaier diverged theologically, their personal rift became total. Several years after the conversation by the moat, Hubmaier was stretched on a rack in Zurich, with Zwinli’s knowledge and compliance. Shortly thereafter, in 1528, Hubmaier met his death at a stake in Austria. The 1520’s were a tumultuous decade in church history. People were reading the Bible and thinking new thoughts as well as questioning long standing traditions, all while starting new churches. The old practice of infant baptism had to be dealt with again, as in fact it was, in diverse and different ways.
Martin Luther affirmed in one of his early statements that baptism was the only thing that Rome had not ruined, but Luther did make adjustments to the medieval theology of baptism. Luther set forth a doctrine of baptism that took into account and emphasized faith and the Word. Luther proclaimed the centrality and sufficiency of faith for justification declaring that a sacrament apart from faith is empty. Luther meant the faith of the person being baptized, fides propria. So this raises the question, who should receive baptism? According to Luther “the one who believes is the person to whom the blessed, divine water is to be imparted.” Building on the ancient baptismal liturgy, which he kept largely intact in his creation of the “German Mass,” Luther affirmed quia credit-not because he is baptized, but because he believes. The point that Luther meant infants truly believe is clear from his exchanges with Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstad and the Bohemian Brethren in the early 1520’s. Carlstadt and other followers of Luther, building on Luther’s premise that “faith and baptism belong together” and the common sense observation that infants cannot believe, were moving towards the rejection of infant baptism. Luther countered this with “in baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” To the Bohemian Brethren, who were still baptizing infants but only on the basis of future faith, Luther replied with an appeal to the baptismal liturgy: “When the baptizer asks whether the infant believes, and it is answered ‘Yes’ for him, and whether he wants to be baptized, and it is answered ‘Yes’ for him . . . therefore it must also be himself who believes, or else those who answer must be lying when they say ‘I believe’ for him.” According to Luther, the infant’s credo, even though not spoken by his own lips, is truly his own.
So infant faith for Luther was truly faith, but he ignored the scholastic distinction between fides in usu (adult faith, consciously exercised) and fides in habitu (faith present but unexercised in infants). He rejected all viewpoints which, in his opinion, linked faith with the exercise of reason. Carlstadt, the Bohemian Brethren, and later, the Anabaptist, saw faith as an intelligent response to an understanding of the gospel message.
Zwingli didn’t just adjust the medieval theology of baptism, he dismantled and reconstructed it. Where Luther ambiguously suggested that baptism need not directly linked to faith, Zwingli boldly embraced and championed it. In 1525, Zwingly announced his revolution in his essay De Baptismo: “In this matter of baptism-if I may be pardoned for saying it-I can only conclude that all the doctors have been in error from the time of the apostles. This is a serious and weighty assertion, and I make it with such reluctance that had I not been compelled to do so by contentious spirits, I would have preferred to keep silence... At many points we shall have to tread a different path from that taken either by ancient or modern writers or by our own contemporaries.” In Zwingli’s doctrine, faith and baptism are separated because Zwingly realized the linkage between baptism and faith pointed toward the rejection of infant baptism. Then he rebuilt his doctrine of baptism by trying to parallel baptism and the New Covenant with circumcision of Old Covenant, thereby including infants. Zwingly was fully aware of the novelty of his doctrine. He also acknowledged the important role that his theological conflict with the Anabaptist, whom he referred to as “contentious spirits,” had played.
The story of the relationship of Zwingli and Hubmaier, as we have seen, is a sad one of friendship turned to enmity, a kind of microcosm of the bitter rift that came to separate the magisterial Reformers from the Anabaptists. At the center of this rift was Anabaptists’ defiant rejection of infant baptism, with all that was ecclesiastically and socially attached to the act, and their insistence that in order to be baptized, one must both believe in Christ and be able to say so with one’s own mouth. This is the baptism that Hubmaier laid out so clearly in the few years between his (re)baptism and his death. Hubmaier is quoted as stating “Baptism is nothing other than a public confession and testimony of an inward faith and commitment.”
Hubmaier clearly stood with the ancient tradition, which had held the faith-baptism nexus as a given, over against Zwingli, who had destroyed it. But instead of delving into speculations on how infants can fulfill the requirement for faith, as Augustine and the medieval theologians and Luther had done, Hubmaier simply discarded infant baptism. He was not , of course, alone in this momentous step, nor were the 16th-century Anabaptists the first to do so. There is evidence that throughout the medieval period, and especially after 1000, voices of protest arose against the practice of infant baptism, but the evidence is available only indirectly, through the arguments of Catholic theologians and the inquisitorial records. But the antipaedobaptist movement for which Hubmaier spoke was by far the biggest thing of its kind since the days of the apostles, and it had something that the medieval antipaedobaptist had not: the printing press.
Hubmaier’s doctrine can be encapsulated thus; only the person who confesses faith in Christ may be baptized. The term “believer baptism” does not really suffice, for as we have seen, both Catholics and Lutherans maintained that baptized infants are believers. It is the requirement that the baptismal candidate himself or herself be able to say “I believe” that makes the Anabaptist position unique. In short, what Hubmaier was calling for was confessor baptism.
Among Baptist today, as with Zwingli, there is a fear of allowing water baptism to come to close to the work of grace in the sinner’s heart; there are raised eyebrows and puzzled looks at the New Testament text that closely associates baptism with salvation; many would rather not baptize at all than leave room for the impression that baptism is an integral part of the conversion experience. But Baptist should understand that when they think in this direction, they move away from historic Baptist doctrine, and towards the quasi-platonic baptismal doctrine of Zwingli. It was Zwingli who accuse Hubmaier, the Baptist, of making too much of baptism. And it was Hubmaier who demanded that the inner work of the Spirit “must, must, must” be accompanied by the outward washing of water. It was Hubmaier who wrote in a letter to the reformer Oecolampadius, in January 1525: “We ourselves have earlier taught as well that according to the ordinance of Christ, the very young should by no means receive baptism. . . . Why, then, do we baptize the very young? Baptism, the saying goes [referring to Zwingli and Leo Jud], is a naked sign. Why is it that we dispute so fiercely over the “sign”? The sign is assuredly also a “symbol.” . . .The bonding signified by that sign and symbol (whereby for the sake of the faith and in hope of the resurrection to life eternal one binds oneself to God even unto death) should be valued more seriously than the sign itself.”
For Zwingli, baptism was a mere sign. For Hubmaier, it was more than a sign. Baptist historically belong in the high baptismal tradition which sees baptism as the expression and embodiment of the saving work of God, the sacramentum fidei, not just an act of obedience tacked on. Baptist historically have known how to embrace Peter’s declaration: 1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not because they ascribe a crude, magical saving power to the rite as such, but because they consider, on the basis of an open and personal confession, that the person coming to the water believes in Jesus Christ and that there is an inner reality to which the baptism corresponds. Baptism is not magic, but it is more than a sign. That is the heart of what the Reformation Anabaptist were saying, and was carried on with the Baptist who did not originate from Anabaptist, but most likely from English Separatism.
** Two previous "Theo@9" lessons also reference Baptism: Word and Sacrament; Sacraments.
** Most of the foregoing material was taken from: “Concise Theology” by J.I. Packer; "Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem; "Believers Baptism" by Thomas R. Schreiner & Shawn D. Wright; "The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism"; "Understanding Four Views On Baptism" by Paul E. Engle & John H. Armstrong; and "Baptist History and Heritage" by John S. Hammett.