A STUDY ON THE QUESTION OF REBAPTISM - Rev. John G. R. Kroeze
The basic vocabulary is: Baptizo. Baptisma. Baptismos. These are respectively the verb and nouns, meaning to baptize, and baptism. I will go further into the ritual meaning of these words in another post. For now I intend only to map out the terrain.
The basic meaning of baptizo in Scripture is to wash (Mk 7:4; Lk.11:38). The term refers in these texts to a washing rite to purify from, or prevent spreading, uncleanness.
Baptismos is also used in this sense (Mk7:4), for O.T. purification rites (Heb.9:10), and possibly for O.T. ritual washings in the N.T. church (Heb.6:2). In all these cases it is in the plural.
Baptizo in Mark 7:4 includes a textual question. If we go with the text as it stands we still have a difficulty, because the word could conceivably translated by 'take a bath'. In Luke 11:38 however it seems to be more a catch all term for washings.
The word 'baptismos' in the plural, used in Hebrews 6:2, is difficult since it appears in the middle of a list of things which contains nothing specifically N.T.. All the doctrines mentioned were known and defended in O.T. times. It could include a reference to the OT and pharisaic ritual washings as these were explained and clarified by the coming of Jesus Christ, or continued among Jewish Christians who still kept the Jewish customs. It could also be a reference to baptism, and even baptism for the dead (1 Cor 15:29), or include acts of hospitality such as foot washing (1 Tim.5:10), or comparisons of christian baptism with others, such as of John the Baptist. Because the other uses of this word in the plural do not refer to baptism, it would seem that we should not take it as a specific reference to baptism, although it may include it.
Baptizo, Baptisma, can also have a figurative meaning, referring to the suffering of Christ and can include martyrdom of the disciples for the sake of Christ (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 12:50).
The other texts which use the words baptizo, baptisma, baptismos refer to christian baptism. Baptismos is used in this sense only once, and then in the singular (Col.2:12, a curious text, for the use of baptismos instead of baptisma is an exception to the apostle Paul's normal vocabulary.).
These words use certain prepositions, eis (into, unto, to) plus accusative case, en (in, with, by) plus dative case, and epi (upon) plus dative case, or simply the dative or genitive case without any preposition.
Baptizo, or Baptisma, with eis can indicate:
1) place of baptism ( the Jordan river Mk 1:9),
2) purpose or result (e.g. unto repentance, unto forgiveness of sins, Mat 3:1; Mk 1:4; Lk.3:3; Acts 2:38), 3) union with. It is used to indicate union with the body of Christ, the church (1 Cor 12:13), Christ in his death (Rom.6:3), union with the name into which one is baptized. (Mat.28:19; Acts 8:16; 19:5; Rom.6:3; 1 Cor.1:13,15) No one is ever baptized into the name of John the Baptist, but into his baptism (Acts 19:3). People can be baptized into Moses as into Christ (1 Cor 10:2; Gal 3:27; there is no mention of "the name" in these texts). The fact that one can be baptized into Moses would seem to be because he was God's O.T. saviour and law giver, a forerunner of the Christ.
Baptizo and Baptisma with en can indicate;
1) place (Mat 3:6)
2) the instrument/medium of baptism; in/with water, or in/with the Holy Spirit and in fire. In the case of the fire not explicitly so, but the preposition en governs both nouns (Mat.3:11; Mk.1:5; Lk.3:16; Joh.1:33; 1 Cor.12:13). In the case where the dative only is used for water, en used with the Holy Spirit only could indicate the active element, i.e. the Spirit comes upon the one baptized consciously or voluntarily.
3) the name into which one is baptized, (unless baptizo goes with the verb to command, meaning to command as a representative of the Lord, but that is less likely) (Acts 10:48).
Baptizo with epi appears in Acts 2:38, a crucial text. The use of epi may simply be:
1) under the influence of Aramaic a substitute for eis (in both Hebrew and Aramaic the equivalent preposition can shade over into el (Holladay, en loc.), which is equal to pros or eis in Greek),
2) a stylistic question to not have the preposition eis appear twice in a row and a controlling desire to reserve eis for the word forgiveness (this could be combined with 1)),
3) an ellipsis for something like "calling upon the name of the Lord" (p288, Bauer, Gringrich, Danker 1979) cf.Acts 22:16,
4) mean the basis upon which (which is a classic use of epi + dative) forgiveness is offered. 3) and 4) fill each other out since 4) could indicate the content of the calling upon the name of the Lord of 3).
Baptizo and Baptisma with the dative case only indicate the medium in which one is baptized. In Mark and Luke, if it is used in a sentence in which both water and the Holy Spirit is mentioned, water is in the dative case without the preposition 'en', and the Holy Spirit receives the preposition 'en' (Mk.1:8;Lk.3:16; Acts 1:5, 11:16), however in Matthew and John both receive the preposition 'en'. These differences would seem to be more a question of taste than of meaning, although the consciousness of the Holy Spirit should not be lost sight of. He is not a passive element as water.
Baptisma plus a noun in the genitive case is a genitive of definition (of repentance Mk 1:4, Lk.3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). It can refer to a person. In all these cases it identifies it as John's baptism.
THE MEANING OF BAPTISM
The baptism of John is a much disputed baptism. Its relation to christian baptism is often debated among the reformed and others because there is no forgiveness of sins outside of Christ. Among pentecostals John's baptism is often said to be the water part of christian baptism. Full christian baptism then includes baptism in or by the Spirit as a separable element. This explanation is not correct
The baptism of John was from heaven (Mat.21:25 and par. Lk.3:3; John 1:6-8, 33). He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord. i.e. to prepare the people of God to receive their coming Lord by calling them to repentance (Mat 3:2,3-10;11:10; Mk 1:2-6; Lk 1:16-17, 76-79; 3:4-9; John 1:23,31; 3:28), He was sent to baptize in order that those who believed in his message and were baptized might receive forgiveness of sins (see above texts). The immersion in water would suggest that it was understood as some sort of purification rite. John himself understood baptism to have a purification effect (Mat.3:14). There was however no such rite prescribed in the O.T.
It is said that proselytes were baptized, but despite this, baptism was seen as peculiar by the Jews. According to them only the Christ, Elijah or the Prophet would baptize (John 1:25). This would imply that they thought that baptism was a thing which could only be done by a long awaited God appointed leader. So it was a very special purification rite. Perhaps it should be understood to answer the need that Joshua 22:17 makes clear, where it was said that Israel had still not been cleansed from the iniquity of Baal Peor, despite the punishment received. i.e. another type of cleansing was needed for sins which could not be pardoned under the provisions of the Law (cf. Acts 13:39). By the time of John of course this iniquity had piled heaven high. If this is the case we can understand that they thought it needed either the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet to baptize. The cleansing required was beyond the provisions of the Law. (John was of course identified as Elijah by Christ, but that does not mean that he had to answer to the Jewish expectations. His baptism was from heaven, but he himself emphatically separates it from the baptism by the Lord (see below).)
Part of John's task was to identify the Lord (Mat.3:11-12 and par. John 1;7,15, 26-27, 29-36; 3:29-36). One constant element in his preaching was to differentiate himself from the Lord (John 1:20, 28; Acts 13:25), and to differentiate his baptism from the baptism which Jesus would effect. He baptized in water, while Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mat 3:7-12; Mk.1:7-8; Lk3:7-19), which put in general terms would mean the ultimate in blessing and in judgment. Water in the baptism of John is therefore something of little value in comparison to the baptism which the Lord will give. This comparison already drives a wedge between John's baptism and christian baptism, even though the same element, water, is present. Other points raised in John's preaching are that the Lord came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29,36), and that he who believes in Him has eternal life, and he who doesn't continues under the wrath of God (John 3:36). This is picked up by the apostle Paul in Acts 19:4.
For a while the baptism of John was copied by the disciples of Jesus (John 3:26; 4:1-2). This is a sort of intermediate state, since there is no christian baptism formula mentioned. It underlines the elements of continuity from the one baptism to the other, water and repentance.
When we move on to christian baptism the great difference is that one is baptized into a name. One was baptized into the baptism of John, not into the name of John (Acts 19:3), but the Lord Jesus Christ commanded to baptize "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mat.28:19). The best way to understand this is as indicating a being united to.
It is strange, but this formula does not return anywhere in the N.T.. What does appear is baptism into the name of Jesus Christ only. One cannot be baptized into the name of the Father, or into the name of the Holy Spirit only. It is therefore clear to those who believe in the unity of the Bible, that the point of entry into relation with the Father and the Spirit is the Son. He who is baptized into the name of Jesus Christ is united with the Father and with the Spirit. The two formulas are effectively equivalent.
1) In Acts 2:38, the first and most explicit example of christian baptism in the Bible, the apostle Peter says: "Repent (plural) and be baptized (singular), each of you, upon the name of Jesus Christ, unto forgiveness of your (pl) sins and you (pl) will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (my rather literal translation).
- The word repent can be understood an element of continuity with John's baptism. In the immediate context (2:36) it demands a reaction to the fact that Israel had crucified the Lord and Christ. This is however only a particular case of a general ill: the rejection of God, which is the problem that John addressed. What Israel does in general, it did in crucifying the Christ whom God had sent and certified (2:22).
2)"Be baptized (sg)...upon the name of Jesus Christ" is a difficult phrase to exegete, but its meaning is important for us. The possible
meanings are numerous (see Part 1 for some possibilities). The individual must be baptized upon ('epi') the name of Jesus Christ. In the context the element of recognition of Jesus as Lord and Christ is prominent (2:36) Therefore if we allow this to weigh in our understanding, the word upon will imply a recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ. If we compare with 8:12 we note that the preaching "concerning (peri)... the name of Jesus Christ" must refer primarily to his position in the kingdom of God. We can then paraphrase 'upon the name of Jesus Christ' as: upon the recognition that Jesus Christ is Lord, or more broadly, upon the recognition that Jesus Christ reigns in the kingdom of God. Baptism is therefore constitutive of the people of God; those who recognize that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, and therefore submit to baptism, submit to Him (cf. Jer. 33:15-18; Ez. 37:21-28). This is an element of discontinuity when compared with the baptism of John. John could only prepare for the Lord's coming. Now the Lord has come, and baptism becomes a union with and submission to Him.
3) "unto forgiveness of your (pl) sins" is one result of this baptism. By submission to Christ's rule one receives forgiveness of sins. This
forgiveness is something given to the people of God constituted in Christ. (cf. Jer. 31:32-34; 33:8,16) Baptism for the remission of sins is also an element which continues from John's baptism, but forgiveness now has a name.
4) "and you (pl) will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the other result of baptism into the name of Jesus Christ. This was a visible truth at that moment together. The signs were the sound of wind, tongues of fire, and speaking in tongues. The Spirit remains a constant element among the people of God. It is and must remain so to fulfill the O.T. prophecies (cf. Ez.11:19 (cf 18:31); 36:25-29a). It is also the fulfillment of John the Baptist's preaching (cf. Acts 1:5). It is the element which finally separates the baptism of John from christian baptism. John has no equivalent to this, but it is inseparably linked to
baptism by water.
The separation of water and Spirit in the case of the Samaritans (8:12,15-17) and the gentiles (10:44,47-48; 11:15-17) only serves to underline the essential union of the two elements. The two belong together. In the former case the apostles showed that the Samaritans were to be included in the church, the apostolic approval being based on Christ's prior example (John 4:39-42). In the latter case God showed that also the gentiles were to be included, so that it would be acceptable to the church (11:1-3, 18).
Elements of Continuity
Earlier we compared the baptism of John and christian baptism. There are some elements of continuity between the two baptisms, the main ones being, repentance, forgiveness and water. Now we are going to look at these elements of continuity, especially water.
Water in Baptism
What significance does the water have? And how is it linked to forgiveness? As pointed out earlier, baptism is not an O.T. rite. It needed someone who could institute new rites to institute baptism, either Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet (John 1:25). It seems to be a hybrid including thoughts from purification and sacrifice. Therefore to understand baptism we will have to seek out the background of this rite and compare it to sacrifice. There are several places we can look.
O.T. purification rites: There are quite a number of purification rites in the O.T., none dealing with moral sin. We do not read that one who e.g. had stolen or killed had to wash before entering God's temple. He had to sacrifice. Washing rites were to remove the guilt of cultic uncleanness (cf. esp Lev.11-15; Num 19), which resulted from eating or touching the bodies of unclean animals, blood of childbirth, 'leprosy', semen, menstrual blood, coitus, and touching a dead person, or touching anything which had been in contact with a thing or person so contaminated. With such sources of contamination, most of Israel must have been constantly unclean. Purification by water was therefore a constant feature of Israelite life, and caused all sorts of washings to come into vogue (e.g. Mk.7:2-5). Baptism fits in neatly with this trend.
From the O.T. it would seem that purification by washing is the ritual which precedes the coming into the presence of God. No one could enter into the tabernacle/temple of God if unclean (e.g. Lev.12:4,13:46;15:13-14,28-29,31. There had to be a ritual which would put the person in the requisite state of cleanness to enter into God's presence. This extended to entering into the camp of God, because an unclean person was placed outside the camp (e.g. Num 5:1-4; Dt 23:10-11). Uncleannes in the camp caused God to turn away (Dt.23:14) Uncleanness, therefore, seperated one not only from God and the temple of God, but also from the people of God. Purification rites therefore allowed (re)entry into God's presence and into the people of God.
To be ceremonially unclean was to be guilty before the Lord. If one did not purify oneself one could be cut off from the nation (e.g. Lv.17:16;Num 19:20), and that was true if one knew it or not (Lev.5:2). It therefore should be understood that John's baptism also purified one from such guilt. The baptism of John can then be understood to be a certain type of purification rite, cleansing from ceremonial guilt, so that the people could meet their Lord when he came.
There are, however, indications in the O.T. that water would be used to purify the people from moral sin as well. B.F.Westcott in his commentary on John 1:25 suggests Ez.36:25; Is 52:15; Zech 13:1 as background. The first text is especially relevant. Sprinkling with clean water will cleanse Israel from its filthiness and idolatry. This text, among many others, shows that uncleanness is not only a cultic concept in the O.T., but has also become a moral concept. Because of this the step to purification from moral sin by washing with water is a small one. Nevertheless, it was not an O.T. or Mosaic rite. John's baptism and christian baptism move beyond the Mosaic law in that they include purification from moral sin.
The moment that purification by washing enters into the sphere of moral sin, we have to sort out the relation of purification to sacrifices to understand the change which takes place. The difference between purification by washing with water and forgiveness by sacrifice is broadly, that the former has reference to the impure state, which excluded one from the presence of God and His people, while sacrifice has reference to the sinful act or omission, which only excluded one from the presence of God if it was not forgivable under the Mosaic law, or deliberately left unatoned. Since the sinful act or ommission does not necessarily exclude from the temple of God, we must understand that impurity has reference to a more fundamental stratum of human life: to the state and not the act. In fact we should understand purification as the 'sine qua non' of sacrifice, for only the clean could enter the temple to offer. So only the clean could be forgiven. Purification with water then has strong links to the sacrificial blood of the covenant which was sprinkled on Israel, which brought the law covenant relation between God and His people into existence (Ex.24:6-8).
Baptism, therefore, by its use of water, seems to be related to the purification rites of the O.T., since it accomplishes what the purification rites accomplished, although it also moves beyond them by the fact that it is intimately connected to the blood of the covenant . Christian baptism then, we may say, purifies, not from ceremonial uncleanness (cf. Mk.17:9), but certainly from the unconscious uncleanness and guilt of original sin, and of sins of commission or omission. It is the entering into the covenant with God, by the sprinkling of Christ's blood (1 Pet.1:2). It is the washing/purification we must undergo to enter into the presence of God, by which we are justified and sanctified (1 Cor.6:11). It is also the entry rite into the people of God.
1) One element which is important for the rebaptism question arises here. Should baptism be repeated or can it be a re-entry rite? The O.T. purification rites were constantly repeated because they could not cleanse permanently (Heb.9:9-10). They only provided a sort of cultic purity (Heb.9:13). The death of Christ is however a once only matter, and, prima facie, that would imply that baptism is a once only matter as well, the one baptism into His death serving to cleanse us once and for all (cf.Heb.9:26,28).
2) Another source for baptism by water is creation, since in christian baptism the water element is maintained and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is added. In the beginning the earth was formless and empty, but coverd by water. The water was where the Spirit hovered (Gen.1:2). The Spirit was engaged in ordering and bringing forth a new creation from the waters. That this is an important element to understand baptism is evident from 1 Cor 10:1-2 where the apostle Paul argues that all Israel was under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. It seems that the apostle Paul understood baptism to include an earthly and a celestial element, and for this reason he could call the passage through the Red Sea a baptism. This element is also present when he found some disciples who had been baptized only with the baptism of John ( Acts 19:1-6). His first question was if they had received the Holy Spirit. We can also see this understanding in Christ's words to Nicodemus although He does not refer explicitly to baptism. In the context of John 1:1-5 the words "unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5) have a definite (re)creation content.
This is also evident from 3:3 where "born again" can also be translated as "born from above". The Greek, 'anothen', has both meanings. The new creation is brought forth from the water by the Spirit. The feeling one gets from this text is that water is more a symbolic element than a real one. The apostle Paul also shows this understanding when he says that we were saved "through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom he poured out upon us richly" (Titus 3:5-6). The earthly element returns, but by lending its characteristics to the heavenly. The Spirit washes us and is poured out upon us. Liquidity is a property which begins to affect the portrayal of the heavenly element of baptism. We will go further into this when we study baptism by the Spirit. For now, what is important is that God brings life from what cannot produce life, the water of baptism.
3) Another water related element in the O.T. is the element of destruction/salvation by water, since the apostle Peter calls baptism the antitype of the flood.
The Lord separated the water and the dry land in creation, but in the flood He allowed it to cover the land again in order to destroy all living things, except those He chose to save in the ark. He again did a similar thing at the Red Sea, where the Egyptians perished in the water, but Israel passed through safely. It also echoes in the background when Israel passes through the flooding Jordan to gain their full salvation, and in the course of which they will excercise the judgement of God on the Canaanites. The apostle Peter shows that he understands baptism in this light when, in the context of God's judgement on the pre-diluvians, he calls baptism the antitype of the saving of a few through water in the days of Noah (1 Pet.3:19-21). The purification element is also present here, because baptism does not remove the filth of the flesh (cf. Heb.9:13), but is "an appeal from a good conscience unto God through the ressurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 3:21, my translation). Baptism is therefore a judgement of God on sin, and at the same time a saving and purifying of conscience by the ressurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is also the apostle Paul's understanding, when he says that those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into the death of Christ and buried with Him through baptism into death. That is the judgement side, but immediately he follows with a reference to the ressurrection of Christ, and the newness of life in which we should walk (Rom 6:3-4).
Repentance and Forgiveness
The cry of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ was "repent for the Kingdom of God is nearby" (Mat 3:2; 4:17). The baptism of John was a "baptism unto repentance", and people came and were baptized by him confessing their sins (Mat.3:11,6). It was a baptism for the purpose of, or with the result of (eis) remission of sins (Mk.1:4). That was also the case with christian baptism (Acts 2:38; 11:38; 22:16).
One thing which is becoming clear is that John's baptism must have been in conflict with the temple personnel. They must have felt they were being superceded. An alternative source of cleansing and forgiveness was being offered by God. That is probably another reason that the clerics of that time insisted that it required Christ or Elijah, or the Prophet to baptize.
Another thing which is becoming clear is that we must not confuse christian baptism with the Lord's supper, as if we have everything in baptism already. There is a real and necessary difference between them corresponding to purification and sacrifice. The Lord's supper can only be participated in by those who have been cleansed and forgiven in baptism, who have entered into the covenant relation with God, established by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In baptism we are dealing with a new rite. It is basically a covenant establishing rite based on the O.T. purification rites, which has judgement/salvation and regeneration/renewal/recreation overtones. Next time we will look more at the place of Christ and His death in our understanding of baptism.
Genesis 17:7,19; 9-10,14 speak of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants, especially through Isaac. The kernel of the covenant was that God would be a God to them, and they would be His people. This relation continues into the N.C. ( = new covenant) (2 Cor.6:16-7:1; Heb.8:10; 1 Pet.2:9-10; Rev.21:30). The sign of the old covenant was circumcision, and those who did not circumcise themselves were cut off from God's people. Circumcision thus became the sign of entry into the covenant with God, and a matter of obedience. All male Israelites were obliged to be circumcised. Later on its spiritual interpretation is given and it becomes a metaphor for repentance and renewal. To circumcise the heart meant to cut off that which
was hard hearted, and love the Lord (Dt.10:16; 30:6; Jer.4:4; cf. Rom.2:29). Initially it may have included another meaning, perhaps many descendants, since it is often a fertility rite, and was given in the context of precisely such a promise, but this is impossible to verify.
A confusing matter in Scripture is the relation of circumcision to the law. Circumcision is really the sign of the covenant made with Abraham, and not of the law covenant, and even though circumcision and law can be intimately linked, Jesus asserts that the connection is 'nuanced' (John 7:22).
Nevertheless it must be said that circumcision obliges Israelites to keep the whole law (e.g.Rom.2:25; Gal.5:3), since the law covenant was made with all Abraham's descendants from Moses on.
The Circumcision of Christ
That Jesus was circumcised is a matter of course from one perspective. It established the covenant relation between the child Jesus and God, but seen from the side of its spiritual meaning it is of course as strange as His baptism, since He had no sin. It therefore warrants a closer look.
Circumcision was of course a voluntary act of Jesus Christ. This may appear strange, because he was eight days old when circumcised, but the reality is that the pre incarnate Son decided to go this way. So even though as a human He exercised no choice, it nevertheless remains a voluntary act, and not simply an indignity to which he was erroneously subjected. By circumcision the Lord united Himself to His people under the law, and therefore was subjected to the curse of the law, since in his being an Israelite He was also one with them in their sin. He could, therefore, legitimately pay for their sins as one of the law's subjects (Gal.4:4-5). That means that the right to be able to bear their sins belongs not only to the fact that Jesus was human, but also to being under the law.
The Relation of Circumcision and the Baptism of Christ
The relation between the circumcision and the baptism of Christ seems to be simply that the latter was the willing assumption, as a human, of the task the pre incarnate Son had willingly taken upon Himself by being born under the law. However the death of Christ reveals the full content of the sign of circumcision. The sign of the cutting off of the flesh is fulfilled in the death of Christ, and so its meaning is fully revealed, and the sign itself becomes part of the teaching of baptism.
Romans 6:3-14 does not specifically mention circumcision, but death is here portrayed as a part of baptism. Baptism (by immersion) symbolizes the death ("baptized into His death"), burial ("we were buried with Him through baptism into death"), and resurrection of Jesus Christ ("just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we might walk in newness of life").
Colossians 2:11-15 mentions circumcision in the same context. What is cut off in the circumcision of Christ is the "body (of the sins- a text question) of the flesh". In context circumcision must refer to Christ's death on the cross which is immediately linked to His baptism. The term circumcision then is used to describe Christ's death which elsewhere is portrayed as part of the baptism of Christ. It is the first of the three parts of baptism: viz. death. The other two parts are again burial ("buried with Him in baptism") and resurrection ("in which you were also raised with Him"). We can say that circumcision as a sacrament was fulfilled in the death or baptism of Christ, and came to an end as a sign. Nevertheless it continues by means of the incorporation of its significance into baptism. Together with the sign, the O.T. came to an end, and the N.T. was instituted with the new and richer sign: baptism.
The Relation between Christ's Death and our Baptism
Jesus Christ called the suffering He would have to undergo in Jerusalem a baptism. He spoke of it as the goal of His mission (Lk.12:50). He also spoke of this baptism as a present factor during His ministry (Mk10:38-39). The term baptism can have the destructive sense of to be overcome by a flood of something, and as such the use of the word 'baptism' need not have any further reference than to his death, but we may still ask why Jesus would use precisely that word. The explanation is probably that both of these texts are related to His baptism in the Jordan, which symbolized His death, and made His death on the cross inevitable. At that point Jesus took the sins of His people upon Himself (Mat.3:15). If that is so, Jesus Himself laid a connection between His baptism and His death, indicating that the reality to which His baptism referred was His death.
In all the synoptic gospels Jesus' baptism stands at the beginning of His ministry. In Matthew the baptism of Jesus is seen as strange by John, but Jesus wishes it to "fulfil all righteousness", which in context of the book can hardly mean anything else except to "save His people from their sins". In
Mark the baptism simply marks the beginning of Jesus' ministry. In Luke it also functions as the beginning of the ministry, but the portrayal stresses that Jesus is baptized as one of the people. For the ministry of the Christ to begin, Jesus had to identify Himself with the sins of His people first. Only as
voluntarily united to His people in their sins could He fulfil His task: dying for them.
He was anointed by the Spirit as part of His ordination. Matthew has Jesus coming up immediately from the water so Matthew shows Jesus' desire for the ordination. Luke stresses this in another way, for in his gospel, after the baptism, Jesus was praying when the heavens were opened and the Spirit descended. Heaven also showed itself eager, for Mark has the heavens opening immediately that Jesus comes up from the water, and the Spirit
In all three accounts the words of the Father are mentioned. He was ordained with the words: "This is (you are) my Son, the beloved, in whom (in you) I was well pleased (aor indic). The tense of this last verb is interesting. It is mostly translated is a present tense, but is in the past. The noun form of this
verb is usually translated by 'good pleasure', and usually refers to a sovereign choice made by God. The verb then would seem to refer to an elective choice made by God in the past. It would then mean: This is my Son, the Beloved, whom I was pleased to choose. This is a public, sovereign statement of appointment of Christ to His threefold office, in the exercise of which He would have to die/be baptized.
Our Union with Christ in His Baptism/Death
However the last word of baptism is not death, but resurrection, and the establishment of the new people of God.
After His resurrection Jesus ordered His disciples to disciple all nations. Literally He says: "All authority in heaven and upon earth was given (aor.indic.pass.) to me. Therefore, having gone (aor pt), disciple (aor impv) all the nations , baptizing (pres pt) them into the name of the Father and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them (pres pt) to keep (pres inf) everything whatsoever I have commanded you (aor indic)." Exactly when Jesus Christ received all authority is not clear from the grammar. We should understand His baptism as His anointing to the task, and His ressurrection/ascension/session as the installation. He then, as the Lord, instructs His disciples.
From the grammar it is clear that the disciples have to set out and to disciple the nations where they come. The aor. impv. means the discipling was to be a time limited action. The discipling consisted of baptizing into the name of.. and teaching disciples to keep constantly (pres inf) what was once (aor indic) commanded by the Lord, i.e. during His time on earth with them.
The commandment to disciple was given to the eleven (Mat.28:16). That means that the baptizing the church does, is based on the commandment once given to the apostles, and based on the apostolic foundation, with Christ as the cornerstone (cf. Eph.2:20). It would also seem to mean that baptism is not the prerogative of any church member, but only of those appointed there to.
This may affect the rebaptism question when the person in question was baptized by one not authorized by Scripture or church. It can also raise questions about the validity of a baptism administered by one authorized by a church, but that authorization is suspect on Scriptural grounds. e.g. in the RC church, baptism by a nun or 'lay' person in emergencies. The problem is a subjective one, for the one so baptized cannot draw much comfort from his baptism if he does not think it is valid. This question was a real one in the ten tribes, where the priesthood was illegitimate (1 Kings 12:31,32), and the worship of God was illegitimate, but still God addressed these priests and this false church, and maintained His covenant rights and sanctions (e.g. 1 Kings 13; Hosea; Amos 4:1-5; 7:10-17).
The verb 'disciple' means to be a pupil, or to make someone your follower. The fact that the Lord spoke of discipling here means that He wished men to be made followers of Him who had received all authority in heaven and upon earth. Those who did could be baptized into the name of the Triune God. The obedience of faith to the Lord put the disciples into communion with the Triune God. Therefore the rest of the N.T. does not introduce something new when it speaks only of baptism into the name of Jesus. Baptism into the name of Jesus or into the name of the Triune God is the new covenant sign, which establishes the new covenant relation in which the Triune God is our God, and we His people, and so constitutes the new nation, the new people of God.
The question of the use of the right baptism formula comes up here. If someone were baptized only into the name of Jesus Christ the baptism is valid, but this is the only variation possible.
The rebaptism question also raises its head, because does e.g. a Roman Catholic still have a relation to the Triune God through Jesus Christ today? This question is closely related to the true church question. If only the true/faithful church has a relation to God through Jesus Christ, then it can recognize the baptism of no other church. I think that this perspective is wrong. In the O.T. and in the N.T. God addresses His people on the basis of His claim on them, and on their pretensions, whether they are faithful or not (e.g. Ezekiel 23:37-39). It would therefore not seem to be of fundamental importance to establish the validity of baptism to know if the church which baptized was a true or faithful church or not, but if God obliges the person baptized to the obedience of faith because of the covenant relation between the person and God established by the sacrament of baptism.
In other words it would seem to be God who maintains His claim on them established by baptism, and this validates baptism. The removal of the lamp stand (Revelations 2:5) of a disobedient church does not change this. The Lord takes away His Spirit, which means that church is dead, but not without its continuing covenant obligations. That is also clear from the continuing covenant curses over covenant breakers. God maintains His covenant rights and sanctions while such a church exists.
The question of what the force of being baptized is now arises. Is it simply a matter of being in communion with the Triune God? Is it a blessing which puts God's name on His people (cf. Num 6:27)? What does it signify/do? Does it call us to do/be anything?
In Romans 4:11-12 circumcision was a sign of the righteousness that Abraham had by faith, and so must function as a call to the faith which justifies. Abraham became the father of all believers since he was the first to receive the sign of the righteousness by faith. The sign, however, also showed the
content of that faith: the removal of the flesh. The faith of Abraham was to be a faith in God, that one day He would condemn and overcome sin in the flesh, and this happened in the baptism/death of Christ. Circumcision, therefore, called Abraham to faith in Christ (John 8:56).
Can we say that Jesus received His baptism as a sign of his righteousness through faith? Yes, but not without qualification. We can say that Jesus had to live by faith as part of His sharing our human state (cf. Heb.5:7-9). That was an element of the obedience He owed as a man. However, He was not justified as one of the ungodly (Rom.4:5) as we are. He was justified because He was sinless, because He lived in perfect faith, and so death had no hold over Him. The resurrection part of His baptism proves His righteousness, (and the sufficiency of His sacrifice for us (Rom.4:25)). It was the proof that Jesus was righteous by faith in God (cf. Heb. 9:14; 5:7-9). Therefore those who are baptized into Christ receive the sign of the righteousness by faith which He received, are called to faith, not only to the perfect faith of Jesus our Lord, but to faith in Jesus Christ. In comparison with Abraham, there is an escalation, for Israel was not called to faith in Abraham, but to the same faith as Abraham in Christ.
The baptism of Christ then is a condemnation of sin in the flesh, a call to the perfect faith of Christ, and a call to faith in the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. The call which comes from baptism is a call to a new life in the Spirit. It is a call to a life not under the law, since we have been condemned by it and have paid the penalty (death) in Christ Jesus, but to a life under grace where the law can no longer condemn us to death (Rom.7:4,6).
Col.2:11-14 is important in this respect. We were dead in our transgressions and uncircumcision of flesh, but in Him we were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in which the body of sin was put off. We were buried with Christ in baptism and also raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead, who also raised us to life, for He forgave us our sins, erased the charges, and nailed the charge sheet to the cross. Christ had paid in death, putting of the body of the flesh (cf. Rom.8:3; 2 Cor.5:14, 21), had been buried and risen. By baptism we accompany our Lord in that trajectory. We enter into Christ's death, burial and resurrection symbolically and spiritually in baptism by immersion. Death and burial is to sin (Col.3:5,8), and to the rudiments of the world (2:20), and life is setting our minds on Christ (3:1-4), and renewal (3:9-17).
Romans 6:1-14 also describes the same understanding. We have died to sin, because those who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. Union with Christ is union with Him in His death. Baptism therefore symbolizes the judgement on sin, and our death with Him. God condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3) when Christ died, and so the flesh of those who believe and were baptized was condemned and died also (cf. 2 Cor.5:14). This union extends further, for the apostle Paul is speaking of baptism by immersion here. Under the water is equal to being buried with Christ. So not only the cross, but also the grave of Jesus Christ is in view here. The actual words are interesting here: "We were buried, therefore, with Him through baptism into that death...".The burial is part of that death. We were united to the death of Christ to that degree, "in order that as Christ was raised from the dead..thus also we might walk in newness of life." The ressurection of Christ also is part of the symbolism of baptism (coming up from the water), and includes a moral imperative. He who is baptized passed from death to life, a God serving life.
Philippians 3:1-11 also works with the death/ressurrection construction. There Paul can say that "we are the circumcision who serve/worship by the Spirit of God (or, serve/worship God in the Spirit- a text question) and boast in Christ Jesus, and do not have confidence in the in the flesh." Paul does not want his own righteousness, from the law, but " the righteousness through the faith of Christ (genitive), the righteousness from God upon faith, in order that I might know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death, if somehow I might arrive at the resurrection from the dead."
It is clear from the foregoing that He who is baptized is called to follow Christ. Those churches which administer baptism oblige themselves to that course. If they don't, baptism brings them under the covenant wrath of God. Baptism is valid also in disobedience. Covenant obligations remain. "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness" (2 Timothy 2:19).
The foregoing is also a strong argument for paedobaptism. Baptism includes the meaning of the sign of circumcision, and is a sign of and includes the call to the same justifying faith. If the O.T. children could be circumcised, then the N.T. children can be baptized. Christ is the fulfilment of the promises the O.T. children received. The N.T. children may rejoice in that.
Baptism as Sprinkling.
The law covenant has its sacrament, the passover, and adopts the sacrament of the covenant with Abraham, circumcision, but also had its own covenant ratifying ceremony, the blood sprinkling. Exodus 24:3,7-8,12 records the making of this covenant by the death of animal sacrifices and the sprinkling of their blood. This action is referred to several times in the N.T. The new covenant had to be ratified by the shedding of Christ's blood, and the application of that blood to the people. Is baptism that application? Is sprinkling another way of referring to baptism?
The Hebrew verb for sprinkling used in Exodus 24:6,8 is zrq, which is used for the sprinkling of sacrificial blood on the altar, and the sprinkling of the water of separation/purification, besides other secular uses. The verbs used to translate it in the Greek O.T. in Ex.24:6,8 are prosxein and kataskedannuvai respectively. These are not related to the words used in the N.T. to refer to sprinkling which are rantizein and rantismos. Rantizein, rantismos do occur in the Greek O.T. to translate e.g. ndh (that which is separated, or the water of separation/purification) and a compound form of the verb is used to translate zrq (i.e. peri + rantizein). (cf.Num.19:13,20 where ndh and zrq occur together).
Although the N.T. terminology is not present in the Greek EX.24:6,8 it is present when Hebrews 9:19 refers to that covenant making ceremony, and its effect is cleansing, with the death of the blood supplier in immediate view (Hebrews 9:21-22). However let us see if other references to sprinkling with blood in the N.T. can be seen as echoes of the covenant establishing ritual at Sinai, and if its precise N.T. reference can be defined.
The sprinkling with blood appears several times in the N.T. The apostle Peter can write to "the elect sojourners of the dispersion ... according to the foreknowledge of God, in sanctification of the Spirit (genitive), unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." ( 1 P.1:1-2) In Exodus God chose a people (19:4-6), commanded that they sanctify themselves (19:10, 14), so as to make a covenant with them (24:3,4,7). The sprinkling followed the oath to obey (24:7,8), and all but one of these elements return explicitly in 1 P.1:1,2 in the same order. We may say that Peter is looking at the establishment of the new covenant in Christ's blood.
In Hebrews 12:22-24 it says that you have not come to Mount Sinai (not mentioned by name), but "you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, celestial Jerusalem, and to a myriad of angels, to the gathering and church of the firstborn, enrolled in heaven, and to the judge, God, of all, and to the spirits of just people made perfect, and to the mediator of the new covenant, Jesus, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than the blood of Abel." The O.T. covenant making place is not a fitting place for the gathering of the new covenant people. Now the place is the heavenly Jerusalem (which is also the apostle Paul's understanding (Galatians 4:21-27)), but all the O.T. features return. The angels were present at Sinai. (Deuteronomy 33:2; Galatians 3:19) The church of the firstborn is a reference to those who were saved from death in the passover and brought to Sinai, but now in our passover lamb, Jesus Christ, we are brought to the heavenly Jerusalem. There was a book of enrolment already in Moses' day spoken of in the context of forgiveness and judgement (Exodus 32:32). They all were before God, the Judge of all, at Sinai, and were all sprinkled with blood, but here it speaks better things than the blood of the covenant made at... Sinai?
The author refers to Abel, because he wants to underline the fact that Jesus suffered persecution just as the recipients of this letter should be ready to do for righteousness sake. The sprinkling of the blood refers to a historic local happening, when Christ was killed on the cross by the ungodly Cain like Israelites, i.e. to His baptism. So despite the reference to Abel, the text most definitely is based on the understanding of the making of the new covenant for Christ's blood brings benefits, whereas Abel's does not.
The matter of sprinkling with blood appears also in Hebrews 9:13(-15); Here the superiority of Christ's blood is stressed. It purifies not the flesh but "your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." Also 10:22. is worth attention, for it says: "let us draw near with true hearts in the certainty of faith, having sprinkled (pf) the hearts (pl) from an evil conscience and having washed (pf) the body (sg) with pure water. The perfect tense means a past action has present consequences, so it must refer to a washing which has taken place and which still has its effects. That can only be baptism, and that is connected to the sprinkling with blood which also happened in the past, but with continuing effect, as outer corresponding reality. 1 P 3:21, referring to baptism (probably as immersion), also lays the connection between washing and a good conscience when it says: "...baptism (not the putting away of the dirt of the flesh, but the seeking/demand (it is difficult to find an adequate sense for this word here) of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
`The external washing of baptism corresponds to removal of an evil conscience by the inner reality of the sprinkling of the heart with the blood of Christ, and Christ's baptism/ressurrection means we are justified (cf. Rom4:25). It would seem therefore that the sprinkling with blood does refer to the new covenant making ceremony, baptism, wishing to convey the spiritual reality of that sacrament in the terms of the O.T. law covenant ratifying ceremony, but with the added dimension of life/ressurrection which follows. This similarity of theology and terminology between baptism, washing and sprinkling would seem to indicate that sprinkling/washing with blood/water is a reference to baptism.
It would then seem quite adequate to the meaning of baptism to baptize by sprinkling water since it captures the covenant making and the judicial/purification aspects of baptism well. There is perhaps even a trace of this practice in the N.T. when Peter asks if anyone can forbid water ( Acts 10:47). It would seem a strange way of speaking for one who would be immersed, but not strange for one who would be sprinkled.
I wrote last time when I began dealing with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I asked who did it, when did it happen, and can we find any traces of it in the symbolism of baptism in water. We noted that in the texts that discuss this topic water and oil terminology appears as references to the Spirit. A point I would still like to emphasize is that baptism should not be seen as a mini Pentecost. Pentecost is the day in which the Spirit came down upon the church, in which the church was baptized once for all in the Spirit. In other words the baptism in the Spirit was a once only event, just as the death of Christ was, and baptism is the moment of our participation in both those events. The Spirit was poured out upon the church, and in that we participate when we enter the body of Christ. So far the last post.
This time I wish to look at what I called a sort of donum superadditum (a dogmatic term which I am misusing, but which literally means a gift added over and above that which was already received), by which I mean that the Spirit is not only He who creates faith in us, but also a gift received upon baptism into the name of Jesus along with forgiveness of sins. What I wish to clarify is what is the extra given in baptism, who can receive it, when and how.
We are accustomed to stress that the Spirit produces faith in us. There is no faith which does not originate with God (Ephesians 2:8), and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3; cf. also 1 Peter 1:22, a text question - the words "through the Spirit" are missing in some texts). However here we often make a mistake, because we reason that since the person has been converted, he already has the Spirit and forgiveness of sins, and receives nothing more in baptism. He has already received it all in faith. That is not so, for as said above, the Spirit was poured out upon the church, and is not available in that special way outside of it, and he who is not baptized is not (except in extreme situations) in the church. Therefore to receive the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins ordinarily one must be baptized. Let us see how this works.
Acts 2:38 The apostle Peter says to the Israelites who were cut to the heart: "Repent and let everyone of you be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ unto forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit." This text clearly shows the normal order for those outside of the church, who come to faith. One cannot expect to receive forgiveness of sins, or the Spirit, if one is not baptized into Christ. That means that, although the Spirit creates faith, he is nevertheless only received by faith, since one would only be baptized into the name of the rejected and crucified Christ at that time and place if one really believed in the Lord (cf. Heb.13:13). In this sense baptism is the proof of faith, for it is the obedience of faith.
This order and understanding we find in many texts in Scripture. Galatians 3:2-5 says: "...Did you receive (aor) the Spirit from the works of the law, or from the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit (instrumental dative), now by the flesh (inst. dat.) are you finishing? ... The one supplying (constantly - force of pres. tense) to you the Spirit and working (constantly) miracles among you, (does He do it) from the works of the law, or from the hearing of faith?" The Spirit here is not received before faith, but received upon the hearing (and seeing cf. 3:1) of faith. Hearing is not simply an auditory act, but one which leads to obedience, the first act of which is baptism (cf. Acts 8:36). Neither is receiving the Spirit ( and forgiveness of sins) a once for all receiving, since the text says he is constantly being supplied in response to the hearing of faith. That means that the gift is subject to hearing in faith continuing, even after baptism.
He who is baptized received, and continues to receive, the gift of the Spirit (and forgiveness of sins) only insofar as he really continues to hear in faith, continues to obey in faith. That is an element which needs to be stressed among the covenant children today. "Having begun" would seem to refer loosely to the beginning of the life in Christ, i.e. faith coming to expression in baptism. The finishing then refers to this same life of faith in Christ within the kingdom of God. The Galatians wished to complete it by the flesh doing the works of the law. They were returning to a fatally weak power, and by it would not be able to finish the course. Only the continued hearing of faith will attain the end, because only so will they continue to receive (forgiveness of sins and) the Spirit so that they will arrive at the finish (2 Tim 1:14).
Ephesians 1:13 also shows the understanding that the Spirit is given upon faith. "In whom also you, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom (or "in which" referring to the gospel, but unlikely) also having believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit (inst. dat.) of promise, the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the acquired possession ..." The order is the gospel was heard, and the person believed in Jesus Christ (the hearing of faith), after which the believer was sealed. This text defines the gift of the Spirit as having a twofold function: as a sealing in Christ, and as the first instalment of the promised inheritance we will receive when Christ comes to finally redeem us. The only moment which we can identify as the moment of sealing and giving of the deposit is the moment of baptism.
Galatians 4:6 also brings the same sequence. It says: "and because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying Abba Father." (cf. John 1:12-13 where it says: "as many as received Him, He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name...") It is as incorporated in Christ ( in baptism) that we become sons of God, and as sons, and because we are sons of God we receive the Spirit of the Son (cf. Rom.8:9). The Spirit then teaches us to cry Abba Father. The word crying has to be defined from the context. In this case the cry is the slave's rejoicing in his adoption as a son. He cries 'Father'.
In all these texts the same understanding is shown, first came faith, then the Spirit. The Holy Spirit creates faith by the hearing of the word, but He is only given as a gift upon faith, to those who are included into Christ by baptism. At that point they enter into the Spirit's proper sphere of operation, the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13). at which point they can say that Christ lives in them (Gal.2:20).
If the above is correct we can then distinguish several (but not separate) moments in baptism. When a non christian first believes he is outside of the kingdom and Christ. When he is baptized in the obedience of faith, he is baptized into the name of Christ, by which he receives forgiveness of sins and becomes a son of God. This son formally receives the (Son's) Spirit by which he is sealed in Christ and is given the down payment on his coming inheritance as a son of God, while he awaits his redemption. The Spirit of sonship realizes the filial relation in him by forming the cry 'Father' in his heart and enables faith to finish its course by His power.
If the Spirit is given upon baptism, we must also insist that regeneration is given upon baptism, for it is in baptism that we share in the resurrection of the Lord and in his Spirit. We could perhaps say that in baptism faith receives the promises it believed. It should be evident that, when viewed from this perspective, the word regeneration can't be understood as we often understand it ie. it is not primarily a passive subjective change, but is firstly an existential change conferred by the Lord and actively received in union with Him.
When we work with this doctrine we may not separate it from baptism and the gift of the Spirit, as if faith (understood as mental conviction) has already received all. It hasn't. The obedience of faith (shown in submission to the command to be baptized) receives it. Just to quote a few texts: Romans 6:4 says: "we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we might conduct ourselves in newness of life." The rising from the baptismal water is the moment of new life arising from union with Christ. Colossians 2:12 says: "having been buried with Him in baptism, in which also we were raised with Him, through the faith of (= which believes in) the operation of God, who raised Him (Jesus) from the dead." The apostle piles up words on top of each other here, but the sense is that he who is baptized has risen from the dead together with Christ by believing in the power of God, which he manifested in the resurrection of Christ. In this text vivification is presented as having already happened in Christ (see also v:13). Ephesians 1:18-20 says: "having enlightened the eyes of your heart to know what is ... the exceeding greatness of His power unto us, the (ones) having believed according to the operation of the power of His might, which He worked in Christ, having raised Him from the dead and seated (him) at his right hand in the heavens".
We who have believed by virtue of the power of His might, are to understand the exceeding greatness of His power. This power gave us life, visible in the fact that we believe. By it we died and were raised with Christ. This same power, which resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand, we must know as unto us. This can't be only the fact that it gave us faith, nor only a one time baptismal affair here, but a life long affair. It means God applied and applies this power to us constantly, so that we might be likewise resurrected and perfected (cf. Rom 8:23,29; Heb.12:23). Believing here is equal to vivification, and that vivifying, regenerating power continues to work throughout our life until it accomplishes its goal in glorification. So baptism is and must remain a most significant moment in the life of a convert. We must not let it dwindle in importance so that it becomes only a sign of something. It is the moment of conferral of the gifts of Christ, so that by these gifts the believer might attain eternal life (1 Cor 1:7-9; 2 Tim.1:14). It is the start of one's life in Christ.
This is the reformed position. Unfortunately regeneration, as a term, has become restricted to the moment of beginning of faith, and so we often think that regeneration is complete when faith is born, and that our life after this regeneration is simply a living in faith. This was never the reformed position.
As shown above, Scripture generally says that the Holy Spirit is received upon faith and by faith (cf. Calvin. Institutes 3.2.33). Calvin can argue that faith produces repentance, and is not preceded by it (cf. Institutes 3.3.1,5), and repentance is, or produces, regeneration. Calvin says "In one word, then, by repentance I understand (a spiritual - French) regeneration", which ".. consists of two parts - viz. the mortification of the flesh and the quickening of the Spirit." (Calvin 3.3.8,9. Beveridge trans.; Calvin also quotes the following texts: 2Cor 3:18; Eph 4:23-24; Col 3:10; 2Cor 4:16; cf. HC Q&A 33). Faith therefore produces regeneration. That is the position of our confessions. Article 24 of the Belgic Confession of Faith says: "We believe that this true faith, (worked in man by the hearing of God's Word and by the operation of the Holy Spirit,) regenerates him (the believer) and turns him into a new man, makes him live a new life and frees him from the slavery of sin." The French Confession (Confession de La Rochelle - basically a copy of Calvin's draft, and the basis for the Belgic Confession) says: "We believe that by this faith we are regenerated in newness of life, being naturally enslaved to sin. Now we receive by faith the grace to live holy lives and in the fear of God, in receiving/accepting the promise which is given to us by the Gospel, namely that God will give us His Holy Spirit." This regeneration then is a fruit of faith, and is a striving which we continue throughout our whole life for only the reborn will enter the kingdom of God (Calvin 3.3.9,19). Regeneration then is not only a passive matter, but a highly active, life long one. Regeneration in this sense is: " to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, the having been created according to (the image of) God in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Eph 4:23-24). The new man is something which has been created to the image of God. It is viewed as something separate, already in the image of God, ready to be put on like clothes. This is said to those who have begun to walk the road of faith, in whom regeneration has already begun. Col. 3:10 says that this new man has already been put on. So regeneration is understood to have begun, but not to have been completed in the life of the saint. It is a progressive changing in the direction of the image of God (Rom.8:29). That is also the understanding of 2 Cor.3:18; 4:16.
To highlight somewhat the difference between those who have been baptized and those who have not, we can ask how the Spirit works outside of Christ: e.g. in a pagan.
Firstly we must begin with the effect of the Word. We should recall Acts 2:38 where the hearers were cut to the heart by the preaching of the Word, but when they asked what they should do the answer came back: repent. Being cut to the heart wasn't yet the repentance which the Spirit desired. Jesus said in John 16:8-11 that the Spirit would convict (or convince) the world of sin, righteousness and judgement, but this spiritual gift, this knowledge of the truth, creates only fear and leads to death if no godly repentance follows (cf. 2 Cor 7:9-11). Knowledge by itself is not necessarily faith, even if believed (cf. John 12:42-43). To be faith it must be obeyed, and if it is not obeyed it still serves a purpose, which is to leave the rejecters of the truth without excuse. If acted upon in faith we may say that it was part of faith for the preaching was believed and obeyed (cf. the Israelites who were pricked in their heart Acts 2:37). The believer then is to repent which is a fruit of faith, be baptized which is another fruit of faith (cf. Heb.13:13) and he will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Outside of the body of Christ there may then be recognition of the truth, and a willingness to obey the truth or not. In both cases it is the Spirit at work. He convicts the one and converts the other, but forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit are not (normally) received except in the body of Christ, and one enters that by baptism. Again, we will have to understand that the correct way of speaking is that faith produces regeneration. Officially and ordinarily faith and regeneration have no status outside baptism into Christ, although in fact they may be present. I think one of the errors we have fallen into is not to respect this fact sufficiently in our ordo salutis. It is not simply a question of logical order, nor even of the work of the Spirit, but of union with Christ through the obedience of faith. What happens before baptism is that the Spirit drives the believer to union with Christ so that he may be regenerated through the Lord living in him through his Spirit (Gal. 2:20). That leads us to a difficult question: Do all within the body of Christ share in forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit, believers and unbelievers?
We will start at the furthest remove. We will see who in Scripture actually receives the Spirit. We have already seen how the Spirit can convict/convince and convert outside of the body of Christ. In Scripture the Spirit also sovereignly comes upon and uses unbelieving pagans. e.g. the Spirit spoke through Balaam, but he was not a believer (Numbers 24:1-2). In fact we can call him an 'antichrist' since he tried to curse God's people so that they would not gain their inheritance. The Spirit also comes upon decided unbelievers among God's covenant people to use them for his purposes. The seventy elders received the Spirit from Moses, even the two disobedient ones (Numbers 11:17,25,26). Saul and his men prophesied by the Spirit while attempting to kill David (1Sam 19:20,23-24). We may also refer to Caiaphas who prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and was one of the chief instigators of his death (John 11:49-52; 18:14,24,28,35).
The above were enemies of God who were overcome by God in defence of his people, or to have his word spoken in places where it would otherwise not come. However God also gives his Spirit in a more positive sense, but still not in a saving way. The Spirit can be given to a person, a change can result, but later the person still falls away. King Saul is a case in point. He, who perhaps was not a very God fearing person (cf. 1Sam 9:6; 10:11,12; 19:24) received the Spirit (1Sam10:6) was turned into another man (10:6) and received another heart (10:9), but still the Spirit left him (16:14) for he was unfaithful to the Lord, was rejected by God from being king (1Sam 15:26; 16:1) and lost all faith (1 Chr.10:13). What actually happened here is difficult to explain. One thing is fairly certain, that God gives us this information so that we might know that He was not responsible for Saul's failure. He gave Saul everything he needed to fulfil his office, and when he didn't, he took his gift to himself again. However, on the other side the demand for a king was rebellion against God, so there could be an element of punishment in the choice of Saul as king (cf. 1 Sam 10:23-24 and 13:14). If that is so, we could perhaps say that Saul was chosen, as king, to fall, although God gave him everything he needed to stand. Whatever the case, 10:6,9 do mean that Saul actually received the Spirit and spiritual gifts. That means that the Spirit and his gifts can be given to those who are not among the elect. The question of whether Saul was regenerated, or not, will have to be answered in the negative, but here one can see how close one can come, and how deep such a person can fall.
We can perhaps see this understanding in the NT as well. Simon Magus, who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13), and apparently also received the Spirit (8:17). Nevertheless, says Peter, he had no part nor inheritance in this matter since his heart was not upright before God, and he was still in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of injustice. He wanted to buy the authority to give the Spirit to others, and for this he was cursed by Peter (Acts 8:17-25). Jesus' speaks of those who prophesy in His name and cast out demons, but whom He does not know and will reject (Matthew 7:21-23), and here we may think e.g. of Judas Iscariot who as one of the twelve was sent out with power over demons and to cure (Lk.9:1-2). Also in Matthew 11:12 he says: "and from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent plunder it." Apparently some were entering the kingdom and benefiting themselves with its riches, but without the necessary qualification: true faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, also, speaks of those who preach Christ in envy and strife (Philippians 1:15-18; cf. Rom.16:17-18). They were in the service of the Lord, using the spiritual gifts, but without being saved from sin and corruption, for they sought themselves and not the honour of God.
Scripture also speaks generally of those who fall away from the faith. We may refer to Hebrews 6:4-8 where it speaks of those who were once enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, have become partakers of the Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, who fall away; and to 10:29 where it speaks of those who have trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace; to the parable of the sower where the seed germinated, but died or bore no fruit (Matthew 13:1-23), and to the texts which refer to the sin against the Holy Spirit which will never be forgiven, and that we should not pray for those who commit it (Matthew 12:31; 1John 5:16-17). They are plants Jesus' heavenly Father did not plant and which will be uprooted (Mat.15:13).
A common reformed way of dealing with these texts is to speak of them as hypothetical, but when we do that we feel rather uncomfortable. We suspect that we are not doing justice to Scripture. The case of Saul serves to underline this suspicion. Neither would the apostle John tell his people not to pray for those who committed the sin leading to death if it was only a hypothetical possibility.
It is interesting to see how Scripture speaks of this type of faith. The Lord gives His judgement on faith which does not issue in salvation in Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:24-25; Luke 8:18; 19:26. These verses seem self contradictory. They speak of understanding and gifts which one does not have, being taken away, but one cannot take away something one does not have. Luke 8:18 adds the word "seems", and this clarifies the intention of these words somewhat, but at the expense of taking away the paradox: there is something there, which is nothing, which will be taken away. The point of the parables which our Lord told, and in which these verses are embedded would seem to be: We are responsible to work out our salvation with fear and trembling by means of the word we receive (Phlp 2:12-13; 2Pet1: 10-11). He who does not rebels against the truth he knows and hears. There are those who seem to have faith, but if there is no hearing and fruits of faith, that apparent faith will be taken away. God does not break the broken reed, or quench the smoking flax until He brings forth justice unto victory (Mat.12:20).
In mission work we often see examples of this. Many who believe later fall away, but while they believe they participate in good faith. They believe the Word, but this faith dies for one reason or other (cf. John 6:60,66). In an attempt to find a way of describing this faith in a way which is scripturally acceptable, I have examined the faith terms reformed scholacticism used, but I have not found any term that satisfies me (see appendix). The best I can do is say that this sort of faith is born of the flesh, and not of the Spirit, even though it is born in response to the word of God. We can see this being taught by the Lord in the parable of the sower where the sown word takes root, but later dies ("has no root in himself") or produces no fruit ("choke the word"). Elsewhere the word is said to be incorruptible and to live and abide (forever - a text question) and endure forever, but in there the regenerated are spoken of. (1 Pet.1:23,25). Many in the world believe in lies and liars, so it should not surprise us that the flesh can believe the word of God if it is convicted/convinced by the Spirit, or hears something which in isolation it recognises as truth, or that it can hope for salvation from the misery of this life. This faith lasts while it sees profit in the gospel, or until it sees that the gospel in other places conflicts with what appears to be its true interests, at which point it will be offended and die. It could even conceivably continue all of life if the person simply floats along with the tide, but it will not regenerate.
Those who have this flesh born faith are able to receive many of the spiritual gifts God gives to his church in Christ. It would seem that 1 Cor. 2:14 would deny that possibility for it says that "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them for they are spiritually discerned." But we have seen above that there are cases where spiritual gifts were received and lost. We will therefore have to understand "receive" as appropriate, and to understand that there are differences in gifts, some of which are available to all, and some of which are given only to the elect, but each and every one is given for the common good (cf. 1 Cor.12:7-11). We will also have to take seriously that Paul can say to all the congregation members of the embattled church at Corinth: "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...and have all been made to drink one Spirit." (1 Cor.12:13). The flesh misidentifies the good being proclaimed, and in that erroneous faith lays hold of what it perceives to be offered. It cannot appropriate some of these gifts, but others which it can appropriate, it either misuses, or, in the excercise of that gift perceives that it does not give what was hoped for, and therefore is offended and dies. These spiritual gifts are well meant gifts, as the offer of the gospel is a well meant offer. Even if the 'believer' can do nothing with them, he is responsible for them since they have been received. How critical this is we can learn from Heb.6:4-8; 10:29 - 31. If I am right, there is then inside the church a very real and rich participation in the gospel, and those who enter, but fall away, or who are not regenerated through faith do not use correctly what they have been given and will lose it. Those in the church stand in great danger if they despise the gifts of Christ their Lord. I think we can go further, for it is on the basis of the very real participation in the spiritual gifts that the call to faith and repentance is so serious for church members.
Reformed theology usually divides personal true faith into three parts: 1) notitia which is intellectual understanding of the gospel; 2) assensus which is assent to that gospel; 3) fiducia which is the trust by which that gospel with its promises is appropriated. All three should be there for something to be called faith. Reformed theology can also distinguish in another way, the first two of which are of greater interest to us: the first is saving faith; the second: temporary faith which only lasts for a time; the rest are all actually all forms of unbelief: historic faith which believes the facts, but does not trust; miraculous faith which only trusts because it sees miracles; legal faith which accepts only the law (e.g. Jews); evangelical faith which accepts only the gospel (various brands of Christianity). The third to sixth categories are attempts to characterize a faith by its (lack of) contents.The first and second categories are not a characterization of faith by its contents, but by its effect or duration. I doubt very much if these categories are at all helpful, also the first two which the C of D use. The terminology of the first two is somewhat infelicitous. e.g. When faith finishes, we can't say that it came to an end because it was temporary faith, nor can we say that saving faith saved because it was saving faith, since that is circular reasoning; first we define faith by its characteristics, and then explain the characterisics by the name we gave it. The C of D say that temporary faith is not received into the heart (3/4.9), and saving faith is (cf. 3/4.12), but the true reason that both are not temporary, is not to be found in the faith itself, nor in the place into which it is received, but in God who puts it into the heart, and who maintains His work in the elect (5.3). There are other distictions such as the potentia (the possibility of the faculty of faith existing), habitus ( ability to believe) and the actus (act of believing) of faith. These categories are Aristotelian in nature, and I am leary of them. These categories have been further refined in Protestant dogmatics, but I will omit discussion of them here.
The Participation Of The Covenant Child
Last time I was concerned with trying to show what the value of baptism was, and who could participate in the spiritual gifts. This time I want to look especially at the participation of the covenant child in the spiritual gifts, or if you will, what a child receives in baptism. I want to address this question within the terms of rebaptism.
The NT generally speaks in terms of coming to faith in Jesus Christ and, in response, being baptised, and not about those who are born into the new covenant, and so baptized as infants without having faith. If you work in a missionary situation you are confronted with a situation in which many have not been baptized, and others have been baptized as infants in churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, but do not know anything about the gospel. Again others have been rebaptized in pentecostal or other churches. Do we have to treat these cases differently? Is their baptism valid? Were they part of the new covenant people of God already or not? Did they participate in the death and resurrection of Christ and the baptism of the Spirit? Other questions then also follow: Do we who are born into the covenant and baptized in churches which profess the truth, die and rise in Christ and receive the gift of the Spirit, or must we also wait until we come to faith? In light of Baptism part 6 we can be fairly short about the last question. The baptized child participates in the spiritual gifts, but we may still ask to what extent.
1) When a child is born to believing parents, we say that it belongs to God's people, and therefore may be baptized. By birth it participates in the relation expressed in the words: "I will be your God, and you will be my people." These words imply that anyone who stands in this relation to God stands among those who have been saved. God always begins with His grace, putting people in possession of salvation, on the basis of which He asks for our obedient and loving response of thankfulness. The relationship established in the covenant with God does not begin with: if you... then I ... It begins with: "I am the Lord who brought you out of ... to give you this .. to inherit it" (Gen.15:1,7) or "You have seen what I did ...and that I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to myself", and "I am the Lord your God who brought you out... of the slave house" (Ex.19:4; 20:1). That obviously continues to be true also in the NT, where the congregations are addressed as a body. cf. Rom.1:7 and 1 Cor. 1:2 "called (=chosen) saints" not "called to be saints"; ; who were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God (1 Cor.6:11; cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-13)
2) 1 Cor 7:14 says: for the unbelieving man is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband (or brother). Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. The children of believers are pure (not unclean) and holy, and that can only mean that they have been born into the covenant relation with God, for only those who have been separated from the world to God, by God are holy. They therefore belong to that group of people who have been washed, sanctified and justified in the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Cor.6:11). They therefore may be baptized for they participate in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They share in all the rich spiritual gifts given to the church. The sanctification of the unbelieving spouse is not of the same order, for in his case we must say that God sanctifies the unbeliever in his or her union (the two shall be one flesh) with the sanctified believer, so that their children will not be unclean, but holy. The marital (not only sexual) unity with a sanctified believer means that sanctification is extended to the unbeliever here.
The Westminster Conf. 10.3 equivocates about children who die in infancy. It says "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ...". The qualification "elect" takes away any pastoral quality which this article might otherwise have. It only serves to push the question back to whether the child was elect or not. We may say through the confidence which God's covenant with us gives that the child of believers, if it dies in infancy, is saved.
3) If we confess that children of believers who die in infancy are saved (C of D 1.17), then we are forced to the conclusion they were also justified, for there is no salvation outside of the justifying blood of Christ.
In this connection no separation can be made between the blood which sanctifies and which justifies. Sanctification does not come separate from justification in the gift. Even the Baptist, if he wishes to affirm that children of believers, who die in infancy, are saved, must admit that they have been justified in Christ's blood, because salvation is not given because a child dies young, or because it did not commit any actual sins, or because it is elect, but only because of the justifying blood of Christ granted to it in the covenant God made with the believer and his seed. If one wishes to deny this, one is forced to deny the salvation of all children who die in infancy, but this would seem to fly in the face of the divine blessing Christ bestowed on the little children of Israel and his words of explanation (Mat.19:13-15). Therefore the Baptist, who admits the salvation of children of believers who die in infancy, is inconsistent in his denial of baptism to children.
4) We do not say that an infant is an unbeliever, just as we do not say it is a believer. It simply can't believe. Neither do we say it is regenerated. Neither should we claim that children who die in infancy have been or will be regenerated in this life. I think Calvin is wrong at this point, because he argues a regeneration of these children before death (Calvin Institutes. 4.16,17). It would be better to say that the child is regenerated when it dies. Regeneration is not the legal basis for salvation, and so should not be elevated to that level. John 3:3,5 can't be used to make regeneration in this life mandatory for the salvation of infants, for the Lord was talking to an adult, and the point of Nicodemus visit, and of Jesus' answer was: who was Jesus? Jesus said, you can't enter the kingdom of God if you don't who I am, and to know that you must be reborn/recreated. An infant can't know, and Jesus did not intend to exclude them from the kingdom of God (cf. Mat.19:13-15).
Nor do we say that a baptized child will be regenerated. As a citizen of the kingdom it hears by the Word what the riches are in which it already participates in Christ. It appropriates all these rich gifts by faith just like those who come from outside, and in the exercise of this faith is regenerated through the power and Spirit of God which this faith receives. To the extent that true faith is operative, the regeneration proceeds. (Unbelief is always present even in such a person.) To the extent that a baptized person does not appropriate his riches in faith, he has to be called to repentance/conversion (I use these words in the biblical sense as equivalent terms meaning change of mind, and change of direction respectively). If the child will not believe, it despises its riches and will be rejected, for it counts the blood by which it was sanctified a common thing and insults the Spirit of Grace. It will receive a far worse punishment than was ever administered under the law, for it will fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:29-31).
However, we must not fall into the opposite error, which says that since it depends on the will of God who is regenerated (initial passive regeneration) , there is not a greater likelihood of a child of believers being regenerated. That is wrong, for that would deny God's truth to his word, and his faithfulness to his people (cf. Deut. 7:9-11; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor 7:14). God made a covenant with us in the blood of Christ, and he will not despise that blood. The children of the promise (Rom.9:8) are usually born within the church.
The question of rebaptism seems almost a non question from this perspective. There would seem to be no reason for it. Baptism calls the baptized to exercise the gifts he has received in baptism in true faith. If a baptized person comes to faith, he is doing so. That is true, whatever church he might come from, or in what church he may have been baptized. The question whether a false church is still part of the Church, and if its baptism is valid, I addressed in Part 4, but I might add that a false church really has no moral right to administer baptism anymore, since it denies the Saviour it ostensibly confesses (cf. Ps 50:16-17). There is a further related question also: If the parents aren't true believers is the child included in the covenant of grace made with the believer and his seed? Again the answer is not a simple yes or no. We may say that God responds to them on the basis of their claim to be his people. If they do not live as such then, according to their own pretensions, they and the child must come under his covenant curse. They have no moral right to baptize their child, and so they must repent to escape the judgement . This seems to me to determine the question of rebaptism. He who was baptized wrongly, should cry about the sacrilege committed at his baptism, but rejoice in the electing God who, already there, in the midst of sin, was separating him from the world, with the intention of bringing him to faith. I tentatively (since now I turn to the secondary material) conclude from what I have studied that there is no need for rebaptism. The final result will be in Portuguese, so I will try your patience no longer. I hope you have enjoyed this rather rapid tour of some parts of the doctrine of baptism.