Baptism

Theology Thursday - A 3rd Century Baptismal Liturgy

The book Apostolic Tradition is a Christian text which dates from the 3rd century A.D. It’s traditionally attributed to a man named Hippolytus, though the work may well be an edited compilation. It describes liturgical practices from the 3rd century, so it’s a very interesting time-capsule of early church practice. One translator cautioned that, just because liturgy reads a certain way in Apostolic Tradition, we shouldn’t blindly assume this reflected actual practice; this document could be compiled musings of several armchair liturgists, after all!1

Here, in this excerpt, we see what Apostolic Tradition had to say about the ordinance of baptism. There is some very interesting context to this account (paragraphs 15 – 19) that space will not permit me to provide.

Of those who will receive baptism:2

When those who are to receive baptism are chosen their lives should be examined; whether they lived uprightly as catechumens, whether they honored the widows, whether they visited the sick, whether they were thorough in performing good works; and if those who brought them bear witness that they have acted thus, so they should hear the Gospel. 

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Theology Thursday - Baptism as the "Channel of Sanctification"

Not long after the apostolic era, Christian leaders began teaching that the ordinance of baptism regenerated sinners. The author of the Shepherd of Hermas, for example (ca. 100-154 A.D.),1 explained that “we went down into the water and received forgiveness of our previous sins” (31.1). He also believed a Christian could only sin once after being regenerated by baptism.2

In this excerpt Tertullian, the great 2nd century scholar from Carthage, explains his views on baptism. He clearly believed in baptismal regeneration. Here, he marvels at how people could scoff at such a simple vehicle as baptism for salvation:3

Well, but how great is the force of perversity for so shaking the faith or entirely preventing its reception, that it impugns it on the very principles of which the faith consists! There is absolutely nothing which makes men’s minds more obdurate than the simplicity of the divine works which are visible in the act, when compared with the grandeur which is promised thereto in the effect; so that from the very fact, that with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, finally, without expense, a man is dipped in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner, the consequent attainment of eternity is esteemed the more incredible.

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Theology Thursday – Infants Must be Baptized!

Should infants be baptized? William Shedd thought so. Here, in this excerpt from his text Dogmatic Theology, he explains why:1

Baptism, being the initiatory sacrament, is administered only once. While symbolical only of regeneration, it yet has a connection with sanctification. Being a divinely appointed sign, seal, and pledge of the new birth, it promotes the believer’s growth in holiness by encouragement and stimulus. It is like the official seal on a legal document. The presence of the seal inspires confidence in the genuineness of the title deed; the absence of the seal awakens doubts and fears. Nevertheless, it is the title deed, not the seal, that conveys the title.

Baptism is to be administered to believers and their children:

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Theology Thursday ... on Friday: Why Baptists are Wrong

In this excerpt from his work Outlines of Theology, former Princeton Seminary professor A. A. Hodge explains a bit about his understanding of baptism and why he believes Baptists are wrong:1

What is the design of baptism?

Its design is …

Primarily, to signify, seal, and convey to those to whom they belong the benefits of the covenant of grace. Thus - it symbolizes “the washing of regeneration,” “the renewing of the Holy Ghost,” which unites the believer to Christ, and so makes him a participant in Christ’s life and all other benefits.—1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Titus 3:5. (2.) Christ herein visibly seals his promises to those who receive it with faith, and invests them with the grace promised.

Its design was, secondarily, as springing from the former, (1) to be a visible sign of our covenant to be the Lord’s, i.e., to accept his salvation, and to consecrate ourselves to his service. (2) And, hence, to be a badge of our public profession, our separation from the world, and our initiation into the visible church. As a badge it marks us as belonging to the Lord, and consequently (a) distinguishes us from the world, (b) symbolizes our union with our fellow-Christians.—1 Cor. 12:13.

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Colossians 2:11-12 and the Circumcision-Infant Baptism Analogy, Part 2

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2018, with permission. Read Part 1.

The New Testament Understanding of Baptism

Therefore, there is a precedent in the Bible (both OT & NT) for a spiritual understanding of circumcision. These passages speak of dedication, repentance, and purity. Col. 2:11–12 fits into this description of circumcision when we examine it closely. The text mentions “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (v. 11). Then comes the connection to baptism. The words of Col. 2:12 echo those in Rom. 6:4.

Christian baptism is an identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Rom. 6 is in a context of why believers should not continue in sin though grace abounds (6:1–2). Part of the answer to that question is a discussion on the meaning of baptism. Because we have pledged ourselves to follow Christ and identify with His death, burial, and resurrection, it should make a difference in our lives. Our pledge is not for salvation, but rather it is a commitment made before witnesses (note the examples of many baptisms in the book of Acts) that we intend to live for Him. If we have believingly done that, we should no longer continue in sin. We should forsake it and live in newness of life—a life of dedication.

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Colossians 2:11-12 and the Circumcision-Infant Baptism Analogy, Part 1

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2018, with permission.

Most Baptists have heard of Reformed and Presbyterian churches who baptize babies, because “the practice of circumcision in the Old Testament (OT) is replaced by infant baptism in the New.” Verses cited in support of this analogy include Gen. 17:7–8; Gal. 3:9, 14; Col. 2:11–12; Acts 2:38–39; Rom. 4:11–12; 1 Cor. 7:14; Matt. 28:19; Mark 10:13–16; and Luke 18:15.1 The challenge for those who use this analogy is that these passages either mention circumcision (Gen. 17:7–8; Rom. 4:11–12) or baptism (Acts 2:38–39; Matt. 28:19) or neither circumcision nor baptism (Gal. 3:9, 14; 1 Cor. 7:14; Mark 10:13–16; and Luke 18:15). What is required for this analogy to work is a link between circumcision and baptism.

There is only one text in the Bible that mentions both. That passage is Col. 2:11–12. Is this the missing link that connects circumcision to baptism and therefore justifies infant baptism? Before addressing this, it remains of vital importance to understand that the analogy has always been and can only be between physical circumcision (involving a literal cutting of the flesh) and water baptism. Those who use this analogy connect it to Abraham’s participation in God’s covenant with physical circumcision as the sign of this covenant (Gen. 17:1–16).

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After Baptism Gone Wrong, Court Weakens Church Protections

"Nearly a year ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided 5–3 that a Muslim convert to Christianity—whose baptism nearly got him killed—couldn’t sue First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa for inadvertently alerting his would-be murderers with its online announcement of the baptism. Ten months later ... the justices changed their minds, issuing a 5–4 decision that the man could, in fact, have his day in court." CToday

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