Baptism

Theology Thursday - The Significance of Baptism

What does baptism signify? In this excerpt,1 Alvah Hovey, former President of Newton Theological Institute (1868 – 1898), explains. Some Baptists may be intrigued by Hovey’s assertion that (among other things) baptism symbolizes purification and washing from sin.

In determining the significance of baptism, our appeal must be to the language of the New Testament on this point, and to the natural import of the rite itself; for ritual acts are, to a certain extent, self-interpreting, and there can be no reasonable doubt that, in most instances, their true meaning lies on the face of them, — that they were chosen as being a sort of universal language, readily understood by men of every age and nation.

Hence, where the natural language of the ritual act accords with the explanation of it by the sacred writers, there remains no ground for doubt; assurance becomes doubly sure. And this is true in the present case.

For, looking at the ritual act, and at the language of Scripture, we remark:

1. That it symbolizes the regeneration of the subject, as being, on the one hand, a dying to sin, and, on the other, a rising to holiness,— (See Rom. vi. 4; Col. ii. 12; together with the passages cited under ” Penalty of Sin,” (I.) (1) 2 (4), and under “Nature of Regeneration”) …

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Theology Thursday - The Roman Catholic Church on Baptism

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful (and drab) characters and institutions. Some are orthodox, but decidedly outside the Baptist orbit. Others are completely heretical. Regardless of heresy or orthodoxy, we hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3). 

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word.’”1

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Theology Thursday - John Smyth on Baptism

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful characters. Some are orthodox, but decidedly outside the Baptist orbit. Others are completely heretical. Regardless of heresy or orthodoxy, we hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3).

John Smyth on Believer’s Baptism

“[B]aptism is the external sign of the remission of sins, of dying and of being alive, and therefore does not belong to infants.”1

“The Holy Baptism is given unto these in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which hear, believe, and with penitent heart receive the doctrines of the Holy Gospel. For such hath the Lord Jesus commanded to be baptized, and no unspeaking children.”

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A Study of Baptism in Scripture, Part 1

The investigation of historical evidence for believer’s baptism1 has been less profitable than one might wish. It did little to persuade my paedo-baptist friends to convert to credo-baptism. And the ensuing discussion made me a little concerned about whether they are still my friends. Before going forward with the last part of the discussion, let’s look at biblical evidence for infant and believer’s baptism.

Apostolic practice

First, what do the Scriptures say was done under the supervision of the apostles? The book of Acts tells of new believers who were baptized and welcomed into the church. The baptism of believing adults was part of the missionary endeavor of the church. Jesus commanded it in the Great Commission.

In Acts 8:36-38, Philip finishes explaining the gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”2 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Baptists sometimes point to v. 37 as a clear statement about what it takes to be baptized: faith. But a closer look will show that it doesn’t logically exclude infant baptism. The eunuch asks, “What prevents me from baptism?” Peter answers: faith. “Me” in this question is an adult. What prevents an adult from being baptized? Faith. Reformed paedo-baptists would give the same answer today. Like Philip, they refuse to baptize an adult who does not give a credible profession of faith. But the eunuch only asked about himself. He didn’t ask about infants.

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