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Archive for the ‘Baptism’ Category

Ok, let’s take a moment to comment about this piece. The author opens up by making this assertion:

One of the major ways in which the Federal Vision departs from the historic Reformed/Presbyterian confessions is in their view of baptism.  They view baptism as effective instrument which unites a person to Christ.

The author then gives damning quotes from me, Rich Lusk, and Doug Wilson, wherein each of us acknowledge that we in fact hold that baptism unites one to Christ and then, he concludes:

Unlike the Federal Vision, the Reformed position doesn’t attribute this type of efficacy or instrumentality to baptism.  Instead, the Reformed talk about faith alone (sola fide) as an instrument

Of course, not a single one of us denies the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation as the author implies, but that aside, let’s check his main assertion out for a minute. Is it true that the “Reformed position doesn’t attribute this type of efficacy or instrumentality to baptism”? Here’s what John Knox thought about baptism:

By baptism we are engrafted into Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his righteousness, by which our sins are covered and remitted. (1560 Scots Confession)

Here’s the teaching of the French Confession (1559):

Baptism witnesses to our adoption, for by it we are grafted into the body of Christ, that being washed with his blood we might be renewed by his Spirit unto holiness of life. In baptism, God gives us really and in fact that which he there sets before us; and that consequently with theses signs is given true possession and enjoyment of that which they present to us.

Martin Bucer, in his 1537 liturgy for infant baptism, directed the minister to pray this prayer after the administration of baptism:

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks, that you have granted and bestowed upon this child your fellowship, that you have born him again to yourself through holy baptism, that he has been incorporated into your beloved son, our only savior, and is now your child and heir.

John Calvin says:

We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life. (Antidote to the Council of Trent, 1.5)

The position of the Reformers is summarized in the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) on the efficacy of baptism:

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

And many, many more quotes could be lined up to confirm what those who stood in the historic Reformed tradition have believed about baptismal efficacy.

In spite of this our author concludes, apparently, without even the slightest twinge of uneasiness, that the “Reformed position” doesn’t hold these views. Well, ok boss, if you say so. The problem is the only way I can agree with you is if I ignore what the vast majority of the Reformers actually believed. You’ll forgive me if I conclude that your assertion is a tad weak.

But since the “Aquila Report” (to some, the official arbiter of what being “Reformed” means nowadays) has endorsed this position, I’ll just say that being called “unReformed” is a small price to pray for the privilege of standing with Knox, Calvin, and Bucer.

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v. 12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ”

“The connection between the last verse [v. 11] and this one is this: The formation of the Church and its inherence in Christ as the Body of which He is the Head, is the work of the Holy Spirit, Who, when He baptizes any one into Christ, assigns to him a position in the mystical body as one of its members, and afterwards endows him with the grace by which he will be enabled to fulfill his function, as a member of that body.

Thus, it is in the Body of Christ, i.e., His Church, as it is in the natural human body. The body is one, and yet this very oneness of the human body postulates a variety of members, and the multiplicity of members does not imply a multiplicity of separate organisms or bodies, but one organism only, and as it is with our human mortal bodies, so it is with Christ as the Head of His Body, the Church, with which He is one, so that instead of the Apostle saying the Body of Christ, he actually says “Christ,” Christ and His Body in the Apostle’s eyes forming, as it were, one Personality.

v. 13 “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”

This means that by the operation of the Spirit in Holy Baptism we are all baptized into, that is, are all made members of, the One Mystical Body. It may be well to consider for a moment the question, Does this refer to the visible Sacrament whereby we are made members of Christ, or does it refer to an invisible baptism by the Spirit, altogether distinct form the outward sacrament, and very seldom simultaneous with it? Now it may be sufficient to answer that the Holy Apostle knows nothing of such a baptism introducing us into an inner body or church apart from the outer. On the contrary, such an idea neutralizes the greater part of his teaching, which is, that all the professing members of the Church should consider themselves as having a real connection with Christ. There is but one Church from his point of view, an outward visible body endowed all of with invisible graces and powers: so that each baptized person, instead of doubting that his baptism brought him into connection with Christ, should have no manner of doubt about it, but be assured that if he does not live as a member of Christ so much the worse for him, and that if he does realize his union with Christ so much the more power has he against sin and on the side of holiness.”

(M. F. Sadler, The First and Second Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 205-206)

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In his discussion of the Nicene creed’s statement “one baptism for the remission of sins,” T. F. Torrance explains what it means to be baptized into Christ:

“In baptism we are united to Christ through the Holy Spirit in such a way that we partake of the whole substance of the gospel, for all grace and truth are embodied in him. We may recall the point made by Irenaeus in this connection, when he claimed that the incarnate Son is called and actually is, ‘Salvation, Savior, and Saving Activity‘ and that thus he is ‘salvation made flesh.’ In other words saving grace is not something detached from Christ which can be dispensed at will, but is identical with Christ in the unity of his Person, Word, and Act. It is through the one baptism which we have in common with Christ, or rather which he has in common with us, that we share in all that God has in store for us. Because baptism is one (the baptism with which Christ was baptised for our sakes, and the baptism in which we are given to share in all that he was, is, and will be) to be baptised is much more than to be initiated into the sphere where forgiveness is proclaimed and dispensed in the Church. It is to to be ‘delivered out of the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.’ It is to have our frail, transient existence taken up into Christ himself in such a way, that without any loss to our creaturely reality but rather with its perfecting through his Spirit, it is united to God and established in union with his eternal reality.” (The Trinitarian Faith, p. 297)

So. Jesus is Salvation made flesh [all life is in Him and apart from Him there is no salvation; grace and forgiveness are found in Him alone]. The Spirit unites us to Jesus through baptism, uniting us with His body, the Church, which is the kingdom, house and family of God, the community of faith, the assembly of the saints, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. So when Peter says, “baptism now saves us” he is saying “Jesus saves us.” By baptism the Spirit of Jesus unites us to the Church. The Church is the body of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is Salvation made flesh.

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