Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baptism: the other P word

This week, Adam Kaloostian starts on the proper administration of the sacraments, the second of the three marks of the true church.  He starts out boldly with baptism, specifically paedobaptism, and with Scriptures, we talk about how it is very Biblical and how it makes more sense if your a Calvinist.  But first we'll get to his questions.

1. What is a good working definition of a "sacrament"?  How do we know that the Bible teaches that there are only two of them?
First, Adam shows that God gave us the sacraments for a special help and through them, he's giving us grace, specifically, Christ is giving us grace.  When people limit communion to only once a quarter, they basically tell the Lord that they don't want his grace or to commune with Christ.  This is sad because the Apostles celebrated the Lord's supper every week and baptized often, too.  The church makes a huge mistake when it reduces the sacraments to mere pageantry, and our people suffer.  I'd never thought of it this way before, but Adam points out the fascination with fortune-telling, horoscopes, Tarot cards, and even science fiction (which I love sci-fi and fantasy, don't get me wrong).  People are into New Age religion because they desire this connection with something beyond this world.  It's no excuse and really New Age isn't new, but maybe if the church put more emphasis on Sacraments, a healthy and true heavenly contact, then they wouldn't seek it in escapism practices. 
But I digress, sacrament: an external sign but which the Lord seals on our consciousness his promises of good will to us in order to sustain our weak faith while we in turn testify of our piety toward him.

Again, the Lord is sealing on our consciousness his promises.  Primarily, God is doing something toward us.  We are not doing anything toward God.

So why do we have only 2 when RCs have 7 and the Salvation Army has 0?  Two reasons: 1. Sacrament by definition is something that Christ institutes to confirm his promises.  That's why we have more than 0.  Also, Jesus only instituted and partook in 2: baptism and communion.  Luther liked confession, but it's something every sinner must do and Jesus never had to do that.  2. Just because something is symbolic does not mean that it's a sacrament.  Marriage does symbolize what is supposed to be Christ's relationship to the church, but it is not a sacrament.  God doesn't convey his grace through that, although he does bless it if done right.  It's even a church service, but it's not a sacrament.  You can be a part of the church if you never marry or get ordained.  I've done neither so far, and I'm an active part of the church.

2. What are two parts to every sacrament?  What is the relationship between the two? 1. There is the sign -- the outward.  2.  There is the thing signified -- I'll call it the inward.  Baptism for example:  The outward is water that washes dirt off a body.  The inward is the blood of Christ washing sins from a soul.  The outward shows the inward that goes on in heaven.

3. What is the relationship between the time of baptism and the actual washing away of sins for those who receive it?  Does everyone who receives water baptism also receive the actual forgiveness of sins?
Titus 3:5, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
The Reformed folks do not believe that the inward always accompanies the outward.  Also, we also don't believe that faith has to come first.  God can give the inner to the sinner before, during, or after the outer.  And of course, at any age, not everyone who receives the outer, receives the inner.  They are not inextricably connected.  God is the one that washes sins, not us.

4. Who are the proper recipients of Christian baptism?
1. Those not yet baptized who have come to believe in Jesus.
2.  The children of at least one believing parents.
John MacArthur considers it a heinous, gross sin to baptize infants.  Seriously, even if you don't agree with it, why could you call it Satanic?  I on the other hand, in agreement with Adam Kaloostian, consider it a heinous, gross sin to withhold the grace of baptism from our children and infants.  They are born into sin just like we are, and they need to have Christ administer his grace on their inner sins from birth, because we need to teach them the Gospel from birth, even if we just start out singing "Jesus Loves Me."

In Acts 16, two people get baptized.  Starting in verses 14 and 15, Lydia comes to the Lord and then her whole household gets baptized.  No questions asked.  Then, the Philippian jailer came to know the Lord and his whole household was baptized.  Were any infants baptized then?  I admit, the Bible doesn't specifically say, but it says in the ESV that all the jailer's household rejoiced because the jailer believed.  And I'm an NIV chick, but the ESV follows the Greek verb which is conjugated only to the man who believed.  So basically, his household had no more ability to profess their faith than an goo-gooing infant.
One more: 1 Corinthians 1:16, Paul brags about how glad he was that he did not baptize any of those Corinthians because they could not say they were baptized under Paul except for two people, and oh yeah, Stephanas and his household.

Also, this is in line with how God dealt with his covenant people throughout history.  He had the Jewish baby boys circumcised form 8 days old.  It made them part of the community and did not mean that they were saved.  In fact, so many grew up to be idolaters.  Romans 4:11, "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them."  This is Abraham.  His faith and his circumcision were not simultaneous.  And yet God still told him to perform this surgery for the 8-day-old boys.

So, if infant children are considered part of the covenant community in the Old Covenant, why would God turn around and exclude them from the New Covenant?  Especially when that's when children come to faith.  They usually have their worldview in place by age 13.

Finally, in 1 Corinthians 7:14, Paul is settling disputes between married couples where one had come to the Lord and the other had not.  He calls both the unbelieving spouse and their children holy simply because the believing spouse is holy.  God sees them as part of his kingdom, and an important part.  Therefore, they must be baptized and God needs to wash their sins from the earliest of ages.

5. Who should be doing the baptizing?
I don't care how many random people baptize their friends in swimming pools across the country or at the beach in Haiti or at the real Jordan River.  It is not a legitimate baptism unless it is done by an ordained minister of the Word.  Christ gave the ability of baptizing to the Apostles, and now that there are no longer Apostles, that job belongs to the ordained ministers of Christ's church.

One time, someone asked me about the passage where the people were re-baptized after they had only had John's baptism.  John's baptism was not in the name of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All Trinitarian baptism is legitimate, and there is no need for rebaptism if your baptism was in the name of the Trinity, no matter what denomination.

6. How is Christ "preaching" to the whole church when baptism is administered?
Christ is using his sacrament as a visible word.  A metaphor.  As Christ washes the sins away from the one being baptized, whether past, present, or future, he is also preaching to us the Gospel of washing our sins away through his blood.  Also, God reaffirms is promise to those looking on who have already been baptized.  We relive our baptism when someone else is baptized.

1 comment:

  1. This is a difficult issue, I have found Theologians on both sides of the argument not very generous. Churches split over this issue, families divide. But I do not see this as a Salvation issue. Adult baptism I see as different, it is a public confession of the indidvidual, not that of his parent but his own.
    I cdome from a church where infant baptism was practised. and I saw no benefit to the families. And that is where I where think the most important partof this issue is. Parents who are not rgenerate make spiritual promises when their child is baptized they do not intend to keep. As for me, I do not particularly favor either infant or adult baptism, but then maybe too I have not understood why I should be upset about people who bpatize their chhildren. Difficult topic. Good post.