Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Baptism Now Saves You (I Peter 3:21)

Yesterday, a nice woman posted a comment that shared some insight into the Baptist view of baptism, from the post that I wrote here. Because I seem to be physically incapable of writing more than a few sentences in those little comment boxes, I decided to post my response to some of her points in the main text (I hope you don’t mind, Steph). Of course, then I get really free with my writing, and end up writing entirely too much….. :) (I'll write in blue, its my favorite color)

Steph wrote:
After reading it, I think the key is the punctuation and interpretation of the phrases in vs 11. I don't think circumcision (literal) was intended to be a parallel to baptism in that passage. I think circumcision (literal) was supposed to be a parallel with Christ's death for our sins as indicated by the phrase "by the circumcision of Christ"--which was made "without hands". In the translations I read after I read your post, the rest of the passage follows a colon and is more of a descriptor of "by the circumcision of Christ" than an explanation of how circumcision (literal) and baptism are parallels (I don't think that's what the passage is trying to say).

I think this needs to be taken into the context starting from verse 8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Looking at Acts and at the other Epistles, Paul was being followed around by Judaizers – men who would go into young churches and say “Yes, Paul told you this, but there is more. You need to be circumcised, and you need to follow the ceremonial law.” It also states that they were dealing with gnosticism and the worship of angels.

Paul tells them, “You have been circumcised with a circumcision made without the circumcision of Christ.” (Ephesians 2 relates well here)This is baptism, not the death of Christ. And that colon, semi-colon, or comma goes on to indicate the work that happens through that baptism, that when we are baptized, we are made one with the death of Christ, and raised up again with Him by God. (verses 12-13).

Now this is where I had the realization that I could not be Baptist. There are just too many verses which show that there is REAL power in baptism, not that it is just a symbol of inward faith. There was real power in circumcision, too. It made the son part of the covenant God made with Israel. Baptism makes us a part of the covenant that God made through Christ.

“Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38-39

“No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he be born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” John 3:5-6

“Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins.” Acts 22:16

“Having been buried with Him in baptism in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead.” Col. 2:12

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3,4

“All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” Galatians 3:27

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16

“He saved us by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:5-7

Steph continued:
Most Baptists I know believe that baptism is an outward declaration of an inward faith, not salvation, which would be why the pastor was probably trying to tell you that he thought infants should not be baptized. It's important that this passage is referring to the parallel I mentioned before (circumcision and "by the circumcision of Christ") not to a parallel between circumcision (literal) and baptism, because comparing circumcision (literal) to baptism infers that baptism is required at infancy (or required, period) to receive the covenant imputed with Christ's death and resurrection just as circumcision (literal) was required at birth (or later, in a few cases) by God of the Jews.

But baptism is required. And putting the two together like that invites comparison.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16

“No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5

She writes:
I see nothing wrong with baptizing an infant as long as the people doing so don't believe the baptism equates to salvation. I don't believe Christ's new covenant passed on to us the same way God's covenant with the Jews passed on to them. I have no idea how God protects the innocent ones, but I'm sure he does.

With what Mark 16:16 says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Baptism is required for salvation. There are exceptions such as the thief on the cross, but there was no time to baptize him. In most cases, in Scripture, a person was brought to baptism right after they professed faith, but the promises that were made in baptism were made to the whole family.

"And corresponding to that (Noah's family being saved in the flood), baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 3:21

“Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16

“No one can enter the kingdom of god unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matt 28:19

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children.” Acts 2:38-39

Faith is not something that we choose. God chooses us, not the other way around. The Holy Spirit draws us to faith. We can reject God, but we cannot come to Him of our own free will. It is not something that is cognitive or subject to our own understanding. John the Baptist had faith in the womb. He leaped when he heard Mary’s voice. The Holy Spirit enters the child through baptism and works faith in her heart.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8

"And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answeed and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Matt. 16:16-17

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith..."Heb. 12:2

Psalm 51 shows that there is no point in our lives where we are innocent. “In sin my mother conceived me.” Ephesians 2:3 “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” We may not be able to see the sinful actions of young children, but they have a sinful nature. They are subject to the sinful world and to death.

If we deny this, then we are left to start making contemplations that do not agree with Scripture or that God's Word never addresses in order to explain a weak and false supposition in the first place. Scripture does not say we are ever innocent. Since Adam and Eve sinned, we were conceived in sin, and except that we are made one with Christ's death and resurrection, even as a mere babe we are not worthy of being in God's presence. The Bible never says anything about an age of accountability, or a proper age for baptism, or that children can’t have faith, when instead it gives us examples that they do. If there truly was a good age or certain criteria, that would be important enough to mention! Instead, there is constant encouragement to make baptism available to all nations, to believers and to their children (and the word used in the Greek includes infants).

Of course, we do not baptize and then think we do not have to train them in the faith. Children need to be instructed in the faith and shown by our daily lives why it is important. They need to hear the Law and the Gospel – the forgiveness of sins, and be constantly reminded of why their baptism was so important. They need to be a part of the communion of the saints. But it starts with baptism, where they are made one with Jesus’s death and resurrection. Baptism IS how God protects little babies and young children who cannot confess their faith. Baptism IS one of the ways God protects us, too.

I can only trust in the things Scripture say as listed above. I cannot assume that baptism is merely a symbol when there are a wealth of verses that show otherwise. I can’t decide that baptism isn’t required when the Bible says that it is (but it is unbelief that condemns). I can’t withhold baptism from my children when there are many verses that show the benefits of baptism, command me to baptize and to allow the children to come to Jesus, and do not give me guidelines other than to do so. God’s Word must have the final say.

I chose Lutheranism because of this. Lutheran theology says specifically that we must rest in what Scripture says and while reason is a gift from God, our reason is corrupted by sin and cannot have a clear picture of everything. So if the Bible says that we receive forgiveness of sins and the gifts of the Holy Spirit through baptism, then we do. Even if I come to faith before that and receive the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the Word, I also receive Him and His blessings when I am baptized through the Word combined with the water. And since Scripture says that we baptize all nations, and there are examples of whole families being baptized in Scripture, then I make sure my children are baptized. If I don’t understand HOW they come to faith, then I simply obey and have trust that God is more powerful than me. I can’t start trusting in things like ages of accountability or defining baptism as something that is only a symbol of something that has already happened in my heart. A part of me would find it easy to, but I look at Scripture and go no further – and realize that I have a God who is so powerful that He works in ways that are beyond my comprehension.

God bless you with your little one, Steph. Thank you for your comments.


elephantschild said...

I'm bookmarking this post, as my dear sister is due in Feb. I expect some of these issues are going to come to the fore.

Once again, thank you.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Elephant's Child,

Almost all of those verses are listed in the section on Baptism in Luther's Small Catechism With Explanation in the section on baptism in the back, if you need it.

Big Ear Creations said...

Very interesting discussion

I'll be popping back to your blog... interesting


Susan said...

Steph wrote: "I see nothing wrong with baptizing an infant as long as the people doing so don't believe the baptism equates to salvation."

RBW has a title "Baptism Now Saves You" but didn't refer in her post to that verse. Between the 1 Peter 3 passage and the Acts passage ("Be baptized for the remission of sins") I am at a loss to understand how Baptists can say that baptism doesN'T give salvation.

I have Baptist friends who believe that baptism is their work of obedience to God. They don't believe their works save them [we agree there!] so they believe that baptism cannot save. But I just don't see what they do with those two verses.

Cheryl said...

Rebellious Pastor's Wife,

I just want to say how much I appreciate the time and thought you so clearly put into your theological posts. It's obvious how much you care about these topics.


The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


Glad you found me - and you're a baseball fan, too. God bless you.

Thanks for pointing out that I left that one out. It's in there now.

Thank you so much. You are truly a good friend. Your kind words mean so much, because when I do write about theological issues, that's when I feel the most exposed, so I do labor over my choice of words when it comes to these posts, and why I feel like these are my "babies." A post like this is important, too, because I care about communicating how important baptism is and the beauty of the Lutheran approach to Scripture to those who don't know it, so again, your kind words mean a does Susan's checking up on me ;)

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I've had that discussion with a good friend of mine, too. She'd been raised Lutheran, but wasn't solidly catechized (one reason she left was because "Lutherans never talk about the Holy Spirit" Heck, we talk about Him all the time!!!).

Christa did accuse Lutherans of works-righteousness because baptism was a work. We take our children to the font, or ourselves, the pastor pours water on our heads and says the words. Those are works, according to her.

But those actions are absolutely nothing except for what God promises to do through them. Noah didn't save himself because he built the ark. Noah was saved because God told him to build the ark. People are saved because the Word is preached, but they don't do the saving, the Holy Spirit does...and they can be saved because Jesus died on the cross for all sinners.

elephantschild said...

Thanks for the tip, RPW. I'm thinking we need more copies of the catechism around here - one for car, one for upstairs, one for downstairs... :)

Jane said...

Wow, Lora.

I'm going to print this out in hope that I can make my sil understand why I want her kids to be baptized, not just "dedicated."

Caroline said...

I really appreciated this post - very tender subject for us right now as our first grandchild has been born. Unfortunately our daughter has thrown every Lutheran thing ever learned out the window and is solidly in her Baptist PK's husband's camp - on this and everything else. I really don't even think they believe we're Christian! Very painful time for us.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


My prayers are with you. My kids aren't there yet, but I have family members that don't share these beliefs, I know it can be painful.

Rebecca said...

I always peek in to see if you've gone off on some theological topic...I always get so much out of your posts. Great insights.

I'm linking this to a related post on my blog:

Don't know enough HTML to do a prettier link than that -- sorry!

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


Thanks for the compliment. You had a great post, too.

I don't know HTML, either, so I'm full of sloppy links!!


Dr. Luther in the 21st Century said...

It rarely comes up and I wish Lutheran theologians would spend more time with this, but the passage in Matthew 28, where Jesus tells us to make disciples, the Greek for baptizing is what is called a dative of means (Wallace's Beyond the Basics). In other words, Jesus is telling us how disciples are made. They are made by means of teaching and baptizing. Therefore, if baptizing is a means of making a disciple and the act of becoming a disciple cannot be a human work it must be an action of God occurring through these means making the disciples.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Dr. Luther,

Thanks for explaining that. Honestly, if one pays attention to the grammar of the sentence, then that should be clear, even in English!