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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What Is Baptism and To Whom Is It To Be Administered?

WSC 94 What is baptism? A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's.

WSC 95 To whom is baptism to be administered? A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

(Westminster Shorter Catechism 1:94-96 WCS)

Notice above that baptism is similar to an "engagement." In other words, it is a sign and seal of a vow we make to the Lord. A covenant is similar to the marriage covenant where there is a relationship and there are responsibilities and obligations on the part of both parties. The difference in the covenant of grace, however, is that the covenant of grace is made only with the elect who are truly born again by the Holy Spirit. For God's part He never breaks His promises to us as His children and God always keeps covenant with us, despite our failures and sins. He gives the elect His benefits unconditionally and will insure that we keep covenant with Him by putting into our hearts the desire to do what He commands us to do. The covenant of grace and membership in a visible congregation are not necessarily the same thing since the visible congregation might contain unregenerate members who eventually fall away into apostasy.

Regarding the administration of baptism we should be careful not to give a false security to unbelievers by baptizing their infants if they are not active members of a local and visible congregation where the Gospel is rightly preached and the two sacraments are rightly administered. It is a great temptation to try missionary baptisms and weddings to bring in new members or to gain financial income for a congregation. However, our focus should be on eternity and getting folks to understand that there is no salvation outside of Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-13) and that a true and lively faith requires a covenant commitment to the Lord through a true and lively local church as defined in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion:

Article XIX

Of the Church

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.


8 comments:

Believer said...

Am I understanding that it is OK for infants to be baptized? I've heard it said many times that baptism should be done when the person is capable of making their own decision.
Also, can a person be baptized more than once - say as an infant, where the church family helps to grow that child in an understanding of Jesus and when the child is old enough to make a decision about choosing to follow Christ?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Believer, in answer to your first question, "Should infants be baptized?" The answer is yes. Why? Well, first of all, baptism does not regenerate, save or justify anyone! I would include believers' baptism in that. Simply getting baptized does nothing except make you wet UNLESS you have first been born again. In the case of baptized infants the regeneration would happen at some point after baptism when the child owns the Christian faith for himself or herself.

So why do we baptize infants? Because it is a "sign" or "mark" that they are members of the covenant of grace (with the elect) just as circumcision was a mark of the covenant with Abraham. Remember that Abraham had faith prior to being circumcised. However, the "sign" without the reality of regeneration and true faith is merely an "empty sign." That would apply to both circumcision and baptism. The same can be said of believers who are baptized. If there is no true faith the sign is simply an "empty sign."

We do not believe that baptism is an empty sign for believers, though. The sign signifies the reality of Christ's sacrifice for us and our faith that Christ will indeed save us. And the promises are for our children (Acts 2:38-39) unless they prove otherwise by going into permanent unbelief and apostasy. If our children are called by the Lord they will indeed come to Him because they are His sheep and hear His voice.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:4-5 ESV)
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15 ESV)

In answer to your second question the answer is a resounding, "No!" Why not? Well, because it is faith that justifies, not baptism. There is no need to be baptized more than once. Faith is the sign of a true believer. Baptism is merely the outward mark that identifies us as Christians. When the infant is baptized he or she is marked as belonging to Christ before the entire congregation and there is a vocal commitment on the part of the parents and the church to raise this child in the Christian faith, to teach him or her the Bible, the shorter catechism and/or the 1662 Book of Common Prayer's catechism. I prefer both the WSC and the 1662 catechism to be taught.

Again, baptism does not regenerate or save. So the question for Baptists is why then should someone be baptized more than once???

I have been wrongly baptized three times. Twice as a Pentecostal and once as a Southern Baptist. The Baptists insisted that I be baptized again before joining their congregation. The implication is clearly somehow that baptism saves in some way. Either that or the Baptists are saying that I did not have genuine faith and conversion as a Pentecostal. The implications are clear.

No, all that is necessary to salvation is a true and lively faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism does not regenerate or save anyone. Is Baptism therefore optional? No. We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ by going to the waters of baptism as a sign of our true repentance and faith. Christ did it to show us the way even though He Himself had no need for repentance or faith since He was sinless and the Savior of the whole world.

I hope this helps to clarify things.

May the peace of God be with you!

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

I might add that confirmation is not a sacrament. However, when a baptized infant is older and has been catechized then I think there is a place for having a formal service of confirmation into full membership of the church. After that point the child is given the Lord's supper, also an outward sign of true faith which is in the heart of the believer.

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

There is one problem with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. In the service for the baptism of infants it says, "EEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits; and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning." Publick Baptism of Infants

Notice that there is an emphasis on following through with praying "that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning."

In other words, baptism without the leading of "the rest of his life according to this beginning" means that he or she is not actually regenerate without the followup evidence of the rest of his or her life.

Again, the emphasis here is on true repentance, true faith, and a life of faith in Christ and through the local church/congregation as the visible body of Christ on earth.

Sincerely in Christ,

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

"Then shall the Priest speak unto the Godfathers and Godmothers on this wise.
D EARLY beloved, ye have brought this Child here to be baptized, ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him of his sins, to sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life. Ye have heard also that our Lord Jesus Christ hath promised in his Gospel to grant all these things that ye have prayed for: which promise he, for his part, will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, this Infant must also faithfully, for his part, promise by you that are his sureties, (until he come of age to take it upon himself,) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God's holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments."

Publick Baptism of Infants

Charlie J. Ray said...

Seeing now....

Kepha said...

As a Presbyterian, I am pleased that you, and Anglican, go to the Westminster Standards rather than the BCP!

Thanks for the post.

May I observe that the credo-baptists, like those who teach baptismal regeneration, want baptism to actually "do" something? Also, it seems that the credo-baptist position puts too much on the faith of the person baptized (as if nobody baptized as a professing adult ever apostasized!) and too little on the grace of God.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Kepha, I use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles as primary sources for my theology and systematics. However, since the catechism in the 1662 is not detailed enough, I have no problem using the WLC and WSC as supplemental teaching to the Anglican Formularies. Unlike the reductionists and minimalists I believe that Cranmer would have agreed with some of the Puritan changes had he lived. I'm not willing to throw out the Prayer Book but I am willing to supplement it with sound Reformed theology in the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity.

Faith is a gift for sure. But you'll notice that the service for the baptism of infants does not teach baptismal regeneration at all. What it does teach is that we pray and have faith for the true regeneration of the baptized infant. Also, the parents and God parents are responsible to catechize and instruct the child in the Christian faith and in worship.

Charlie

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