Friday, June 6, 2014

Baptism, ORDINARILY Necessary for Salvation

"Ordinary" is a term that Wesley utilized at times.  He would use it when talking about "the rule" or "the norm" in a given situation.  This "rule" or "norm" would sometimes have exceptions.  Nevertheless, those exceptions were just that; exceptions to the rule.  Nor did those exceptions invalidate the norm or the rule.

One of those rules had to do with the relationship between Holy Baptism and salvation.  Wesley would agree that baptism was the ordinary means of receiving salvation.  -  In the words of the Nazarene Article of Faith, "Christian baptism [is] commanded by our Lord."  It is, therefore, hard to imagine that one who refuses baptism could possibly claim biblical faith in Jesus as Lord.  After all, how can one own Jesus as Lord and yet willingly refuse to obey His command?  Such willful disobedience demonstrates that it is not Jesus who is Lord, but that person is usurping lordship in their own life.  Thus there is a lack of biblical faith.  As Rob Staples has said, "Faith is not faith, however, apart from obedience.  Baptism is commanded, therefore required as our faith response, unless it is an impossibility due to circumstances beyond human control."

As the late Rev'd. Dr. William Greathouse, general superintendent (bishop) emeritus has stated, "In the New Testament church, there simply were no unbaptized Christians."

Nevertheless, while baptism is the ordinary means, Wesley refused to claim that baptism was absolutely necessary for salvation.  -  He said, "Indeed, where it cannot be had, the case is different, but extraordinary cases do not make void a standing rule."

An example where it could be said that baptism was not absolutely necessary for salvation can be seen in the case of the appointed executioner of St. Alban.

I recently read the Venerable Bede's account of this executioner in his History of the English Church and People.  (The book was a Christmas gift from a couple in one of my churches.)  -  According to Bede, having seen the miracle that accompanied St. Alban's journey to his own martyrdom, the appointed executioner "was so moved in spirit that he hurried to meet Alban at the place of execution, and throwing down his drawn sword, fell at his feet, begging that he might be thought worthy to die with the martyr if he could not die in his place."

Bede goes on to say that this soldier "was beheaded at the same time as Alban.  And although he had not received the purification of baptism, there was no doubt that he was cleansed by the shedding of his own blood, and rendered fit to enter the kingdom of heaven."

This is a great example of an "exception" to the norm of the Holy Sacrament being ordinarily necessary for salvation.  As one can see, it is a far cry from the "take it, or leave it" mindset that has unfortunately crept into some parts of the Church in more recent decades.

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