Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Increasingly Amazing: Our Understanding of Christian Baptism

Not too long ago, on my Facebook profile page, I posted a quote from Galatians.  I often will post a verse (sometimes several) of Scripture from that morning or evening's time praying the Daily Office.  On that particular day, I quoted Galatians 3:27-28.  It reads:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (NRSV)

After posting that verse, I commented on my own post.  I said, "When one has a sacramental view of baptism, and one is consistently faced with passages of Scripture like this one, it becomes increasingly amazing to hear the claim that baptism is ONLY a personal testimony of what God has previously down in one's life."  -  Isn't that true?

Perhaps it is connected to my post, below, from
June 30th.  There I gave a challenge to look up all of the passages that one can find in the New Testament about Christian baptism.  And then, in one column, list all of the scriptures that indicate that baptism is "simply our testimony" of what God has already done by faith, prior to our being baptized.  In a second column, list all of the texts that you can find that seem to indicate that there is "more" going on in baptism.

It seems to me that these verses in Galatians 3 would fit, clearly in the "second column."  There is no indication that baptism is about a testimony.  However, we are said to be "baptized into Christ," and, as such, we "have clothed [our]selves with Christ."  Further, this has resulted in a change in our relationship with others.

Please understand, this is not to say that there is no element of testimony in baptism.  Certainly, for the person who has come to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior by faith, who has not previously been baptized, their baptism will be a part of their testimony of what Christ has already done in their lives by grace through faith.  -  Even so, that is a secondary element in their baptism.  It is first and foremost God's testimony of accepting them, and God is, even then, at work by grace through the holy sacrament.

Further, in the West, we like to pin things down as to the exact moment, before which the person was not "saved," but after which they were "saved."  -  I like to ask the question:  If a person responds to an altar call to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, but before they make it to the altar to pray, they are struck by lightening and killed, will they make it to heaven?  They didn't quite make it to the altar, and they didn't pray "the prayer."  However, they did respond to the call, and had determined to pray "the prayer."  -  If they hadn't been struck by lightening, we would have said they "got saved" when they prayed, so were they eternally lost?  -  We like to pin down the exact moment.

However, what we often find in Scripture is that baptism seems to be the very act of faith.In any case, it seems clear in this passage that baptism is NOT viewed as just a personal testimony of what God has previously down in one's life.

What other verses about Christian baptism reinforce this same conclusion?


phillip woodfin said...

Titus 3:5
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit
Colossians 2:11-12
In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision,[d] by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Romans 6:3-4
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
1 Peter 3:21
And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for[a] a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

As a former baptist/assembly of God member, these verses always stumped what I was told baptism was.
Fortunately for my own sanity, the Lord led me to the Book of Common Prayer and Anglican traditions. I am now a proud Methodist.

Todd Stepp said...

Thanks, Phillip for your comment!

So, should I assume by your being "a proud Methodist" that you are meaning United Methodist? Or one of the other varieties (e.g., FMC, TWC, Nazarene, AME/Z, CME, etc.)?

phillip woodfin said...

United Methodist here in the North Alabama Conference