Apr 13, 2015

Baptism in Scripture

Understanding Baptism 

Fully quoted from the KJV for your convenience. Some verses may be repeated. Where you see (CCC) this is referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

        Baptism is very simply the initiation into the body of Christ, the Church. Baptism is the general way to salvation. In Scripture being “born again” is a reference to baptism and not only or simply a state of mind. We must be baptized born of water and Spirit this being “born again” is explained in this way:


“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:4-7)


Baptism isn't simply a symbolic sign of our faith it is much more than that. Without it we cannot enter the Kingdom! Notice what Jesus and his disciples do (in verse 22) after the part about being born again. "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.” (John 3:22)
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) We are told here that we must believe and be baptized. On the contrary if we do not believe and are not baptized we cannot enter the kingdom. This verse can be compared to John 3:5 quoted above. These verses stress the necessity of baptism and is not the language of symbolism.

We are saved, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Tit 3:5) This also goes along with what is being said in John 3 quoted above.

More on being born again. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23) If we take this last verse on its own we may be inclined to think that the word of God only and not baptism saved us, but what is being said here if we take all the Scripture into account is that the Word of God is what makes it all possible. It is the words of Christ being said over the person being baptized, and the power of the Holy Spirit which gives the waters of baptism its powerful effects to change the state of our souls.

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.” (CCC 1223)


"Since the beginning of the Church, adult Baptism is the common practice where the proclamation of the Gospel is still new. The catechumenate (preparation for Baptism) therefore occupies an important place. This initiation into Christian faith and life should dispose the catechumen to receive the gift of God in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. The catechumenate, or formation of catechumens, aims at bringing their conversion and faith to maturity, in response to the divine initiative and in union with an ecclesial community. The catechumenate is to be "a formation in the whole Christian life . . . during which the disciples will be joined to Christ their teacher. The catechumens should be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and the practice of the evangelical virtues, and they should be introduced into the life of faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God by successive sacred rites." Catechumens "are already joined to the Church, they are already of the household of Christ, and are quite frequently already living a life of faith, hope, and charity." "With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces them as her own."49 (CCC 1247-1249)
“The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite. Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. Thus the two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1262) 



Remission of Sin

    We receive sanctifying Grace at baptism, this Grace removes all stain of Original Sin passed on to us through Adam. The waters that saved Noah and his family is a type of baptism scripture explains.

“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 3:20-21)

“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:21-22) We are made alive by dyeing to sin, repenting and being baptized.

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:37-38)

The Scriptures teach us that while baptism is necessary for salvation and initiation into the body of Christ it is also necessary for the remission of sins, which is how baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:21 stated in context above). Remember we must take all the verses as a whole and not allow them to stand on their own or we may miss the point of the whole picture.

"Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

As in Mark's Gospel we see this again in Luke "He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins," (Luke 3:3)

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11)

Baptism not only makes one a Christian, but it also forgives all sins committed and confers sanctifying Grace upon the individual. Baptism sanctifies us! In the Church adult baptism makes up the bulk of the baptisms performed by the Church. However, because of the importance of baptism the Church recommends that Christian families include infants and children into this Christian right. We see in scripture that baptism itself is a means of repentance and remorse for past conduct. In Scripture as we have seen with repentance comes baptism which removes the past sins that we remorse in our selves. Repentance is a means to the end and is not the end itself, there is more that needs to be done and in Scripture baptism is the very next step.

We are then born again, new without sin!

Unlike our first birth under original sin, our second birth is a new creation in Christ freed from this original sin, we become more like Christ who is born and lived on earth without sin! Keep in mind unlike Christ we are all sinners and capable of sin, but this does not mean that we can continue in sin and still be saved.




Baptism and Christ's death

    According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ's death, is buried with him, and rises with him:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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." (Romans 6:3-4)

"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." (Colossians 2:12)

The baptized have "put on Christ." Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:27)

Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the "imperishable seed" of the Word of God produces its life-giving effect! "You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God." (1 Peter 1:23 also stated earlier) 

Baptism is then something that actually affects us spiritually as well as physically making us like Christ, without sin. This is not the language of symbolism only, this is real and substantial.
St. Augustine says of Baptism: "The word is brought to the material element, and it becomes a sacrament." 




Baptism and the Baptizer

    Baptism was first communicated in the first century by John the Baptist the one sent to prepare the way for the Lord. "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:3-5)

"Although John was the first to communicate baptism, the baptism of John was just a type of Christ's baptism and did not confer grace upon the baptized." (The Council of Trent Sess. VII, Canon I. on baptism, 1547 AD under Pope Paul III) The Council of Trent anathematized (strong rejection of) the teaching that the baptism of John had the same effect as the baptism of Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas (a great theologian) also answered that, "The whole teaching and work of John was in preparation for Christ: just as it is the duty of the servant and of the under-craftsman to prepare the matter for the form which is accomplished by the head-craftsman. Now grace was to be conferred on men through Christ, according to (John 1:17): "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Therefore the baptism of John did not confer grace, but only prepared the way for grace; and this in three ways: first, by John’s teaching, which led men to faith in Christ; secondly, by accustoming men to the rite of Christ’s baptism; thirdly, by penance, preparing men to receive the effect of Christ’s baptism." (Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas c. 1225–1274 AD, available at: www.newadvent.org)





Original Sin

    Original sin is that first sin of man, the fall from original Grace that Adam and Eve experienced (Genesis 3:1-24) and has passed on to the entire human race. This sin of our first parents was passed on to ALL MEN because all have sinned.

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:12-17)

Saint Paul then goes on in Romans "Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:18-19)
John the Baptist (as already mentioned) comes before Christ preaching the "baptism of repentance" announcing to the world the coming of the Christ, who is later referred to as the new Adam. The first Adam brought sin and death into the world and the new Adam brings the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life!

"For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

The Catholic Church thus teaches that baptism forgives not only the sins that we may have committed prior to baptism called actual sins, as in baptism after the age of reason (adult baptism), it also removes the stain of this original sin inherited in us. It is this original sin that is removed during infant baptism.




Infant Baptism

    To make the case for infant baptism we can look to Scripture and Tradition. We see that Christ would not have denied the children salvation and being incorporated into the Church. Remember we have to take the Scriptures as a whole and not have a verse stand on its own for our interpretation.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:13-14)

In the synopsis of the Mark passage in the Gospel of Luke we can see that the word children is rendered infants. So we can be open to the fact that both accounts are right and children of all ages were brought to him.

And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:15-16)

Christ himself would have no one denied salvation and incorporation into his Church. We can take from the above verses and all of the ones we seen already that Christ does would not deny infant baptism in fact he seems here to be in-explicitly condoning it. He gives them a blessing surly he would have them receive baptism by the faith of their parents. More to the point if we respect and believe in the authority of the Catholic Church as it has come down to us by Christ, in which Christ speaks to us through his Church the pillar and ground of the truth. We must then accept what he teaches through it. 

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

Baptism replaces circumcision. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Col 2:11-12)
The Jews celebrated the right of circumcision at the 8th day after the birth of the child. Likewise infant baptism should take place around the same time, some may say even exactly on the eighth day. There is no exact day in the Church that a child must be baptized, but the sooner the better is the rule. More on this see the jimmy Akin video below.

We can safely assume that infants were baptized along with their parent converts to the faith from the next verses. Of course infant baptism is not explicitly taught in Scripture. The authority of the Church given by Christ has explicitly and infallibly proclaimed this practice as necessary and holy.

We see in Scripture in addition to the above verses, that whole households were converted and baptized. This would have included anyone living in the household especially infants and children of all ages.

 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” (Acts 16:15)

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” (Acts 16:31-33)

“And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Cor 1:16)

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Jos 24:15)

In the Jewish tradition concerning circumcision likewise all of the males had to be circumcised even the servants of the household. The circumcision took place on the eighth day of birth, but also adult converts to Judaism had to be circumcised to become Jews and sharers in the Covenant promises. Baptism replaces circumcision and likewise was administered to infants as well as adults from the 1st century until today. This goes to show that infant baptism is just as valid as adult baptism and was in fact a practice in the Church since the 1st century.

How are infants baptized if they can’t repent and have faith?

Infants are baptized according to the faith of the whole church and by the faith of the parents or guardians who wish for the child to be raised a Christian and do not wish to exclude them from the New Covenant promises. Also what comes to mind is the fact that Christ being a perfect human being, the Word made flesh, makes up for what is still lacking in us after we believe and have come to him. If this is true for adult sinners surly it is true for the infant who being below the age of reason and lacking faith can still participate in the New Covenant in Christ and the salvation of his or her soul.

The Catechism explains it best. Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth. Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them. The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may also have been baptized. Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: "What do you ask of God's Church?" The response is: "Faith!" For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth. For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents' help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized - child or adult on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium). The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.” (CCC 1250-1255)

We can further look to the historical writing in the Church (The Early Fathers and Doctors of the Church) that infant baptism is a historical fact of Christianity.

St. Hippolytus of Rome from the 3rd (215 AD) century wrote, “Baptize first the children and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.” (The Apostolic Tradition 21) Origen a Doctor of the Church also wrote in the 3rd century (244 AD) “the Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism also to infants” (Commentary on Romans 5, 9) In 252 AD, the Catholic council of Carthage condemned the opinion that infants must wait until the eighth day after birth to be baptized, as was the case with circumcision. St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 64 (59), 2)



In Conclusion

    Baptism is not only a symbolic act of faith, and outward expression. Baptism as we have seen in Scripture is much more than that it is something that is necessary for salvation and changes us into Christians! By baptism we become adopted children of God! We can see from Scripture that it is not only possible, but probable that infants were included in the practice of baptism even from the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Church.

I have mentioned that baptism is the general way to salvation indicating that there are and will be those who are saved without baptism. The thief on the cross with Christ comes to mind. Also we may safely assume by God’s good Grace and Mercy that people who die before the age of reason and without baptism are in fact saved.

How does that fit in? It is a teaching of the Catholic Church that while baptism (being born again of water and the Spirit) is the general way to salvation some may not be able to receive it. I would like to introduce you to “baptism by desire.” The Church has introduced this term to explain how one can be saved without a baptism of water. Simply if one desired to be baptized and died before baptism could be administered then the person is baptized simply because he desired it, but just could not get it before death. In the case of people before the age of reason (who are not baptized when they die) it is by baptism of desire and according to the faith of the whole Church that they are in fact baptized and saved.

Therefor an unwilling exclusion from water baptism will not jeopardize salvation. If it be a willful rejection of Christ’s saving message and baptism, than therein lies a problem according to the Church and Scripture (as shown in this article). A baby of course cannot reject Christ and his saving message they would not be excluded and in fact are baptized by the desire of the Church and or the parents. This however must never be a reason to withhold baptism from an infant or anyone who is incapable of understanding.

There is a lot to it, but with the Holy Spirit we can dive into the Scriptures and open our hearts to understanding. I hope that I have been able to show you from Scripture that the position of the Catholic Church is the most biblical one.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
Thanks for reading!

By Joanne Utke


Previous posts by me :) Salvation Assurance a Commentary on Philippians 2:12

Works Salvation


Also watch and listen to these short videos on this page as well as check my other articles.



















All verses used in this article:

John 3:4-7

John 3:22
Mark 16:16
Titus 3:5
1 Peter 1:23
1 Peter 3:20-21
1 Cor 15:21-22
Acts 2:37-38
Acts 2:38
Luke 3:3
Acts 22:16
1 Cor 6:11
Romans 6:3-4
Colossians 2:12
Galatians 3:27
Mark 1:3-5
Romans 5:12-17
Romans 5:18-19
1 Corinthians 15:21-22
Mark 10:14
Luke 18:15
1 Tim 3:15
Col 2:11-12
Acts 16:15
Acts 16:31-33
1 Cor 1:16
Joshua 24:15
Hebrews 10:22

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