Friday, August 14, 2009

Biblical Evidence for Baptismal Regeneration vs. John Calvin's "Sign and Seal"

[Baptism2.jpg]


From my book, The Catholic Verses (2004), pp. 102-111.

* * * * *

John 3:5 (RSV): “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”

Acts 2:38: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

Acts 22:16: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

1 Corinthians 6:11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

Titus 3:5: “he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,”

1 Peter 3:19-21: “in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”

Baptismal regeneration is understood by Catholics (and Orthodox, Lutherans, traditional Anglicans, Methodists and some other Protestants, in a basic agreement) to mean a spiritual rebirth (what many evangelicals call being “born again”). Just as a human being must be physically generated to enter the world, he must be spiritually regenerated to enter the kingdom of heaven. The passages above constitute the major scriptural reasons why the great majority of Christians for two thousand years have accepted this belief, and accept baptism as a sacrament: a physical means to convey God’s grace.

Protestants who deny baptismal regeneration (Baptists, Presbyterians, many Pentecostals, and others) place spiritual regeneration at the point of personal conversion or a decision to become a disciple of Jesus. Some still practice infant baptism, but deny that it regenerates. Most groups that practice only adult baptism deny that it regenerates, but some (such as the Church of Christ) believe in an adult (“believer’s”) baptism that also regenerates. The passages presently under consideration make the “non-regeneration” position difficult to accept, since they associate baptism directly with salvation.

Even Martin Luther substantially agrees with the position of the Catholic Church:


    Little children . . . are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, . . . the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith.
(The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520, in Steinhauser, 197)
    [E]xpressed in the simplest form, the power, the effect, the benefit, the fruit and the purpose of baptism is to save . . . [T]hrough the Word, baptism receives the power to become the washing of regeneration, as St. Paul calls it in Titus 3:5 . . . [F]aith clings to the water and believes it to be baptism which effects pure salvation and life.
(Large Catechism, 1529, sections 223-224, p.162)

John Calvin, on the other hand, takes a view much more similar to the majority of Evangelical Protestants today. He wrote, concerning John 3:5:


    By "water and the Spirit," . . . I simply understand the Spirit, which is water . . . [T]o be born again of water, and of the Spirit, is nothing else than to receive that power of the Spirit, which has the same effect on the soul that water has on the body.
(Institutes, IV, 16, 25)

This verse is not self-interpreting, and one must bring some assumptions to it. So Calvin makes the water metaphorical; others take it literally as the water of baptism. In such cases it is good to compare Scripture with Scripture and determine whether there are any obvious parallels, to help determine what the less-clear passages might mean. We might compare, for example, Titus 3:5 with John 3:5:

Titus 3:5: “[H]e saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,”

John 3:5: “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”

The two passages are almost exactly parallel:


    Titus: "saved"
    John: "enter the kingdom of God"

    Titus: "washing of regeneration"
    John: "born of water"

    Titus: "renewal in the Holy Spirit"
    John: "born of . . . the Spirit"


What is "washing" in one verse (with two other common elements) is "water" in the other. Thus, baptism is tied to salvation, in accord with the other verses above. 1 Corinthians 6:11 is also similar to Titus 3:5 and John 3:5: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

The "justified" is the parallel of "kingdom of God" and "saved" in Titus 3:5 and John 3:5; "washed" goes along with "washing of regeneration" and "born of water," and all this was done by the Spirit. Now it is a striking
threefold parallelism. Furthermore, it is notable that baptism, justification, and sanctification are all mentioned together. This cross-referencing supports the argument that both baptism and regeneration are the subject matter of John 3:5. I shall also answer Calvin with Luther:

Christ says clearly and concisely that the birth referred to here must take place through water and the Holy Spirit. This new birth is Baptism . . . And begone with everyone who refuses to accept this doctrine!

. . . [W]e reply, “Of course, they believed that John purified by his Baptism; for by means of it he joined you to Christ.” Thus one is saved according to the way in which Christ instructed Nicodemus (John 3:5)

(
Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Chapters 1-4, 1540; in LW, 22, 287-288, 429)

The analogy to John the Baptist’s baptism is interesting, and affords us more biblical parallels to John 3:5. For John, baptism was the way to the kingdom of heaven (“a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”: Mark 1:4). Christian baptism likewise forgives sins, because it regenerates. Why should an ordinary Christian baptism have less power than John’s, and not be able to wipe away sins as his did?

When Jesus arrived to begin His mission, the first thing He did was to be baptized by John (Mark 1:9), as an example (of course, he technically did not
need to repent or be baptized). And what happened when Jesus was baptized? The Holy Spirit descended upon him (Mark 1:10). Thus, the Holy Spirit is present alongside the water of baptism, but is not identical to the water, as in Calvin’s view of John 3:5. Also, we see that the water preceded the Spirit, rather than vice versa, as in Calvin’s view. Cross-referencing, then, makes the baptism (and regenerational) interpretation of John 3:5 much more plausible.

How, then, does Calvin interpret Titus 3:5? He plays word games, and engages in blatant eisegesis regarding that passage and also 1 Peter 3:21:


    The first object, therefore, for which it is appointed by the Lord, is to be a sign and evidence of our purification, or (better to explain my meaning) it is a kind of sealed instrument . . . [W]e are to receive it in connection with the promise, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).
Peter also says that "baptism also doth now save us" (1 Pet. 3:21). For he did not mean to intimate that our ablution and salvation are perfected by water, or that water possesses in itself the virtue of purifying, regenerating, and renewing; nor does he mean that it is the cause of salvation, but only that the knowledge and certainty of such gifts are perceived in this sacrament.

(
Institutes, IV, 15, 1-2)

Whereas in dealing with John 3:5, Calvin allegorized the water, here he interprets the “washing” of Titus 3:5 as indeed referring to baptism (cf.
Institutes, IV, 15, 5 -- which only strengthens the analogies made above), but then he proceeds arbitrarily to change the function of baptism in relation to regeneration, claiming it merely follows the latter (as a sign of something already accomplished on other grounds) and does not cause it.

This theory is neat and tidy, but can it be deduced from the biblical text? If we examine just the texts mentioned in this section, Calvin’s conclusion simply does not follow. It is a forced, strained interpretation. The text of Titus reads, “he saved us, . . .
by the washing of regeneration.” For Calvin’s theory to work, the RCV (Revised Calvin Version) would have to read: “The washing of regeneration is a sign and seal that he has saved us.” The two thoughts are completely different. Calvin’s logic is as absurd as the following analogy, based on the sentence structure and logic of Titus 3:5:


    Text: He saved me by the throwing of a lifejacket.

    Interpretation: But one cannot be saved by the throwing of a life jacket, because life jacket is only a sign and symbol that one has been saved. One is already saved from drowning, and then the life jacket is thrown out to show the world that the rescuing has already occurred.


This makes no sense whatsoever. The text clearly states a particular application of the general proposition, “X was caused by Y” (or, “Y caused X” – which is the same logical proposition). The chain of causation flows from Y (baptism) to X (salvation); one cannot simply deny this (if words have any meaning); the logic and the grammatical structure of the sentence do not allow it. Calvin might better have stuck to his method of making water or washing strictly metaphorical. Once he admitted that these verses do indeed refer to baptism, he predestined himself to logical confusion and exegetical chaos.

1 Peter 3:21 couldn’t be any clearer than it is: “Baptism . . . now saves you.” The RCV (applying Calvin’s exegesis) would have to read, “Baptism now gives you the knowledge and certainty of salvation.” Again, this is as logically foolish as believing that the following two sentences express the same idea:


    Doctor: Heart surgery will now save your life.

    New Age Psychologist: Heart surgery won’t save your life but will give you the knowledge and certainty that your life is saved.


Calvin tries to explain away the baptismal regeneration of 1 Peter 3:21 by overemphasizing the "clear conscience" that Peter also mentions (see Institutes, IV, 14, 24). But I think context is decisive in upholding the Catholic interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21. We see that by adding verses 19 and 20 (as above).

The meaning is much clearer in context. This is a typical Hebraic parallelism, or what is called “types and shadows”; very common in Scripture. In the Old Testament, when salvation was mentioned, it usually referred to winning a battle, being saved from an enemy, having one's life or town saved, and so forth -- in other words, physical salvation. This became a metaphor for spiritual salvation later on, in New Testament thought. Here, Peter makes the same sort of analogy. The eight persons in Noah's ark were
saved through water, i.e., physically saved from drowning. The water of the flood symbolized baptism that now saves you also, spiritually, from sin.

As Noah and his family were saved through water, so Christians are saved by baptism, not merely “symbolically saved,” or “doing a necessary but not salvific ritual after being saved, to show forth a sign and seal of our salvation,” which makes no sense of the passage and twists the parallelism itself.

Calvin plays similar games with Acts 22:16, pretending that God cannot use matter to convey His grace -- that this somehow detracts from the sole sufficiency of the blood of Christ and His atonement. In other words, he denies the sacramental principle shown repeatedly in Scripture.

But he is again operating from his own preconceived notions and false dichotomies, not from the
biblical data. When people like Catholics and Lutherans and Orthodox do accept the biblical evidence for baptismal regeneration in its plain meaning, Calvin treats them in the following fashion, in his comment on this verse:

It is well known how much the Papists differ from this rule, who tie the cause of grace to their exorcisms and enchantments; and they are so far from studying to direct the miserable people unto Christ, that they rather drown Christ in baptism, and pollute his sacred name by their enchantments.

Martin Luther (I remind Protestant readers) would also be included in this “anathema,” since he holds an even stronger view than the Catholic one: in his view the grace of baptism cannot be lost:


    Thus the papists have attacked our position and declared that anyone who falls into sin after his Baptism must undergo a distinct type of purification.
(Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Chapters 1-4, 1540; in LW, 22, 429-430)

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, but actually a lifelong Anglican (reasoning much like St. Augustine often does) accepts the notion of baptism being a seal, without denying that it is at the same time a means or cause of regeneration. He does not dichotomize as Calvin does, but thinks in far more biblically oriented terms. Hence he comments in his
Notes on the New Testament, on John 3:5, Acts 22:16, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:21:


    Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit -- Except he experience that great inward change by the Spirit, and be baptized (wherever baptism can be had) as the outward sign and means of it.

    Baptism administered to real penitents, is both a means and seal of pardon. Nor did God ordinarily in the primitive Church bestow this on any, unless through this means.

    Sanctification, expressed by the laver of regeneration, (that is, baptism, the thing signified, as well as the outward sign,) . . .

    Through the water of baptism we are saved from the sin which overwhelms the world as a flood: not, indeed, the bare outward sign, but the inward grace . . .


Elsewhere Wesley makes this even more clear:


    There is a justification conveyed to us in our baptism, or, properly, this state is then begun.
(The Principles of a Methodist Farther Explained, 1746; in Lindstrom, 106-107)

So we see that several groups of Protestants accept a view of baptism virtually identical or quite similar to the Catholic one: that baptism effects spiritual regeneration in a person; it is a means, not a sign, of justification. Naturally, we think their exegesis and biblical support is that much better, but readers can draw their own conclusions.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Calvin, John,
Calvin's Commentaries, 22 volumes, translated and edited by John Owen; originally printed for the Calvin Translation Society, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1853; reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI: 1979. Available online.

Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge for the Calvin Translation Society, 1845 from the 1559 edition in Latin; reprinted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI), 1995. Available online.

Lindstrom, Harald,
Wesley and Sanctification, Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury Press, 1980.

Luther, Martin,
Large Catechism, 1529, translated by Lenker, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.

Luther, Martin,
Luther's Works (LW), American edition, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (volumes 1-30) and Helmut T. Lehmann (volumes 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (volumes 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (volumes 31-55), 1955.

Steinhauser, A.T.W., translator,
Martin Luther: The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520, from Three Treatises, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, revised edition, 1970.

Wesley, John,
Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, 1766; reprinted by Epworth (London), 1958. Available online.

20 comments:

Jordanes said...

The problem with the classifical reformed view of baptism is that it boils down to literally nothing more than something you have to do just because Jesus said so. It's essentially nothing more than a symbol or type like the Old Testament rites that also did not save or take away sin. Why would Jesus go to the trouble of replacing one set of non-salvific rites with another set of non-salvific rites?

Adomnan said...

Calvin: By "water and the Spirit," . . . I simply understand the Spirit, which is water . . . [T]o be born again of water, and of the Spirit, is nothing else than to receive that power of the Spirit, which has the same effect on the soul that water has on the body.

Adomnan: It's outlandish interpretations like this one that make me wonder sometimes whether Calvin was sincere. If Jesus is not talking about the sacrament of baptism in John 3:5, then nothing He says can be understood at face value; everything is a puzzle and verbal trick. Why would Jesus confuse people by making them think He was speaking of baptism ("born of water and the Spirit"), when he didn't have the sacrament in mind, but rather some trite metaphor equating the Spirit with water? And since Jesus mentions the Spirit explicitly in this passage, what would be the point of His tacking on a useless and repetitious metaphor?

In fact, Calvin is saying in effect that "to be born again of water and the Spirit" means "to be born again of the Spirit and the Spirit," because "water" is just another way of saying "Spirit." There's something very wrong with this exegesis.

Jordanes makes a very good point. The Reformed interpretation of Christian sacraments reduces them to the equivalent of Old Testament rites, as if the New Covenant was just a sort of refurbished Judaism, instead of a fulfillment, the reality of which the Old Covenant was the shadow.

I do, however, differ from Jordanes somewhat in that I would disagree with his observation that Old Testament rites were just symbols that "did not save or take away sins." As the Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear, OT sacrifices did in fact take away sins, as they were supposed to. They just didn't take them away definitively, as does Christ's sacrifice.

I'm convinced that ancient people did not perform purely "symbolic" rites. All sacred rites were supposed to be effective, to actually do what they were purported to do. The belief that there are "symbolic" rites that don't do anything was introduced by the Calvinists and other non-Lutheran Protestants. So, it's not that OT rites were ineffective; it's that their effects were much more limited than the perfect rites of the New Testament. Ancient people would not have have wasted their time -- not to mention the expense of temples, victims, priesthoods, etc. -- on rites they thought merely "symbolic." And that includes both Hebrews and pagans.

But I would agree with Jordanes that OT rites did not "save" in the sense that Christian rites save.

Martin said...

If Jesus is not talking about the sacrament of baptism in John 3:5, then nothing He says can be understood at face value; everything is a puzzle and verbal trick. Why would Jesus confuse people by making them think He was speaking of baptism ("born of water and the Spirit"), when he didn't have the sacrament in mind, but rather some trite metaphor equating the Spirit with water? And since Jesus mentions the Spirit explicitly in this passage, what would be the point of His tacking on a useless and repetitious metaphor?

Clearly He was seeking to decieve the non-elect so that the elect can learn the truth later.

I say this with tongue in cheek though from Calvinist answers I get I can't help but wonder if that isn't at the heart of many of the answers I get.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Clearly He was seeking to decieve [sic] the non-elect so that the elect can learn the truth later.

I say this with tongue in cheek though from Calvinist answers I get I can't help but wonder if that isn't at the heart of many of the answers I get.


The attributing to Reformed believers the idea that they see Jesus as a deceiver of people is unwarranted and unfortunate. Since this word is used of Satan, it is particularly inflammatory.

In the Scriptures, does Jesus withhold information from some people or not? The answer is yes/no, either/or, not both/and. The characterisation of Reformed believers as saying that Jesus is a deceiver is disingenuous at best. It does nothing to advance the discussion and actually places serious barriers to fruitful discussions between Catholics and Protestants such as those that Dave and I have already enjoyed.

Unless it can be demonstrated exegetically that the verses I've posted on my blog do not mean what they seem to mean on their face, we may not be able to move past such barriers, if that is, in fact, desired at all.

Dave Armstrong said...

Yep; let's try not to attribute nefarious motives and near-blasphemous positions to our opponents. It's easy to get frustrated (believe me, I know), but we all need to step back and refrain from doing that, as it doesn't advance the discussion at all.

Rocky2 said...

[For what it's worth, I just spotted the following web piece:]

Anti-Catholic "Rapture" Doctrine

While recently looking at the "Opinionated Catholic" blog I was drawn to its lead story entitled "Tim LaHaye Does Most Silly Anti Catholic Charge Ever." Then my eye caught the first "Comments" which listed several web articles which expose the popular Evangelical and Fundamentalist belief in an "any-moment pre-tribulational rapture." You can't believe the huge amount of deliberate dishonesty and cover-up in the same "fly-away rapture" view since its strange birth in Scotland in 1830! To see what I mean, Google "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "X-Raying Margaret," "Deceiving and Being Deceived," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," and especially "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" - all written by author and historian Dave MacPherson who has spent 40 years locating long forgotten (and covered up) early "rapture" documents in libraries in Britain etc. The same "Comments" urged Catholics to read MacPherson's highly endorsed and massively documented book "The Rapture Plot" (see online stores including Armageddon Books), and I got the impression that his findings could finally silence all anti-Catholic "rapture" traffickers such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. Don't forget that these two have been THE bestselling authors worldwide since the 1970s simply because they have discovered how to thoroughly brainwash tens of millions of deceived Protestant Evangelicals and Fundamentalists with the unscriptural "rapture escape" - no little achievement! Catholic leaders and writers apparently now have the ammunition and documentation to finally demolish the same anti-Catholic publishing craze! ----J. Edwards

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adomnan said...

Pilgrimsarbour: Unless it can be demonstrated exegetically that the verses I've posted on my blog do not mean what they seem to mean on their face, we may not be able to move past such barriers.

Adomnan: The first verse you posted is John 9:39. In the Jerusalem Bible, it reads as follows:

"It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind."

I agree with the interpretative note on this verse in the JB: "(Those with sight) are the complacent who trust to their own 'sight', see vv. 24,29,34, as opposed to the humble, typified by the blind man, cf. Dt 29:3; Is 6:9seq; Jr 5:21; Ezk 12:2."

Your other verse from Isaiah via Matthew et al has the same meaning.

In both cases, those who are blinded don't truly see. They trust to their erring sight. By declaring what is true, Jesus shows that these supposedly "seeing" people are in fact blind. If their confrontation with the truth causes them to realize they are spiritually blind, then they too can learn to see. They are not necessarily reprobate.

That this is the correct interpretation is borne out by the following verses; e.g., John 9:41: "Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."

These Pharisees who CLAIM to see are worse than blind. They WILL not to see.

As Raymond Brown in his exegesis of the Gospel of John points out: "The story began with the declaration that physical blindness is not caused by sin (v. 3); it closes with the declaration that spiritual blindness is caused by sin."

These verses are therefore not examples of Jesus "withholding information from some people."

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Friends,

I have been trying to post my comments here but I keep getting an HTML spelling error prompt regarding Adomnan's name, and it won't let me post. The code is embedded invisibly, somehow related to the spellcheck feature, and no matter what I do I can't get rid of it.

If you would be so kind as to see my new post on the subject of baptismal regeneration here I would be much obliged. It is almost an exact duplication of the comments I had tried to post here.

Right now I need to get to bed, but I promise that I'll look at your comments and respond tomorrow sometime after church (and perhaps nap!).

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Adomnan said...

On his blog, Pilgrimsarbout takes issue with my observation that Calvin's equation of water with the Spirit in John 3:5 is a trite metaphor. He points out that Isaiah and Ezechiel compare pouring out the Spirit with pouring out water.

Well, in Isaiah and Ezechiel, the comparison or metaphor isn't trite, because it's fresh, poetic, evocative and appropriate in the context (as well, perhaps, as a prophecy of baptism). However, if water is a metaphor for spirit in John 3:5, then it would be trite, bald, repetitive, awkward and even absurd. Calvin would have us believe that Jesus said "you must be born of water and the Spirit," meaning "you must be born of the Spirit and the Spirit." If "water" is just a synonym for Spirit here, then why the meaningless repetition?

If Jesus had said, "Just as water is poured down on the parched earth, so the Spirit will be poured down on you," then it would still be trite (because a bad imitation of Isaiah and Ezechiel), but at least it wouldn't be absurd.

"Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?" and "You are my sunshine" say essentially the same thing. But the second is trite and the first isn't.

On the larger issue, John 3:5 is so certainly and evidently a reference to the sacrament of baptism that I don't see the use of debating the point.

Adomnan said...

Pilgrimsarbour, if you'd like to reply to one of my posts here and can't get pass the spellcheck, then please feel free to refer to me simply as A.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Adomnan,

Yeah, I really don't know what happened. I type everything on WordPad first before posting and commenting, typing out the HTML code as I go. I never use spellcheck, but I was curious about it, so I tried it. Anyway, it wouldn't let me post, even after I eliminated your name, replaced it with "Commenter" and even "A." I even re-booted the computer. No good. I wasn't going to retype everything, so there you have it.

I think in future if I avoid spellcheck I'll be all right. I just didn't want you to think I wasn't going to respond to you in the combox.

These verses are therefore not examples of Jesus "withholding information from some people."

I concede the point that "withholding information" is not the best choice of words as I've struggled to defend against the idea proposed that Jesus "deceives" people. I concur with the analysis of the spiritually blind and the spiritually sighted, although I hasten to add that it is God's Spirit that opens the blind eyes. So who is smart enough, on their own merit, to get God to do that for them?

It's o.k. if we're at an impasse regarding John 3:5. Some scholars argue that "born of water" is a reference to physical birth whereas "born of the Spirit" refers, of course, to spiritual re-birth. In any case, I don't mean to say that water baptism and spirit baptism are unrelated. Quite the contrary. However, the issue for me is whether water baptism actually regenerates, and on this point we can't agree. It doesn't mean that we can't continue discussing things, but I agree with you that merely repeating ourselves to each other would be tedious to all who read our words. So, God's best to you and on to other things!

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Adomnan said...

I concur, Pilgrimsarbour, that there's no point in you and me discussing Jn 3:5 any further, although perhaps some other Catholic out there would like to explore this verse with you.

I think, though, it might be useful for me to comment on this statement of yours: "I don't mean to say that water baptism and spirit baptism are unrelated."

"Spirit baptism," or more accurately, "baptism with the Spirit," is an event and sometimes a rite mentioned in the Book of Acts. It is administered only to former disciples of John the Baptist. The reason for this "baptism with the Spirit" is the following: While Christian baptism bestows two benefits, the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, John's baptism had just one benefit: the remission of sins. It did not confer the Spirit.

Therefore, there were people in the first century who had received baptism for the remission of sins from John but had not yet received the Holy Spirit in Christian baptism. They thus needed a "baptism with the Spirit," but could forgo baptism for the remission of sins (having already experienced it through John). Evidently, this class of people died out in the early second century at the latest.

Since then there has been no "Spirit baptism" distinct from what you call "water baptism." There is only one baptism (in water of course) in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that both remits sins (like John's rite) and confers the Spirit.

"Baptism with the Spirit" is a purely historical phenomemon with no current application. Thus, in my opinion, it would be better to avoid the expression "spirit baptism" when speaking of our current situation.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

"Baptism with the Spirit" is a purely historical phenomemon with no current application. Thus, in my opinion, it would be better to avoid the expression "spirit baptism" when speaking of our current situation.

Of course, Reformed theology recognises the regeneration of our spirit by the Holy Spirit, which is what we see as being baptised by the Spirit. We don't normally use that terminology, however, as the term has been made popular by "second-blessing" theologies, which we disavow as unbiblical.

Adomnan said...

Pilgrimsarbour: Of course, Reformed theology recognises the regeneration of our spirit by the Holy Spirit, which is what we see as being baptised by the Spirit.

Adomnan: Understood. However, I am making the point that one should not speak as if there are currently two baptisms, a "water baptism" and a "spirit baptism." And one should definitely not contrast these two baptisms as if they were two separate realities, one outer and the other inner.

In the Bible, spirit baptism (better "baptism with the Spirt" as in Acts 1:5) was only applied to those who had undergone John's baptism of repentance (for the remission of sins). In the Biblical sense, there is no distinct "spirit baptism" today at all, only the one sacramental baptism, which both remits sins and confers the Spirit.

When Jesus says in Acts 1:5, "John baptised with water but, not many days from now, you are going to be baptised with the Spirit," this means, "John baptised YOU with water (for the remission of sins); but, not many days from now, you are (also) going to be baptised with the Spirit."

I might add that the disciples gathered for Pentecost were already "saved" before the Spirit descended on them. Thus, if they were in fact "regenerated by the Spirit" (and I wouldn't use that term in this context), then this "regeneration" wasn't the same thing as salvation.

No one was baptised into Christ or the Spirit until after Christ had died and risen, because -- as St. Paul explains in Rm 6 -- the sacrament of baptism is a dying and rising with Christ. It is a sacrament of the Cross.

Martin said...

Clearly He was seeking to decieve [sic] the non-elect so that the elect can learn the truth later.


I say this with tongue in cheek though from Calvinist answers I get I can't help but wonder if that isn't at the heart of many of the answers I get.


First, no I can't spell and sometimes fail to spellcheck. (I hate IE).

Second, I see I have trouble communicating. I will try to do bettter. Apologies to PH as my direction in commenting on this was not to ascribe evil intent. Let me try again in a clearer (I hope) fashion.

PH proposed (and in DA's comments it seems he has no issues) an idea that I will summarize in a syllogism:

1. Jesus always spoke in public in parables.

2. The purpose of the parables was to "hide" the kingdom from the unregenerate so that they may remain unregenerate.

Question 1.: The people followed Jesus and he taught them. What was he teaching if not the truth?

Question 2: Is it true that Jesus "only" spoke to the public in parables? It seems this idea is in part why so many Protestants stumble on John 6 (Everything Jesus said in public was parable therefore John 6 is parable).

Again, not meaning disrespect but the concept sounds gnostic. What I hear is the idea: Only my secret people will have true knowlage from me, the masses will get pseudoknowlage.....I think it is my difficulty in getting my head into the Calvinist way of thinking.

Martin said...

Darn, I hit post instead of preview. On re-reading my post I see it makes it sound like I was trying to ascribe a Calvinist elect/unregenerate position to DA. I know that's wrong. My point was that DA did not seem to object to the concept that Jesus taught the crowds only in parables.

Martin said...

The scottish trust is at best spam. I think it downloaded malware to my computer as I was silly enough to peek.

Dave Armstrong said...

Sorry to hear it. Gotta be very careful. I went through an episode with a virus about a month ago. No fun.

Gary said...






Can you really trust your English Bible to be God's true Word?



Have you ever had an evangelical or Reformed Christian say this to you:

"THAT passage of the Bible, in the original Greek, does NOT mean what the simple, plain reading of the passage seems to say in English."

It happens to me all the time in my conversations with Baptists, evangelicals, and fundamentalists on this blog. They state: "Repent and be baptized...for the forgiveness of sins" was mistranslated. "This is my body...this is my blood" is a metaphorical expression, "Baptism does now save us" is figurative speech for what happens to us spiritually when we ask Christ into our hearts.

What they are basically saying is that unless you speak ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek...you can't read and really understand the Bible without the help of an educated Churchman!

This morning I came across an excellent article on this subject, written by Jordan Cooper, a Lutheran pastor. I am going to give the link to his article below. I have copied a couple of his statements here:

"So here is a question that we all need to ask ourselves when doing this (refusing to accept the simple, plain, English translation of a passage of Scripture): If a verse seems to disprove your theological beliefs, and you translate it in some way that doesn't fit with any of the dozens of major English translations of the Bible, and that unique translation just happens to fit your own theological biases, could it be that it is in fact you who are in the wrong? Could you be reading your own preconceived theological convictions back into the text?"

" I know it can be frustrating when you are constantly told that Scripture can't be understood unless you learn (an ancient) language or read ancient documents that you don't have either the time or the energy to study. Honestly, if you have a few good English translations at your side, and you take the time to compare them to one another, you have all the tools you need to understand the meaning of the Bible.

Link to Pastor Cooper's original article:

http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-wrong-use-of-biblical-languages.html