Monday, May 10, 2010

“Faith alone”: Is baptism a “work” ?


What is “faith alone”? The previous thread (LINK), as well as a couple of older threads (A Catholic affirmation/understanding of “faith alone”; An Evangelical critique of R.C. Sproul’s “Faith Alone”) here at AF, have shed some light on attempted polemical definitional constructs. I would now like to focus in on baptism’s relationship to faith—more explicitly, whether or not baptism is a crucial element of grace and faith, or whether it is a “work”. I shall begin by citing St. Augustine:

…in the holy union of the parts of the body of Christ, so great is the virtue of that sacrament, namely of baptism, which brings salvation…

“…Except a man be born again of water, and of the Spirit.” By water, therefore, which holds forth the sacrament of grace in its outward form, and by the Spirit who bestows the benefit of grace in its inward power, canceling the bond of guilt [reconcilians bonum naturæ], the man deriving from his first birth originally from Adam alone, is regenerated in Christ alone.

For if sacraments had not some points of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all…the sacrament of faith is faith*…thus the apostle says, in regard to this sacrament of baptism: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into his death.”
(Letter 98 – NPNF First Series, 1.406, 407, 410.)

Augustine’s position that baptism is not a work at all, but rather, is a sacrament of grace (and hence, “is faith”), is maintained by the most famous advocate of “faith alone”, Martin Luther:

The Christian message informs us that, to begin with, we must become wholly different persons, that is, that we must be born anew. But how does this happen? By the Holy Spirit and by water (John 3:5). after I have been reborn and have become pious and God-fearing, then I go forth; and everything I do in that regenerate state is good…
Do not follow the example of Münzer, who claims that here the word “water” means affliction and temptation. It is true that the word “water” does often symbolize temptation in Holy Writ, especially in the Psalms. But here it cannot be interpreted that way; for here Christ is speaking of Baptism, of real and natural water such as a cow may drink, the Baptism about which you hear in the sermons on this subject. Therefore the word “water” does not designate affliction here; it means real, natural water, which is connected with God’s Word and becomes a very spiritual bath through the Holy Spirit or through the entire Trinity. Here Christ also speaks of the Holy Spirit and teaches us to regard Baptism as a spiritual, yes, a Spirit-filled water, in which the Holy Spirit is present and active; in fact, the entire Holy Trinity is there. And thus the person who has been baptized is said to be born anew. In Titus 3:5 St. Paul terms Baptism “a washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” In the last chapter of Mark we read that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). And in this passage Christ declares that whoever is not born anew of the water and the Holy Spirit cannot come into the kingdom of God. Therefore God’s words dare not be tampered with. Of course, we are well aware that Baptism is natural water. But after the Holy Spirit is added to it, we have more than mere water. It becomes a veritable bath of rejuvenation, a living bath which washes and purges man of sin and death, which cleanses him of all sin.

Christ wants to say: “You are not yet born anew. But I have come to bring you a new way of being born again, namely, a rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit, and to proclaim to you the necessity of this rebirth. I bring you a washing of regeneration which gives you a new birth and transforms you into a new person.”
(LUTHER’S WORKS [Volume 22] Sermons On The Gospel Of St. John -Chapters 1–4, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, trans. Martin H. Bertram, 1957, pp. 280, 283, 284.)

And:

Recently we heard the sermon in which the Lord told Nicodemus that unless a man is born anew of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot come into the kingdom of God. Thereby He indicated that our salvation and blessedness does not depend on good works or the righteousness of the flesh but on our being born anew. This new birth must precede the good works. There is nothing hidden about it; it is to be known as a new birth from water and the Holy Spirit. That is how we must be born anew. It is not sufficient to be born of a woman, which is a birth of flesh and blood. This birth we experienced once. No, 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. We are baptized in God’s name, with God’s Word, and with water. Thus our sin is forgiven, and we are saved from eternal death. The Holy Spirit is also bestowed on us; we receive a new nature, different from the one with which we were born. Through Adam we were involved in the realm of the devil, who is our master; death, sin, eternal damnation, and the devil’s kingdom were born into us. But here we are reborn from death to life, from sin to righteousness; here we are transferred from the kingdom of the devil into the kingdom of God. You heard that the new birth is effected through the Holy Spirit and water, and that we are renewed through the power and the efficacy of Baptism. (Ibid., p 287.)


Grace and peace,

David

*Note: bold emphasis in quotations mine.

ADDENDUM:

In the combox of this thread, Nick (LINK to “Nick’s Catholic Blog”) has brought to our attention material from Luther’s Large Catechism that is germane to the topic at hand; the following is a lengthy extract from the section on “Holy Baptism”:


26] Here you see again how highly and precious we should esteem Baptism, because in it we obtain such an unspeakable treasure, which also indicates sufficiently that it cannot be ordinary mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing, but the Word does it, and (as said above) the fact that the name of God is comprehended therein. 27] But where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation, that it may indeed be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water; for by the Word such power is imparted to Baptism that it is a laver of regeneration, as St. Paul also calls it, Titus 3:5.
28] But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. 29] But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?
30] Now, they are so mad as to separate faith, and that to which faith clings and is bound, though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances. Wherever, therefore, He speaks, yea, in whichever direction or by whatever means He speaks, thither faith must look, and to that it must hold. 31] Now here we have the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. To what else do they refer than to Baptism, that is, to the water comprehended in God's ordinance? Hence it follows that whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism.
32] In the third place, since we have learned the great benefit and power of Baptism, let us see further who is the person that receives what Baptism gives and profits. 33] This is again most beautifully and clearly expressed in the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. That is, faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. For, since these blessings are here presented and promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart. 34] Without faith it profits nothing, notwithstanding it is in itself a divine superabundant treasure. Therefore this single word (He that believeth) effects this much that it excludes and repels all works which we can do, in the opinion that we obtain and merit salvation by them. For it is determined that whatever is not faith avails nothing nor receives anything.
35] But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God's (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper's baptism). God's works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. 36] For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God's command and ordinance, and besides in God's name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.

37] Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith. Therefore they do us violence by exclaiming against us as though we preach against faith; while we alone insist upon it as being of such necessity that without it nothing can be received nor enjoyed. (The Large Catechism – Holy Baptism)

11 comments:

thegrandverbalizer19 said...

With the name of God, Peace be unto you.

I hope you are in the best of health David and the feet are on their way to being 'happy feet'.

I wonder if you would comment on John's Baptism and what would Christians say happened to the people who were baptized by John before any 'death' and 'resurrection' happened?

Also what happens to people who are in the desert and want to accept Christ Jesus but there is no water available? I know that there is debate about full water immersion and sprinkling but can't concessions be made in challenging situations?

Thank you and look forward to reading more of your material.

nilesh mahapatra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nilesh mahapatra said...

Hey,
It is a nice blog,But in the holy union of the parts of the body of Christ, so great is the virtue of that sacrament, namely of baptism, which brings salvation.....Thank's
Quran

Nick said...

Here is a very relevant quote from Luther's Large Catechism (which was a document Luther accepted till his dying day and all Confessional Lutherans accept as well):

35] But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God's (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper's baptism). God's works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. 36] For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God's command and ordinance, and besides in God's name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.

37] Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith. Therefore they do us violence by exclaiming against us as though we preach against faith; while we alone insist upon it as being of such necessity that without it nothing can be received nor enjoyed.
http://www.bookofconcord.org/lc-6-baptism.php

Fr Kimmel quoted this a while back for Jason, but I think you'd do well to post it yourself.

David Waltz said...

Hi GrandVerb,

So good to see you back; you wrote:

>>I hope you are in the best of health David and the feet are on their way to being 'happy feet'.>>

Me: Not a 100% yet, but seem to be getting better day by day (the bare-foot running is definitely working).

>>I wonder if you would comment on John's Baptism and what would Christians say happened to the people who were baptized by John before any 'death' and 'resurrection' happened?>>

Me: As with so many doctrinal issues, Christians are divided over this. I would like to suggest the following for some of the alternatives:

Baptism in the Early Church -see pages 83-96.

Baptism in the New Testament - see pages 31-44.

[I own both of these books; it you cannot access some of the pages, let me know.]

>>Also what happens to people who are in the desert and want to accept Christ Jesus but there is no water available? I know that there is debate about full water immersion and sprinkling but can't concessions be made in challenging situations?>>

Me: IMO, baptism is one of the ‘ordinary’ means of grace in the Christian dispensation; but, God is not limited by the ‘ordinary’, and most certainly operates via ‘extra-ordinary’ means—probably many more times than we think. With that said, Catholics speak of a “baptism of desire”, and a “baptism of blood”; Mormons are espouse vicarious baptism for those who did not have the opportunity in this life.

While on the subject of baptism, what do you think of al-Baqarah 138 ???


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Nilesh,

Welcome back!!! Thanks much for your kind words; please feel free to continue commenting, and engage in issues that may be on your mind.

God bless,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Nick,

Thank you so much for the quote from Luther's Large Catechism, it is very relevant, and I will post it as an addendum in the opening post (though it will be tomorrow, the Lord willing).

BTW, did Jason respond to you on this?

Grace and peace,

David

thegrandverbalizer19 said...

With the name of God, Peace be unto you.

David the verse that you quoted from the Qur'an the sibaghtullah is very interesting indeed.

The Baptism of God, and who is better than God to baptize? Him do we worship”

Remember that

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)

"John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."" (Luke 3:16)

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)

"John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."" (Luke 3:16)

Safiyy al-Din Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Dajani al-Qushashi says in as-Simt al-Majid, in the section about dhikr:

Al-Jurayri said, “One of our companions was a man who would constantly say ‘Allah, Allah.’ One day a tree branch fell on his head, causing a skull fracture, and he bled, so the blood formed the words ‘Allah, Allah’ on the floor” . For dhikr is a fire that leaves nothing and spares nothing (Qur’an 74:28), if it enters a house it says “Me, and nothing else!” which is one of the meanings of “La Ilaha Illa Allah“; so if it finds in it wood it burns it, making it fire, and if what’s there is darkness it would be light and illuminate it, and if what’s there is light it would be light upon light (Q 24:35). And dhikr removes from the body all the malignant or harmful excesses that result from overeating and from eating food that is haram; as for all that comes from halal food it does not touch it. And if all the malignant parts are burned and only the pure are left, you would hear dhikr from every part of your body, as if it were a trumpet blow. (pg 11-12)

As I mentioned before there are some places that the mind cannot go. This has to be respected by all: Jew, Christian and Muslim.

Unfortunately the Muslims today have fallen for the game of trying to rationalize every single aspect of Islam.

I remember watching an old 80s movie about Moses. The mother says to Moses wife "I lost my son when he went to search for his Lord" The wife replies "and I lost my husband when he found his Lord".

This is very interesting, especially with the wife because she plays a more intimate role. She is spouse and she is lover.

One day Allah-willing David I will e-mail an experience(s) I have had with Dhikrullah.

I tell you what by Allah I would lay my face on the earth and let any prophet who has walked this earth to tread upon my face!

Because Allah's light is so sweet and powerful and so embracing and awesome.

It is truly a struggle to find out what it means to be baptized by fire. However, the sweetest struggle and the one I am in complete awe of are those who have been baptized by fire and can continue to live in this world like normal human beings. Subhan'Allah!

Michael Gormley said...

Okay, which way is it, by Grace, by Faith, or by Works, that brings us into eternal salvation?

How about all of the above?

For many non-Catholics, the answer to the question is one of 'Either - Or', but with Catholics, the answer is 'And'. (This is an example of Boolean Logic)

"Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by GOD and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works."

This is a Joint Declaration on Justification (Salvation) by faith, paragraph 15. This joint declaration was agreed upon by the Catholic and Lutheran Churches in 1999 after 33 years of discussion.BAPITISM

"Even so let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

"Make no mistake: GOD is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due season we shall reap our harvest if we do not give up."
(Galatiansl 6:7-9)

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)

Michael Gormley said...

Jesus Christ said in Matthew 19:14, "Let the little children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me."

He also said in John 3: 5, "...unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit HE CANNOT ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD."

How are they to come to Him unless they are Baptized?
Those who say not to Baptize infants clearly have a Biblical conflict here, and they risk the salvation of the souls of their children.

Steve Finnell said...

LUCIFER WANTS YOU DRY

Why does Satan want you to stay away from the the watery grave of baptism?

1. Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

Lucifer wants you dry so you cannot be saved.

2. Acts 8:39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.

Beelzebub wants you dry to prevent you from rejoicing.

3. Acts 22:16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.

The Devil wants you dry so your sins will not be washed away.

4. Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

The prince of darkness wants you dry so you will not be clothed with Christ.

5. Acts 2:41,47 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 47 ...And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Satan wants you dry because he does not want you saved and subsequently added to the Lord's church.

6. Romans 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.


The prince of devils wants you dry to keep you from walking in a new life with Christ.

7. Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

Lucifer wants you dry so you will remain a slave to sin.

8. Romans 6:11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Beelzebub wants you dry so you cannot be alive to God in Christ Jesus.

9. 1 Peter 3:21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you---not the removal of dirt from the flesh , but an appeal to God for a good conscience---through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The prince of the devils wants you dry because he does not want you to be saved.

10. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Lucifer wants you dry because he does not want you to have your sins forgiven nor does he want you to receive indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit.

11. Colossians 2:12-13 ..buried with Him in baptism...13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.

Beelzebub wants you dry because he does not want your transgressions forgiven.

12. Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have dine in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by thewashing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

The Devil want you dry so will remain unsaved.

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

The prince of darkness wants you dry in order to keep you from entering the kingdom of God.

14. Ephesians 5:25-27 ...Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her , having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory , having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Satan wants you dry because he does not want you sanctified, cleansed, nor holy and blameless.

15. Revelation 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Lucifer wants you dry because he does not want your name written in the Lamb's book of life.He want you to be thrown into the lake of fire.

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