Baptism

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greenJBJames Benjamin Green was born on May 10, 1871 to parents Curtis and Sarah Hammond Green, and died on September 8, 1967, at the age of 96. He had received his education at the Peabody Teachers College, Nashville, TN (1889-1891) and the University of Nashville (1891-1893, BA), with postgraduate  work there, (1895-96), followed by his preparation for the ministry at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, 1898-1901.

He was both licensed and ordained in 1901 by Columbia Presbytery, and installed as pastor of the Frierson Memorial Presbyterian church in Columbia, Tennessee, serving there from 1901 through 1903. He then answered a call to serve as pastor of the church in Fayetteville, TN, 1903-1907. His third pulpit and longest pastorate was with the Presbyterian church in Greenwood, SC, where he labored from 1908 to 1921. From this pulpit he was then called to serve as professor of Systematic Theology at the Columbia Theological Seminary, 1921-1950. Announcing his intent to retire in 1946, he was that same year elected to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly (PCUS). Other honors awarded during his life included the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by the Presbyterian College of South Carolina (1914) and the Doctor of Letters degree, conferred by Southwest College (1940).

It was on this day, August 14, 1957, that The Southern Presbyterian Journal published an article by Dr. Green on the subject of baptism, which we take the liberty of reproducing here in full. Demand for the article was such that the Journal saw fit to issue it in tract form, publishing at least four editions in the years that followed. While this might be a longer post than you care to read right now, it would certainly be worth printing and filing away for future use.

WHY WE BAPTIZE BY SPRINKLING
by Rev. J. B. Green, D.D.
Columbia Theological Seminary Decatur, Ga.

We differ from our immersionist friends not only in our view of the mode, but also in our view of the meaning of baptism. They think  that baptism points to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We object to that in­terpretation:

  1. green_1957_sprinklingBecause it is generally agreed that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper refers to the death and resurrection of Christ. If baptism also signifies the death and resurrection of Christ, then we have two Sacraments which are signs and symbols of the same facts of the life of Christ. Why this double representation of these facts? In that case we have no sign and symbol of the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament it was not so. There the passover pointed to the work of Christ, but cir­cumcision pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit. For circumcision meant the putting away of carnality, the removal of the sinful flesh. This is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. Bap­tism means the same thing; it means the wash­ing away of sin. We object to the immersion- ist’s view of the meaning of baptism for another reason. The burial of Christ has no redemptive value. Christ would have saved the world if he had not been buried. Why should a rite be ordained to signify a fact which is not essen­tial to the accomplishment of salvation?

We think that baptism represents the work of the Holy Spirit. Why do we so think? For several reasons. There are three Bible symbols of the Holy Spirit. One is oil. In 1 Samuel 10:1-6 we have an account of the anointing of Saul by Samuel, setting him apart to the King­ship. The oil was poured on Saul’s head, and in connection with that anointing the Holy Spirit came upon him.

In I Samuel 16th chapter we have an account of the anointing of David by Samuel. The oil ’ was poured upon David’s head and the Spirit came upon him. These passages indicate that the anointing with oil is typical of the anoint­ing with the Holy Spirit.

Another symbol of the Spirit is water. In Ezekiel 36:25-27, the Lord Jehovah says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you . . . And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them.” The gift of the spirit is associated with the sprinkling with water. In Matthew 3:16, there is an ac­count of two baptisms. One with water, one with the Spirit. The water baptism was sym­bolic of the Spirit baptism. In John 7:37-38, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that be- lieveth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that be­lieve on him were to receive.”

The third symbol is fire. In Acts 2:3-4, we * have an account of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the first group of believers. “There appeared unto them tongues parting asunder like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

These symbols point to the Spirit and his work, and not to Christ and his redemptive action.

Now by what mode were these symbols ap­plied? The oil was poured upon the head. The water, throughout the Jewish dispensation, was sprinkled or poured, and the fire descended upon the heads of the believers.

There is one other passage to which I must t direct your attention: 1 John 5:8, “There are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.” These three, the Spirit, the water, and the blood agree, says the Apostle. In what re­spect? In meaning for one thing, they all signify cleansing. Do they not agree also in mode? The blood was always sprinkled. The water of puri­fication among the Jews was always sprinkled. And the Spirit, as we shall see, always descended upon.

It thus appears from Scripture that water bap­tism symbolizes the work of the Spirit. If so, it should not be supposed that the mode of baptism is by immersion.

But some — many — say that the question of mode is settled by the word baptizo, the Greek word which gives the name to the rite. We do not think so. The Greek word for the Lord’s Supper, the second Sacrament, does not settle the question of the mode of its administration. The Greek word for the Supper is deipnon, which signifies a full meal; a table spread with sufficient food to satisfy a man’s hunger. The Greek Christians at Corinth, perhaps reasoning from the meaning of that word, misobserved the Lord’s Supper; and the Apostle had to cor­rect them. 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. If reasoning from the literal meaning of the classic word for the second Sacrament leads to error, may not reasoning from the literal meaning of the word for the first Sacrament also lead to error? It not only may, but does.

In the Lord’s Supper we have not a physical feast, as the word for it suggests, but physical signs of a spiritual feast. In baptism we have not a physical bath, but a physical sign of a spiritual cleansing. A small quantity of bread and wine is sufficient to signify a spiritual ban­quet. And a little water is sufficient as a sign of spiritual purifying.

But it is contended by many that baptizo always means to dip, to plunge, etc. Not in the Bible.

At the beginning of my ministry in Tennessee I attended a debate on the subject of the mode of baptism between a Baptist minister and a min­ister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The Baptist brought many books of authority by which he intended to prove that baptizo always means to dip, to plunge, etc. The Cumberland Presbyterian brought only his Bible. He said he proposed to show that baptizo in the Bible does not mean to immerse. What he proposed to do, he did.

Some years ago a Baptist publishing house in the north requested Dr. Edmund B. Fairfield to prepare a book in defense of the Baptist view of the mode of baptism. This man had been a Baptist minister for more than a quarter of a century, and no man was more certain of being right than he was. He said he had no doubt on the subject. For two years he investigated the evidence relating to the mode of baptism. To his surprise, the farther he went in his investigation, the more he saw that the evidence was against the Baptist position. In the presence of his accumulated evidence, honesty required him to surrender his former view. He wrote a book, but it was on the other side of the question.

I will now give you instances of the use of the word in the New Testament where baptizo does not, cannot, mean to immerse. Luke 11:37-38: There we are told that a Pharisee asked Jesus to dine with him; and Jesus went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he mar­veled that he had not first bathed himself before dinner. The word there rendered bathed, is the word baptizo. Was the Pharisee surprised that Jesus did not first immerse himself before sitting down to meat? Impossible!

Hebrews: The author in the 9th chapter is describing the ordinances of divine service in the old sanctuary. “The priest offered both gifts and sacrifices that cannot as touching the con­science make the worshipper perfect, being only (with meats, drinks, and divers washings) carnal ordinances.” The word rendered washing is baptizmois. These washings were called bap­tisms. There were many washings, purifyings, among the Jews, but no immersions.

The third instance of the use of the word bap­tizo, where it cannot mean immerse, is in the accounts of the baptisms with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer, (would you say John the Immerser?) says: “I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I; . . .He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Was baptism with the Holy Spirit by im­mersion? Was anybody ever immersed in the Holy Spirit? The idea is foreign to Scripture, foreign to reason. The Spirit was always applied to the person, never the person to the Spirit. The same is true of water in the Bible. It is always applied to the person, and that by sprinkling. The immersionist applies the person to the water, we apply the water to the person, that is the Bible way, there is no exception.

The same is true of the use of blood in the Bible, as we have seen. There is a song we some­times sing:

“There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.”

I like the music, but not words of the first stanza. The words are thoroughly unscriptural. When was any sinner ever plunged beneath a flood of the blood!

Let Peter tell you how the blood was applied. His First Epistle addressed to the “elect . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit unto obedi­ence and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” And listen to the author of Hebrews: “Having a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water …” 10:21-22. The washing with pure water is a reference to water baptism. In the passage there are two cleansings, the cleansing of the body and the cleansing of the heart. It says that the heart was cleansed by sprinkling. Was the body cleansed by immersion?

Now all will agree that the greater, the better baptism, is the Spirit baptism. John says: “I baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John’s baptism was typical of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus’ baptism with the Spirit was the real, the important baptism. For the mode of it, read Joel’s prophecy: “It shall come to pass that I will pour out my Spirit in all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions and also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” 2.28-29. Now read the account of the fulfillment of that prophesy in Acts 2:3-4: “There came from heaven tongues parting asun­der like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” The tongues of fire and the Holy Spirit came from above, from heaven, upon the be­lievers.

In Acts, the 10th chapter, we are told that while Peter was yet speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. That is the invariable rule, the Spirit always falls upon, descends upon, or is poured upon the subjects. If water baptism is to present a picture of Spirit baptism, it should be in mode like Spirit bap­tism. Well, if the mode is not given in the word which designates the rite, how are we to learn what the mode is? In two ways: 1. By the mean­ing of the rite in Scripture. I have dealt with that already. 2. By the examples of its admin­istration. The passages in the New Testament that relate to the administration of baptism are divided into three classes: First, those which taken by themselves seem to favor immersion. Matthew 3:16. The authorized version says that Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water. The revised version says that he went up straightway from the water. The preposition used is not ex, meaning out of, but apo, which means from the water. He could have gone up from the water without going up out of the water. In Acts 8:38-39, we have an account of the baptism of the eunuch by Philip. The record says that both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he bap­tized him. And when they came up out of the water the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip. The immersionist says that this language indi­cates that the baptism was by immersion, but t the passage, correctly read, indicates no such thing. If going into the water and the com­ing up out of it were parts of the baptism, then both Philip and the eunuch were baptized; for they both went down into the water and came up out of the water. The passage says that the Baptism took place between the going into the water and the coming up out of the water. And all the lawyers of Philadelphia cannot tell how the baptism was performed. No valid argument can be based on prepositions. In the 8th chapter of the Acts, the preposition en is used several times, but only in the account of the baptism of the eunuch is it translated into. Elsewhere in that chapter it is translated at, by, etc. So I say that this class of Scripture only seems to favor immersion.

Second, there is a second class of passages relat­ing to the administration of baptism from which the idea of immersion is excluded. Under this head belong the accounts of baptism with the Holy Spirit. With this class of passages we have dealt already.

Third, there is a third class of passages which, in themselves, are not decisive, but which are altogether favorable to baptism by sprinkling. First, the baptism of the 3,000 at Jerusalem. Was it by immersion? Where? In what water? Jerusalem’s water supply was mostly in cisterns under the ground, no river flowed by Jerusalem, only a little brook which was a wet weather branch, at other seasons its bed was dry. There was no large pool or lake at Jerusalem. If there had been, it would have been under the control of the Pharisees, who, of course, would have for­bidden it to those despised followers of the crucified pretender to Messiahship. It there had been a body of water sufficient for baptism by immersion and the Apostles had used it for that purpose, the whole body of the water would have been polluted, rendered unfit for use by any Jew fearing defilement. The facts of the situation in Jerusalem are dead against the notion that the 3,000 converts were baptized by immersion.

Take now the baptism of the case of the eunuch, which was down toward Gaza, which was desert. Some tourists were shown the place where it was said the eunuch was baptized. And what did they see? A little stream no bigger than your little finger flowing out of a rock. A Bap­tist in the party exclaimed, “Oh it didn’t take place here, it didn’t take place here, not enough water,” Exactly, not enough water for immer­sion, but a plenty for sprinkling.

Next, the case of Cornelius and his household. While Peter was yet speaking the Holy Spirit fell on all that heard the Word. Did Peter say, “Is there a baptistry here, or a pool convenient where these may be baptized?” No, he said, “Can any man forbid the water that these should not be baptized?” He then commanded them to be baptized then and there. Was it by immersion?

The case of the jailer at Philippi. His baptism took place without delay at midnight at the jail. Was it by immersion? The case of Paul is pe­culiarly clear and convincing. Ananias was sent to administer to Paul, then called Saul. Laying his hands on him, Ananias said, “Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight. And he arose and was baptized. Baptized then and there, standing up. Was it by immersion?

Two points more and I am done.

  1. According to our view of baptism there is unity and harmony in Scripture. There is one method of purification in Both Testaments and that is by sprinkling — sprinkling of water, sprinkling of blood.
  2. Baptism by sprinkling is universally ap­plicable. Universally applicable as to place. Wherever there is water enough to sustain life, there people can be baptized by sprinkling. In World War I there was a large military camp in Greenville, South Carolina. The Baptists complained that no provision was made for ad­ministering baptism by their mode. They seemed to think that the government should run a river into the camp, or create a lake for their con­venience. A distinguished Baptist minister, Dr. Norwood, pastor of City Temple, London, Eng­land, was a Chaplain at the battle front in France. He said the application of the rite of baptism by immersion was out of the question there. He said he did not repudiate that mode of baptism, he simply had no use for it in that situation. He could never again insist that the quantity of water was important in Baptism.

Baptism by sprinkling is universally applicable as to time. It can be safely administered in the frozen North in winter, as in the balmy South.

It is universally applicable as to people. It can be applied to infants as well as to adults; to the sick as well as to the healthy; to the dying as well as to the living.

Remember, according to the Bible, people were baptized with water, not in water; they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, not in the Holy Spirit. The water was applied to the per­son, not the person to the water. The Spirit was applied to the person, not the person to the Spirit. And believers were baptized immediately on the spot.

Reasoning from the use of baptizo in Scripture, from the meaning of the rite of baptism, and from the instances of its administration, we con­clude that baptism was, and should be now, by sprinkling or pouring.

“I will sprinkle clear water upon you,” sayeth the Lord, “and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” “Wherefore, let us all draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and having our bodies washed with clean water.”

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cockeARRev. A. R. Cocke, D.D. was ordained by Lexington Presbytery January 19, 1881.  He came to the Windy Cove Presbyterian church directly from the Seminary. He was an A.B. graduate of Washington and Lee University and also a graduate of Union Seminary, Richmond, Virginia. He served as pastor at Windy Cove from 1881-1884. The Presbyterian Church at Millboro was or­ganized during his pastorate.

Rev. Alonzo Rice Cocke was born in Campbell County, Virginia, January 7, 1858.  His parents were Alonzo and Frances Rice Cocke. He was a descendent of Rev. Samuel Blair, of Faggs Manor, Pennsylvania and of the Rev. David Rice who went from Virginia to Kentucky after the Revolutionary War, and who did so much to establish Presbyterianism west of the Alleghenies.

Like Samuel of old he was early called of God. He professed conversion at the age of eight, telling his mother he hoped it was the grace of God that made him happy and he showed even then a full understanding of the plan of salvation.  His father having died, his religious training devolved upon his mother. He joined Diamond Hill Church, Roanoke Presbytery, when he was nine years old. After reading the life of General Lee, he said, “I had rather preach the gospel than be the greatest general that ever was.”

He studied at New London Academy and Washington and Lee University, graduating in his twentieth year with distinction.  He went to Union Seminary, a school founded by a distinguished member of his mother’s family, finishing his course at twenty-two years of age.

He preached at Covington, Virginia and Hot Springs, Arkansas, though de­clining calls to either of these churches. His first pastorate, beginning in 1880, was Windy Cove Church and then Millboro obtained a separate or­ganization and he served both of these churches as pastor. In 1880 he was married to Miss Jeanie Leyburn, of Lexington, Virginia, who was very helpful to him in his work. One child, Frances Lea, came to bless their lives. While serving at Windy Cove, he met the saintly Rev. Samuel Brown who was paternal in his friendship. Rev. Cocke was forced to resign his beloved pastorate on account of ill health in 1884. After recuperating, he took a course under the brilliant Dr. R. L. Dabney in Texas. While there he taught some of the classes of Dr. Dabney who said of him, “Such a display of didactic skill and tact showed him to be a born teacher.”  Great inducements were offered him to remain in Texas, but personal and domestic duties caused him to return to Virginia.

He was called to Waynesboro in 1886. The church there had 105 members, but during his pastorate it increased to five or six hundred with two organizations.  In all, eight hundred were added to the church. During his pastorate there he filled the chair of Philosophy in Valley Seminary.  He was offered the Presidency of Agnes Scott Seminary, Decatur, Georgia, and the chair of Syste­matic Theology in South Western University, Clarksville, Tennessee, but declined both offers.

He was appointed chaplain of the University of Virginia but served only one term (1895-96), as his congregation was unwill­ing to sever the pastoral relation. His zeal for winning souls was earnestly shown at the University of Virginia.  Beginning in 1897, Dr. Cocke wrote the “Practical and Illustrative Department” of The Earnest Worker, an important magazine published by the Southern Presbyterian denomination. He also authored Studies in Ephesians and Studies in St. John and No Immersion in the Bible, all works which were enthusiastically received by his friends.

The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on him on the same day by Washington and Lee University, Virginia, and by Central University, Kentucky.  “Such was his culture of mind and heart, his ability and many sided activities, his rare union of pastoral and preaching gifts, his tact, his sympathy and his cheerful courage, that a large promise of usefulness in the service of God and man was before him,” thus wrote one of his friends.

One of the members of the Windy Cove Church wrote, “We know that earth is better and brighter, lives richer and fuller, hopes and aspirations more glorious for those who came into close contact with his saintly life. He not only preached the glorious gospel with great earnestness and power—he lived it. He lived among his people and he loved them—each man, woman, and child felt sure of a sympathetic friend in him of him more can it be said than of any one I have ever known,  “ ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’ ”

One of the last sermons he preached was from the text of Revelation 21:21, “Every several gate was of one pearl.”  He seemed to be gazing beyond the Pearly Gates into the celestial city. Those beautiful gates opened for him in but a a few days later. He died at Mercy Hospital in Chicago on August 23, 1901, following an operation. His body was brought back to Waynesboro and in­terred in the River View Cemetery, where he awaits the resurrection call. For him to live was Christ and to die was gain.

Chronological bibliography—
1892
Studies in Ephesians. Lectures delivered at the Presbyterian church at Waynesboro, VA. Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1892.  137 p.; 19 cm.

1893
No Immersion in the Bible; or, Baptism as taught and practiced by Christ and the apostles. Richmond, Va., Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1893 3d ed.  80 p. [reprinted at least through eight editions]

True Culture Exemplified in Alma Mater’s Training: Address before the Alumni Association of Washington and Lee University.  Lynchburg, VA.: J.P. Bell Company, Book and Job Printers, 1893.  14 p.

1895
Studies in the Epistles of John, or, The Manifested Life. Richmond, VA: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1895.  159 p.; 19 cm.

The gravesite of the Rev. A. R. Cocke: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39583857

 

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Have You Cashed In Your  Baptism?

dunkerleyAt the PCA Historical Center listed on the web, there is a sermon preached by the Rev. Donald Dunkerley at Mcllwain Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida, on November 26, 1972.   For those who know the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, this would have been a full year almost to the day when the latter church began her witness as a separate denomination outside of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  The theme of this message by the veteran pastor was that of the sacrament of baptism, in the light of the Word of God.  This writer would like to quote its concluding paragraphs which have an excellent gospel challenge to them.  Pastor Dunkerley writes:

“One must not trust in baptism.  One must not trust in anything that he has done or in any works of man, but only in Jesus who died for us.  Baptism is a sign that God offers us a Savior and promised to cleanse us if we believe in Him, if we stop trusting in anything in ourselves — even in our baptism — and put all our trust in Jesus alone.  Then we will be cleansed from sin.  But until we come to that point of renouncing all self-trust and put our trust in Jesus alone, then our baptism is sign of our condemnation.

“A pastor I know was once calling on a man who was not a converted person.  He frequently attended the church where this man pastored, he had lived in that town all his life and indeed, years before as an infant, he had been baptized in that very church.  He was showing the pastor around his house, and the pastor noticed a frame certificate on the wall and he turned to the man and he said ‘What is this?’  ‘Oh,’ the man said, ‘that’s my baptismal certificate.  I was baptized in our church, you know!’  The pastor said, ‘Ah, your baptismal certificate. Very good!   Tell me, when are you going to cash it in?’”

To read the rest of Rev. Dunkerley’s sermon, click here. [PDF file]

Words to live by:  The pastor of this sermon asks a serious question to those who have been baptized in their infancy by godly parents.  When are you, the adult now, going to claim the promise signified by your outward baptism?  You are baptized for sure.  You may even have the baptismal certificate signed by the preacher and any witnesses who were there to see it. But unless you have put your personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that baptism is a sign of your condemnation, not a sign of the covenant.  Reader, how is it with you?  Have you received the gift of eternal life?

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Have You Been Improving Your Baptism?

Without a meaningful Presbyterian topic on this November 10th, we close our out confession and catechism study on Baptism by noting Larger Catechism question and answer 167.  It deals with a needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism.  It states, “The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration  of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privilege and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.”

Neither one of the other creedal statements in the Confession or Shorter Catechism  make reference to this duty of improving our baptism.  There is one phrase in the Confession which leads into it however.  It is when our confessional fathers state in chapter 28, section 6, that “the efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time, wherein it is administered.”  Frankly, this false concept that we Presbyterians tie the efficacy of Baptism to the exact time the infant or adult is baptized, is one of the reasons why people oppose this sacrament.  But we believe that baptism is not tied to the time it is initiated in a person’s life, but that baptism applies to the whole life of the baptized person.  We are to improve our baptism, that is experience its meaning and work out its application to our spiritual lives.  The fact that this is misunderstood so much shows in the Fathers making reference to “the needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism.”  It was needful and much neglected duty back in the seventeenth century, as it continues to be today in the twenty-first century.

Especially are we to fulfil this duty when we are in times of temptation and/or present when the vows are taken at baptism of others, including infants.  In the first case, when we are tempted by sin, we need to remember that we are God’s people, not  only in name, but also in practice.  We have covenanted, or our parents have covenanted for us, that we are to live godly and righteous in this world.  The other occasion of improving our baptism is when the sacrament takes place, and we hear the questions charged to either parents or adults, overhearing their affirmative answers.  We can reflect on our answers taken in the past,  indeed, we can reaffirm our covenant vows at that time again with respect to ourselves or our children.

The rest of the catechism answer deals with several ways of  improving our baptism. It speaks of being humbled for the remnant of the sin nature still within us.  It describes our growing more and more in the realization of pardon of sin.  We are to be constantly drawing strength from the atonement of Christ, to put sin to death and not have it reign over us, as well as saving and sanctifying grace being realized more and more.  We are to conduct ourselves in holiness and righteousness as we live by faith and for faith.  And one last point is given.  We are to walk in brotherly love, understanding that we are one body.

Also this day:

Words to live by:  It is very possible that you as a baptism person did not know that there was to be improvement in your baptism.  Well, now you do!  Let it be said of you that this improvement of your baptism is to be no longer a neglected duty in your spiritual life.  Indeed, let it be a needful duty for you, your family, and your friends.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 1, 2

Through the Standards: Mode of baptism

W.C.F. 28:3

“Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Prayers of a Pious Mother

If this devotional began with a simple question, namely, to identify the greatest preacher ever produced in this land of America,   this writer is sure that he would receive a bevy of names, both from colonial days as well as modern times. The reader might be quick to offer the name of  your particular pastor, the one you hear every Lord’s Day. Or maybe it would be some preacher from your past, whom you consider the greatest expositor of the Word to your heart.

As famous as the great English pastor, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, was, he was convinced that we Americans did not even know that the most eloquent preacher the American continent ever produced was Samuel Davies.  Some of you might respond with a “Who is Samuel Davies” question. But for the regular readers of this historical devotional, having made reference to Samuel Davies on April 14, July 6, July 25, and October 3,  he was the Apostle of Virginia. And it was on this day of November 3, 1723 that he was born near New Castle, Delaware.

His parents were deeply religious, both of Welsh descent. They were members of the Pancader Presbyterian Church in Delaware. Especially his mother was to make a deep spiritual impression on young Samuel.  Afterward he commented that he was a son of prayer, just as the biblical Samuel was a son of prayer. Further, he acknowledged that everything he accomplished for the Savior in his life and ministry, he looked upon as immediate answers to the prayers of a pious mother.

It was in his early teens that Samuel had a clear assurance of justification by faith.  He then joined the Presbyterian Church.  Educated at the famous Faggs Manor Presbyterian classical and theological school in Cochrinville, Pennsylvania, he received his spiritual marching orders to become the Apostle of Virginia in bringing the gospel to this part of the new world.

Words to live by: There is a general  promise in Proverbs 22:6 for parents to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)  Dads, Moms, are you praying for a son or a daughter who is now in the process of turning away from the faith of his or her parents?  Many are the sorrows of such an experience.  Our hearts grieve with you. We encourage you to continue to pray and by your example and exhortation (when the Lord presents an open door) to continue  to claim Proverbs 22:6.  Many have come back to Christ at a time of trouble or temptation. Be there when they do and give thanks to the God of providence at that time.

Through the Scriptures:   Luke 22 – 24

Through the Standards:  The number  of Christ-ordained sacraments

WCF 27:4
“There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained.”

WLC 164 — “How many sacraments has Christ instituted in his church under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament Christ has instituted in his church only two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

WSC 93 “Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, Baptism, and the Lord’s supper.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Subjects of Baptism

With no subjects of Presbyterianism available to this writer, we conclude our look at baptism by noting the question and answer of Shorter Catechism 95, which deals with the subject of baptism. It asks, “To whom is Baptism to be administered?” And our Confessional Fathers answer that “Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible Church, are to be baptized.”  In other words, both adult baptism and infant baptism are to be practiced by Bible-believing Presbyterians.

Adult baptism is to be administered to those who have confessed their faith in Jesus Christ and joined an evangelical and/or Reformed congregation. Further, they should be those who are walking in the life of that profession in an obedient manner.

This catechism reminds us that church membership is necessary, either before the baptism or after the baptism.  That usually includes a series of membership classes in which the faith and life of the local congregation is taught to prospective members.  After their appearance before the Session of Elders, in which their profession of faith in given, they, upon certain membership vows, are received into the church.  Usually a public profession before the congregation on a Lord’s Day is also presented.  This is a happy occasion in the life of any church when God adds to His church in numerical strength.

The second half of this catechism is on a topic which has divided the visible church, namely, that of infant baptism.  We do not have the space here to show completely its biblical basis.  For that, the reader is invited to ask his/her pastor for this grounds.  Suffice it to say, “the infants of such as are members of the visible church, are to be baptized,” is the teaching of all Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

In the book of Acts, where we have the inspired history of the New Testament church, there is no doubt in any one’s mind that we have instances of believer’s baptisms in the inspired record.  Cornelius and Crispus in Acts 10 and Acts 18 are clearly a case where the adults believed in the Lord first as Lord and Savior, and were baptized as a result of their profession.

There should likewise be no doubt that infant baptism is clearly taught in Acts 16:14, 15 and in Acts 16:33, 34 where both Lydia and the unnamed jailor believed (and this verb is singular in number in both instances), yet their household was baptized.  Paul would not have baptized unsaved adults.  But he did baptize some children or infants both upon Lydia’s and the jailor’s saving faith. Surely the Holy Spirit who is the author of this word “believed” may not be charged with carelessness in the exact use of the singular and the plural verb of believe.  She believed, he believed, and yet the household was baptized.

Words to live by:  There is no greater joy in a pastor’s heart to see believing parents, or even one believing parent, come before the church to take vows regarding the rearing of that child or children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and then enter into the sacrament of baptism for their children. They clearly anticipate the time when these children will recognize their need for a Savior and openly profess Christ as Lord and Savior, thus answering the outward sign and seal taken by their parents long before that time. Pastors will do well to contact the young man or young woman at some point in their physical growth to challenge them to profess faith in Christ, telling them that their parents baptized them in their earlier life with just that in their minds and hearts.

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 7 – 10

Through the Standards: Proof Texts of Communion of Saints

1 John 1:3
“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you; so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV)

Galatians 6:10
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (KJV)

Hebrews 10:24
“And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.” (Amplified)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Key Doctrine of the Presbyterian Church

The visitor was sincere in his offer to the pastor.  He could agree with every doctrine held by the Presbyterian church, except . . . except their teaching on Baptism in both the mode and the subjects of baptism.  But other than that small exception (his expression, not the pastor’s words),  he was prepared to be the best office that the church up to this point has seen.  He seemed most disappointed when the pastor turned him down. When urged to study it in the light of the whole counsel of God, he turned the pastor’s  offer down and stopped attending the church.

What is baptism?  We deal with this catechism answer as we find no historical person or incident in Presbyterianism for this October 23 date.  Question and answer 94 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism reads, “Baptism is a Sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

There are two sacraments instituted by Christ, of which this one of baptism is the first one in the order of holy ordinances.  The action which constitutes baptism is said by our Confessional Fathers to be that of “washing with water, in the name of” the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost or Spirit.” You notice that our catechism does not explicitly state that the “washing with water” is by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Any one of these modes constitute baptism. One who comes into our Presbyterian and Reformed churches who have been baptized by any of these three modes in the name of the Triune God are considered baptized, and not in need of being baptized again.

The meaning of baptism are found in those words in the latter part of the answer which read, “does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

Baptism signifies union with Christ generally, and specifically, all of the spiritual benefits which Christ the Redeemer brings to His people.  It is a sign, a badge, an emblem of admission  into the visible church. (See Larger Catechism 165)

It speaks of “ingrafting” or being brought into a vital union with Christ, receiving all the spiritual nourishment and spiritual strength which is there for sons and daughters of God by faith alone.  Think of a twig being grafted into a tree, and allowed to become a branch of that tree, producing whatever fruit the farmer wishes to pick on that tree.

There is also a promise by the one baptized that he/she will, in the words of the Larger Catechism, profess “an open engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.”  This is essentially the meaning of the word “sacrament.”  While not a biblical word, it speaks of the pledge made by a soldier to be faithful to his commander-in-chief.  In baptism, we promise that we, as Christian soldiers,  will live as it becomes a follower of Christ.

For further study, see the Baptism section on the topical resource page, at the PCA Historical Center’s web site.

Words to live by:  One of the older writers (Thomas Vincent – 1674) tells us that, being engaged to be the Lord’s, speaks first of being wholly engaged, soul and body, with all or our faculties and members being used as instruments of righteousness and new obedience, and second, being wholly engaged as only the Lord’s and therefore renouncing  the service of that unholy trinity of  world, the flesh, and the devil, and fighting under Christ’s banner against these enemies of our souls, and His church.  This exhortation is just as applicable today in the twenty-first century as it was back in the seventeenth century.

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  Benefits of communion with Christ in glory on the day of judgment

WLC 90 — “What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?
A.  At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and for ever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the  Holy Spirit, to all eternity.  And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.”Z

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