Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baptism and Grace

Tomorrow marks the twenty-third anniversary of my baptism. I would like to share a few quotes from British Baptist theologian G.R. Beasley-Murray on the subject of baptism:

"(T)he idea that baptism is a purely symbolic rite must be pronounced not (only) unsatisfactory but out of harmony with the New Testament itself. Admittedly, such a judgment runs counter to the popular tradition of the Denomination to which the writer belongs, as it does to some of the significant contributions to the study of baptism that have appeared from theologians of other Churches in recent years. But the New Testament belongs to us all and we stand judged by it. Few, if any, are concerned to oppose the contention that baptism is 'a beautiful symbol.' The Apostolic writers make free use of the symbolism of the baptismal action; but they go further and view the act as a symbol with power...

"The extent and nature of the grace which the New Testament writers declare to be present in baptism is astonishing...

"(T)he 'grace' available to man in baptism is said by the New Testament writers to include the following elements: forgiveness of sin, Acts 2:38 and cleansing from sins, Acts 22:16, 1 Cor.6:11; union with Christ, Gal. 3:27, and particularly union with Him in his death and resurrection, Rom. 6:3 ff, Col. 2:11 f, with all that implies of release from sin's power, as well as guilt, and the sharing of the risen life of the Redeemer, Rom. 6:1-11; participation in Christ's sonship, Gal. 3:26 f; consecration to God, 1 Cor. 6:11, hence membership in the Church, the Body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:27-29; possession of the Spirit, Acts 2:38, 1 Cor. 6:11, 12:13, and therefore the new life in the Spirit, i.e. regeneration, Tit. 3:5. Jn. 3:5; grace to live according to the will of God, Rom. 6:1 ff, Col. 3:1 ff; deliverance from the evil powers that rule this world, Col. 1:13; the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, Jn. 3:5, and the pledge of the resurrection of the body, Eph. 1:13 f, 4:30...

"Now while it is undeniable that the Church in all generations of its history, including the first, has been prone to lapse into lower forms of sacramentalism, we have not perceived that lapse in the Apostolic teaching itself. Paul in 1 Cor. 10:1 f gave a clear warning against a magical-sacramental view of the sacraments, and 1 Pet. 3:21 yields an emphatic denial that the external elements of baptism constitute either its essence or its power: 'Baptism saves...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.' Does not this very saying point in the direction to which we should look for the solution to our problem (of recognizing the importance of Christian baptism without making it a magical sacrament)? Baptism saves, not because water washes dirt from the body, but as the occasion when a man is met by the Risen Christ" (Baptism in the New Testament, pp. 263-265).

4 comments:

Mike said...

Happy memories. My baptism was one of the great days of my life.

Terry said...

Mine, too, Mike. Thanks for the comment!

preacherman said...

Great thoughts for us all.
Thank you for sharing this post.
You did a great job of bringing the two together.
I hope you have a great week.
In Him,
Kinney Mabry
Aka,
Preacherman

Terry said...

Thanks, Kinney! G.R. Beasley-Murray's book is a good resource on the subject. I'm not sure if it is still in print, but you may be able to find it from Lifeway Christian Stores or from an online company.