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Savoy on the Sacraments. Part 6

05/10/2011

A number of years ago a book on baptism was published, in which two Christian pastors explored their differences in baptistic practice. One was a baptist and one a presbyterian. They called their book, ‘The Waters that Divide!’ How true that is! Baptism is often a thorny issue among Christians, – even among fervent, Bible believing evangelicals Yet baptism should be a unifying thing! After all, we all have One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism!

Chapter 29
Of Baptism

Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ to be unto the party baptised a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life; which ordinance is by Christ’s own appointment to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.

The outward element to be used in this ordinance, is water, wherewith the party is to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel lawfully called.

Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.

Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptised, and those only.

Although it be a great sin to conterin or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it; or that all that are baptised are undoubtedly regenerated.

The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will in his appointed time.
Baptism is but once to be administered to any person

Savoy’s teaching on baptism comes from the historic Congregationalist position, And I’ve already dealt with that in an earlier post, (Look up ‘A Guide to Christian Baptism’) so in this post, we shall concentrate on the areas of the doctrine that unite us.

1 Baptism requires water! The Quakers do not practice baptism, and the Salvation Army wave a flag over their converts to symbolise baptism. Neither of these practices constitute true baptism and neither can they be considered as a substitute for it. Savoy makes this clear. For Christians, baptism is practised with water.

2 Baptism is by Christ’s institution. Jesus told us to go into the world and to preach the gospel, and to baptise. It is part of the Great Commission, so there must be a great importance attached to it by the Saviour.

3 Baptism must continue in the church until the Lord returns. Like communion, there is no command to desist from baptisms at any particular point in church history. We are to continue the sacraments until we reach the heavenly city and come into the direct presence of the Lord who is represented in the sacraments, when they shall be needed no more.

4 Baptism does not save. People will be in heaven who have never been baptised, and many people will be in hell who have been baptised. The thief on the cross had no opportunity to be baptised, yet to him Jesus said, ‘This day, thou shalt be with me in paradise’. To quote again from David Dickson…
Baptism is not a converting ordinance but a confirming one, even as the Lord’s Supper is.”
Op Cit p223

5 Baptism is to be administered just once. Gal 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Titus 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

There is a specific injunction in the Scriptures to frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but there is no such injunction applied to baptism. Circumcision, which preceded baptism, could not be administered more than once. Baptism is also a sign of our adoption into God’s family, and that is a ‘once for all’ adoption.

Galatians 3:26-27 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Romans 11:29. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

So those who God adopts as his children, he never casts away. As you can see, there is much in the practice of baptism that is common to all the Christian Church. Baptism should be the waters that unite, rather than the waters that divide.

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