Baptism: Biblical Witness

Ezek 36: 25-2825"I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28 You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God." (RSV)

Jer. 31:33f "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Ps. 51:3,4,9 "Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. 4Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. 9 Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow. Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice." (NAB)

Is 61:10 10 "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." (RSV)

All four gospels present Jesus as the one who 'baptizes with the Holy Spirit' (Mk 1:8; Matt 3:11; Lk 3:16; Jn1:33). Jesus' own baptism in the Jordan is marked by the perceptible descent of the Holy Spirit (Lk 3:22) and his baptism becomes the prototype of all Christian initiation.

Jn 3:3-5 Original context of the idea of being "born again" or "born from above" is baptism.

Heb 10:22ff "Let us draw near in utter sincerity and absolute confidence, our hearts sprinkled clean from the evil which lay on our conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to our profession which gives us hope." [NAB]

Heb 10:32ff "Recall the days gone by when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering." [NAB]

Heb 6:1-6 "Let us, then, go beyond the initial teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, not laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works, faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And, God permitting, we shall advance! For when men have once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and become sharers in the Holy Spirit, when they have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away, it is impossible to make them repent again, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding him up to contempt." [NAB]

Ex 30:22-33 The anointing oil to anoint the sacred vessels and the priests. Fragrant. Cannot be used on a layman. Background for the sacred chrism used in baptism and confirmation. Shows the priestly, sacred character of the baptized (also share in kingly & prophetic anointings).

1 Cor 12:13 "In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and we were all given to drink of the one Spirit."

2 Cor 1:20f "But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." (RSV)

Titus 3:5-7 "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, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." (RSV) [Shows the Spirit is conferred in baptism. Shows that baptism is causative, not merely illustrative. Also implies that infant baptism is quite appropriate since through baptism we are saved not because of something we have done (the act of faith) but by pure grace. A total gift.]

Ro 8:9 "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Makes clear that the Holy Spirit must certainly be conveyed in baptism.

Eph 5:25-27 "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." [Baptism is causative]

Ro 6:3-11 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For he who has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (RSV) [Baptism is causative]

1 Pet 3:18-22 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 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. 21 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him." RSV. [Baptism as causative]

Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. 21, Mystagogica 3, 1-3 (PG 33, 1087-1091). Baptism as a symbol of Christ's Passion. See Liturgy of Hours, vol 2, 596-597.

"You were led down to the font of holy baptism just as Christ was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb which is before your eyes. Each of you was asked, 'Do you believe in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?' You made the profession of faith that brings salvation, you were plunged into the water, and three times you rose again. This symbolized the three days Christ spent in the tomb. As our Savior spent three days and three nights in the depths of the earth, so your first rising from the water represented the first day and your first immersion represented the first night. At night a man cannot see, but in the day he walks in the light. So when you were immersed in the water it was like night for you and you could not see, but when you rose again it was like coming into broad daylight. In the same instant you died and were born again; the saving water was both your tomb and your mother.

"Solomon's phrase in another context is very apposite here. He spoke of a time to give birth, and a time to die. For you, however, it was the reverse: a time to die, and a time to be born, although in fact both events took place at the same time and your birth was simultaneous with your death.

"This is something amazing and unheard of! It was not we who actually died, were buried and rose again. We only did these things symbolically, but we have been saved in actual fact. It is Christ who was crucified, who was buried and who rose again, and all this has been attributed to us. We share in his suffering symbolically and gain salvation in reality. What boundless love for men! Christ's undefiled hands were pierced by the nails; he suffered the pain. I experience no pain, no anguish, yet by the share that I have in his sufferings he freely grants me salvation.

"Let no one imagine that baptism consists only in the forgiveness of sins and in the grace of adoption. Our baptism is not like the baptism of John, which conferred only the forgiveness of sins. We know perfectly well that baptism, besides washing away our sins and bringing us the gift of the Holy Spirit, is a symbol of the sufferings of Christ. This is why Paul exclaims: Do you not know that when we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were, by that very action, sharing in his death? By baptism we went with him into the tomb."


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