The Planks of the Faith: Remembering for Re-Membering, Part 26
As served up last week at the Training Table, we’re nearing the “end” (remembering and inculcating The Planks of the Faith is never over…) of this very rich, satisfying, and spiritually edifying series based upon The Belgic Confession of Faith.
Last week’s Plank of the Faith, Article 33: The Sacraments acted as an introduction for today’s menu item, Article 34: The Sacrament of Baptism and next week’s, Article 35: The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
The Sacrament of Baptism
It’s likely that the most important aspect of the Sacraments is to get our heart (mind, soul, strength, core beliefs, etc), spirit (emotions), and actions (faith life lived out) wrapped around the basis for the two Sacraments: The sacraments are a sign and a seal of the covenant of grace.
“The benefits of these rites do not occur from participating in the rite itself (Latin: ex opere operato), but through the power of the Holy Spirit as they are received by faith.” (on-line source)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
There is no salvific, atoning, rescuing, redeeming, propitiatory power in the sacraments! Or by any means man brings to any word or deed of any kind.
Christ and Christ only (eternally bound, independently-dependent within The Trinity: Father—Creator-Sustainer, Son—Rescuer-Deliverer, Holy Spirt—Supernatural Heart-Changer, Counselor) is sufficient for salvation!
Jesus Christ, the Believers only and eternal namesake, commanded His disciples be Biblically, faithfully, whole-heartedly, and communally involved in the Sacraments.
The Planks of the Faith: Article 34: The Sacrament of Baptism
“We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, in Whom the law is fulfilled, has by His shed blood put an end to every other shedding of blood, which anyone might do or wish to do in order to atone or satisfy for sins.
Having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, He established in its place the sacrament of baptism. By it we are received into God’s church and set apart from all other people and alien religions, that we may be dedicated entirely to Him, bearing His mark and sign. It also witnesses to us that He will be our God forever, since He is our gracious Father.
Therefore, He has commanded that all those who belong to Him be baptized with pure water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
In this way He signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of the baptized when it is sprinkled on him, so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit. It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God.
This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharoah, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.
So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies—namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of His fatherly goodness; clothing us with the “new man” and stripping off the “old,” with all its works.
For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it—for we cannot be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.
For that reason we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.
And truly, Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than He did for adults.
Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them, just as the Lord commanded in the law that by offering a lamb for them the sacrament of the suffering and death of Christ would be granted them shortly after their birth. This was the sacrament of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the ‘circumcision of Christ’.” (Colossians 2:11) (Article 34, The Belgic Confession of Faith, 1561—emphasis added)
May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless you and yours this week as your “run the good race” (2 Timothy 4:7) every waking hour of your life… In Christ!
Believer’s Baptism, Dr. John MacArthur