By Rev. Dr. Curian Kaniyamparambil
They accept baptism as a sacrament (Articles of Faith, Article No. 25). They describe what a sacrament is and what a sacrament is not:
a) They are not only badges or tokens of Christian's profession but
b) They are sure witness and effectual signs of grace and God's Goodwill towards us? (1 Cor. 10:16, Rom 6:3, 5, 1 Pet 3:21)
Through sacraments, God:
1) Works invisibly with us and 2) doth not only quicken, but also 3) confirm and strengthen our faith in him?
Article 26 says that sacraments are not only badges or token of Christian men's profession but actual channels of Grace that we need. Here is a prayer from their Order of baptism. We call upon Thee for these persons, that they coming to Thy Holy Baptism, may receive remission of sins by spiritual regeneration. Doubt ye not therefore that He will grant them remission of sins, and bestow upon them the Holy Ghost, that he will give them the blessing of eternal life, and make them partakers of his everlasting Kingdom. Give Thy Holy Spirit to these persons that they may be born again and be made heirs of salvation... sanctify this water to the mystical washing away of sins and grant these persons now to be baptized therein may receive the fullness of Thy Grace? (Book of Common prayers page 164-168)
During baptism, Orthodox Churches also use similar of prayers. The traditional churches use water for baptism, as Jesus Christ and the apostles intended and taught.
1) From Acts we learn about the Christian faith during the apostolic times.
2) And from the writings of our church fathers we know what the faith during the 2nd century was.
Herman the shepherd (AD 140) :- "They had need to come up through the water, so that they may be made alive, for they could not otherwise enter into the Kingdom of God."
Justin Martyyer (AD 155): "It is necessary to hasten in what way the forgiveness of sins and a hope of the inheritance of the promised good things may be yours. There is no other way than this: acknowledge this Christ, be washed in the washing announced by Isaac for the forgiveness of sin; and henceforth live sinless." (135a)
Letter of Barnabas (AD 70/79-117/132) :- "...we descend into water full of sins and foulness and we come up bearing fruit in our heart having fear and hope in Jesus in the Spirit." (34)
St. Theophilus of Antioch (AD 185) :- "More over those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and bath of regeneration- all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive the blessing from God." (181)
St. Irenaeus (AD 180): - "He came to save all through Himself, - all, I say, who through Him are reborn in God, - infants, and children, and youths and old men." (201) And again, giving the disciples the power of regenerating in God, He said to them Go and teach all nations, baptize them in the name of father." (219)
Tertullian (AD 155 240): - "A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are pleased for the eternal life will not be superfluous? (302). The Spirit who in the beginning hovered over the waters would continue to linger as an influence upon the waters? (303) The spirit immediately comes from heaven upon waters, and rests upon them, making them holy of Himself; and having been thus sanctified they absorb at the same time the power of sanctifying. Since we are defiled by sins, as dirt, we are washed in water. An angel intervened and stirred up the pool at Bethsaida. They who were complaining of ill heath watched for him; for whoever was first to descend into the waters ceased, after washing, to complain." (303a)
It remains to impress upon the manner of observance in giving and in receiving baptism. In giving it, certainly the primary right had by the high Priest, that is the Bishop; and after him, the Presbyters and the Deacons, though not without authority from the bishop. (310). After coming from the place of washing we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction. (304)
From the writing of the ancient church fathers quoted above, it is clear that the people of the 2nd century (AD100-200) firmly believed that:
a) Water meant water itself (not Word or spirit).
b) Upon the water of baptism, the Holy Spirit will descend and sanctify it.
c) That water is capable of sanctification.
d) The external washing has spiritual effect.
e) Will receive remission of sins and eternal life.
St. Hippolytus of Rome (AD 235): - "At the dawn a prayer shall be offered over the water. Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through baptismal font or pour into it from above? but if water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion then use whatever is available?
"Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise let their parents or other relatives speak for them. Next baptize the men, and last of all the women. The latter must first let down and put aside any gold or silver ornaments they may be wearing. Let no one take any foreign object into the water with him. When it is time the Bishop shall give the thanks over the oil, which he puts into a vessel. This is called oil of thanksgiving Then the presbyter takes hold on each of those to be baptized and commands him to renounce, saying: I renounce you, Satan, and all your servants and all your works? Then the baptism, prayers etc. is described and after baptizing when he come out he is anointed with consecrated oil and the presbyter says O Lord God, who made them worthy of the remission of sins through Holy Spirit's washing into the rebirth send into them your grace, so that they serve you according to your will." (394)
St. Clement of Alexandria (Ad 202) "When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened we are adopted sons. Adopted sons we are perfect: Made perfect we become immortal. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted."
Origen: (AD 185 253) "There is regeneration in the water and in the Holy Spirit In the church baptism is given for the remission of sins: and according to the usage of the church baptism is given even to the infants. The church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. For the apostles to whom were committed the secrets of the mysteries know that in every one the innate stains of sin which must be washed away through water and the spirit."
St. Cyprian (AD 250) "When the stain of my past life had been washed away by means of the water rebirth, a light form the above poured itself upon my now pure heart."
St. Methodius of Phillipi (AD 311): - "The illuminated (the baptized) take on the features and the image and the manliness of Christ. The likeness of the form of the Word is stamped upon them; and it produced in them sure knowledge and faith." (613)
The Council of Laodicea "That those who have been illuminated are, after baptism to be anointed with celestial chrism, and thus become partakers in the kingdom of Christ." (Canon 48)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem: - (AD 315) "And He says Unless a man be born again and He adds the words of water and Spirit 'he cannot enter the kingdom of God.' He that is baptized with water, but is not found worth of Spirit, does not receive the grace of perfection. Nor, if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but does not receive the seal by means of water, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine, for it is Jesus who has declared it." (810b)
"If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who, even with out water will receive the kingdom of heaven." (811)
"Bearing in sins, you go down into the water; but the calling down of grace seals your soul and does not permit that you afterwards be swallowed up by the fearsome dragon. You go down dead in your sins and you come up alive in righteousness." (812)
And if your piety is unfeigned the Holy Spirit will come down upon you also, and from high a paternal voice will sound over you (813) "Water flows around the outside but the spirit baptizes also the soul within and that completely."
St. Basil the Great (AD 330 - 379): - "This is what it means to be born of water and Spirit: just as our dying is effected in the water, our living is wrought through the Spirit. In three immersions and in an equal number of invocations the great mystery of baptism is completed in such a way that the type of death may be shown figuratively, and that by the handling of divine knowledge the souls of the baptized may be illuminated. If therefore, there is any grace in the water, it is not from the nature of water, it is not from the nature but from the Spirit's presence there." (947).
St. John Chrysostom: (AD 387) "Do not be surprised that I call martyrdom a baptism; for here too the Spirit comes in great haste and there is a taking away of the sins and a wonderful and marvelous cleansing being martyred they are washed in their own blood? (1139) and casts it anew, throwing it into the waters [of Baptism] as if in a smelting furnace. He pours out the grace of the Spirit in place of fire, and then brings forth renewed and refreshed and with a brightness to rival the rays of the sun? (1144). Behold they thoroughly enjoy the peacefulness of freedom who shortly before were held captive. They are citizens of the Church, who were wandering in error. They have their lot in righteousness who were in the confusion of sin. For not only are they free, but holy also; not only holy, but righteousness too; not only righteous, but sons also; not only sons, but heirs as well, not only heirs, but brothers even of Christ; not only brothers of Christ, but also co-heirs, not only co-heirs, but His very members; not only members, but a temple too; not a temple only, but likewise the instruments of the Spirit. You see how many are the benefits of baptism." (1145a)
St. Ambrose; (AD 387) "For no one ascends into the kingdom of heaven except through the sacrament of Baptism. Unless a man is born of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. No one is excepted: not the infant, not the one prevented by some necessity? (1324). Even a catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ by which also he is signed; but unless he be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive the remission of sins nor be recipient of the gift of spiritual grace." (1330)
A prayer from the Syriac order of baptism of the Church of the East, holding the Nestorian Faith in the 5th century :
"Strengthen us to minister to the Holy ministry of baptism, which remits sin, given to us by your mercy of grace, for the renewal of our nature, and salvation (p 108) From the womb of baptism, established to us, for our rebirth through it You have kept them (those being baptized) in the bowl of sin-washing baptism to receive new and spiritual birth, for the growth of their faith. Let them away the old man destroyed by earthly desires, by this sin-washing baptism and put on a new man by the bath in holy water. Lord, let the Spirit come on this water. Thus let the water receive the power for the help and the salvation of the baptized. You gave us the grace of Holy Spirit advance of the relief-which we receive form the holy ministry of this spiritual baptism. Let the advance of the Holy Spirit you received, the living seal you received, the new Spirit you received and the weapon of righteousness you put on, keep you from the wicked one and his forces." - (True Translation)
We have seen from the above:
1) What our Lord had commanded about baptism.
2) What the apostles taught.
3) What the church and church fathers taught and practiced during the first five centuries.
It is clear that Christians from the beginning of the church believed baptism as a sacrament for the remission of sins, for eternal life, for rebirth, and to achieve the status as sons of God. It is not a mere witnessing or dedication. They also used water during baptism. What Tertullian said is very relevant:? What ever first is true and what ever late is spurious?
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