Thursday, November 10, 2011

Into the Church or Into the Visible Church?

Rob Rayburn (in his closing argument in the Leithart trial) stated: "Baptism is a means of grace. It brings a person into the church, the family of God as the Confession itself says."

Actually, the Confession says "Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church ... ." There is an important qualifier there: "visible."  It is a merely external admission.  But is that what Leithart teaches?  Or does Leithart affirm that all those who are baptized have more than a merely external union with him?  The Federal Vision Joint Statement (which Leithart signed) seems to suggest the latter in its section on apostasy.



Natamllc said...

Thanks TF for this communication! That is a serious comment, there.

It clears up some things for me and for that I am grateful, not hateful!

Oh my, waxing poetic! :)

I do complain that this whole affair is troubling and confusing and it seems to be waxing worse, not getting clearer?

I suppose your clarion voice would count loud on the floor of the next GA as well as your vote if this matter makes there not tabled?

Tom said...

"The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." (WCF 25:2)

The Confession teaches that by baptism we are made members of the "visible hurch" which is "the house and family of God." This certainly sounds like much more than a "merely external admission."

Ron DiGiacomo said...

Good catch, TF.

Coram Deo said...

Sounds suspiciously like baptismal regeneration...

Tom said...

"I know it is a common belief that forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone, is after baptism procured by means of penitence and the keys (see chap. 19 sec. 17). But those who entertain this fiction err from not considering that the power of the keys, of which they speak, so depends on baptism, that it ought not on any account to be separated from it. The sinner receives forgiveness by the ministry of the Church; in other words, not without the preaching of the gospel. And of what nature is this preaching? That we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ. And what is the sign and evidence of that washing if it be not baptism? We see, then, that that forgiveness has reference to baptism. This error had its origin in the fictitious sacrament of penance, on which I have already touched. What remains will be said at the proper place. There is no wonder if men who, from the grossness of their minds, are excessively attached to external things, have here also betrayed the defect,—if not contented with the pure 2515institution of God, they have introduced new helps devised by themselves, as if baptism were not itself a sacrament of penance. But if repentance is recommended during the whole of life, the power of baptism ought to have the same extent. Wherefore, there can be no doubt that all the godly may, during the whole course of their lives, whenever they are vexed by a consciousness of their sins, recall the remembrance of their baptism, that they may thereby assure themselves of that sole and perpetual ablution which we have in the blood of Christ." (John Calvin, Institutes, IV:15:4) said...

I see baptism as a "sinner's prayer," a confession of the Lord Jesus in body language, and which in Scripture is normatively concomitant with conversion, being with the first formal confession of Christ. This moment may actually be the occasion of conversion, but not its cause (it may a catalyst for faith or an expression of it), and the Holy Spirit makes it clear that regeneration can precede baptism. (Acts 10:43-47; 15:7-9)

God is not restricted to outward forms, nor are they superfluous. Perhaps baptism may be said to be to salvation what a ring is to marriage, though a weightier symbol. You can show the Lord's death till He comes in many ways, and we must, but to commemorate it hypocritically as in 1Cor. 11 :17ff, is akin to celebrating your wedding anniversary by flirting with others.

One must be born again, but it is the kind of faith that will confess Jesus as Lord (which is initially to be expressed in baptism) that is counted for righteousness. Thanks be to God.

As regards baptism into the church, whatever time a soul is born again then he is baptized by the Spirit into the "one body" of Christ, (1Cor. 12:13) and while this faith is confessed in water baptism and can be said to be normatively a requirement to be accepted by the visible church, yet baptism is not to wait for a formal gathering, but in Scriptaure is always part of the conversion event, even in the desert with no visible church. (Acts 8:36-39)

Francis Turretin said...

I can only imagine that's wishful thinking, Tom. Consider:


Question 165: What is Baptism?

Answer: Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's.