Monday, January 27, 2020

Anonymous Asks (77)

“Is my baptism still valid if I sin?”

I cannot think of a single person in the New Testament who was ever baptized twice as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Now, there were a few believers in Corinth who received a second water baptism, but only because their first baptism had been a baptism of repentance preached by John. This was insufficient; they needed to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

But baptized twice as Christians? Never.* That in itself should strongly suggest it is impossible to invalidate one’s baptism.

Now of course it is certainly possible to undergo a false baptism; to profess to believe things you do not and to have entered into a relationship you really haven’t. But that does not seem to be the case here, or else the writer would not be concerned that his baptism remain valid.

Living Consistently

Equally, it is certainly possible to live inconsistently with the testimony you are giving to the world when you publicly identify yourself with the Lord Jesus by going under the waters of baptism and rising again just as he did. Everyone who has been baptized into Christ has been baptized into his death. Likewise, even now, we participate in his resurrection. This means sin no longer controls us. When a Christian sins, it is not because he cannot help himself, but because he has chosen to voluntarily submit himself to an old master who no longer has any real authority.

But that doesn’t mean that when a Christian sins his baptism is invalidated. It simply means he isn’t living up to it as he should. He isn’t allowing the spiritual reality which has already occurred in his life to direct his actions. He is still behaving like his old self, though he is under no obligation to do so.

A Promise of Perfection?

Christian baptism is not some kind of promise to be perfect. If it were, we’d all have invalidated our baptisms hundreds of times over. Those of us who have truly come to Christ have come to him because we recognized we were completely incapable of pleasing God with even the very best of our own good works. We knew we could not save ourselves. It is the resurrected Christ who does the saving, and it is the Spirit of Christ in us who enables us to please God once we have taken the step of trusting him for our salvation.

But even for those who insist on looking at their baptism as some sort of promise to God, it should be clear that a failure to keep a promise is not remedied by making another yet promise which is just as likely to fail. What we really need to do is just start living consistently with our public testimony.

The power for that comes from the Spirit of God, not from ourselves.

* There are also plenty of Christians who went through a rite as infants that does not correspond to the biblical pattern or meet the biblical definition of baptism. This rite is not taught or practiced in the New Testament, and is not referenced in the Church Fathers until around A.D. 220. Many Christians who had this rite performed on them as children have later chosen to be baptized by immersion in water as adults. However, we cannot really consider this a “second Christian baptism”, since on the first occasion they were neither truly Christian nor truly baptized.

1 comment :

  1. This is of course a repeat topic here.

    As is reasonable, there are those who could not or were not baptized for various reasons, as some early martyrs, e.g., and the Catholic church therefore also acknowledges other equivalent forms of baptism. E.g.,

    First, consider baptism by blood. During the age of Roman persecution, catechumens those individuals who are preparing for Baptism and entry into the Church oftentimes were arrested, tried as Christians and condemned to death. The Church considered them to be martyrs since they died for the faith and with Christ. In his treatise on baptism, Tertullian (d. c.220) coined the phrase "laver of blood," to distinguish the Baptism of these catechumen martyrs from that of those baptized with the "laver of water": He wrote, "We have a second laver, which is one and the same, namely the laver of blood." 


    "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience those too may achieve eternal salvation" (No.16). In this sense, these people have a sincere desire for God and would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had the opportunity to receive it or if they had known its necessity (Catechism, No.1260).