We had concluded our previous article with the objection voiced by heretics against any form of baptism that Abraham was justified by faith only. The reader will excuse the undersigned when he went off on a tangent when commenting on Rom. 4:16. We could not resist the urge to make the comments which we did make in connection with the “conditions” controversy in our churches during the last few years, a controversy, by the way, which does not trouble our Protestant Reformed Churches any longer. In replying to this objection against any form of baptism by the heretics, we may say, in the first place, that, notwithstanding the Lord’s commandment that the sacrament of baptism be administered, the truth that we are justified by faith verily remains intact. The sacraments do not justify us. We are justified only through the blood of Christ and receive it through faith. That we are justified by faith is only because it is through faith that the righteousness of Christ is bestowed upon us. Secondly, this objection overthrows itself. We know that Abraham was justified by faith only and this occurred several years before he received the sign of circumcision. But, if he were justified by faith only (and this is true), why did the Lord command the administration of the sign of circumcision to all the male children of the covenant?
Thirdly, the objection was raised that the apostles were not baptized. It must be granted that the Scriptures mention only one apostle who was baptized, namely Paul. He was baptized by a disciple of the Lord, Ananias, at Damascus, according to Acts 9:18. Replying to this objection against the sacrament of Baptism, Tertullian answers as follows, and we quote: “And now, as far as I shall be able, I will reply to those who affirm “That the apostles were unbaptized.” For if they had undergone the human baptism of John and were longing for that of the Lord, then since the Lord Himself had defined baptism to be one; (saying to Peter, who was desirous of being thoroughly bathed, “He who hath once bathed hath no necessity to wash a second time; “which, of course, He would not have said at all to one not baptized;) even here we have a conspicuous proof against those, who, in order to destroy the sacrament of water, deprive the apostles even of John’s baptism. Can it seem credible that “the way of the Lord,” that is, the baptism of John, had not then been “prepared” in those persons who were being destined to open the way of the Lord throughout the whole world? The Lord Himself, though no “repentance” was due from Him, was baptized: was baptism not necessary for sinners? As for the fact, then, that “others were not baptized”—they, however, were not companions of Christ, but enemies of the faith, doctors of the law and Pharisees. From which fact is gathered an additional suggestion, that, since the opposers of the Lordrefused to be baptized, they who followed the Lord were baptized, and were not like-minded with their own rivals: especially when, if there were any one to whom they clave, the Lord had exalted John above him (by the testimony) saying, “Among them who are born of women there is none greater than John the Baptist.”—end of quote. To this we merely wish to add that the disciples of the Lord themselves baptized. (See John 3:22, 4:1-2.)
Finally, a fourth objection against the sacrament of baptism is based on I Cor. 1:14-17, and we quote: “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” It must be plain that one cannot quote this particular passage as a proof against the practice of baptism. Paul here does not minimize the sacrament of baptism as such, but merely emphasizes his calling to preach the gospel and thanks God that he baptized only a very few so that none would be able to say that he had baptized in his name, and that he therefore used the sacrament of baptism as a means to advance his own honor and glory. He is thankful that no one has the opportunity to say that the apostle ever sought himself and even availed himself of the sacrament of baptism unto that end.
This concludes our discussion on: Early Views of the Sacrament of Baptism. We have noticed that this sacrament was held in very high esteem. It was not merely considered a rite or ceremony but as a sacrament it was considered efficacious. Tremendous significance was attached to the sacrament of baptism. With respect to the baptism of infants we may say that, although many of the references in the writings of the early Church Fathers are admittedly vague on this subject, we may certainly say that the practice of baptizing infants must have been general in those early days. Tertullian’s strong opposition to infant baptism must surely be considered strong evidence in. support of the assertion that the administration of this sacrament to infants must have been common in his day. Origin, definitely states that infant baptism is a usage derived from the apostles. And Cyprian maintained that infants must be baptized as early as possible. In our series of articles on this subject we also noted that practically all the various questions that are usually raised, even today, in connection with the sacrament of Baptism were already under discussion in that early period. And we concluded our series by calling attention to the heretics who opposed any form of baptism even as some do today.
EARLY VIEWS ON THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.
A brief resume of its Old Testament symbol, the Passover.
The Old Testament Passover, to be rightly understood in its true relation to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as observed in the New Dispensation, must be viewed, not only as a feast which was annually observed in the land of Canaan, but as it was divinely instituted in the land of Egypt. The relation between the Lord’s Supper and the cross of Calvary is the same as that which existed between the Passover as observed in the land Canaan and the feast as instituted of God through Moses at the time of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt.
The historical occasion for the institution of the Passover in Egypt is well-known. Israel had been sorely afflicted in that house of bondage. There the people of the Lord had become a mighty people. The king of Egypt (the mighty world power at that time) resolved upon a policy of oppression and affliction to curb this growth of the nation and reduce its threat to him and his mighty kingdom. That oppression had been long and grievous. However, Israel’s deliverance was now at hand. Until now the Lord had poured out the vials of His wrath upon wicked Egypt which had held His people captive unlawfully (Israel had been invited to Egypt to sojourn there as a guest, and had been treated as a slave). Terribly the Lord had plagued the nation with nine mighty strokes in three waves of three waves each. The last plague is now about to be inflicted. God shall smite all the firstborn of the land, of man and beast. That plague, destroying Egypt’s firstborn, will be Israel’s deliverance, for Pharaoh will drive them out of the land, that all may know that the Lord is God and He alone. However, before the angel of the Lord goes forth upon his mission of death and destruction, Moses receives of the Lord the institution of the Old Testament Passover, according to Exodus 12:1-14. Israel alone receives this revelation from Jehovah concerning the smiting of the firstborn and the institution of the Passover. This information is withheld from Egypt. The destruction of the firstborn is visited upon the house of bondage without warning. Egypt, the mighty and wicked world power, is not given a “chance.”
With respect to the Passover as instituted in the land of Egypt we may say that it consisted chiefly of two elements. The first element or feature of this feast was that it consisted of an offer of atonement. The lamb, of course, constituted the heart of the Old Testament feast. This lamb, taken either from the sheep or the goats, must be without spot, might be eight days younger than one year but not one day older. Each family of Israel must procure such a lamb, slay it in the evening of the fourteenth day of the seventh month (the month, Abib, which would henceforth be the first month in Israel’s “holy year”), and strike its blood upon the two side posts and the upper doorpost of the house wherein it should be eaten. The angel of the Lord, seeing the blood upon the doorposts, would pass on or over (hence the name: Passover) the houses where the Israelites were because of the blood of the lamb. The second element or feature of this feast was the eating of the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. We need not, of course, discuss this now in detail. The flesh of the lamb must be roasted with fire, without coming into contact with the fire, his head with his legs, and with the inwards—hence, the entire lamb. It might not be eaten raw, neither sodden with water. This must be accompanied with the eating of unleavened bread and bitter herbs; nothing may remain until the morning; whatever is left must be burned. Finally, the Israelites must eat of the lamb with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, staves in their hands, and in all haste. Such is the feast of the Passover as instituted in the land of Egypt. It was the feast of Israel’s deliverance. We have already observed that it consisted chiefly of two parts or elements. In that night the Lord would smite all the firstborn of the land of Egypt and pour out the vials of His wrath and judgment upon that sorely stricken and utterly wicked land. Israel, however, would escape this wrath of the living God, not, of course, because it was in any sense of the word better than the Egyptians, but only because of the blood of the lamb upon their doorposts. This, we understand, was a mighty type of the deliverance of the elect Church of God from the wrath of the Lord through and only because of the blood of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. However, this Egyptian Passover was also a feast. Israel was not merely delivered from the wrath of God because of the blood of the lamb; they also ate of the lamb. Israel’s deliverance does not merely consist of escaping the judgment of God but it consists, positively, also in this that we eat and drink of the same lamb of God. Christ becomes our food and drink, our, life eternal in covenant fellowship and communion with the Lord God of our salvation. We are not merely saved from sin and darkness and death but also translated into the blessed kingdom of God’s dear Son and everlasting life. The deliverance of the Church of God is not merely negative but also and emphatically positive. Of our deliverance from sin and judgment and our entrance into living fellowship and communion with the Lord the Old Testament Passover in the land of Egypt is a mighty type and symbol.