Wednesday, January 26, 2011

HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN LITURGY (3) Baptism: (洗禮): Entering Christian Faith

III. Baptism (洗禮): Entering Christian Faith
In this chapter we reflect some traditions of Baptism. This rite is not more but a rite and no way to secure salvation. The important point when someone convert, did he really decide to turn around and give God glory and ask him for forgiveness? This is the center piece of the entering rite. The rite expresses to whom we belong and whom we recognize as our father. If this is clear the chosen way to express the inner change is secondary and must be adjusted to the local needs. Baptism is clearly the primary Christian rite of initiation. There are two rites to express the entering in the Christian communityone is baptism and the other ist he LORD“s Supper.

1. Baptism (洗禮):

1.1 Baptism and its roots

Sometimes it is highly dramatic; at other times it appears largely perfunctory. But in any case it is understood as a powerful reenactment of the death (through immersion) and resurrection (coming out of the water) of Jesus himself. Of course, baptism also imitates Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River.  Further, Judaism already had a similar ritual of conversion: There, as in many other religions, baptism symbolized the death of the old person and rebirth of the new. For Christians it was appropriate to adapt this ritual to their new understanding of existence: as Jesus had died and been "reborn," so with every Christian. Thus Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Rome:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4, RSV)

The drama of baptism, which in the early church was usually on Easter morning after a fast and an all-night vigil, culminated with the new Christian donning white garments, a symbol of purity and new birth that is echoed in the white baptismal gowns of babies even today.
1.2 The Mode of Baptism
Here Christian traditions have different opinions. In accordance with the Greek verb “baptizo”total immersion is held to be the order in the New Testament *Ac 8:38.39) and it expresses the reality of burial with Christ (Rom 6:4). On the other hand from the etymological site “baptizo” is also symbolically applied used in connection with “pouring out” of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:33).
To insist on immersion in water because of its symbolic emphasiz on the burial and the resurrection of Christ for some seems to ignore other aspects like the union with Christ (Ro 6:5) and the “putting on Christ” (Gal 3:27), which are also attached to the meaning of baptism alike.[1] Baptism is the rite through which a person who has been spiritually born again testifies to this fact. Among Baptists immersion is thought to be consistent with the terminology and language of the New Testament, which associates baptism with "going down into" and "coming up out of" water (Acts 8:39, Matthew 3:16), as well as symbolically consistent with the new Christian's identification with the death (going down) and resurrection (coming up) of Jesus Christ.[2]
1.3 Anointing with consecrated oil (游斯丁)
This custom is commonly used in catholic churches. It is an act of confirmation of the initiation and expressed through by the use of consecrated oil to anoint the believer and execute the "Christing" of the believer. It expresses the newly gained deep relationship to Christ, the  "anointed one," the king. In this act the believer expresses his new identity in Christ, the anointed one and underlines his commitment to live a Christ like life. Consecrated oil is a picture, which symbolically refers to the work of the Holy Spirit who has entered enters the believer’s life by the time of conversion (John 3:3).
The act of anointing is an expression of what the believer decision to fully identify with Christ who as started his ministry had the Spirit descending on him in the shape of a dove after he came up out of the Jordan. Similarly the oil of anointing represents the descent of the Spirit on the Christian. Some Protestant churches developed a separate rite, the rite of “confirmation” to perform when the person has reached an age of understanding. ” Other traditions like the Eastern Orthodox churches practice the rite immediately after baptism ; in churches where ecstatic experience is the goal, for example the Pentecostal, the gift of the Holy Spirit has again come into prominence as the mark of the true Christian. However, personal experiences of an “anointment from above” experience are usually not considered a ritual of confirmation.
1.4 Scottish Presbyterian Church: Shaking hands after baptism

This tradition is very old. After the person was baptism under water the deacons, elders welcome the new member of congregation by shaking the right hand with him. [3] This practise used by the Taiwan Presbyterian Churches too in Taiwan’s folkreligous patterned segments of socities has proven to be a very helpful way to bridge the message of baptism into the local village cultures.

2.  The Necessity of Baptism for Followers of Jesus
1. Faith =Trust
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek word, which is translated as “faith” in our English Bibles is "pistis", which means “faith, trust.” [4] Although faith means "to trust", how much one is required to trust or to have faith in any given situation changes depends on the nature of situation. Since God has given us Jesus, God determines what it means for us to trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Paul identified faith as response which causes one to become a child of God as someone who responds to the message by being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).
From a historical perspective, Luke agreed with Paul’s theology when he recorded how that those who believed the Gospel responded by being baptized, resulting in God adding them to those who are saved. (Acts 2:41, 47; 8:12) Furthermore, Matthew's account of the Gospel collaborates this doctrinal understanding as Jesus told his disciples to make more disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as well as teaching them to observe everything he had commanded. Matthew 28:19-20
But to have faith in Jesus requires more than just submitting to the act of baptism. To trust in Jesus also involves believing in Jesus in our heart and confessing him with our lips, Romans 10:8-11. It is to live our life wholly dependent upon Jesus as our Savior in that way God has prescribed.
2. Blood: Covenant & Forgiveness
God has used and continues to use covenant as the basis for establishing a relationship with humanity and identifying those who are His people. In Exodus 24:3-8 Israel entered into one such covenant with God by being sprinkled with sacrificial blood. In describing this event, Hebrews 9:16-22 explains that blood was necessary not only for establishing the covenant but also for purifying the people who were entering into that covenant.
This introduces the other role of sacrificial blood, namely atonement (to cleanse someone or something so that a holy God could be present in fellowship). In the Law of Moses, God established the principle that “the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your soul. For it is the blood, that makes atonement for your soul,” Leviticus 17:11.[5] Often this blood would be sprinkled on (or in some other way applied to) whomever or whatever was being atoned for, Leviticus 8:15-34; 16:11-19.
The New Testament continues this emphasis upon blood as being necessary for the remission of sins. Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22 Yet, Hebrews 9 and 10 stress that the sprinkled blood of bulls and goats made one holy so that one was outwardly clean. It could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper forever by removing the sense of guilt. According to this letter, the continual parade of sacrifices teaches that more sacrifices were needed. Hebrews 9:9, 13; 10:1-4, 11.
3. Jesus’ Blood: Forgiveness & Covenant
In contrast to the blood of bulls and goats, Jesus’ blood is able to cleanse our conscience. Hebrews 9:14 With one sacrifice Jesus makes perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:10, 12-13. Because the salvation, which Jesus brings depends upon the blood he shed in his death as an atoning sacrifice, Paul described that justification which comes through trusting in Christ as being “faith in His blood.” Romans 3:25; 5:9: To be a Christian involves depending upon Christ’s blood to justify ourself. At the last supper, Jesus described this blood he would be pouring out “for the remission of sins” as being “my blood of the covenant.” Matthew 26:28 Jesus’ death achieved more than just being a sacrifice for sins. Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:12 It also created a new covenant relationship with God. Hebrews 9:15 His blood inaugurated that new covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34 cf. Hebrews 8:8-12
It was prophesied that those who would enter into this new covenant relationship with God would enjoy a number of blessings, including the forgiveness of sins and God’s Spirit. Jeremiah 31:34, Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37:26-27 For us to enjoy the “remission of sins” made possible by the new covenant, we have to enter into this new covenant relationship God has made possible through Jesus.
4. Baptism: Entering Covenant & Receiving Forgiveness
Drawing upon the background of sprinkling sacrificial blood for purification and entering covenant, the Hebrews writer claimed that Christians can enter God’s presence because their hearts have been cleansed from a guilty conscience by being sprinkled with Jesus’ blood. Hebrews 10:19-22; 12:23-24 The author then tied together this sprinkled blood with the physical action of one’s body having been washed with water, Hebrews 10:22 .
Although the blood of Jesus is said to have been sprinkled on one’s heart in a manner reminiscent of a priestly ceremony, the administration of New Testament baptism is a symbolic burial or a washing in water (Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12; Hebrews 10:22).
The  author of  Hebrew’s points when someone has been purified by Christ’s blood by being baptized, he can now boldly enter into God’s presence with a clean conscience. Admittedly, his emphasis is not upon baptism but upon Christ’s blood enabling us to come before God.
1 Peter 1:2 describes the elect as those who have obeyed Jesus Christ and have been sprinkled by his blood. Similarly, Peter also attributes a “good conscience toward God” as being the result of baptism, claiming that “baptism ... now saves you,” 1 Peter 3:21.
5. Baptism: Point of Transition Into Covenant
The New Testament places baptism as being the transition point of entering covenant and the covenant community known as the body of Christ.
• Acts describes the promises of the new covenant (forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit) as being realized when one is baptized. Acts 2:38; 22:16
• Paul refers to baptism as being that moment of transition when one wholeheartedly obeys a form of teaching responsible for setting one free from sin (the forgiveness of sin promised in new covenant), Romans 6:17-18.[6]
• Paul presents baptism as an act of faith in God’s power to raise one up with Christ, a resurrection (transition) from being dead in sin to becoming alive with Christ. Colossians, 2:12-13. This type of  transformation describes the difference from being dead outside of covenant to enjoying the blessings of being in Christ’s covenant.
• The transition involved in the new birth includes being “born of water,” John 3:5. Paul would describe this salvation which comes by grace through faith as “He saved us through the washing of rebirth,” Titus 3:5-7.
• With baptism one is said to enter into the body of Christ, namely the new covenant community. Thus, Paul wrote that the Spirit baptizes one into the one body. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul also described baptism as being “baptized into Christ” resulting in one becoming clothed with Christ. Galatians 3:27 Luke recorded that people were added to the body of believers as a result of baptism, Acts 2:41.
3. Baptism in the Indian Context -- An Event of Separation

David C. Scott writes: The common perception of the "westernization" of Indian Christians has been a major factor in making baptism a divisive factor in Indian society, especially from the late 15th and early 16th centuries onwards. The observation of a Roman Catholic writer is indicative. Baptism became the symbol of a break with the whole of one's past and marked the assimilation of the convert to European ways and customs. By impoverishing the Church's genuinely 'Catholic` image, the colonial missions have left the young Churches of Asia, Africa, South and Central America with a heavy historical burden till the present. From another perspective the Indian Christian convert has been described "as deracinated, and as an outcaste, no longer recognizable as a functioning member of his or her former terms of the loss of caste and the pronouncement of civil death by Hindu law." It is for these reasons that numerous Indians consider Christian conversion and baptism to be effective denationalization. For many conversion to Christianity is offensive, a betrayal of India's national heritage, an alienation harmful to the life of the nation, a disturbance having undesirable political and economic implications. British colonial records "reveal with astonishing clarity how not only Hindus and Muslims but also the British regarded conversion as a disruptive act." Certainly such feelings, whether justifiable or not, produce consequences which cannot be ignored by the Church in India.[7]

4.  Concluding Observations to Baptism as a Faith Entering Rite
Understanding baptism, as a faith response to hearing the Gospel resulting in someone entering into the new covenant so that this person receives the blessings of the covenant and hence becomes a member of Christ’s body explains the New Testament’s references to salvation comes by trusting in Jesus and the role of baptism in this reliance upon Christ.
1) This accounts for why Jesus commanded baptism as a requirement in making disciples, Matthew 28:19-20.
2) This explains 1 Peter 1:18-22 “you were redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth.” It also explains the close correlation between obeying Jesus and being sprinkled with his blood, 1 Peter 1:2.
3) This agrees with what we know of the history of the New Testament church. In Acts, Luke recorded that when people heard about the Gospel about Jesus they responded by being baptized.
4) This explains why the Ethiopian eunuch upon hearing the Gospel message responded, "Look, here is water! What is preventing me from being baptized?" Acts 8:36.
5) Paul’s writings reflect this understanding of faith. Paul stated his missionary goal as being to bring “all the Gentiles to the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5) and that the preaching of the Gospel results in the “obedience of faith,” Romans 16:25-26.
6) This explains why the New Testament which defends the principle that salvation comes by trusting in Jesus also makes statements such as: Jesus “became the author of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9) and that God “will punish those who ... do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus,” 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

English Literatur:

·       Bauer, „baptizo“, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature Translated by Arndt and Gingrich, (University of Chicago: Chicago, 1957).
·       Bromiley, G.W. The Baptism of Infants, 1955.

·       Calvin John. Institutes, IV.

·       Cullmann, Oscar. Baptism in the New Testament, 1950.

·       Garrett, T.S.基督教的崇拜」Hongkong: Taosheng Publishing House, 1988.

·       Gilmore, A. Christian Baptism, 1952.

·       Hodge, C. Systematic Theology, III.

[1] J.Calvin , Institutes, IV,14/16 , C.Hodge, Systematic Theology, III, 526, Oscar Cullmann, Baptism in the New Testament, 1950, J.Warns, Baptism , 1957,  A. Gilmore, Christian Baptism, 1952, G.W. Bromiley, The Baptism of Infants, 1955, P.Marcel, The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism, 1953, R.E.O. White, The Biblical Doctrine of Initiation, 1960.
[2] Baptist Rites and Ceremonis,
[3]  T.S.Garrett,基督教的崇拜」(HongkongTaosheng Publishing House, 1988), 35.
[4] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature Translated by Arndt and Gingrich, (University of Chicago: Chicago, 1957), 668.
[5] See also Leviticus 4:1; 6:24.
[6] See the context of Romans 6:3-16.
[7] Scott,

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