Barry Newman's Blog

March 22, 2012

Baptising in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (part XXVIII)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 11:05 pm

Concluding Remarks

Perhaps when Jesus said, “baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” he really did have in mind that his disciples, in making new disciples should baptise them in a water ceremony in the name of the triune God.  I would still find it difficult to believe that he was indicating that such a baptism was compulsory. That such a ceremony is compulsory does not seem consistent with the general tenure of his teaching as conveyed in Matthew or in any of the Gospels and t does not seem consistent with the gospel itself.  Furthermore, an interpretation of the text which refers to a ceremony, mandatory or not, leaves hanging the awkward question as to why in the Acts of the Apostles, the only references to baptising “in the name of” refer to “in the name of Jesus the Lord” or “in the name of Jesus the Christ.”

But I could still be wrong.

From time to time, we believers need to faithfully reflect on our practices and beliefs.  We need to do so because we know how easy it is to get things wrong.  We know that from personal experience.  We know it from history.  We need to check out beliefs and practices against the Scriptures.  The New Testament itself teaches us that early believers often went astray. Paul and others had to rebuke, correct and inform.  The Reformation was a time when humble, courageous, thoughtful and honest people learnt from the Scriptures that they and others had gone badly astray.  It is true that they did not only refer to the Scriptures to support their positions.  Appeal was also made to some of the writings of the Early Fathers.  However if it ever comes to a contest between what the Early Fathers said (and they said some things that surely we would not agree with today) and what the Scriptures say, the Scriptures must win.  They must win, even if for only historical reasons.  They take precedence historically. But they must win because they are the inspired words of God. The views of the reformers are not.  It is thus a mistake to automatically assume that what the reformers claimed was true is indeed the truth. (How could it be?  They could not even agree with each other on a number of issues.  As a group they made contradictory claims as to what the truth is.)

It will take humble, courageous, thoughtful and honest people, to day, to reassess their understanding of Matthew 28: 19.

“Humble” because one has to consider the possibility that one has got it wrong, that one has had an incorrect understanding for some time or for a short time.

“Courageous” because it means that one has to acknowledge the possibility of having to renounce something treasured and something enmeshed into one’s doctrinal claims, something with which others, perhaps many others, also have allegiance – one’s friends, one’s colleagues, fellow members of the same denomination. It will be costly for some people to so renounce and that is why one would need to be courageous even to start on the journey. But the truth is always to be pursued above personal comfort.  To avoid the truth is to remain in ignorance.  To be ignorant and to teach others one’s own ignorance is to teach others what is false.

Ceremonies can be valuable and the ceremony of water baptism has immense value because potentially it has immense significance concerning the truth.  But whatever value we place upon ceremonies, it would be important for both ourselves and for those to whom we preach the gospel to realise, if it is true, that ceremonies, from God’s point of view, in themselves, ultimately, are not mandatory, as valuable as they might be.  Surely our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ not in ceremonies.  Surely, the righteousness which God declares and grants is on the basis of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ – his faithfulness, not on the basis of a participation in a ceremony.

“Thoughtfulness and “honesty” are required because truth is not obtained without “reflection” and “honesty” is need for that reflection to be fruitful.

May God grant to us all “humility”, “courage”, “thoughtfulness” and “honesty” for his name’s sake!

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