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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
4- The Efficacious of Baptism
(1) Salvation is completed through baptism
This is pursuant to the Lord Jesus Christ's words: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved" (Mark.16: 16). The Lord did not say: "He who believes is saved", but He put the condition of baptism alongside the condition of belief.
(2) Through baptism we receive the Second Birth which is of water and the Spirit
(a) This is pursuant to the Lord Jesus Christ's words to Nicodemus: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John.3:3). The Lord explained this to him, saying: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John.3: 5). Then He added "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The wind blows where it wishes... So is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John.3: 6,8). Thus the Lord considers that everyone who is born of water and the Spirit is born from above or born of the Spirit.
It also seems strange that some Protestant brethren want to water-down this text by claiming that the Lord did not say, "unless one is baptised of water and the Spirit", but, "unless one is born"! Of course there is no doubt that both express the same thing, because what is the other meaning of "born of water" except "to be baptised" since the baptised comes out of the womb of the font and moreover the Apostle St. Paul affirms the same meaning when he says:
(b) "...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration" (Titus 3: 5). And about the Church he said: "... that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph.5: 26). The Apostle considered that the washing of water (in baptism) is the washing of renewal and the washing away of sins.
(3) Baptism washes away sins
This is according to the last two verses and also according to Ananias' words to Saul: "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptised, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22: 16). Here we see that one of the outcomes of baptism is the washing away of sins. We are surprised at Saul's case: He was called by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to be an Apostle to the Gentiles and a chosen vessel to bear His name and to suffer for the sake of His name (Acts 9: 15,16). Nevertheless, his sins were not forgiven by his encounter with the Lord or by his faith or by becoming an Apostle, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. He was still in need of baptism to wash away his sins. Probably the Apostle Paul always remembered that washing away of sins through baptism, so he said to the Corinthians: "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1Cor.6: 11). This was because they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and received the forgiveness of sins as St. Peter -had said to the Jews.
(4) In baptism there is forgiveness of sins
On the Day of Pentecost, when the Jews believed and were cut to the heart, they said to St. Peter and the other Apostles: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then St. Peter and the Apostles replied: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2: 37,38).
If the belief of the Jews was adequate for the forgiveness of sins, the great Apostles would not have instructed them to be baptised, especially on such an historical day; the day of establishing the Church; the day on which important principles were being set up for salvation.
One may ask: How are sins forgiven in baptism? We reply:
(5) Baptism is dying with the Lord Jesus Christ and rising with Him
The Holy Bible says: "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom.6:23). The way of salvation began by death: the Lord Jesus Christ died for us. It is necessary to die with the Lord Jesus Christ or at least to resemble Him in His death as the Apostle says: "...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Phil.3: 10). This is achieved in baptism. How?
The Apostle says: "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death" (Rom.6: 3,4). And he continues to confirm this expression by saying: "...we died with Him... we were buried with Him... we have been united together in the likeness of His death... our old man was crucified with Him." Confirming the same meaning, the Apostle also says in his Epistle to the Colossians: "...buried with Him in baptism" (Col.2: 12).
But why all this? The Apostle says: "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Rom.6: 8).
Therefore, baptism is essential for salvation because it is sharing in Christ's death. It is a belief in death as a means to life and it is a confession that the wages of sin is death. In chapter six of the Epistle to the Romans, we notice two important points:
(a) The phrase "buried with Him through baptism" means immersion as when the body is lowered into the grave.
(b) It appears that one of the results of baptism is the crucifixion of our old self.
(6) Another Result of baptism is newness of life
The Apostle says: "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom.6: 4). The new life is the life we receive through baptism. Therefore our old nature is renewed in baptism. How?
(7) In baptism we put on Christ
The Apostle says: "For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal.3: 27). Is there a more powerful phrase than this to signify the great efficacy of baptism?
We put on Christ... We put on His righteousness which He bestows upon us in baptism, we put on salvation which He bestows upon us in baptism by His blood, we put on God's image (Gen.1: 26) which we lost through the original sin.
(8) In baptism we become members of the Church
There is no doubt that baptism was symbolised by circumcision in the Old Testament. The Apostle St. Paul says about the Lord Jesus: "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead" (Col.2: 11,12).
It is known that in circumcision a part of the body is cut off and it dies. This refers to the complete death in baptism.
Circumcision is a mark that can not be effected
Likewise, baptism can not be erased
As blood is shed in circumcision
likewise, The merit of the Blood shed on our behalf is received in the new life in baptism
As the circumcised was considered a member of God's people(Gen.17: 7)
likewise, The baptised becomes a member of the Church; of God's Body
As the uncircumcised was cut off from the community (Gen.17:14)
likewise, he who is not born of water and the Spirit (John.3:3,5) will not enter the kingdom of God because he was not baptised, he was not buried with Christ and did not rise with Him
As circumcision was a must and a necessity by God's command
likewise, baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins and for the membership in Christ's Body
As man dies only once and then rises, and is circumcised only once, therefore baptism is performed only once: it is not to be repeated because the baptised does not die with Christ more than once.
As for the relation between circumcision and baptism and the forgiveness of sins, the Apostle expresses it in his discourse about the spiritual circumcision; circumcision made by Christ and not by the hands of men; circumcision in which the old sinful body is taken off. He refers to baptism when he says: "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col.2: 11,13).
The symbols of baptism in the Old Testament give the same meaning
Noah's Ark was a symbol of baptism
St. Peter the Apostle says: "...while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism" (1Pet.3:20,21). We explain that there is salvation in baptism with water. Similarly, in Noah's ark which is a symbol of baptism, all those who were in the ark were saved from the death of the Flood. This confirms what we have previously said about salvation through baptism according to the Lord's words in (M k.16:16).
Circumcision is another symbol of baptism and we have already explained this point
Another symbol of baptism in the Old Testament is the crossing of the Red Sea
St. Paul the Apostle says: "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1Cor.10: 1,2). It is known that the crossing of the Red Sea was salvation to the people from the slavery of Pharaoh. Here St. Paul refers to the salvation we receive in baptism from the slavery of sin and death. The element of water is clear in both examples. Here Moses resembles priesthood in the same way that Noah resembles priesthood in the symbol of the Ark in the Era of the Patriarch Fathers.
Another symbol of baptism in the Old Testament is found in (Ezek.16: 8,9) where the Lord says to the sinful Jerusalem which here resembles the human soul in its fall: "'When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love. I entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,' says the Lord God. 'Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil.' "
This water and this washing are symbols of baptism and the ointment is a symbol of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The phrase "you became Mine" means that Jerusalem (the human soul) became a member of Christ's Body (the Church).
Therefore, in baptism there is salvation and forgiveness of sins, not only according to the teaching of the New Testament but also according to the symbolic references in the Old Testament: circumcision, the Ark and the Red Sea.
The remission of sins we obtain in baptism is explicitly professed in the Creed by the phrase "We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins".
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