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The Symbolism of Baptism

In this article we begin a study of baptism.  We do so with some trepidation, knowing the differences that exist over this important matter.  Nevertheless, though we have no wish to offend those who are of a Baptist persuasion, we believe the testimony of Scripture is clear.  We ask only that they hear what we have to say.

The first matter, then, is the symbolism of baptism.  We do not believe that the water of baptism itself has any efficacy or power, as Romanism, Anglicanism and Lutheranism teach.  Its value lies in the fact that it is a symbol.

All would agree, we are sure, that the water of baptism symbolises the blood of Christ, and that the application of the water (we leave aside for the moment the matter of  how it is applied) represents the washing away of sins by Christ’s precious blood.

In other words, baptism represents the application of salvation in justification (the removal of the guilt of our sins) and sanctification (the removal of the filth and pollution of our sins).  It represents the forgiveness of our sins as we receive that forgiveness in our justification and through faith.  It also represents the work of God by which we are made holy in regeneration (the new birth) and sanctification.

Insofar, however, as the application of the water represents the washing away of our sins in justification and sanctification, the water of baptism not only represents the blood of Christ, but also the Spirit of Christ. He is the One in whom we are actually washed (baptised) both for the remission and cleansing of sin.

This is reason why Scripture describes the gift of the Spirit as a baptism (Matt. 3:11; Acts 1:5; 11:16; I Cor. 12:13).  It is a baptism, not for any other reason than that the Spirit has an important function in the cleansing of sin.  He is the one who applies to us the blood of Christ both for our justification and our sanctification, and since He does this by giving Himself to us, we can be said to be baptised not only in the blood but also in (or with) the Spirit when we are saved.

This has many important consequences.  For one thing, it is the answer to the error of Pentecostalism which teaches that the baptism in the Spirit is something additional and subsequent to salvation.  That the baptism in or with the Spirit is nothing other than salvation is clear from Scripture (Acts 2:38, 39; Rom. 5:1-5; 8:9; I Cor. 12:13 - comp. John 7:37-39; Gal. 3:2; Eph. 1:13, 14).

All this has consequences also for the mode of baptism.  If the water of baptism represents both the blood and the Spirit of Christ (only alternative is Pentecostalism) then it must be noted that Scripture invariably describes the application of both in terms of pouring or sprinkling.  But that is another point we will deal with later.

The point here is that baptism beautifully symbolises the washing away of sins by both the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ.  Thus it shows us how we enter God’s covenant, that is, by grace alone and by Christ alone.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 6
  • Issue: 24
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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  • Address
    13823 Clear Lake Rd.
  • City
    Medical Lake
  • State or Province
    WA
  • Zip Code
    99022
  • Country
    United States
  • Mobile
    360-527-6633

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