On the Saving Effects of Baptism (From the Dialogue Between Me & My Born-Again Friend)
Disclaimer: This is Just a Summary (with some personal interjections) on the Issue of Baptism from the Book by Stephen K. Ray entitled: Crossing the Tiber.
"Give honor to them who is worthy!"
Part 1: Baptism Foreshadowed in the Old Testament
Genesis Chapters 1-3
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. [Genesis 1:1-3]
A new world was brought forth from the water, by the agency of the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters. St. Theophilus of Antioch (d.c. 185) said: “Those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance & remission of sins through water & the bath of regeneration”. We will see the parallels to baptism, as God establishes his second creation, his Church.
We know from scriptures & the Creed (I am referring to the prayer & statement of faith by the early Christians & what we know now as the Apostles’ Creed) that Christ was the source of the first creation, since “through him all things were made.” At his baptism, we see him creating again, as the firstborn of many brethren [Rom. 8:29]. When Jesus was baptize in his earthly body, the Spirit again hovered over the water & lighted on Him, initiating the second & new creation (the Church). So it is with each of us, as we are baptized & become new creations, “born from above” (you also refer to this as being “born again”), & placed in the Body of Christ (the Church).
This is the story of Noah. It is a picture of baptism if you read 1 Peter 3:20-22. Notice the symbolism of salvation through the water, through the agency of the ark, & also the dove alighting on the ark (like the dove on Jesus after his baptism) with an olive branch on its beak, which symbolizes renewal & peace. Notice also that the raven did not return, is it not a prefiguring of sin that leaves the ark after the flood & does not return?
St. Cyprian (martyred in 258) wrote, “For as, in the baptism of the world in which in its ancient iniquity was purged away, he who was not in the ark of Noah could not be saved by water, so neither can he appear to be saved by baptism who has not been baptized in the Church which is established in the unity of the Lord according to the sacrament of the one ark”.
Here God establishes His covenant with Abraham through circumcision. We will see later that circumcision in the Old Covenant corresponds to the water baptism in the New Covenant [Col. 2:11-13].
Circumcision is the initiation into the covenant people of God, & the Passover. No one was allowed to eat the Passover until he had the seal of circumcision which is identical to the Church (the people of God in the New Covenant) where they cannot partake the Eucharist if they are not baptized. We know from St. Paul that circumcision was already replaced with baptism [Col. 2:11-13].
[Ex. 14:21-22, 30] The crossing of the red sea by the Israelites is a picture of Christian baptism [1 Cor. 10:2]. Their slavery in Egypt (symbolic of slavery to sin, the world, & the devil) was put to an end was put to an end when they passed through the waters of baptism in the Red Sea & came out to eat spiritual food & spiritual drink from the spiritual rock that followed them, & that rock was Christ.
[2 Kings 5:1-14] To make the story short, the poor commander Naaman (who was plagued by a terrible skin disease) was cleansed by water. The early Church understood this event as an Old Testament picture of baptism. The unbeliever- the Gentile- is brought to the prophet of God by the girl, a picture of the Church that brings sinners to the sacraments (of Christ). Through water he was REGENERATED.
[Ezek 36:22, 25-27] Here it is explained how the new covenant in the future will look like. The Lord God says that he will “sprinkle clean water on you” (based on the sprinkling in Nb. 8:7, 19:17). Compare this to Isaiah 52:15 where in the coming Messiah will “sprinkle many nations” which seems to predict Matthew 28:19; the correlation with Jesus’ words in John 3:3-5 cannot be missed.
"Go therefore and make disciples of ALL THE NATIONS, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19]
[Zech. 13:1] This is an allusion to Christ who would open a fountain of forgiveness for sins. The 18th century protestant Matthew Henry writes on this: “This fountain opened is the pierced side of Jesus Christ, spoken of just before, for thence came there BLOOD & WATER, & BOTH for CLEANSING. & those who look upon Christ pierced, & mourn for their sins that pierced Him, & are therefore in bitterness for Him, may look again upon Christ pierced & rejoice in Him, because it pleased the Lord thus to smite this rock, that it might be to us a fountain of living waters”
Protestants C. F. Keil & F. Delitzsch explains: “By this water we have to understand not only grace in general, but the SPIRITUAL SPRINKLING-WATER, which is prepared through the sacrificial death of Christ, through the blood that He shed for sin , & which is sprinkled upon us for the cleansing of sin in the gracious water of baptism”.
Even Martin Luther said: “This fountain might well & properly be understood as referring to baptism, in which the Spirit is given & all sins are washed away” (Luther’s works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis: Concordia, 1973], 20:331).
Source: Crossing the Tiber by Stephen K. Ray (former Baptist)