Baptism was commanded by our Lord. (Math. 28: 19) In the New Testament, admission to the Church was always through Baptism. (Acts. 2 : 38 - 41; 1Cor. 1:13; Acts 10:47;
19:3; Rom. 6:3) St. Paul tells that Baptism is the means of union with the death of Christ. (Rom. 6: 3 - 11 ; Col. 2:12) Baptism is the means by which the church is cleansed (Eph. 5:26)
The principal source for the meaning of Baptism is Jn. 3:5 where our Lord tells Nicodemus that no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he's born of water and spirit. circumcision was the method of admission to the Jewish church. The Christian Church gave up circumcision. (Gal. 5:2; Act. 15:28)
Baptism is the Sacrament by which our souls are given the new life of sanctifying Grace, by which we become children of God and heirs of heaven. We are adopted as sons of God. In human adoption, nothing is given to the foster son that makes him similar to the foster parents. but sanctifying grace is infused into the adopted sons of God, which gives them supernaturally a likeness of God.
We have seen that by means of the Church we abide in spiritual union with Christ. But before this union, one should be brought into union with Him. They must be admitted into the Church, the means by which God makes us members, is the sacrament of Baptism.
By means of this, we are not only made part of the Church, but also an inward change is wrought in us. In God's sacramental dealing with us, a real spiritual Grace is brought about by the outward act.
The effects of Baptism
St. Crysostom says: We are entombed in Christ in Baptism. As Christ cannot be entombed a second time, so also the baptised cannot receive Baptism a second time. If Baptised in one of the Protestant churches, he or she should be confirmed by being anointed with Holy Mooron.
There are two pledges made at the Baptism by the person, or by the god-parents. Renouncement of Satan, and proclamation of faith. First renouncing Satan and all his ways and works, second, belief in Christ and all His teachings thro' the Prophets, Apostles, and the Holy Fathers of the Church. He gives us sacramental grace to fulfill our promise. We are bound to live as Christians, because by God's grace, we can.
In Baptism the name of a saint is given in order that the person may imitate his virtues and have him as his protector.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read about conversions of certain families.
Cornelius and family Acts 10:48
Ludia and family Acts 16:15
The Prison keeper
and family Acts 16:33
Crispus and family Acts 18:8
Stphanus and family 1 Cor. 1:16
The Bible Dictionary says - We cannot assert that in these families there were no children. The Gk. word used in the context denotes the Adults, the infants, the servants and the slaves. Though it is not clearly seen in the New Testament that the early Christians baptised their children, it is noteworthy there is nothing to prove on the contrary. There are ample evidences to show that from the 2 nd. century onwards it was the custom to baptise the infants.
"Infant Baptism was an Apostolic tradition." (SYR. CH) Gen. 17:12-23 ; Ex. 12:27-30;
1 Kings 1:21 speak of families. As the whole family including children were circumcised, the same argument stands in the case of baptism of infants.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia points out that infant baptism was usual from the beginning of the new Testament Church, and the Church admonished that it was necessary for salvation.
It was administered in the time of the Apostolic Fathers. St. Iraneus , disciple of Polycarp, disciple of St. John says - "Christ came to save all - the infants, the children, the young and the old." Hippolitus (c 294) says - "Baptise first the children, and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise let their parents or relatives peak for them." "Baptism is given for the remission of sins and according to the usage of the church, baptism is given even to the infants, says Origen (b 185) "The Church received from the Apostles the Tradition of giving Baptism even to infants.
For the Apostles to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in every one the innate stain of sin which must be washed away thro' water and Spirit."(abide) St.Cyprian too (200) with his Council asserts that infants should be baptised as early as possible, so that the mercy and grace of God ought to b denied to no man born." St. Augustine has recorded that the tradition from the Apostles up to the 3rd. century is in favour of infant baptism.
The Syrian, The Roman Catholic, the Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian - all are baptising infants - even though they have Christological and doctrinal differences. It shows that the practice was there even before the split and hence, Apostolic.
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