The following is taken nearly verbatim from an exegetical paper on the passage.
I previously mentioned that I was doing some work on Matthew 3:13-17, “The Baptism of Jesus Christ”. Over the next few days I’ll post a verse by verse analysis of the passage at some depth.
First I want to lead off with a list of 10 baptism blog entries worth reading:
- The Resurgence: Baptism And The Unity Of Christians
Among the differences which divide Christians baptism looms very large. Unlike other doctrines and practices of the church our differences on baptism fall along a number of lines at once. We seem unable to agree on any of the following: (1) Mode of baptism. (2) Proper candidates for baptism. (3) Proper administrators for baptism. (4) Effects of baptism.
Most agree on only two things: baptism requires water, and baptism is appropriate at the outset (in some sense) of the Christian life. Apart from these marginal agreements the word “baptism” is a symbol without meaning—and this after 2000 years of use! Looked at in this way, “baptism” bears all the earmarks of a grand tragedy. No wonder a few groups have ignored it altogether.
- Euangelion: Baptism in the Ancient Church
By the late second century an elaborate process had developed leading into baptism including:… [Just go read it, the whole thing is significant]
- The Haugean: Baptism
The first thing scientists look for when exploring the solar system is for any evidence of water. Without water there is no life. So it is fitting that God uses something as ordinary but at the same time so rare in the universe as water as a vehicle to convey to us His invisible grace.
- Between Two Worlds: An Interview with Tom Schreiner on Baptism
I think the New Hampshire Confession of 1833 defines baptism beautifully. “We believe that Christian Baptism is the immersion in water of a believer, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth, in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its effect in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life.”
In your view, is there hope for unity on such an issue that has long divided the church?
We never know what it might please God to do. So we should always remain optimistic that more light will dawn on the church. Probably no one living in the 1400s imagined that a Reformation would occur in the 1500s! It is also possible that a difference of opinion will persist until Jesus comes. On the one hand, we need to love our fellow-believers who differ with us. On the other hand, we need to teach that any deviation from biblical truth has significant consequences.
- Pure Church: The “Heart” of the Paedo- vs. Credobaptist Matter
The majority of people have a different objection. They are troubled in heart about what being baptized as a believer implies about their parents, earlier church affiliation, and judgment that someone is in error. In other words, they don’t want to appear to be saying something critical, ungrateful, or uncharitable about their loved ones who raised them or churches they’re fond of.
- Ben Witherington: A Bridge over ‘Troubled Waters’– Rethinking our Theology of Baptism
What I am arguing is that a good deal of water has been shipped by both Baptists and Paedopbaptists when it comes to their theology of baptism, and we need to return ad fontes (yes, the baptismal font) and rethink some of these things in the light of Scripture and earliest Christian practice, rather than in the light of much later Christian squabbles about baptism, especially those generated by the Reformation.
(Amazon link to Ben’s book: Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism)
- Transformed Daily: Baptism: granting entrance to the church of Jesus Christ?Note his link to related post.
The act of baptism was extremely important to the early church. They didn’t wait. They immediately baptized. It was more than just symbolism. We see that baptism represented a formal invitation or membership to the church and thus one’s identity as a Christian. This act was not taken lightly in the days of the early church because once you became a Christian; there was a good chance of persecution. Therefore, the act of baptism could also be considered the new believer’s first act of faith – personally identifying with Christ whom the world hated and killed.
- Aldenswan: Rethinking Baptism
Of course, I’ve come to expect Christians not to think logically about many things.
- Got Grace:Augustine, Infant Baptism and the Artificial Construct of Limbo
Pelagius’ denial of original sin always had one great weakness: the universal practice of infant baptism, which was too embedded in church life for him to overthrow. But why baptize babies if original sin didn’t exist? Citing the very verse that the orthodox used to insist on the necessity of baptism (“No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit,” John 3:5), Pelagius granted the point but then made a distinction between the kingdom of God (for access to which baptism is required) and what he called eternal life, which, he claimed, unbaptized infants enjoy by virtue of their having immortal souls.
Saint Augustine was so strident in his total opposition to Pelagianism that he insisted that all the unbaptised infants were destined for Hell. The harshness of this position virtually required the Church over time to surmise that there must be a place between Heaven and Hell to contain these little ones; hence the theological construct known as Limbo.
- A Skinny Fairtrade Latte in the Food Court of Life:Baptism Joke
Two long time friends were walking in the cool of the morning discussing the mode of baptism. Both had graduated seminary at the same time, moved to the same town, and each started their ministries there: One a baptist – the other an anglican…
Oh and just in case you’ve never seen the infamous “Cannonball Baptism”: