LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 239

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Chapter 29. Of Baptism. Paragraph 3: “The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

To distinguish it from some other baptisms spoken of sparsely in Scripture such as that of fire or suffering it’s likely mentioned here like this just to speak of the general use of water in the typical function of baptism. It’s extraneous I suppose but like anything people have done dumb things in baptism and perhaps used other liquids. This would certainly not be common, but let’s be sure and plain. Let’s use water. That’s all they’re saying here I think. Water is what was used of ritual washings since the beginning. In the Didache its authors spoke of a preferential use of living water in the early days. This meant running water like a stream or a fount as opposed to water standing still. John the Baptist baptized in the rivers or lakes in Israel. Jesus’ disciples did the same as the normal practice in baptism.

The fact that the professing believer is to be able to approach the waters in obedience to the triune God is most clear. Jesus commanded this directly after his Resurrection: “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. This is where the confession gets it. The baptism we undergo as believers in the Baptist faith is a respect for the work of the triune God. The Father electing, the Son redeeming, the Spirit applying we often say. It was their work. It was his work. It was the Trinity of God’s work that saved us on his Cross. At Jesus’ own baptism, we see the three members of the Trinity together. The eternal and now incarnate Son, of course, is undergoing baptism for his solidarity with us, the eternal Spirit is shown to descend beautifully upon the Son of Man out of heaven, and the Father is heard speaking of Jesus from heaven. Jesus revealed the Trinity to us. Matthew wrote: “After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17. At baptism, the triune God is evoked in the work of man.

All Christians should approach baptism with disciples. They should approach water. They should immerse the believer in the symbolic grave in trust that the triune God has regenerated the baptized by his thrice holy grace. We honor the Father, we honor the Spirit, and we honor the Son when we call upon his threefold name in the single work. The testimony of the three witnesses to the professing believer’s love and discipleship is called before any other human witnesses present that this one belongs to God forever. God bears his three witnesses. The water symbolizes a new life washed from sin. A newness of life only possible in God’s elect that he crucified and raised up.

Christians are trinitarian monotheists without exception as to any sound profession of faith. How we baptize is a reflection of that certain knowledge.

Joseph Pittano

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