Vol.XII No.V Pg.6
July 1975

Purpose Of Baptism

Robert F. Turner

Some look upon it as little more than the ceremony of giving a name to their child. Many consider it a christening, or making them Christian lest they should die Pagans. Others, who pretend to more knowledge, view it as a sign whereby their infants are initiated into the visible church though they are neither agreed as to what that church is, nor admit them into the full communion of any visible church. They also look upon it as the seal of some covenant which, they say, is made with a believer and his natural seed; yet they are not agreed as to the nature of that imaginary covenant, or whether it entails salvation, or only a right to some outward privileges. Many view it as the parents dedication of his child to God, accompanied with a vow or engagement to bring it up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; while others, disclaiming dedications, vows, and engagements, make it to be a sign to the parent that Christ is able to save his child as himself, and that he must enter the kingdom of God as destitute of any good qualification as his infant is.

Thus, every one annexes a signification to baptism agreeable to his own favorite hypothesis, whilst all of them have been accommodated to the baptism of infants. But as the scripture contains no such institution, so neither does it give us any of the above views as the design of baptism. If we consult the word of God, we shall find that this divine ordinance is intended:

1. To be a sign of regeneration, or that the person baptized is born of the Spirit. Jesus says to Nicodemus, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). Water here undoubtedly means the water of baptism, for it is distinguished from the Spirit; so that to be born of water is to be baptized, even as to be born of the Spirit is to be regenerated.... This is further evident from Tit. 3:5: According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Two things are here pointed at: one is baptism, called the washing, or rather (loutron), layer of regeneration, because it is the sign of it. The other is regeneration itself, or the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which is the thing signified in baptism.

Our Lord makes this ordinance necessary to our entering into the kingdom of God; which imports, at least, that as none can really enter that kingdom without being born of the Spirit, so none can visibly enter it without being born of water, nor, indeed, have they grounds to think that they shall enter it in any sense, if they willfully despise this ordinance, and throw contempt upon the authority of its institutor, which is expressly declared to be no less than rejecting the counsel of God against themselves (Lu. 7:30).

Guess who wrote the above! Some Cambellite no doubt?? Guess again!! It was a Scotch Baptist preacher, Archibald McLean; published in 1786. This is the fourth in a series from his Christs Commission to His Apostles. The series was preceded (V.12, No. 1) by biographical note on McLean.