Arminian Today

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Arminius on Baptism and My Disagreements With Him

First let me allow Arminius to state his views regarding baptism.



I. Baptism is the initial sacrament of the New Testament, by which the covenant people of God are sprinkled with water, by a minister of the church, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost — to signify and to testify the spiritual ablution which is effected by the blood and Spirit of Christ. By this sacrament, those who are baptized to God the Father, and are consecrated to his Son by the Holy Spirit as a peculiar treasure, may have communion with both of them, and serve God all the days of their life.

II. The author of the institution is God the Father, in his Son, the mediator of the New Testament, by the eternal Spirit of both. The first administrator of it was John; but Christ was the confirmer, both by receiving it from John, and by afterwards administering it through his disciples.

III. But as baptism is two-fold with respect to the sign and the thing signified — one being of water, the other of blood and of the Spirit — the first external, the second internal; so the matter and form ought also to be two-fold — the external and earthy of the external baptism, the internal and heavenly of that which is internal.

IV. The matter of external baptism is elementary water, suitable, according to nature, to purify that which is unclean. Hence, it is also suitable for the service of God to typify and witness the blood and the Spirit of Christ; and this blood and the Spirit of Christ is the thing signified in outward baptism, and the matter of that which is inward. But the application both of the blood and the Spirit of Christ, and the effect of both, are the thing signified by the application of this water, and the effect of the application.

V. The form of external baptism is that ordained administration, according to the institution of God, which consists of these two things:

(1.) That he who is baptized, be sprinkled with this water.

(2.) That this sprinkling be made in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Analogous to this, is the inward sprinkling and communication both of the blood and the Spirit of Christ, which is done by Christ alone, and which may be called “the internal form of inward baptism.”

VI. The primary end of baptism is, that it may be a confirmation and sealing of the communication of grace in Christ, according to the new covenant, into which God the Father has entered with us in and on account of Christ. The secondary end is, that it may be the symbol of our initiation into the visible church, and an express mark of the obligation by which we have been bound to God the Father, and to Christ our Lord.

VII. The object of this baptism is not real, but only personal; that is, all the covenanted people of God, whether they be adults or infants, provided the infants be born of parents who are themselves in the covenant, or if one of their parents be among the covenanted people of God, both because ablution in the blood of Christ has been promised to them; and because by the Spirit of Christ they are engrafted into the body of Christ.

VIII. Because this baptism is an initiatory sacrament, it must be frequently repeated; because it is a sacrament of the New Testament, it must not be changed, but will continue to the end of the world; and because it is a sign confirming the promise, and sealing it, it is unwisely asserted that, through it, grace is conferred; that is, by some other act of conferring than that which is done through typifying and sealing: For grace cannot be immediately conferred by water.


Let me state first that I agree with Arminius at the beginning of his disputation on baptism in that I agree that baptism is given to the people of God.  That is about as much as I agree with him over this issue other than that we are justified before God through faith and not baptism.  Baptism expresses the reality of salvation through Christ and of itself, does not save us.  Jesus saves us.  Jesus is our salvation.  Baptism is a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us (1 Peter 3:21-22).  It is not the reality itself.

That said, Arminius simply makes too many assumptions here for me.  He states that the mode of baptism is sprinkling.  On what basis?  The Greek word literally means “to immerse or dip” and never sprinkling.  The King James Version avoided any theological issues by translating the Greek word as a transliteration in the English with the word “baptism” or “baptize.”  All English translations have followed this tradition.

Further, Arminius does not defend his views regarding sprinkling.  He no doubt did this because Calvinists in his day would have practiced the same.  There was no serious debate at this time over this issue.  The Catholics, Lutherans, and the Calvinists all practiced infant baptism by sprinkling.  It was the Anabaptists who were, at this time, under great persecution from nearly all of Christendom for their views regarding adult, immersion baptism.  In other places Arminius called for the Anabaptists to be allowed to practice their faith in freedom.  Most in Arminius’ day were calling the Anabaptists “heretics” and were seeking their deaths.

Lastly, the practice of infant baptism has no warrant.  It is never taught in the New Testament.  We have not one example of infants being baptized.  The practice is based on tradition and not upon the teaching of the New Testament.  In his book, A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism by Matt Waymeyer, Waymeyer makes three main observations about infant baptism.  First, we have the absence of a direct command to baptize infants.  Second, we have the absence of a biblical example.  Third, we have the absence of compelling evidence.

The command of baptism in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38 both imply clear repentance and the commitment to be Jesus’ disciple.  Infants would not be included in this category at all.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/21/2013 at 8:30 AM

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