January 20, 2006

baptism as worship

I'm currently doing research for a paper in my Westminster Standards course on one of the doctrines from the Westminster Confession of Faith. I have chosen to write about Infant Baptism, which has plunged me into reading a great deal about the theology and history of Baptism and the understanding of sacraments. Worship Reformed According to Scripture by Hughes Oliphant Old is one of the better works I have read on the history of the elements of worship, tracing their Biblical roots through the Patriarchs, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, all the way to the 20th Century. At the end of his chapter on Baptism, he has this great summation of the nature of Baptism, which has inspired me to write this post in the first place:
Baptism is the presupposition and basis of all Christian worship. Not only does baptism call us to holiness of life, it consecrates us to the priestly service of prayer and praise (1 Pet. 2:4-10; Rev. 1:5-6). In baptism we are set apart for God's service. At the center of that service is the service of worship. Baptism is a sign at the beginning of the Christian life that to serve God we must turn away from all other forms of service to the gods of this world. It is a sign that to serve God in truth we must be anointed by God's Spirit. It is God's Spirit who fits us and empowers us for his service. True worship is God's work within us, and we serve him best when we give ourselves to him and allow ourselves to become the members of his body. When our hands and our tongues are moved by the Spirit of Christ, we do the work of Christ in this world to the glory of the Father who is in heaven.
Appropriately, this chapter falls at the beginning of this book. Someone could probably write a book unpacking each statement contained in this brief set of lines! I'm reminded of the Westminster Larger Catechism where it talks about "improving our baptism":

Question 167: How is our Baptism to be improved by us?

Answer: The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

If only I was able to keep these thoughts in the front of mind each day...

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