Baptism and Confirmation

Infant baptism

Many protestants criticize the Catholic Church for baptizing infants, because for them you have to have a “born again” experience.  This can only happen after you have accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.  To them, baptism is not a sacrament, not in the Catholic sense of the word.  A sacrament conveys the grace it symbolizes.  To them, it’s a public showing of someone’s conversion.  To Catholics, since the institution of baptism,  baptism accomplishes several things-it removes original and venial sin.  Peter tells us “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). But he did not restrict this teaching to adults. He added, “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (2:39). We also read: “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). These commands are universal, not restricted to adults. Further, these commands make clear the necessary connection between baptism and salvation,  explicitly stated in 1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Other references to baptism of children are  Acts 16:15 when Lydia is baptised with all her household, as well as the jailer in Acts 16:33.  Paul also baptized the household of Stephanus in 1 Cor 1:16.

But how else do we know that child baptism is acceptable to God?  Baptism is to Christians what circumcision is to Jews.  And a Jew born into a Jewish family was circumcised on the 8th day.  The Early Church Fathers, such as Justin Martyr, tell us that baptism replaces circumcision, because, as we re-present Christ’s sacrifice in an unbloody manner, so baptism represents circumcision in an unbloody manner.

Baptismal formula

Some protest-ants have problems with the Trinitarian formula (which ignores a major part of Christianity!) saying that there’s only one place where the formula is noted, and that even that seems to be an addition.  They state that Paul never uses the trinitarian formula, only baptizing in the name of Jesus. 

But where does anyone ever say that it has to be in the Bible to be true??  That’s a side question I’ll deal with later.  The fact is that it doesn’t.

There are extra-biblical texts that do support the Trinitarian formula:

The Didache, written between 70 and 100 AD: “After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water.  If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm,  If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Before baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able.  Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand one or two days…” (Didache 7:1)

Tatian the Syrian, The Diatessaron (Section 55) (120-180 AD) “Then said Jesus unto them, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and earth; and as my Father has sent me, so I also send you.  Go now into all the world, and preach my gospel in all the creation; and teach all the peoples, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teach them to keep all whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you all the days, unto the end of the world.’ (This is proof of the actual text)

Hippolytus “The Anti-Christ” “When the one being baptized goes down into the water, the one baptizing him shall put his hand on him and speak thus:” Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?’ And he that is being baptized shall say, “I believe!” Then, having his hand imposed upon the head of the one to be baptized, he shall baptize him once.  Then he shall say: “Do you believe in Christ Jesus?” And when he says ‘I believe’ he is baptized again.  Again he shall say:’Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?’  The one being baptized then says: ‘I believe!’  And so he is baptized a third time [The Apostolic Tradition 21 AD 215]

Tertullian, Origen, Augustine and Ambrose, Gregory Nazianzen, Jerome, Theodoret all mention this in their writings.

So does it have to be by immersion?

The Didache says otherwise-use what water you have available.  Protest-ants seem to think that the only meaning of the Greek baptizo is to immerse. But immersion is not the only meaning of baptizo. Sometimes it just means washing up. Luke 11:38 reports that, when Jesus ate at a Pharisee’s house, “the Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash [baptizo] before dinner.” They did not practice immersion before dinner, but, according to Mark, the Pharisees “do not eat unless they wash [nipto] their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they wash themselves [baptizo]” (Mark 7:3–4a, emphasis added). So baptizo can mean cleansing or ritual washing as well as immersion.

In Acts 1:4–5 Jesus charged his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” Three times Acts 2 states that the Holy Spirit was poured out on them when Pentecost came (2:17, 18, 33, emphasis added).Peter referred to the Spirit falling upon them, and also on others after Pentecost, explicitly identifying these events with the promise of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:15–17). These passages demonstrate that the meaning of baptizo is broad enough to include “pouring.”

And there were obvious physical difficulties.  When Peter converted 3000 in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41), there wasn’t enough water around for immersion of all these people.  And the city of Jerusalem would not have allowed their entire water supply to be contaminated by the washing of so many at one time.  It’s likely that they were simply poured on.

And think about it.  How do you convert Eskimos if you’re going to demand that they be immersed??  Or places where baptisms must be done in secret due to government restrictions?  Suffice it to say that immersion may be the most preferrable, but it is sufficient to pour water on the recipient of the sacrament.


Non-Catholics also seem to wonder about the sacrament of Confirmation.  The New Testament often mentions two forms of baptism-one with water and one with the Holy Spirit-an outer cleansing with water, and an interior cleansing with the Holy Spirit.  This is symbolized by the chrismation teenagers today receive.  This corresponds to what Fundamentalists are talking about when they ask if we’re born again.


2 thoughts on “Baptism and Confirmation

  1. What about “in the name of Jesus” I have step son that is Pentecostal and they say that peter change the format.

  2. Peter only summarized the formula. I know of an archbishop who was in line to be made Cardinal, and when they investigated his life, found that he had been improperly baptized, meaning he had not been baptized. He was baptized in the name of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This meant that all of the actions he had performed as a priest and bishop were ilicit (though, I believe, not invalid). All the ordinations he had performed, all the baptisms and confirmations. The formula Jesus prescribed is very important.

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