Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Baptism in the Triune Name

This Sunday we have multiple baptisms.  In view of that event, I am offering some patristic commentary referencing baptismal texts.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Mt 28:19-20)

And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration into God, He said to them, “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  For [God] promised, that in the last times He would pour [the Spirit] upon [His] servants and handmaids, that they might prophesy; wherefore He did also descend upon the Son of God, made the Son of man, becoming accustomed in fellowship with Him to dwell in the human race, to rest with human beings, and to dwell in the workmanship of God, working the will of the Father in them, and renewing them from their old habits into the newness of Christ.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.17.1

Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord.  But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the sacrament, viz., the sealing act of baptism; the clothing, in some sense, of the faith which before was bare, and which cannot exist now without its proper law.  For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: “Go,” He saith, “teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  The comparison with this law of that definition, “Unless a man have been reborn of water and Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens,” [John 3:5] has tied faith to the necessity of baptism.  Accordingly, all thereafter who became believers used to be baptized.  Then it was, too, that Paul, when he believed, was baptized; and this is the meaning of the precept which the Lord had given him when smitten with the plague of loss of sight, saying, “Arise, and enter Damascus.  There shall be shown to you what you ought to do,” to wit—be baptized, which was the only thing lacking to him.  Except for that point, he had sufficiently learned and believed “the Nazarene” to be “the Lord, the Son of God” [Acts 9:1-31].

Tertullian, On Baptism XIII

And we in receiving Baptism, in imitation of our Lord and Teacher and Guide, are not indeed buried in the earth (for this is the shelter of the body that is entirely dead, covering the infirmity and decay of our nature), but coming to the element akin to earth, to water, we conceal ourselves in that as the Savior did in the earth.  And by doing this thrice we represent for ourselves that grace of the Resurrection which was wrought in three days.  And this we do, not receiving the sacrament in silence, but while there are spoken over us the Names of the Three Sacred Persons on Whom we believed, in Whom we also hope, from Whom comes to us both the fact of our present and the fact of our future existence.

It may be you are offended, you who contends boldly against the glory of the Spirit, and that you begrudge the Spirit that veneration wherewith He is reverenced by the godly.  Leave off contending with me.  Resist, if you can, those words of the Lord which gave to men the rule of the Baptismal invocation.  What says the Lord’s command?  “Baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  How in the Name of the Father?  Because He is the primal cause of all things.  How in the Name of the Son?  Because He is the Maker of the Creation.  How in the Name of the Holy Spirit?  Because He is the power perfecting all.  We bow ourselves therefore before the Father, that we may be sanctified.  Before the Son also we bow, that the same end may be fulfilled.  We bow also before the Holy Spirit, that we may be made what He is in fact and in Name.

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ

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