One baptism for the forgiveness of sins

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Small Group Material: 
Week Commencing: 
5 Oct 2009
Bible Base: 
Acts 2:22-24, 32-41 Matthew 28:16-20 Romans 6:1-14

One baptism for the forgiveness of sins Preacher : Hilda Isaacson
You could easily get bogged down by arguments about infant and adult baptism; I suspect that that is not the best use of the group’s time! John Goldingay has wisely said that it is possible to make good arguments from scripture for both. Perhaps God is happy for us to use both! Both emphasise something important – adult baptism emphasises repentance and faith on behalf of the need of the individual being baptised and therefore on the need for response. Infant baptism (where the infant being baptised is incapable of that response) emphasise the priority of God’s grace and that we contribute nothing to our salvation other than accepting it. Infant baptism also emphasises the corporate nature of faith – it is argued that it something that can be exercised on someone else’s behalf (see for a possible example the paralytic man in Mark 5 –‘when he saw their faith’. In our very individualistic culture we easily forget that the Middle East had (and still has) a much more corporate view – as seen by the household baptisms that clearly happened in the NT (eg Acts 17:33). A problem for adult baptists is what do you do when an 8 year old (say) says they love Jesus and want to be baptised. A problem for infant Baptists is how do you judge the faith of the parents.
For anyone who wants to read further I have 3 books/booklets by leading Anglican evangelical/charismatics giving arguments for infant baptism:- Baptism: It’s Practice and Power by Michael Green; Baptism, the Promise of God by our own Cyril Ashton; and A Case for Infant Baptism by Colin Buchanan.
Reading 1 Acts 2:22-24, 32-41
1)      What do these verses suggest is required for baptism?
2)      It is all too easy to read into the New Testament beliefs that we hold for other reasons! Some people will say that baptism achieves the blessings associated with it, others will say that it signifies or symbolises them. My response is that the blessings are achieved in principle by Christ on the cross, and we appropriate them in practice through repentance and faith, which are given concrete expression by the willingness to be baptised. To those who think that the actual act of baptism is required for those blessings to become real, I would ask what of the person who repents and trusts in Christ, but has no time to be baptised before they die. Surely the God we see in Jesus would not turn them away! What does Peter say are the blessings associated with baptism? How do everyday uses of water give us pictures of these things?
3)      The crowd at Pentecost would have included a lot of proselyte families (see Acts 2:11) ie Gentile converts to Judaism. In later centuries proselytes (or at least those not adult males) were admitted into Judaism by baptism which included household baptisms. Most scholars see no reason not to assume that this would have been the practice at the time of the first Pentecost. If that is the case what would have been their likely response to Peter’s words in v 39?
Reading 2 Matthew 28:16-20
4)      Notice first of all that this has baptism in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and not just in the name of Jesus (in case anyone was worried by what happened in Acts 2!) What does baptism involve according to this passage.
Reading 3 Romans 6:1-14
5)      What symbolism is used here about baptism? What is it likened to?
6)      So what does ‘living out your baptism’ mean according to this passage? Can you think of connections with parts of the baptism service?
Readings 4 and 5 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:1-6
7)      What do these verses have to say about the implications of baptism for our relationships with one another?
8)      Should we ask people who have been baptised in another Christian denomination to be baptised again if they want to join our church?