Monday, October 08, 2007

Catholic Q&A: Does baptism bring justification?

One reader left an anonymous comment in an old post regarding the "Have You Been Saved" question?

Here is the original post:

He or she wrote:

"You are justified by the Blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9), not by baptism. In the Scriptures their are 7 different types of Baptisms. I assure you that their is 1 baptism that you dont want to recieve. FIRE (Matthew 3:11)."

This individual quotes from Romans 5:9 for the fact that we are justified by the Blood of Christ, but does not give a scriptural citation for the explicit belief that baptism does not justify. To say that we are justified by the blood of Christ is the same as saying that we are justified by the death of Christ (jn 3:16ff), and, to put it more fully, the entire paschal mystery (the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ). The question then is how do we appropriate the salvfic paschal mystery of Jesus? If one reads further into Romans Chapter 6, we discover that the answer is faith AND BAPTISM:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:3-4).

Of course we are saved by the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross! No Catholic denies that it is the Blood of Jesus that saves us. Indeed, the Precious Body and Blood is the very lifeblood of the Christian soul. Our Lord promised that if we eat his body and drink his blood we abide in him as he abides in us (Jn 6:56); we have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day (Jn 6:54). On the contrary, if we do not eat His body and drink His blood we have no life within us (Jn 6:53). This is why Catholics enter the body of Christ the Church and are incorporated into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ through baptism (Rom 6:3-7) and confirmation [or, in the East, "chrismation"] (Acts 8:14-17), and then obey the Lord's command to 'do this in memory of me'--celebrating the Holy Eucharist (Lk 22:14-23; Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Acts 2:46-47; Lk 24:13-35--the structure of the Eucharistic celebration). When approaching the mystical supper, of course, we must do so worthily, "for any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor 11:29).

Baptism is not a mere symbol. Jesus said that "no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is first born of "water and the Spirit" (Jn 3:5). This is an obvious reference to water baptism.
St. Paul says that we are washed in the bath of rebirth (Titus 3:5) and the First Letter of St. Peter states that "baptism now saves you" (1 Pet 3:21). In his grand preaching immediately after Penetcost, St. Peter roared, "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 Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Notice that the Holy Spirit was not given to disciples until the full rite of baptism was completed, with water, the laying on of hands, and anointing [the Church sees confirmation as a separate sacrament, though the completion of baptism]:

"Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit; for the Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17).

One is justified by Christ because one receives gift of the Holy Spirit that Our Lord freely gives us. This passage makes it very clear that baptism is not simply an external symbolic act of a profession of faith (as baptists would have you believe). Rather, it actually matters how you administer baptism (in the Trinitarian formula [Mt 28:18-20] and not simply "in the name of Jesus"; complete with the laying on of hands; etc.). It says that "then they laid their hands on them" and what immediately follows is "they received the Holy Spirit." We are justified by faith and water baptism. The act of faith is intimately tied to the reception of the sacrament through Jesus' commissioned Church.

The teaching of the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition (as seen in the ancient liturgy, church councils, and church fathers) are clear that we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ and Trinitarian baptism.

More detailed apologetics from the Scripture Catholic apologetics website:

But don't trust my interpretation of Scripture, trust the early Church fathers who were much closer to the time of Jesus, his apostles, and their successors the bishops of the ancient Church:

Incidentally, the individual who left the comment on the original post never refuted or challenged the argument made therein. They do not even address the scriptural evidence given, they simply take one verse of Scripture out of context and use it to assert something that the text does not teach. They use the one scriptural passage to try to back-up a false Protestant tradition.

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