Ordinance Or Sacrament: Is The Baptist View Of The Ordinances Truly Biblical? -- By: Charles L. Quarles

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 01:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Ordinance Or Sacrament: Is The Baptist View Of The Ordinances Truly Biblical?
Author: Charles L. Quarles


Ordinance Or Sacrament:
Is The Baptist View Of The Ordinances Truly Biblical?

Charles L. Quarles

Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
3939 Gentilly Blvd.
New Orleans, LA 70126

What is the meaning and purpose of Christian baptism and the observance of the Lord’s Supper? This question addresses one of the major disagreements between Baptists and other groups. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches insist that baptism and the Supper belong to a group of rituals called sacraments that, in some way, impart salvation.1 For example, Ion Bria, an influential theologian of the Romanian Orthodox church, stated:

Baptism with water, or the sacrament of initiation or birth in Christ through immersion in water and the invocation of the Holy Trinity. . . . [It] is the beginning of new life in Christ. Baptism is not given merely for justification or only for the forgiveness of hereditary sin but especially as regeneration, as the restoration of fallen humanity, as the recuperation of a positive identity. . . . Through triple immersion negative humanity is destroyed.2

Thus in Romanian Orthodox theology, water baptism imparts forgiveness and justification, effects the new birth, and replace man’s identity as sinner with a new identity as saint. In a similar vein, Ludwig Ott, a prominent Catholic theologian, wrote:

Baptism is that Sacrament in which man being washed with water in the name of the Three Divine Persons is spiritually reborn. . . . Baptism, provided that the proper dispositions (Faith and sorrow for sin) are present, effects: a) eradication of sins, both original sin and, in the case of adults, also personal, mortal or venial sins; b) inner sanctification by the infusion of sanctifying grace.3

Ott further explained that baptism may incorporate even those who do not believe or repent into the mystical body of Christ since the faith of the church can substitute for the faith of the individual and since baptism has an efficacy that is independent of the state of the recipient or of the minister.4

Baptists insist that baptism is a mere symbol of our union with Christ and our participation by faith in his death, burial and resurrection. Baptism pictures but does not produce the washing away of our sin. Forgiveness of sin depends only on our genuine personal faith in the crucified, resurrected ...

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