“It is one thing to say that confession of faith accompanies baptism, and quite another to say that the meaning and purpose of baptism is to give an opportunity for confession.”
“If baptism is primarily for the remission of sins and regeneration, the emphasis is not on our necessary but subsidiary part, faith and the confession of faith, but on the indispensable primary part, the divine work of reconciliation and renewal. The chief thing which is declared in baptism is not what I do, but what God Himself has done and does for me.”
“We are not directed to ourselves and our faith and our confession of faith. We are directed to God, and to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and will do within us by the Holy Ghost. Only in that context can we think of the necessary response of faith as the personal entry into the saving work of God.”
“It is no less perverse to treat baptism as primarily a sign of faith and the confession of faith than it is to regard circumcision as primarily a sign of the faith of Abraham. Indeed, it is more than perverse. It is false to the New Testament. It destroys the whole balance of the Christian Gospel and the Christian life. It puts the ‘I’ and its decision in the place of primacy and honour which belongs rightly and exclusively to God and His work. It gives it an apparent independent importance apart from Jesus Christ and the atonement. It finds the critical point in our turning to God rather than in His turning to us and His turning of us to Himself. In other words, it turns the Gospel upside down, and in so doing it misses the real meaning and purpose of the Gospel sacrament.”
Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The Baptism of Infants, Chapter 3: The Meaning of Baptism (Vine Books Ltd, 1955, 1976 & 1977)
Sorry my Anabaptist friends. These are pretty strong words, but I’m afraid I agree with Bromiley in his sacramental view of baptism.
I just lament that the sacramental nature of baptism has been lost in many church traditions and baptism has become a very I-centric activity — “I decide to get baptized…… I want to be a public witness to my family and friends…… I want to tell my story of who I was, how I converted, and what kind of a person I am now….. I pledge to God my commitment to Him for life…… etc.”
As Dr. David Pao said in the Asian Mission Conference last week, our Protestant heritage is to realize that there is very little that we can do ourselves, except to just “hear” what the Lord has done and is doing for us. God is always the subject, the initiator, the active one. We are merely passive recipients and respondents of His divine grace and mercy.
P.S. I once wrote a paper titled “The Identity of the Children of Believing Parents and the Benefits of Infant Baptism,” explaining my position on infant baptism and why I let my two daughters get baptized. Let me know if anyone is interested in reading.