Irenaeus on Baptism

by Dan Mayfield

"First of all it bids us bear in mind that we have received baptism for the remission of sins, in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was incarnate and died and rose again, and in the Holy Spirit of God. And that this baptism is the seal of eternal life, and is the new birth unto God, that we should no longer be the sons of mortal men, but of the eternal and perpetual God; and that what is everlasting and continuing is made God; and is over all things that are made, and all things are put under Him; and all the things that are put under Him are made His own; for God is not ruler and Lord over the things of another, but over His own; and all things are God's; and therefore God is Almighty, and all things are of God." [Irenaeus A.D. 122-202].

Christians from the beginning have known there is no conflict between grace and the necessity of obedience. If you want God's gift of salvation in Christ, you must show your faith by obedience.

Paul taught the church they went from dead to alive in Christ when they obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine He had just spelled out only verses earlier (Romans 6:16-18). The inspired writers taught you are not saved with "faith alone", for that is a dead faith, but instead, it must be an obedient faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26). True Christians have never thought of faith, hope, and love as mere thoughts or emotions. No, instead faith works, love labors, and hope is steadfast (I Thessalonians 1:3).

We live in a world that doesn't like obligations or rules. We are living in a rebel society. So what better way to bring these people into the pews than to tell them they don't need to do a thing to have God's gift of salvation?

Entering the new covenant of Christ means accepting the conditions that are part of it.

I think of spoiled children who sulk if they have to say thanks or show kindness to someone who has just given them a gift. How is it a "gift" if I have to earn it by saying thanks? This is the childish way in which many false teachers dismiss the need to do anything to receive the gift of salvation.

Acts 2:38; 3:19 and other verses show that you cannot have God's salvation until, and not before, you have repented. And true repentance means change which arises out of true sorrow for the sins I've committed (II Corinthians 7:10). That God says you must repent to be saved demolishes the error that you don't have a thing to do to have God's gift.

The false teachers at this point practice a bit of sophistry by saying, "a person who is saved will repent." They are only saying the same thing once again that salvation is given before repentance. Their error flies in the face of the Truth that says you must repent in order to receive God's gift.

The early church writers like Irenaeus were not confused about the need to obey God in order to receive the gift of salvation. Just as Jesus and Peter and Paul said you must repent and be immersed as an adult to have your sins washed away (see Titus 3:5), so early writers who defended their faith agreed.

One last word. Here also on the question of baptism do the false teachers engage again in sophistry. They say "baptism is important, but not necessary." Where in all of the Bible do you get the idea that Jesus's commands are not necessary? That is an example of the rebellion of man.

Read these verses and decide for yourself what God wants you to do: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 3:21.

Said with love.

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