Baptism - not the communication of life

J. N. Darby.

<20018E> 266

Dear Mr -,

Baptism is not communication of life. Resurrection may (though all critics do not) be attributed to it, according to Colossians 2; it depends on the construction of en o, and it is in a certain aspect more than life, because it is being transported from alienation from God, into the place of blessing which He has constituted on earth; it is figuratively washing away sins.

Resurrection is not the communication of life. They are formally distinguished in Ephesians 2: and when Christ is mentioned alone in Ephesians 1, resurrection is spoken of, not quickening. Communicating life to Christ is a dangerous expression. Resurrection involves the reunion of soul and body, not the communication of life. If resurrection be connected with baptism, it is coming up out of the water. The baptism proper is death or burial, but it is at any rate connected with faith in the operation of God, which does not refer to death in the act of baptizing. Resurrection unto life, in John 5, is not communicating life, but refers to those to whom life had been given, and explicitly to their coming up out of their graves. Resurrection may be the quickening of the mortal body, but never the communication of life to the soul; and in its full power it involves a vast deal more. The saint is raised in glory, because of the Spirit dwelling in him; the sinner, to judgment.

I deny entirely what is called sacramental grace. That we are blessed in communion with Christ, in partaking in the faith of the Lord's supper, I gladly recognize. He is present with two or three, gathered together in His name, in that special and blessed remembrance of His death according to His grace; in which He in sovereign goodness cares that we should remember Him. The soul enjoys fellowship with Him, and in the most excellent way. But it is not grace in the elements. I do not believe there is any grace in the bread or the wine. It is a mere mischievous superstition. There is in scripture no consecration of elements, though they are appropriated with thanksgiving; since they are to represent Christ's body and blood, and hence to be reverently used in doing so, "discerning the Lord's body." But what we break is bread, and nothing else. The history even of the progress to Romanist views is easily traced, though of no importance. We must have "what was from the beginning," or else not abide in the Son and in the Father.

267 I suppose the chapters alluded to are John 3 and 6. Now the latter chapter proves conclusively that it does not refer to the Lord's supper, for it affirms that every one is surely and finally saved who so eats of Christ. Christ Himself is the bread of life, and he that eats of it lives for ever (v. 51). The sacrament is nothing more; but more particularly, He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day - that is, he has present and final salvation. We have, too, ephagon as well as trogo-original faith as well as present exercise of it. In chapter 3 we have only entering into the kingdom, nothing even attributed to water, whatever it means; and then life distinctively attributed to the Spirit, only as communicating a nature, is spirit - is water would be simple nonsense. I have no doubt that it is the word as in Ephesians 5 and John 15, and the necessary sense of chapter 6 confirms it; but in any case it has nothing to do with the communication of life, and verse 6 shews it; and a reference to Ezekiel 36, to which it so very plainly alludes, leaves no doubt, I think, of its force; hence verse 10, and the expression, earthly things, in verse 12.

I may refer to another chapter, perhaps, as none is mentioned: communion of the blood and body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10; but as it is the same word as partakers and fellowship in what follows, as in verse 18 (not 17), there is no kind of difficulty or uncertainty. It is moral identification with what is set forth there; see verse 20.

As to union with an exalted Christ, what Acts 2:33-36 has to say to it, it would be hard to tell. It shews that the writer has nothing serious to object, and no more. I have no doubt that the exalted Christ authorised Peter, and gave to Peter, by the Holy Ghost, to say, Repent, and be baptized. Why that makes baptism union, would be very hard to tell, and so much the more that it is distinguished from the receiving of the Holy Ghost, which is a consequence of it. Repent and God would give. This is hardly serious.

I say that a man must be born again before he receives the Holy Ghost. "Ye are the children [sons] of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and because ye are sons God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts: in whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." "He that stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us is God." I might multiply passages. It is so according to the writer's theory, for they, he says, are born by baptism; and Peter says it was consequent thereupon - they would receive the Holy Ghost. And the point is important. By one I get a life and a nature; by the other my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and I am sealed for the day of redemption. One is a nature derived from God; the other, is God dwelling in me. Indeed, as to the practical state of the church, I know of no truth more important - the Christian state hangs upon it. It is through the presence of the Comforter I know I am in Christ (John 14). By it we were baptized into one body on the day of Pentecost; by it we are sealed for the day of redemption.

268 Confounding finally the mission of the twelve in Matthew 28 with receiving Peter's as well as Paul's teaching, is a mere blunder of mind. For the believer, Peter's and Paul's writings are the word of God, and received as such. The commission of the twelve was from a risen, not an ascended, Christ, and only to Gentiles; Luke's, from an ascending Christ, and embraced the Jews. The point which makes it of any importance to us is, that we learn in Galatians 2 that the three great apostles gave up the mission to the Gentiles, and agreed that Paul should undertake that; and none mentions the church but Paul. What he calls the "mystery" was committed to him, and he was a minister of the church as well as of the gospel, declaring he was not sent to baptize - which would be incredible if such received life by it.

As to Matthew 16, all the false system of the Papists and Ritualists flows to this point, from their confounding Christ's building and man's. I will build, says Christ; against that the gates of hell cannot prevail. That building is not finished yet. In 1 Peter 2, the living stones come, but we hear of no human builder. In Ephesians 2, all is fitly framed together, and groweth into an holy temple; but no builder is named. In 1 Corinthians 3, we have a wise master-builder, Paul, and wood and hay and stubble, the contemplated fruit of man's responsibility and warning against it - not Christ's being the builder - and corrupters; reward of labour; loss, and the person saved, the person purged, in these cases. Now, these men attribute the title and privileges of Christ's progressive building to the wood and hay and stubble of foolish and bad workers among men; yea, many to the corrupters and corruptions themselves. In all this they are not taught of God at all. He tells us where there is the form of piety denying the power to turn away.

269 I believe I have touched on most points you have mentioned; I can in a letter only touch on them, but I think I have met them all.

To say that the wood and hay and stubble, built in by bad workmen, or positive corruption, is the body of Christ, is a very monstrous thing; nor is the house the same thing as the body. There is no recognition of a finished salvation, and that I am in Christ, and for ever, and united to Him by the Holy Ghost.

The failure of the outward professing church is a positive declaration of scripture, and that perilous times would come in the last days. And we are referred to scripture as the only sure guide in those days; 2 Tim. 3.