Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Few Thoughts on Repentance vis-a-vis Baptism (Part 3)

Yesterday I quoted John Calvin's comments on the word "repent" in Acts 2:38. Here are his comments on the phrase "Be baptized every one of you":

"Although in the text and order of the words, baptism doth here go before remission of sins, yet doth it follow it in order, because it is nothing else but a sealing of those good things which we have by Christ, that they may be established in our consciences; therefore, after that Peter had intreated of repentance, he calleth the Jews unto the hope of grace and salvation; and therefore, Luke well afterwards, in Paul's sermon, joineth faith and repentance together in the same sense, wherein he putteth forgiveness of sins in this place, and that for good considerations; for the hope of salvation consisteth in the free imputation of righteousness; and we are counted just freely before God when he forgiveth us our sins." (Calvin on Acts 2:38).

I do not think Calvin's words here can be reconciled with Dr. Owen's view. Indeed, Calvin anticipates the point he will make here (i.e., that baptism follows the remission of sins) in a statement he makes about baptism when commenting on the word "repent" in this same passage vis-a-vis Luke 24:47: "He putteth baptism in the fourth place [after repentance, remission of sins, and preaching in His name], as the seal whereby the promise of grace is confimed." Now there is wide agreement that Calvin's view on this is difficult to nail down. And I will concede that Calvin does not hold my view of baptism; that much is clear from his comments elsewhere (see his comments, e.g., on Gal 3 and Rom 4). But neither do I think he held Dr. Owen's view of baptism. Dr. Owen believes that baptism is the instrument of justification, and I don't think that view can fairly be attributed to Calvin.