Here, while testifying the truth of the Fathers' views, he writes in error when he attributes to them the "belief of the absolute necessity of baptism" as though it would be so easy to alter the apostles' teachings without the Church's outraged protest. Calvin goes on to reject the view held by all earlier Fathers (including Augustine) and to reinterpret "water" to mean merely an outward sign of what the Spirit had already performed. However, as shown by the quotes below from his Institutes, Book IV, this view was an earlier position of Calvin's.
Calvin repeatedly confirms this equating of regeneration with repentance throughout the Institutes. This is not always so clear, though, when he is teaching about baptism. His describing regeneration as being "of the Spirit," "by the Spirit," "spiritual," and gradually improving, highlights his divergence from the Fathers' identification of its occurance once at baptism. Nor did they ever describe it as a process of spiritual improvement over time that was to be completed in the resurrection.
Bk 3, Ch 3, Sec 13
"Therefore the law of sin [Rom 7]...is forgiven in baptism, [but] not ended."
Bk 3, Ch 4, Sec 6
"who did he baptize, but those who confessed that they were sinners? Baptism is a symbol of the forgiveness of sins; and who could be admitted to receive the symbol but sinners, acknowledging themselves as such? They therefore confessed their sins that they might be baptized."
This appears to agree with the Evangelical view that sins are NOT forgiven in baptism. But, see the quotes below for Bk 4, Ch 15, Sec 1 and Bk 4, Ch 15, Sec 17.
Bk 3, Ch 6, Sec 3
"since Christ PURIFIED us by the LAVER of his blood, and communicated this PURIFICATION by BAPTISM, it would ill become us to be defiled with new pollution. Ever since he ingrafted us INTO HIS BODY..."
Bk 4, Ch 1, Sec 7
"who profess to worship one God and Christ, who BY BAPTISM are INITIATED INTO THE FAITH;"
Bk 4, Ch 1, Sec 23
[Some Anabaptists teach that,] "if a man sin after BAPTISM, [he has] nothing except the certain judgement of God. In short, to the sinner who has lapsed after RECEIVING GRACE they give no hope of PARDON, because they admit no other FORGIVENESS OF SINS save that BY WHICH we are FIRST REGENERATED."
Bk 4, Ch 3, Sec 3
"He did not address [Paul] with his own voice, but sent him to a man from whom he may both obtain the doctrine of salvation and the SANCTIFICATION OF BAPTISM," [Acts 9:6-20; 22:11-16.)
Bk 4, Ch 15, Sec 1
"Baptism is the INITIATORY SIGN which ADMITS US to the fellowship of the Church, that being INGRAFTED INTO CHRIST we may be accounted children of God."
"it is His will that all who have believed BE BAPTIZED FOR the
REMISSION OF SINS. Hence those who have thought that baptism is nothing
else than the badge and mark [or symbol] by which we profess our religion
before men, in the same way as soldiers attest their profession by bearing
the insignia of their commander, have NOT attended to what was THE PRINCIPAL
THING in baptism; and this is, that we are to receive it in connection
with THE PROMISE: "He that believes AND IS BAPTISED SHALL BE SAVED," (Mark
Calvin here accuses Evangelicals of "not attending the principal thing in baptism."
If our SINS are forgiven at the moment we first believe, then of what do we need to be "washed and purified"???
"...we are WASHED FROM OUR SINS by the blood of Christ. And what is the SIGN and evidence of that WASHING if it be not BAPTISM? Therefore...FORGIVENESS has reference to BAPTISM."
Bk 4, Ch 15, Sec 5
[On Rom 6:3-4], "Christ by BAPTISM has made us PARTAKERS of his death, by grafting us into it."
Calvin says or implies nothing about this "grafting" being a symbol!
Calvin here testifies that, at one time he did NOT believe that remission of sins was accomplished in baptism. This is the same unbelieving view held by Evangelicals today. But Calvin goes on to say, that as long as he did not believe, then the promise AND his baptism was useless. He finishes, though, by saying that he repented of this unbelief (which today's Evangelicals refuse to do) and came to believe what the Scripture says.
This is Calvin's only reference to Jesus' words to Nicodemus. It is noteworthy that it contradicts and denys ALL of the AnteNicene Father's (even Augustine's) interpretations of "water" as a reference to baptism.
Even Calvin testifies that baptism being a symbol or a witness, is an addition to what the Scriptures teach .
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