Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 26
Lord's Day 26
How does holy baptism signify and seal to you
that the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross
In this way:
Christ instituted this outward washing
and with it gave the promise that,
as surely as water washes away
the dirt from the body,
so certainly His blood and Spirit
wash away the impurity of my soul,
that is, all my sins.
What does it mean
to be washed with Christ's blood and Spirit?
To be washed with Christ's blood means
to receive forgiveness of sins from God,
through grace, because of Christ's blood,
poured out for us
in His sacrifice on the cross
To be washed with His Spirit means
to be renewed by the Holy Spirit
and sanctified to be members of Christ,
so that more and more we become dead to sin
and lead a holy and blameless life.
Where has Christ promised
that He will wash us with His blood and Spirit
as surely as we are washed
with the water of baptism?
In the institution of baptism, where He says:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
He who believes and is baptized
will be saved,
but he who does not believe
will be condemned (Mark 16:16).
This promise is repeated where Scripture calls
baptism the washing of regeneration and the
washing away of sins (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16).
Q. & A. 69 – 74 The Sacrament of Baptism
- The Catechism devotes two Lord's Days to holy baptism. In them it discusses the following:
Q&A 69: the sign and the promise which it signifies and seals;
Q&A 70: the contents of the promise;
Q&A 71: the texts where the promise can be found;
Q&A 72: of what the connection between the sign and what is promised does not consist;
Q&A 73: of what the connection between the sign and what is promised does consist;
Q&A 74: that children of believers are entitled to Holy Baptism.
We shall summarize all of this in the following notes.
- Lord's Day 25, Answer 66 taught us that the sacraments are Signs and Seals. The Sign of baptism is the water with which we are baptised in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Catechism calls it “this outward washing” in Answer 69. Ordinary, clean water should be used for this purpose. In early times it was customary to baptise by immersion. John the Baptist and the Apostles, for example, did this. Later (in colder climates and because of the baptism of infants!) sprinkling with water became the custom. Baptism by sprinkling is not wrong. The power of baptism does not lie in the amount of water used. Further, the Bible speaks about “the sprinkled blood” (Heb 12:24), and says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you” (Ezek 36:25). Nevertheless, it is true that the symbolism is richer with immersion. With immersion the person receiving baptism disappears in the water; he is gone. He is, thus, buried with Christ into his death and becomes dead to sin. Thereafter he rises from the water as a new, cleansed person. That is how he is raised with Christ to newness of life (Rom 6:3, 4).
- This sign was given to us so that we might the better understand the promise of the gospel (LD 25, Ans. 66). And that promise is, as stated in Answer 66: ". . . that God graciously grants us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life because of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross."