“To these [the apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)
The Upper Room
The 40-day period between the Resurrection and the Ascension.
SETTING: Jesus’ hand-picked apostles are clustered around the Risen Master in the Upper Room. Jesus is
teaching them everything they will need to know
when they go out into the world to make disciples
of all nations.
Jesus: Today we will be talking about the subject of baptism.
(James the Lesser nudges Philip, who winks at him)
Philip (whispering): We’re finally getting to the good stuff!
(Jesus clears His throat, and the whispering stops)
Jesus: Okay, men, about baptism – Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Any questions?
(Simon the Zealot, sitting in the back, raises his hand)
Jesus: Yes, Simon?
Simon the Zealot: Okay, Lord, I’m a little fuzzy on this. When You say “baptizing,” what You actually mean is full immersion in water, right?
Simon Peter (butts in): No way, Simon. Obviously, what the Lord means by “baptizing” is to immerse someone or to pour water over their head – isn’t that right, Jesus?
Jesus (smiling benevolently): What do You think I mean?
Simon Peter (with furrowed brow): Well, actually, Lord, I was asking You….
John (piping up): I think even sprinkling with water would be sufficient to say that someone had been “baptized,” right, Jesus? After all, was it not prophesied that God will sprinkle clean water on us, and we will be clean?
(Jesus spreads His hands out in front of Him in a gesture open to interpretation, and John sighs.)
Andrew: My problem, though, Lord, really isn’t with the “how” of baptism – it’s with the “why.” Does this baptism actually do something to the baptized, or is this baptism You’re proposing merely a sign of the change that has already taken place in their hearts? I mean, is this like in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few were brought safely through the water, and corresponding to that, baptism now saves us?
Simon Peter: Well put, bro!
(Jesus smiles benignly but noncommittally. Simon Peter and Andrew glance nervously at each other and then fall silent.)
Thomas (mumbling): Well, whatever.
Nathaniel (timidly): You see, Lord, it would be really, really helpful if You would explain to us exactly what it is we’re to go out and teach before we go out! I mean, seriously, how’s it going to look if John here is teaching one thing, and Thomas is teaching something different? You prayed that we might be “perfected in unity” so that the world may know that the Father sent You, right? Now, it seems to me that unity of doctrine would be the hallmark of any kind of authentic unity, right? I mean, either full immersion is necessary or it isn’t; either baptism now saves us or something else does. Our opinions are mutually contradictory, and we’re talking about salvation here! Before we go and make disciples of all nations, isn’t it kind of important that we all be on the same scroll, so to speak?
Jesus (embracing all those present with an expansive gesture): Well, let’s open that question up to discussion, then, Nathaniel. Tell Me, men, what does baptism mean to each of you?
Do you get the feeling that the above scene never actually took place? What excuse is there for Protestant indifference to unity of doctrine?
As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, c. 180 A.D.
On the memorial of St. Paschal Baylon
Deo omnis gloria!