Excerpt: One Baptism

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 12:09 AM

One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins
The Apostles’ Creed professes faith in the forgiveness of sins, that sins can be and are forgiven.  The Nicene Creed says that there is one baptism for this forgiveness.  There are two important elements in this clause:  there is only one baptism and it bestows forgiveness.
One Baptism.  Christ at his Ascension charged the Church with the mission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)  Disciples of Christ are made through Baptism and catechesis in the faith.  The Church knows, as St. Paul taught, that there is only one Baptism. (cf. Eph. 4:5)  So long as a man is baptized with the Trinitarian formula in water, he is validly baptized into Christ’s Church (although perhaps not in full communion with it); this is why a man brought up in, for example, a Baptist or Presbyterian community does not need to be re-baptized if he seeks full communion with the Catholic Church, provided he has been baptized validly.  Baptism places an indelible mark on our soul that can never be removed:  there is only one Baptism and we may be baptized only once.
Forgiveness of Sins.  Among the various Protestant communities, there are many differing theologies on just what Baptism is.  Some call it an “ordinance” (a command) rather than a “sacrament.”  Some do not believe that infants can be validly baptized.  Some do not believe it is necessary to be baptized.  Some do not believe it saves a person or brings him forgiveness of his sins.  What the Catholic Church teaches is that Baptism is a sacrament[1] ordinarily necessary for salvation (cf. John 3:3-5) which forgives the baptized of all sin (original and personal) and removes all punishment due to that sin. (cf. Acts 2:38; 22:16; Catechism 978, 1999)  Infants can and should be baptized as soon as is practical, although they have committed no personal sin, because they are conceived with the inherited original sin of Adam.  Baptism is to the new covenant what circumcision was to the old covenant:  the sign by which a person enters the covenant.  Baptism saves us (cf. 1 Pet. 3:20-21), although it does not guarantee our salvation in and of itself.  Although Baptism does not forgive us of sins committed after we receive it, Christ gave his Church the sacrament of Confession for the purpose of reconciling those who have fallen into sin after being baptized.

[1] A sacrament is an outward (visible) sign, instituted by Christ, which bestows grace.