BOOK IV CHAPTER IXSt. John of Damascus –
Concerning Faith and Baptism
We confess one baptism for the remission of sins and for life eternal. For baptism declares the Lord’s death. We are indeed “buried with the Lord through baptism,” as saith the divine Apostle. So then, as our Lord died once for all, we also must be baptized once for all, and baptized according to the Word of the Lord, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, being taught the confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those, then, who, after having been baptized into Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and having been taught that there is one divine nature in three subsistences, are rebaptized, these, as the divine Apostle says, crucify the Christ afresh. For it is impossible, he saith, for those who were once enlightened, to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Christ afresh, and put Him to an open shame. But those who were not baptized into the Holy Trinity, these must be baptized again. For although the divine Apostle says: Into Christ and into His death were we baptized, he does not mean that the invocation of baptism must be in these words, but that baptism is an image of the death of Christ. For by the three immersions, baptism signifies the three days of our Lord’s entombment. The baptism then into Christ means that believers are baptized into Him. We could not believe in Christ if we were not taught confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Christ is the Son of the Living God, Whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit: in the words of the divine David, Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And Isaiah also speaking in the person of the Lord says, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me. Christ, however, taught His own disciples the invocation and said, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. For since Christ made us for incorruption, and we transgressed His saving command, He condemned us to the corruption of death in order that that which is evil should not be immortal, and when in His compassion He stooped to His servants and became like us, He redeemed us from corruption through His own passion. He caused the fountain of remission to well forth for us out of His holy and immaculate side, water for our regeneration, and the washing away of sin and corruption; and blood to drink as the hostage of life eternal. And He laid on us the command to be born again of water and of the Spirit, through prayer and invocation, the Holy Spirit drawing nigh unto the water. For since man’s nature is twofold, consisting of soul and body, He bestowed on us a twofold purification, of water and of the Spirit: the Spirit renewing that part in us which is after His image and likeness, and the water by the grace of the Spirit cleansing the body from sin and delivering it from corruption, the water indeed expressing the image of death, but the Spirit affording the earnest of life. For from the beginning the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and anew the Scripture witnesseth that water has the power of purification. In the time of Noah God washed away the sin of the world by water. By water every impure person is purified, according to the law, even the very garments being washed with water. Elias shewed forth the grace of the Spirit mingled with the water when he burned the holocaust by pouring on water. And almost everything is purified by water according to the law: for the things of sight are symbols of the things of thought. The regeneration, however, takes place in the spirit: for faith has the power of making us sons (of God), creatures as we are, by the Spirit, and of leading us into our original blessedness.
The remission of sins, therefore, is granted alike to all through baptism: but the grace of the Spirit is proportional to the faith and previous purification. Now, indeed, we receive the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit through baptism, and the second birth is for us the beginning and seal and security and illumination of another life. It behoves us, then, with all our strength to steadfastly keep ourselves pure from filthy works, that we may not, like the dog returning to his vomit, make ourselves again the slaves of sin. For faith apart from works is dead, and so likewise are works apart from faith. For the true faith is attested by works.
Now we are baptized into the Holy Trinity because those things which are baptized have need of the Holy Trinity for their maintenance and continuance, and the three subsistences cannot be otherwise than present, the one with the other. For the Holy Trinity is indivisible. The first baptism was that of the flood for the eradication of sin. The second was through the sea and the cloud: for the cloud is the symbol of the Spirit and the sea of the water. The third baptism was that of the Law: for every impure person washed himself with water, and even washed his garments, and so entered into the camp. The fourth was that of John, being preliminary and leading those who were baptized to repentance, that they might believe in Christ: I, indeed, he said, baptize you with water; but He that cometh after me, He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. Thus John’s purification with water was preliminary to receiving the Spirit. The fifth was the baptism of our Lord, whereby He Himself was baptized. Now He is baptized not as Himself requiring purification but as making my purification His own, that He may break the heads of the dragons on the water, that He may wash away sin and bury all the old Adam in water, that He may sanctify the Baptist, that He may fulfil the Law, that He may reveal the mystery of the Trinity, that He may become the type and ensample to us of baptism. But we, too, are baptized in the perfect baptism of our Lord, the baptism by water and the Spirit. Moreover, Christ is said to baptize with fire: because in the form of flaming tongues He poured forth on His holy disciples the grace of the Spirit: as the Lord Himself says, John truly baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire, not many days hence: or else it is because of the baptism of future fire wherewith we are to be chastized. The sixth is that by repentance and tears, which baptism is truly grievous. The seventh is baptism by blood and martyrdom, which baptism Christ Himself underwent in our behalf, He Who was too august and blessed to be defiled with any later stains. The eighth is the last, which is not saving, but which destroys evil: for evil and sin no longer have sway: yet it punishes without end.Further, the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form as a dove, indicating the firstfruits of our baptism and honouring the body: since even this, that is the body, was God by the deification; and besides the dove was wont formerly to announce the cessation of the flood. But to the holy Apostles He came down in the form of fire: for He is God, and God is a consuming fire. Olive oil is employed in baptism as a significant of our anointing, and as making us anointed, and as announcing to us through the Holy Spirit God’s pity: for it was the fruit of the olive that the dove brought to those who were saved from the flood.
John was baptized, putting his hand upon the divine head of his Master, and with his own blood. It does not behove us to delay baptism when the faith of those coming forward is testified to by their works. For he that cometh forward deceitfully to baptism will receive condemnation rather than benefit.
BOOK IV CHAPTER IXSt. John of Damascus –