By: Garrett Best
Sometimes you run across a quote that is just too good not to share. I’m currently reading The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986 by Stephen Neill and Tom Wright. It’s a fascinating book and I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a readable survey of the major Biblical interpreters in Europe and America during the 19-20th centuries.
Here is what Neill and Wright said about the importance of baptism for early Christians:
“If there is one thing more certain than another about these early churches, it is that admission to them was by faith and baptism. The New Testament knows nothing of membership in the Church by faith alone, without the accompanying act of obedience and confession. The Epistle to the Romans was probably written in A.D. 56, that is less than thirty years after the death of Christ; Paul takes it for granted that all his readers will have been baptized, and that the extraordinarily high and realistic doctrine of baptism which he presents to them is the familiar tradition of the Church and not a strange new doctrine which he has himself thought up under the influence of some Hellenistic tradition or other. Whether we like it or not, from the very beginning the Christian Church, which had grown out of the Jewish Church, had its institutional element. We may say, if we wish, that baptism was merely the outward expression of a living faith, and that faith was the all-important thing. This is true, but it does not alter the fact that, until faith found its expression in baptism, the believer was not a member of the Christian community, the body of Christ. Non-sacramental Christianity, as it is to be found today in almost all the Protestant churches of the continent of Europe, is an invention of the rationalistic nineteenth century; it has little to do with the Christianity of the New Testament and cannot be made to square with it.” (pg. 202)