Zwingli on Baptismal Regeneration

As with Luther and Calvin, we are examining different views from the Reformation on Baptismal Regeneration. Zwingli is perhaps the least known of all Reformers, tucked away in backwater Switzerland (backwater until Calvin, of course).

“In this matter of baptism — if I may be pardoned for saying it — I can only conclude that all the doctors have been in error from the time of the apostles. . . . All the doctors have ascribed to the water a power which it does not have and the holy apostles did not teach.”

As must inquire to those of more knowledge than I – how can all of primitive history be wrong, and indeed, all of history until the middle of the 16th century be wrong? If the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, some who learned from the Apostles, be wrong on this issue – then are they wrong on other issues?

“If salvation was by grace, if even faith was a direct work of God by the Holy Spirit, then there can be no place for schemes of religious life or thought which allow either for the merit of human works or for the ex opere operato efficacy of sacramental observances.”

“They are wrong, therefore, by the whole width of heaven who think that sacraments have any cleansing power.”

“This was a vain invention; as if, forsooth, when a man is wet with the water something happens in him which he could not possibly have known unless water had been poured over him at the same time!”

“It is clearly frivolous to teach that . . . the sacraments can remit sins or confer blessings.”

“Water-baptism cannot contribute in any way to the washing away of sin.”

If someone is so strong that his assurance and certainty are independent of time, place, person and such like, then he has no need for sprinkling with water; but if he is a little stupid or thick-headed he needs some demonstration, so then that kind of believer is baptized because he is cleansed inwardly by faith in the same way as he is outwardly by water.

“Baptism is an initiatory sign or pledge initiating us to a lifelong mortification of the flesh and engaging or pledging us like the soldier at his enlistment.”

“Hence the meaning of the words ‘baptizing them’ is this: with this external sign you are to dedicate and pledge them to the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

The Reformer argued that the baptism of John and the Baptism of Christ was one and the same – apparently ignoring the example of Acts 19, rather somehow dismissing it:

But this view seems to be opposed by what is written in Acts 19:1-10 and Matthew 28:19. For this passage of Acts plainly bears witness that twelve men were baptized over again in the name of Jesus, who yet had been previously baptized with the baptism of John. But if the baptism of John and that of Christ are the same, there was no need of their being baptized with the baptism of Christ. We must, therefore, consider the character of both baptisms.

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33 Replies to “Zwingli on Baptismal Regeneration”

  1. I cannot go with Zwingli too far. Though Acts 22:16 is in the middle voice, it is still the imperative aorist: Do instantly and completely!  We are indeed called to Baptism!
    Fr. R.

  2. Amen, once in the Apostles Doctrine!  But I understand what you are saying. But here is where Calvin would be “once” and once alone!  This is the Roman Catholic position also. They re-baptise, but only if the first is somehow questionable? 
    I would also guess you don’t think that baptizing children or infants is correct or plausible?  And to the covenant? 
    Fr. R.

  3. I Corinthians 15:29

    Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

    This is a very odd passage of Scripture. The Mormons use this passage as the basis for their belief in Baptism for the Dead. I will present the orthodox Christian/Lutheran view of this passage below, but first I would like us to look at something else in this passage that is odd:

    If the Church in Corinth had been taught by the Apostle Paul that the manner in which one is saved is to pray (verbally or nonverbally) a sincere, penitent, prayer/petition to God, such as a version of the Sinner’s Prayer, why does this passage of God’s Holy Word discuss baptisms for the dead and not “prayers for the dead”, specifically, praying a version of the Sinner’s Prayer for the dead?

    Isn’t that really odd? No matter what activity was actually going on in the Corinthian church regarding “the dead”, why is the discussion/controversy about baptism and not the “true” means of salvation according to Baptists and evangelicals: an internal belief in Christ; an internal “decision” for Christ?

    And even more odd…why didn’t Paul scold the Corinthians for focusing so much on baptism which he had surely taught them (according to Baptists and evangelicals) was nothing other than an act of obedience; a public profession of faith??

    Why so much emphasis on baptism?

    Is it possible that the reason that the Corinthians were so concerned about baptism is that they had been taught by the Apostle Paul and other Christian evangelists that salvation and the promise of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life are received in Baptism, just as orthodox Christians, including Lutherans, have been teaching for almost 2,000 years??

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

      1. I have been commanded to preach the (true) Gospel to the entire world:

        “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

        That is the Gospel in a nutshell: God gives salvation freely to all who repent and are baptized. Repentance is not a work. Baptism is not a work. Both are commands of God. The Church taught this simple message for almost 1,500 years until western Europeans decided to change it.

        Why do Baptists and evangelicals make the Gospel so difficult?

        1. why don’t you understand this is my blog and I don’t care for rants, tyrades, or “sermons” except for my own? Go find your own corner of cyberspace for your stuff. If you wish to contribute constructive comments, that’s fine, but I’m not sure you have it in you.

          one more comment from you that is nothing more than a Jack Chick tract and I will forever ban you.

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