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.”
“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.