Whose Work Is It?

“The baptismal rite of Basel makes one thing clear above all: baptism is in the end a work of God. The minister, as the apostles before him, administers the sign of washing, but it is God who through his Holy Spirit cleanses the heart. One might say that the service underlines the epicletic nature of baptism.  Having begun the service with the affirmation that our salvation is in the power of God alone, “Our help is in the name of the Lord,” the minister calls the church to prayer.  We are reminded that our part is to pray for the salvation of the child.  It is God’s part to give the child faith and by the inner baptism of the Holy Spirit to regenerate him. The power to save remains with God, who works when and where and how he pleases.  The power is not in our hands.  It resides not in the proper performing of liturigical rites.  This was one of the essential insights of Reformed theologians.  Our part is to administer obediently the sign God has given, to proclaim the rich promises of grace, to call on God to fulfill these promises, and to trust that he will fufill them…If it is true that God’s Spirit works when and where and how he pleases, it is equally true that God works where he has promised to work.  That was the heart of the theology of the covenant.” (Hughes Oliphant Old, The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Ritep. 72-73)