In part one, I asked readers what they thought about something John Calvin said about baptism in his book Institutes of the Christian Religion. Several readers made good comments on my Facebook page, and I thought I’d share them:
[V]iewing the sacraments as only being able to be administered by clergy takes the emphasis off ‘Christ alone’ and ‘faith alone’ and gives some intrinsic power to the elements because of the one administering them, rather than Jesus.
I don’t think I agree with with ministers only being able to baptize. Especially since we are all priests according to Peter.
The great commission indeed gives authority in my opinion to all believers. The scripture is not a book of procedures to ministry only but a revelation and instruction to every believer. We know there are those who have been placed in the body of Christ to equip the Saints to do the work of the ministry. I never considered the sacraments as a work of the ministry. But an act of obedience in love to my relationship to Christ and fellowship with the Saints.
I appreciate those that took time to share their thoughtful comments. I agree with what has been said above. As I noted in part one, Calvin bases his belief that only ministers should baptize on Matthew 28:19 and 20–“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Since Jesus spoke this to the apostles, He only meant for church leaders to baptize.
Calvin’s interpretation begs the question: Should only church leaders make disciples of all nations? Should only church leaders teach the nations to obey everything Jesus commanded? The answer to both of these questions is, obviously, “No.” But if we agree with Calvin that only ministers should baptize we must also conclude that only church leaders should disciple and evangelize. This is a position that, to my knowledge, no one has ever held.
I don’t mean to pick on Calvin. Institutes is a vast work full of many theological treasures. Calvin had a heart to share the gospel, the good news about Christ, with God’s people. The message of Christ brings freedom (Gal. 5:1). Calvin saw the people of God struggling under many obligations, religious laws, and traditions that had no basis in the teaching of Christ or the apostles. Institutes was his Emancipation Proclamation; it announced every Christian’s freedom from religious slavery (Matt. 23:4). If I ever meet Calvin in the next world, I doubt either of us will care about a blog post of a few hundred words or even a magnum opus like Institutes. We’ll be too busy worshiping JESUS!! But if this post comes up in conversation, I hope he’ll just take it as the goading of a younger brother, and put me in a loving headlock 😉