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24008Re: Question on Baptism of John the Baptist

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  • Mathew G M
    Sep 29, 2012
      --- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Thomas Mann wrote:

      > My question is about the baptism of John the Baptist. Is that his baptism was also for remission of Sin of Eden similar to the New Testament Baptism? Did the Son of God was born with Sin of Eden?
      Dear Thomas Mann,
      I am in no way qualified to speak with authority on this matter. I will give you an answer based on what I have read. I look for feedback from everyone.

      Let me first say, the New Testament Baptism is NOT for the remission of the 'sin of Adam in Eden' (also called as Original Sin). Son of God was NOT born with 'Original Sin'; neither are we.

      Adam and Even committed the Original Sin. Only those two are guilty of that sin. We all who are descendants of Adam and Eve only inherit the consequence of that sin; not the guilt.

      To be more clear; let me use the following example:

      Think of a married man who goes and commits adultery with a prostitute who has HIV. He also contracts HIV. Then he comes home and has relations with his wife. His wife conceives and a son is born with HIV. Only the man who committed adultery is guilty of that sin; the son is not guilty. But the son also suffers the consequence of the sin, which is HIV infection.

      So what is the consequence of the sin of Adam in Eden? We know God created Man in his own image and wanted Man to grow into His likeness. God wants us to be like him. But what did Man do; Man disbelieved in God and instead choose to believe what Satan told him. As a result the 'image' in him was corrupted and death entered the world. Adam who was created with an immortal spirit and immortal body became mortal. His spirit died the very day he ate the fruit and eventually his body died as well. After the death of his body, his dead spirit went into the 'realm of the dead' (called Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek) and remained a 'captive' there. So there was no way Adam could attain the purpose of his creation; which was to attain the likeness of God. It is this corrupted nature (disease) and being a salve for ever to death and Hades that the descendants of Adam inherited from Adam; just like the child in my example inherited HIV infection from his father. We did not inherit this guilt.

      The only sins that we are guilty of are the sins that we commit ourselves. However prior to Christ, every spirit, even if they were righteous, went into Hades and remained there. There was nothing they could do.

      This gives us a good framework to understand the salvation offered by Christ.

      The whole purpose of the Incarnation, Earthly Ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ was to heal us from corruption and restore us to the original 'image', there by freeing us up to attain the likeness of God. St. Athanasius the Great summarize if for us: "God became man that men might be made gods." We sing about this teaching in the second stanza of 'Sleeba – Prabhata Prarthana' hymn that starts with 'Riju-mathikal-kkirulil Prabha-yulavayi'.

      God created man in His image and with the potential to attain His likeness. In other words God wants us to be 'gods' like Him. With the fall we became slaves to death and satan and lost our potential to attain the likeness of God. Prior to Christ, all men died and went into the realm of the dead (called Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek). So men were literally slaves to death and hades; and there was nothing men could do to escape it. Christ died on the cross and entered the realm of the dead (Hades). When light enters darkness, darkness vanishes. Just like that as 'the Life' (Christ) entered 'the realm of the dead' (is Hades); Hades vanished (As wax melts before the fire). Christ destroyed Hades, liberated the souls kept captives there and liberated us from slavery to death. So salvation has to be seen as liberation. There are two aspects of liberation:
      - Liberation from death and Hades
      - Liberation to attain the likeness of God (ie Theosis)

      The second aspect of liberation; the liberation to attain the likeness of God (which by the way is the true purpose of our creation), does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process of 'living faith' manifested by works; and by participating in the Holy Sacraments instituted for us.


      NT Baptism is 'being born-again' or 'rebirth' or being 'resurrected'.
      Look at the service of the Baptism:


      The very opening prayer on page 1 reads:
      "O Lord, through the mediation of us sinners, grant salvation to the soul of this Your servant who approaches You for washing and REBIRTH;"

      On page 25 pay close attention to the prayer by the priest over the water just before the candidate is baptized: "This water is blessed and sanctified so that it may be for the divine washing of REBIRTH."

      Man has a soul and a body. So men has two deaths and two resurrection. There is death and resurrection of the soul and there is a death and resurrection of the body. We read about this in Revelation 20:6 "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."

      As we are born into this fallen world; our soul is infected. This old soul dies at baptism and is resurrected as a renewed soul. The baptismal waters symbolizes the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Refer to prayer at the very of page 22 of the Baptism service). So the first death and the first resurrection referred to in Revelation 20:6 is the rebirth that occurs at Baptism. And as that verse says; those who has part in this first resurrection (rebirth of baptism), the second death has no power. The second death is the death of the body. So those who had rebirth of baptism, does not have to worry about the death of the body; over him this second death has no power. The second resurrection, is the resurrection of the body; which happens at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


      The concept that we are all guilty of the sin of Eden is a western (Roman Catholic/Protestant) view. This has led to many heresies in the west. The western view of sin and forgiveness goes something like this:

      -All men in this world are born with Original Sin.
      -Because God is holiness, He cannot tolerate sin.
      -God is a Just God, The Justice of God does not allow God to freely forgive our sin.
      -The wages of sin is death; so all men deserve to be punished by 'death'.
      -However, God is also love, so He sent his only son to the world to be punished on our behalf.
      -At the cross, Father poured out His wrath on the Son, forsakes the Son and allowed His son to be killed.
      -By the death of Christ, the divine justice and wrath of God the Father is satisfied. Or in other words, Christ is punished on our behalf.
      -If a man believe the work that Jesus has done on cross, Jesus' blood that was shed on cross would cover that man. God is willing to forgive all our sin now and we can get into heaven . We are saved.

      This above explanation; called the 'penal substitution theory' of atonement is not something emphasized in the Orthodox Church. The problem with this theory is that; it teaches that 'God the father does not forgive sins freely.' It assumes a payment or fine is needed for sins to be forgiven. It even portrays God the father as a blood thirsty authority, who is so angry, that His anger is satisfied only by blood.

      Let us examine how God the father gives sins:

      We read in Psalm 103:13 "As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear (love) him." How does a father forgive ? Our Lord clearly illustrates that in the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. As we can see, the father never stopped loving the son, even when the son had 'fallen' away. The father always wanted the son to return. All it took for the father to forgive, was for the son to turn away from sin, repent and return to the father's house. The father ran up to meet his son and embraced him. There was no payment needed; or a fine imposed by the father for the sins of the son to be forgiven. Similarly God our father never demanded any payment to forgive sins. All men had to do was to sincerely repent and ask forgiveness.

      I am sure this raises a lot of questions about sacrifices in the Old Testament. The scripture clearly tells us: "without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22). How are we to understand it ? In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we can see there is shedding of blood. It was part of the reconciliation of the son with the father. We can see the father saying: "Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." (Luke 15:23-24). Let us keep in mind the forgiveness was not granted because the calf was killed and the blood was shed, but it was the other way around. The calf was killed to celebrate the repentance and forgiveness of the son. This gives us a good context to understand Old Testament sacrifices.

      God is a loving father. He is not some kind of blood thirsty authority who does not forgive sins without blood being offered. In an agrarian economy which the Jews had, farm animals were very precious. So to sacrifice one, especially the best animal, was to show the level of seriousness one had about sin and forgiveness. It was never a payment. We clearly read in Psalm 51; "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart - These O God, You will not despise."

      Another problem with this understanding of inherited guilt of Original Sin, is the teaching about the 'Immaculate Conception of Mary', proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church in 1854. We all know why the Holy Spirit chose, 'Virgin Mary' as the Mother of God. It was because she was sinless. Now, if everyone is born with 'Original Sin' then how can Virgin Mary be sinless. Even if she herself didn't commit any sin, she still must have had 'original sin'. So they solved this dilemma by introducing the doctrine of 'Immaculate Conception'. The truth is that there is nothing special about the conception of Virgin Mary. She was conceived by the marital union of her parents Yuyakim and Anna, just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us she didn't have the guilt or stain (i.e macula) of Original Sin. And just like the rest of us, she also had inherited the consequence of Original Sin; but that she along with the rest of us was saved from that consequence by her Son, who trampled down death by his death. The thing that is special about Virgin Mary is that, she by her own free will didn't commit any sins, while we all do.

      Mathew G M
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