Sacraments & Sacramentals

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they dismiss the clear biblical meaning and importance of the word and the sacrament. 

“The goal of baptism is eternal life, but not primarily by way of vivification [my comment: giving of new life]. In spite of 1 Pet. 3:20–21; Jn. 3:5–6; Tit. 3:5, the thought of the cleansing bath is more fundamental (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; Heb. 10:22). Biblical piety rules out magical evaluations of religious objects and actions. Hence baptism has no purely external efficacy and in itself is unimportant (1 Cor. 1:17; Heb. 9:9–10; 1 Pet. 3:21).”
(Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985.)

An unsuspecting person, a subscriber to the heresy or a newbie might read this without discerning the bias and the error — and how they dismiss some biblical passages to promote others. Can you find it and explain it?

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NOTES: These are some notes related to the above passages. Below are quotes from an attack on my book Crossing the Tiber made by a Pastor Chris Bayak so I added them here to explain some of his false assumptions about the same verses mentioned above.

Bayak writes: “For example, [Ray] uses 1 Peter 3:18-21, admittedly one of the hardest passages in the New Testament, as proof for baptismal regeneration.”

Steve Responds: This passage is hard for Fundamentalist Protestants to interpret because they don’t like what it says and they have to twist it to fit their own man-made tradition. It is quite sad when one has to twist Scripture to fit one’s preconceived ideas. James McCarthy has a tough time with this verse in his book The Gospel according to Rome. I discuss this passage at some length in my book. I wonder how Mr. Bayack would have preferred that St. Peter reword this passage to better fit his Fundamentalist tradition.

 What Peter says is this: “And corresponding to that [Noah’s ark], baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). What about these words does Mr. Bayack find difficult? They seem pretty straightforward to a Catholic and to all Christians before the Fundamentalist movement came into being. We as Catholics don’t have to do mental gymnastics to “get around” this verse. It sounds a lot like the very first Gospel message ever preached. St. Peter preached the first gospel message in Jerusalem. It is recorded in the inspired word of God. Let’s all open our Bibles to Acts 2:38 and allow God to instruct us. “And Peter said to them,  Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “

 Enough said. My book goes into much more detail on the issue of Baptism in the Bible and in the early Church. I question whether Mr. Bayack really read the whole thing or just used the “hunt and peck” method to look for objections. In any case, he certainly uses “selective scholarship.”

Bayak writes “Yet in over ninety pages about baptism, not once does he ever mention clear passages like 1 Corinthians 1:17,  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel  (italics added).”

 Steve Responds: I really don’t see what the above verse has to do with anything unless Mr. Bayack is trying to imply that Paul had a low regard for baptism or considered it an unnecessary appendage to belief in Christ. I remember as a Fundamentalist making my daughter write a report on the unnecessary nature of baptism a symbol only before I would allow her to be baptized. How far off I was.

 Paul’s converts were all baptized immediately upon belief in Christ (e.g., Acts 16:31) as was he himself (Acts 9:17 18). Philip also showed the importance of baptism and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch immediately (Acts 8:36ff.). St. Paul himself recognizes that baptism was the means of his own cleansing and regeneration (e.g., Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5). The very fact that St. Paul makes this observation at this point in the argument demonstrates the importance and deep significance Baptism held in the apostolic Church. Had it been unnecessary or unimportant, he would not have even mentioned it in this context. What Mr. Bayack assumes about this passage actually proves the opposite.

 Jerome’s Biblical Commentary observes, “No special mission was needed to baptize, and Paul usually left the administration of baptism to others. This does not imply any disdain for it; Rom 6:3-12 and 1 Cor 6:11 indicate Paul’s high regard for the sacrament of incorporation into Christ.”

 Matthew Henry, in his ever popular Protestant commentary on the Bible, is also instructive in this matter. “Was it not a part of the apostolical commission to baptize all nations? And could Paul give thanks to God for his own neglect of duty? He is not to be understood in such a sense as if he were thankful for not having baptized at all, but for not having done it in present circumstances, lest it should have had this very bad construction put upon it that he had baptized in his own name, made disciples for himself, or set himself up as the head of a sect.

[Paul] left it to other ministers to baptize, while he set himself to more useful work, and filled up his time with preaching the gospel. This, he thought, was more his business, because the more important business of the two. He had assistants that could baptize, when none could discharge the other part of his office so well as himself. In this sense he says, Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach the gospel not so much to baptize as to preach” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible).

 Paul, like Jesus, delegated baptizing to his disciples and ministers. The Catholic Church has never taught that baptisms must be done by an apostle or priest. The Church has acknowledged that any person can do baptisms, if done in the correct manner. Jesus thought baptism was important since he told Nicodemus he couldn’t see heaven without it (John 3:5). If Mr. Bayack denies that John 3:5 refers to Baptism he really shows that he is out of continuity with the Bible and the early Church and again his Fundamentalist Protestant tradition is shown to nullify the inspired word of God.

 Jesus also, like Paul, did not baptize His followers but delegated the task to his disciples (cp. John 4:1 2).

 Bayak writes: “He ignores Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, which makes no mention of baptism or communion, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Likewise, because he seeks to prove the necessity of the sacraments, he never addresses verses declaring salvation as a free gift such as Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9.”

Steve Responds:  I do not ignore 1 Corinthians 15:1 4 but since it does not directly refer to the topic at hand Baptism it was not necessary to bring it up. What would happen if I brought up every verse in the Bible?

 Does Mr. Bayack imply that Baptism is not a free gift? How much more gratuitous can God be than to offer us a sacrament of faith as simple and as wonderful a gift as baptism? Ephesians 2:8 9 and Romans 6:23 do not contradict the Church’s teaching on Baptism, rather they support it. Does Mr. Bayack forget that the first verses of Romans 6 directly mention Baptism and its necessity for the placement of the believer into Christ? In fact, in Romans 6, Paul says that baptism is quite essential. Listen to what he says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:3 5). According to St. Paul, it is through Baptism that we are placed into Christ!

 Is Mr. Bayack again being selective (practicing “selective scholarship”) by using a proof text allegedly against baptism from Romans 6 but ignoring the fact that Romans 6 begins by teaching us that it is through Baptism that we are placed into Christ? He ignores the whole context but pulls his proof text out of context to support his Fundamentalist tradition.

 I also deal with this passage to some degree in Crossing the Tiber, and find it frustrating that Mr. Bayack appears not to have read what I wrote, but still somehow feels competent to review and critique my book. I feel that I am spending far too much time rewriting things for him that he should have understood if he really read the book.

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A Few of the Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live — Are You Born Again?

To listen on-line, click here. For Podcasts and other options, click here

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1. As a Baptist, what did you used to believe about being born again?

2. How do you now answer if someone asks you if you are Born Again?

3. The thief on the cross didn’t get baptized so how could he get born again and go to heaven?

4. How can you say we are born again through baptism when Paul says it is through faith, not works?

5. Why do you think an infant can be born again through baptism when they are not even old enough to believe?

6. How do you explain Romans 10:9-10 that says we are saved by confession with our mouths and says nothing about baptism?

 A few articles I have written on this topic and many others can be found here.

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What’s the Deal with Infant Baptism?

by Steve Ray on March 8, 2015

What's the Deal with Infant Baptism?
by Steve Ray

IMG_2819a sm.jpgMy past tradition — Fundamentalist Baptist — rejected Infant Baptism. In fact, the Baptist tradition originated during the "Reformation" when they broke from Rome (and Luther) and promoted "ana-baptism" which means — baptized again.

The infant baptism taught by the Catholic Church was utterly rejected and they "re-baptized" their converts. Baptists misunderstood Scripture and rejected the monolithic witness of the early Church.

(Note: the baby in the picture is my grandson Joshua Thomas Ray, son of Jesse and Anna Ray. Deacon Dan Foley is baptizing Joshua. Click on the image for a larger picture.)

So, why was I a Baptist? Good question. I think it was because I was born with a pair of Baptist glasses strapped to my head – glasses which focused my vision from Day One.

Glasses.jpgBy the way, there are many types of "glasses" available and we all wear one kind or another — Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, atheists, secularist, Lutheran, Catholic, Hindu, etc. We see the world through the lenses of our accepted (or ingrained) tradition. Everything is interpreted through the pair of glasses we have accepted.

But back to Baptism: Is baptism for adults only? Is it correct to limit it to "believers' baptism"? How does the Jewish background influence our view of baptism? Is baptism necessary for salvation? How is one "born again"? How does circumcision fit in? What did the early Church teach and practice.

-For my full article on Infant Baptism, click here.
-For my article refuting "
The Trail of Blood" — the theory of Baptist Successionism — click here.
-For my Blog on
Baptism & being Born Again, click here.
-To listen to my talk on
"Born Again? Faith Alone?" click here.

-For more such articles and letters, click here.



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Do the Fathers Claim the Eucharist is a Symbol and Not the Real Presence?

January 7, 2015

A man sent a challenge that the Fathers of the Church claim the Eucharist is a symbol and therefore NOT the Real Presence of Christ. Is that true? My friend Gary Michuta answers the question. Thanks for including me in on this conversation. Brian, there are three issues that commonly trip up non-Catholics when they read [...]

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“Sunday Mornings in Ancient Times” or “Why I Teared up Last Sunday”

December 22, 2014

Tears welled up in my eyes — again — at Mass last Sunday. It was not always so. As a former Baptist I used to think the Catholic Mass was a sacrilege and an abomination. How could anyone worship a piece of bread? Really! However, last Sunday I was overcome with emotion while sitting in [...]

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Pastor Bob “Preaches the Word” (Discussing A Sermon on Baptism)

November 27, 2014

Pastor Bob Preaches From The Word By Steve Ray Josh left Sunday services full of excitement, anxious to discuss Pastor Bob’s sermon with his sister Jennifer who had recently converted to the Catholic Church. The pastor had explained how salvation was by “faith alone” and not by rituals and works. He was anxious to discuss [...]

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Infant Baptism

November 26, 2014

Infant Baptism is discussed and argued about quite a bit in some circles. I, of course, was raised Baptist and taught that Infant Baptism was a man-made tradition invented by the heretical Catholics who abandoned the Word of God to follow ill-advised tradition. (Picture: My granddaughter Elizabeth Arabella Rose Ray is baptized.) But not all [...]

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Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Official Affirms Teaching on Absolution, Communion for the Remarried

November 14, 2014

Catholic World News – November 14, 2014 In a letter written three days after the conclusion of the recent Synod of Bishops, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed St. John Paul II’s teaching on absolution for those who have remarried outside the Church. Asked by a French priest whether [...]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

October 29, 2014

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It [...]

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Are You Born Again?

August 18, 2014

Here is a short segment of one of my talks at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Hope you enjoy it. During the talk I mention Logos Bible Software which you can test drive at www.Verbum.com/Steve  How does one get born again? Catholics are born again the “Bible way”! Doing a Bible Study on what “water and [...]

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Did Jesus Contradict the Old Testament’s Prohibition on Drinking Blood?

June 30, 2014

Leonard Alt debates an anti-Catholic named Phil. He writes: I have a choice: I can listen to the Evangelicals who confuse the blood of animals, with the blood of Christ and choose not to eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of Christ, or, I can listen to Jesus who said; “Whoever eats my flesh [...]

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Can Relics and Sacramentals Relay the Power of God?

May 31, 2014

Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really? Check out these biblical passages: “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came [...]

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Amazing! Pope will Celebrate Mass in the Upper Room

March 27, 2014

This is quite incredible since it has not been done since Pope John Paul II received permission from Israel to celebrate Mass there on his visit to the Holy Land. Pope Francis will do the “not allowed”–he will celebrate Mass in the Upper Room. Seems odd, eh, that the place where the first Eucharist was [...]

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What Does God See When He Opens His Eyes?

March 8, 2014

Recently we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same – ”CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS NO LONGER [...]

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What Does “Water and Spirit” Mean?

February 3, 2014

A while ago a Protestant friend tried to prove that Born Again by “water and Spirit” did not mean baptism. Here is one paragraph that he sent me: In John, chapter 3, Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and a Pharisee, that one must be born ‘from above’ (Gr. anothen) in order to enter the [...]

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Amazing Miracles still Happen and the Use of Sacramentals

December 9, 2013

From my friend Leonard Alt: He had been in a coma for ten days, no speech, no voluntary movements of the body. His condition was such that the only question was whether he would live. There was no question of recovering from what was diagnosed as permanent and inoperable brain damage… I was about to [...]

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