In Roman Catholic Apologetics, (and also Eastern Orthodoxy), in defending “Baptismal Regeneration”, a lot is made of Justin Martyr’s section on baptism in his First Apology, 61. My friend Rod Bennett made a lot of his argument on that in his and with me personally, debating him for about 8 years. (1996-2004) But see here for a different take on that.
Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jewish man, wrote: (see chapters 13-14) seems to indicate true baptism is repentance and faith in the Messiah:
“For Isaiah did not send you to a bath, there to wash away murder and other sins, which not even all the water of the sea were sufficient to purge; but, as might have been expected, this was that saving bath of the olden time which followed those who repented, and who no longer were purified by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of an heifer, or by the offerings of fine flour, but by faith through the blood of Christ, and through His death, who died for this very reason, as Isaiah himself said, when he spake thus:
. . . bolding is my emphasis Then Justin quotes from Isaiah 52:10 all the way to 54:6, including all of Isaiah 53.
Then, after quoting from Isaiah 52, 53, and 54, he says in chapter 14 of Dialogue with Trypho:
“By reason, therefore, of this laver of repentance and knowledge of God, which has been ordained on account of the transgression of God’s people, as Isaiah cries, we have believed, and testify that that very baptism which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented; and this is the water of life. But the cisterns which you have dug for yourselves are broken and profitless to you. For what is the use of that baptism which cleanses the flesh and body alone? Baptize the soul from wrath and from covetousness, from envy, and from hatred; and, lo! the body is pure. For this is the symbolic significance of unleavened bread, that you do not commit the old deeds of wicked leaven. But you have understood all things in a carnal sense, and you suppose it to be piety if you do such things, while your souls are filled with deceit, and, in short, with every wickedness. . . .
The section of Isaiah 52:10-54:6 that is in between the two sections which I have put above:
‘The Lord shall make bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the nations and the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God. Depart ye, depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her, be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord, for ye go not with haste. For the Lord shall go before you; and the Lord, the God of Israel, shall gather you together. Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; and He shall be exalted, and be greatly glorified. As many were astonished at Thee, so Thy form and Thy glory shall be marred more than men. So shall many nations be astonished at Him, and the kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them concerning Him shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We have announced Him as a child before Him, as a root in a dry ground. He hath no form or comeliness, and when we saw Him He had no form or beauty; but His form is dishonoured, and fails more than the sons of men. He is a man in affliction, and acquainted with bearing sickness, because His face has been turned away; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. He bears our sins, and is distressed for us; and we esteemed Him to be in toil and in affliction, and in evil treatment. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. With His stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray. Every man has turned to his own way; and the Lord laid on Him our iniquities, and by reason of His oppression He opens not His mouth. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before her shearer is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away. And who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth. Because of the transgressions of my people He came unto death. And I will give the wicked for His grave, and the rich for His death, because He committed no iniquity, and deceit was not found in His mouth. And the Lord wills to purify Him from affliction. If he has been given for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed. And the Lord wills to take His soul away from trouble, to show Him light, and to form Him in understanding, to justify the righteous One who serves many well. And He shall bear our sins; therefore He shall inherit many, and shall divide the spoil of the strong, because His soul was delivered to death; and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sins of many, and was delivered for their transgression. Sing, O barren, who bearest not; break forth and cry aloud, thou who dost not travail in pain: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife. For the Lord said, Enlarge the place of thy tent and of thy curtains; fix them, spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; stretch forth to thy right and thy left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and thou shalt make the desolate cities to be inherited. Fear not because thou art ashamed, neither be thou confounded because thou hast been reproached; for thou shalt forget everlasting shame, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood, because the Lord has made a name for Himself, and He who has redeemed thee shall be called through the whole earth the God of Israel. The Lord has called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, as a woman hated from her youth.’Isaiah 52:10 to 54:6, as quoted by Justin Martyr, around 150 AD.
The emphasis of Justin Martyr seems to agree with 1 Peter 3:21, that it is the appeal to God for a good conscience (repentance and faith) that saves, not the water, and that baptism is an external picture and symbol of the internal reality of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) Water baptism is a sign and seal of a person who truly repents and trusts Christ and the result is that they will want to be baptized in a local church in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (see Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 13:14; Romans 6:1-7) It is like good works – they are the necessary fruit and result of true faith, as in James 2:14-26. Water baptism is a result of regeneration, not the cause of it; because a truly converted person wants to follow Jesus in discipleship, obedience, and local church growth. A person who claims to be converted and has an attitude of “I will not be baptized” or “I don’t want to join a local church”; or “just me and my Bible” private attitude, these are indications that the conversion is not a real conversion.
“cleansing their hearts by faith” Peter in Acts 15:8-9 (the suppossed first “Pope”)
When there is true faith (Romans chapters 3-5; Galatians, the whole book), the person wants to follow the Lord in baptism in a Biblical local church. (Romans 6; Galatians 3:27)
Be sure to read my many other articles about Baptismal Regeneration (click on the side bar)