"Essentially, they argue that infant baptism was not the practice of the Apostles and their immediate successors, but developed through the convergence of several factors. Gradually, paedobaptism came to be the majority position in the church, but probably not until the later part of the fourth century." (James Renihan, page 10, Foreward, Baptism in the Early Church)Something else I wrote in the com box discussion when it was brought up that Luther would probably not have joined with Zwingli in his opposition to the Roman Catholic Church, because of their disagreement over the Lord's supper:
I think it is sad - the disunity that Luther had with Zwingli over the Lord's supper issue; and the statements that Luther made about Zwingli are scandalous and RC apologists use those statements all the time. I like the unity around the gospel that the movement of "together for the gospel" demonstrates - www.t4g.org - Baptists (Dever, Mohler, Piper), Presbyterians (Ligon Duncan, R. C. Sproul, Carl Truman), Charismatic Calvinists(C. J. Mahany, Matt Chandler), Dispensationalists(McArthur), etc. I am glad for that and that the old days of the wars of Europe over Christian doctrine are over.So, we are unified in the gospel and in Christ against the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, and specifically here, ex opere operato and baptismal regeneration. Infant baptism is a secondary issue over which we can disagree about, and Evangelical Protestant churches are free to practice and teach their convictions about it and defend it biblically, but maintain gospel unity and fellowship in conferences and networks such at "together for the gospel" and "the gospel coalition", but RC baptismal regeneration is a doctrine and practice that divides us and that doctrine is a heresy and contrary to justification by faith alone in the Scriptures.
Now, to my main point of this post!
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the work of the priest [* see at end] - performing the ceremony of baptism on the recipient (infants mostly, and adult converts who have never been baptized in the name of the Trinity, etc.) actually causes the person to be born again and confers grace on that person. They teach that the water of baptism literally washes their souls, when performed by the RC priest, when he says the words in Latin, "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit". The Latin phrase, "ex opere operato" means "from the work, it works", which is to say that the action and duty and performance of the ceremony actually does something to the recipient.
This is totally unbiblical.
1 Corinthians 10:1-5
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
Hebrews 3:16 -4:2
16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
Note: “all were baptized” – I Cor. 10:2
So all were baptized physically "into Moses" - but not all had faith. Internal faith is the key. All Jewish males were circumcised, but many did not have faith, and the NT says, "neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything, what counts is a new creation" - Galatians 6:15 See also Romans 9:8 - "it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of promise . . . "
“nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased” – I Cor. 10:5
“we see they were not able to enter because of unbelief” – Hebrews 3:19
“the word did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” – Hebrews 4:2
“Without faith it is impossible to please God” – Hebrews 11:6
“the just shall live by faith” – Romans 1:17; Romans 3:28-4:16; 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 20, chapter 3-5, etc.
So, Luther’s justification by faith alone is the key, “the doctrine on which the church stands or falls” (whatever James Swan’s research revealed, if he actually said the exact words or others after him conflated several statements together.
So, the Roman Catholic form of baptismal regeneration is totally unbiblical, and the ex opere operato understanding of performance/work/doing the motions of the ceremony is not Biblical either. Baptismal regeneration seems to be one of the earliest mistakes of the early church, which, as far as extant evidence goes, the earliest instance of it is in the writings of Justin Martyr (between 148-161 AD). But Justin does not teach infant baptism at all, in fact he says things like baptism is for those "who choose and repent" (First Apology 61, cited in the chapter by Steven McKinon, "Baptism in the Patristic Writings", in Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. Edited by Thomas Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, 2006, B & H; p. 171.) For a full book defense of Believer's Baptism -
TUAD ("Truth Unites and Divides), in the com boxes mentioned above, added a reference to an article in Themelios on Baptismal Regeneration and Luther here. It is very good, and also argues against the Federal Vision movement.
[* ] Addendum: A Roman Catholic who goes by "TheDen" pointed out that others may baptize people, not just the priests. I had forgotten about that. Thanks for pointing that out; I sincerely desire to be accurate. Here is what the Roman Catholic Catechism says:
1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.