Baptism, Regeneration, Assurance? of Salvation (vs. Calvin #39)

Baptism, Regeneration, Assurance? of Salvation (vs. Calvin #39) January 31, 2019

This is an installment of a series of replies (see the Introduction and Master List) to much of Book IV (Of the Holy Catholic Church) of Institutes of the Christian Religion, by early Protestant leader John Calvin (1509-1564). I utilize the public domain translation of Henry Beveridge, dated 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; available online. Calvin’s words will be in blue. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

Related reading from yours truly:

Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin (2010 book: 388 pages)

A Biblical Critique of Calvinism (2012 book: 178 pages)

Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love” (2010 book: 187 pages; includes biblical critiques of all five points of “TULIP”)


IV, 15:1-9


Book IV



1. Baptism defined. Its primary object. This consists of three things. 1. To attest the forgiveness of sins.


Baptism is the initiatory sign by which we are admitted to the fellowship of the Church, that being ingrafted into Christ we may be accounted children of God. Moreover, the end for which God has given it (this I have shown to be common to all mysteries) is, first, that it may be conducive to our faith in him; and, secondly, that it may serve the purpose of a confession among men. The nature of both institutions we shall explain in order. Baptism contributes to our faith three things, which require to be treated separately. The first object, therefore, for which it is appointed by the Lord, is to be a sign and evidence of our purification, or (better to explain my meaning) it is a kind of sealed instrument by which he assures us that all our sins are so deleted, covered, and effaced, that they will never come into his sight, never be mentioned, never imputed. For it is his will that all who have believed, be baptised for the remission of sins. Hence those who have thought that baptism is nothing else than the badge and mark by which we profess our religion before men, in the same way as soldiers attest their profession by bearing the insignia of their commander, having not attended to what was the principal thing in baptism; and this is, that we are to receive it in connection with the promise, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).

This section sounds almost Catholic, and seems to teach baptismal regeneration (especially in the terminology of “baptised for the remission of sins” and “sins . . . deleted” and reference to Mark 16:16 and salvation). But Calvin will back off of the full Catholic position as he proceeds. It dies the death of a dozen (if not a thousand) qualifications. Often, Calvin sounds Catholic, but upon closer inspection, he (like theological liberals today) has redefined definitions of words, so that in the end he is usually talking about something different. This is the classic hallmark of liberal theology as well. Or he will contradict himself by stating two mutually exclusive things, as if both could be true. The Catholic “both/and” outlook, on the other hand, is always non-contradictory.

2. Passages of Scripture proving the forgiveness of sins.
In this sense is to be understood the statement of Paul, that “Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25, 26); and again, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). Peter also says that “baptism also doth now save us” (1 Peter 3:21).

Alas, this again sounds extremely Catholic: baptismal regeneration: salvation by means of the sacrament.

For he did not mean to intimate that our ablution and salvation are perfected by water, or that water possesses in itself the virtue of purifying, regenerating, and renewing; nor does he mean that it is the cause of salvation, but only that the knowledge and certainty of such gifts are perceived in this sacrament. 

And now Calvin starts to back off of the literal meaning of regeneration and makes his trademark qualifications, that (sadly) proceed from his self-generated traditions rather than Holy Scripture; along with highly selective prooftexting: another constant modus operandi of Calvin’s.

This the words themselves evidently show. For Paul connects together the word of life and baptism of water, as if he had said, by the gospel the message of our ablution and sanctification is announced; by baptism this message is sealed. 

Of course the gospel and baptism are intimately connected, but it doesn’t follow that the water (accompanied by the proper formula and by the faith of the person, or of others in the case of an infant) is not a direct instrument of God’s saving grace, as a sacrament. The same St. Paul also wrote, in giving an account of his own baptism:

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

And Peter immediately subjoins, that that baptism is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, which is of faith.” 

That’s right. But St. Peter states the following as well:

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Note how the Holy Spirit is giving after, and as a result of baptism, rather than the opposite order, in Calvin’s schema, whereby he stresses that salvation is a seal of what has already occurred.

Nay, the only purification which baptism promises is by means of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, who is figured by water from the resemblance to cleansing and washing. 

The power of baptism stems, of course, from the cross. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Baptism has the power to regenerate. Sacraments aren’t contrary to Jesus’ work on our behalf, which alone gives them their power and efficacy.

Who, then, can say that we are cleansed by that water which certainly attests that the blood of Christ is our true and only laver? 

Jesus, Paul, and Peter, for three . . .

So that we cannot have a better argument to refute the hallucination of those who ascribe the whole to the virtue of water than we derive from the very meaning of baptism, which leads us away as well from the visible element which is presented to our eye, as from all other means, that it may fix our minds on Christ alone.

It is fixing our mind on Christ when we believe in a sacrament that He Himself set up and commanded. How is that separate from Christ? It is only in Calvin’s fallacious “either/or” mentality, which pits things against each other that don’t have to be so opposed at all.

3. Forgiveness not only of past but also of future sins. This no encouragement to license in sin.

Nor is it to be supposed that baptism is bestowed only with reference to the past, so that, in regard to new lapses into which we fall after baptism, we must seek new remedies of expiation in other so-called sacraments, just as if the power of baptism had become obsolete. To this error, in ancient times, it was owing that some refused to be initiated by baptism until their life was in extreme danger, and they were drawing their last breath, that they might thus obtain pardon for all the past. Against this preposterous precaution ancient bishops frequently inveigh in their writings. We ought to consider that at whatever time we are baptised, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life. 

This “instant salvation” notion is simply not biblical. We always have the free will to lapse back into sin and rebellion against God. This is made clear in many passages from St. Paul:

1 Corinthians 9:27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Galatians 5:1, 4 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. . . . You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

1 Timothy 5:15 For some have already strayed after Satan.

2 Timothy 2:12 if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; (cf. also Heb 3:12-14; 4:14; 6:4-6, 15; 10:26, 29; 10:36-39; 12:15; 2 Pet 2:15, 20-21; Rev 2:3-5; 3:3-5, 11)

Wherefore, as often as we fall, we must recall the remembrance of our baptism, and thus fortify our minds, so as to feel certain and secure of the remission of sins. 

Holy Scripture never spells out such a doctrine, if in fact, a person again falls into serious sin. Baptism doesn’t remit future sins. Also, St. Paul repeatedly warns that various serious sins will bar one from salvation and heaven (e.g., 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5).

For though, when once administered, it seems to have passed, it is not abolished by subsequent sins. For the purity of Christ was therein offered to us, always is in force, and is not destroyed by any stain: it wipes and washes away all our defilements. 

That is simply not what Scripture teaches (per the above passages and many more). It is a man-made tradition and a dangerous falsehood, that allows people too much security in their serious sin, so that they can justify it to themselves and not have to worry about the consequences. Falsehood has a way of producing very bad fruit, even against the good intentions of the mistaken promulgators of it.

Nor must we hence assume a licence of sinning for the future (there is certainly nothing in it to countenance such audacity), 

Here are the good intentions; but the person in bondage to sin quickly rationalizes his sin away, and the “instant salvation” myth is one way that fits agreeably with their wayward path.

but this doctrine is intended only for those who, when they have sinned, groan under their sins burdened and oppressed, that they may have wherewith to support and console themselves, and not rush headlong into despair. Thus Paul says that Christ was made a propitiation for us for the remission of sins that are past (Rom. 3:25). By this he denies not that constant and perpetual forgiveness of sins is thereby obtained even till death: he only intimates that it is designed by the Father for those poor sinners who, wounded by remorse of conscience, sigh for the physician. To these the mercy of God is offered. Those who, from hopes of impunity, seek a licence for sin, only provoke the wrath and justice of God.

If sins are removed for all time by one act of baptism, and salvation secure, why, then, does Scripture talk about a sin unto death (mortal sin)?:

1 John 5:16-17 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. [17] All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.

And why does it talk about remission of sins and retention of sins (by priests)?:

John 20:21-23 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

This makes no sense if in fact sins are wiped away in one single act and no longer possess any force with regard to one’s spiritual state and assured salvation.

4. Refutation of those who share forgiveness between Baptism and Repentance.

I know it is a common belief that forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone, is after baptism procured by means of penitence and the keys (see chap. 19 sec. 17). 

Exactly. So Calvin recognizes the opposing argument that I just made (before reading this). That’s good; but his argument against it is not so good, and hardly successful.

But those who entertain this fiction err from not considering that the power of the keys, of which they speak, so depends on baptism, that it ought not on any account to be separated from it. 

That is not stated in Scripture (certainly not in a way that would hold that absolution is contrary to the supposed “lifetime assurance” of baptism), and is a groundless, special pleading assumption on Calvin’s part.

The sinner receives forgiveness by the ministry of the Church; in other words, not without the preaching of the gospel. And of what nature is this preaching? That we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ. And what is the sign and evidence of that washing if it be not baptism? We see, then, that that forgiveness has reference to baptism. This error had its origin in the fictitious sacrament of penance, on which I have already touched. 

This sacrament is expressly established by our Lord Jesus Christ:

Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The following instance of Paul imposing penance on a sinner and relaxing it, is more evidence along the same lines:

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 

2 Corinthians 2:6-11 For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

St. Paul’s language of “I have already pronounced judgment” and “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved” and “you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him” and “Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive” makes absolutely no sense in Calvin’s schema. It’s desperate argumentation on his part to claim that forgiveness is taken care of in one fell swoop in baptism and the moment of justification.

What remains will be said at the proper place. There is no wonder if men who, from the grossness of their minds, are excessively attached to external things, have here also betrayed the defect,—if not contented with the pure institution of God, they have introduced new helps devised by themselves, as if baptism were not itself a sacrament of penance. 

It is the inspired writers of the Bible who have given us the doctrine of penance, not the (actual or imagined) corrupt Catholics that Calvin so despises. If Calvin wants to defend an anti-biblical doctrine, then he should at least be honest enough to admit that his views are contrary to Scripture, rather than make his target Catholics who are merely following that same Scripture in this regard.

But if repentance is recommended during the whole of life, the power of baptism ought to have the same extent. 

What “ought to” be according to Calvin, and what is, according to the Bible, are too often (and in this case) two different things.

Wherefore, there can be no doubt that all the godly may, during the whole course of their lives, whenever they are vexed by a consciousness of their sins, recall the remembrance of their baptism, that they may thereby assure themselves of that sole and perpetual ablution which we have in the blood of Christ.

Such a doctrine is taught nowhere in Scripture, whereas penitential practices and repentance and priestly absolution after baptism clearly is.

5. Second thing in Baptism—viz. to teach that we are ingrafted into Christ for mortification and newness of life.

Another benefit of baptism is, that it shows us our mortification in Christ and new life in him. “Know ye not,” says the apostle, “that as many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ, were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death,” that we “should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3, 4). By these words, he not only exhorts us to imitation of Christ, as if he had said, that we are admonished by baptism, in like manner as Christ died, to die to our lusts, and as he rose, to rise to righteousness; but he traces the matter much higher, that Christ by baptism has made us partakers of his death, ingrafting us into it. And as the twig derives substance and nourishment from the root to which it is attached, so those who receive baptism with true faith truly feel the efficacy of Christ’s death in the mortification of their flesh, and the efficacy of his resurrection in the quickening of the Spirit. On this he founds his exhortation, that if we are Christians we should be dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness. He elsewhere uses the same argument—viz. that we are circumcised, and put off the old man, after we are buried in Christ by baptism (Col. 2:12). And in this sense, in the passage which we formerly quoted, he calls it “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Tit. 3:5). We are promised, first, the free pardon of sins and imputation of righteousness; and, secondly, the grace of the Holy Spirit, to form us again to newness of life.

This is correct as far as it goes. The same general idea is taught by Paul in Romans:

Romans 8:10-11, 16-17 But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. . . . [16] it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The only incorrect thing in Calvin’s analysis here, from a Catholic perspective, is that this is a lifetime assurance based on baptism.

6. Third thing in Baptism—viz. to teach us that we are united to Christ so as to be partakers of all his blessings. Second and third things conspicuous in the baptism both of John and the apostles.


The last advantage which our faith receives from baptism is its assuring us not only that we are ingrafted into the death and life of Christ, but so united to Christ himself as to be partakers of all his blessings. For he consecrated and sanctified baptism in his own body, that he might have it in common with us as the firmest bond of union and fellowship which he deigned to form with us; and hence Paul proves us to be the sons of God, from the fact that we put on Christ in baptism (Gal. 3:27). Thus we see the fulfilment of our baptism in Christ, whom for this reason we call the proper object of baptism. Hence it is not strange that the apostles are said to have baptised in the name of Christ, though they were enjoined to baptise in the name of the Father and Spirit also (Acts 8:16; 19:5; Mt. 28:19). For all the divine gifts held forth in baptism are found in Christ alone. And yet he who baptises into Christ cannot but at the same time invoke the name of the Father and the Spirit. For we are cleansed by his blood, just because our gracious Father, of his incomparable mercy, willing to receive us into favour, appointed him Mediator to effect our reconciliation with himself.

No particular Catholic objection . . .

Regeneration we obtain from his death and resurrection only, when sanctified by his Spirit we are imbued with a new and spiritual nature.

More “either/or” fallacies . . . Of course it is from the work of Christ, but that doesn’t mean that baptism cannot be the mediatory or sacramental instrument that God uses to bring about regeneration. The two are not mutually exclusive. The illogical “either/or” mentality is one of the most fundamental errors of Protestantism: affecting almost every error it espouses.

Wherefore we obtain, and in a manner distinctly perceive, in the Father the cause, in the Son the matter, and in the Spirit the effect of our purification and regeneration. Thus first John baptised, and thus afterwards the apostles by the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, understanding by the term repentance, regeneration, and by the remission of sins, ablution.

Repentance is not yet regeneration. Calvin collapses the two terms into one, but they are not the same.

7. Identity of the baptism of John and the apostles.


This makes it perfectly certain that the ministry of John was the very same as that which was afterwards delegated to the apostles. For the different hands by which baptism is administered do not make it a different baptism, but sameness of doctrine proves it to be the same. John and the apostles agreed in one doctrine. Both baptised unto repentance, both for remission of sins, both in the name of Christ, from whom repentance and remission of sins proceed. John pointed to him as the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world (John 1:29), thus describing him as the victim accepted of the Father, the propitiation of righteousness, and the author of salvation. What could the apostles add to this confession? Wherefore, let no one be perplexed because ancient writers labour to distinguish the one from the other. Their views ought not to be in such esteem with us as to shake the certainty of Scripture. For who would listen to Chrysostom denying that remission of sins was included in the baptism of John (Hom. in Mt. 1:14), rather than to Luke asserting, on the contrary, that John preached “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins?” (Luke 3:3). Nor can we admit Augustine’s subtlety, that by the baptism of John sins were forgiven in hope, but by the baptism of Christ are forgiven in reality. For seeing the Evangelist clearly declares that John in his baptism promised the remission of sins, why detract from this eulogium when no necessity compels it? Should any one ask what difference the word of God makes, he will find it to be nothing more than that John baptised in the name of him who was to come, the apostles in the name of him who was already manifested (Luke 3:16; Acts 19:4).

John’s baptism is similar insofar as it was for the remission of sins (Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; Acts 19:4); however, it lacked the aspect of the new birth, or regeneration (Matt 3:11 [John’s own words, distinguishing the two]; Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5; Acts 2:38; Rom 6:4; Gal 3:27, etc.). Nor did John initially baptize in the name of Christ (for he had not yet met Him).

8. An objection to this refuted.

This fact, that the gifts of the Spirit were more liberally poured out after the resurrection of Christ, does not go to establish a diversity of baptisms. For baptism, administered by the apostles while he was still on the earth, was called his baptism, and yet the Spirit was not poured out in larger abundance on it than on the baptism of John.

Whoever is saved at any time, is saved because of Christ. All Christians agree on that.

Nay, not even after the ascension did the Samaritans receive the Spirit above the ordinary measure of former believers, till Peter and John were sent to lay hands on them (Acts 8:14-17). I imagine that the thing which imposed on ancient writers, and made them say that the one baptism was only a preparative to the other, was, because they read that those who had received the baptism of John were again baptised by Paul (Acts 19:3-5; Mt. 3:11).

And that is explicit biblical indication that the two baptisms were distinct; however similar they were in important respects (such as repentance and remission).

How greatly they are mistaken in this will be most clearly explained in its own place. Why, then, did John say that he baptised with water, but there was one coming who would baptise with the Holy Ghost and with fire? This may be explained in a few words. He did not mean to distinguish the one baptism from the other,

Hence Calvin attempts to explain away what is clear as day . . . the Holy Spirit coming into the baptized as a result of baptism is precisely a distinguishing mark of Jesus’ baptism as opposed to John’s. Christian baptism was instituted by Jesus as part of the New Covenant. John the Baptist was still part of the Old Covenant, as the last prophet (Matt 11:11; cf. Lk 7:28; Jn 5:36).

but he contrasted his own person with the person of Christ, saying, that while he was a minister of water, Christ was the giver of the Holy Spirit, and would declare this virtue by a visible miracle on the day on which he would send the Holy Spirit on the apostles, under the form of tongues of fire. What greater boast could the apostles make, and what greater those who baptise in the present day? For they are only ministers of the external sign, whereas Christ is the Author of internal grace, as those same ancient writers uniformly teach, and, in particular, Augustine, who, in his refutation of the Donatists, founds chiefly on this axiom, Whoever it is that baptises, Christ alone presides.

The regenerating grace comes through the water as a sacrament, by Christ’s own design and will.

9. The benefits of baptism typified to the Israelites by the passage of the Red Sea and the pillar of cloud.

The things which we have said, both of mortification and ablution, were adumbrated among the people of Israel, who, for that reason, are described by the apostle as having been baptised in the cloud and in the sea (1 Cor. 10:2). Mortification was figured when the Lord, vindicating them from the hand of Pharaoh and from cruel bondage, paved a way for them through the Red Sea, and drowned Pharaoh himself and their Egyptian foes, who were pressing close behind, and threatening them with destruction. For in this way also he promises us in baptism, and shows by a given sign that we are led by his might, and delivered from the captivity of Egypt, that is, from the bondage of sin, that our Pharaoh is drowned; in other words, the devil, although he ceases not to try and harass us. But as that Egyptian was not plunged into the depth of the sea, but cast out upon the shore, still alarmed the Israelites by the terror of his look, though he could not hurt them, so our enemy still threatens, shows his arms and is felt, but cannot conquer. The cloud was a symbol of purification (Num. 9:18). For as the Lord then covered them by an opposite cloud, and kept them cool, that they might not faint or pine away under the burning rays of the sun; so in baptism we perceive that we are covered and protected by the blood of Christ, lest the wrath of God, which is truly an intolerable flame, should lie upon us. Although the mystery was then obscure, and known to few, yet as there is no other method of obtaining salvation than in those two graces, God was pleased that the ancient fathers, whom he had adopted as heirs, should be furnished with both badges.

Calvin’s analogy fails, since not all of the Israelites who were saved from the Egyptians via the dividing and closing of the Red Sea, were physically saved in the long run. Deliverance from physical death is the analogy in play. It is analogous to salvation, or the deliverance from eternal death and hell. This kind of “physical as a metaphor of spiritual” analogy is brought out clearly in 1 Peter 3:20b-21a:

[T]he ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. [21] Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you . . .

Therefore, if salvation is once for all, based on baptism, as Calvin argues, then following the analogy, the Jews saved from the Egyptians by the metaphor of baptism (water of the Red Sea) could not have later been judged by God and prohibited from the Promised Land (itself a sort of metaphor for heaven). But we know that this is not the case. Far from saving the wandering Jews till the end (the Promised Land), God judged many of them as a result of the rebellion of Korah:

Numbers 16:19-35 Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.
[20] And the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron,
[21] “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”
[22] And they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be angry with all the congregation?”

[23] And the LORD said to Moses,
[24] “Say to the congregation, Get away from about the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abi’ram.”
[25] Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abi’ram; and the elders of Israel followed him.
[26] And he said to the congregation, “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins.”
[27] So they got away from about the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abi’ram; and Dathan and Abi’ram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones.
[28] And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.
[29] If these men die the common death of all men, or if they are visited by the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me.
[30] But if the LORD creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth, and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the LORD.”
[31] And as he finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split asunder;
[32] and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men that belonged to Korah and all their goods.
[33] So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
[34] And all Israel that were round about them fled at their cry; for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”
[35] And fire came forth from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.

Not only were they killed by God, but they appear to be damned as well. Indeed, in the end, only Caleb and Joshua, of the original Hebrews from the Exodus, entered the Holy Land (Numbers 14:30). Even Moses was forbidden to do so. God judged all of them:

Numbers 14:21-35 but truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,
[22] none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the proof these ten times and have not hearkened to my voice,
[23] shall see the land which I swore to give to their fathers; and none of those who despised me shall see it.
[24] But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.
[25] Now, since the Amal’ekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.”
[26] And the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron,
[27] “How long shall this wicked congregation murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel, which they murmur against me.
[28] Say to them, `As I live,’ says the LORD, `what you have said in my hearing I will do to you:
[29] your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness; and of all your number, numbered from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me,
[30] not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephun’neh and Joshua the son of Nun.
[31] But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.
[32] But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.
[33] And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.
[34] According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’
[35] I, the LORD, have spoken; surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.”

This is hardly consistent (by symbolic analogy) with Calvin’s fiction that baptism is a guarantee of eschatological salvation, regardless of any personal sin afterward. Exactly the  opposite is the case.


(originally 11-16-09)

Photo credit: Historical mixed media figure of John Calvin produced by artist/historian George S. Stuart and photographed by Peter d’Aprix: from the George S. Stuart Gallery of Historical Figures archive [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]


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