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What Were the Baptized “Added” to? (Acts 2:41; vs. James White)

What Were the Baptized “Added” to? (Acts 2:41; vs. James White) September 10, 2021

“Dr.” [???] White Rejects Catholic & Infant Baptism, Even Though the Church Fathers, Luther, & Calvin Do Not

Acts 2:37-42 (RSV) Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” [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. [39] For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” [40] And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” [41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. [42] And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist Bishop “Dr.” [???] White wrote in his rant, Regarding “Christians” (10-1-04):

I’m very glad . . . that we do not simply dicker over using the term “Christian” in a way that is biblically meaningful or biblically bankrupt. . . . using the term “Christian” based upon an ex opere operato function of trinitarian baptism devoid of the gospel creates great confusion and does nothing to promote the evangelism of those who have been given a false gospel in Rome. . . .

[Y]ou cannot please God by denying His gospel; and without the gospel, all the baptizing in the world is not going to join anyone to the covenant in the blood of the Son of God.

Martin Luther (a fairly decent example of a Protestant, I would say, since he founded Protestantism), wrote:

We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed . . . I speak of what the pope and we have in common . . . I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints. . . . The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures. . . . We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would cast out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ. . . . They take a severe stand against the pope, but they miss their mark and murder the more terribly the Christendom under the pope. For if they would permit baptism and the sacrament of the altar to stand as they are, Christians under the pope might yet escape with their souls and be saved, as has been the case hitherto. But now when the sacraments are taken from them, they will most likely be lost, since even Christ himself is thereby taken away. (Concerning Rebaptism, written against the Anabaptists in January 1528; translated by Conrad Bergendoff; Luther’s Works, Vol. 40, pp. 229-262 [words above from pp. 231-233], from the original German in WA [Weimar Werke], Vol. 26:144-174)

Neither Luther nor John Calvin were rebaptized when they ceased being practicing Catholics: precisely because they recognized the validity of Catholic baptism. Here is proof that from Calvin:

Still, as in ancient times, there remained among the Jews certain special privileges of a Church, so in the present day we deny not to the Papists those vestiges of a Church which the Lord has allowed to remain among them amid the dissipation. When the Lord had once made his covenant with the Jews, it was preserved not so much by them as by its own strength, supported by which it withstood their impiety. Such, then, is the certainty and constancy of the divine goodness, that the covenant of the Lord continued there and his faith could not be obliterated by their perfidy; . . . baptism, which, consecrated by his lips, retains its power in spite of human depravity; secondly, He provided by his providence that there should be other remains also to prevent the Church from utterly perishing. But as in pulling down buildings the foundations and ruins are often permitted to remain, so he did not suffer Antichrist either to subvert his Church from its foundation, or to level it with the ground (though, to punish the ingratitude of men who had despised his word, he allowed a fearful shaking and dismembering to take place), but was pleased that amid the devastation the edifice should remain, though half in ruins. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, 2:11)

Such in the present day are our Catabaptists, who deny that we are duly baptised, because we were baptised in the Papacy by wicked men and idolaters; hence they furiously insist on anabaptism. Against these absurdities we shall be sufficiently fortified if we reflect that by baptism we were initiated not into the name of any man, but into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and, therefore, that baptism is not of man, but of God, by whomsoever it may have been administered. Be it that those who baptised us were most ignorant of God and all piety, or were despisers, still they did not baptise us into a fellowship with their ignorance or sacrilege, but into the faith of Jesus Christ, because the name which they invoked was not their own but God’s, nor did they baptise into any other name. But if baptism was of God, it certainly included in it the promise of forgiveness of sin, mortification of the flesh, quickening of the Spirit, and communion with Christ. Thus it did not harm the Jews that they were circumcised by impure and apostate priests. It did not nullify the symbol so as to make it necessary to repeat it. It was enough to return to its genuine origin. The objection that baptism ought to be celebrated in the assembly of the godly, does not prove that it loses its whole efficacy because it is partly defective. When we show what ought to be done to keep baptism pure and free from every taint, we do not abolish the institution of God though idolaters may corrupt it. Circumcision was anciently vitiated by many superstitions, and yet ceased not to be regarded as a symbol of grace; nor did Josiah and Hezekiah, when they assembled out of all Israel those who had revolted from God, call them to be circumcised anew. (Inst., IV, 15:16)

1) Catholic baptism is valid.
2) Baptism is a sacrament.
3) Baptism regenerates.
4) Infants ought to be baptized, and are thereby made part of the covenant community; i.e., the Church; Christianity.
But alas, Bishop White comes along and denies all four of these things. We expect him to reject even his supposed master John Calvin (where he disagrees with him) and Luther, as well as the Church fathers, as Christian authorities to be respected and “listened” to. But it’s always a bit of a shock to observe the supposed quintessential “Bible people” / adherents to the false doctrine of sola Scriptura ignore wholesale so much clear Scripture.
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In particular (per my title), I’d like to address this question of these baptized people in Acts 2 being “added” to something? What was it? What were they added to? I think it is clear that it is simultaneously the Church, the kingdom of God, and Christianity that they were “added” to. What else could it possibly be? White is forced to reject this understanding, based on how he has misdefined key things in the Christian faith. He flat-out stated that a person who is baptized without hearing and understanding the gospel is not baptized at all, and not worthy of the title of “Christian.”
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This leads, of course, to the question of infant baptism. The Bible clearly teaches it (albeit by deduction) in these passages:

Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us

Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

1 Corinthians 1:16 I did baptize also the household of Stephanas.

Many biblical passages connect household and children (Gen 18:19; 31:41; 36:6; 47:12; Num 18:11; 1 Chr 10:6; Mt 19:29; 1 Tim 3:12). Elsewhere in the Bible, entire households are referred to as being saved (Lk 19:9; Acts 11:14; 16:31). It’s altogether reasonable to believe that this crowd described in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost (at least 3000 people, based on how many were baptized), included children below the age of reason as well (i.e., too young to understand the nature of the gospel that St. Peter was preaching prior to the mass baptism, and too young to properly repent, in the full meaning of that word.

But back to the question of being “added” (Acts 2:41). . . many Protestant commentators (expressly contrary to James White) understand that they were added to the Church, and thus became “Christians” by virtue of this baptism:

Benson Commentary Let it be observed here, they who are joined to Christ, ought to join themselves to the disciples of Christ, and be united with them: when we take God for our God, we must take his people for our people.

Matthew Henry By God’s grace three thousand persons accepted the gospel invitation. There can be no doubt that the gift of the Holy Ghost, which they all received, and from which no true believer has ever been shut out, was that Spirit of adoption, that converting, guiding, sanctifying grace, which is bestowed upon all the members of the family of our heavenly Father.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible There were added – To the company of disciples, or to the followers of Christ.

Meyer’s NT Commentary were added (Acts 2:47Acts 5:14Acts 11:24), namely, to the fellowship of the already existing followers of Jesus, as is self-evident from the context.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges And there were added on that day about three thousand souls, i.e. to the one hundred and twenty of whom the Church consisted when the day began.

Bengel’s Gnomen Previously there had been only one hundred and twenty names: and yd the souls about three thousand are said to have been added [to the 120, though so much smaller a number], because the former (the 120), few as they were, nevertheless constituted the original head and body of believers. So in Acts 2:47, “The Lord added to the Church.”

“Added” used three times elsewhere in the book of Acts (the first in the very same chapter) also applies to the “saved” or “believers” or those “added to the Lord” (again, obviously Christians):

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. [Amplified: “added [to the body of believers]”; Geneva Bible [1587]: “added to the Church”; Phillips: “added to the number of disciples”; REB: “added to the number of believers”]

Acts 2:47 . . . And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 5:14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women,

Acts 11:24 And a large company was added to the Lord.

Here’s another fascinating biblical parallel to circumcision:

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, . . .

Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, remove the foreskin of your hearts,

Romans 2:29 He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God.

Thus, the analogy again runs:

1) Circumcision brought infants into the covenant community.

2) Baptism does the same thing in the new covenant / Church age.

3) Baptism is directly analogized to circumcision in the New Testament.

4) “Cut to the heart” or “circumcise . . . your heart” is part of this extended analogy.

5) Since infants were circumcised, therefore, by analogy, infants ought to be baptized, lest infants are to be excluded from the new covenant, whereas they were not excluded in the old covenant (which state of affairs would be a retrogression rather than a progressive development).

Related Reading

The New Testament Openly Commands the Baptism of Children (Luke Welch, Kuyperian Commentary, 9-24-13)

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Baptismal Regeneration and Justification (vs. Jason Engwer) [6-4-20]
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Photo credit: Angel Contreras: caricature of James White (who is a bicycling devotee).
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Summary: James White rejects Catholic baptism; Luther & Calvin did not. I examine in particular, Acts 2:41 & the notion of the newly baptized being added to the Church / believers / the saved.
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