The Creeds Explained — Part 13

New Blue CrossThis post continues a running series in which I’m attempting to explicate the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. We’re almost done. Today we’re talking about forgiveness.

First, the Apostles’ Creed:

“[I believe in] the forgiveness of sins,”

then, the Nicene Creed:

“We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”

The forgiveness of sins means that they are no longer held against us. The things we have done wrong that were wrong, the things we failed to do that were right, the sins of both commission and omission are forgiven. They no longer separate us from God. That doesn’t mean there won’t still be consequences, but those consequences will not be eternal.

It seems to me that the phrase “one baptism” in the Nicene Creed could be interpreted in two ways that are by no means mutually exclusive. The first is the unity that Christians of every stripe have in their baptism.  Baptism unites us with Christ and thus it unites us with one another, regardless of our denominational affiliation. We follow through on this understanding by recognizing all baptisms that involve water (the amount of water is not a deciding factor) and are done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The second understanding is that we believe in baptizing a person only once. Baptism is a covenant we make with God, and even when we are unfaithful, God remains steadfast. As one of my seminary professors memorably put it, “to re-baptise someone is to impugn the integrity of God.” We may have left our baptismal covenant for a time, but God is faithful and it remains in effect, it does not need to be redone when we come back.