Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

34. The School of Antioch:
John Chrysostom — II

In this chapter we turn from word usage and the administration of baptism to the interpretation of baptism by John Chrysostom.

The Baptismal Instructions contain some briefer listings of the benefits of baptism that incorporate items mentioned at the close of the preceding chapter.

You are called “faithful” [in contrast to the catechumens] both because you be-
lieve in God and have as a trust from him justification, sanctity, purity of soul, fil
ial adoption, and the kingdom of heaven. (12.6)1

Chrysostom continues that the baptized were called “newly illumined” because their soul was “illumined and becomes brighter from the grace it has received from the Spirit” (12.10).2 Another notable statement is that “They not only are cleansed but become holy, too, and just” (9.18).


Christ’s Baptism

Chrysostom presented what happened to the body of Christ in his baptism in the Jordan as comparable to what happens when one is baptized now and so as the model for Christian baptism (3.13; 5.27). He describes the baptism of Christ in terms of the theological point he wants to make about Christian baptism, namely that it is not a human being but God who administers baptism and so bestows its blessings:3

Although John appeared to be holding his body by the head, it was the divine
Word which led his body down into the streams of Jordan and baptized him. The

1. I continue to quote and use the numbering system of Paul W. Harkins, St. John Chrysostom: Baptismal Instructions, Ancient Christian Writers 31 (Westminster: Newman, 1963).

2. Baptism as enlightenment is discussed further below.

3. For the context, see the quotation of 11.12 below.

-547-

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