Basil the Great (329-379) On Baptism and Grace

The covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfils the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the earnest of life.

Basil on the Holy Spirit II to XIII

Chapter IX on Spiritual Worship Expanded

In De Spiritu Sancto

Jesus said that without being born AGAIN of Water and Spirit or Water and the Word you CANNOT, SHALL NOT enter into His kingdom or rule which is the Ekklesia or Christian synagogue or school of the Bible. The seven "spirits" of Isaiah 11:1-4 which would rest on the BRANCH are all related to forms of spiritual knowledge. Jesus said "My Words are Spirit and Life." Therefore, you might join a venue for Rock and Roll peddled as "worship" but Jesus Christ WILL NOT be your free-of-charge Teacher until He washes your spirit or mind. Only then do you have access to the seven spirits represented by the Menorah or Candlestick which gave LIGHT to the Holy Place along with the table of bread and the incense altar. Each Christian "priest" must look into the Most Holy Place with their own prayers. Then, you can enter into the Most Holy Place to meet God. Jesus said that the ONLY new PLACE is the human spirit as it gives heed to the Spirit of Truth through the Word. Don't believe the lie that "musical teams" lead you into the presence of God: that makes them claim to be God standing in the Holy Place. Not in the vilest pagan temple could singers and musicians enter into the holy precincts on the penalty of death. Don't follow people making "Christianity" viler than paganism. If you are part of the 5 out of 13,000 congregations then you have become a laughing stock just like the musical idolatrs at Mount Sinai which forfeited and continues to forfeit the Covenant of Grace.

People who refute this have a "spirit" which intends to hurt you real bad.


Objection that some were baptized unto Moses and believed in him, and an answer to it; with remarks upon types.

31. BUT even if some are baptized unto the Spirit, it is not, it is urged, on this account right for the Spirit to be ranked with God. Some "were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea."

And it is admitted that faith even before now has been put in men; for "The people believed God and his servant Moses."

Why then, it is asked, do we, on account of faith and of baptism, exalt and magnify the Holy Spirit so far above creation, when there is evidence that the same things have before now been said of men?

What, then, shall we reply? Our answer is that the faith in the Spirit is the same as the faith in the Father and the Son; and in like manner, too, the baptism.

But the faith in Moses and in the cloud is, as it were, in a shadow and type. The nature of the divine is very frequently represented by the rough and shadowy outlines of the types;

but because divine things are prefigured by small and human things, it is obvious that we must not therefore conclude the divine nature to be small.

The type is an exhibition of things expected, and gives an imitative anticipation of the future. So Adam was a type of "Him that was to come."

Typically, "That rock was Christ;" and the water a type of the living power of the word; as He says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." The manna is a type of the living bread that came down from heaven; and the serpent on the standard, of the passion of salvation accomplished by means of the cross, wherefore they who even looked thereon were preserved.

So in like manner, the history of the exodus of Israel is recorded to shew forth

those who are being saved through baptism.

For the firstborn of the Israelites were preserved, like the bodies of the baptized, by the giving of grace to them that were marked with blood.

For the blood of the sheep is a type of the blood of Christ; and the firstborn, a type of the first-formed. And inasmuch as the first-formed of necessity exists in us, and, in sequence of succession, is transmitted till the end, it follows that "in Adam" we "all die," and that "death reigned" until the fulfilling of the law and the coming of Christ.

And the firstborn were preserved by God from being touched by the destroyer, to show that we who were made alive in Christ no longer die in Adam.

The sea and the cloud for the time being led on through amazement to faith, but for the time to come they typically prefigured the grace to be. "Who is wise and he shall understand these things?" --

how the sea is typically a baptism bringing about the departure of Pharaoh. in like manner as this washing causes the departure of the tyranny of the devil.

The sea slew the enemy in itself: and in baptism too dies our enmity towards God.

From the sea the people came out unharmed: we too, as it were, alive from the dead, step up from the water "saved" by the "grace" of Him who called us.

And the cloud is a shadow of the gift of the Spirit [internal], who cools the flame of our passions by the "mortification" of our "members." [external]

Rejecting baptism is fatal because it refuses to accept the counsel of God and is therefore still hostile to God's right to command:

And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. Luke 7:29

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. Luke 7:30

Is it possible to BELIEVE in God and reject His counsel and still be saved?

32. What then? Because they were typically baptized unto Moses, is the grace of baptism therefore small? Were it so,

and if we were in each ease to prejudice the dignity of our privileges by comparing them with their types, not even one of these privileges could be reckoned great;

then not the love of God, who gave His only begotten Son for our sins, would be great and extraordinary, because Abraham did not spare his own son;

then even the passion of the Lord would not be glorious, because a sheep typified the offering instead of Isaac;

then the descent into hell was not fearful, because Jonah had previously typified the death in three days and three nights.

The same prejudicial comparison is made also in the case of baptism by all who judge of the reality by the shadow, and, comparing the typified with the type,

attempt by means of Moses and the sea to disparage at once the whole dispensation of the Gospel.

What remission of sins, what renewal of life, is there in the sea?
What spiritual gift is there through Moses?
What dying of sins is there?
Those men did not die with Christ; wherefore they were not raised with Him.

They did not "bear the image of the heavenly;" they did "bear about in the body the dying of Jesus;" they did not "put off the old man;" they did not "put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him which created him."

Why then do you compare baptisms which have only the name in common, while the distinction between the things themselves is as great as might be that of dream and reality, that of shadow and figures with substantial existence?

33. But belief in Moses not only does not show our belief in the Spirit to be worthless. but, if we adopt our opponents' line of argument, it rather weakens our confession in the God of the universe.

"The people," it is written, "believed the Lord and his servant Moses." Moses then is joined with God, not with the Spirit; and he was a type not of the Spirit, but of Christ.

For at that time in the ministry of the law, he by means of himself typified "the Mediator between God and men."

Moses, when mediating for the people in things pertaining to God, was not a minister of the Spirit; for the law was given, "ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator," namely Moses, in accordance with the summons of the people, "Speak thou with us, . . . but let not God speak with us."

Thus faith in Moses is referred to the Lord, the Mediator between God and men, who said, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me."

Is then our faith in the Lord a trifle, because it was signified beforehand through Moses?

So then, even if men were baptized unto Moses, it does not follow that the grace given of the Spirit in baptism is small. I may point out, too, that it is usual in Scripture to say Moses and the law, as in the passage, "They have Moses and the prophets."

When therefore it is meant to speak of the baptism of the law, the words are, "They were baptized unto Moses."

Why then do these calumniators of the truth, by means of the shadow and the types,

endeavour to bring contempt and ridicule on the "rejoicing" of our "hope," and the rich gift of our God and Saviour,

who through regeneration renews our youth like the eagle's? Surely it is altogether childish, and like a babe who must needs be fed on milk, to be ignorant of the great mystery of our salvation;

inasmuch as, in accordance with the gradual progress of our education, while being brought to perfection in our training for godliness,

we were first taught elementary and easier lessons, suited to our intelligence, while the Dispenser of our lots was ever leading us up, by gradually accustoming us, like eyes brought up in the dark, to the great light of truth.

For He spares our weakness, and in the depth of the riches of His wisdom, and the inscrutable judgments of His intelligence, used this gentle treatment, fitted for our needs,

gradually accustoming us to see first the shadows of objects,
and to look at the sun in water,

to save us from dashing against the spectacle of pure unadulterated light, and being blinded.

Just so the Law, having a shadow of things to come, and the typical teaching of the prophets, which is a dark utterance of the truth, have been devised means to train the eyes of the heart, in that hence the transition to the wisdom hidden in mystery will be made easy. Enough so far concerning types; nor indeed would it be possible to linger longer on this topic, or the incidental discussion would become many times bulkier than the main argument.


Reply to the suggested objection that we are baptized "into water." Also concerning baptism.

34. What more? Verily, our opponents are well equipped with arguments.

We are baptized, they urge, into water, and of course we shall not honour the water above all creation, or give it a share of the honour of the Father and of the Son.

The arguments of these men are such as might be expected from angry disputants, leaving no means untried in their attack on him who has offended them, because their reason is clouded over by their feelings.

We will not, however, shrink from the discussion even of these points. If we do not teach the ignorant, at least we shall not turn away before evil doers.

But let us for a moment retrace our steps.

35. The dispensation of our God and Saviour concerning man is a recall from the fall and a return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God. This is the reason for the sojourn of Christ in the flesh,

the pattern life described in the Gospels, the sufferings, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection;

so that the man who is being saved through imitation of Christ receives that old adoption. [Before the fall]

[God puts His power in means: faith can never be disconnected from the means described to bring about faith. To minimize the imitation of Christ is to reject the Christ Who has the right to define the means of a restoration to Oneness with Him]

For perfection of life the imitation of Christ is necessary, not only in the example of gentleness, lowliness, and long suffering set us in His life, but also of His actual death.

So Paul, the imitator of Christ, says, "being made conformable unto his death;

if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."

How then are we made in the likeness of His death?

In that we were buried with Him by baptism.

What then is the manner of the burial? And what is the advantage resulting from the imitation?

First of all, it is necessary that the continuity of the old life be cut. And this is impossible less a man be born again, according to the Lord's word; for the regeneration, as indeed the name shews, is a beginning of a second life.

So before beginning the second, it is necessary to put an end to the first. For just as in the case of runners who turn and take the second course,

a kind of halt and pause intervenes between the movements in the opposite direction,

so also in making a change in lives it seemed necessary for death to come as mediator between the two, ending all that goes before, and beginning all that comes after.

How then do we achieve the descent into hell?

By imitating, through baptism, the burial of Christ.

[If mankind is "resurrected" to a new life simply by believing, then baptism is burying a living person. The order is first death or ceasing from motion in the old direction. Peter said that you must repent to be saved. Next, one must be buried and resurrected with Christ before the new life can begin. The Israelites "wages" were paid by God but the were not free men until they were on the other side of the waters of the Red Sea after they had put their trust in Moses or God]

For the bodies of the baptized are, as it were, buried in the water. Baptism then symbolically signifies the putting off of the works of the flesh; as the apostle says,

ye were "circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism."

And there is, as it were, a cleansing of the soul from the filth that has grown on it from the carnal mind, as it is written, "Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." On this account we do not, as is the fashion of the Jews, wash ourselves at each defilement, but own the baptism of salvation to be one.

For there the death on behalf of the world is one, and one the resurrection of the dead, whereof baptism is a type. For this cause the Lord, who is the Dispenser of our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death,

for the water fulfils the image of death,
and the
Spirit gives us the earnest of life.

Hence it follows that the answer to our question why the water was associated with the Spirit is clear: the reason is because in baptism two ends were proposed;

on the one hand, the destroying of the body of sin, that it may never bear fruit unto death;

on the other hand, our living unto the Spirit, and having our fruit in holiness;

the water receiving the body as in a tomb figures death,
while the
Spirit pours in the quickening power, renewing our souls from the deadness of sin unto their original life.

Romans Chapter 6
1 WHAT shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness (form) of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit,

the being made dead being effected in the water,

while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit.

In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened. [Note: when triune baptism was begun it was to conform to the "baptismal formulation" of "in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.]

It follows that if there is any grace in the water,
it is not of the
nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit.

Jesus said:

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63

The Pharisees and doctors of the Law did not experience the remission of sins in John's baptism because they rejected that Word:

And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified (show regard for) God, being baptized with the baptism of John. Luke 7:29

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel (will) of God against [for] themselves, being not baptized of him. Luke 7:30

Paul understood of the church

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:24

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Ephesians 5:25

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, Ephesians 5:26


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

There simply is no washing of regeneration without God renewing His Spirit which is dispensed by His Word which is Spirit and Life. The word for this washing which brings regeneration is:

Loutron (g3067) loo-tron'; from 3068; a bath, i.e. (fig.) baptism: - washing.

Louo (g3068) loo'-o; a prim. verb; to bathe the whole person;

And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. Ac.16:33

Christ washes away whatever filth lives in the heart which has been accumulated and causing us to fall away from original virtue. However, this power is connected to the Word as Christ's power of Spirit and Life when we have the entire body overwhelmed with water. Why? Because we don't know the extent of our sin and therefore the symbol is of our complete death so that we "permit" Christ to decide the extent of our washing.

Baptizo (g907) bap-tid'-zo; from a der. of 911; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the N.T.) of ceremonial ablution, espec. (techn.) of the ordinance of Chr. baptism: - baptist, baptize, wash.

Baptism is what is done to the external body at the same time that Christ is washing our conscience and cleansing us.

Ongoing purification of the soul is not possible unless it is through obeying the Truth through the Spirit:

Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 1 Peter 1:21

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 1 Peter 1:22

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 1 Peter 1:23

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 1 Peter 1:24

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 1 Peter 1:25

This purifying Word is a vital part of the gospel message.

Paul connects baptism to the Flood by showing that the world died because they rejected the counsel of God just as the Jews did in refusing to honor the Spirit by honoring His Word:

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited (looked for expectantly) in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 1 Peter 3:20

Paul did not call baptism a symbol but the figure or antitype means "corresponding to" -

And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21

Being in Christ which also means to be in His Body the church is like being in the ark. However, as they were saved in a physical sense, Christ saves our eternal soul by cleansing it so that it can immediately be translated into His own kingdom.

Using the symbol of the external blood, when our body is washed (baptized) in water, Paul said that God sprinkles our heart from an evil conscience:

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil (degeneracy from original virtue) conscience, and our bodies washed (g3068 louo) with pure water. Hebrews 10:22

Martin Luther and the Word:

Comprehend the difference, then, that Baptism is quite another thing than all other water; not on account of the natural quality,

but because something more noble is here added;

for God Himself stakes His honor His power and might on it. Therefore it is not only natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water, and in whatever other terms we can praise it, --

all on account of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, that no one can sufficiently extol, for it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do [since it has all the virtue and power of God comprised in it].

Hence also it derives its essence as a Sacrament, as St. Augustine also taught: Aocedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum. That is, when the Word is joined to the element or natural substance, it becomes a Sacrament, that is, a holy and divine matter and sign.

For baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God."

So in training us for the life that follows on the resurrection the Lord sets out all the manner of life required by the Gospel,

laying down for us the law of gentleness, of endurance of wrong,

of freedom from the defilement that comes of the love of pleasure, and from covetousness, to the end that we may of set purpose win beforehand and achieve all that the life to come of its inherent nature possesses.

If therefore any one in attempting a definition were to describe the gospel as a forecast of the life that follows on the resurrection, he would not seem to me to go beyond what is meet and right.

Let us now return to our main topic.

36. Through the Holy Spirit comes

our restoration to paradise,
our ascension into the kingdom of heaven,
our return to the adoption of sons,
our liberty to call God our Father,
our being made partakers of the grace of Christ,
our being called children of light,
our sharing in eternal glory,

and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all "fulness of blessing," both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment.

If such is the earnest, what the perfection? If such the first fruits, what the complete fulfilment?

Furthermore, from this too may be apprehended the difference between the grace that comes from the Spirit and the baptism by water:

in that John indeed baptized with water, but our Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost. "I indeed," he says, "baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear:

he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."

Here He calls the trial at the judgment the baptism of fire, as the apostle says, "The fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is." And again, "The day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire."

In First Corinthians 2 Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit to us is "the Mind of Christ." One body can have only one Mind or Spirit. Therefore, when we are baptized in water we are also enfolded or immersed into the body of Christ under the direction of the One Spirit.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13

God has always put His creative power in His Word: He speaks and it comes about. Therefore, Basil notes the intimate connection between the power of the Word unleashed in baptism because in this enactment of "the gospel" we justify God and do not therefore rejecte His counsel for our lives. The result ins that we are part of the one Body under the direction of the One Spirit.

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; Ph.1:27

And ere now there have been some who in their championship of true religion have undergone the death for Christ's sake, not in mere similitude, but in actual fact, and so have needed none of the outward signs of water for their salvation, because they were baptized in their own blood.

Thus I write not to disparage the baptism by water, but to overthrow the arguments of those who exalt themselves against the Spirit; who confound things that are distinct from one another, and compare those which admit of no comparison.

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