Ch 28 WCF
VII. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.
Section VII.—The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered to any person. Exposition 1. The efficacy of baptism is not confined to the moment of administration; but though not effectual at the time it is administered, it may afterwards be effectual, through the working of the Spirit.—John iii. 5, 8. 2. Baptism is not to be administered to any person oftener than once. This is plain from the nature of the ordinance. It is a solemn admission of the person baptised as a member of the visible Church; and though those that “walk disorderly” are to be cast out, yet there is no hint in Scripture that, when readmitted, they are to be baptised again. The thing signified by baptism cannot be repeated, and the engagements come under can never be annulled.
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Nigel Lee writes:
Trent and Calvin agree that ‘baptism by heretics’ is valid
35 “Whosoever shall say that Baptism, which is also given by heretics in the Name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit with the intention of doing what the Church does,
is not true Baptism — let him be anathema!”
36 “Canon IV. What the Minister intends to do, is of little consequence to us…. Let
it suffice then, to have been baptized in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit —
whatever may have been the ignorance or impiety of those who administered baptism to us. Man
is merely the hand. It is Christ alone Who truly and properly baptizes.”
Lee goes on:
“Again, in another communication, Calvin — like John Knox after him — shows his preference for
Romanism above Anabaptism. For Calvin indicates he prefers the administration of infant baptism
even in the Romish Church — to its non-administration among infants of Anabaptists. “
“Calvin next compares the Catabaptists of his own day to the earlier Donatists. The latter were the
313f A.D. sectarians who rebaptized Ex-Catholics who had ‘donatized.’ After confuting “the error
of the Donatists,” Calvin adds:
64 “Such in the present day are our Catabaptists, who deny that we are
duly baptized — because we were baptized in the papacy by wicked men and idolaters. Hence they
[the paidobaptist Catabaptists] furiously insist on anabaptism” alias rebaptism. “
grounds of God’s faithfulness that Calvin affirms,
…Moreover, if we have rightly determined that a sacrament is not to be
estimated by the hand of him by whom it is administered, but is to be received as from the hand of God Himself, from Whom it undoubtedly proceeded, we may hence infer
that its dignity neither gains nor loses by the administrator… This confutes the error of the Donatists, who measured the efficacy and worth of the sacrament by the dignity of
the minister. Such in the present day are our catabaptists (rebaptizers) who deny that
we are duly baptized, because we were baptized in the Papacy by wicked men and idolaters; hence, they furiously insist on anabaptism (rebaptism). 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. (Institutes, 1559 edition, IV: 15:16-17)
Regarding heretical baptism, the Reformed church also takes the standpoint mentioned above by distinguishing between fundamental heresy and non-fundamental deviation in doctrine. We do not recognize a baptism by Arians and Socinians. We do recognize baptism by Roman Catholics and Remonstrants. When someone comes over to us from the first two groups, we do not rebaptize. We baptize for the first time, for he has not been truly baptized. The point is not whether or not the person who administers baptism has been corrupted by fundamental heresy; at issue is only the standpoint of the church in which and for which he has administered baptism. But it is obvious that this is an area where one could raise many hard questions. When the church tolerates a heretical teacher, is it not then itself partly accountable and accessory to so-called heretical doctrine? Can one acknowledge the baptism of a so-called Reformed church that permits someone who denies the deity of Christ to continue to minister the Word and the sacraments? If the heresy of the minister has remained hidden heresy, then that of course is not an issue for the validity or non-validity of the baptism.
Vos, Geerhardus. Reformed Dogmatics. Ed. Richard B. Gaffin. Trans. Annemie Godbehere et al. Vol. 5. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016. Print.
The entire doctrine of baptism, as it has been developed by the Reformed, shows how closely they aligned themselves with Scripture. In light of this fact it is all the more noteworthy that despite this, or rather precisely because of this, they managed, in their recognition and administration of baptism, to avoid all sectarianism and to preserve a genuinely Christian magnanimity and breadth of vision. In accord with the Catholic Church in its struggle with the North-African churches, the Reformed unanimously taught that the baptism of heretics, provided it was administered in the name of the Triune God, had to be recognized. But since they did not have a magical view of the baptismal formula and did not detach baptism from the church and its offices, they added the further qualification that it had to be administered by a minister who was officially recognized as such in a Christian church. And they indeed barred from baptism all things and objects, all dead fetuses or partially born babies, all monstrosities, all children of pagan parents who had been taken captive; but they admitted to baptism all children who after the death of their parents, or as foundlings, had been adopted into Christian families, who were born from illegitimate unions or from excommunicate, schismatic, or heretical parents as long as there was some ground for the assumption that the lineage of the covenant was not completely broken.112 The Reformed can more easily be accused of having too broad a policy of recognizing and administering baptism than too narrow a policy. But precisely for this reason they have maintained, in eminent fashion, the unity and catholicity of the church of Christ on earth. All Christian churches still recognize each other’s baptisms and thereby in fact say that in all these churches there is still so much truth that the possibility of salvation is not ruled out. There is one confession on the foundation of which they have all been built, one faith in which they all share. Despite all the differences and controversy, all of them nevertheless recognize one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.
Bavinck, Herman, John Bolt, and John Vriend. Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. Print.
For those who hold to an idea that Rome is much worse in our age than the days of Calvin and Luther:
Scott Clark-Westminster Seminary:
“It has been argued to me that post-Vatican II Romanism, with its turn toward Modernism, is more corrupt today than it was in the 15th and 16th centuries when the Reformers were baptized. I doubt that. The Western church was deeply corrupt “in head and members” (Fifth Lateran) at the turn of the 16th century. The nature of the corruption may have changed but the degree hasn’t. In the 16th century laity couldn’t read Scripture in their own language but now, post-Vatican II, they may. The truth is, there are as many versions of Rome as there are Romanists. They all, every single one of them, picks and chooses those aspects of the church’s dogma to they will adhere. The only thing uniting them is a formal, outward submission to the Bishop of Rome. In reality, the status of Vatican II varies from Pope to Pope. John Paul II and Benedict XVI sought to roll back aspects of Vatican II but Francis seems intent on returning, in certain ways, to the advocacy of Vatican II prior to John Paul II. There is not substantively, single, Roman Catholic Church. We have no more or less reason to reject Roman baptisms than did the Reformers.”
Taken from: Should I be rebaptized:
We still meet analogous cases when people are baptized in non-Trinitarian churches. Theirs is not baptism and for the following valid reason. Baptism was given to the church, and non-Trinitarians are not in any sense the church or a part of it. Denial of the Trinity is denial of the true God, substituting a figment for him, destroying the very substance of baptism, which is to bring a sinner into saving connection, not with an imaginary “God” but with the one true God. We never rebaptize such people, for these people were never baptized. A counterfeit is not real money, never will be. We, therefore, see the great value of this incident reported by Luke.
“However, if heretics retain the fundamentals of baptism (which constitute it’s essence) and do not change or corrupt it’s form, we hold that baptism administered by such is valid, although they may err on various articles of faith, and their baptism may be mixed up with various extraneous rites in accidentals”
“The reasons are: The essentials remain thereas much as to form as to matter (to wit, the word with the elements and the formula prescribed by Christ-that it be administered in the name of the Trinity.”
“Although heretics are not members of the invisible church, that does not hinder them from administering true baptism provided they retian it’s essentials; for they accommodate the tongue and hand only in this act to God. It is God who baptized and who is efficacious through the ministry; as God through a corrupt ministry can gather a church from adults, so through baptism administered by heretics from infants…because baptism is not of men, but of God”
“The doctrine of the Romanists concerning baptism can be called true and false in different respects. True as to the essence of the institution, the visible element and the word of institution. False as to the accidental opinions and rites. Nor because it is considered to be true baptismis the myth of the Roman religion on that account rightly proven, no more than the doctrine of the Pharisees or Sadduceeswas true because they lawfully administered the external rite of circumcision….hence, we properly gather that Roman baptism is not to be repeated.”
Of the Sacraments in general, the Receiving, and use of them.
In the next place, follow the questions of conscience touching the third part of God´s outward worship, namely, the sacraments; and these concern either the administration or the receiving of them. The administration I will here let pass, and handle those questions only, that concern the receiving and use thereof, both in general and in particular. Touching the receiving of the sacraments in general, there is one only question: Whether the sacraments ministered by heretics, idolaters, and insufficient ministers be sacraments or no?
For answer hereunto, we are to know [that] there be three sorts of men that may administer the sacraments. Some are true & lawful ministers, lawfully called by God & men to that function, keeping the right form of the sacrament according to the institution. Some again, are more private persons, that have no authority at all to administer, whom we may oppose to the room of lawful ministers by the acceptation & consent of men, or by custom, though corrupt, and these are in a mean between the two former sorts. Of the first there is no question. But the sacrament administered by the second is in truth a mere nullity; because they have no calling thereto, neither can they do it of faith: for as much as they be not indeed lawful pastors; yet being in the place of such, by the consent, allowance, and custom of men, though corrupt; their action is of force, and the sacrament which is administered by them, is in deed a true sacrament; which I prove by these reasons.
First, the preaching of the word, and administration of the sacraments are all one in substance. For in the one the will of God is seen, in the other heard. Now the word preached by heretics, is the true word of God, and may have his effect. The Scribes and Pharisees, great Doctors of the Jews, were not all of the Tribe of Levi, but descended from other tribes. Again, even the principal of them lived by extortion and bribery, and were wicked men, yea heretics and Apostates, deposed & excommunicated persons. And yet because they occupied the places of good teachers, and sat in the chair of Moses, that is, read the doctrine of Moses Law, Christ bids his disciples to hear them. Matt. 23.3. Provided only that they took heed of the leaven of their false doctrine and wicked life. Now if the word taught by their ministry was powerful, why may not the sacraments ministered by the heretics standing in the room of true ministers be true sacraments? In the days of Paul, (Phillip. 1.15) some preached Christ through envy and strife,and some of good will; what was the Apostles judgment in this case? Himself answers (v. 18), What then? Yet, Christ is preached all manner of ways, whether it be under a pretence or sincerly, and I therein joy, yea and will joy.
Secondly, this point is plain by examples. The Levitical priests under the Law, were heretics, and taught after a sort the breach of the moral law. Yea they held justification by works (Rom. 10.3) and yet circumcision by them administered, was in force; neither was the Passover, celebrated by them, or the sacrifices which they offered, any other then the true Passover and true sacrifices. Judas was a very hypocrite, yea Christ calls him a devil (John 6.70) and yet he preached the word at Christ´s commandment, and baptized with the rest of his disciples (John 4.1-2).
Thirdly, the sacrament, if it be administered in the name, and by the power of Christ, is the ordinance of God, being received by faith, yea a true sacrament of Christ; and the force and the efficacy thereof, doth not depend upon the worthiness of the minister, but upon Christ. The letters or epistles sent from one man to another, are authentic, and serve fully to express the mind of the author, though the messenger or carrier be wicked or naughty man. And in like manner, the sin of any man that stands in the room of a lawful minister, doth not nullify the sacrament, and therefore not heresy, or insufficiency. S. Cyprian who lived 300 years after Christ, was of this opinion, that sacraments administered by heretics were no sacraments. But the churches of Africa in those times concluded the contrary against him, according to the doctrine that hath been delivered.
I. By this doctrine they are justly to be blamed, who would
have their children rebaptized, which were before baptized by Popish priests; because the sacrament, though administered by a Papist, if he stand in the room of a true pastor; & keep the form thereof, is a true sacrament.
II. Others by this doctrine come to be reproved, that refuse
to receive the sacrament at the hands of nonpreaching ministers. For though the minister be insufficient, & preach not, yet if he be called bythe Church, he hath the place of a lawful pastor, his administration is warrantable, and the Sacrament by him administered, a true Sacrament. If it be said, that then the true sacraments may be out of the true church, as in the church of Rome at this day; because heretics and such like ministers are not of the church. I answer, that there is in the church of Rome, the hidden church of God, and the Sacraments are there used, not for the Romish church, but for the hidden church which is in the midst of Papacy; like as the lantern bears light not for itself, but for the passengers: yet hence it follows not, that we should communicate with idolaters, heretics, and wicked persons.”
William Perkins, A Treatise of Conscience, Ch. 8
“The first question, therefore, was whether the Sacrament of Penance can effect a reconciliation whereby the apostate, or in some cases specifically the traditor, may be returned to full communion. The orthodox Catholic position was that the sacrament was for precisely such cases, though at the time the Church still followed the discipline of public penance whereby a penitent for such a grievous offence would spend years, even decades, first outside the doors of the church begging for the prayers of those entering, then kneeling inside the church building during services, then standing with the congregation, and finally receiving the Eucharist again in a long progress toward full reconciliation. The Donatists held that such a crime, after the forgiveness of baptism, disqualified one for leadership in the Church, a position of extreme rigorism.
The second question was the validity of sacraments celebrated by priests and bishops who had been apostates under the persecution. The Donatists held that all such sacraments were invalid; by their sinful act, such clerics had rendered themselves incapable of celebrating valid sacraments. This is known as ex opere operantis, Latin for from the work of the one doing the working, that is, that the validity of the sacrament depends upon the worthiness and holiness of the minister confecting. The Catholic position, according to Augustine, was ex opere operato — from the work having been worked; in other words, that the validity of the sacrament depends upon the holiness of God, the minister being a mere instrument of God’s work, so that any priest or bishop, even one in a state of mortal sin, who speaks the formula of the sacrament with valid matter and the intent of causing the sacrament to occur acts validly. Hence, to the Donatists, a priest who had been an apostate but who repented could speak the words of consecration forever, but he could no longer confect the Eucharist. To Catholics, a person who received the Eucharist from the hands of even an unrepentant sinning priest still received Christ’s Body and Blood, their own sacramental life being undamaged by the priest’s faults.”
Rome holds to the Apostles creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen
creator of heaven and earth.
“[John] Robinson [the Separatist] and our brethren acknowledge that the Church of Rome hath true baptism, even as the vessels of the Lord’s house profaned in Babylon may be carried back to the temple. But if these vessels were broken and mingled with brass and iron, and cast in another mould they could not obtain their former place in the temple. Baptism is a vessel profaned in Babel, but not broken; but the ministry and priesthood of Rome is like the new melted and mingled vessel, and [is] essentially degenerated from the office of pastorship. But I answer, if baptism be valid in Rome [then] so are the ministers baptizers. For if the ministers and priests be essentially no ministers, then baptism administered by the Romish priests is no Ministry, and all [the same] as [that] administered by midwives and private persons, who therefore cannot administer the sacraments validly in the essential causes, because they are essentially no ministers. If therefore, Robinson will [insist] that [the] Romish priesthood [is] essentially no ministery, [then] by that same reason he must say [that] baptism administrated by Romish priests is no baptism. The contrary whereof he confesseth: otherwise he must say [that] baptism administered, a non babente potestatem, even by women and private men, is valid, and cannot be but esteemed lawful in the substance of the act. Those have a ministry, essentially entire, who have power under Christ to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, Matthew 28.19. The Romish priests have this, and are called to this by the Church.”
“Though Luther and Zwingli had their whole calling from the Pope and his Clergy, yet think we not that calling [to be] no [true] calling, but that it hath that which essentially constituteth a minister:
1. Caiaphas entered most corruptly to the Priesthood, by the favor of men, and to be high-priest for [only] one year contrary to the Law, which ordained the high-priest to remain for his lifetime. But as Josephus said, [also] Toletus, Caitan, Maldonat, Iansonius, yea and [even as] our own writers Calvin, Marlorat, Musculus, Rollock, [and] Bullinger observe, all was done by the will and lustof ; yet Caiaphus was the high-priest and prophesied, which is a specific act of a called prophet, John 11.51-52. It is said, [that] he prophesied as high-priest.
2. The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ chair, and are to be heard, Mat 23.1, in so far as they teach God’s truth, and yet their entry to their calling was corrupt, if it be true [as] diverse say, that Christ, [in] John 10.7-9, calleth the Scribes and Pharises, Thieves and Robbers, because they came not in by the door, but climbed up another way. But however there [may have been] corruption in the way of their coming to the chair, [and given that] they leavened all [the] other Ordinances of God, and the High Priest [himself] entered a false way, [therefore] the rest of the Rules could not come, but in a corrupt way. But though Augustin and Clemens Alexan expound the place, [in] John 10, of such as lack a lawful calling, but [if we should interpret it that way] then the place cannot agree with the Scribes and Pharisees, which seemeth to fight with the course of the text. But our interpreters Brentius, Beza, [and] Rollock, expound the place [as referring to] those who preach not Christ soundly, [as] the door and the foundation, but [rather they are those who preach] human traditions, and yet [who still] had a calling. And the text saith so much, where [in] v. 9 salvation is promised to every one who entereth in by Christ the door. Now salvation is not promised to a man, because he hath a lawful calling to the ministry; he may have that and yet be a Child of perdition.
We are nowhere forbidden in God’s Word to hear teachers sent and called, but only wolves in sheep skins, void of all calling, and intruders. For pastors may be antichrists in [1.] the manner of the entry, as Caiaphas, [or 2.] in the matter of the Doctrine, teaching some of men’s traditions, in place of God’s Word as [the] Scribes and Pharisees, [or 3. by tolerating an] antichristian calling, as prelates do and have done in Britain. And yet their Ministry [may still] be valid, and his Ministerial acts not [be] null. It is sufficient [simply] that the governing Church give him a calling, either by themselves, their express call, their silence, or tacit calling, or their approbation, communicating with him in his Ministry, [either] by those to whom the Church resigned her power, or by those who stand in place of the Church. Though prelates invade the place of the Church, yet because [1.], they themselves be pastors and have power to teach and baptize as pastors called of Christ, Mat. 18.19, [and 2.] because they stand for the Church, approving, or some way by silence consenting (as in the case of Caiaphas entry to the priest-hood) there[fore], these who are baptized by them, are not re-baptized, and those who are ordained pastors by them are not re-ordained, but have a calling to the Ministry and do validly confer a calling upon others.
Yea, many of great learning think that at the beginning of Reformation, thousands being under popery baptized by midwives and private persons were never re-baptized. [It is] not that they think such baptism valid, but where the Sacrament is lacking, ex invincibili ignorantia facti, (out of an invincible ignorance of a fact), such [who are] that way baptized do indeed lack the Lord’s seal. But we cannot for that [reason] say that they are no better than infidels and unbaptized Turkes and Jewes, because [1.] their being born in the visible Church giveth a federal holiness, as all of Jewish parents had a federal right to circumcision, and were, eatenus [in this way] separated from the womb. [2.] Because their profession of that covenant whereof baptism is a seal, separateth them sufficiently from infidels, though they lack the seal external. But our Divines esteem (and that justly) baptism administrated by women, or such as have no calling, to be no baptism at all; for which let the reader see Calvin, Beza, [and] the learned Rivetus. We stand not for what Bellarmine, Maldonatus, Gretferus, and other papists say on the contrary, and also Cajetan, and Toletus.
[John] Robinson [the Separatist] and our brethren acknowledge that the Church of Rome hath true baptism, even as the vessels of the Lord’s house profaned in Babylon may be carried back to the temple. But if these vessels were broken and mingled with brass and iron, and cast in another mould they could not obtain their former place in the temple. Baptism is a vessel profaned in Babel, but not broken; but the ministry and priesthood of Rome is like the new melted and mingled vessel, and [is] essentially degenerated from the office of pastorship. But I answer, if baptism be valid in Rome [then] so are the ministers baptizers. For if the ministers and priests be essentially no ministers, then baptism administered by the Romish priests is no Ministry, and all [the same] as [that] administered by midwives and private persons, who therefore cannot administer the sacraments validly in the essential causes, because they are essentially no ministers. If therefore, Robinson will [insist] that [the] Romish priesthood [is] essentially no ministery, [then] by that same reason he must say [that] baptism administrated by Romish priests is no baptism. The contrary whereof he confesseth: otherwise he must say [that] baptism administered, a non babente potestatem, even by women and private men, is valid, and cannot be but esteemed lawful in the substance of the act. Those have a ministry, essentially entire, who have power under Christ to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, Matthew 28.19. The Romish priests have this, and are called to this by the Church.
But saith Robinson, how can England forsake the Church of Rome, and forsake the ministry, which is in the Church, as in the subject, especially, seeing you teach that a true ministry maketh essentially a true Church?
Answer:  England may well separate from Rome [as Rome turns away from] the fundamental parts of Faith, and [yet] not separate from Rome’s baptism, or ministry, in so far as they be essentially the ordinances of Christ. And I retort this argument: how can Separatists separate from both us and Rome, and yet retain the baptism in both our church and Rome.  A ministry true in the essence may make a Church true kata ti, in so far; but because of many other substantial corruptions in Rome, it is a Church which we ought to forsake.
But, saith Robinson, apostates in the 10 tribes [of Israel] leaving the Church which was radically at [i.e., had its center in] Jerusalem, upon their repentance were readmitted to enter into the Temple, into which no uncircumcised person might enter. But any of the priests following idols, were never readmitted to be priests, though they should repent; therefore the ministry and baptism are not alike.
I answer  that [if] the true Church were only at Jerusalem radically, as you say, [this] would [imply] that the 10 tribes revolting from David’s house ceased to be a Church, which is false. Israel, [as] all the land was in Covenant with God, had circumcision and the Passover, and so was a true visible Church, even when they met in their synagogues. The altar, sacrifices, [and] temple, are not the essentials of a visible Church. There was a Church, and the Church did pray toward the temple even in Babylon, and [they] were to profess the true God before the heathen, Jer 10.11.  There [are] typical reasons to hinder men why they cannot be capable of the priesthood, that did not exclude them from Church state. But this hindereth not [that] if the seals administrated by a minister be true seals, then is the minister thereof eatenus [in this way] a true minister.
He addeth, a minister may leave off to be a minister, and be justly degraded and excommunicated, but none ever attempted to unbaptize one who was baptized, nor can he be unbaptized who is baptized.
I answer: That proveth a difference between the ministery and baptism, which is not the question at issue; but it [still] proveth not this to be false: if Rome’s baptism be lawful in its essence, so is Rome´s ministry.”
Rutherford, Due Right of Presbytery, 237-241
Without anticipating that point however we maintain that as the Romish priests are appointed and recognized as presbyters in a community professing to believe the Scriptures the early creeds and the decisions of the first four general councils they are ordained ministers in the sense above stated and consequently baptism administered by them is valid It has accordingly been received as valid by all Protestant Churches from the Reformation to the present day
“If you claim the baptism of the Church of Rome is invalid on the basis that she is a false church, I ask you, on what basis do you say she is a false church? Unless God has told you by extraordinary revelation that Rome is a false Church, you are obliged to first examine its ministry and ordinances in terms of divine institution.
I can say she is a false church because I have evaluated the ministry and ordinances, and I have discovered the extent to which the Church of Rome has corrupted them. If we proceed according to this order of examination — the biblical order — we are bound to acknowledge that the form of baptism as Christ has instituted it is still basically observed notwithstanding the many corruptions which have been added to it. The fact Rome proves itself a false church in other ways does not invalidate what is still observed according to divine institution. As one of the prophets has taught us to ask, What is the chaff to the wheat? Or, as one of the apostles has taught us to answer, Let God be true and every man a liar.”
Rome’s position on the Trinity:
Old School presbyterian debate:
The Reformed Churches and Roman Catholic baptism: An Anthology of Principle Texts:
John MacPherson-The Unity of the Church: The Sin of Schsim:
Bullinger on Catabaptism: