Baptism or Chrism:
Which Comes First?
NCW 9, April 1994
Q. In your Church you practice baptism before the ordinance of confirmation [chrism], as most churches who perform these ordinances do, but you also say it is possible to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit before baptism. Is there any scriptural evidence for the latter?
The apostle Paul was confirmed before he was baptised. We read:
It is important to note that it was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which caused Paul to receive his sight back -- Ananias did not, as some claim, heal Paul and then fill him with the Holy Spirit later, presumably after baptism. Paul's healing was the evidence that he had received the Holy Spirit as well as being the evidence of his being forgiven his sins by God.
"So Ananias went and entered the house (of Judas). Then placing his hands upon him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord sent me -- Jesus who appeared to you on the road you travelled -- so that you may recover sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Instantly it was as if scales fell from his eyes; he saw again. He arose and was baptized; then, after eating something, he regained strength" (Acts 9:17-19, Revised Berkley Version).
The New Covenant has consistently taught that the operation of the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled by man -- it comes and goes as it wishes (John 3:8). The Holy Spirit is not necessarily going to wait for a man to be physically baptised before it will enter him. What is particularly interesting in the case of Ananias and Saul is the fact of the physical imposition of hands before baptism -- Ananias acted in obedience to God and the Holy Spirit acting on him.
The New Covenant has a system of ordinances -- baptism precedes confirmation -- but it is not so inflexible or rigid that it does not allow for other patterns to be followed. (Jesus, as we know, confirmed the Holy Spirit by breathing on His disciples). Of course, priesthood officers should act with great caution in performing ordinances out of the proper order. Whilst they should not ordinarily do this, they must be prepared to if the Lord unambiguously and unequivocally commands it. Here again, as in every other area of the Gospel, the Spirit is more important than the letter of the law. Why Paul was confirmed before he was baptised is not recorded in Scripture and perhaps it was considered unimportant by Luke. The first Christians were a Holy Spirit-led people, living in the immediacy of God's sacred Presence, and did not follow iron-cast rules in every situation. A prophetic people like the New Covenant should be prepared for the same.
Therefore as a rule we as a people perform baptism before confirmation but we are prepared to constructively and responsibly break procedural rules if so willed by the Lord.
This page was created on 18 April 1998
Last updated on 18 April 1998
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