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Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism

Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism
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Fesko, J. V.

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Listen to an episode of Christ the Center entitled Word, Water, Spirit. (Reformed Forum)


Listen to J.V. Fesko's sermon from I Peter 3:21-22 The Flood and Baptism. (Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian Church)

WTS Description: Word, Water and Spirit is a comprehensive introduction to the Reformed doctrine of baptism. Part one looks at the history of the doctrine in seven chapters, ranging from the Patristic age to modern times. Part two is a biblical-theological survey, looking at the eschatological and covenantal aspects of the sacrament, with a special emphasis on baptism as judgment. Part three is a systematic-theological construction, with a view towards establishing and defending the means, mode, recipients and efficacy of baptism.

Readers looking for a defense of infant baptism will find that and much more. Using the concepts of covenant and canon, Fesko sets out a firm defense of the practice, but he also provides a constructive proposal for thinking about baptism in general and its implications for ecclesiology. This work is sure to add much needed light to an old debate, but it will also enable many paedobaptists to better articulate a practice they already firmly believe in.

480 Pages
Published October 2010

About the Author

J.V. Fesko is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and is also academic dean and associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California.

Book Details

480 Pages
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Publication Date: October 2010
ISBN 13: 9781601781017

"This book represents a substantial accomplishment, one that provides a useful resource for those wanting to deepen their understanding of the sacraments, particularly baptism. Reflecting a massive amount of research, against the background of an in-depth survey of various views of baptism in church history, Fesko provides an extensive exegetical and biblical-theological study of the covenantal and eschatological significance of baptism followed by systematic theological reflections on key issues like baptism as a means of grace, the efficacy of baptism, the biblical warrant for infant baptism (and against paedocommunion) and the importance of baptism for the church. One need not agree with his reflections at every point to benefit from his considerable labors."
- Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary

"On a wide-ranging canvas and with bold strokes, J. V. Fesko gives us a study of baptism which joins a treasury of theological citations with strong theological insights. After a survey of the history of the doctrine, Fesko focuses on the Reformed tradition and its important figures and confessions. He indicates the biblical dimensions of the meanings of baptism and provides a positive and constructive statement of its theological truth. This is a valuable work for its mastery of primary sources as well as its clear articulation of the covenantal dimensions which give a Reformed theology of baptism such power and purpose for Christian believers."
- Donald McKim

"J. V. Fesko’s Word, Water, and Spirit is a major work that both models how to do theology by moving from historical theology to biblical and systematic theology and, most importantly, presents fresh insights for a Reformed understanding of baptism. Fesko’s fair-minded, page-turning history of the doctrine of baptism is itself worth the price of the book. Most enlightening, however, is his biblical-theological survey of baptism as new creation, covenant judgment, and eschatological judgment. The book’s emphasis on God’s judgment in baptism is particularly innovative and helpful. These insights pave the way for treating baptism systematically as a means of grace and as a sacrament in relation to its recipients and ecclesiology. Highly recommended for all who wish to grapple seriously with the doctrine of baptism and its implications."
- Joel Beeke

"Wonderfully Reformed . . . John Fesko shows the fruitfulness of reflecting on baptism as a marvelously robust doctrinal statement. He is to be commended for his first rate, deep theological thought on the core sacrament of our faith."
- William H. Willimon Presiding Bishop The United Methodist Church, Birmingham Area North Alabama Conference