THE OBLIGATION OF BAPTISM.
Moreover, God also separates us from all strange religions and peoples by the symbol of baptism, and consecrates us to himself as his property. We, therefore, confess our faith when we are baptized, and obligate ourselves to God for obedience, mortification of the flesh, and newness of life. Hence, we are enlisted in the holy military service of Christ that all our life long we should fight against the world, Satan, and our own flesh. Moreover, we are baptized into one body of the Church, that with all members of the Church we might beautifully concur in the one religion and in mutual services.
What happens to your money whey you put it into the offering plate?
One possible answer: nothing; God already owns all things so that putting money in the plate is only an acknowledgement of God’s ownership, not in any way a transfer of ownership.
Another possible answer; a voluntary gift to God of things that he had no claim upon before they were given. This answer would mean that God had no property except what is voluntarily given to him in the offering.
But what about the tithe? When someone preaches, “the tithe belongs to God” are they saying that there is no need to “do anything” because God already owns your tithe?
We all know that he is actually saying that Christians are obligated to give the tithe to God.
If we want to get analytical, we can talk about what is God’s “by right” and God’s “by possession.” God has a right to the tithe because he has claimed it as such. And when we put it in the offering plate, or right the check to the Church and drop it in the mail, we are transferring what is our by possession but God’s by right so that it becomes God’s by possession.
An aside: I’ve preached at a few burial services and used Abraham’s burial of Sarah as a text. I’m convinced that something similar is going on in a Christian burial service. We have (or we should have) always trusted God to take care of our loved ones. But at death, in burial, we officially and definitively entrust our loved ones to God. Yes we trusted God before, but that trust was in how he would use us, in many cases, and our own anxieties and agonies, to help care for them. In burial we confess we are done with all that. They are place directly in God’s hands. They are now his not ours any longer.
So with the tithe, we know it and all the other ninety percent of what we have belongs to God. But we also know he makes a special claim on the tithe and, when we give the tithe, a real transfer takes place.
I’ve noticed some people, in the name of the Protestant heritage, try to get around the language of the Westminster Confession and claim that it isn’t really saying that baptism admits the person baptized into the visible Church. I find this claim highly implausible by itself. But if we take the background of the Second Helvetic Confession, it becomes even more so.
Notice that the Confession plainly focuses on the actual water ritual. It is “by the symbol” that we are consecrated to God as his property, enlisted in his military service, and baptized into one body, the Church.
And, as with the offering in the plate, this doesn’t mean that God had no claim on us before baptized (as covenant children in the womb of believers as yet unbaptized). Likewise, while the offering is objective, if someone throws a fake dollar bill in the offering plate, God does not own it in the same sense he takes ownership of the legitimate tithes and offerings, even though (or rather, because) the action is objectively meaningful and effective.