In Tertullian we have the Roman Catholic form of Jewish legalism. The relation to God is legal. Christianity is merely the new law. Christianity returns to the religion of the law but is prevented from becoming simply another Jewish system of laws and rules by the sacramental salvation. Therefore one can say: “the evangelion, the Gospel, is our special law.” Trespassing has the consequence that guilt is produced and punishments demanded. “But if we do His will, He will make Himself our debtor. Then we gain merits. ” There are two classes of demands: precepts and counsels. In this way every man can acquire a treasury of holiness in which he returns to Christ what Christ has given him. The virtue of the Christian is crowned. The sacrifice of asceticism and martyrdom moves God to do good to us. “In the measure in which you don’t spare yourselves, in this measure, believe me, God will spare you.” This of course has a lot of Roman Catholic ideas. This was at the end of the second century. We have now already the difference of precepts for everybody, and counsels for the monks; we have already the idea of Christ as the new law. Roman Catholicism came quickly, and the reason for this is that Roman Catholicism was the form in which Christianity could be received including all the Roman and Greek forms of thinking and living.
Baptism is still the most important sacrament. It removes past sins. It has two meanings here again we come deeply into Roman Catholic ideas. The one is the washing away of the sins, and the other is the reception of the Divine Spirit a negative and a positive element. This of course presupposed the baptismal confession of the creed; it presupposed the consciousness of one’s sins and the certainty of the Savior.
Characteristic for baptism are the following activities: 1) One lays the hand on the baptized, and gives him sacred oil, the medium which makes the reception of the Spirit possible.
2) One refutes the Devil, with all his pomp and angels. One leaves the demonic sphere. You must remember how important this way; the New Testament is full of the idea that Christianity has overcome the demonically ruled world. Therefore the refutation of the Devil is something which was extremely important: it meant really the end of participation in paganism. And it was not simply a moralistic formula; it went much deeper: it was the breaking of the religious neurosis which is paganism, the religious limitation to polytheistic limits, to demons, in other words. They could be thrown out. I remember from my own confirmation in Germany that, as a 14-year old child, this was the formula we had to say: I reject the Devil and all its pomp, etc… For us at that time this was some kind of romantic, dark and mysterious feeling about powers from which one goes away definitively. It was not what it was for a pagan who went over from a world which was really ruled by strong demonic powers: into a world of love. But it still was something. The symbol of the Devil was still alive even at that time.