Sadhu Sundar Singh: “At the Master’s Feet” Part 2 (Chapter 1, section 1)

Sadhu Sundar Singh

Continuing our readings from Sundar Singh’s first book “At the Master’s Feet,” we now move into the first chapter of this work.

Here is the audio for Chapter 1, section 1:

As you listen, here are some questions to consider:

1) In this vision, the Master makes the distinction between those that know about him and those that truly know him and can see him.  “There are many believers who are aware of My presence in their hearts bringing to them spiritual life and peace, but cannot plainly see Me.”  Where in your life have you felt Christ’s presence, leading and directing you, but still leaving you just short of full revelation?

2) Sundar Singh offered this analogy from the Master: “Sometimes during sickness the faculty of taste in the tongue is interfered with, and during tht time, however tasty food given to the sick person may be, it has an ill taste to him.”  This, he says, is like unto sin in our lives.  Looking around at the world today, what teachings of Christ seem repellent or out of place, especially where society or your own way of life sees the opposite as entirely acceptable?

3) As a follow up to this, how can we really live into the message of Christ that seems so counter-cultural to the rest of society?

4) There are two baptismal theologies that run through the history of the Church:  one of washing, the other of regeneration.  The first is typical of the Reformed and Evangelical traditions, while the second is more often found in the older catholic and orthodox traditions.  In this vision, Sundar Singh leaves us with one final analogy from the Master: “Take a piece of charcoal, and however much you may wash it its blackness will not disappear, but let fire enter into it and its dark colour vanishes.  So also when the sinner received the Holy Spirit (who is from the Father and Myself, for the Father and I are one), which is the baptism of fire, all the blackness of sin is driven away, and he is made a light to the world.”  How does our relationship to sin and God differ as we consider each of these two different baptismal theologies?

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5 Responses to Sadhu Sundar Singh: “At the Master’s Feet” Part 2 (Chapter 1, section 1)

  1. Corey Rouse says:

    Your fourth consideration provokes all sorts of questions on my part. I’m curious as to why one would describe the Classical Protestant baptismal theology as a washing. Does the Evang./Protestant baptismal theology posit a disjunction between baptism and act of justification? If so, I see that my objections become irrelevant. If you do mean to unite baptism with justification and if the washing is not an ontological renewal of the soul (regeneration), then how can it be a washing at all? Calvin’s describes a justification in terms of an accidental drapery that hides the guilt of sin. This seems to fall short of the notion of washing. I know that this has all been rehashed a thousand times in apologetic debates, but I find it puzzlingly inconsistent with the Reformers’ own literature that the notion of washing should be used at all. Is this not really an imported notion from the Catholic understanding? In short, how can there be washing, i.e., a cleansing, when the Reformers do not admit of an ontological deletion of the guilt of original sin? I’m grounding my apprehensions on les Instituts de Calvin. I’m curious to learn how the cloak of righteousness becomes a washing? The fire of the Holy Spirit also carries a purgative dynamism that is not easily reconciled the accidental transformation described by Calvin and Luther. Also, the Master seems to preclude the efficacy of washing your fourth point. Where does that leave the Evangelical position?

    • You make some very good points, Corey. I always look forward to reading your thoughts on these lessons!
      Here’s what I can add to the conversation:
      The de-emphasis on regeneration that gave way to the theology of washing really came about in the 18th century with the rise of the Evangelical movements during the Great Awakenings. As you know, the theology of the first generation reformers, such as Luther and Calvin, were already being warped by the second generation heirs, such as Melanchthon and Knox. By the 18th century, and even before, the qualifier for salvation was not strictly baptism but an identifiable point of adult moral conversion. Following from the Enlightenment, salvation was tied to a psychological/moral affect, not an ontological one. The best image that I’ve come up with to illustrate the two models of baptism is that of a piece of cloth. For the Evangelical side, the cloth that is stained (by sin) is washed and made clean. But it is still the same piece of cloth which can just as easily be stained again. From this, it’s not surprising that we find such hyper-moralism in Evangelical/Reformed traditions. On the other hand, for the catholic/orthodox side, when the stained cloth is washed, it comes out as a new material. This means that when (not if) it encounters the same staining agent (sin) as before, then it will interact with it differently. The theology of ontological regeneration assumes that we will sin after baptism, but we will react to it differently than before our baptism. From a sacramental stand point (which is lost in the Evangelical/Reformed traditions), this is Confession/Reconciliation and Eucharist. Now, this isn’t to say that we encourage sinning freely. Quite the contrary: we teach that we should guard ourselves against sin. But because we know that a means of reconciliation is there for us when it does happen, we don’t have to live in such a state of fear that would lead to an oppressive hyper-moralism.


    Most people who believe that men are saved by faith alone simply disregard the Scriptures that express water baptism as being essential to forgiveness of sins.

    What is the washing of regeneration?

    Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done , but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,(NKJV)

    God saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. What is is washing of regeneration?

    Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.(New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

    He saved us through the water of rebirth, not because we were born of water the first time. No one can be reborn of amniotic fluid, that would be the first birth.

    Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.(New Revised Standard Version)

    You cannot take the water out of washing of regeneration.

    Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised)

    Being reborn of water and the Spirit cannot be separated.

    John 3:3-5 …unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 5. ….unless one is born of water and the Spirit , he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (NKJV)

    You must be born again of water and the Spirit. Born of the Spirit alone cannot saved you.


    Ephesians 5:25-27….as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,…. (NKJV)

    Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ with the washing of water. The washing of regeneration.

    Ephesians 5:26 He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word. (Common English Bible)

    There is no rebirth without water baptism.

    Ephesians 5:26 He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water.(Contemporary English Version)

    There is no dry washing of regeneration.


    Acts 22:16 ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (NKJV)

    No sins (under the New Covenant) are washed away without water baptism.

    Acts 22:16 Now, don’t wait any longer. Get up, be baptized andwash away your sins, trusting in Jesus to save you.’ (Easy-to-Read Version)

    The washing of regeneration.


    1. Titus 3:5 not by works of righteous which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)


    2. John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say, unless one isborn of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.(NKJV)


    Acts 2:38 The Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)


    There is no salvation without the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.



  3. Corey Rouse says:

    So the ‘washing’ is a figurative term for a psychological effect. In other words, Original Sin remains in the ontos of the anima (soul), but the animus (mind) is somehow changed by a moral conversion. You see, that is difficult for me to understand from a Catholic perspective, because we believe that moral conversion of the mind is an effect of a regeneration of the whole ontos of the human soul. It is hard for me to see how a moral conversion (in the full sense of the word of conversion) could take place when the Original Sin of the soul has not been addressed. I’m interested in the Enlightenment emphasis on moral conversion as seen in the work of Wesley.

    • From the Post-Enlightenment/Evangelical side that emphasizes adult moral conversion, there does seem to be a great de-emphasis on the ontological change that would remove Original Sin. Like you, Corey, it doesn’t fit my theology and experience either. But that’s one of the reasons I’m a Sacramentalist and not an Evangelical. I would be interested to hear from anyone who is more versed in the Evangelical side explain it.

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