March 2012

Five Things The Bible Actually Says About Baptism

The bible talks about baptism fair amount. From John the Baptist to Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, to Paul arguing with the Corinthians, the New Testament is sprinkled liberally with references. But what does the scripture actually tell us about baptism? Here are five things

  1. Baptism is important; very important.
    This is shown by the fact that Jesus was baptised and even had to insist that this event happened. In Matthew 3, Jesus visits His cousin John the Baptist in order to be baptised (vs 13). John protests and states that Jesus should rather be the one baptising him. Jesus insists by saying “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”So John consents and they go into the water and Jesus is baptised. In what follows we see all three members of the Trinity in action. The Holy Spirit comes onto the Son in the form of a Dove and we hear the voice of the Fathersaying that Jesus was His son and that He was well pleased with Him.Now if it was important for Jesus to be baptised to fulfil all righteousness, how much more for us, especially because
  2. Baptism is commanded
    After finishing His work, dying and being resurrected Jesus spent 40 days appearing to His disciples, and after that time He ascended to Heaven. One of the last things He said to His disciples before He went was this:
    Mat 28:19-20  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”These verses, commonly known as the great commission contains a number of commands, commissions if you will that Jesus expects His disciples to do. The second of which was “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That’s pretty clear, not much room for wiggle room. Are you a disciple of Jesus? Then this verse expects you to be baptised. And to be baptizing.*And they took this command seriously:
  3. It was completely normal for every believer to be baptised.
    This began happening even before Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (John 4:1-2). However, starting at the birth of the church in Acts 2. At Pentecost when Peter is preaching the gospel and those listening were cut to the heart (verse 37) Peter’s response: “Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.“ (Acts 2:38) And verse 41 tells us about 3000 people received his word “and were baptized.”We have many other references to baptism in the New Testament. We have the Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:36), Saul/Paul gets baptized after getting his sight back (Acts 9:18), Gentiles at Peter’s preaching (Acts 10:44-48) and so on (Acts 16::15; Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8 etc.) Also the various Epistles refer to baptism and controversies around baptism. Paul talks about it in Romans 6:3-4; in 1Corrinthinas 1:13-17; in Galatians 3:27 and so on. There are many more examples I could cite. My point here is that baptism was always a part of a normal Christian existence. You got saved, you got baptized, end of story.
  4. They got baptized immediately
    In every example we have in the bible, when a person got saved, they got baptised. We have numerous examples: Philip and the Eunuch (Acts 8:36); Saul (Acts 9:18); Lydia (Acts 16:14-5); The prison guard (Acts 16:33), and so on.It is important to note that good hermeneutics tells us the difference between prescriptive and descriptive texts. The above are all descriptive, that is, the describe what was going on. It is therefore, not commanded a person should be baptised immediately but we can say that, in the very least, A newly converted Christian should be told that they should be baptised as part of a gospel presentation (Acts2:38) and that if a person repents, then baptism should be offered to be done and if possible immediately. A new Christian should say with the Ethiopian Eunuch : ‘”See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”’ (Acts 8:36)
  5. Baptism was always reserved for those who believed.
    This point is going to take a post all to itself so I’m going to save it for next time. But for now, the headline stands as stated.

 

*OK, I know there is much debate about whether only pastors can do this, I’ll deal with it later, but for now, this verse makes it clear, disciples should be baptising.

 

Disagree? please let me know, the comments floor is open, I would be honoured if you could point out from scripture where I am wrong. I always want to be biblically accurate. Any other comments are also appreciated; What are your thoughts? Have you been baptised? What is your understanding of baptism

Empowered Witnesses 01

Introducing Tim Cantrell. Tim is the preaching and teaching pastor from Antioch Bible Church in Randburg

As you can tell in this sermon, he was not born in South Africa, however he has been a missionary into South Africa for 15 years

On this podcast Tim Cantrell opens the book of Acts to us in a sermon titled Empowered Witnesses, this being part 1. Text: Acts 1: 1-8

Introduction to Deuteronomy 02

Text: Overview of Deuteronomy; Sermon by Andrew Zekveld

The South African Expositor’s Podcast

The 3 Different Views Of Baptism

Following on from my previous post about how I was technically rebaptised (read it here) I now present part 2 of this series. I think it would be most helpful to define our terms and so that is what this post will be about. It is likely that this will be the most technical of this series. There are three main views represented by various churches on the subject of baptism. They are:

  1. Paedobaptism
  2. Credobaptism
  3. Non-baptism

I will lay each of these three out and have a brief look at the denominations that hold to each view.

Paedobaptism

baptism 2Paedobaptism refers to the practice of baptising children and infants. More or less by definition, this must happen before the child is aware of what is happening and is too young to profess faith. This camp can further be split into two groups, those who hold to the idea that paedobaptism has salvific merit (that is, plays a part in bringing the child to faith) as apposed to those who believe that the baptism is purely symbolic.

Paedobaptism is held by the majority of mainline protestant churches as well as the Roman Catholic Church. I include the Catholics because it is from them that the historically reformation type churches, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian etc. get their theology of baptism, one way or another. Many Credobaptist would say that the reformers, when reforming the church, never went quite far enough with this doctrine.

Below are some of the main Paedobaptist churches, I have also stated exactly what effect they believe baptism has on the infant.

-Lutherans – They believe that baptism is a means of grace, used by God in the process of brining the child to faith. The baptism itself does not save, which happens by faith alone, but it is one of the means God uses to ultimately bring the child to faith.

-Methodist – Most Methodists would say that infant baptism is merely a symbolic act (which is often also called a ‘Christening’ rather than baptism). I say most because there are a very few rare Methodists who might take the Lutheran view, or even be apposed to paedobaptism. Another aspect of this event is covenant, where the parents and congregation promise to bring the child up in the teachings of Christ, and at confirmation the child (then grown up) assumes the responsibility of faith themselves.

-Anglican – Anglicans are hard to pin down. According to wikipedia, “Baptism is the sacrament by which one is initiated into the Christian faith.” I haven’t had much other exposure to this view except on one occasion. I was listening to Wretched Radio (in those days known as Way of The Master Radio) and on that particular show, the host was in London and he interviewed the Rector (I think) of Wimbledon. This gentleman explained that the primary reason for paedobaptism (as an Anglican) was that they, the congregation, was assuming the child had or would come to faith rather than being totally outside of the faith (which is the typical Credobaptism view)

-Presbyterians – Like the Methodists they also hold that paedobaptism is symbolic, however for a different reason. The Presbyterian church typically holds to a amillennial replacement theology. Without going into too much depth, they believe that the church has completely replaced Israel, and any as yet unfulfilled promise to Israel in the Old Testament, now becomes the property of the church. Paedobaptism becomes important, because it replaces the initiation rite of circumcision that male Jewish babies received.

Credobaptism

Also known as believer’s baptism, this form of baptism is reserved, as the name implies, only for those who profess a credo (Greek for creed), they who believe.  Only  a person who has professed faith in Jesus Christ, thus only those who really want to be baptised ever get baptised. Unlike Paedobaptism, which usually happens by sprinkling or pouring water over the infant, the candidate for baptism is usually dunked in a pool of water, deep enough to cover their whole body. In a church, the baptismal area is called a font, and this form of baptism is called “baptism by emersion”.

Typically preceding the baptism itself, a candidate will make a public confession of faith, often telling the congregation their testimony before going down into the water. This is however, not compulsory.

Baptism_18The majority of credobaptist churches hold to the idea that baptism is merely symbolic although there are exceptions. The majority of churches that hold to credobaptism would be described evangelical and fundamentalist, rather than mainline. These include Baptist church (bit of an obvious one there), the various Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and the various non-denominational churches. Within the three mentioned above, there are any number of different groups; Reformed Baptists, Southern Baptists, Independent Baptist etc. as well as a slough of small Charismatic groups and the non-denoms are by definition, each a separate church. Each of these may nuance their Baptism theology, but what is described above covers the majority view.

Non-baptism

This one will probably surprise you. Why would I include non baptism as an option. Frankly it is not an option because Christ has commanded that a Christian should be baptised. In Matthew 28:19 one of the aspects of the great commission is that disciples are to baptize newly converted disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is God’s express command that we do this. Yet there are many genuine Christians out there who, whether through ignorance or disobedience, have not been baptised. and typically, they are content to leave things as it is. This is dumb, and usually downright disobedient, and the only thing I have to say to a person in this category is, “Regardless of your denomination get on it, man, do it asap

 

I have gone out of my way to not express an opinion in this post, except for the last category. However, in the next post, I will begin to look at the passages concerning baptism to see which view is correct, Paedo or Credo.

If you think I have misrepresented your denomination’s view of baptism, I would appreciate correction in the comments section below. Also, if you belong to a denomination which I have not yet mentioned, by all means state it, and what their view of baptism is. I would be interested to learn.

The Spiritual Network 03

Text: Luke 11:27-28; Sermon by Clint Archer

The South African Expositor’s Podcast

*sorry about the repost, seems it lost the media first time.

How I was Technically Rebaptised… or not

As some of you may know, I grew up in the Methodist church. My unsaved parents had me baptised me (read… sprinkled me) as an infant because that was the done thing. They later sent me to Sunday School to learn me some morals. Both of these events happened within a Methodist church. By God’s grace (and to their surprise) I never left. Progressing through various stages of Sunday School, youth groups, and teen church, I studied the bible and heard the gospel many times. But it wasn’t until I was fifteen that I got saved. It was at the church’s youth summer camp that I finally actually repented of my sins and put my faith in Christ. The guest speaker at the camp, a Baptist (I think, memories are a little fuzzy), suggested those who professed faith go down into the river below the camp and get baptised. This so this is what I did, along with several others, most of whom had grown up in the church. So I had the privilege of being baptised, moments after my conversion, in a river. Thinking back, which I do often, it was a great and joyous time, and far more like the various examples in the bible (think Philip in Acts 8 ) that what I had hitherto seen.

Now if you know anything about the various theological positions on baptism, the above events sound the beginnings of a storm, that was just about to break. And it certainly did. When we got back from the camp, rejoicing at what God had done, the youth pastor informed the clergy of that particular Methodist church what had happened, they choked on the fact that a number of us had been baptised.

 

And I understand their position. Having read church history, I know that the fierceness of the debate between the various baptism positions is outweighed by the debate over whether it is possible to be rebaptised, and the practical implications of such an idea. For example, the first great schism in the early church involved the Catholics and the group today known as the Copts. The argument was partially over whether a person, who, under the threat of torture or death, renounced their faith in Christ, whether this person, if he should repent again, be allowed to come back into the church. The Catholics said “yes, we should offer them grace”, the Copts said “no, our brothers and sisters died, but he renounced his faith to live, now he wants to come back in? never” and long story short, they split. Baptism was involved here, because it was the primary separating factor between a church member and an initiate or pagan. when you renounce your faith, you renounced your baptism, ergo you need to get baptised again to join the church.

“say what??!!, but they have been baptised already, they cannot be baptised again.”

Jump forward to the reformation times. While reforming the church the Martin Luthers and the John Calvins changed many things, going back to the scriptures to get models for theology and conduct. One thing they didn’t change was their baptism theology, which we shall call “infant baptism” for now.

There was however, at least one group that read their bible and realised that, “hey babies aren’t baptised in the bible.” So they, as adults baptised themselves. This caused huge problems because both Catholic and Protestants
All three groups and myself agree that a person can only be baptised once. To get around the problem presented by its opponents, the Anabaptists claimed that infant baptism is not true baptism, thus adult baptism is the biblical “first and only”. The Catholics and the Protestants, disagreed and there was a fair amount of persecution that followed.overwhelmingly agreed (correctly) that a person cannot be baptised again. This new group of Anabaptists were not helped by their name, which meant “re-baptisers”.

Let us get back to the point in hand. Hopefully this gives a slightly clearer picture of the problem at hand. Myself and several others had just been “re-baptised” in the eyes of my church.

The end result was, the youth pastor was moved on, and I began growing in holiness, taking the first baby steps of being a Christian. That church, which I have since left for other reasons, considers my baby baptism the key event, I however don’t. That day I repented, that is the day I got baptised, and as I will try to demonstrate next few posts, the bible tells me so.

 

In this series I will seek connect our orthopraxis with our orthodoxy, that is, look at what the bible says before making up my mind about the subject. If you have any questions or testimonies, about baptism I would love to here from you; feel free to drop a comment below. However, I am not, at this time opening the comment section for debating this theology yet. Save it for later, your chance is coming.

 

Introduction To Deuteronomy 01

Text: Overview of Deuteronomy; Sermon by Andrew Zekveld

The South African Expositor’s Podcast

The Spiritual Network 02

Text: Luke 11:27-28; Sermon by Clint Archer

The South African Expositor’s Podcast

The Spiritual Network 01

Text: Luke 11:27-28; Sermon by Clint Archer

The South African Expositor’s Podcast