Saturday, December 23, 2006

Theology and Youth

The days of Disney entertainment youth ministries and glorified daycare youth ministries appear numbered in the phenomenon known as American student ministry. And I say, AMEN.

With men like Jay Strack, Alvin Reid and Doug Fields Raising the Bar, there appears to be a fresh wind of doctrinal teaching blowing across the landscape of student ministry. This wind seems to have its roots in the void that was left by the game-centered youth ministries of the 80’s.

The importance of this change cannot be minimized. More and more student ministers are coming to realize the importance of teaching theology and expositing Scriptures. More are realizing: if you get youth to church on a hamburger they will leave for a hot-dog. The realization that we cannot and should not compete with Hollywood or Disney for the attention of youth is revolutionizing student ministry. The concept of getting them in on the Word of God is a welcome and reviving change.

Doctrine is essential to solid student ministries and I will give 2 reasons why Student ministers should teach their youth systematic theology. The first is the essential reason; the second is the practical reason.

1. By in large there is a void in theological aptitude in the Churches in America.

Of the churches I have been a part of, there has been a theological naiveté in many members when it comes to soteriology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, eschatology, hamartiology, and more. I do not fault the members, as much as I fault the pastors and youth pastors. This naiveté is seen in theological pop writing, blogs and psychology of the day, as well as cultish beliefs. Theology is essential to the life of a church. Just ask Baptists who have lost members to the JW’s.

2. Youth are very receptive to studying theology.

Anyone who has dealt with youth knows that teens make up a sub-culture that is very teachable and open to spiritual ideas. George Barna’s Real Teens testifies to this. This generation is perhaps the most spiritually open generation we have seen. Further, as evidenced on blogs, many of those participating in theological discussions are young men and women. This is especially true of those who approach theology with an open mind and a desire to learn. Oh, that we would all be teachable in theology.

The issues that we have covered on this blog: holiness, baptism, tongues, etc are theological issues. I am of the firm opinion that student pastors should be just as well-trained in theology as pastors and like senior pastors, they should teach theology (they may find the students are more open and receptive than the older generation).

I encourage all student pastors to take their students through a systematic theology curriculum. I say this as one who has done so. (Relying heavily on Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology I developed a curriculum which I used, to teach both youth and adults systematic theology. The youth had many more questions and were far more engaged.)

Further, since youth are very involved in blogs, a blog would be an excellent place for a student pastor to allow his youth to discuss theological issues they may have covered in their meetings.

PS – I have received some e-mails asking me to respond to Wade’s post about me and my thoughts on Baptism. I purposed to not allow this blog to be about personalities but about subjects. Therefore, I have no desire to get into any type of posting battle involving personalities, which would only have negative affects on my already too sinful pride.

However, to be fair to his concerns and questions I have posted a response in my comments under the previous post. The response is dated 12/23/2006 2:43 PM. I think we should gladly seek truth in this realm. I feel however, the truth seeking should be solely about subjects, not individuals.

Further, if you want to discuss this, please post your comments under the previous post as this one deals with teaching students theology. Thank you in advance and may all have a Merry Christmas. I will be posting some thoughts on Christmas soon.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Baptism, BFM2K, M's and Youth

In concluding our topic of baptism I submit my thoughts. These thoughts, as well as the other theological topics we have discussed, have prompted me to express how important I think it is to teach youth theology. This will be the topic of my next post. I think any pastor / youth pastor / youth worker / parent will find our next post interesting, especially in light of the theological discussions we are currently having.

The wisdom of Dr. Adrian Rogers and the BFM2K committee is evident in our current discussion on baptism. The committee rightly understood that baptism is an ordinance given to the local church as a prerequisite to church membership (article VII). Almost prophetically they protected the SBC from the consequences of holding otherwise. What lies at the root of their reasoning has to be the meaning of ekklesia.

Ekklesia is the Greek word for “church.” Ekklesia is a compound word from ek and Kaleo. Ek means “out of” and Kaleo means “to call.” Thus, a literal rendering of the two words placed together would be: “to call out of.” And yet, any Greek lexicon will inform its readers that the word during NT times meant an assembly, or to assemble, or a gathering. In fact, Louw and Nida state, “Though some persons have tried to see in the term ekklesia more or less literal meaning of ‘called-out ones,’ this type of etymologizing is not warranted either by the meaning of ekklesia in NT times or even by its earlier usage. The term ekklesia was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well-defined membership.”

It’s origin came from the Greek city-states that would have a town crier who would “call out” a group of people to assemble for town business. This assembly was known as an ekklesia. A local assembly is much more in line with a local visible church than some universal invisible church (which is as intangible as it is invisible).

With a misunderstanding of ekklesia some argue that the “Great Commission” was given to the invisible universal church. However, the text (Matt 28:18-20) clearly states Jesus gave it to the disciples, who remained in Jerusalem and apparently gave it to the local church, which formed on the day of Pentecost. This deduction is arrived by understanding both the meaning of ekklesia and the authority of the local church in Acts.

There seems to be universal agreement among Baptists that baptism is a church ordinance. The question is which church: the local visible one or the universal invisible one? In the NT, of the 114 times ekklesia is used, AT LEAST 109 times it is used of the local visible church, which accords with its meaning as an assembly.

Further, in the book of Acts we have no indication that disciples went out preaching and baptizing without the authority of the local church. The assumption that Phillip preached to and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch without the authority of the church in Jerusalem is an assumption which appears to be at odds with the rest of Acts. Even the apostle (missionary) to the gentiles (PAUL) went forth under the authority of the local church (Acts 11:22; 11:30; 13:2-4).

Thus, the BFM2K committee rightly arrived at the conclusion that the ordinances were given to the local church. This is a way for the church to proclaim the work of Christ and to keep her members accountable (Lord’s Supper/Church Discipline). If one removes these ordinances from the local church, negative consequences follow; not the least of which is the fact that one has removed 1) one of the ways the church proclaims who Christ is and who she is, and 2) THE WAY she keeps her members accountable (Lord’s Supper/Church Discipline).

This is instrumental in understanding the proclamation of one’s baptism. For when one is baptized he is proclaiming, to the world, the local CHURCH’S understanding of what took place when he was saved. If the church understands that when one gets saved he is saved by the work of Christ and will “endure to the end” (BFM2K Article V), and that the old man dies and is buried and the new man is raised in Christ Jesus then this understanding of salvation is what is expressed to the watching world through the doctrine of the local church and baptism by immersion (a symbol of the old dying and the new being raised in Christ).

If one were to watch a baby sprinkled in a Lutheran church one would walk away understanding the baby was “baptized” according to the church’s understanding of baptism, not the baby’s.

Further, if baptism symbolizes what each individual believes took place in his salvation rather than what the church believes, then baptism has lost all meaning, for no one knows what is being symbolized, except the individual himself.

Therefore, if the church understands salvation to be a type of works salvation (i.e. one can lose his salvation by evil works) then that is what is proclaimed at baptism. Those who are watching the baptism understand it to symbolize what the church believes, for they do not know what the individual believes. Baptism is a symbol of salvation and if there is a heretical understanding of salvation by the church then that is what is symbolized.

That is why we do not accept those who are baptized into the LDS church, for, no matter how well they understood salvation when they were baptized, what was proclaimed was the LDS understanding of salvation.

I have no doubt there are individuals who had a correct understanding of salvation when they were saved and baptized, but were baptized in a church that had an incorrect view of salvation (i.e. some will lose their salvation). Further, I am confident many of them are now Southern Baptists and desire to serve our convention and our Lord through international missions. I believe some may even feel singled out and left out because of our IMB policy.

But let us be clear that the policy is based upon the BFM2K, which is based on Scripture. It is based on the understanding that as Southern Baptists we believe those who are saved will endure to the end, and we believe baptism is an ordinance given to the local church. As such we do not want to pay with CP funds those who believe otherwise, or who have testified otherwise by their baptisms. For me the solution seems simple…if one is baptized by a church with an incorrect view of salvation, be rebaptized!

This is what took place in Acts 19:5, when some believers thought salvation was just a salvation of repentance. They had proclaimed such at their baptisms, but when they came to understand it was a salvation into Jesus Christ they desired to proclaim that and so were rebaptized.

If I were in this position I hope I would want to communicate the true meaning of what took place when I was saved.

Finally, there is no doubt that the CP is the envy of other mission organizations. Were I a member of another denomination and felt led to international missions I would certainly entertain the thought of becoming a Southern Baptist. In fact, that would be much more attractive, than coming back every year and trying to raise funds. Our missionaries are well taken care of, because they are our heroes. But our care has not gone unnoticed by members of other denominations.

What if a member of another denomination were to join one of our churches and still maintain his belief that he could lose his salvation? What if such a one applied to be one of our missionaries? Or worse, what if we widened the tent to include all Assembly of God churches as Southern Baptist Churches?

One of the ways our IMB Trustees have protected us from such was by implementing this policy. I appreciate their protection of the Southern Baptist’ belief that one who is saved will endure to the end. I appreciate their fidelity in protecting CP funds from going to any who would not hold to the BFM. I appreciate all Christian missionaries, even those who are not Southern Baptists, but I desire to pay with CP funds only those who are Southern Baptist in belief.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Theologian on Baptism

The following is a message delivered by Dr. Russell D. Moore at the Ninth and O Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The audio version is available at

Please pay attention to the NT rebaptisms he notes, as well as how important the local church's proclamation of baptism is. The theological issue is not an individual's understadning of his baptism but what he is saying through the local church's proclamation of what Baptism means. This is the reason our IMB Trustees showed themselves theologically astute when they passed policies which protect SB from funding non-SB missionaries. I will share more on this later...for now may we learn from Dr. Moore in his message, "Will the Last Baptist Please Turn Off the Water Heater on the Way Out? Baptism, the Church, and the Glory of Christ."

Romans 6:1-11
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)

A Loss of Baptist Memory

Families sometimes have little peculiarities about them that we all know about but none of us really talk about, and as a church family, we have some of those kinds of things too. We have a strange name, Ninth and O Baptist Church. As a matter of fact, many of us have to explain all the time what we mean when we say that we go to Ninth and O Baptist Church. As one new resident of Louisville said to me, “I’m so confused. I bank at Fifth Third Bank and I go to Ninth and O Baptist Church, and I don’t know what any of it means.” So you have to stand back and explain, “Well, the name Ninth and O Baptist Church originated when there was a Ninth Street and an O Street, and we were located there. We are not there anymore, but that is where we used to be, at Ninth Street and O Street.” And it is appropriate that we keep the name. We want to make sure that we know we are still the same people who gathered together in 1906, we are still the same people who continued to pass the faith down through all of these years, and it is worth having to explain why we are named this every once in awhile.

One of the remarkable things is that all across the country sometimes people treat the idea of a Baptist church in the same way we treat the name Ninth and O. It is where we used to be. However, the name “Baptist” reflects our heritage. There were a group of people who believed that baptism was worth fighting for, baptism was worth drowning for, baptism was worth being executed for, baptism was worth being separated from the community for, and those are the kind of people from whence we have come. But we no longer really understand what that means.

This is one of the reasons why, when you look out across the country, you can see churches in which baptism has really become our Baptist version of a Bar Mitzvah. If you have not been baptized by the time you reach a certain age, something is wrong with you, something is wrong with your family, and there is great pressure to be baptized, whether or not you have ever come to know Christ. As a result, we have churches that will baptize unrepentant four-year-olds simply because the four-year-old understands, “I love Jesus, and I want to go to heaven.”

We have churches that will baptize people who continue to persist in unrepentant sin, who do not understand conviction of sin, simply because they agree to a certain number of facts. You can see this kind of downgrade when you have churches now that are discussing whether to make believer’s baptism by immersion optional so that there are some members of the congregation who have followed Christ in believer’s baptism, some members of the congregation who have been sprinkled as infants, and some members of the congregation who have had water poured over their heads as adults. In their view, baptism is simply a matter of the conscience of the individual.

There are some people, when they hear claims that Baptists have always made from the Scriptures throughout the centuries, claims that baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, who will act as though that is bigoted. When they hear Baptists saying what Baptists have always said, that it is not just the testimony of the individual that makes baptism, but that it is the testimony of the church, they will act as though that is arrogant and strange. Likewise, if you have a church that does not proclaim baptism as immersion, baptism as profession of faith, even if that church immerses an individual, and you tell them that it is not baptism, some people will act as though that is insane. They will act as though this is something novel. They will act as though this is something new. This is because for so long we have neglected who we are when it comes to this issue of baptism. We consider it to be something that is in our past, and that if we don’t talk about it, and if we don’t speak of it, then it is going to go away. As a matter of fact, we are living in a time where often I feel like asking, “Will the last Baptist left please turn off the water heater on the way out?”

The Apostle Paul’s Concern For Church Baptism

We need to understand, when we come to Romans and 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians and Ephesians and all of the places in the New Testament where the apostles are establishing the churches, how often they come back to the issue of baptism and how often they speak of baptism not as simply a past event in the life of a believer. They are continually reminding the congregations of baptism. Notice for instance what the apostle Paul is doing here in Romans. He speaks and presses the Roman church to engage with him in this Great Commission task not, after all, just to teach the nations but to baptize the nations. He points them to the issue of baptism. This is the way in which the church clarifies not just what we do in our baptisteries with water but who we actually are and what we actually do with our lives.

Notice first of all that when Paul turns to the Roman congregation he has already spoken to them of sin. He has spoken to them of human sin, and how universal sin is among both Jew and Gentile, “For all of us are sinners.” He has spoken about the cross of Jesus and Jesus bearing death and bearing wrath in our place. He has spoken of this gospel. Now he turns to the Roman congregation, and he speaks to them very pointedly of sin. And he speaks to them especially in terms of baptism.

What Paul is doing is saying that baptism proclaims union with Christ in His church. Notice what Paul does. He says, “All of us.” He is speaking to the congregation, to an entire group of people who would be gathered together reading this letter, and notice what he says. He asks them this specific question, “What are you going to say? Are you going to say we are going to continue to live in sin?” And that is a reasonable question that someone might ask.

Someone sitting in the congregation is saying, “Let’s see if I have got this right. This is what Paul is saying. Paul says that when God punishes sin in Jesus that brings great glory to God because He is demonstrating His wrath in Jesus. Jesus bears wrath. Jesus is the savior from sin. This glorifies the name of Jesus and that means when I stand up and say ‘I was a liar, Jesus died for my life.’ Then that brings glory to Jesus. Well, let’s bring more glory to Jesus.”

Of course, some take this to the wrong conclusion: antinomianism. Some say, “I can lie some more. If Jesus taking sin for my adultery brings glory to Jesus, well, I have got yet more adultery to do. We can have more glory for Jesus.” Paul turns around and says, “Have you lost your minds?” He says, “Are you crazy?” He says, “Don’t you know: how can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Then Paul turns them to baptism and says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized…” He speaks to the congregation as those who have been baptized. That is always the way the New Testament speaks to the church. It assumes that the church is made up of those who are baptized, so that Paul can say, for instance, “We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). You have Paul writing to the church at Colossae and he says to them in Colossians 2:12, “You were buried with Him in baptism.” He says, “Why are you arguing about circumcision? Why are you arguing about these things when you have the circumcision of Christ? You are hidden in Christ. You are buried with Christ. All of us were baptized into Christ Jesus.” In the New Testament, this is not simply an individual matter. However, that is often the way we speak of baptism. That is often the way people see baptism done or the way many of us even are counseled before we get into the baptistery.

For example, it is often described as you making a statement outwardly about an inward reality that you have experienced, kind of like a wedding ring. You wear a wedding ring in order to demonstrate and show that you are married. Well, there is a sense in which that is true but not exactly. Baptism is not like a wedding ring; baptism is like a wedding ceremony. It is the people of God gathered together and all of us are proclaiming something. All of us are saying something. And what we are saying is that we believe that this individual is in Christ. All the people of God gathered together are pronouncing and announcing, “This person is in Christ.” That is why we don’t do baptisms privately. We do baptisms gathered together with the people of God united together pronouncing this about this person. That is the way baptism always is in the New Testament.
John the Baptist, when he comes and begins his baptism of repentance down by the riverside proclaiming the gospel, proclaiming repentance, he is coming as a prophet, speaking to the people, “Repent and be baptized.” He is not speaking just as some rag tag individual. He is coming with the authority of God Himself, filled with the Spirit, announcing, “Be baptized.”

Jesus, when He is raised from the dead and He gives the authority to baptize, He gathers His apostles together and says, “All authority has been given to me. I give that authority to you.” He gives authority to the apostles, who Paul says form the foundation of a church, so that Jesus is able to say when you come together as a church, when you make decisions under the lordship of Jesus Christ, you are doing so with the authority of Christ himself. After all, Jesus says, when He talks about the discipline and the order of His church, “Where two or three are gathered in My name there I am with you,” Jesus is not saying, “I am going to tell you this so you won’t be discouraged if you have a small Sunday School class.” He is speaking specifically in terms of the discipline of the congregation. When you come together as a congregation and when you act in the name of Jesus, it is just as though Jesus Himself is acting.

That is why Paul, when he writes in 1 Corinthians 5 about the man in the congregation who is in unrepentant sin, says to the congregation, “When you are gathered together, assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus, you act to excommunicate, to discipline this man, to put him out from the church.” What are you doing? You are delivering him over to Satan for the discipline of God. You are doing so with authority. Now, does that mean that anything the church does, it does with the authority of Jesus? No, only when the church is gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus.

If I decide to get up and say, “You know what, I saw our pastor walking past my house last night and he was wearing shorts. His legs are too skinny to be wearing shorts. It disturbs the children. I think what we need to do is discipline our pastor for doing that. Let’s come together and let’s tell him you will either stop wearing shorts in the neighborhood or we are going to excommunicate you from the fellowship of Ninth and O Baptist Church.” Even if I am able to persuade all of you to do that, and I show your picture up on the screen, it ought not to be that way. And if we vote to discipline him, we have done absolutely nothing. We have no biblical ground to discipline our pastor for that action. It is not a violation of Scripture. We have said nothing except that we are a church who refused to be ruled by Jesus.

If, on the other hand, our pastor comes up next Sunday morning and stands in the pulpit and says, “Guess what everybody. I have decided to leave my wife. I have found me a new wife, a pit boss out in Las Vegas, and she is going to be a great first lady of this congregation. If you think you love my wife, you will really love Sally Sue, and I am going to bring her in here next week.” When the congregation gathers together and after we have gone to our pastor, and say, “Pastor, you need to repent of this. You need to stop this.” If he persists and says, “No, I am not going to stop,” and the congregation then says, “Well, we are going to remove you from the membership of the congregation,” what have we done? Paul says, “If you are gathered together under the authority of the Word of God, you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus.” What are you doing? You are making a pronouncement to our pastor that he needs to hear as though it is coming from Jesus himself.

This does not just work on the back end of church discipline; this works on the front end of church discipline as well. The congregation acting together as it is operating under the lordship of Jesus, is pronouncing that this brother, who is coming professing belief in Jesus Christ, will be raised with Jesus from the dead. This sister who is repenting of her sin will not be held guilty of the sin. Why? Because this brother and this sister are in Christ. If we immerse someone in that baptistery who does not know Jesus, we are saying nothing. But, if we gather together and baptize in that baptistery someone who is confessing Jesus, we are saying with the authority of the Word of God, “We recognize you as a believer and we are announcing that to you. It is not just that you are announcing something to us, we are also announcing something to you and we are announcing something to the world that we understand this to be what a brother in Christ, what a sister in Christ really is.” That is why in the book of Acts, whenever you have a marking out of the people of God it is “as many as believed were baptized.” The early Christian community is marking out. It is showing these are the boundaries of the church.

It matters, then, what the church is saying when it immerses someone in water. And it always has mattered. This is why the apostles, when they encounter some people who claim they were baptized, the apostles say, “Well, what kind of baptism?” And the people respond, “The baptism of John.” The apostles would then ask, “That is the baptism of repentance. Did you receive the Holy Spirit?”

To someone who comes into this church and says, “I was baptized by immersion on profession of faith in an LDS temple,” we are going to have to say, “The Latter Day Saints do not believe the gospel. They are not saying the correct thing about baptism. This was no baptism at all.”

If, in a much less extreme measure, someone comes in and says, “I was immersed in water. I was immersed in water by a congregation that believes the water itself creates the new birth, the water itself regenerates me;” then we have to say, “That is not baptism. Baptism marks out someone who is in Christ. Baptism does not put you in Christ. That is not baptism.”

If someone comes in and says, “I was baptized in a church that sprinkles babies and would also do any number of things, so I decided I wanted to be baptized by immersion;” then we need to say, “You may be saying something in that act, but the congregation was not saying something in that act. The congregation was not acting as the authority of Christ marking out the boundaries of the people of God.”

Paul writes and says all of us who were baptized were baptized where? You were baptized into Christ Jesus. Now, one of the things that we often want to do as contemporary people is to assume that this is some type of an abstract, generic reality. For the apostle Paul, this is not abstract at all. If you are baptized into Christ, if you participate with the Head, you participate with the body. As you are being baptized, you are being baptized into Christ, which includes what? You are also being baptized into His church, into His body. We are all announcing this together.

Baptism is not just into Christ. Notice what Paul says: baptism proclaims that you are united with Christ and His church. We are marking out that boundary. These are the people we recognize. This is why we don’t baptize babies. This is why we don’t baptize people who come in and say, “I am not ready to believe yet, but I want to be a part of this fellowship.” We don’t baptize them yet. They are welcome to be here, and we want our babies here. We don’t baptize them because they are not yet in Christ. And we mark that out with the boundary.

Baptism Proclaims Death with Christ

But, Paul says that baptism also proclaims union with Christ in His death and in His resurrection. The church is saying something in baptism, but what is it saying? He says, “Don’t you know that all of you who were baptized were baptized into His death?” Notice what he is saying here. He is saying when we are baptizing someone, we are speaking about judgment.

Water always represents in the Bible this coming judgment of God so that Peter is able to stand and say, “Just as the flood came and judged the old creation, judged the old world and a few people were brought safely through the flood, and all the way through to a new creation, ‘You have been saved through baptism’” (1 Pet 3:18-22). What is he saying? He specifically says it is not the baptism that saves you, it is an appeal to God for a good conscience. What are we doing in baptism? We are saying just as that flood poured over the old creation, wiped out the old creation, at the end of it humanity started all over again.

Just as Paul said to the Corinthians, the Israelites were baptized when they went through the Red Sea, all the way through and to the other end when they come to the Promised Land, just in that way you have been baptized (1 Cor 10). How? Because Jesus speaks of His crucifixion as a baptism. He consistently says, “I have a baptism that I am to undergo.” Jesus undergoes the waters of God’s wrath, the waters of the curse of death. He is judged. And when we are baptizing a sinner, what we are saying is, “We believe that this sinner has been judged in Christ,” which means that every baptism is all about repentance. “I’m coming into the baptismal waters agreeing that God has every right to wipe me away. I am agreeing that I am worthy of death. And not only am I agreeing with that, but the entire congregation is proclaiming that.”

However, not only that, as John the Baptist says, “I am going to baptize you with water. One is coming later who will baptize you with fire” (Matt 3:11). We understand that this one has already been judged. Just as when the flood came, God remembered Noah. He brought him through to the other end. We, in the act of baptism, are saying, “We believe this person through faith is united with Jesus in His judgment, in His death, in His burial. This person will not be abandoned by God. This person has already been abandoned by God. This person will not be put away to the grave ultimately. This person has already been put away to the grave. This person will not experience hell. This person already experienced hell at Golgotha hill 2000 years ago.” We proclaim this as a congregation when we are putting that person under the water.

This is specifically why Jesus, when He gives us the marking of baptism, gives us immersion. We go down into the water, and as some of you who are hydrophobic remember from the day in which you were baptized, that can be a traumatic experience. You are completely at the whim of the person putting you under the water. You have to trust that person as he is doing something we don’t naturally do. We don’t ask our friends, “Why don’t you come on over later and have a few diet cokes, and maybe you can hold my head under the water for a little while?” We don’t normally do this. We are put under the water, and we are trusting that pastor to lift us up out of the water.

What are we announcing individually and corporately? We are announcing that Jesus underwent the abandonment of God. He underwent the wrath of God. He was buried. He was placed in a hole in the ground, but God remembered Jesus. He was brought back from the dead. This person has already experienced that. This person may be put into a grave one day. God will in Christ remember this person, and just as I am trusting you to lay me underneath this water where I can’t breath, I am completely helpless and I am trusting that you will pull me back up. By faith I am trusting that when they lay me in the ground that you will pull me up through word of Christ. We are all announcing that together. Paul says, “Don’t you realize if you have been baptized you have been baptized into death.”

We had a lady at a church I served at one time who was not a member of the church. I was shocked because she was there all the time. She and her husband were active in everything. She was there every time that the doors of the church were open, but she wasn’t a member of the church. And I said, “What’s the deal with her?” Somebody said, “Well, she is a Methodist. She doesn’t believe in anything that Methodists believe. She believes just like we do, but she won’t be baptized.” I said, “Well, why not?” They said, “It is kind of embarrassing because she has gotten to the point where she has been here so long and she goes to the beauty parlor. And she knows that she has a very sizeable bouffant hairdo, and she knows that when she comes up out of the water that is going to be a humiliating experience. Her hair is going to be all messed up. She is going to have to come out of the water looking like that.” I said, “It is a humiliating experience. It is more humiliating than she knows. She is coming up out of that water as an executed criminal, not just as a lady with a messed up bouffant hairdo. She is coming up out of that water as somebody who has been judged in Christ, as somebody who has gone through the waters of death.”

We are fishing a dead person out of that baptistery. That is what is happening in baptism. Paul writes and he says, “All of you who have been baptized have been baptized into His death. You have already experienced judgment, so why then would you continue in sin?” Why then would you continue to harp at one another, to bite at one another, and to refuse to forgive one another? If you are standing in your house and a pit bull is attacking your child, you are perfectly within your reason to take up a gun and to shoot it in the head. “Boom!” And it may be that you want to make sure that thing is dead, and you hear, “Boom! Boom!” But, if the neighborhood hears, “Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!” somebody is going to come along and say, “I think the thing is dead.” This is overkill.

When we are all baptized what we are saying is, “You know, in case we have any illusions, we understand we already announced that we are all sinners in here. And we have already announced that we all deserve the judgment of God. As a matter of fact, we already announced that everybody who is a member of this church deserves to be in hell. That is already clarified. We clarified it back in that baptistery. You deserve to be in hell and so do I. You have already been judged, so I don’t need to do it. You have already been condemned, so I don’t need to do it. And God has already in Christ announced whose side He is on, and that is that of Jesus Christ’s. You are in Him. You are forgiven. You are found. You are received.”

What Paul says is that baptism brings freedom. Notice what he says, “If you are dead, if your old man has been crucified with Him, it has been brought to nothing, you have already been set free. You have already been raised from the dead, then why would you live to sin? Why would you continue to live in sin?” What Paul is saying here is almost exactly the same thing that almost 2000 years later would be said by George Jones. “He stopped loving her today.” Why? “Because he is dead. They put a wreath on his door. They carried him away. He has no feeling for her because he is a dead man.” Paul says, “You walked with sin but now you are dead.” If you are dead that arrangement is already over with. You have been drowned in Christ.

There may come a day when I drop dead. My wife, Maria, may decide she is going to find somebody else. He may come into my house and throw away all my books and take down my Mississippi flag, and he may play golf or some such thing and fill the house with that. She may bring him into this church. You come up to her and you can say all kinds of things, but you cannot call her an adulteress. She will say, “The cricket chirps no more. He is gone. That little man is dead and in the grave, and I am perfectly free now to marry someone else.” You know, she is right. It might be tacky for her to do that, but it is perfectly legal to do that and she has every freedom to do that.

Baptism Proclaims the New Life in Christ

Paul says, “That is the same situation with you. You are not in that old arrangement anymore because that old man is now dead, so why do you act like you continue to still walk in it? You are now freed from that.” But, Paul doesn’t just say that to individuals. Paul says that to the church. It is your responsibility as the church to see baptism as something. It is not just that I reckon myself as an individual. We reckon ourselves dead to sin. We reckon ourselves crucified with Christ. We reckon ourselves raised into newness with life, which is precisely why in the New Testament baptism is not just some little thing that we do. Baptism defines who we are. We are the “submerging church.” This is who we are, what we do, what we mean when we say a Christian is someone who has walked with Jesus through the grave and into newness of life.

That baptistery tells you what Ninth and O Baptist Church believes about the gospel of Jesus Christ. That baptistery tells you what Ninth and O Baptist Church believes about the identity of the church. But, that baptistery is also an invitation. That baptistery says to any one of you in this room outside of Christ, “Come to believe in Jesus. You can be united with Him in His death, in His burial, and in His resurrection. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven. There is no death that can hold you. Jesus, having died once and for all, is never going to die again. If you will be found in Him you will have freedom.”

An Invitation

We will be glad to announce that, and announce that not just to this community, and not just to this church, but to all of the principalities and powers in the waters of baptism. There are some of you in this room who have never been baptized. There are some of you who attend this church but you have never followed Christ in baptism. Let me tell you, this is a matter of obedience to Christ. There are some of you who may have even found yourself in the membership of this church, but you realized the baptism that you received was no baptism at all. You were not a believer when you were baptized. You came to belief at a later time. What happened to you was a dunking in water. Some of you may say, “Yes, I was baptized in a church that did any number of things with water and I chose one of them.” You were not baptized. You did not have announced by the congregation your crucifixion and resurrection with Christ. And there are many of us who will often say, “You know, I have kind of been here so long, it is a matter of pride.” This is not an optional issue. Jesus says, “Follow Me.” That means, “Follow Me through the water, too.”

But, it is not just an invitation to unbelievers. It is an invitation to all of us as believers to remember something, that in our baptisms we have already announced our hiddenness in Christ. We have already announced that all of us in this room found in Christ are really found in Him. So, why do I continue to persist in unrepentance? Why do I continue to persist in unrepentance as though I was still that man? Why do you continue to judge one another in this congregation as though you didn’t already make it clear you are a crucified man, you are an executed woman, you are a drowned criminal? Let’s remember after a hundred years, when we say we are Ninth and O, we are saying something about people we ought to be proud of, about people who gave a great deal, people who established a church, and people who stood by the faithfulness of Scripture and a heritage that we want to continue. And when we say that we are Baptists, let’s remember we are not just talking about where we came from. We are talking about where we are going: to the glory of Christ.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Baptism: what is it?

We begin our study into baptism with the following article by Dr. Thomas White. Again, for the sake of space, the footnotes are not included but you can read them with the article at

On another note the Joshua Convergence webpage has a new article up:) You can view it at


“What Makes Baptism Valid?”

by: Dr. Thomas White

Practically every church in the world requires their members to be baptized. Thus, a large portion of the world’s population believes they have experienced proper baptism; however, Baptist churches do not accept all of these baptisms. In fact, much confusion exists over what constitutes valid baptism. Some believe in the validity of infant baptism while others accept only believers’ baptism. Some practice baptism by sprinkling or pouring while others only immerse. Some divide over the doctrine of baptism while others consider it a minor doctrine of little importance.

Perhaps some categories may help us embark upon an investigation of this issue. A Christian baptism could be validated by continuing in the historical tradition of the “Christian church.” If valid baptism is based on the foundation of Christian tradition, then Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and other Protestant groups which make up the “Christian tradition” possess valid baptism. The Baptists are part of the Christian tradition yet do not accept as valid the baptism of these other groups. Baptists generally refer back to Scripture in an effort to determine what is baptism according to Scripture alone. Based on their understanding of Scripture, Baptists have denied the validity of infant and non-immersion baptisms. Thus, a second category could be scriptural baptism. This essay will focus primarily on what Scripture has to say about baptism but will secondarily discuss the view of the Baptist tradition on baptism as the author deems it relevant.

In order to discuss completely the ordinance of baptism, this paper will address six overlapping categories. Some of these categories have been more emphasized by Baptists than others and some of them have been the central problem in controversies. Nevertheless, one must examine and determine the importance of these six aspects in order to understand baptism. This author will now list these categories with a brief sentence of how they relate. The remainder of the article will explain in more detail the importance of each category, attempting to focus more attention on the more problematic elements and providing historical illumination where beneficial. As always, the Bible is the final source of authority.

Six Categories of Baptism

I. Subject: The subject of baptism must be a believer. Any other subject cannot make a profession of faith or identify with Christ or His church.

II. Mode: Immersion is the proper mode of baptism. No other mode is supported by Scripture.

III. Meaning: Baptism is not essential for salvation and does not grant an elevated status of sinlessness. Baptism is the profession of the believer placing his/her allegiance with Christ, and the initiatory ordinance into the local church. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

IV. Church: Proper baptism must be performed in connection with a true church. Baptism is a church ordinance and not a Christian ordinance. As this is perhaps the least understood view, a necessary discussion of the definition of a true church must also occur.

V. Administrator: The administrator should be someone selected by the local church. Overemphasis on this can lead to problems, as it did with the Donatists.

VI. Formula: The traditional formula is baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost in older times). Valid baptism must at the very least be in Jesus’ name.

I. The Subject of Baptism

Baptists have historically understood baptism in its most basic definition to have a believer as the subject and immersion as the mode. Many New Testament examples could be discussed to lay the foundation for believers as the proper subjects of baptism; however, only a few will be mentioned. For a complete discussion, this author has written another article dedicated to this topic which should be consulted. First, the Great Commission of Christ states that we are to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them….” People must first be made disciples or become believers before baptism. Peter states in Acts 2:38, “repent and be baptized.” Repentance leads one to become a believer before baptism. Philip preached the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch and the eunuch then requested baptism. While many Pedobaptists appeal to the household baptisms in Acts as precedent for infant baptism, careful study demonstrates no foundation anywhere in the Scriptures for infant baptism. The Scriptures know of only believers as the subjects of baptism. Infant baptism did not begin until a few hundred years after Christ, based upon a misconception of original sin. The Council of Carthage in A.D. 258 discussed how infants should be baptized, thus demonstrating the newness of infant baptism and an improper theological view of the practice.

II. The Mode of Baptism

Baptists have universally held that immersion is the only proper mode of baptism, and without immersion there is no true baptism. The New Testament continually uses the word baptizo. This Greek word has been brought directly into the English language as the word, “baptize.” Properly translated, instead of transliterated, this word means “immerse.” One may consult any number of Greek lexicons and even Pedobaptist scholars to support this definition. Perhaps the writing of John Calvin himself should be read. In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin wrote, “But whether the person being baptized should be wholly immersed, and whether thrice or once, whether he should only be sprinkled with poured water—these details are of no importance, but ought to be optional to churches according to the diversity of countries. Yet the word ‘baptize’ means to immerse, and it is clear that the rite of immersion was observed in the ancient church.” For additional evidence from history, one need only visit the ruins of ancient churches, noticing the variety of immersion baptistries in those churches. The question may arise, How did sprinkling become a common practice? William Wall, a Pedobaptist, explains in his History of Infant Baptism:

Now, Calvin had not only given his Dictate, in his Institutions, that the difference is of no moment, whether thrice or once; or whether he be only wetted with the water poured on him: But he had also drawn up for the use of his church at Geneva (and afterward published to the world) a form of administering the sacraments, where, when he comes to the order of baptizing, he words it thus: Then the minister of baptism pours water on the infant; saying, I baptize thee, etc. There had been, as I said, some Synods in the Dioceses of France that had spoken of affusion without mentioning immersion at all; that being the common practice; but for an Office or Liturgy of any church; this is, I believe the first in the world that prescribes affusion absolutely.

It quickly becomes obvious that church history and not Scripture forms the basis for any other mode than immersion. Lastly, the symbolic representation of the ordinance, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, can only be fulfilled by immersion. Immersion is so central to baptism that without it the ordinance is nullified.

III. The Meaning of Baptism

The vast majority of Baptists have always believed that baptism is a symbolic ordinance which identifies the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To a lesser degree than in the past, Baptists have identified the ordinance of baptism as the following: 1) the believer’s public profession of faith, 2) the believer’s identification with Christ, and 3) the initiatory ordinance into the local church. All of these meanings of baptism have scriptural foundation. The identification of baptism as symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and the Christian comes from Rom 6:3–4, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Baptism as the believer’s public profession of faith comes from Acts 2:38, where Peter states, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sin.” This close association with salvation also indicates the importance of baptism. Philip, when presenting the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, did so in such a way that the eunuch responded not with a prayer or by signing a card, but by asking to be baptized.

Baptism also served as the initiatory ordinance into the local church. Matthew 28:19–20 states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The Commission is to make disciples. The acceptance of Christ is an inward decision of faith and repentance. This decision is made public by baptizing the believer in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, in order to teach them all things, they must then associate or gather for further instruction. The place for this teaching is the New Testament church. In Acts, baptisms resulted in the recipients gathering daily for additional instruction. The ecclesia or local church of the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Commission of Christ. The New Testament knows nothing of baptized believers not associated with a local church.

Perhaps this author should also identify what baptism is not. The Churches of Christ, formed initially by Alexander Campbell in the nineteenth century, among other denominations, believed that baptism was essential for salvation. While many such groups no longer believe what their founders taught, Oneness Pentecostals continue to teach the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Although many passages could be used, this author has chosen two passages as evidence to dismiss such claims. First, the thief on the cross did not experience baptism and yet that very day he was in the presence of the Lord. Luke 23:42–43 states, “And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’ And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’” Second, Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17 states, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” If baptism were required for salvation, Paul would never have made this claim. Thus, baptism is not essential for salvation.

The more dangerous option for Baptists today is minimizing the ordinance to the point of irrelevance. By tacking baptism onto the end of services focused on other subjects, by neglecting to allow the recipient an opportunity to make a profession of faith, and by not investigating a new member’s baptism before extending the right hand of fellowship, some Baptist churches have practically, if not intellectually, minimized the importance of this ordinance. Many pieces of evidence could be cited to note the importance of the ordinance; however, the “Great Commission” of Christ should suffice. Christ included many things by saying, “teach them to observe all things,” but he specifically pointed out “making disciples” and “baptizing.” The mention of this ordinance by name and immediately following the command to make disciples should adequately place emphasis on the ordinance.

Without the proper meaning, baptism is nothing more than the dunking of the individual in water. The proper meaning is essential to proper baptism. Does the recipient have to understand everything in theology? No. However, the subject must understand that baptism is not salvific, grants no additional grace, and does not insure sinlessness. Because the subject must understand, the subject cannot be an infant. The subject should also accept that baptism is the public profession of faith, identification with Christ, and the door to the local church.

IV. The Place for Baptism—the Local Church

An essential part of this discussion is the definition of a true church. Thus, later in this section, the definition of a true church will be discussed. However, for now it is enough to note that the ordinances (for this discussion, baptism) separate para-church groups, seminary classrooms, and private Bible studies from being churches. The ordinances logically are administered by the local church and more specifically true churches. Most Christian churches reject Mormon, Hindu, Scientology, or Muslim baptisms, should they perform them, because they are not true churches and the meaning of the ordinances is irrevocably harmed. This is not baptism into Christ but a false religion. Valid Christian baptism is into Christ alone. For proof of this one need only look at Acts 19:1-5 where Paul required rebaptism of a group of followers who had been baptized with John’s baptism but not Christ’s. If a baptism as closely related to Christ’s baptism as John’s would not do, then nothing other than baptism into Christ will do.

How does one receive baptism into Christ? Can a six-year-old boy in his backyard lead a friend to Christ and baptize him? Will the local church accept that baptism as valid? Typically this strikes us as unwise. Why? Because the ordinance should be practiced by the church and not by an individual, a seminary or a denomination. The gathered believers should see the person’s baptism and accept him or her into fellowship. It is a church ordinance. Thus, baptism must be associated with a local church. Moreover, it is wisest to have the candidate actually make a confession before we baptize them “upon the profession of faith.” Such an important profession should occur in front of as many members of the church as possible and be taken as a seriously responsibility of the local church. Proper baptism helps create the community desired by Christ for His churches.

One immediate question arises with regard to missionary baptisms. The missionary is sent by the local church for the purpose of establishing more churches. Nothing could have a closer church connection than missionary baptisms. By having baptism linked to the authority given by Christ to the local church, one may safeguard baptism and regenerate church membership by ruling out all false churches. Accurate wording here clarifies all the various movements which alter the Gospel message while also avoiding the problems of historical high-churchism. The problem arises when one’s definition of a “true church” is incorrect. If, as the Landmark movement did, one adds the incorrect requirements to the “being” of a church, then local church authority can be distorted and result in problems. Thus, this discussion will now address the proper definition of a “true church.”

The Definition of a True Church

Category 1: Being (esse)
A. Gospel
B. Ordinances
C. Believers intentionally gathered

Category 2: Well-Being (bene esse)
A. Offices (pastor and deacon)
B. Church Discipline
C. Baptism by immersion of believers
D. Memorial view of the Lord’s Supper
E. Regenerate congregation
F. Missionary focus
G. Expositional preaching, etc.

The above chart contains two classifications. These two classifications allow one to discuss the various marks of the true church without de-churching large majorities of the evangelical world. The first category contains what is essential for the “being” or existence of a true church. At the very minimum, you must have a few believers who have intentionally gathered for the purpose of being a church with the Gospel presented and the ordinances administered.

At a Minimum

Let us look at what happens should one of these be removed. If you remove the Gospel, you do not have anything Christian. This could be any number of cults, and it is not logical to conclude that such a gathering could constitute a Christian church. Thus, the Gospel must be present. If you remove the ordinances administered, then any Bible study group, seminary class, or para-church ministry could be a church. As this is certainly not the case, the ordinances must exist for the “being” of a church. The purpose of the believers gathered together demonstrates the intent to be a church. A true church is intentional and does not occur on accident. Furthermore, a true church at a minimum must contain some believers who intentionally gathered for the purpose of being a church.

Adding to the Minimum

Okay, so you want to move something from the “well-being” category to the “being” category? For argument’s sake and for clarity, let us explore the options. If the offices (pastor and deacon) are moved into the “being” of a church, then when the pastor leaves one church for another or retires, that church ceases being a true church for a time. In addition, a church plant with no elected deacons would not be a true church until such time as they had men qualified and elected. These two offices are essential to the wellbeing of a church. While a church may continue without one or both offices temporarily, a continuance of this state will result in negative consequences.

If church discipline is moved into the “being” of a church, then half of the Southern Baptist Convention, and most denominations which do not practice church discipline, have immediately been un-churched. Also, this means that one overlooked occurrence or improperly handled case results in the loss of being a true church. This was the contention of J.R. Graves against the First Baptist Church of Nashville and R.B.C. Howell in the middle of the 1800s. Church discipline protects the regenerate church membership, seeks restoration, and adds meaning to membership, but it does not belong in the marks of a true church. It adds greatly, however, to the “well-being” of a church.

If the ordinances “rightly administered,” as Calvin put it, are moved into the category of the “being” of a church, you have Landmarkism. In essence, you have just un-churched all Pedobaptist gatherings. While baptism is properly executed by immersion of believers, and while the Lord’s Supper is a memorial ordinance looking back at Christ’s death, around in fellowship, and forward in anticipation, the proper practice of these ordinances cannot be added to the “being” of a church without repeating historical mistakes.

While Baptists and dissenting groups through history may desire to move the believer’s church into a mark for the “being of the church,” Augustine’s arguments are well heeded. He argued against the Donatists that a truly regenerate church was not possible. While the Donatists and Baptists were and are right to seek after truly regenerate congregational membership, the requirement of such would result in constant evaluation of which churches are true and which are faulty. The effort and desire to have a regenerate church membership and the attainment of regenerate church membership adds greatly to the well-being of a church. Refusing to strive for a regenerate church is where Augustine erred. Giving up on seeking regenerate church membership harms the well-being of the church. Church discipline should help maintain this mark of the “wellbeing” of a church once it has been achieved. If one were to move regenerate church membership to the “being” of a church, then most churches of any tradition would be unchurched.

The marks of well-being could go on indefinitely. While a missionary focus and expositional preaching add to the “well-being” of a church, neither should be required for the “being” of a church. Other marks such as the Bible as the only standard for faith and practice, a desire to fulfill the Great Commission, and a ministry to widows and orphans should be beneficial. Any number of focused ministries could be added to the “wellbeing,” but the point is made. While many things add to the “well-being” of a church, the definition of the “being” of a true church should only include believers gathered together, presenting the Gospel, and administering the ordinances.

V. The Administrator of Baptism

Baptists have typically not focused upon the administrator of baptism as being essential. However, clarification of this area alleviates many problems. The largest problem arose with a group called the Donatists. This group sought to invalidate baptisms performed by ministers who had handed over the Scriptures during times of persecution. By holding that such traitorous ministers were not valid ministers, they placed too much authority for baptism in the administrator rather than in the ordinance and its meaning. Augustine argued against this movement, noting that if a minister were to have a moral failure late in his ministry, then that would invalidate all his previous baptisms. This places too much responsibility on the recipient to choose wisely who performs the baptism and creates some unscriptural power in the administrator. The spirituality of the administrator does not give credence to baptism.

Although the administrator does not determine validity, wisdom should be used in who performs the ordinance. The ordinance which must be connected to the local church needs for that church to appoint the administrator. While no biblical mandate exists for ordination of the administrator, the local church typically “sets apart” certain men for service to the church. Each church may appoint or set apart whomever it wishes to perform the ordinance, but within the bounds of Scripture. Typically, the pastor or a staff member will perform the ordinance. In their absence, a deacon could also administer the ordinance. This author sees practical problems with opening up too widely who can perform the ordinance. The administrator should be an example to the congregation and not just any member in good standing, which could include a recently divorced single parent, a part-time attending father, or an eight-year-old school boy. In the end, however, the validity of baptism is not derived from the administrator.

VI. The Formula for Baptism

A complete discussion of the formula throughout history would take more space than this brief article will allow. In brief, Scripture presents three possibilities concerning the formula for baptism. The most common formula can be found in Acts 2:38 where Peter states, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” In Acts 19:5, Paul mentions baptism in name of the Lord Jesus. This is also mentioned in Acts 8:16, and10:48. A second but related formula appears in Galatians 3:27, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ.” The third and most popular formula can only be found in Matt 28:19, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

This author believes that the different wording poses neither a problem nor represents mutually exclusive formulas. The reason for this belief comes from the early evidence of the use of the triune formula found only once in Scripture. The Didache states, “Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Justin Martyr wrote, “For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water.” Other early fathers could be quoted to demonstrate the use of the Trinitarian formula but for the purposes of this essay, the previously mentioned quotes should suffice.

What is essential is that baptism occurs in the name of Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity. It is identification with Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, that is essential. Because some in this generation use the name Jesus but do not hold to the triune presentation of God found in the New Testament, the use of the triune formula given in Matt 28:19 is the best choice. The formula clarifies what the baptismal candidate is doing. The candidate is identifying himself with and pledging allegiance to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There are some who insist upon baptism in “Jesus’ name” for salvation. This article has already dealt with the fact that baptism is not salvific and has given reasons why. It is enough to dismiss any argument vying for baptism in Jesus’ name alone to say that Jesus himself recommended the triune formula. The authority for baptism does not rest merely in the formula; otherwise they could be and often have been construed as magical words conveying some mystical infusion.

A Special Situation—Alien Immersion

Throughout history there has been an ongoing discussion of what is called “alien immersion.” This does not mean that one is immersed by an extraterrestrial being, but that a group not normally known to immerse has performed an immersion and a decision concerning the validity of that baptism must be adjudicated. Historically, many Baptists have rejected alien immersion based upon their definition of the church and the authority placed in proper ordination. This author, however, has chosen to travel a different road. Each case must be decided on an individual basis. The determining factor is not the church since the above prescribed definition of a true church allows for Pedobaptist churches to be true churches.

The determining factor is not the administrator or proper ordination. The determining factor is the ordinance itself. Was the ordinance performed with the proper subject, in the proper mode, and with the proper meaning by a true church? If so, then it is valid. While in this age of post-denominationalism, it may be possible to find such a case, that case would be rare.

For example, any Pedobaptist church performing immersions of believers would do so based upon the failure of that person to be baptized as a child and not upon conviction based on Scripture. Thus, the rare exception must be of a scripturallyinformed person requesting baptism by immersion as a believer from a Pedobaptist church that understands the true meaning of baptism. Logic contends that no such case would ever occur because such an informed person would not wish to unite and join with a church that held an opposing view. Thus, in the majority of instances, alien immersions have harmed the meaning of baptism enough to render their practice of the ordinance null and void. However, a rare valid exception may exist.


All of the six categories that have been discussed are inter-related to some degree. Offering a definition of what makes baptism valid always runs the risk of being misunderstood. This author offers the following definition to encourage further thought, discussion and research, understanding that it may yet be incomplete or inaccurate: Valid
baptism, the door to the local church, is performed by an appropriately selected administrator of a true church who immerses a believer in water for the purpose of profession of faith with and in the name of Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, symbolizing the subject’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. A shorter definition of valid baptism would be: the immersion of a believer with the proper meaning by a true church.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What to look for in a SB Blog Post

Last year a stir was created in the SBC over apparent Theological Issues. This summer this controversy was extended from Baptism/Tongues to Alcohol and even women pastors. At GuardianMinistries we are systematically addressing these issues and explaining why Southern Baptists have always stood where we stand today. Nevertheless, as more conversation takes place as to the validity of the historical position of SB on these issues, I imagine the ones who initiated this controversy will switch tactics.

I feel quite confident that when those generating the controversy realize they can’t win the theological debate they will begin a more subtle political maneuver of playing on individual’s emotions. However, this ploy will also fail, for Southern Baptists are smarter than that.

Nevertheless, the following is what I expect to see in the future:
1. Accusations or insinuations of a Pope or puppet-master in the SBC. These accusations or insinuations will have no merit other than the imaginations of conspiracy-theorists in our convention. However, the lack of merit will not stop some from making such attacks.
2. Emotional pleas for individuals who have been “apparently” mistreated or “left out”…and yet in reality the individuals will usually have brought their isolation on themselves.
3. Claims of “narrowing parameters” will be consistently made as a scare tactic to Calvinists and young pastors.
4. Emotional pleas to make the tent wider will be made.

With this in mind here are my suggestions for reading blogs:
1. If there are insinuations in a blog post that there is a pope or power-master in the SBC, ask yourself, “Did the blogger site any evidence WHATSOEVER or does he/she just expect us to trust their conspiracy theory?”
2. Did the blog post deal with any theological issue or was there some “tug” on people’s heart-strings for a certain political movement or personality in the SBC?
3. If there is a claim that SB are “narrowing parameters,” ask yourself, “if any evidence is given, or if this is a scare tactic born out of conspiracy-theorists?”
4. If you read a plea to make the tent wider, ask yourself, “at what cost to truth do we want peace?” Ecumenicalism is not evil and Christians should cooperate with other denominations, but there is a reason I am a Southern Baptists and I have no desire to lose our identity in order to pay Charismatics or Moderates to be our missionaries.

My hope is that all SB blogs will deal with the issues rather than personalities or conspiracy-theories. With that in mind we will soon begin our look into the issue of Baptism.