• Baptism: Some conclusions

    In our study of the biblical text we have seen that only believers were baptised in the Gospels and Acts and we saw that, for Paul, baptism is a sign that one has died and been raised with Christ. If we take these together we must conclude then that the practice of the early church, and I would argue the most biblically sustainable practice, is to only baptise those with faith. Or to put it negatively we must not baptise infants if our findings so far are in anyway legitimate.

    There are some things I think I have not addressed that my padeobaptist brothers and sisters want me to discuss.

    Firstly, I see a similarities and differences with respect to circumcision and baptism and how they function under their separate covenants.  The similarities are: they were an initiatory right, they were done to signify the people were in the covenant and they both point to Jesus. But it is this pointing to Jesus as to where they are significantly different. Circumcision was tied to the promises given to Abraham and therefore pointed to the future reality of Jesus coming and his salvation whereas baptism points back to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Circumcision says that Jesus will come and will rescue but baptism is a sign that these realities have come.  This is significant because in a typological way baptism anticipates new covenant realities but they do not say that these realities are true of us where as baptism is a sign of the new covenant  and as a sign of the new covenant signifies that the grace of God has been given to us and they are true of us.  So we must not say that circumcision and baptism work the same way and therefore we can baptise children because they circumcised children.  This argument does not grapple with the nature of baptism and circumcision.

    Secondly, I would not think that a brother in Christ who baptises infants is not a brother in Christ. Even though I have spent a few blogs talking about believers baptism I don’t think that it is a first order gospel issue. It definitely isn’t something I would break fellowship over and I would have communion with a brother who gives infants a nice little sprinkle.

    I hope these blogs have helped you think more about Baptism and what it is and isn’t. May we, whatever we believe about baptism, pray and preach the gospel so that we are able to baptise streams of new believers.

     

  • Baptism: The Epistles

    We could look at a number of Pauline texts about baptism (e.g. Ephesians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 10:2; 12:13; 15:29, Galatians 3:27 etc.)

    But I want to focus on two texts in particular which I think capture the heart of what is happening in baptism:

    Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4

    “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12

    If we take these two texts as paradigmatic for what baptism is we see that baptism is a symbol showing that a Christian undergoing baptism has died and risen with Christ and now has new life. We know that a person has only truly died and been risen with Christ when they have faith in Jesus and so if baptism is a reflection of this fact why then would we baptise someone who has not yet come to faith in Jesus.

    These texts in particular should cause a person who baptises infants to rethink their position. So as we have seen in the Gospels and Acts, baptism is to be conferred on those who have made a profession of faith and therefore the Bible supports believers baptism and not infant baptism.

     

  • Baptism: The book of Acts

    In the book of Acts baptism is an initiatory rite closely associated with conversion to Christianity.

    The following examples make it clear that believing, repenting and being baptised go together in the book of Acts.

    Acts 2:38 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 8:12-13 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

    Acts 10:43-48 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.  Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

    I could put Acts 8:35-39, 16:31-34, 18:8, 19:4-5 into the mix because they all show a strong connection between faith and Baptism but you can look them up in your own time. These passages all show a very strong connection between faith and baptism. It is like Acts is saying that if you want to be baptised you have to be a believer.  Isn’t this evidence enough to say that only believers baptism is a legitimate baptism?

    No I hear many of you say because of Acts 10 where Cornelius’s whole household is baptised (10:46). The argument here and in the baptisms of other households (i.e. Lydia in Acts 16 and Crispus in Acts 18) is that they baptised the whole household therefore the person who baptised them would have baptised any infants in the household. Two things could be said about this point. Firstly, Luke is frustrating in the scant amount of detail he clothes these narratives with. Cornelius might have been a young man with a young family or an old man with no children at home. He and his wife could have been barren, we just do not know. So in response to the scant detail we must not press the text into saying something it is not. We are left saying that he baptised the whole household and we do not know who comprised that household. Therefore, to use this text as a proof text for infant baptism is pressing the text further than it can be pressed.  Secondly, we need to see that the people who were baptised in 10:48 are described as hearing the word (10:44) and speaking in tongues (10:48) these are signs of belief in the books of Acts. Therefore,  it is exegetically safe to say that Cornelius’s household was baptised because they believed not because the early church baptised infants. Therefore even though Acts 10 is used by proponents of infant baptism it is actually a text, when exegeted closely, that comes out in favour of believers baptism.

    In conclusion, the book of Acts links baptism with belief and repentance. Therefore those who must be baptised must be able to have faith in the lordship and saving work of Jesus.

     

  • Baptism: The Gospels

    Summarising everything that the gospels say about Baptism in the space of a blog is going to be very hard but here goes:

    The majority of times that the Gospels mention baptism it is usually in connection with John the Baptist (Mark 1:4-9, Matthew 3:1-16, Luke 3:1-22.)What was John’s baptism? It was a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4) and also it was a baptism that, along with John’s preaching, was to prepare the way of the Lord (Matthew 3:1-3).  If we take these passages together, John the Baptist’s ministry and preaching was one where repentance was crucial. He wanted people to repent and, for John, baptism was a sign that a person had done just this.

    The other major passage that mentions the practice of Baptism is Matthew 28:19. Now if we look at the Greek of Matthew 28:19

    πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες

    αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνοματοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,

    We see in this clause the main verb is “make disciples “(μαθητεύσατε). It is imperatival in its force meaning that as Christians Jesus is commanding us to make disciples. The other verbs “go” (πορευθέντες) and “baptising” (βαπτίζοντες) are participles meaning they are subordinate to the main verb which is to make disciples. This means that baptising and the verb go is defined in some sense by the main verb “make disciples”. So Christians “go” to make disciples and they baptise those disciples.  Therefore here, as in the preaching and baptising ministry of John, baptism is strongly linked with repentance and being a disciple of Jesus. To put it more strongly, Jesus is linking Baptism with repentance in a way which says to have a legitimate baptism the person must have become a disciple.

    Now we do see Jesus interacting with Children (e.g. Matthew 19:13-14). But not once in the four gospels do we see Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) baptising a child. This surely makes us pause to at least reconsider whether infant baptism is legitimate.

    In conclusion, the evidence from the gospels is that a person believes and repents and then is baptised. This makes repentance and belief precursors to baptism. Therefore the gospels are in favour of believers baptism and silent on infant baptism.

     

  • Baptism: My story

    I wrote last week a post entitled “Why I am not an Anglican” and one of the reasons I wasn’t an Anglican was that I disagreed with Infant baptism.

    The question was posed “How does a person who grew up in an Anglican church and went to an Anglican theological college wind up practicing believers baptism and not infant baptism?” Well as always there is a story behind every belief and my one follows…

    As already stated, when I became a Christian at 14 I went to an Anglican church and needless to say this church baptised children. But they baptised the children of unbelievers and this troubled me. I heard the parent of some children say they were Christians and they would raise this child to know and love Jesus when we all knew they weren’t going to keep these promises. When I asked about this I was told that it is the parent’s choice to make these promises and keep them and that is it a great chance to evangelise the parents by telling them about Jesus in the baptism class. This made me uneasy even though I did see people come to know Jesus through this process.

    I honestly didn’t give baptism much thought until I hit theological college. I was going to an Anglican college where baptism wasn’t mentioned all that much.  When I was in College a decided to make use of the amazing library at the college, I did this by picking a topic (e.g. gender, scripture etc.) and reading for an hour a day on that topic till I came to a position on it. Needless to say one of the topics I investigated was baptism.

    When I read stuff by Baptists I was struck by how much exegesis they did. They seemed to be constrained by the text and then go to theology. When I read people defending infant baptism I saw that they were very shallow on exegesis and then were very heavy on arguing from theology why infant baptism was legit.

    As I hope the next few blogs make clear I found the arguments of infant Baptists unconvincing. I wanted to be a pastor who was on about the text. I wanted who I baptised not be driven by anything but the text and so I found myself convinced that we should baptise Believers and not infants. I also found that my Baptist brothers had better theological arguments as well.

    I want to lay out my theology of baptism and so here is what I will be blogging about over the next few days:

    Blog 1: Baptism: My story

    Blog 2: Baptism: The Gospels

    Blog 3: Baptism: Luke and Acts

    Blog 4: Baptism: The Epistles

    Blog 5: Baptism: The covenant

     

    I hope that we all can get to know what God would have us do as we consider this very important issue.