Why I Am a Baptist

Baptism is a hot topic around the internet right now, and I’m not really wanting to join any debates, but all this talk of Baptism gives me an opportunity to talk about my credo-baptistic convictions.

Ligon Duncan has summarized the paedo-baptist viewpoint in three points. Take the time to read over his summary. It will be a guide for us in this post. Again, I’m not in this for a debate, especially with someone like Ligon Duncan, who I am sure would soundly thrash me with his exegetical and hermeneutical skills. Rather, I want to take his three points, understanding that they are not complete statements of his view, but a summary outline of the paedo-baptist position, and explain why I don’t think that view holds water, at least not enough to baptize anyone in, which is probably why they sprinkle. 🙂

By way of introduction, let me simply say that I tried to become a Presbyterian. I really, really tried…hard. I read Children of the Promise by Robert Booth, Christian Baptism by John Murray, William the Baptist by James Chaney, and The Communion of Saints by Philip Ryken (contains a chapter titled ‘Baptized into Communion’). I also listened intently to R. C. Sproul’s Covenant Baptism series, read many articles about infant baptism on the internet, and talked with several paedo-baptist friends. So when I read Ligon Duncan’s summary of paedo-baptist beliefs, I was reminded of the internal debate that lead me to discover exactly why it is that I am a Baptist.

1. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly makes a promise to believers and to their children (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39).

In the Old Testament, God does explicitly make a promise to Abraham and his offspring.  The promise is that Abraham’s descendants and their households, those who have received the sign of circumcision, will live in the land that God has given them.

In the New Testament, however, the promise that we see is for everyone.  Note the words of Peter, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Act 2:39 ESV)  The paedo-baptist seems to cut his exegesis of this verse off at the word ‘children’.  (He really doesn’t, but he might as well.)  But if we follow the verse to the end, we understand that the verse does not teach that there is a promise of a covenant relationship available only to those present along with their children, but rather that Peter is instead stating matter-of-factly that the promise extends beyond those present, to a group of people defined as “…everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  So the promise is for you, if the Lord should call you, your children, if the Lord should call them, and everyone in the world, if the Lord should call them.  And if the Lord does not call any particular person in the world, then we know that the promise was not for them.  The extent of the promise is not based upon familial relationships, but upon the sovereign pleasure of God in calling whomever He chooses.

The promise that is made to God’s called out people is not identified in Acts 2:39.  We have to back up a verse to see what the promise is.   “And 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.'” (Act 2:38 ESV)  The promise is forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

2. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly attaches specific signs (respectively, circumcision [Genesis 17:10] and baptism [Acts 2:38, cf. Colossians 2:11-12], to this promise that he gives to believers and their children.

Again, in the Old Testament, the promise is for Abraham’s descendants and their households to live in Canaan.  The sign that every male is supposed to bear is the sign of circumcision.  Here, I would like to especially emphasize the point that only male children were to bear the sign of the promise.

In the New Testament, the sign of the promise is Baptism.  But it is only given to those who are the recipients of the promise (forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit).  Those who have been called out by God.  Until their sins have been forgiven and they have received the Holy Spirit, they have not received the promise.  Therefore, they are not to be given the sign of the promise.  I may deal with Col. 2:11-14 at a later date…this is running kind of long.  In any case, I believe that that passage shows this same pattern…we were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and that is very closely related to God’s forgiveness of our sins.

3. Therefore, since God has given an explicit promise to believers and their children, in the New Testament, and attached a sign to this promise, and enjoined us (in the new covenant) to administer that sign [baptism, Matthew 28:19-20], then we should give the sign of the promise he has made to believers and their children, to believers and their children, in humble obedience to biblical command and example. QED.

Therefore, since God has shown us who the proper recipients of the promise are, those who are called out, repent, trust in Christ, experience the forgiveness of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, only they are the proper recipients of baptism.

I know there are probably many problems in this post for some of you, but these are some of the biblical convictions that make me a Baptist.

Pilgrim, bring it on!

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9 Comments

Filed under Baptism, baptist

9 responses to “Why I Am a Baptist

  1. I agree 100% with your conclusions. To me, baptism is a mystery gift, for lack of a better description. It is somehow intrinsic to salvation and we all shy away from attributing regenerative qualities to it alone. But…if it wasn’t part and parcel of the process of obtaining the “power to become sons of God”, why do Baptists place more emphasis on this ordinance (if that is really all it is) than on Communion? Baptists surely don’t agree with transubstantiation, but they walk an almost identical path concerning baptism that the Church of Christ does.

    I am Church of Christ, but I hesitate to place as much emphasis on baptism as most of my brethren do. Most COC seem to look at baptism as THE thing that saves us. I don’t hold to that because God makes it very clear that we are saved by faith in Christ Jesus, not faith in the act of baptism. But….I cannot in any way remove baptism from the process of becoming a believer. In my limited understanding, God’s Word indicates that baptism is inseparable from a confession of faith and therefore a necessity. The apostles obviously esteemed water baptism very highly as it is evident they always accomplished the act ASAP.

    In like manner, my dad (who is not COC) and I disagree on when Saul was converted. I believe Luke’s account, and Paul’s account, of his conversion clearly indicate he was not of the faith until he arose, was baptized and called on the name of the Lord. Why would Ananias say “Why do you wait?” and “wash away your sins”? My dad immediately jumps to the conclusion that Ananias caling him “Brother Saul” meant he was saved.

    “Not so fast”, I say. Jews typically addressed each other as brother because of their shared religious and Abrahamic heritage, so it doesn’t hold water that this salutation indicates anything beyond that.

    I consider anyone who believes Christ was God incarnate, born of a virgin of the lineage of David, lived a life in the flesh, under the law, yet without sin, bore the reproach of the creation rejecting Himself, the Creator of all things, died physically and rose again bodily by His own power and ascended into the Heavenly places AND is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is my brother or sister in Christ. I do have a problem fellowshipping with anyone who claims to be a Christian and disallows or considers optional the ordinance of baptism.

    As do Baptists!!

    Have a great day in Christ!

  2. Well, Jeremy–contrary to your comment on my blog–I don’t hate you. I appreciate my Baptist brothers & siisters–in fact our church held a joint service with a Baptist church this past Sunday–after we had co-operated in doing VBS together. We had a great time of fellowship afterwards. I have learned much from my Baptist brothers and sisters–including on baptism.

    I would like to say your point 1 objection doesn’t hold off. I have heard this argument before that paedobaptists stop short in this verse–but your explanation doesn’t disprove aedobaptism–and may miss the point to a degree–it extends the reach to all whom the Lord calls–so we don’t have to be Jewish, or family. the promise goes out to all types of people–but this doesn’t negate the paedobaptist point. I don’t see how you’ve accomplished that. Also as for the promise in Acts 2:38–this doesn’t negate anything either–remember–at this point Baptism as we now know it (both your view and mine and other views) did not exist–these people could not have been baptized as infants or children (unless they currently were.) In the first generation or two of the gospel arriving somewhere (and possibly beyond) there would be very few if any who had been baptized, so this message would be needed.

    North America is becoming a scoiety where many people were not baptized as infants, children or even as adults–many people grow up never entering a house of worship of any kind. So that message is still needed. It is also needed to those who were baptized as a reminder.

    I really don’t find anything compelling in your case that would make me switch what I believe are scriptural views of baptism.

    (And by the way–I want to read John Murray’s book you mentioned–I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I really enjoyed Robert booth’s book, but it was really more about Coveneant theology–although it explins how baptism is related. Consistent Covenant theology leaves no doubt that paedobaptism is biblical. (And I know Reformed Baptists who agree on that.)

    I’ll check back to see how this goes, it could get interesting.

  3. I am Presbyterian in a PCA church near where Ligon Duncan preaches. I have heard him many times. However, I agree with your view on infant baptism. I believe covenant theology is in need of some revision. Nearly all of the Baptist around here are Arminian………
    Wayne

  4. Pilgrim,

    I didn’t really expect to change anyone’s mind about baptism…I just wanted to present the problems that I found personally with paedo-baptism. I did want to bring out the close relationship between my Calvinistic leanings with my credo-baptistic beliefs, which was one aspect I think came out very well in point one.

    The difference that I see between you and myself on Acts 2:39 is that I take the phrase, “…whom the Lord our God calls to Himself,” to be definitive of the, “you, your children, and everyone.”
    In other words, “You, whom the Lord has called, your children, whom the Lord has called, and everyone, whom the Lord has called.” I think that this interpretation of the verse does effectively negate the paedo-baptist argument.

    Whereas, I believe, you would take the point of view that the “You and your children…” is prescriptive of baptism to the, “…everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”
    I think my interpretation is correct, but I’m not out to make more Baptists.

    NWProdigal,

    I’m going to have to re-read your comment,a nd your earlier comment on Peter’s baptism post, in order to get a better feel for what you are saying. I think we almost agree though.

    Jazzy Cat,

    I’ve often wondered if I would be able to join a Presbyterian Church if I had to. Thankfully there are a couple of solid Baptist Churches around here for me to pick from.

  5. You’re missing part of the point though on Acts 2:39–the paedo baptist position is pointing out that children are included. It is not excluding those who far off–it’s including children–which often is done, even if unintentionally by Baptists when they speak of a perosn’s relationship to God & Christ. I relaize there are different views by Baptists on this and don’t intend to paint them with the same brush–but the use of this verse shows God isn’t excluding children of believers.

  6. I agree with you 100% on that point, Pilgrim. The verse is showing that the Gospel is not bound by the same restraints that the Old Covenant was bound by.
    The Gospel is for all kinds of people, but the verse also includes the parameters for which specific people.

  7. So you’ll be going to a Presbyterian Church this Sunday?
    (Okay–just kidding, but since I was actually at a Baptist Church last Sunday–maybe you could “return the favour”?–Okay still kidding.)

    Since you agree this verse is inclusionust–well, you could be on your way to seeing things as I do–this was an important verse that way…

    Also–the blog’s been fun lately.

  8. Ddi you read the last post? Do you hate me yet? 🙂

  9. Pingback: Thing You All Need to Know About « Pastor Steve Weaver’s Blog

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