Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Some Thoughts on Baptism

Baptism is an interesting subject. Much could be written about it, but I only intend to discuss a few points from Matthew 28:19, which states, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” First, the command was given by Jesus to his disciples. It’s generally agreed that this command is not confined simply to the eleven who happened to be there, but rather to any follower (disciple) of Christ. Therefore, what follows can plausibly be applied to every believer.

Second, baptism is most plausibly believer’s baptism. There is certainly debate about the issue, but the passage clearly teaches the message of the Gospel, and then baptism from those who would learn. The debate need not be explored here, since the point of the article is what follows from these things.

Third, if the command was given to every believer, then, at least on the surface, every believer may baptize other believers (who have not yet been baptized). This would mean ordinary laymen could perform baptisms, or even women. I mention this because throughout my church tradition, only ordained pastoral staff baptize people. However, there is nothing biblically precluding this, and moreover there is nothing inherent in biblical pastoral duties stating only they may baptize (in fact, Philip was not even functioning as a pastor when he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8).

Now this is not to say church’s traditions should be overthrown or directly challenged. After all, it may be somewhat odd to start having 11-year-olds baptize people in front of the congregation. There’s a distinct sense in which baptism ought to be done within the purview of the local church, and there’s a good practical argument to be made for pastors and deacons to be the primary baptizers. There may be considerations for women baptizing other women, or whatnot. The point is just to say that perhaps baptism should not be restricted quite as much as it is. What do you think?


  1. I think you're absolutely right. In fact, baptism is so essential, I would say (and this is the doctrine my particular church [ICOC] subscribes to) that is is necessary for salvation. Yeah, it's that important.


  2. Hi Adrian, thanks for your comments! Baptism is certainly important, and I think my post stands regardless of the view one takes of baptism, but baptism is not necessary for justification, if that is to what you're referring. In this case, faith would be insufficient for the application of saving grace. Something about that seems wrong (For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God).

  3. Nice bit of "food for thought"--thanks! I've been on the receiving end of some criticism on this matter from my rock-solid-Baptist brethren. There is a prevailing mentality that persons are "baptized into membership" in a local assembly. So if and when I immerse a believer in a prison setting (since that's my field), I hear "and what church are they members of?" Though I've been ordained by a SBC congregation, I am not a pastor, nor do I hold any other position in any congregational staff. Is it wrong? Do I need dispensation from my pastor to baptize these men "into" my own home congregation? I think not....interested in your views.

    1. Thanks Ed! I do have a few thoughts. First, let me say the local church is incredibly important. However, I think it is incredibly short-sighted to deny these regenerate inmates the privilege of publicly following Christ in baptism, as is explicitly commanded in Matthew 28. Church membership of the type you speak isn't even formally expressed (though it is functionally occurring all over the New Testament, obviously) in the Bible. I believe baptism ought to be a necessary condition for joining a local body of believers as a member. However, people are mistaken, logically, to thereby infer that a necessary condition of baptism is that it is within a local church. There must be some other argument for that (otherwise they simply reason backwards). To answer your last question directly, no--in my understanding of the Word of God, it's not even required that you be ordained. It's probably ideal, and makes practical sense for ensuring the requirements of membership are meant. But I find it incredibly disingenuous to claim the Great Commission is for every believer but then to ignore or change hermeneutic approaches for certain parts we find to be in conflict with our traditions. Again, I would not say that churches have to change or that each believer must baptize someone. But I do believe the entire command to "go" is there so that even in unusual circumstances, the entire Commission can be carried out (suppose a missions team leaves for a remote area, and only women survive to minister? Well, this way, they can evangelize, baptize, and teach until God calls a man to establish a church and be its pastor).

  4. Baptism is not essential to salvation.
    But baptism is essential to the Christian religion.
    The way you are baptized is like the way you a foundation for your house.
    How well you start your religion will guide you life and church.
    A poor understanding of baptism is linked to the main problems that churches have dealt with throughout church history. (unbelieving members, legalism, liberalism etc.)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Matt! I think baptism is very important for the local church!


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