Thoughts on Baptism

My understanding of baptism has evolved quite a bit over the years. Obviously moving from my Anglican upbringing to my current Baptist pastoral ministry required some change. However, even that change has been complex. When I first left the Anglican church, I completely rejected infant baptism as having any spiritual significance. All it it was for me was a wet baby forehead. Since then, I have come to see that event as being an important part of my journey, although I am confident in my decision to have experienced a believer’s baptism by immersion.

Beyond modes of baptism, my thinking has changed in other areas. It seemed to me that the focus was on preparation for baptism. There needed to be extensive classes on baptism and the Christian life. Part of this is because of the connection, at least in our Baptist churches, between baptism and membership. But that is a post for another day.

Another reason for the classes was to test for commitment. It is always discouraging when you hear of a person being baptized and then later walking away from the church. Perhaps if they can stick with the classes, the ones who get baptized will stay with the church.

On a practical level, requiring attendance at classes in order to be baptized is way to get people to actually show up. There is some motivation there that might not exist if we just invited people to learn for the sake of discipleship growth.

Here is where my thinking has changed.

It seems to me that the New Testament requires only one thing for baptism and that is calling on Jesus as Lord. That is it. People put their faith in Jesus Christ and they were immediately baptized. There was no waiting to see if they had the commitment to stick around. There were no baptism classes. There was faith and there was baptism.

It seems to me that the New Testament requires only one thing for baptism and that is calling on Jesus as Lord. Click To Tweet

Do not get me wrong, I’m not saying that discipleship classes are bad. I think they are extremely important. When I came to personal faith, I went through a year long discipleship adult Sunday school that was life changing for me.

Where my focus has changed, however, is in seeing discipleship as taking place after baptism and not as a prerequisite for baptism.

But what if the church baptizes a person and they were not sincere and walk away from the faith? I see that as being between the person and God. We should be doing followup and should be intentional in discipling the person but in the end, we cannot force someone to be sincere.

So those are my thoughts. My position is that if I believe that the person has put their faith in Jesus, I’m willing to baptize them sooner rather than later.

What do you think?

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One thought on “Thoughts on Baptism”

  1. Hi Stephen,
    I think you raise some very valid points. The context and times have changed. In the early days, people had a decent understanding of Who God was., be they Jews (who practised their faith in the synagogues and temples) or the Greeks (who had their own idea of God/gods).
    Today, people need the training and discipleship (discussions) because of so many false conversions. How many people today truly understand the responsibilities of being a Christian and taking up their Cross in the Christian life (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). Even Jesus realised that the importance of understanding what was required. In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests. Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose? Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26). How many really count the cost (Luke 14:28)? “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33).
    Remember “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)?

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