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?