An SBC Voices Forum: What Precedes Baptism in Your Church?

by Dave Miller on March 14, 2014 · 96 comments

A young man walks into your office, and you share the gospel with him – that he is a guilty sinner headed to an eternal hell for whom Jesus died, paying the price for those sins. You explain that Jesus rose from the dead to offer new life to anyone who would believe in him. He responds to the message of love and grace, turning from his sins and trusting Christ.

What do you do now?

If we were back in the days of the book of Acts, I am convinced that the next thing we would do is seek out a body of water in which to baptize him. We would not even wait until the next Sunday service. Salvation, then baptism. Within the hour he’d be dripping wet from head to toe, a new believer, a baptized believer, a believer beginning his walk of obedience.

No one does that anymore. No one I know of.

Many churches run people through the gauntlet to confirm the reality of the conversion before they will baptize. We have formalized baptism as a part of the worship service of the church. Many will not even recognize the validity of a baptism that is NOT performed within the boundaries of the church itself.

These tendencies – to vet the genuineness of the profession before baptism, to catechize the new believer before the baptism takes place, to demand that baptism takes place inside the boundaries of the local church – all of these come from noble concerns. We’ve all seen false conversions; people who make a profession then disappear into the darkness. We’ve known people who are lone wolfs and want to follow Christ without fellowshipping in the church.

So, we react. We vet. We counsel. We test and approve. All of these are understandable. But they are not, as far as I can see, biblical. There is no evidence I’ve found to justify any of these practices.

A man (or woman) was saved. He (or she) was immediately baptized. The process of discipleship then began.

Here are some points as to what I see in biblical baptism.

1)) No evidence of redemption is required for baptism other than a clear profession of faith in Christ.

No one was asked to burn their idols before their baptism. They did not have to make any lifestyle changes to demonstrate their new life. Baptism took place on profession.

2) There is no evidence of any church process of instruction, vetting or discipleship prior to baptism.

It bothers a lot of folks, but there is no evidence in Acts of any local church part in the baptism process. One man (part of a local church, of course) led another man to Christ and they went to find a puddle deep enough to immerse him in as a testimony of salvation.

3) Baptism is the beginning of the discipleship process, not the result of the church’s vetting process.

The first thing anyone did after salvation was baptism. Immediate. Same day. Perhaps same hour.

Here’s the question. The pattern of Acts is clear, but is it normative? Ought we to follow that pattern today? Does the changing nature of the church in the modern era necessitate or justify a changed process between conversion and baptism?

Here’s what I do.

Obviously, we do not baptized on the day of conversion, though I would like to do so. Perhaps we are disobedient, but that is not practical. I think that immediate baptism is a noble goal and a worthy practice, perhaps, but we are not there yet.

We do not, however, require much in the way of classes or so-called “evidence” between conversion and baptism, for the reasons I articulated above.

1) All I require for baptism is a reasonably clear profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

They must understand that they are sinners who stand guilty before God, that their only hope is Christ’s death and that Jesus was raised to raise them to new life. They must also understand that baptism does not save.

2) I regard baptism as the BEGINNING of discipleship, not a stop along the way.

Now, let me get specific. Here is where the rubber hits the road.

Imagine that the young man I spoke of above was a) living with a girl to whom he was not married or b) an active homosexual. What would I do?

Many would demand that he break up with or move out on the young woman, or renounce his homosexual lifestyle prior to baptism. To me, that is putting the cart before the horse. Yes, repentance is a part of coming to Christ, and those issues ought to be raised, but baptism is the BEGINNING the process of obedience. The new believer must be taught to obey the commands of Christ.

But baptism is not the reward for sorting out your life and getting all your spiritual ducks in a row. It is a public commitment that you have placed your faith in Christ and plan to follow him as he PUTS all your spiritual ducks in that row!

I know this will not please many of you. May even anger a few. I’m willing to be instructed differently.

How does your church practice baptism?

1 Dave Miller March 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm

TWO Scenarios for your consideration:

1) Instead of this young man coming in by himself, he comes in with his best friend, who led him to Christ. They say, “We’ve been studying Acts and saw that people got baptized immediately, so before we came we went over to the pool and we baptized him.”

Do you accept that as a valid baptism? Is there not more evidence in Acts that the one who does a baptism would be the one who led the new believer to Christ than to support baptism done only by the church pastors/elders?

Do you accept this young man as a part of the church, or do you demand him to be baptized again?

2 Dave Miller March 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Second Scenario: (this one actually happened recently)

We sent a team to India to do ministry. While they were there, two of the team members got baptized by an Indian pastor with whom they were working.

One was a teen raised in our church. The other was a mother who had “been saved” at an early age, strayed on the wrong paths, and has returned in recent years. She and I talked about whether her earlier baptism was valid, whether she had really been saved at the earlier age or only lately.

They were both baptized on a mission trip.

What should we as a church do? We will accept them into membership regarding their baptisms as valid.

What say you?

3 Ryan Abernathy (@absonjourney) March 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm

My church would accept both baptisms. I think the idea of “under the authority of the church” is not supported biblically. The priesthood of the believer means just that. Those who are saved are proper administrators. So if you are a Christian then of course you can baptize a new convert, take Communion outside the walls of the church, etc.

We are under the authority of Christ. He is our authority. His commission was given to Christians, who make up the church, not the other way around. Now would I like to have a video to show my church of the person being baptized? You bet! So that we can celebrate together the new Christian.

Good topic Dave. I hope it’s a good discussion.

4 Tarheel March 14, 2014 at 1:23 pm

The second scenario….the mission trip was done within the context of your local church and presumably under the authority of you the pastor..therefore it meets the “within the context of a local church”.

The first scenario…I think I would – provided that both the new convert and the friend can articulate a, to use your terms “reasonable profession of faith in Christ.”

As to your statements about the homosexual and the cohabitant I agree that ‘spiritual ducks” need not be ordered before baptism – any more than they should before salvation. I agree that baptism is a step along the way of discipleship and not a capstone or a graduation ceremony of our new members classes.

I agree that it would be nice to baptize immediately..but it comes down to a matter of practicality sometimes (filling the baptismal, etc…)

I am very cautious about taking events described in Acts as normative….so I would lean toward saying that since there is no passage that instructs us to always baptize immediately that we are allowed to use our good judgment and even traditions (those are not always a bad things!) and hold our convictions loosely and not be, as Mike said in his thread….not overly dogmatic about it.

5 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Dave,

This is is a great topic to discuss. When I was pastoring a Baptist church we instituted a new member class and required all new members, whether candidates for baptism or merely transferring from another SB church, to go through the 4 week class. It covered some basic doctrinal positions we held, some instruction about our congregation, expectations of all believers (tithing, etc.) and the meaning of baptism.

This allowed us to begin to get to know the candidates who had made a profession of faith and begin the discipleship process.

After that their baptism would be scheduled where they would publicly and verbally affirm their POF in Christ and be baptized.

We would not accept baptisms done like your first scenario but would for the second one. We thought then that a valid baptism then was to be done by a duly ordained minister in the context of a gathering of God’s people.

I’ve read the other post going on and my position even now is that the actions in Acts don’t present an iron clad, required pattern. i.e. an immediate baptism is not required. If it were, I think it would have been spelled out how long the time frame had to be.

In other words, does it have to happen within the hour? Within a day? A week? The scriptures don’t tell us enough. Seems to me it is one of those things left to the discretion of the church leaders to exercise presence and wisdom.

6 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Another thing. I realize I’m on a baptist site, but I don’t think the ultimate “right hand of fellowship” is the ordinance of baptism. I think it’s admission to the Lord’s table. Of course they’re linked and one precedes the other (baptism and then admission to the table), but the one requires a POF while the other requires an examination of one’s life and practice. A person living openly in sexual sin, for example, should not be admitted to the table.

That being the case you can maybe make the case that we don’t require someone to clean it all up before being baptized ( I agree) but once baptized, they are then presumed to be admitted to the table. The “practicing homosexual and the cohabitant” should not, in my opinion, be admitted to the table in their current and ongoing situations. So I would wait to baptize them until they begin to understand and repent of their sexual sins and remove themselves from that way of life.

7 Rick March 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I’ve thought about this a lot myself. I came to the conclusion that the climate of persecution for Christians in the book of Acts took care of the “vetting” process. If people professed Christ, they knew they could be persecuted so they didn’t take it lightly like many do today. Thus I lean toward some kind of “waiting period” to try to prevent an uncommitted person from having the assurance of salvation that they may believe goes along with baptism.

8 Tom Bryant March 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

We baptize the first Sunday after they are saved. I think we have equated baptism with church membership. We separate them. They get saved to be baptized. They have to go through a class to become members.

The only exception to that is with children under 12 yo. We go to the parents first and seek permission. This also gives us a chance to share the Gospel with them if they are not a part of our church.

9 Dave Miller March 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Of course, the reality here is that we get a lot of people who are saved but have not been biblically baptized- strongly Reformed and Lutheran area. Unbiblical in either time (infant) or mode (not immersion). That usually takes time and study to demonstrate the importance if obeying Christ, not church traditions.

10 Andy Hynes March 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Dave,
Would the persons baptized under the understanding of the Didache not be “biblically baptized?” And if not, what detriment would that have upon them in your estimation? Also, with infant baptism without “re-baptism” what significance do you see?

11 Joel March 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Baptism is the FIRST act of obedience for any new disciple, not the 400th act after they do the 399 things that make us comfortable. If we want obedience from them, we have to model it from the very beginning.

Good call Dave. Thanks for modeling obedience.

12 Darin Ulmer March 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Amen to this post Dave. I believe baptism is the first step of obedience that prepares a new believer to walk in obedience. If we make them “get there life right” first I think we make actually be hindering them rather than setting them on a course of obedience. Also, we must then determine what sins we are ok with and which ones prevent baptism.

We had a scenario a year ago where a youth group member was saved on a mission trip and wanted to be baptized the next day when they planned to go to a lake. They called me that morning and we talked about it and my conclusion was “here is water, what prevents me from being baptized.” So it was done by our youth group leader, Steve B., and we showed the video the next Sunday at church. It was pretty cool to see the youth all gathered around in a lake as one of their peers was publicly baptized.

13 Todd Benkert March 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Our pre-requisite for baptism is a “credible testimony of conversion.” We came to this idea when approached by a deacon and his wife who wanted me to baptize their four-year-old who had prayed to receive Christ. I was uncomfortable baptizing a child that young, but could not find an age requirement in the bible. The child was able to answer all the “factual” questions correctly, but was able to explain his experience of conversion in his own words. Our solution was to wait until the child could share his testimony in his own words.

We found that the requirement to give a testimony of one’s salvation experience has been helpful. In doing so, we avoid adding extra-biblical requirements but also keep from baptizing people pre-maturely. In doing so, I am not passing judgment on whether or not the person is truly saved. Rather, I am requiring that they be able to describe their conversion experience in their own words as evidence that they, in fact, have a sufficient understanding of the gospel.

14 Darin Ulmer March 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm

“their”

15 Kevin March 14, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Probably for most of those who serve as pastors on this board, this is not a hypothetical situation that you described in regards to one professing Christ while still in a context of cohabitating. My personal beliefs/reflections on this issue are that repentance precedes or is simultaneous with conversion/ being born again. Repentance means a change of heart/direction towards God & His way. If a person is unwilling to repent in this area, has true repentance truly taken place? Why would a church baptize a person on Sunday only to have to confront them on Monday with church discipline reagarding their cohabitation??? When one is in known, unrepentant sin, the church has a responsibility to confront. It would seem that this would better take place on the front end of baptism rather than the back end. Just my thoughts…..

16 mbwoodside March 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Good thoughts Kevin. If we just take Acts 2 as our example regarding repentance leading up to baptism, there are powerful images there. Peter preaches a sermon that “cuts to the heart,” of the hearers and they ask “what shall we do?” He tells them “repent and be baptized.” Notice that the hearers are convicted after Peter has preached, and his sermon was a striking indictment that they were personally responsible for Jesus’s death. But yet these same individuals seek to repent and be baptized into the NAME of the very one that they crucified.

Part of the problem with determining the genuineness of conversion and whether there should be a delay between conversion and baptism is tied to the severity of the gospel message preached. In Acts, the message was very severe. In our churches, the message varies with severity. Thus, it may take a greater amount of time to sort out what the individual believes about the gospel. In Acts it was not so. Christ as Lord, crucified by sinful men and risen from the dead was a message that could only be embraced by those who would literally “take up the cross and follow.”

If, I preached a message and told the hearers “Every one of you are guilty of crucifiying the Lord of Glory and you must repent now and save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” and I had scores of people come forward and proclaim their guilt before a just and holy God, then absolutely, we would baptize them immediately or ASAP.

But, I’ve never had that happen. I had people say that they want to go to heaven, they want to ask Jesus into their heart, they want to get saved, etc. It’s there that I probe those questions and ask what do you understand about heaven, what do mean by that and what do you understand about salvation?

For me, the severity of the message, usually corresponds to the severity of the commitment and that determines the candidates immediacy for confessing Christ in baptism.

I think this is clearly borne out in Jesus’ calls to follow him in the gospels. There is a severity that comes with the confession.

17 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Brothers,

Question: Does the scripture prescribe/command baptism be performed within a certain time?

I’m anticipating the answer will be no it does not. If not, doesn’t the question become how much time until baptism is too much time? And how is that to be determined?

Just wondering what your thoughts are specifically. Dave did state and ask,

“The first thing anyone did after salvation was baptism. Immediate. Same day. Perhaps same hour.
Here’s the question. The pattern of Acts is clear, but is it normative?

18 mbwoodside March 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Les, Good to see you here. I will answer that question, that no, what is going on in Acts is not normative surrounding the events of these baptism passages, but that when a person demonstrates a resounding confession of Christ as Lord, then yes it should be a normal procedure for baptism to follow very soon after that. I think the hermeneutical issue is not so much what is going on with baptism in these Acts passages, because that is only a part of the puzzle, but the larger question is how is God bringing about the birth of Christ’s church through these radical conversions accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit.

19 Andy Hynes March 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm

This conclusion then is the “church” is a NT idea, and not a reality in the OT. What if the OT is the presentation of the church and the NT is the reformation of the OT reality? Were there “believers” having conversions in the OT, and if so, why don’t we have any evidences of what followed, i.e. baptism?

20 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Andy,

You’ve just opened up a whole other can of worms and strewn them all over this comment stream. Circumcision had something rondo with identifying with God’s people?

21 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 3:45 pm

“Rondo” should be “to do.”

22 Andy Hynes March 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm

I know, but if it is directly related to the issue of conversion followed by baptism, and if OT folks were saved in the same covenant of grace, then it should be present in both, correct? And yes, I am familiar with covenant theology.

23 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Yes Andy I’d say it is directly related. I figured you are familiar with covenant theology. Thanks brother.

24 Mike Bergman March 14, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Les, I’d say that if the Spirit inspires the communication of a pattern over and over, yet he does not inspire either the communication of an example or a teaching that shows otherwise, then yes the pattern is to be taken as normative.

As Dave said, baptism is the first step of discipleship; and as I’ve argued in other threads/post, baptism is a person’s profession of faith; thus, though a time is not commanded it prescribed between a person’s decision to positively respond to the gospel and baptism, this time should be as minimal as possible…

25 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Mike I don’t disagree with the pattern where someone professes faith. My point is that the time lapse is not defined and is I think rightly left to the discretion of the church leaders.

26 D. L. Payton March 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Les
I am trying to wrap my head around the word “normative”. While that is a good question, I am not sure it is THE question. I think the better question would be “is the pattern of Acts clear on this subject. We both agree that it is. In light of that I would opt to accept the Acts pattern as the proper instruction unless there is a compelling reason exegetically that I should not. I do not see one.

The reason I would reject the “normative” concept is because it seems to me that very little in the New Testament is “normative” at least by today’s standards.

Having said that I would not be dogmatic about this. While I think my argument is sound I would be the first to admit that it does not settle the issue.

27 William Thornton March 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm

If you conclude that there is a pattern in Acts why is this then converted into a principle? Are all patterns to be so considered?

28 D. L. Payton March 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm

William

Could I have a little more explanation, not sure i follow my brother

29 william thornton March 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm

The classic explanation of not doing immediate baptisms is that not every pattern in the NT is a principle. Immediate baptism is not explicitly taught or commanded, although it is observed as a pattern.

30 william thornton March 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm

We’ve gotten a little fancier with the vocabulary, preferring ‘descriptive’ and ‘prescriptive.’

31 D. L. Payton March 14, 2014 at 8:46 pm

William

Thanks for the explanation. At times I use words that others have used. In reality I would not see this as a “pattern” or “prescriptive”. I would understand this to be the “teaching” of this issue. I am comfortable in saying that this passage teaches me that baptism follows conversion with nothing between the two.

It does get difficult at times to keep up with the latest word usage.

32 Les Prouty March 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Hi D. L.

I agree (see just above) on the pattern. So, the pattern is POF followed by baptism. What I’m wondering now is, if that’s the case, and it looks like they happened pretty soon after, how do we define “pretty soon?” How long os a lapse in time is *too* long?

I don’t think there is either a descriptive or a prescriptive amount of time, so I think the time after the POF can and should be left up to the church leaders to determine in their contexts and particular situations.

As an add in, we know there was a certain time required in the OT for circumcision…8 days.

Thanks brother.

33 John Wylie March 14, 2014 at 6:31 pm

There is at least one passage for the idea of descriptive amount of time in Acts 2…it says that “same day.”

34 D. L. Payton March 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm

John

For me “same day” is the key. This seems to suggest that there was a desire to place baptism as close to conversion as possible or at least with nothing required between the two, training, classes etc. I would understand that to be a definitive teaching for our practice.

35 John Wylie March 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Exactly right D.L.

36 D. L. Payton March 14, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Les

I agree, it should be left to the church and pastor. I would add that it seems to me that the length of time is not as important as the reason for the time line. I am suggesting that baptism follows conversion and discipleship follows that. If the reason for the delay is to first disciple then I would have some disagreement. Let me say again that in the final analysis it is a church decision under the leadership of the pastor.

37 David Rogers March 14, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I am surprised no one has brought up Matt 3:7-8 yet.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:7, 8 ESV)

Any reason why this passage is not relevant to the present discussion? I know the baptism of John is not the same as Christian baptism, but it seems reasonable to me to expect that some of the same principles—such as, for example, this one—would apply to both.

38 Nate March 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

David,

I think we could draw differences in the two baptisms, and further, I think the Pharisees and Sadducees are unique in regards to how Jesus interacted with them (or even John) versus the common man. I was more surprised you didn’t draw attention to Acts 8:9-24 and the situation with Simon the sorcerer for you implication. However, even in that situation, I would argue that he was baptized rightly (on his profession of faith), but his encounter with Peter indicates his thinking was not yet rightly informed on the Christian life.

39 Doug Hibbard March 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm

The first thing that precedes Baptism in our church is this: we fill the tub with water. Then we gather some towels, because the preacher’s going to be mostly wet and the baptized-one is going to be all the way wet. A change of clothes for both is also recommended. Not required, but definitely recommended.

Now, when I get done with the other stuff I’m doing, I’ll deal with the real substance of the post.

40 D. L. Payton March 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Doug

What softies!!!

In my part of the pioneer area our churches mostly use horse tanks.

Well not always but it makes for a good story when we go south for a Mission Conference.

Blessings my brother

41 Doug Hibbard March 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm

I was once part of a church plant where we baptized in a jacuzzi with a broken heater–one of the church members had the hot tub, the heater broke, and rather than fix it they gave it to the church for a baptistry. We kept it full and with the recirculation pump, the water stayed usable.

So I just stood outside and baptized the person who got inside. They sat on the side of the jacuzzi that was sloped, so all you had to do wash push down on their heads, and under they went.

That church practiced immediate baptism if you agreed to it–it was not a theological imperative, but a “Why wait?” Kept towels on hand, and sent a good number of folks out dripping.

That decreased in the winter time.

It was an interesting experience–church was a split of a Southern Baptist congregation, was almost theologically right but then let someone who was way past even the charismatic side (past reasonable and into “yes, the Bible says this, but God told me in a vision to do differently”) into a leadership role, alongside a hardcore patriarchal leader, and the leadership team just got off track.

42 Colton Brewer March 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm

That is a very interesting way of looking at it. Seems to run in contrast with what churches do now. My one worry is abuses of something like this (like what has happened in Furtick’s church).

43 william thornton March 14, 2014 at 7:45 pm

My practice is to find comprehension of the act and meaning. With kids this means they must give a credible, if childlike, account and show an understanding of the act of baptism as an abstract act. It is inevitable that younger children equate baptism with salvation or washing away sins. If an adult comprehends, I would baptize as soon as convenient.

It must be said here that baptisms are the coin-of-the-realm in SBC life. Show many and get praised. Show few or none and be criticized. I wouldn’t charge the scholars and outstanding pastors here with it but many SBCers jump at any and all chances to add to the total. This would include toddler baptisms (although we no longer keep this statistic, so no one knows how many under 4 or 5 we baptized) and re-baptisms. The latter contributes up to almost half of all baptisms, though we seldom research this.

I’ve been criticized by church members for baptizing too fast and for baptizing too slow…so I must have it right. Have had to dunk a couple twice because they wouldn’t go under the first time. If we’re going to immerse then we ought to immerse.

44 D. L. Payton March 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm

William

I agree totally with the numbers and recognition game as it relates to baptisms. Just thinking out loud, but I wonder if church plants has become the new recognition vehicle.

45 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 11:09 am

Amen, William!

I’ve often joked that we baptists criticize as unbiblical (rightly so, sorry Les) those denominations who baptize infants…..

But some SBCers will dunk a toddler who walks an aisle in a skinny minute….and some with pop off pyrotechnics and blast sirens when they do….;-)

46 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 11:22 am

No need to apologize my Tarheel brother (sorry ’bout the loss yesterday).

We who practice infant baptism (and credo baptism, including sometimes credo immersion) see the Baptist insistence on immersion only, post credo only, as unbiblical as well. :)

Isn’t it true that whatever theological position one holds, he necessarily believes it is biblical and therefore those holding the other position he could rightly say that other position is unbiblical? Yes, but these things can and should be done in brotherly manners in discussions.

Now, basketball!

47 cb scott March 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm

“We who practice infant baptism . . . . . . ” . . . . . no matter the method we use or the pseudo-theological rationalism by which we seek to justify the act, are wrong.

Why are we wrong? Because the New Testament does not give credibility to such an act and never shall it even in our wildest, most, most man made religious, and unbiblical dreams.

*I have not commented here for a while, but not even using the most disciplined and deliberate restraint I could muster could I stop myself from bearing a true and absolutely biblical witness against the erroneous erosion of biblical truth that is constantly creeping into the biblically based baptistic theology which was once so strong and rightly so among Southern Baptists.

However, I do count Les Prouty as a brother in Christ, but he is not a Baptist, especially not a Southern Baptist, nor has he ever really been one. He is, was, and probably always will be a Presbyterian.

48 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 3:22 pm

CB,

Two things my brother.

“However, I do count Les Prouty as a brother in Christ, but he is not a Baptist, especially not a Southern Baptist, nor has he ever really been one. He is, was, and probably always will be a Presbyterian.”

1. I do count you as a brother as well.

2. Dear brother, when I was ordained in 1987 in a SB church, I was thouroughly Southern Baptist.

If I may inject some humor here, this reminds me of the time one of my profs at Covenant Theological Seminary, he being formerly a SB and then at that time teaching at a Presbyterian seminary, was asked, “Dr. Yarbrough, you used to be SB, right? How did you come to believe in infant baptism?” He wryly replied, “Simple. I read my bible.”

Blessings brother.

49 Dale Pugh March 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm

“I read my Bible.”

Seems we hear that a lot–even from those who are wrong.

50 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Dale,

“Seems we hear that a lot–even from those who are wrong.”

True that, from all quarters.

51 D. L. Payton March 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Les

Honestly I am not trying to be a smart mouth. Please accept that. I would, however, like to know what scripture do you feel supports infant baptism.

I too, am you brother

52 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 5:36 pm

D. L.,

I’m at the mall with my better half (I’ve temporarily escaped to the food court) and have my daughter and her fam coming this evening for dinner. So can’t respond much now.

But as I just commented to Tarheel, I don’t want to get too far off course here and suffer the wrath sure to come (even though it was Tarheel who started this).

But I’d be happy to exchange on email about the scriptures relating to paedobaptism if you like or on my personal Facebook page. Email is Les@haitiorphanproject.org. Facebook, just search my name and I’d be honored to connect.

Blessings brother.

53 D. L. Payton March 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Les

Enjoy your time with the family. Those are precious minutes well spent.

I gather ’nuff said on this subject

blessings

54 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Les, why ya gotta hate? Why ya gotta bring that up? Groan…..

55 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 5:28 pm

I meant the TARHEEL thing….guess I’m to blame for the invocation of infant baptism…you’re on your own here brother…good luck with all that! ;-)

56 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Well you did bring it up. Then CB went all whatever over it. Of course I threw out a tongue in cheek joke.

I realize I’m on my on here, but I’m gonna stop it here before the moderator wrangles us back in.

Blessings brother.

57 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Lol.

Give CB a break…he’s a passionate and outspoken soul. ;-)

(aren’t we all?)

58 cb scott March 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm

“Give CB a break…he’s a passionate and outspoken soul.”

Tarheel, I don’t need a break, nor do I deserve or desire one. I am right about Believer’s Baptism being the only biblical baptism and that infant baptism is always wrong and not in accord with biblical ecclesiology or soteriology.

As far as my being a “passionate and outspoken soul,” well, may I die like a stray dog on a forgotten road and rot there if I cease to be “passionate and outspoken” about standing for biblical truth here or anywhere.

59 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm

CB,

I was being lighthearted.

Yes you are, to use your term – right as rain – on baptism.

And

I feel ya on the desire to stand for truth….I’m with ya, sir.

60 Tim G March 14, 2014 at 11:07 pm

We teach Baptism as the first step of obedience and get them “scheduled” ASAP. We Baptize in different venues and make it a ceremony itself. River, lake, tub on new property, we have done it all!

61 parsonsmike March 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Circumcision was done on males alone. It showed them as being of the Jewish physical race and as a reminder to them that they should also circumcise their hearts before a holy God.

It was not an act of obedience on the part of the circumcised.
Baptism is an act of obedience on part of the one who has been circumcised in their heart by the Spirit. It represents in a physical form what has happened spiritually.

The OT was full of these physical types that pointed to spiritual anti-types.
The New Covenant includes only believers and these alone are the part of the family of God, the people of God. This would include all OT believers as well, but it would not and does not include every person circumcised.

The People of God, now called the church, and comprised of believers, were once called the Hebrews, mostly comprised of a physical race of people. And certainly not all those baptized now are believers, admittance into the family of God is done through a person’s willing consent with knowledge and understanding. In the OT, admittance into the family of God was through physical birth, willingness, knowledge and understanding had no play in the matter.

Likewise admittance into the church comes by a new birth, not physical but spiritual, of which baptism follows as a sign to show one’s allegiance to their Lord, Master, and King.

There is no other reason for baptism.

In John the B’s days, baptism was to be done by believers in Jehovah as a sign of repentance, because the time of New Covenant was not yet established.

Never was baptism done to babies as a proper way of establishing their citizenship in God’s Kingdom. That true baptism has been subverted and used in a false way is to the shame of those shepherds who so practice it.

peace,
-mike

62 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Mike,

“Never was baptism done to babies as a proper way of establishing their citizenship in God’s Kingdom. That true baptism has been subverted and used in a false way is to the shame of those shepherds who so practice it.”

I agree that baptism done on babies is not to establish their citizenship in heaven. And obviously we would disagree on our understanding of the covenant.

And sadly, :(, I’m feeling that shame thing all over me. Well, not really. I’d stand rather proudly beside my brothers Jim Kennedy or RC Sproul or Jonathan Edwards and I could go on, and not feel shame for what we practice. Not at all.

63 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Name dropper! ;-)

64 parsonsmike March 15, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Les,
And if we knew their names, we could probably invoke some very early and prominent church men who practiced baptismal regeneration.

My suggestion to you is to be silent on this board on your baptismal beliefs unless the topic is specifically about paedo-baptism. It is not that the discussion ruffles my feathers, but there are those for whom it might.

Peace brother,
-mike

65 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Wait, wait, wait.

Do we want to silence disagreement?

I hope that’s not what you meant, ParsonsMike.

66 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 6:05 pm

That comment is not meant to be argumentative or jerky, ParsonsMike.

67 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Mike,

I’m sure you could find those men. And you can find some today who practice baptismal regeneration. Both on babies and some who do it by immersion on adults.

I hear you about keeping it to myself and almost always do. See my comments above to Tarheel. I didn’t bring it up and really refused to go any further on the matter. I’m not here to promote my beliefs in baptism. There are other more important and interesting things discussed here.

Blessings brother.

68 John Wylie March 15, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Les,

With all due respect to Parsonmike, please do not leave anything to yourself. I regard you as one of the most insightful and positive contributors in most of these discussions. While I don’t practice or hold to paedo-baptism I would not want to stifle a brother’s rationale for their practicing of it. Further, I find it hard to criticize a man whose practice is motivated by a desire to identify his children with the covenant of God.

69 Les Prouty March 16, 2014 at 7:27 am

John W.

Thank you brother for your kind words. I just try to remember that I’m a guest here and that this is a Baptist site. I do not want to be a “pot stirrer” on non Baptist issues and try to tread carefully.

Blessings brother.

Les

70 Andy March 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm

So you are asserting that God changed his mind and the Old Cov. of the OT was nullified and He put into place a New Cov. the NT? How then did salvation take place in the OT? This logic then places a dulplisitous nature upon an immutable God. I for one am not comfortable with that. It makes more sense to say the Old Cov and New are actually the same with a greater revelation, that is the Cov. Of Grace!

71 Les Prouty March 15, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Just FYI from Spurgeon:

“The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture, are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenant of law and of grace. May God grant us now the power to instruct, and you the grace to receive instruction on this vital subject.”

72 parsonsmike March 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Les,
Okay.

Tarheel,
Disagreement has its place.
And i would hope that if have a thread on paedo-baptism, Les will defend his position as best able. But this isn’t that thread, as Les has already stated kinda.

peace to you both,
mike

73 Tarheel March 15, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Yeah. Gotcha. ;-)

74 Nick Horton March 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Baptize on a credible profession of faith. I advocate waiting where I don’t know them. Professing Christ in the NT era cost every single believer something. To publicly profess Christ and identify with him was costly, dangerous, and perhaps cost their life. Most of us do not live where it is any of these things to profess Christ. Thus the environmental and contextual barriers to profession are not there. Easy believism rules the day and we have multitudes of souls bound for hell thinking that a prayer and baptism bought their ticket to heaven.

Brothers, isn’t Christ worth more consideration than that? It means something to follow the God of the universe. I don’t want to put barriers in the path of obedience, nor do I want to make baptism a work or component of salvation. I do, however, want to be sure before I affirm someone as brother or sister that they truly know the King.

I imagine, more often than not, I wouldn’t have an issue with baptizing someone immediately because I’ll likely know them and their story.

75 D. L. Payton March 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Nick

I suspect that I am just being picky but I am not sure baptism is that which allows us to “affirm” a believer. If one gives testimony to the saving power of Christ in his life, even if he is a stranger would we not want to affirm him as a brother. Affirmation is based on confession not baptism I would think that we would baptize him in order that he might publicly declare that which has already happened in his life,

76 Les Prouty March 16, 2014 at 7:46 am

Back to the questions of the post:

“Here’s the question. The pattern of Acts is clear, but is it normative? Ought we to follow that pattern today? Does the changing nature of the church in the modern era necessitate or justify a changed process between conversion and baptism?”

and, “How does your church practice baptism?”

I don’t think the pattern of Acts is normative. I do think that it is proper for baptism to follow the profession of faith, but the time lapse we see in Acts, I don’t see as prescriptive for churches for all time. One reason is that there is no clear amount of time prescribed.

How do we practice baptism following a POF? We regularly invite people to sign up and attend our inquirer’s class (membership class). That is held three times each year and lasts a Sunday school cycle (about 10 weeks). The class covers some aspects of theology, church practices, history of the congregation, etc. At the conclusion people fill out an application for membership which goes to the session (elders). Each member applicant is invited to meet with two elders for an interview and is there approved for membership.

If they are a candidate for baptism, a future Sunday is decided upon and they (along with others joining but not being baptized) are presented for membership where each person gives a brief testimony of their conversion and baptism occurs. Our Book of Church Order says,

“When unbaptized persons apply for admission into the Church, they
shall, ordinarily, after giving satisfaction with respect to their knowledge and
piety, make a public profession of their faith, in the presence of the
congregation, and thereupon be baptized.”

All persons becoming members publicly give assent to the following questions:

“(All of) you being here present to make a public
profession of faith, are to assent to the following declarations and
promises, by which you enter into a solemn covenant with God
and His Church.

1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of
God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save
in His sovereign mercy?
2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God,
and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him
alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon
the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as
becomes the followers of Christ?
4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and
work to the best of your ability?
5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline
of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?”

And that’s how we do it.

77 D. L. Payton March 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

Les

Thank you for a clear definitive statement on your preferred practice. I appreciate so much that it takes seriously the most important decision a person will make in his/her lifetime. I would think that such is important to all people who name Jesus as Lord and Master of the lives

I would certainly not call your practice unbiblical, not at all. However I, in all honesty, view it as NON-biblical. That is I do not see this process advocated in the Canon. Please understand how I use “un” and “non”, there is a vast difference.

I simply get “stuck” on the idea that the New Testament teaches that there is nothing that is to be done between POF and baptism. As important as this subject is to the Christian faith I would think that the New Testament writers would have been very copious to address the idea that there is something that needs to be done between POF and baptism.

I agree that the length of time is not a biblical issue. Perhaps I am being picky (I do that at times). However, this is the beginning of a persons walk with Christ. I think we need to get it right in order to demonstrate to the new believer that the teachings of God’s word are important. Obviously that is important to you also.

Thank you brother for your clarity and interaction. It was a learning moment for me.

78 Tarheel March 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I’m learning from both of you men!

79 D. L. Payton March 16, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Tarheel

I realize I am stating the obvious, but this needs to be a learning experience for all of us because the stakes are so high. We need to do this right. It is scary to hear the “estimations” as to the number of lost people on the church membership role. I am not sure how one could guess at this but I am convinced it is far higher than that with which any of us would be comfortable.

I don’t want to sound piously spiritual but for me I sometimes have to simply look to the scripture and make a decision. In this case I go to Romans 1:18. I understand Paul to be saying that the power is in the gospel itself. With that in mind I conclude that the gospel message simply does things I cannot do and does that which I cannot figure our or understand.

For me the key as to when to baptize is sincerity. If I am serious about my task as a pastor and have no unworthy motives and the candidate is serious as he can be at his stage of the process, then i think God will bless it. That candidate will not go to hell because I do not have this all figured out. Based on this I baptize upon POF without requiring anything in between the POF and baptism.

Good discussion

80 Les Prouty March 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

D. L.,

Thank you for the manner in which you engage. You said,

“I would certainly not call your practice unbiblical, not at all. However I, in all honesty, view it as NON-biblical. That is I do not see this process advocated in the Canon. Please understand how I use “un” and “non”, there is a vast difference.”

I agree that the time frame is not specified in the scriptures. And I agree that there appears to be nothing done between POF and baptism in the examples we see.

However, the absence of something happening and no specified time frame does not seem to me to preclude or forbid it. The general pattern is what we are talking about; the order. POF followed by baptism (I’ll speak to more on that later). If you think that we must follow the pattern exactly as seen in Acts, well that will mean baptizing in rivers? Where in the world do we see water tanks up behind the choir?

You see, that is a road none of us wants or needs to go down. These issues, time and how much instruction, are best left to the leaders to decide in their situation. Because if what we see in Acts must be followed to the letter, then there are a lot of baptisms done improperly. And, the absence of something in Acts, like instruction prior to baptism, doesn’t necessarily forbid it.

Blessings brother.

81 cb scott March 16, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I will hit this one more time for the sake of clarity.

There is nothing “unbiblical” in the comment as to how Les Proudy approaches baptism of believers. . . . if he did/does use the proper mode (immersion) in the actual act of baptism.

However, it shall be eternally “unbiblical” to baptize infants for any reason and it shall eternally be “unbiblical” to use any form or methodology to baptize other than immersion.

82 D. L. Payton March 16, 2014 at 1:48 pm

cb

Thank you for that needed clarity. I was assuming that Les was talking about non children and immersion as the mode. Perhaps I was mistaken.

Because of my understanding of scripture (and I will admit my strong SB heritage) I agree with you.

BTW good post on Patrick, learned from and enjoyed it.

83 Les Prouty March 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm

D. L.

“Thank you for that needed clarity. I was assuming that Les was talking about non children and immersion as the mode. Perhaps I was mistaken.”

Brother, I was talking about adults (or youth) who had made a POF and who had never been baptized. Immersion is a possibility, but pouring or sprinkling is more likely.

Blessings brother.

84 Les Prouty March 16, 2014 at 4:14 pm

CB my brother,

You said, “There is nothing “unbiblical” in the comment as to how Les Proudy approaches baptism of believers…….”

I assume you are talking about the process, class, vows, etc. I recognize that the mode is also important for you. Vital I’d say.

So it seems fair to say you agree that our process outlined above, if the adults are immersed, is valid and ok.

As to the infants and mode, you have the last word between us.

Blessings brother.

85 kevin March 17, 2014 at 11:53 am

Just curious here….For those who advocate immediate baptism IN SPITE OF the pastor knowing that said person is living in unrepentant sin(homosexuality, hetero co-habitation), how long do you wait AFTER the baptism before confronting him/her about his sin? How long before church discipline starts? If the church affirms his profession of faith, should not the church practice a spiritual oversight as has been deemed in Scripture(Math 18 et al)?

86 Nate March 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Kevin,

I think Dave left it a little vague as to his discussion with the person who was living with another or in a homosexual relationship. He seemed to indicate there was some discussion, but that baptism wouldn’t be withheld until after moving out arrangements were made.

While his example might lead you or I to be more forceful (for that particular example), I don’t know of anybody that creates a list of sins and requires the person who has just accepted Christ to immediately refrain from them (and show proof) before we would baptize them. (Again, I think this is Dave’s primary point). Discipleship is beginning. So I think the answer is that the person’s sin(s) have already been confronted when the gospel was presented and then the person repented of their sins and accepted Christ. What it looks like on the ground, post repentance/conversion can be a little bit blurred.

Also, to those who withhold baptism until membership classes be taken (some of the comments seemingly indicated that might only happen quarterly), do they forbid this person from the Lord’s Table until that time has elasped (possibly for month(s)). How would the person who has accepted Christ feel at the next Lord’s Supper? Excluded? Second-class? (start thinking that works = salvation?)

87 D. L. Payton March 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Kevin

I advocate baptism upon POF, and membership upon baptism. While I hold that sin does not have to be cleaned up before baptism, I would make one exception. For those behaviors for which the church would take disciplinary action that could lead to dismissal I would withhold baptism until the scriptural behavior is implemented.

Nate…as it regards the Lords Table I would withhold that and only offer it for the same reason as above. In addition to the two behaviors mentioned I would look to Paul’s “examination passage”. I hardly think that a person could examine himself and seriously conclude that staying in and not repenting of said behavior is acceptable.

88 Nate March 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

D.L.

My point was that I believed Dave was indicating that he had repented (or I don’t believe Dave would have baptized him). Now, as to how quickly the person moved out of the house can be a point of debate.

My inclusion about the Lord’s Table was more from those who refrain from baptism for weeks on end until membership classes are taken and what that says to a person who then isn’t permitted to take the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the congregation. I think that sends a horrible message to the person who has believed.

89 D. L. Payton March 17, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Nate

I completely agree that they delay you have talked about would be a bad signal. No problem I totally agree.

However I would withhold baptism of the two life styles in question (co-habitation and Homosexual relationship) until that issue had been resolved by moving out and away. The problem is that this sin is in the category of church discipline where I have or will pastor. Even if I have repentance a long delay in implementing the desired behavior could be problematic.

While I completely agree with you on the signal sent issue I would withhold the Lord’s Table because as I have already stated I just do not see how anyone could seriously examine himself as Paul states and conclude that an activity or life style for which the particular person’s church would discipline him with the view of dismissal, would not exclude him from Paul’s admonition.

Having said all that I do agree with what has been stated several times on this post, this is a local church decision. I am only stating what I do and will continue to do.

90 Les Prouty March 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Nate,

Obviously from what I’ve written we are one of those congregations that waits until the person is received into membership prior to admission to the Lord’s table. Of course we are talking about new professions of faith, not people transferring from evangelical congregations. Those would be welcomed to the table even during the required inquirer’s class which is a number of weeks long and is offered 3 times each year.

But for the new professing believer, we urge them to wait until approved for membership which is tied to finishing the class and then being approved by the elders who read and hear their testimony. Being satisfied that their POF is credible, they are voted on by the elders and admitted to membership. *Then* the person is welcomed to the table.

Since the table is for believers, and in the case of new POFs we admit them to the visible church as elders, it seems appropriate to wait until they are admitted before welcoming them to the table.

Blessings brother.

91 Les Prouty March 17, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Meant to ask this earlier, but how often do you all observe communion? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly?

92 Christiane March 17, 2014 at 8:02 pm

you forgot ‘daily’

93 Nate March 18, 2014 at 8:04 am

Monthly

94 Tarheel March 18, 2014 at 10:26 am

4-5 times a year.

Always near Christmas and Easter, and 2 or 3 other times in addition.

95 Tarheel March 17, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I would answer that question with one word.

Quickly.

;-)

I would think that while sharing with him what baptism represents the perfect opportunity is presented to discuss these public sins and their being incompatible with the new life he has received.

96 Ron Mackey March 18, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Dave,
This is one of the clearest treatments of the role of baptism in a believers life I have read in quite awhile. And, yes you are correct, the arrows may well be coming. Put on your armor and duck once in a while!

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