Dec 082011

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them [disciples] in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them [disciples] to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20 (emphasis mine)

As I develop this subject over the next several weeks, I pray that I am relating, not only my own view of baptism, but also the view held by the members of Redeemer Baptist Church. This is a serious issue for us and one that warrants careful study. Many paedobaptists that I have talked to will say that baptism is not really that important of an issue. They have said to me, “Does it really matter if I have been sprinkled as an infant or immersed as a believer?” I reply, “Yes, it does matter.” This issue, which I have settled in my mind and heart, came to my attention recently (I will not relate the incident at this time), and I felt that I should once again study the matter and reaffirm my commitment to Credo-baptism: baptizing only those who have made a profession of faith in Jesus.

I see the biblical mode of baptism as immersion. After all, the word baptizo always means to immerse or dip. Adoniram Judson came to this conclusion while on the boat to Burma. He knew that when he got to India he would be meeting William Carey, the English Baptist and pioneer missionary to India. Judson was an American Congregationalist, still practicing the baptism of infants. When Judson got aboard the ship, he was became consumed with his defense of paedobaptism. He so desperately wanted to stand his ground when he met William Carey. It was about a month later on board the ship that Judson, as he studied the Scriptures, changed his views on baptism. He simply did not see the practice of baptizing infants as biblical.

Judson knew what was at stake and he did not take it lightly. It was a paedobaptist denomination that sent him to the mission field. Judson knew that if word got back to the Congregationalists in America that he now held to believer’s baptism, he would lose all support from them. His wife, Ann, felt the struggle in his heart. She also was very worried about all this. How would you like to be on your way to a foreign land and find out before you even get there that the group that sent you had rescinded all financial support? How would you ever get home with no money?

Well, that’s exactly what happened. When word got back to America, Judson’s support stopped. A new society was formed in New England, the American Baptist Missionary Union, which would support him in his work. Judson was their first foreign missionary.

But while on ship, Judson’s notes were compiled into a book called Christian Baptism. Judson begins with a compelling study of the word baptizo. He clearly demonstrates that the word always means to immerse. It cannot mean anything else. It never means “to sprinkle”. As he studied the issue biblically and historically, he realized that this was a serious issue and it would change the course of his life. I highly recommend this book. It is still in print by Audubon Press, Laurel, MS.

If the mode is immersion, who then are the subjects of baptism? I will show over the next several weeks that the answer to this question really does matter. Obviously, as Baptists, we hold that only disciples are the subjects of baptism, and not infants. I am absolutely committed to this position. As I read and understand the Scripture, my conscience, as Luther would say, is held captive to the Word of God. So, I say it like this: I am first a Christian by the Sovereign Grace of God alone. Secondly, I am a Baptist by conviction. Thirdly, I am Southern Baptist by voluntary association. By Southern Baptist I mean I am an Historical Southern Baptist. I hold to the Doctrines of Grace like the founders of the SBC. It is clearly evident that they were Reformed men and I am committed to preach and teach the Doctrines of Grace as did our Southern Baptist forefathers. I am working to restore historic Southern Baptist principles. Our heritage is clearly linked to the English Separatists, who were staunchly Reformed. Our roots do not come from the Anabaptists, as is argued by many in our denomination. The evidence is clearly not there. Even those who support the Anabaptist-Kinship theory of Baptist origins admit, “Those who argue for a foundation in English Separatism are demonstrably correct. Those who see a connection to continental Anabaptism have not yet established indisputable evidence as such, but they can still suggest that similarities between the Swiss and South German Biblicists and Baptists are adequate to attract the interest of Baptists and sufficiently compelling to engender not only admiration but also in many cases imitation of their commitments and convictions.”[1]

Tom Nettles, in his three-volume work on the Baptists, clearly demonstrates that Baptists historically are orthodox, evangelical, confessional, and hold to a theologically-integrated ecclesiology. This means simply that Baptists historically allow the Bible to dictate how we do church. Baptists historically have held to the Regulative principle of worship. The Scriptures regulate how we worship. Part of that is how the ordinances that Christ has given to the Church are to be practiced among His people. The ordinances are serious matters.

After the aforementioned incident (concerning which I have given no details), I got out a book that I have had on my shelf for a year. It was written by Fred Malone and is entitled The Baptism of Disciples Alone. Thank you, Mike Foley, for the gift of this book. I have found it absolutely Biblical and compelling. It has a loving spirit yet it is firm and clear regarding the baptism of disciples alone. It is this book that has inspired me to write on this issue. Malone expresses my convictions (and I believe the convictions of RBC) so well. Who does Jesus say should receive baptism from his final commission? Disciples alone. Only those who have made a profession of faith. Please be in prayer and let us walk in love as we speak to this issue.

[1] David S. Dockery, ed. Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future. (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2009), 124.