Baptism: Confession of Faith and Personal Testimony

Greg Strand – April 30, 2015 6 Comments

Testimonies ought to contain both doctrinal truth and personal experience/transformation. As Evangelicals we affirm both of these important truths/realities, which reflects the longer and broader Evangelical stream of which we are a part: the Reformational means we emphasize doctrine; the pietist/revivalist means we emphasize personal experience/transformation. Both of these movements within Evangelicalism are grounded in both head and heart, but they do emphasize one more than the other. In the best of this longer and broader stream, both are highlighted and lived, without compromise or weakening in either direction.

In a previous post, I addressed the importance of sharing publicly one’s personal testimony along with doctrinal truth one affirms, and I applied it specifically to a baptism service. As we have noted, it is vital to affirm doctrinal truth, the faith once for all entrusted to the saints, and also to articulate my personal, experiential appropriation of that faith and transformation by that faith.

In the next few posts I will highlight different aspects of the baptism service I used when I served as a pastor in a local church. And, in fact, I still use these when I am privileged to participate in a baptism, as I did most recently with my daughter when she professed her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the faith once for all entrusted to the saints.

I would be interested, as would others, to hear of your pastoral practice. Please share over the next few days as these different aspects are posted.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

6 responses to Baptism: Confession of Faith and Personal Testimony

  1. Greg, do you want Presbyterians to discuss their pastoral practice?:)

    • Sure, John, go ahead. Although the EFCA is mostly believer baptism by immersion, we ought not to divide over the issue. You know this. If you think it would be helpful to those in the EFCA to understand a biblical defense and pastoral practice of paedo-baptism, especially from a former EFCAer, please share. Some may conclude that any paedo-baptism affirms baptismal regeneration, which, as you know, it does not.

  2. Thanks, Greg, I’ll give my pastoral perspective as a former EFCAer who has been an Orthodox Presbyterian minister for many years.

    My Reformed paedobaptist viewpoint focuses on a different kind of testimony—God’s testimony to his grace. Although raised in baptistic circles—Bible Church and EFCA—I came to biblical convictions that nowhere did the Scriptures teach that baptism was primarily a testimony of a believer’s personal faith, but it was rather a testimony of God’s grace. It’s a testimony to God’s grace at whatever age a person is baptized and since God’s grace never fails, it does not need to ever be repeated if it was administered by someone in the name of the Triune God. As a testimony to God’s grace it provides a wonderful opportunity to emphasize that grace and call the whole congregation to reaffirm that grace in their own lives. It, therefore, is an opportunity for the whole congregation to testify, when they share in the baptismal vows, their agreement with the Lord’s testimony to His grace.

    That grace is covenantal—for believers and their children. The scriptures absolutely do not teach baptismal regeneration—there will always be those who are baptized who turn out to be unbelievers, no matter at what age they were baptized and we must believe in the promises that were given us in our baptism for those promises to be of any effect to us. However, I firmly believe that the Scriptures do teach that baptism is the sign of God’s gracious covenant promises that he will be a God to us and our children. As a pastor who has baptized many young children—and I might add whole households, something which most credo-baptists that I have known have never done—I have had the privilege of reminding the congregation of the grace promised to our children and to encourage the congregation, in the words of the Westminster Larger Catechism, to improve their own baptism (LC Q. # 167). This makes the baptism a congregational event in which we are reminded not only of the grace promised in our baptism, but of our responsibility to believe those gracious promises and act on those beliefs. This makes baptism both a joyous and a challenging experience to the congregation. God’s promises are great and the responsibility to trust in those promises is great as well.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write out your pastoral practice of baptism and the theological reasons for it. Although most in the EFCA are believer baptism by immersion, our commitment is that we will not divide over it. Often those who affirm our view conclude that all those who practice infant baptism also affirm baptismal regeneration. That is not the case. You have provided a rationale for paedo-baptism that is covenantal and not baptismal regeneration. Whether or not one agrees with the view (and similar in the reverse which explains your comment), it is a good articulation of the view.

      You may recall that we addressed the theology and practice of baptism at one of our Theology Conferences a number of years ago in a two views format. One presented a Reformed understanding of paedo-baptism while another presented the view of credo-baptism.

  3. Greg, thanks for giving me that opportunity. I’m glad the EFCA allows for what I believe is a biblical position. I’d be curious how any in the EFCA who share my covenantal view practice it in their congregations.

    • You are welcome. Not many believe or practice paedo-baptism in the EFCA. They will not, however, require rebaptism for those who have been baptized as infants in a covenantal sense. This is one of the practices that makes the EFCA unique. I generally say that the EFCA is approximately 98% believer baptism by immersion, although that is only an anecdotal statement. The other important thing to state is that even though the EFCA is mostly believer baptism by immersion, we are baptist, not Baptist.

      Although the question you raise was not directly asked in our EFCA Doctrinal Survey, here are the assessments of the responses:

      Ordinances

      1. There are differences of opinion regarding the requirement of baptism for membership (52% no; 44% yes; 177 comments)
      2. A strong majority affirm that baptism is not to be required to participate in the Lord’s Supper (86% no; 11% yes)
      2a. Many confuse the term “baptism” to mean “believer baptism” (are we baptists or Baptists?)
      2b. Some assume the EFCA does not require baptism for membership; others claim (wrongly) that in the EFCA a church cannot require baptism for membership
      3. A majority understand the Lord’s Supper as a memorial (64%), while a number embrace the spiritual presence view (26%)

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