Archives For Believer’s Baptism

Have you ever wondered why baptism and the Lord’s Supper are considered ordinances of the church? Jesus gave many commands, so why is it that these two commands have divine warrant to be obeyed/practiced by the church universally and perpetually?

What makes these commands given by Christ for the church’s practice is found in their unique purpose. Their practice is rooted most clearly in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Stated simply, the ordinances visibly and tangibly express the gospel.

This truth is articulated in Evangelical Convictions (p. 167) in the following manner: 

Why have these ordinances been given to the church? What purpose do they serve? Most significantly, baptism and the Lord’s Supper visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Certainly, the mere application of water or the eating of bread and the drinking of the cup do not have inherent meaning. For that reason, these acts must always be set within a context that includes the proclamation of the Word of God. When the gospel is preached in conjunction with these ordinances, they become, in the words of Augustine, “visible words.” These observable acts speak to us of the wonderful truths of the gospel—Christ’s sacrificial death, our union with him, the new life that is ours and his glorious coming by which God’s saving purpose will be brought to completion.

Yet the ordinances are not only seen, they are also experienced physically—we “eat and drink” and we are “washed,” hence, the term “tangibly” in our Statement. In our participation in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the preached gospel is personalized, and we are individually engaged in a tangible response. These are God-given means by which we respond to the gospel personally as it is set before us in these visible and tangible ways.

In Western countries in which Christianity has had a great influence, not only past but in the present, becoming a Christian and being baptized does not cost much and it does not, for some, mean much.

Often in countries that are Islamic or Hindu, those that are opposed to Christianity, baptism is the point at which a person is considered dead, no longer a part of the biological family. Interestingly, baptism in those instances carries a triple meaning: death with Christ, death to self and death to the previous way of life, and in their case their family.

This is true for all experiencing baptism, but in these countries these deaths carry with it real consequences and it may possibly lead to a fourth death, physical death. Although we in the West do not face this fourth implication of death at present, it is foolish for us not to consider these consequences since ultimately our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers (Eph. 6:10-18) , who want to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10).

As we learn and grow in our understanding of global Christianity, it is important we stand with and learn from our brothers and sisters in various parts of the world. It is also important that we stand with those who are being persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is illuminating and convicting to read the report of our brothers and sisters in South Asia. When they prepare new believers for baptism, they do so with Seven Questions for New Converts in an Asian Country (Cf. “South Asian Nation Struggles to Shape Itself,” Mission Network News (1-17-12).

Asian Access (or A2), a Christian missions agency in South Asia, listed a series of questions that church planters must ask new believers who are considering baptism. (Due to safety concerns, Asian Access does not mention the country’s name.) The country is predominantly Hindu, but over the past few decades Christianity has grown in popularity—especially among poor and tribal peoples. These are the seven questions asked to help determine a new convert’s readiness to follow Christ:

  1. Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
  2. Are you willing to lose your job?
  3. Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them?
  4. Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
  5. Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith?
  6. Are you willing to go to prison?
  7. Are you willing to die for Jesus?

If the new convert answers yes to all of these questions, then A2 leaders invite that person to sign on the bottom of the paper that of their own free will they have decided to follow Jesus. But here’s the risk: if a new convert signs the paper and is caught by the government, he or she will spend three years behind bars. The one who did the evangelizing faces six years in prison.

If you were being baptized, would you sign? If you were the pastor, would you perform the baptism? Would you consider it a joy and privilege to do so?

Dear Lord, please protect and bless our brothers and sisters in these countries, for the sake of the name of Christ. Amen.

When should a child or young person be baptized? How do you go about discerning the readiness/preparedness of that young person?

Ted L. Christman addresses this pertinent and important doctrinal and pastoral issue in Forbid Them Not: Rethinking the Baptism and Church Membership of Children and Young People

Christman serves as the founding pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Owensboro, KY. In this booklet, he makes a case to fellow Baptists to rethink how they view the conversion, baptism and means of grace provided by God in the lives of children and young people. One of his major concerns is that Baptists postpone baptism too long, preventing young people from obedience to the Great Commission and the corporate means of grace provided by God. This certainly raises good questions, and though I don’t necessarily agree with all he has written, I do appreciate his attempt at acknowledging critical questions and answering them biblically and pastorally.

As I looked through the booklet, I was struck by the series of questions he recommends asking of children and young people. I include the paragraph preceding and following the list of questions (pp. 20-22; though he included them in a paragraph form, I will bullet them for the sake of clarity. If I used these, I would rearrange them a bit.).

A loving and faithful shepherd will ask the young professor many critical and penetrating questions. While he tries not to be unduly technical or profoundly deep, he cannot avoid being theological. He is seeking to discern if this young soul understands the heart of the Gospel. He is also looking for a transformation of life. Questions such as the following should be asked of the young professing Christian – in a way that is pastoral and not overbearing, overwhelming or intimidating.

  • What is a Christian?  How does one become a Christian?
  • What is the Gospel?
  • Why do you need Christ?
  • What did He do for sinners? Why did He have to do that?  Who required Him to do that?
  • Could God have just forgiven us? If not, why not?
  • What is there in God the Father that required Him to punish His Son?
  • What was Christ doing on the cross?
  • Who was He making a payment to?  What if He didn’t make that payment?  Who are the only two persons who can pay for our sins? If we pay for them, how long will it take?
  • When do you believe you first trusted in Christ?
  • What specific sins do you need Him to pay for?
  • Which sins in your life have made you most aware of your need for Christ’s atonement?
  • How do you feel about your sins?  After you realize you have sinned, when do you ask God’s forgiveness for that sin?  Do you try to do that immediately or do you usually wait until the end of the day?  What do you say to Him?
  • What people has God used the most to show you your need for Christ?
  • Are there any sermons or Sunday school lessons that God especially used to convict you of sin?
  • What verses of Scripture give you the most hope and comfort?  Why do they give you comfort?
  • Do you believe that your life is changing?  In what ways is your life changing?
  • Has your attitude and behavior changed toward your brothers or sisters?  In what ways?
  • How has your relationship changed with your parents? Are you more obedient to mom and dad than you used to be? In what ways?
  • How do you feel about going to church?
  • Do you ever get anything out of the sermons? Do you ever feel that God is talking to you during the sermons? Could you give an example? Do you ever find yourself praying during a sermon because of what you have just heard? Could you give an example?
  • When you see your father and mother observing the Lord’s Supper, do you desire to be doing it with them? Why do you desire to participate in this ordinance?
  • Do you ever pray during the day?  What do you say to God?
  • Do you read your Bible?  What do you get out of your Bible reading?
  • What sins do you presently struggle with the most?
  • Do your friends know that you are a Christian?
  • Do you want to be baptized? Why do you want to be baptized? If Dad and Mom and your pastors feel that it’s too soon for you to be baptized, how will you feel about it?

Obviously, a youthful convert will possess only a limited understanding of many of these subjects. Nevertheless, there must be some true knowledge of why he or she needs Christ, what He has done for sinners and how the benefits of the atonement are appropriated.  Such knowledge, though limited, is theological. There must also be some observable evidence of conversion in the young person’s life.  Hence, the need for careful inquiry with parents, Sunday School teachers and others who know the candidate well. Usually, such interviews with the young person are not limited to just one. Ideally, there should be several over an extended period of time. This will give the elders a broader context for their careful evaluation.

Baptismal Questions and Answers

Greg Strand – May 6, 2015 2 Comments

Since my pastoral practice is to include both a personal testimony and an expression of the faith once for all entrusted to the saints, I follow a structure in which the baptismal candidate is asked a series of questions related to essential doctrinal truths of the Christian faith. These questions are asked after the person has shared a personal profession of faith, a testimony.

Below is a copy of what I use, which I have adapted from other Christian traditions.

 

Baptismal Questions and Answers

Question: Do you renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the fleshly desires of the flesh, so that you will not follow, nor be led by them?

Answer: I renounce them all.

Question: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? And in Jesus Christ his only-begotten Son our Lord? And that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; that he did rise again the third day; that he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; and from there he shall come again at the end of the world, to judge the living and the dead?

And do you believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints; the forgiveness of sins; the Resurrection of the body; and everlasting life after death?

Answer: All this I steadfastly and whole-heartedly believe and profess.

 Question: Will you be baptized in this faith once for all entrusted to the saints?

Answer: That is my obedient desire.

Question: Do you acknowledge that this step of obedience is an outward sign of a prior inward cleansing, the time at which you believed and received Jesus Christ, and that it is not water than saves you but faith in Jesus Christ alone?

Answer: I do so acknowledge faith in Christ alone and His praise Him for my prior cleansing.

Question: Do you confess today that you are publicly identifying yourself with Christ in His death – to the past, to sin and to self, burial – denoting a total break with the past, and resurrection – to new life; and that you publicly declare faith in Christ and of permanent allegiance to  Him in obedience to Him?

Answer: I do so publicly identify with Christ and declare my lifelong allegiance to Him.

Question: Will you then obediently keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in them all the days of your life?

Answer: By God’s grace and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, I will seek to do so.

It gives me great joy to baptize you in the Name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism: Introduction

Greg Strand – May 5, 2015 Leave a comment

In the introduction to the baptism service, I state the following:

Today you join the great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) in confessing “Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3),” those witnesses from the Bible, the early church all the way to the present day.  You are following the commands of Jesus’ Great Commission: making disciples by baptizing and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

You are also publicly proclaiming your union with Christ by faith and through this the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life leading to transformation into the image of Christ. Paul writes, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

Through your profession of faith in Christ you are proclaiming to others that Christ is the only way of salvation (Jn. 14:6), and that now is the time of salvation: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

Furthermore, through your baptism you are declaring to the principalities and powers, those minions of Satan that God through Christ triumphs.  As they look on what is happening in the church today, viz. people professing faith in Christ in baptism, they know they are defeated and Jesus Christ overcomes.  Jesus, through His death and resurrection, has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15).  It is “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).

Therefore, today, 1) we testify of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, 2) we edify others with the truth of Jesus Christ and His gospel, 3) we proclaim the gospel to those who may not know and have not received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and 4) we declare to all the victory of Jesus Christ.

You confess “Jesus Christ is Lord” and you give evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in your life. As you live by the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit and under the Lordship of Jesus Christ your desire is to say “no” to sin” and “yes” to Christ. The most significant “yes” was to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, the time at which you experienced new spiritual life. A follow up significant “yes,” some of the first words uttered/cried when you received new birth, is in obedience to Lord Jesus in the waters of baptism.