The Significance of Baptism

The following is from chapter 2 of my book, Captive to the Word of God, a Baptist look at theology and life in the local church. This is the last section on baptism.

The Significance. What does baptism mean? This is the reason we cannot compromise on the previous points, demands the most from our attention, and requires a redeemed mind to properly comprehend. The main reason baptism is given in Scripture is to point to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He said of His baptism I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50) By this, Jesus was not referring to John’s baptism of Him in the Jordan, though that is a type and shadow of the spiritual truth of what Jesus speaks of in Luke 12. The Lord’s true baptism was His punishment on the tree for our sins. This baptism is what caused the Lord of glory to be in great distress. Thinking forward to His punishment on the cross, suffering the spiritual punishment due us for our sins; this is what caused the King of kings to sweat drops of blood in the garden. No mortal man can stand where Jesus did, cursed by God for the sins of others. He laid His life down for us, knowing He would pick it back up again. Death could not contain Him, for Jesus, unlike the priests of Moses’ time, had no sin of His own. He saw beyond the cross to His glorification, knowing His Father was faithful and would vindicate His death by raising Him up to a glory surpassing that which He had from eternity past. His resurrection is what gives us the hope to not grow weary in well doing (1 Cor 15:20-28). When we baptize believers, we read from Romans 6:4, 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. This gives us a picture of what has been done (spiritually) to us, that as the Lord Jesus was put to death and raised up, so were we – spiritually. This is an important truth that we must never forget.

But I hope to open our eyes to the greater meaning of this simple ordinance and pray that we see together what a glorious picture has been given to us by our great and gracious Lord. The Lord’s life, death, and resurrection are the keystones of our faith.

Much support and insight for what follows was drawn from a small book by Baptist Pastor Hal Brunson, titled The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, a book of parables about baptism.

The baptism in Romans 6:4 gives us the active or present reality of the meaning of Christ’s death, and refers directly to the reality of the first resurrection, when we die to sin and are raised to new life in Christ. But this verse and the act of baptism also point back historically to His death and prophetically forward to the physical resurrection of all the saints when Christ returns to judge all flesh. Baptism is a multifaceted word picture that ought to remind us of far more than the glorious change wrought in the life of the redeemed sinner. One aspect of baptism that baby sprinklers cannot lay claim to is baptism as a picture of submersion into great waters, portraying the great waters of Divine judgment. We do see in Scripture several passages where great waters are graphic symbols of God’s judgment and wrath against sin – which Christ took upon His body as the Lamb sacrificed for our sin. He was submersed into the ocean of God’s wrath on our account, and raised up on the third day. We will look to God’s Word to learn more about this rich teaching on this simple ordinance, graphically presented in four word pictures:

  1. The flood of Noah.
  2. The sorrows of David, described as “great waters”.
  3. Jonah being cast into the sea.
  4. Jesus’ understanding of His death.

First, the flood as a picture of the death of Christ is portrayed in baptism. The Apostle Peter points to this great flood of the entire earth as a vivid picture of the believer’s baptism as well as a figure or type pointing to the suffering of Christ. In proclaiming (1 Peter 3:18) that Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, Peter then alludes to the flood and how only eight persons were saved in the ark, brought through the great waters of God’s judgment against sin. And Peter goes on in his first letter (3:21) to tell us that baptism corresponds to this – the flood of Noah, the outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment and the only refuge being in the ark which is Christ. Both the great flood and our baptism are types which point to the death of our Lord and His provision for our safety. In 2 Peter 2:6, the flood is listed with another well-known symbol of God’s wrath against sin: Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s wrath against sin is real, it is certain, it is final. We need a Savior, One Who can bear up under this wrath, One Who has no sin of His own to atone for. Not only did Christ provide refuge for the redeemed from God’s wrath, He was buried in God’s judgment as payment for sin – our sin. He is worthy of our praise.

The messianic prophet Isaiah, who told of the suffering servant who was crushed for our iniquities, brings us back to the flood in describing the covenant of peace the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer (Isaiah 54:8) will bring.. This is the promise to all who are called, not a promise to the nation-state of Israel. Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, saves all who have been appointed unto eternal life, from every nation, tribe, and tongue. This redemption is as the waters of Noah to me, says the Lord of Hosts (vs 9). Brunson says:

this points backwards, not merely to the language and theology of the slaughtered and speechless Lamb, but even to the very moment at which God would impute the transgressions of His people to their Savior and His righteousness to them. “This”, God says, “is as the waters of Noah to me” – “this” – His being “despised and rejected of men”; “this is as the waters of Noah – His identity as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”; His “bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows”; the Savior “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted … wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, chastised for our peace, and striped for our healing” – “This is as the waters of Noah to me” – His oppression, His affliction, His slaughtering, His substitutionary imprisonment within the iron bars of injustice, His burial with the wicked in the grave of hell’s billows: “This”, says the Almighty, “is as the waters of Noah to me.8

And who is Noah other than a type for all who have found refuge in Christ? What is the ark other than a type of the everlasting covenant of redemption whereby God’s people rise above the waters of judgment? The flood of Noah is God’s judgment against sin. It portrays the suffering of Christ in payment for sin, securing the redemption of those chosen by God the Father. None but those so chosen and called could enter in the ark; God Himself shut the door to secure Noah and his family in and to keep all others out. None but those chosen were shielded from the wrath of God. The flood of Noah shows us how great the price our redemption, how great the Father’s wrath on sin; how helpless we are to secure that safety.

Briefly, let us talk about the ark, made of earthy things: wood and pitch. Christ, the second person of the Godhead came to us wrapped in earthy things: flesh and blood. The ark and the cross, both made of wood. Both signs of judgment and redemption. The ark covered with pitch, to waterproof it, just as in the day when baby Moses, like Noah, would ride upon dangerous waters in a vessel covered with pitch. This pitch was flammable and used as fuel, used by Isaiah as a metaphor for God’s judgment: For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur; her land shall become burning pitch (Isaiah 34:8-9). The Hebrew term for pitch, kaphar, is usually translated not as pitch but is overwhelmingly interpreted as to atone, to purge, to reconcile, to forgive, to cover, and to propitiate. Can you see the glorious scene of how grand the picture is painted by the baptism of a child of God? Again, from Brunson: “The captain of our salvation may have gone to the depths for the salvation of His people, but the old ship of Zion rides the waves with linen sails unfurled, impervious to raging winds and roaring waves, speeding safely upon the scarlet billows of judgment to the soul’s desired haven.”9 We get a glimpse of what the Lord Jesus meant when He told the disciples that Moses and the prophets had written about Himself, and how glorious is this glimpse!

That is but a portion of what the great flood of Noah teaches us about baptism, but we must press on and look at what we are taught by the sorrows of David. This man after God’s own heart knew of his own sin and the despair of trusting in any mortal man for reconciliation with Holy God. David and other Psalmists described their deep sorrows as a kind of burial beneath the billows and waves of the Almighty. In Psalm 42:5 & 7 we read, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? In this sorrowful lament with his soul, he describes his afflictions in terms that point to baptism – Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. Three images of water: waterfalls, breakers, and waves; all communicate the idea of a cascading waterfall pummeling the poet, with the brutal breakers and waves of an angry ocean violently washing over his head. These terrifying metaphors of his torment and anguish wash over him, drowning him in his sorrows. Carried along by the Spirit of God to write these things, perhaps the Psalmist knew not that he prophesied of the promised Messiah, but his words were given to him by God’s Spirit and anticipate the predestined sufferings and death of Christ as a kind of baptism. The word for deep in the psalm is used as a synonym for sheol, connecting to the death of Christ as a submersion into the deepest waters of the place of the dead. And the water metaphors in this psalm undoubtedly describe the suffering servant of God – As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:10) This is widely recognized as prophecy of the Lord’s sword-pierced side and the cruel mockery of those who blasphemed while He hung on the cross.

David’s description of his soul’s suffering in deep water takes us more deeply into the sufferings of Jesus. “Like the high priest of Israel, we pass through the first veil, the holy place of Christ’s impeccable flesh, and gaze upon the physical sufferings of Christ; and then through the second veil into the holy of holies, to the very heart of Christ, where we gaze upon the innermost secrets of the Savior’s suffering soul”10 as He was put under the rod of God’s wrath. In Psalm 18 David wrote about his persecution at the hand of Saul; but the eternal message of redemption contained throughout Scripture portrays here the Savior’s passion, not merely David’s sorrow; death and hell as the persecutor of Christ, not merely Saul’s pursuit of David. The king of Israel describes his trials which have human and divine causes, in terms of sorrow, death, and hell; stark images of his soul’s baptism into the lesser sea of man’s wrath and the greater ocean of God’s wrath. David is immersed in human wrath; Saul’s rage is real. David’s words tell of God’s judgment on sin and care for His people:

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. (Psalm 18:7-17)

Like the pitch on Noah’s ark, God’s judgment here invokes images of fire and water. But as God did not leave David’s soul in torment, neither would He suffer His Holy One to see corruption. Christ was not left buried beneath the sea of God’s wrath and the ocean of His judgment. As David cried out in his distress and called upon the Lord from beneath the deep waters of his sufferings, so also the Savior, as it were, from beneath the burning waters of the cross, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) As deep calls to deep, the Almighty heard the voices of David and David’s seed, and thus He bowed the heavens and came down, riding on a cherub and flying on the wings of the wind; God answered the cry of His Son and sent from above and drew Him out of many waters.

The sorrows of David and other psalmists resonate with all who suffer, but they ultimately point us to the One Who suffered what we deserve, to bring many sons and daughters to glory. The love of God for His elect caused the Son of God, David’s promised seed, to submit to the baptism of His Father’s wrath, so we who are called by His name would be reconciled to our Father and not left to our just deserts.

Let us now look at what we are taught by the casting of Jonah into the sea. This one is specifically called out by the Lord Himself as a type pointing to His death. Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:38-39) Two symbols of Jonah’s experience point to the death of Christ, and to baptism. The terrifying great fish and the deep waters – both of which swallowed up Jonah, and both of which point to baptism by immersion as the proper sign of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Consider what the prophet said from the belly of the fish: Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, [quoting the 18th Psalm] saying,I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.” (Jonah 2:1-6) Like David, Jonah testifies not only to his personal experience; he also prophesies of the death of Christ as a kind of submersion into deep waters. Like Jonah, our Lord was swallowed up by the jaws of death, buried in the heart of the earth, at the bottom of death’s sea. As by the decree of God the great fish could not hold Jonah, it was not possible that death should hold the Son of God. So baptism is not only of immersion but also of emersion – a coming out from the deep waters. Thus Jonah and the Son of God were not only submerged into the belly of the fish and the deep waters of death, they also emerged from leviathan’s jaws and the ocean’s depths. How can the sprinkling of a baby rightly convey this message? When the child of God is baptized by immersion, the testimony is not only the vicarious submersion with Christ into His death, but also our emersion from death by virtue of His resurrection.

Finally, we look to what the Lord Jesus understood about His death as an apocalyptic baptism, interpreting Scripture with Scripture. No tradition or imagination of man can bring us the light and truth that God has given us in His Word.

In the short gospel penned by Mark, we have this response from the Lord Jesus to the request from James and John to sit on either side of Him in glory. Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” (Mark 10:38-39). Other than the ten being indignant at these two, what might they have thought about the cup and the baptism? They would soon learn that this cup the Lord spoke of was not the cup of communion nor a water baptism. Jesus had spoken in terms that left his disciples uncertain, but we know from the record of Scripture that what He was speaking about was the cup of wrath and the baptism of death that awaited Him; of which He lamented: I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50) The disciples would be able to drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism vicariously through Him. No mortal man can stand where Jesus did: cursed by God for the sins of others and lay His life down knowing He would pick it back up again. When we take communion, we are not drinking His cup, but we drink in remembrance of what He did – to cut the New Covenant in His blood to reconcile sinners to Holy God. When we are baptized, it is not merely following His example when John baptized Him in the Jordan. Paul asks, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3) And further he tells us, (1 Corinthians 12:13) For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. We were baptized into Christ’s death, the death He died for us, to break down what separates us from God and one another, to make one people that will bring honor and glory to His name.

Oh, the Savior’s love for His Father and all those He chose to redeem in Christ! Baptism: it’s an ordinance which shows how spiritually dead people have been raised to new life in Christ. But, oh my dear brothers and sisters, it is much, much more than that. I pray you have glimpsed a better, if incomplete, picture of the grand and glorious sacrifice of our Lord and Savior as prophesied and portrayed in various ways as a baptism into God the Father’s judgment. The price He paid and the suffering He took as He drank the cup of wrath due us, summed up the submersion and emersion as one is plunged beneath the waters of baptism and raised up from the deep as was our Savior. Let us never see baptism as the mere sprinkling of water over a little one who knows nothing and fears not the wrath of God, nor see it as only the celebration of a new-born brother in Christ. Let us always remember the One Who was baptized in a way you and I could never survive. Christ paid the price we could not pay. He drank the cup and underwent the baptism that we could not. Every time we see this ordinance, let us think on His sacrifice, His obedience, His submission. And let us be thankful we have a faithful God Who did not allow His Holy One to see corruption – that we would have the firm hope of life eternal. 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 (Romans 6:4). Water baptism is a glorious picture of our Redeemer and a reminder of the spiritual baptism mentioned here, when we were raised up to walk in Christ!

A Commentary on Acts

A Commentary on Acts 415ueiiJyrL._SS300_

A review by Stuart Brogden

Writing a commentary on any book of the Bible is a daunting task. Especially, I think, a New Testament book. We tend to be more familiar with the New Testament and the theological divisions within the realm of Christianity are daunting. And we have much less commentary and interpretation by the Apostles of the New Testament than we have of the Old. And, as with any study of God’s Word, we all bring our presuppositions with us and have to conscientiously focus to seek the true meaning of Scripture rather than merely defend what we’ve been taught by others. Guy Prentiss Waters has spent untold hours to provide us a study commentary on the book of Acts.

Right up front, Mr. Waters makes it clear the perspective from which he views Scripture, which will delight his fellow paedobaptists but ought to give Baptists a bit of caution. Here, from the Introduction, page 9: “This commentary is Reformed in its orientation. It proceeds from the conviction that the Westminster Standards are the best summary of the Bible’s teaching in the church’s possession. It believes that Reformed theology and sound exegesis are not mutually exclusive alternatives, but the very best of friends.”

Many Baptists claim to be Reformed, but do not hold to the Westminster Confession. And putting any man-authored document as the lens through which to read Scripture is contrary to the very essence of being Reformed, which relies on the never-ending journey of Semper Reformanda, Always Reforming to Scripture for the glory of God. Some Baptists are just as guilty as some of our Presbyterian brothers.

That said, I think that Mr. Waters has written a very good commentary, focused on the redemptive story that holds all of Scripture together. This being a 600 page book, it’s not possible to give you a comprehensive review; so I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of passages in Acts chapter 2.

In a section titled, Promise Explained (page 84), our author does an excellent job explaining why Peter’s sermon (which Luke summarized for his account) points to Jesus as the promised son of David, pointing out: “First, David had ‘both died and was buried’ in Jerusalem. Second, David was a ‘prophet.’ Third, David had received the promise of God, on oath, ‘to seat one from the fruit of his loins upon his throne’ (Ps 132:11, cf 2 Sam 7:1; 1 Chr 17).” And just a few pages later, Waters leans (in a footnote) on the Westminster Longer Catechism to claim baptism as “a sign and seal of the forgiveness of sins that is granted alone through faith in Christ.” (page 89) There is no Scripture referenced and there is no Scripture that can be brought to defend this idea. It is conjecture conjured up by paedobaptists to support paedobaptism. One can argue from Scripture that circumcision of the heart or the Lord’s Supper or both are signs and/or seals of the New Covenant – which is what provides that forgiveness of sins (Luke 22:20 and Rom 2:29, respectively). Later on page 89 and onto page 90, Waters refers to Acts 2:39 and again allows his confessional tradition to influence his understanding of Scripture:

In Acts 2:39, Peter makes an important statement concerning the reach or scope of the promise of which he has been speaking. The promise pertains to three groups of people. First, it is ‘for you’, that is, the Jews – not simply these particular Jews gathered in Jerusalem, but for all Jews within reach of the gospel. Second, it is ‘for your children’. God had specially extended his promises to the offspring of believers under the Old Covenant, and will continue to do so under the New Covenant (Gen 17:7). Third, it is ‘for all who are afar off.’” Waters’ second point is one of the key areas that paedobaptists must not honestly examine, because the actual meaning of this Scripture undermines the foundation of their system. The promise given to Abraham in Gen 17:7 was not one that brought the offspring of Jewish children into the New Covenant. The other side of this covenant given to Abraham, described in Gen 17:9 -14, is what brought Jewish offspring into the Mosaic Covenant community – not the New Covenant. Most importantly, God’s Word tells us the proper interpretation of the promise in Gen 17:7: Galatians 3:16 (ESV) Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. The promises were to Abraham and his seed – not seeds; to include Christ and His body in the New Covenant, not unregenerate Jewish or Presbyterian children.

But, the paedobaptist says, Scripture clearly says “the promise is for you and your children!” Two things must be observed from this passage in God’s Word. First, this verse cited in part by Waters and most paedobaptist defenders – For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. That little phrase at the end qualifies everything that precedes it in this sentence. Only those children that are called by the Lord our God to himself will be saved and, therefore, included in the New Covenant. Secondly, the promise mentioned in verse 29 does not refer to the Abrahamic covenant, as paedobaptists claim in their effort include their biological seed in the New Covenant. Context reveal no mention of Abraham in Peter’s sermon. Starting in verse 22 and continuing to verse 36, Peter describes how Christ Jesus is the heir to God’s covenant with David as fulfillment of God’s promise to David to raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

No matter how you slice Acts 2, you will not find Abraham’s covenant nor a promise by God to include all the children of a group of people in the New Covenant.

As with all things written by man, there is error in this book of which the reader must be wary. But there is much good, as well. Many Baptists and Presbyterians agree vigorously on how sinners are saved – it is a monergistic work of God. This view of soteriology shines brightly throughout this commentary and ought to be an encouragement to many.

If you are a fan of the Westminster system of theology, you will enjoy this book more than us Baptists. But we can all learn and benefit from it as it will cause the serious reader to dig into Scripture to see if these things be so.

Did the Lord’s Churches Baptize by Immersion Before the 17th Century?

Did the Lord’s Churches Baptize by Immersion Before the 17th Century?

By Thomas WilliamsonBaptism

http://thomaswilliamson.net/

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Thomas Williamson, 3131 S. Archer Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60608.

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In most Protestant and denominational Baptist colleges and seminaries today, it is commonly taught in the Church History departments that there were no churches on earth that baptized by immersion prior to the 17th Century.

This is just another way of saying that there were no Baptist churches and no true New Testament churches prior to the 17th Century. Supposedly, at some point in the Middle Ages, all true churches vanished from the face of the earth. and the institution of the local church had to be restored later.

As BMA Baptists, we have never accepted such teaching. Point 17 of the 1950 BMA Doctrinal Statement affirmed belief in the “Perpetuity of Missionary Baptist Churches from Christ’s day on earth until His second coming.” This means that there have always been true churches on earth, baptizing by immersion, for the last 20 centuries.

Section 10. C. of the 1988 BMA Doctrinal Statement reads: “The Perpetuity of the Church Instituted by Jesus during His personal ministry on earth (Matt. 16:18, Mark 3:13-19; John 1:35-51), true churches have continued to the present and will continue until Jesus returns (Matt. 16:18, 28:20).”

However, in the last century, some church history scholars have come to the conclusion that the Anabaptists and other evangelical groups prior to the 17th Century baptized exclusively by pouring rather than by immersion, which would mean that those “churches” were not true churches. (Section 10. D. of our Doctrinal Statement requires baptism by immersion).

Some scholars have even pointed to the year 1641 as the date when Baptists recovered the apostolic practice of immersion, stating that Baptists and all other evangelical groups baptized only by pouring prior to that date.

If these scholars are correct, then our BMA Doctrinal Statement is mistaken, and our traditional belief in the perpetuity of the church is also mistaken.

So which is it?

To prove that no one, through the Middle Ages up to 1641, baptized by immersion, would be extremely difficult, requiring a degree of omniscience possessed only by God Himself. But if we can show that there were at least some evangelical groups that were immersing prior to 1641, then we will have successfully defended our conviction that there have always been true churches on earth, and that the gates of hell have not prevailed against the institution of the Lord’s Church.

The notion that there was no baptism by immersion before 1641 can be quickly disposed of. In 1614 (27 years earlier), Leonard Busher, a Baptist of London. in a petition to King James I, stated that Christ “commanded” those who “willingly and gladly” received “the word of salvation to be baptized in the water, that is, dipped for dead in the water.” (Armitage, History of the Baptists, p. 440).

In 1644. Dr. Featley, an opponent of the Baptists, complained that “They flock in great multitudes to their Jordans, and both sexes enter the river, and are dipt after their manner…. This venomous serpent … is the Anabaptist, who, in these latter times, first showed his shining head, and speckled skin, and thrust out his sting near the place of my residence, for more than 20 years.” (Armitage. p. 441), In other words. Baptists were immersing near Dr. Featley’s home prior to 1624. There is no hint that this was a totally new practice among Baptists, only that they started using a stream near Featley’s home around 1624.

In 1656, Henry Denne, a Baptist, defended the practice of immersion by reminding Anglicans that immersion was the ancient practice of their church: “Dipping of infants was not only commanded by the Church of England. but also generally practiced in the Church of England till the year 1606; yea, in some places it was practiced until the year 1641, until the fashion altered…” (Armitage, p. 443).

In the Roman Catholic Church, most baptisms were by immersion until the 14th Century: “Thomas Aquinas, the chief of the schoolmen, who flourished about the year 1250, says, in his theology, that while immersion is not essential to the validity of baptism, still, as the old and common usage, it is more commendable and safer than pouring.” (Everts, The Church in the Wilderness, p. 37).

The 19th Century German Catholic scholar Doellinger stated that “Baptism by immersion continued to be the prevailing practice of the Church as late as the 14th Century.” (Graves, John’s Baptism, p. 207). Baptism by pouring, while occasionally practiced, was not sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Ravenna in 1311. “Synods, as late as the synod of Tarragona, 1391, spoke of the submersion of children in baptism.” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, v. 5, p. 712).

“It is equally clear that the form of baptism was immersion. This was at the time, the practice of the whole Christian world. The great Roman Catholic writers affirm that immersion was the proper form of baptism. Peter the Lombard, who died A.D. 1164, declared without qualification for it as the proper act of baptism.” (Christian, History of the Baptists, vol. 1, p. 81).

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its article on “Baptism,” says, “The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is. . . evident from the writings of the Fathers and the early rituals of both the Latin and Oriental churches…. In the Latin Church, immersion seems to have prevailed until the 12th Century. After that time it is found in some places even as late as the 16th Century.”

St. Jerome, early 5th Century, taught that “we are thrice dipped in the water” and Pope Leo the Great. in the 5th Century. wrote: “The trine immersion is an imitation of the 3 days’ burial” while Pope Gregory the Great in the following century stated that “The reason why we use 3 immersions at Rome is to signify the mystery of Christ’s 3 days’ burial.” (Cramp, Baptist History, p. 35).

Tertullian, in the 3rd Century. described the rite of baptism in detail, showing that it was done by immersion at that time. Martin Luther, 13 centuries later, taught that “baptism, in which the minister dips the child in the water, is a symbol of death and resurrection, and Luther therefore preferred total immersion.” (Latourette, History of Christianity, p. 713).

While Catholics, Episcopalians and other Protestants have, for the most part, abandoned the practice of immersion, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always baptized by immersion throughout its history, and still does so today.

St. John Chrysostom, Orthodox Bishop of Constantinople, baptized 3,000 new members by immersion on Easter Sunday, 404 AD. Chrysostom taught that “Baptism is an immersion, and then an emersion. When our heads enter the water as a tomb, the old man is buried, and plunging down is wholly concealed all at once.” (Graves. pp. 201. 203).

The 18th Century church historian Robert Robinson wrote about Baptists in the 5th Century. “At the beginning of the 5th Century, when infant baptism first came up, there were in Africa at least 400 hundred congregations of Anabaptists, called from Donatus, the name of 2 of their most eminent teachers, Donatists. . . . The Romans baptized by dipping on a profession of faith. The Donatists baptized by dipping on a proof of virtue accompanied with a general profession of Christianity; and as they thought the Romans had ceased to be Christian churches on account of their immorality, they did not hold their baptism valid, and they rebaptized every one that quitted the Roman communion to join theirs.” (Robinson, Ecclesiastical Researches, pp. 7-8). Note that according to Robinson, both the Donatists and the Roman Catholics were immersing at that time.

Through the Middle Ages, the Catholics and Orthodox were baptizing by immersion, yet we are expected to believe that there were no Baptists or evangelicals who baptized by immersion during this period! Where is the proof of this?

In 1590 the Italian Roman Catholic Cardinal and nephew of the Pope, Robert Bellarminc, wrote: “Ordinarily, baptism is performed by immersion, and that to represent the burial of Christ.” (Graves. p. 207). During the 16th Century, many Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican baptisms, and all Orthodox baptisms, were performed by immersion. It is very hard to believe that no Baptists or evangelicals were baptizing by immersion at that same time.

The Waldenses. who spread from their mountain strongholds of France and Italy into most regions of Europe, were Baptists who practiced immersion. “‘The Waldenses were Baptists in that they practiced only immersion. . . .,’ Mezeray says, ‘In the 12th Century they [Waldenses] plunged the candidate in the sacred font..'” (Jarrel, Baptist Perpetuity, pp. 162-163).

“The contemporary writers, Eberhard and Ermengard, in their work, ‘contra Waldenses’ written toward the close of the 12th Century, repeatedly refer to immersion as the form of baptism among the Waldenses.” (Christian, pp 81-82).

Concerning the 15th Century Bohemian Waldenses, Broadbent says. “One of the first things they (the Czech Brethren) did was to baptize those present, for the baptism of believers by immersion was common to the Waldenses and to most of the brethren in different parts, though it had been interrupted by pressure of persecution.” (Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, p. 130).

“No historian has ever charged the ancient Waldenses with the practice of sprinkling and pouring for baptism. We may consider it a point generally admitted that the ancient Waldenses possessed the Baptist peculiarity of holding the burial in baptism of those who are dead to sin.” (Ray, The Baptist Succession, p.331).

Prior to the 17th Century, the Baptist practice of immersion was not brought up against them by their persecutors, because the Catholics and other denominations were also immersing at that time, so the mode of baptism was not a point of controversy.

An unbiased look at the historical evidence shows that our BMA confession of faith is correct in teaching Baptist perpetuity. The practice of baptism by immersion is certainly an essential element of Baptist perpetuity.

The purpose of citing the practices of other denominations is not to hint that they were the mother churches of the Baptists – they were not. Rather, it is to show how absurd it is to believe that there were no immersionist Baptists prior to the 17th Century, at a time when most other religious societies were baptizing by immersion.

 

 

Baptism – What’s the BIG DEAL?

One area Baptists and paedobaptists commonly agree is that there are only two ordinances given to the Baptismchurch, contrasted with the seven claimed by the Roman Catholics. While we agree on what these two ordinances are – baptism and the Lord’s Supper – we do not agree on some of the details, particularly as regards baptism. We baptize believers – by submersion. We’re in the minority. Denominations that practice infant baptism include Roman Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Nazarenes, the United Church of Christ (UCC), Moravian Church, Metropolitan Community Church, Wesleyans, and Episcopalians. There are those who believe baptism is salvific – Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and those who hold to Federal Vision. I will not go into that discussion, just know they are out there.

Baptists have long loved to call themselves – ourselves – “people of the book”, denoting our claim to being among those who stand on the sure foundation of Scripture and under the authority of Scripture. May this be true of us, as many wise and solid sounding arguments have been marshaled in support of the opposing view of baptism – the sprinkling of little ones. I do not want to spend much time explaining why the paedobaptist view on baptism is wrong, I will appeal to a few of their finest theologians to tell us they are wrong.

Listen to the message here

The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror

The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror by Hal Brunson  9780595438167

Hal Brunson’s book, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, is a small collection of parables – two parables about Paedobaptism (one of which brings in Dispensationalism for comparison) and one parable about the death of Christ. Although a short book, Brunson’s work is a compelling examination of some unbiblical teachings about ecclesiology and soteriology. Baptism is the foil in both cases.

The first parable is the tale of a meeting between two now famous men – the young but already distinguished Princeton teacher, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield and the aged and famous John Nelson Darby. Attending the meeting, as Warfield’s escort from London to Oxford, was a young man of the name Harmon Diapson – grand nephew of the infamous Charles Darwin. On the train to Oxford, Warfield and Darby engage in a vigorous discussion about theology, all the vast differences that exist between the Presbyterian Covenant Theology and the then still-new system of Dispensationalism.

Overhearing this discussion on the train is a portly, cigar smoking man that is, at length unable to restrain himself and asks to participate, making the bold assertion that he can prove that Warfield and Darby have much in common – as though they are approaching each other from opposite ends of a rickety bridge and will meet in the middle, over a deep gorge of false teaching. Warfield and Darby are incredulous and protest wildly; young Diapson is eager to hear this man who describes himself as a country parson. Through many questions of these well known theologians, the parson quips that he sees the basic structure of the bridge connecting them. Darwin’s grand nephew sees it first – “It’s a biological bridge, sir: both coventalism and dispensationalism unite in this one idea – the Abrahamic Covenant finds its earthly fulfillment in biological offspring.” The parson congratulates Diapson, adding “Mr. Darby sees the fulfillment in the Jewish child, and Dr. Warfield sees the fulfillment in the Christian child.”

Brunson comments, “Because of that mutual mistake, the dispensationalist commits an eschatalogical error – the covenant finds it ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the ethnic Jews, and the paedobaptist commits an ecclesiastical error – the covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the Christian parent.” This Presbyterian view amounts to gross presumption that so-called covenant children are in the New Covenant, to be confirmed later in life.

The second parable, The Broken Mirror, drives deeper into the paedobaptist problem, highlighting their common twisting of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. This is an oft overlooked but grievous error that every Christian should be on guard against. Buy the book to find out more about this parable.

The third parable in this too-short book is of the Death of Christ. In this section, Brunson does not rely on fanciful tales to illustrate absurdities in theology, he examines picturesque Scripture that serves as types that point to and illustrate the depth and glory and horror of the death of our Savior. And in this section of the book, Brunson displays a glorious view of Christ that will do the soul of any Christian much good. He examines:

      1. the oceanic chaos of pristine creation

      2. the flood of Noah

      3. the sorrows of David described as “great waters

      4. the casting of Jonah into the sea, and, finally,

      5. Jesus’ understanding of His death as an apocalyptic baptism.

I will leave you with a couple short examples of the author’s style in this section, the first one talking about the flood: “The captain of our salvation may have gone to the depths for the salvation of His people, but the old ship of Zion rides the waves with linen sails unfurled, impervious to raging winds and roaring waves, speeding safely upon the scarlet billows of judgment to the soul’s desired haven.” Later in this section, “These graphic symbols of baptism require an understanding of our Savior’s death as an immersion, not just into waters of physical suffering and death, but into the oceanic fury of God’s wrath.” Oh, the Savior’s love for His Father – and all those He chose to redeem in Christ!

At the end of the book is a short record of a debate between the author and a friend of his who is a Presbyterian. Brunson, the Baptist, set the rules – no Baptist sources could be used, only “secular” or paedobaptist. The results are devastating, as Brunson reveals one after the other of heralded paedobaptist theologians defending believer’s baptism and admitting there is no biblical support for infant sprinkling. B.B. Warfield being one of the star witnesses against his own position.

This is a delightful book, well written and easy to read. Brunson keeps Christ in focus and the Word of God as the foundation of all his arguments. I am so glad I found it and read it.

A Defense of Credo-Baptism

I testify that baptism or dipping in water is one of the commandment of this Lord

Jesus Christ.

By John Clark, Physician of Rhode Island in America, 1652

That this commandment of Jesus is by way of dipping, and, as it were by drowning, overwhelming or burying in water and not by sprinkling with water, appears many ways.

1. In that although there be frequent mention made of that appointment of Christ in His last will and testament, yet is it never expresses by the word that may be rendered rantism, or sprinkling, but by the word that is rendered baptism, or dipping.

2. In that the word by which it is so frequently expressed doth in proper English signify to dip, to plunge under water, and as it were, to drown, but yet so as with safety so that the party (as to the manner) may be drowned again and again, see the instance of Naaman. He dipped himself seven times in Jordan (2 King5:14) and to this sense of the word (at least in that place) both the Greek, Latin and English Churches agree.

3. In that the phrase (in which there is mention made of such an appointment of Christ) doth necessarily import such a thing, and, therefore, when mention is made of baptizing, there generally followeth that word the preposition (iv) which is commonly translated in or into which suits the dipping, and not the preposition (sun) which signifies with and so suit with sprinkling. It may as well be rendered I baptize you in water and he shall baptize in the Holy Spirit (Mar 1:8) as it is rendered John did baptize in the wilderness and in the river of Jordan (vs 4, 5) or that John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (Rev 1:10) and they were baptized in the cloud and in the Sea (1 Cor 10:2). Yea, it might as well be rendered I baptize, or dip you, into water as it is rendered they were casting a net into the Sea (Mar 1:16) for the words are the same and it would be an improper speech to say John did baptize with the wilderness and they were casting a net with the Sea.

4. That this appointment of Christ is by way of dipping, and not sprinkling, appears in that for the resemblance and likeness hereunto. The Israelites passing under the cloud and through the Sea where the Egyptians that were their lords and commanders, their pursuers and enemies, that sought their destruction were drowned, left behind and seen no more, is by the Holy Spirit called a baptism (1 Cor 10:1,2) They were baptized in the cloud etc. Observe, it is not here rendered with the cloud and with the Sea, as in the other place (Mar 1:8) with water, because it suits with sprinkling although the word be the same, but in the cloud and in the Sea which suits with dipping or overwhelming. So, with the appointment of Christ, they passing through the midst of the red or bloody Sea on dry land which stood on both sides as a wall, and being under the Cloud, were as men, in a carnal eye, overwhelmed and drowned and yet truly saved and safe from their enemies.

5. That this appointment of Christ was not by sprinkling, but by dipping, or putting the person into or under the water appears by Phillip’s baptizing the Eunuch. It is said They went down into the water, both Philip the baptizer and the Eunuch that was the person to be baptized, and being there in the water, Philip baptized, or dipped him in that water as John did Jesus in the river of Jordan. Then it is said as they descended, or went down into the water, so they ascended or went straight way up out of the water. See Acts 8:38, 39; Matt 3:16. Mark the expression: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water..”, therefore had he been down in the water.

6. That this appointment of Christ was not by sprinkling, but by dipping, or , as it were a drowning, appears in that John the Baptizer, his work being to baptize, remains in the wilderness by the river of Jordan and afterward in Aenon. The reason that this is rendered by the Spirit of God why there he abode, was, because there was much water there, which need not have been if that appointment could have been performed by sprinkling and not by dipping. See Luke 3:2,3 John 3:23.

7. That this appointment of Christ was not to be performed by sprinkling, but by dipping etc. Appears from the nature of the Ordinance itself. It is such an Ordinance as whereby the person that submitteth thereto doth visibly put on Christ Jesus the Lord and is hereby visibly planted into His death, holding forth therein a lively similitude and likeness unto His death. Whereby only through faith he now professeth he hath escaped death and is in hope to obtain life and peace everlasting and so to have fellowship with Him in His death as to be dead with Him and thereupon to reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, Satan, the law and the curse. See Gal 3:27; Rom 8:2,3; 5:7,8,11; 1 Cor 15:29. But the planting of a person into the likeness of death is no ways resembled by sprinkling. But by dipping it is lively set forth and demonstrated.

8. This appointment of Christ, Baptism, is an ordinance whereby the person that submitteth thereto, doth visibly and clearly resemble the burial of Christ, and his being buried with Him. So, as in respect of the old man, the former lusts and conversation, like the Egyptians, to be taken out of the way and seen no more. See Romans 6:4,6; Col 2:12. But sprinkling doth no way lively resemble the burial of Christ, or the persons being buried with Him as dipping doth.

 9. This appointment of Christ, Baptism, is an ordinance whereby the person that submitteth thereto doth visibly and lively hold forth herein the resurrection of Christ, declares Him Whose life was taken from the Earth to be alive again, Who although he died and was buried, yet was He not left in the grave to see corruption, but was raised again and behold He liveth for evermore. As hereby he holds forth the resurrection of Christ, so doth he also his own being planted in the likeness thereof so as to reckon himself to be in his soul and spirit quickened and risen with Christ from henceforth to live unto God the fountain of life and to Christ Jesus the Lord Who died for him, and rose again and so to walk in newness of life in this present evil world, being also begotten unto a lively hope that in the world to come, he shall be raised and quickened both in should and body to a life everlasting. See (Rom 6:4,5,8,11; Acts 8:33,35,36; Col 2:12; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:29; 1 Pet 1:3. Sprinkling doth no way lively resemble the resurrection of Christ, or the souls or bodies rising, or being raised by Him, as the way of dipping doth. Therefore, this appointment of Christ was, and still is, to be performed by way of dipping or putting the person into or under the water and not by sprinkling.

 That this dipping in or into water in the name of Jesus is one of the commandments of this Lord Jesus Christ doth evidently appear Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15, 16 compared with Acts 2:38, 41; 8:36, 38 and 10:47, 48. And that it is also to be observed by all that trust in Christ, as other of is commands, as He is Lord, until He come again, is likewise expressly manifested to be His will: Matt 28:20; Gal 1:7, 8; Jude 3; 2 Tim 2:2; Col 2:5, 6; Rev 2:25; 3:11 Hold fast till I come. Rev 22:14, 19; Heb 12:25

A visible believer or disciple of Christ Jesus (that is, one that manifesteth repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ) is the only person that is to be baptized with that visible baptism or dipping of Jesus Christ in water

 That a visible disciple or scholar of Christ, one that manifesteth himself to have heard Him, to have been taught by Him and to have yielded himself to Him as his teacher, is the only person, etc. Will be made manifest:

 1. By the commission itself and the argument stands thus-they and they only have right t this ordinance and appointment of Jesus Christ, whom the Ordainer Himself, Christ Jesus the Lord, hath appointed it to disciples and to believers and to such only. The first proposition cannot be denied and the second will easily be roved. See the commission by which the apostles were warranted to administer this ordinance. So must all baptize or they will appear but usurpers (Mat 28:18, 19). All power is given to me in heaven and in earth, saith the Lord, Go ye therefore and disciplize or make disciples not among the Jews only, but among the Gentiles and Nations and baptize them. If the question should have been made, Lord whom shall we baptize of the Nations among the Jews and Gentiles? His answer was given in the words before. He would have given no other. You shall baptize amongst the Nations Jews and Gentiles, such as first been taught, and by teaching have been made my disciples. Mar 16:16 go ye into all the World, saith the Lord, and preach the gospel to every creature-to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved etc. If the question should be here propounded again who among the religious and strict Jews and the loose and profane Gentiles should be baptized, the answer is plain-those to whom the Gospel first hath been preached and they through that Gospel have also believed.

 2. By the practice of the commissioners of Christ who were faithful unto their Lord and to the charge which He gave them. The argument stands thus: Such as faithful Apostles, and first commissioners of Christ Jesus the Lord administered this ordinance of baptism unto such and only such ought to be made partakers thereof. But the Apostles and first commissioners of Christ administered not this ordinance unto carnal babes, infants of days(these are by the scriptures declared to be conceived in sin to be brought forth in iniquity, and in being born of the flesh to be but flesh, and so by nature the Children of wrath, one as well as another, being also untaught), but to such as first were taught and were ordained by the immortal seed of the world to be born again and as new born babes in Christ, having tasted of the sincere milk of the word, desire still more of the same that they might grow up thereby and such as appeared to be converted and to become as little ones, such little ones as believed in Jesus.

 The first proposition I suppose none that own Christ and his Apostles will dare to deny. And the second which is more questionable will also be proved. See Acts 2:38, etc. Although Peter with the 11 calls upon the convicted Jews to repent and to be baptized every one in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, and tells them that then they shall be made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and that they should not need to distrust it, he shows them the largeness of the promise that was made concerning the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit, it being promised to be poured forth upon all flesh as they had expressed in the beginning of their discourse out of Joel 5:16, 17 and therefore saith ‘tis to you and to your children and to all that are a far off even as many(of you, your children and such as are a far off) as the Lord our God shall call. Yet, he baptized none, but such as were called by the holding forth the word of salvation by Jesus Christ as appears in the words. For they that gladly received his word were baptized and they only, for they that were baptized were added and continued together in the disciples’ doctrine and in fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayer and continued daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. This place, therefore, if rightly considered, will be so far from affording a ground for the baptizing of the children of believing parents, because here it is said the promise is to you and your children, that it will sufficiently evince the contrary. Such an apprehension is accompanied with 2 or 3 evident mistakes. There is a mistake in the promise, in the parties to whom the promise belongs and the manner how it is to them and their children.

 1. There is a mistake if the promise in that it is looked at as the covenant of Grace which doth ingratiate the soul into and gives it an interest in all the privileges of the Gospel of Christ. So in order doth go before baptism or any other visible ordinance and appointment of His whereas is very truth by promise there, is meant that Holy Spirit of promise which they which believed in Christ, and obeyed Him, should, according to promise, receive after He was ascended unto the right hand of the Father as appears John 7:39; 14:16; 16:7. That which He had here shed abroad in a powerful manner upon the Apostles, and that which these Jews also believing and obeying the Gospel of Christ should also receive and therefore saith Peter, Repent and be baptized and ye shall receive etc. And was no other than that which was of old prophesied of by Joel as is declared in v.16 and so is a promise that follows faith and obedience and not such as goes before to give right to this appointment of Christ.

 2. There is a mistake in the parties to whom the promise belongs. For whereas it is said to you and to your children, and thereupon it is conceived to be meant believers, and their infants of days which upon that account are to be baptized, it is plain and evident when the apostle spoke these words to them, they could not be looked upon as believers, forasmuch as they being pricked at the heart and only convinced of their evil in murdering the Lord of life, propounded what they should do to be saved which is far from believing. To which the apostle replies, Repent and be baptized in the name of the Jesus for the remission of sins. To conceive that by their children were meant infants of days, it may be as well as understood by your sons and daughters which should so receive of the promise of the Spirit as to prophecy mentioned in the seventeenth verse of this chapter to which these words are related: and to make it appear that the promise was not so either to them or their children (as yet manifested) to give them right unto baptism. After many more words used by the apostle to persuade them to save themselves from this adulterous generation, it is said, but as many as gladly received his word, were baptized and but only such and not their infants of days. They that were baptized continued together in such appointments of Christ as infants are in no measure capable of.

3. There is a mistake in the manner how this promise is to them and their children, not spoken to them now as believers and their children as having right and interest peculiar by them, but, indeed, to them and their children no otherwise than to all that are a far off. If taken in the general, cannot be understood but with respect to the general promise which is to pour forth His Spirit upon all flesh. But, if with the restriction, which is, even as many as the Lord our God shall call, then parents and children, Jews and Gentiles, such as are near, and such as are a far off, must be called by the word of His grace before they can have a peculiar right and interest in this Spirit of promise. So a child that is called to believe and obey the Gospel may have this promise made good unto him before his father, and a Gentile that is a far off before a Jew that is near.

This will appear also by other instances as of Philip baptizing in Samaria. They were men and women that he baptized there, such as believed and received the word with great joy (Acts 8:8, 12). When the Eunuch seeing the water, asked what should let him to be baptized. Philip intimates that although he had been taught, yet want of a manifestation of faith would be a let (v. 36, 37) and whereas there is mention made of whole houses that were baptized, that the commissioner might appear faithful unto their Lord, and keep close to the very words of their commission, you shall find they were first taught, and by teaching, were made His disciples, and gladly received His word. See it in Cornilius’ household (Acts 10:44, 47) compared with the jailers’ household (Acts 16: 32, 34). They spake unto him the word of God and unto all that were in his house, and he set meat before them, and rejoicing, believing in God with all his house. See it also in Crispus’ household (Acts 18: 8-11), Stephanus’ household (1 Cor 1:16, 17 compared with 16:15). And as for Lydia’s household (Acts 16), the Spirit of God being more silent therein, they that cannot interpret it by the other four, nor yet by the commission itself, nor by the commissioners’ faithful observance thereof in all other instances, let them prove, if they can, these three particulars: a. That Lydia ever had a husband. B. In case she had, that ever she had any children by him, and if so, then in the c. That they were not dead or so grown up that they might hear and receive the word gladly as well as their mother.

 A third argument to prove that a visible believer is the person that according to the mind of Christ is to be baptized in water may be taken from the order which the Spirit of Christ lays down: faith and baptism, in the scriptures of truth, putting faith still in the first place witness Mark 16: 15, 16, Matt 28: 19; Heb 6; Eph 4.

 A fourth argument may be taken from the nature of the ordinance and a fifth from John’s baptism. Yea, much more might be said to this point, but this may suffice.

 The only person that is to walk in the visible order of his house and so to wait for his coming the second time in the form of a Lord and King with his glorious Kingdom according to promise.

 That he is the only person that is to enter into and walk in the visible order of His house will evidently appear, if the order in which our Lord left His house when he went to His father to receive His Kingdom, be duly considered. In His last will and testament, we shall find it thus recorded. When our Lord was about to be gone, he gave order unto His apostles whom He made stewards in His house of the mysteries of God to make Him disciples of all Nations and that such as were to be made should then be baptized and so visibly be planted into Christ and put on Christ, and having so received Him, should walk in Him, observing all things whatsoever He had commanded. The first thing whereof as touching order was to be added or joined one to another in the fellowship of the Gospel by a mutual professed subjection to the Scepter of Christ and being a company thus called out of the world, from worldly vanities, and worldly worships after Christ Jesus the Lord (which is the proper English of these words-the Church of Christ, and is in other terms called the Household of faith) should steadfastly continue together in the Apostles’ doctrine, the consolation, reproof, and instruction thereof, in fellowship, the mutual support both inward and outward, in breaking of bread, thereby remembering the death of our Lord whose soul was made an offering for sin. As His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood drink indeed by the help of the Spirit to nourish our souls and spirits up unto eternal life and in prayer, one with and for another. This is the absolute order which the Lord hath appointed in His last will and testament. This appeareth both by His own precept and command, and by the practice of such as first trusted in Him. And, if so, then neither infants of days, nor yet such as profess themselves to be believers in Jesus, but refuse as a manifestation thereof, according to the practice of such as first trusted in Christ, to yield themselves to be planted into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and so visibly to put Christ on, as did the Christians of old, I say, such have no right to enter into, or walk in the order of the Gospel of Christ. To conclude the point the argument stands thus: they, and they only , have visible right to enter and walk in the visible order of Christ’s house, and so to wait for His coming, whom Christ Jesus Himself being the Lord of the house, hath appointed, and His Apostles being His stewards, have approved of, but such as first have been taught and made disciples or scholars of Jesus and believers in Christ, and afterwards have been baptized or dipped and thereby visible and lively planted in to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, are they, and they only, whom Christ hath appointed and the apostles approved of. See His commission. Peruse their practice, ergo, they and they only have visible right to enter into and walk in the order of Christ’s house and so to wait for His coming the second time in the for of a King with His glorious Kingdom according to promise. See for a further confirmation of the last clause in the first epistle to the Corinthians !: 7; 1 The 1: 10; 2 The 3: 5.

Divided We Fall

7100094_f496It was a post from my friend and fellow evangelist, Bobby McCreery, that got me thinking. He wrote, “I’m no expert, but it seems one reason revival tarries is the fact that there is so much division in the body of Christ. So many brothers biting and devouring each other over secondary and tertiary issues like baptism and eschatology grieves my heart. I am not saying these issues are not important. I am saying my prayer is that our love for Christ would cause us to love one another in spite of our differences.” I could not help but echo the sentiment of my friend. So often in the Christian community we are ready to go to the mats over issues that, while important, are secondary to the essential doctrines of the faith.

These essential issues – such as: the nature of God; the deity of Christ; the Trinity; salvation by grace alone, through faith, in Christ alone; the sufficiency of scripture (and that scripture is inerrant); justification; and imputation – are what all Christians should be willing to go to the grave over. They are so essential to the very nature of our faith, that to remove any one of them would do irreparable damage to Christianity. These are doctrines that we must be absolutely unified on. Yet today, the doctrines which, while important, do not cause the cause of Christ to crumble have been elevated to first order status. Christians are going to war over doctrines which have been debate by good and godly men for centuries. What is worse, where some of the learned men of the past have been willing to call each other brethren despite their differences, today, Christians are declaring each other false believers, false teachers, or even worse, heretics. And all the while, we ignore the words of our Savior, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35 ESV).

This is not to say that every discussion or disagreement over doctrinal issues is a failure to show love to each other. In fact, it is very important that we as Christians be willing to wrangle over tough doctrinal teachings so that we may come to a full and mature understanding of our faith. But in so doing, we are not to despise one another for differing beliefs. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul teaches more mature believers in the faith that while we are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (because it is only meat and the idol has no power at all) those who are weak, or lacking maturity in doctrine, may see this as sin. Paul calls on the more mature Christians to be willing to abstain from eating meat around them in order to keep from adversely affecting the weaker brethren’s conscience.

Inherent in this teaching we see a couple of principles. First, that of the opposing views, one is right, one is wrong. Those who are right have a greater and more mature understanding of the teachings. Second, those Christians who are more mature are taught to not lord over the weaker brethren due to their advanced wisdom. They are in fact, called to work with the less mature brethren at their own level. Incumbent in this is that the mature brethren will instruct, in love, the weaker. In other words, we are told it is less important to prove our being right in this matter than it is to love our weaker brethren and to build them up in the faith.

Now, I would agree that this matter of meat sacrificed to idols is not a debate of eschatology, soteriology or baptism. However, the principle, I believe remains. When we discuss our viewpoints of doctrine, it must always be with the mindset that we are talking with fellow believers. One of us is going to be wrong in our beliefs, but unless this is a core matter, one can still be a Christian if they are indeed wrong. Thus, the debate is not about finding a tare among the wheat, but the education and edification of our brethren. If we approach the matter purely from the standpoint that anyone who does not understand the wisdom in this view of doctrine must change their mind or else, then we have wrongly declared hosts of brethren anathema, even though they have agreement on the core essentials.

Often times, disagreements on secondary issues can turn into nasty, knock down, drag out arguments. The unfortunate result is that some Christians end up becoming unwilling to affirm other Christians as brethren when they refuse to see their “wisdom” in an area of doctrine. However, in Romans 14, Paul admonishes Christians who debate over the eating of certain foods or days on which one should worship. Remember, in this passage, Paul is talking specifically about Christians. So when he asks, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (v. 4a) he is pointing out that those who are in disagreement on this secondary matter should not be calling into question the salvation of the other. He goes on to say, “It is before his own master that he stands or falls,” (v. 4b). Paul is saying that only God can make that final determination when it comes to a brother’s wrong understanding of a secondary doctrine. That means it is not up to us to declare them anathema!

In this same passage, when writing of the debate over days of worship, Paul writes “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind,” (v. 5b). Did we just read that correctly? Did Paul just say that two Christians could have two separate viewpoints on a matter of secondary doctrine? Yes! Paul just taught us that we can disagree and still be brethren. Why? Because “the one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God,” (v. 6). In other words, even though we may disagree with brothers and sisters in areas of secondary doctrinal matters, we all worship the Lord and submit to our beliefs in honor of Him. It is in fact possible to rightly worship God with differing views on non-essential matters.

Paul repeatedly teaches for unity among Christians who have differing view points. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul calls out those who evidently decided that some apostles and teachers were better than others. Believers had aligned themselves under Paul, Peter and Apollos. Some were rejecting the other three and saying, “I follow Christ,” (v. 12). Paul admonishes this manner of division saying “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (v. 13). Like matters of secondary doctrinal matters, we can even get into arguments over who preaches better, or which preacher has the right doctrine (because after all, that’s the doctrine I believe!). Paul calls the brethren into unity under Christ, even though there were differences between the teachers they sat under.

Again, I know some are going to say, “but (insert doctrine here) is not what Paul was writing about! So this does not apply to my situation.” The issue at hand though is the principle that Paul was teaching, which goes back to what Christ taught His disciples. There are going to be differing viewpoints among Christians on a variety of secondary doctrinal matters. We can discuss and debate the matters, but only if we are doing so with unity amongst the brethren and love for one another in mind. If we are seeking to prove ourselves right at the expense of others, if we are willing to declare brethren anathema because they do not believe as we do, if we just become downright mean and nasty to one another, then we have failed to obey the command of our Lord and Savior. And to make matters worse, as my friend said in the quote at the beginning of the article, revival tarries. Why? Because, while we are hacking and slashing at each other, the gospel is not preached to the world. And what little of the gospel message that does make it into the hands of unbelievers is now tainted by our lack of love for those within the Christian camp. So, the world marches on, blindly unaware of its headlong plunge into Hell, while we sit arrogantly smug that we proved ourselves right to someone we should have been linking arms with in the proclamation of the gospel.

Christians this must not be so. We must be above the petty bickering, back biting, and name calling. Let us discuss and debate, let us educate and edify. Let us be a blessing to one another, even when we disagree. But more importantly, let us be unified in the core essentials of the faith and let us proclaim, as one voice, the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.