Contend Earnestly: Rethinking Baptism: Part 1

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rethinking Baptism: Part 1

Before I start, I should begin by letting the reader know that I have always been a believer of credo baptism, or believer’s baptism. Meaning, I believe that baptism is administered only to those who repent and profess faith in Jesus because of his sinless life, his perfect death and powerful resurrection. So, this paper will not involve the discussions that have led to divisions between the paedo (child) and credo baptism crowd. This paper is to discuss the reasons why someone should be baptized and importance of it.

When growing up and seeking to understand baptism I was told many things about baptism and why we administer it within the church. Some of these reasons were this:

It’s a public proclamation of one’s faith
It’s a picture to show on the outside, what happened on the inside
We do it because Jesus did it and he commanded it and we want to be like Jesus
It’s to bring someone into the Christian community

I guess I want to question some of these and then add something I believe that has been missing from our thoughts on baptism, or at least missing from the communities that I have hung around in the past.

Public Proclamation

Many I know of believe that all baptisms should be done in the public of some sorts. What I find interesting is that it’s not public that they desire, but it actually happens within the church walls, where very little of the unbelieving public gather. What I find to be more consistent in the Scriptures is not that it had to happen in public, but it happened immediately with the one who repented and believed. We aren’t sure how much of the “public” were at some of these places (i.e. households, eunuch by his chariot, Lydia by the river with other women), but the seemingly solid stream of evidence points more to the immediacy of baptism, not the place or those present. So, while it may be a proclamation of sorts (so are many other things we do), I’m not sure this is the fullness of the “why” in getting baptized.

It’s A Picture

Although this might be true, there just isn’t a great deal of evidence that points to this fact. We can try and connect some dots between baptism in water with the baptism of the Spirit shown to us in Romans 6, but the actual evidence of this being the reason for water baptism, seems to be lacking. I believe the two are connected, but as you will see below, I believe they are connected much deeper than a mere picture.

We do it because Jesus did it and commanded us to

I don’t believe this is good enough, and as you speak to a postmodern world, they won’t believe this is good enough either. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do what God tells us to do, but as we explain baptism, we shouldn’t merely say, “Do it because God said so.” Our God is one that usually explains things to us, instead of “because I said so.” Now, I know that our parents have conditioned us to just do things because they said so, but this usually isn’t how God operates. There might be times where we do things God calls us to without knowing fully the “why” but most of the time, God operates as a Father who desires for his children to know the reason why he has a command, not merely “do what I say and deal with it.” Because of this, maybe we should ask the “why” Jesus did it and why he commanded it.

It’s to bring someone into the Christian community

I agree to an extent with this statement, but I believe it to be much fuller than this. Meaning, if one believes that you should be baptized so you can be in a new community, this seems to lack in argument for why someone should desire this. If we are dealing with God and his ways, this has to be larger than a particular culture and a particular time we live in. The reason I say this is the mere fact that most don’t have to be baptized to be in community today and most understand within Protestant circles that baptism doesn’t save you. Because of this, if this is the reason why we get baptized, few will be persuaded. Most will show you the Christian community that they are in and have never been baptized. Although they might be kept from some membership rosters, few will care and actually be glad that they aren't considered members of particular churches, because it gets them out of going to business meetings. Not only that, but the Eunuch in Acts 8 didn’t return with Philip but continued in the life and occupation that God had given him to live. So maybe this is deeper than a mere physical community.

Next time we'll get into, "Then, why get baptized?"


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