Official Statement on Baptism
Following the model displayed in the New Testament, Exploring the Truth takes the position that baptism is limited exclusively to the repentant believer who, having placed his faith and obedience, in Christ, and now wishes to publicly profess faith before the Household of the Faithful and to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord through full, bodily immersion in water (except when medically not possible). We do not teach that baptism saves; rather we teach that this is the first step of obedience to the commands of our Lord and His Apostles.
As a consequence of this, it is the position of Exploring the Truth that Paedobaptism is not valid as fulfillment of the Apostolic Mandate to “repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38)”
Defending Our Position
An excerpt from Baptist Distinctives…
Ask most non-Baptists (and even some Baptists!) what is the Baptist distinctive and they likely will say, “Baptism of adults by immersion.” Of course, there is no one Baptist distinctive. Why then do many people regard baptism as practiced by Baptists to be our distinctive? A possible reason is that Baptists are one of the very few denominations that practice believer’s baptism by immersion and do so as a symbol of having been saved, not as a requirement for salvation.
In previous centuries, rulers of both state and church launched persecutions against Baptists for this practice. In the face of such harsh resistance, as well as the inconvenience of immersion, why have Baptists stubbornly held to the belief in and practice of believer’s immersion? The answer is found in basic Baptist convictions.
Baptism Is Only for Believers
The New Testament records that baptism always followed conversion, never preceded it, and were not necessary for salvation (Acts 2:1-41; 8:36-39; 16:30-33). Since Baptists look to the Bible as our sole authority for faith and practice, we believe that baptism is only for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Furthermore, Baptists point out that in the New Testament a commitment to believe in and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior was always voluntary. Therefore, baptism as a sign of such commitment ought always to be voluntary.
Because of these convictions based on the Bible, Baptists do not baptize infants. This refusal has resulted in persecution. For example, Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard University, was forced not only from his office but banished from Cambridge for refusing to have his infant children baptized in the state-supported church.
Baptism Is Only by Immersion
Although some early Baptists baptized by pouring or sprinkling water over a person, Baptists concluded that immersion of a person’s entire body in water was the only biblical way to baptize. Therefore, in spite of persecution, inconvenience and ridicule, they began to practice baptism only by immersion. Today, that is the Baptist way throughout most of the world.
The belief in immersion as the proper mode of baptism is based on the Bible for several reasons:
- The English word “baptize” comes from a word in the Greek language—the language in which the New Testament originally was written—that means “to dip, submerge, or immerse.”
- John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River by immersion as Jesus began his public ministry (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11).
- Christ’s disciples in New Testament times baptized by immersion (Acts 8:36-39).
- Immersion is a means not only of declaring that Christ died, was buried and was resurrected to provide salvation but also of testifying about our own hope of resurrection (Romans 6:5).
- The New Testament teaches that immersion is a way to symbolize that a believer has died to an old way and is alive to walk a new way in Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:11-12).
Baptism Is Symbolic
Baptists believe that the Bible teaches that baptism is important but not necessary for salvation. For example, the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43), Saul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-18) and the people gathered in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:24-48) all experienced salvation without the necessity of baptism. In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter urged those who had repented and believed in Christ to be baptized, not that baptism was necessary for salvation but as a testimony that they had been saved (Acts 2:1-41).
Thus, baptism is symbolic and not sacramental. Baptists believe that the Bible teaches that baptism symbolizes that a person has been saved and is not a means of salvation. Baptism is not a means of channeling saving grace but rather is a way of testifying that saving grace has been experienced. It does not wash away sin but symbolizes the forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ.
While baptism is not essential for salvation, it is a very important requirement for obedience to the Lord. Christ commanded his disciples to baptize (Matthew 28:19) and therefore baptism is a form of obedience to Jesus as Lord. Baptism is one way that a person declares, “Jesus is Lord.”
What is Believer’s Baptism?
What is believer’s baptism? Does it have a purpose, since salvation is “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8,9)?
Water baptism is obviously a picture of something, which has already taken place in the heart of the believer the moment he/she was justified (1 Pet. 3:21). Water baptism is the ordinance by which the repentant believer identifies with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You are “crucified” (standing upright in water), you are “buried” (immersed into the water), and you are “resurrected into life” (raised out of the water). Water baptism then, is a picture of spiritual baptism as defined in Romans 6:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:13. It is the outward testimony of the believer’s inward faith. A sinner is saved the moment he places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and yields to His Lordship in obedience. Baptism is the first visible testimony to that believer being set apart from his sin and set apart to Christ and His glory.
There is a scriptural basis for Believer’s Baptism. It pictures or proclaims four important things:
- Believer’s Baptism provides the picture of the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.” Colossians 2:12
- Believer’s Baptism it the picture the death of our old life to sin, and our resurrection to walk in newness of life. “As Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4
- Believer’s Baptism proclaims our faith in the Trinity of the Godhead. “Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 28:19
- Believer’s Baptism pictures our “putting on” of Christ. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:26,27
So then, Believer’s Baptism is a picture of what transpired when you placed your faith and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save you from your sins (Romans 6:3-5). It does not atone for sin, as it cannot; only the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin (I John 1:7; Colossians 1:14).
Who may be baptized?
Now, let’s look at who may be baptized. The Bible makes it clear that scriptural baptism is Believer’s Baptism.
- In Acts 2:41 we observe that they received the word, AND THEN they were baptized.
- In Acts 8:12,36,37 we find that they believed, AND THEN they were baptized.
- In Acts 10:43,44,47, it is plain to see that those who believed received the Holy Ghost, and THEN they were baptized. (Lost people do not receive the Holy Ghost).
When the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved….” (Acts 16:30-34). Paul did not tell him to be baptized to be saved. His baptism came AFTER his believing, which, again, portrays the scriptural standard.
Who then may/should be baptized? According to the established Bible pattern, only those who have repented and yielded to the Lordship of Christ. Water baptism is NOT salvation, but obedience to a command by God concerning discipleship.
When and where should baptism be done?
When is the believer to be baptized? The Bible teaches that water baptism follows shortly after spiritual baptism (the new birth). Notice the example of Paul (Acts 9:18), Cornelius (Acts 10:43-48), and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:33).
You were placed into the body of Christ by spiritual baptism at the moment you were saved (Galatians 3:26-27). Now you follow the miracle of spiritual baptism with physical immersion into water, according to Acts 8:38; 10:47; 16:33. As to where a believer is to be baptized, the obvious answer is in the presence of other believers, the local church. The Lord Jesus Christ gave the local church the ordinance of water baptism (Matthew 28:18-20). An ordinance is a ceremony appointed by Christ to be administered in the local church as a visible type of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.
How is baptism practiced
HOW is a believer to be baptized? Immersion in water is the only scriptural method of baptism.
- In Matthew 3:13-16 and in Mark 1:9-10 we find that John the Baptist needed “much water” for baptism.
- In Acts 8:38-39 we are taught baptism by immersion.
- In Romans 6:3-6 we see that baptism must fulfill three pictures: death, burial and resurrection. It is also referred to as being “planted”, and being raised. It is not difficult to see that the only mode of baptism, which fulfills all these pictures, is the immersion of the believer in water. Furthermore, scriptural expressions such as “much water” (John 3:23), and “down both into the water” (Acts 8:38) are very conclusive evidence that water baptism is by immersion.
Why be baptized?
Obedience; Spiritual baptism is the Christian’s identification with Christ (Colossians 2:12). This is why we should submit to water baptism.
Romans 6:3-5 teaches us that it is literally a picture of your death, burial and resurrection with Christ. It is your first act of obedience to God after salvation. WHY be baptized? Consider the following:
- Believer’s Baptism pleases the Lord. When Jesus was baptized, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). When n we follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ we certainly please the Father.
- Scriptural baptism is a testimony to the world. Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). Our baptism is a public testimony o f our faith in the Lord Jesus: Christ, and the way in which we identify ourselves with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
We understand and believe that baptism is not a “sacrament” that imparts saving grace, but an ordinance. We are not saved by baptism, but by faith in Jesus Christ and His blood…”cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Baptism is the outward symbol of what has already transpired in the heart of the one who has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for full salvation.
2nd Ordinance: the Lord’s Table (Holy Communion)
The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements –bread and the fruit of the vine– is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of his suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26, and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26, and is enjoined on all believers “till He come!”
Let us focus on the teaching of the London Baptist Confession for a few moments:
- The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other. ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17, 21)
There is no set mandate upon the Church as to how often we come to the Lord’s Table that is found in Scripture and neither do we enjoin the church to a particular timetable. It is to the Elders to decide if weekly, monthly, etc. All believers are entitled to partake upon their conversion and, having professed faith, are encouraged to receive Holy Communion from the Elders in full view and fellowship with the Household of the Faithful during corporate worship.
- In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of himself by himself upon the cross, once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same. So that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, injurious to Christ’s own sacrifice the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect. ( Hebrews 9:25, 26, 28; 1 Corinthians 11:24; Matthew 26:26, 27)
- The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use, and to take and break the bread; to take the cup, and, they communicating also themselves, to give both to the communicants. ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, etc. )
- The denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this ordinance, and to the institution of Christ. ( Matthew 26:26-28; Matthew 15:9; Exodus 20:4, 5)
- The outward elements in this ordinance, duly set apart to the use ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, although in terms used figuratively, they are sometimes called by the names of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ, albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before. ( 1 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 11:26-28)
- That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood, commonly called transubstantiation, by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason, overthroweth the nature of the ordinance, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries. ( Acts 3:21; Luke 24:6, 39; 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25)
- Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses. ( 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
- All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves. ( 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 11:29; Matthew 7:6)
How should Holy Communion be administered and by whom?
Before we go any further, it is needful to remind that Holy Communion is a closed ceremony, meaning it should only be offered during the Corporate Worship and to a believer that has submitted to Believers Baptism. Many of my Southern Baptist Brethren will disagree with this. However, the command to be baptized is scriptural and disobedience to this command necessarily disqualifies from the observance of Communion.
It is appointed to ministers to bless the elements and to distribute among the faithful. Both offices, the Elders and the Deacons should be present in the service. Otherwise there is no set formula apart from scripture. The bread is to be blessed, broken, and eaten. Following this, the cup is to be blessed and drank.