Monday, August 13, 2007
A High View of Baptism Leads to a Man's Conversion
Dear Courteous Reader,
The International Mission Board/Wade Burleson crisis of late 2005 and early 2006 drove many of us back to the books for study of the ordinances. During several months of intense reading and discussion, I learned a higher view of baptism than what I had formerly held. This Sunday, God used that high view of baptism to convict a man of sin and convert him to faith in Christ!
As a Baptist, I had always been repulsed by the various iterations of "baptismal regeneration." The Church of Christ and the Catholic Church both hold that a person is "born again" or regenerated in the act of baptism. We Baptists rightly reject this position, which is based primarily on a wrong interpretation of John 3:5
Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The correct meaning of "born of water" is "born naturally" or "born physically." But these two groups, as well as some others, take "born of water" to mean "baptized in water."
As a reaction against this wrong belief, however, many Baptists too strongly de-emphasize baptism. We act as if "walking the aisle" is the profession of faith, and baptism is something to be done later, at our convenience, if at all. (Please see Dr. VanNeste's excellent article, p.4.) This was the position I held.
In study of the issue, however, I came to understand that baptism, although not regenerative, should always accompany faith in Christ, and should be performed immediately upon conversion. The command is "believe and be baptized." The practice is to be baptized right away. (Consider the experience of the three thousand, the Ethiopian, the Philippian jailer, and Saul/Paul himself.) A person who has come to faith in Christ, and made this known to other believers, should not remain unbaptized for more than a few hours. Certainly there are difficult cases, where physical infirmity or lack of a suitable body of water is an obstacle, but in almost all cases, the new convert should be baptized the same day.
Understanding this biblical truth, I began to reconsider my idea of who should be allowed to share in The Lord's Supper. As a young adult, in ignorant zeal, I had believed that anyone at all could share the Supper. As my understanding matured, I had held that any Christian could take the Supper, even if he had not been baptized. But through study and prayer in 2006, I came to realize that the old Baptist position is right: A man who has refused baptism should not be welcomed into the communion of the church, especially around The Lord's Supper. (See any of the old Baptist confessions of faith, or any of the three versions of The Baptist Faith and Message, found here.)
Although I have held this position for roughly a year, my fellow elder and I had not yet brought ourselves to state this quite so baldly in our worship services. We have been saying that a person who has not "made a good and credible profession of faith" should not take the Supper. Our intention has been not to drive away inquirers with too harsh a position.
Yesterday, however, it was my turn to lead the communion, and I was convicted that I must state the truth. I instructed the congregation (there were first-time visitors present) that anyone who had supposedly believed in Christ, but had not been baptized should not take The Lord's Supper on the grounds that he might be taking it in an "unworthy manner."
As the worshipers came forward to take the elements and form a circle, one man, a first-time visitor, remained in his place near the back, and bent down his head. When the worship service closed, he was still there, crying. I went to him and asked what he was thinking about, but he only shook his head and continued crying. I prayed over him and offered my help when he was ready.
In a few minutes, he spoke to me outside, and told that in those moments, while the rest of the church was sharing The Lord's Supper, he was being converted to Christ! He had attended church off-and-on for years, known most of the facts, and believed in God. But he said that when he realized he was being excluded from The Lord's Supper, he became strongly convicted of sin, and began asking Jesus to forgive him. He testified that he was overwhelmed with emotion "in a good way" and began to cry out to God. Afterward, he felt a kind of peace that he had never felt before. He said that although he had made deals with God before, and promised to quit sinning in this way or that, it had never worked. This time, however, he did not ask God to do anything for him, and did not make any promises to shape up, but just asked God to forgive him of his sins.
I read to him from Peter's Pentecost sermon, that he should be baptized, and he agreed. I told him that he should be baptized the same day, and he agreed to that, too! So, I had the great pleasure of baptizing him in a the pleasant, warm waters of our local lake yesterday evening, praise God!
I offer this account as an encouragement to my brothers. If you are concerned that a high view of baptism, or a hard line on The Lord's Supper will be anti-evangelistic, perhaps that should not be such a concern after all.
Love in Christ,
Excellent observation! I believe half of all theological errors would be solved if everyone heeded your advice!
What manifestations of this issue do you see in your neck of the woods?
Love in Christ,
I could not find an email address to contact you through, so I am posting here.
I stumbled upon your blog and was so happy to find it.
You were one of my best friends growing up in Windmill Estates. You helped me through the divorce of my parents and I missed you a lot when I moved to Colorado. I'm so glad to see that you are doing so well and have such a wonderful life with an obviously awesome family.
I'm still in Colorado. I married my high school sweetheart (18 years now) and have three great kids. Rachel, Alisha and AJ are 14, 12 and 8 respectively.
I found some pictures of us when we were kids, playing with an R2D2 robot I had gotten for my birthday. I was such a tomboy.
I saw that you named your daughter after our old neighbor Angela. That is nice to hear that you still keep in touch with her. We all had such an impact on each other's lives.
I still keep in touch with Jennifer Finney. Her Dad, Don, passed away a few years back from cancer, but her Mom, Alice, still lives in the house on Red Fox Road.
Please take care of yourself and that precious family you have. I will definitely keep you in my prayers. It sounds like the good Lord has covered you and is continuing to bless you every day.
Shay Black (used to be Chancy)
Keep blogging and keep seeking Jesus!
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