Baptism issues

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steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
hey all, I had a unexpected issue come up in an elders meeting last night. We have been discussing ideas on possible changes to the process of becoming members of our church (independent & nondenominational). One elder disagreed with the requirement of baptism for membership. He believes that the apostolic calls to "repent and be baptized" in acts 2:38 is referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Not in a charismatic way, but referring to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that saves.

He maintained that nowhere is water baptism required.

Any thoughts?

Edit...Guess I should have put this in the 'baptism' section.
 

SeanAnderson

Puritan Board Freshman
Baptism should surely be required for membership. To resist baptism is to live in disobedience to Christ's commandments. Baptism is one of the sacraments, alongside the Lord's Supper, that he himself gives for the edification of the Church.
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
Eleven of us, and the pastors agree. He kept insisting that the requirement to be baptized was referring to the Holy Spirit, not by water. We were all so surprised by his confused idea that we had a hard time resolving it.
 

Grumman Tomcat

Puritan Board Freshman
Talking from a Baptist perspective, Baptism is act of obedience, a public demonstration of the inward work that Christ has done in you. I am in agreement with Sean Anderson, water baptism should be a requirement for a person to join a church. My church required that I as an adult had to be water baptized. Our church practices Credo Baptism. The child is dedicated, then when he is old enough to confess Christ he is water baptized.
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
In order for our elder board to move forward, I think we'll need to show our dissenter, from the text how he is wrong. Not sure how we'll do that. I'm certain the long standing tradition and understanding of the church as a whole also understands baptism (in the apostolic call to be referring primarily about water.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
In order for our elder board to move forward, I think we'll need to show our dissenter, from the text how he is wrong. Not sure how we'll do that. I'm certain the long standing tradition and understanding of the church as a whole also understands baptism (in the apostolic call to be referring primarily about water.

I would simply point out to him that he is asking the wrong question. Instead of asking "why does a person need to be baptized?" he should be asking "Why does a person not want to be baptized?" The answer to that second question would go a long way towards answering whether or not a particular person should be allowed into the membership of your church.
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
He does acknowledges the value in water baptism, just not the requirement for it. The only baptism that is required he says is by the Spirit. I understand the idea, I thought something similar many years ago.
 

Grumman Tomcat

Puritan Board Freshman
There are a lot of people that seem to choke on the issue of baptism. It may be an issue of personal pride. Some denominations require a person to be baptized again into their denomination. This is true of some of the Baptist denominations. Some people will refuse.
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
In our case, I don't know of a time where we haven't accepted another churches baptism. I do think that this elder's issue is more pride than baptism specifics. He seams to take every opportunity to disagree. He can hold up progress on the simplest issues for ages.

Anyone have a textual argument that I could use to talk to him. Logic doesn't usually work.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Ask the elder why, if one were saved, that they would not proceed quickly with the next logical step of obedience, water baptism. Thus, we would not expect long to see any unbaptized church member even if he did not want to require such a thing for membership. It would be hard to argue for any reason to delay and baptism and membership would then occur at the same time anyway.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Jesus told the Apostles, "Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...."

The Apostles can't bring the Holy Spirit or baptize (if it is a baptism of the Holy Spirit). Same with any household baptisms, if they already believed why are they being baptized if that baptism is a baptism of the Holy Spirit? Unless he believes that one believes and then receives the Holy Spirit which is a huge problem.
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
That question (Pergamum) is definitely on my list. The difficulty as I see it is not that he doesn't want people baptized, but that he views the scriptures call to be baptized as referring to spiritual baptism and not to water baptism.


As an aside, I have added a couple questions to my list to ask future elder candidates...
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
Jesus told the Apostles, "Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...."

The Apostles can't bring the Holy Spirit or baptize (if it is a baptism of the Holy Spirit). Same with any household baptisms, if they already believed why are they being baptized if that baptism is a baptism of the Holy Spirit? Unless he believes that one believes and then receives the Holy Spirit which is a huge problem.

That is the other issue. Because we are a non-denominational church, we come from all kinds of backgrounds. Only a few of us are reformed. Most likely he doesn't have an acurate view of the order of salvation.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
There are a lot of theological issues going on if an Elder is so confused as to think that water baptism is simply some sort of "useful" ordinance in the Church. It begs the question as to why the elder is an elder in the first place or why the Church itself is confused about something so central to the theology and history of the Christian Church.

I guess my larger concern is that one could "spackle" the problem by coming up with a few verses that convince a man but I guarantee you that, if one probes deeper, there are a whole host of other theological problems with a man if he (an elder) cannot understand something as basic as baptism and how the Lord has ordained it as an ordinance to visibly identify those who are in the Church.

I would ask the man the simple question: How can we identify someone as a Christian? The Holy Spirit's work is invisible.
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
... I guarantee you that, if one probes deeper, there are a whole host of other theological problems with a man if he (an elder) cannot understand something as basic as baptism... [/i].

I agree. He was vetted and elected an elder a few years before myself, and I'm certain most of the others have serious regrets now. This isn't the first time causing issues over what should be very simple issues.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
It would seem rather odd and redundant for Peter to have said [meant]: “Repent and be baptized [with the Holy Spirit.]...and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I also found the arguments of a Lutheran minister named James Brown in refuting another persons arguments in the same vein as your friend (a Presbyterian minister named James Dale) quite helpful and persuasive.

...First of all, it is admitted that the common, well nigh universal, view recognizes all these [passages like Acts 2:38, 9:18, 22:16] as cases of ritual baptism...We have great confidence in what may be called the “common sense” interpretation of the Bible, and are slow to believe that the great mass of Christians have been in error on this point for so many centuries.

...Ritual baptism was a well known and recognized religious ordinance at that time, and when the word is used without anything to suggest a different meaning, the natural impression is that of ritual baptism. It seems hardly necessary to offer any proof of the familiarity of this ordinance. It was practiced by John, submitted to by Christ Himself, and administered by the apostles before and after the death of their Master, as a means and a pledge of discipleship. ...The Eunuch at once said, as of a fully understood matter, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36b] At Samaria, “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” [Acts 8:12] ...These and similar cases show how well it was understood at that time that ritual baptism was to be administered to all who desired to be disciples of Christ. The language of the Commission is in perfect harmony with this idea. It is to make disciples of, or to disciple, matheteusate, all nations, baptizing them, etc. It seems scarcely possible to receive any other impression from the words, than that they were to disciple the nations to Christ, and as a means were to baptize those who became disciples, and further to teach them to observe all things whatsoever commanded by Christ. The relation of baptizing and teaching is suggestive of baptism being the initiatory step in the work of making disciples, or that the baptism was to be followed by instruction and obedience in the school of Christ. This, it also seems to us, is fatal to the interpretation of an exclusively higher and ultimate baptism, in which baptism with water, or as an external ordinance, is to have no part. ...When Peter said to the multitude, “repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ,” and when Ananias said to Paul, “arise and be baptized,” we can hardly think of a command that does not embrace the well known baptism with water, or that this was not the very baptism enjoined as a condition and evidence of their discipleship. It may help to confirm this to refer to the case of Peter at Ceasarea. Here there is no room for dispute or doubt, as distinct mention is made of the water, for baptism: “Can any man forbid water,” etc. [Acts 10:47a] The very form of expression in the original, “Can anyone forbid the water,” to hyd[FONT=&amp]ō[/FONT]r, indicates how distinctly it was understood that water baptism was to be administered in all such cases. We believe that every reader of these accounts will naturally, if not necessarily, receive the impression of ritual baptism here, as in the cases where it is distinctly stated or so clearly implied as to place it beyond doubt.

…No mere men could be commissioned to baptize with the higher and ultimate baptism exclusive of water, nor could the command be given to men by men to be thus baptized. Men are but the instruments employed by God and by which he is pleased to accomplish His work, and God never delegates to the instrument what belongs absolutely to Himself. He may commission men to preach repentance and remission of sins, but He commissions no man to do what He alone can do—forgive sins. So he may commission men to preach baptism and to administer the ordinance, but He does not commission men to bestow the higher and ultimate baptism into the triune God. ...We doubt if Rome has ever claimed more than is involved in this assumption by our modest Presbyterian brother. Of course he will disavow all idea of such an assumption, but we can not help thinking that his interpretation of the Great Commission, and that of the baptism of the three thousand and of Paul, must include thus much: When Christ said to the apostles, “Go ye therefore and disciple all nations, baptizing them,” etc., if He meant this highest baptism and this exclusively, then He commissioned men to administer and bestow it, and that just as actually and surely as He commissioned them to teach the observance of all things commanded by Him. It is all plain enough if we understand it of submission to a divinely instituted ordinance, the condition and proof of their discipleship to Christ, but mysterious beyond comprehension, if it must be understood of something wholly divine, a baptism of the Holy Ghost.
 
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BGF

Puritan Board Sophomore
It seems the burden of proof lies with the elder. If he cannot agree with the majority of the the session on what is clearly the orthodox position then perhaps he should provide a clear defense, let the session consider and vote. Then all due diligence has been observed by session and this one elder cannot cry foul. If he does anyway, then, as others have said, there are bigger problems and perhaps discipline comes into play.
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
Any thoughts?

My thoughts: He should be offered a chance to resign as an Elder before further steps are taken.

This.

Edit:

I'm sorry. You asked for answers, not just advice. Elder Barnes (post 11) and Phil D (post 16) are right. Additionally, you ought to consult the proper chapters in LBC & WCF/WLC. There are a plethora of biblical references which you'll find helpful.
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
I leave for a couple hours and all kinds of good council comes in. Thanks all. This will certainly be an issue for much prayer. Hopefully God will bring our brother around to a right understanding. Our next meeting isn't until may, so I have time to pray and prepare.

Thanks again for all your wisdom. I'll let you know how things go.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
That is the other issue. Because we are a non-denominational church, we come from all kinds of backgrounds. Only a few of us are reformed. Most likely he doesn't have an acurate view of the order of salvation.

I don't know how long you've been Pastor, but if you have a session with "all kind of backgrounds" and only a few reformed, prepare for many more issues in the future. Just my :2cents:
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
Actually I'm just an elder. There is hope for our mixed us family. The lead pastor is new, just moved up from the assistant pastor's role. He has been quoting Luther, Spurgeon and Calvin at least every other week. So I will keep praying and and working on people's understanding of the doctrines of grace.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
Seems he is equating what is required of salvation with what is required of membership in a local body of believers. None of the sacraments are required for salvation, as the case of the thief on the cross demonstrates, but for a Church to determine who is eligible for communicant membership it would seem that a desire to participate in all the sacraments of the Church would be visible. The thief was an extraordinary example of the Lord's grace toward sinners - he didn't have the opportunity to participate in any sacraments. Those believers who in the providence of God do have that opportunity will avail themselves of them. And that submission to the Lord's ordinances is one measure whereby the shepherds are able to discern the sheep from the wolves. And, as an Elder, he does have the responsibility of protecting the flock from wolves, does he not?

Or is he too busy howling at the moon for that sort of thing?
 

steelbender

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you Mushroom, that was very well articulated. I'll be thinking about your ideas as I prepare for next months meeting.
 
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