Opinions on Baptism as an Ordinance

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by Reformation Monk, Jun 28, 2011.

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  1. Reformation Monk

    Reformation Monk Puritan Board Freshman

    First let me lay out a quick framework of my personal exp.

    I was in the PCUSA for a long time, during that time; I became Reformed and actually moved to the PCA for a couple of years. But because of difficulties in the particular church I had moved too, my family and I moved back to our old PCUSA.

    I then basically became frustrated and kind of gave up and decided to take up an ecumenical direction in my faith. I had worked at LifeWay (an SBC Christian Bookstore) and I started to read about Spiritual Disciplines from authors like Richard Foster. This lead me down the road to questioning Protestantism altogether and I soon found myself as a Catholic Catechumen in a Strict Traditionalism, all Latin Mass, Catholic Parish.

    So for many months I learned the Catholic Faith and became a serious practicing Catholic. I learned my rosary and did it every day, went to Eucharistic Adoration.. the whole 9 yards.

    But in the middle of my experience; the Spirit finally moved me to realizing that even though the Catholics try very hard at bending the Scriptures, there was just too much drastically opposed to the plain truth of Scripture for me to continue down that road and I fell away from the Catholic Church.

    I then went to the High Anglican Church for awhile.... then moved on to Lutheranism.

    While I was studying up on Lutheranism I started to read about the Theology of the Cross and the Theology of Glory.

    This lead me back to Romans and Galatians. At this time I was listening to the Bible almost exclusively every day in my car and at work.

    and then everything finally "clicked".

    I finally truly understood "Justification by faith alone."

    That is when I understood the difference between the "Christian Religion" and that of the true Christian Church.

    During all of this, especially in the Catholic Church I was still asking a basic question, which in my mind seemed to be a pretty important question; but strangely enough, most others seemed to be stumped, which was, "how does a person know their saved?"

    Of course the Catholics would say that they are "being saved." But even then they really couldn't articulate the process very well... basically it was a process. For them, like the Eastern Orthodox, Salvation basically involves trying to get closer to God. So one is "more assured of being saved" by "doing more."

    So in other words, if I'm a Catholic, I feel more assured of my salvation if I go to Mass every Sunday, if I go to Confession frequently, if do my rosary, if I am helping the poor, if Im charitable, if I active in my church... etc...

    So in other words; in light of the true Gospel ( justified by faith alone ) I finally understood how Catholics and Anglicans and even Lutherans rely heavily on the Church and Sacraments as being a means of grace in a way that basically means.....

    "The closer you keep yourself to the Church and it's sacraments, the more assurance you have."

    Because even Lutherans believe you can backslide and fall away.

    That is why I am now and permanently, by God's grace, and will be forever Reformed. This time around, I now totally understand the truth of Scripture and how very prone we are to "works righteousness."

    So here is my question.

    I now see Baptism as an Ordinance and not a Sacrament. This is now a very important distinction for me, because I now am very convicted that Baptism and Communion can not be a work.

    This is the main reason why I've become a Credobaptist.

    So I was wondering if perhaps some others here could give me your opinions on everything I've just laid out.

    Also, without sounding dispensational, could someone in simple terms kind of explain the discontinuity between the Old and New Testament. Of course the main argument now from my Paedobaptist friends are that I'm becoming a Dispensational. But I'm trying to explain to them my new convictions.

  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor


    Thank you for providing this testimony. You've been more of a nomad than me, and that's really saying something!

    First, while forums like this one can be very useful, I think it's best to also bring these kinds of questions to your elders at an appropriate time since you are under their authority and it is their responsibility to shepherd you.

    Simply put, with regard to the discontinuity of the OT and NT, confessional or "Reformed" Baptists believe the following: There is one covenant of grace with two administrations. (See the LBCF article on the covenant and compare it with dispensational statements and other non-covenantal statements on the church.)

    This means that all who have ever been saved and who will ever be saved are members of the universal church. The discontinuity is that Baptists believe that in this dispensation, the covenant is administered differently. Only professing believers are to be baptized and the children of covenant (church) members are not proper subjects of baptism now that the New Covenant has been inaugurated. There are certainly other discontinuities, but I think this boils it down to its essence.

    (Dispensation is a perfectly good word and a biblical word that is used at least 4 times in the KJV. Unfortunately it has been just about ruined with the identification of it with dispensationalism, a term that was probably coined to suggest an overemphasis on finding a multitude of dispensations by the Darby faction of the Plymouth Brethren and their followers. You will see paedobaptist writers use the term with some frequency prior to the rise in popularity of dispensationalism.)

    On the other hand, dispensationalism sees the OT Saints (or Israel) and the church are two separate peoples, at least in the sense that it would not be proper to speak of a "church" in the OT. (I would say that reference to the church in the OT by anyone in any of the camps is liable to be misunderstood by non-theologically literate people in our day without some further qualification.) Dispensationalists also don't see the "Tribulation Saints" as being part of the church, and view the church as existing only between Pentecost and the Rapture.

    New Covenant Theology, (NCT) which is increasingly popular among Calvinistic Baptists, also makes a sharp distinction between the NC and all the previous covenants, sometimes subsuming all of the OT covenants into the term "the old covenant." (In the NT, the term "old covenant" seems to me to always be a reference to the Mosaic Covenant.) But NCT is more of a movement than a unified theology, so there are going to be as many diversities there as you find among Dispensationalists today, if not more. But their main difference with Baptist CT is that they deny that there is one unified covenant of grace. That is not to say that they (or post-Scofield/Chafer Dispensationalists) believe there are two ways of salvation. It has more to do with my next paragraph.

    The continuity/discontinuity issue has clear implications regarding the perpetuity of the moral law. From a practical standpoint this can be more or less serious depending on the views and practices of individuals, no matter what camp he is in. Oftentimes, especially in years past, the CT/NCT fight breaks down to an argument over the 4th Commandment. But even many in the CT camp today, both credobaptist and paedobaptist, effectively reject the confessional teaching on the Sabbath. But some NCTers and basically all dispensationalists say we are not under the law as a code in any sense. This is doctrinal antinomianism. Doctrinal antinomianism does not necessarily equate with practical antinomianism. The latter can be found even in those communions that confess the perpetuity of the moral law. But that's for another thread.

    When your paedobaptist friends ask you about "becoming dispensationalist" because you've become a Baptist, if you want to have a little fun, ask them what denomination Scofield and Chafer belonged to. (Hint: It wasn't Baptist and they weren't baptistic.) My guess is that whatever your friends background is (even if some are former Baptists) they are unfamiliar with historic baptist thought and erroneously equate it with dispensationalism. Unfortunately some Baptists equate the two as well. You could also simply give them a copy of the London Baptist Confession of 1689.

    WRT to your understanding of the ordinances, I believe some in the Southern Presbyterian tradition like Thornwell and Dabney held to essentially memorial (or Zwinglian) views on the efficacy of the sacraments or ordinances. This was one reason for the (over)reaction of the Federal Vision people because they saw the Southern Presbyterian tradition (i.e. PCA) as being largely baptistic. I believe it was Thornwell who stated that baptized infants were "little vipers in covenant diapers." That's not the confessional view, but there are plenty in conservative Presbyterian churches who essentially see things that way.

    It is good that you are asking these questions. Of course, I think you are right to reject paedobaptism, but I don't think it's enough to simply reject it based on how we define sacrament or ordinance. Believe it or not, there are even some Baptists on this board who hold to sacramental views of one ordinance or the other and perhaps both. Since I would tend to disagree with some of those views I've seen expressed, I'll leave it to them to describe their views if they'd like to weigh in.

    I would also examine the pertinent NT texts on the baptism debate in some detail as well if you haven't done that already. Unless there has been a lot more study than what is indicated in your abbreviated testimony here, you may still have some work to do to iron things out. Otherwise you may end up vacillating from one view to another the way I did for years. I also let my issues with particular churches play too big of a role.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
  3. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Moderator Staff Member


    A reminder of the Number One Rule in the Credo-Baptism Answers Forum:

  4. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior


    Thank you for sharing your journey!

    Some things to add -- I'm with you 100% on the ordinance/sacrament distinction. The 1689 London Baptist Confession removed every single instance of "sacrament" from the Westminster Confession and the Savoy Declaration for a reason!

    Regarding New Covenant Theology, I recently became aware that many NCTers reject the "doctrinal antinomianism." I was at a pastor's conference, and a student from Providence Theological Seminary insisted that the antinomians were a minority among NCTers. He wanted to reclaim the NCT name, and even said that they would come up with a new name if NCT couldn't be rid of its antinomian baggage.
  5. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I did not answer a question. I asked one. I did not realize that was not allowed either.

    My apologies
  6. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    As I noted, there is a wide diversity of thought within the NCT movement. Gary Long (Providence Theol. Sem.) is exactly the kind of leader I had in mind when I noted that in many cases from a practical standpoint it comes down to an argument over the 4th Commandment. But his view of the Lord's Day is probably at least as high as some who ostensibly subscribe to a Reformed confession.

    Just as there are different varieties of covenant theology (with some being more confessional than others) there are different varieties of NCT as well as dispensationalism. You can't just say "Theologian X believes Y" and impute that to the whole.
  7. Reformation Monk

    Reformation Monk Puritan Board Freshman

    Pilgrim and Elnwood,

    This is all new to me. I guess I'm at a disadvantage because I'm changing purely based on Scripture. I haven't read any theology on this yet, so I'm not sure where I stand theologically. I guess I need to read about NCT. The only covenant theology I know is your typical Reformed Presbyterian Covenant theology.

    There is a strong argument for infant baptism. I won't deny that. It makes a lot of sense according to Scripture and looking at Circumcision and the Covenant.

    But I just see little flaws.

    Like, if it would have been so obvious to NT Jews to baptize their infants..... why didn't they just baptize their "male" infants?

    Then there is the fact that Baptism is always in the context of believing. "Make disciples of all nations and then baptizing them." "believe and be baptized."

    It is also in the context of repentance.

    This is how I see the discontinuity; I just don't see the NT Church as the same as the physical OT nation of Israel.

    The Covenant is still there; in the Baptist household, the promises are still there. For me, if there is absolutely no baptismal regeneration ( which there is not, I firmly reject baptismal regeneration or baptismal efficaciousness ) then there is no reason to baptize infants.

    But in the Baptist household; there are still the same blessings upon the child. The child is still being brought up under the discipleship of the parents, just as in a paedobaptist home. The child is still in the covenant community and a witness to the worship.

    I just honestly no longer see any benefit of baptizing infants.

    I guess I need to read up a little on New Covenant Theology.

    ---------- Post added at 03:17 AM ---------- Previous post was at 03:13 AM ----------


    I am infant baptized as well as my wife and my three daughters. As far as I'm concerned now, when we do join Grace Covenant Church, I will be encouraging them to be re-baptized as believers.
  8. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    OK I'm not seeing the connection really between your testimony and your conclusion, and I would have to ask you some questions.

    Firstly where did you ever get the idea that Protestant's who believe the Lord's Supper and Baptism are sacraments believe that they are works?

    Secondly, what in your mind is the difference between an ordinance and a sacrament?

    Thirdly, while the Baptist confession does indeed use ordinance and not sacrament the theology is sacramental, being very similar to Westminster. So I can't work out why you have become a baptist to 'escape' this theology.

    In other words I'm a reformed baptist who believes in the ordinances as sacraments. How come you have fled Presbyterianism to become a Baptist by rejecting a doctrine that I as a reformed baptist hold very dear and believe that the Confession teaches? I'm not sure how to process all that.
  9. Reformation Monk

    Reformation Monk Puritan Board Freshman

    Hey Paul,

    I have to apologize to you and or anyone else that my words might have sounded and or maybe are offensive. I have a bad habit of just throwing out my personal thoughts in a way that might be inconsiderate of other brothers and sisters in Christ. Please forgive me if I've said something that is obviously wrong.

    I've been a Presbyterian for 40 years and I'm not "fleeing" Presbyterianism. In fact, I wouldn't have a problem worshipping in a Reformed Presbyterian church.

    But I do want to be clear on one point if I may; which is to say, that I believe that we should all be considerate of each other's faith and understandings. If what I've expressed seems wrong to you, then it might very well be that fact that I've overreacted a bit.

    That is one reason why I would like to hear other peoples input because I don't want to drift into error.
  10. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    David what you have written is not in any way offensive to me. I just can't get my head around some of it :)

    Let's just take the Lord's Supper (simpler!)

    Here is the Westminster Confession

    29: II. In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead;[2] but only a commemoration 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:[3] so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ's one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect.[4]

    Here is the 1689 Baptist Confession

    30:2 In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to His Father, nor is there any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin (of the living or the dead). There is only a memorial of that one offering up of Christ by Himself upon the cross once for all, the memorial being accompanied by a spiritual oblation of all possible praise to God for Calvary. Therefore, the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, being injurious to Christ's own sacrifice, which is the only propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

    Slight differences, but only slight - phrased differently but exactly the same substance. The word ordinance is used instead of sacrament - but what happens in the Supper as described is identical.

    Interestingly in paragraph 3 both are similar again and both use the word ordinance.

    Paragraphs 5 & 7 are the most important and again while there are slight changes they are substanially the same.

    WCF 29:V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ;[10] albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.[11]

    VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament,[13] do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.[14]

    BCF 30:5 The outward elements in this ordinance which are correctly set apart and used as Christ ordained, so closely portray Him as crucified, that they are sometimes truly (but figuratively) referred to in terms of the things they represent, such as the body and blood of Christ. However in substance and nature they still remain truly and only bread and wine as they were before.

    30:7 Worthy receivers, outwardly taking the visible elements in this ordinance, also receive them inwardly and spiritually by faith, truly and in fact, but not carnally and corporally, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of His death. The body and blood of Christ is not present corporally or carnally but it is spiritually present to the faith of believers in the ordinance, just as the elements are present to their outward senses.

    Now at first glance all this perhaps supports what you have said that you are a baptist because you reject 'presbyterianism's' sacramental language and what it means. However a close look shows that while the word sacrament is used, everything else is the same - the theology is the same even where the terminology differs.

    The similarity is even more acutely seen when one assumes Calvin's definition of what a sacrament it. Calvin defined a sacrament thus (Institutes 4:14)

    "an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men"

    Thus at best the change between Westministerian theology and RB theology is merely one of terminology not theology. In fact many RB's myself included are very content to use the Westminsterian terminology, because in reality there is no fundamental disagreement. The name ordinance does not say anything about the theology other than the practice is ordained by Christ, even the WCF uses it this way. The Protestant use of the word sacrament is to designate the two 'sign' ordinances from the other ordinances; preaching, singing etc.
  11. Reformation Monk

    Reformation Monk Puritan Board Freshman


    I believe this.

    All I'm trying to say is that (for me personally) coming out of the Roman Catholic view of the Sacraments as being a means of grace through their physical administration (or in other words, saving and justifying grace given to all who receive them) I am a little leery of the concept of a sacrament in this light.

    But I would admit that to refer to these as sacraments in a way that is simply referring to the two ordinances as "sacred" because they were directly instituted by Christ would certainly be appropriate?

    Does that make any sense?

    I do believe that as far as Communion goes, both Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians are likeminded.

    I just feel as though, infants are not capable of recognizing and or understanding the "outward sign" and or meaning and or is unable to be "communicated" to by Christ through these two sacraments.

    I kind of see the thread of reason that if you baptize infants then you might as well let me receive communion also. ( i know this is a loaded statement and I'm just using is an example, I'm not wishing to bring up another off-topic please ).
  12. Joseph Scibbe

    Joseph Scibbe Puritan Board Junior

    I am with Paul. Why is the sacrament/ordinance distinction so important? Is it because of your RC background and what sacrament means there? I am a Confessional Southern Baptist(unofficial) and I have no problem using the term sacrament for those who know what I mean. I don't think anyone on this board would say that baptism and communion are "works" but are (I believe the phrase is) modes of grace but that grace is not apart from the faith of the person receiving it while the RCC teaches that the Eucharist and baptism are effectual for all who take them despite their faith position. On the other hand if I were a SBC pastor I would probably use the term ordinance because that is the generally accepted term.
  13. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi David

    That's fine. Perhaps it's the way you expressed it that was causing my confusion. Just be very sure that RC sacramentalism is radically different from the Protestant understanding, and that so far as I am concerned the Presbyterian and Baptist understanding of the sacraments is the same. Keach indeed in his catechism is eye-wateringly strong (for many Baptists) in his understanding of the efficacy of the sacraments. :)

    The last couple of paragraphs make more sense to me and I see where you're coming from and think that this would more explain your move from Covenant to Credo-baptism than the way you previously expressed it; not because of sacrament/ordinance differences per-se but a different understanding as to who should receive the sacraments/ordinances.

    At the risk of apologising for Covenant baptists (but I will because they're not allowed to post here) the first danger you outline; time of administration and communication of the grace therein significed, is mitigated by their understanding that the efficacy of the ordinance/sacrament is not tied to the time of administration. So in theory the grace signified as an infant, is communicated when they are later on converted. We may or may not accept that but I think we should understand our Covenant-baptist friends do not ignore this matter.

    The second danger of paedocommunion is avoided by recognising rightly that the NT makes it clear (1 Cor 11) that self examination is a pre-requisite of participation in the Lord's Supper. Thus most Presbyterians require a credible profession of faith in obedience to this standard for participation in the Lord's Supper just as we would.
  14. Reformation Monk

    Reformation Monk Puritan Board Freshman

    That is my argument for believer's baptism.

    Again I don't mean this to be an off-topic. But it would depend on how you interpret 1 Cor 11. My only reason for using this as an example is to say that it kind of touches on the covenant concept.

    Yes I understand the reasons for Paedobaptism, I supported them for many years and as an ordained elder.

    Here's the thing though, for those of us on this forum; reciting and understanding Confessional Standards is second hand. Especially for Ministers and Pastors who understand and hold dear to them.

    But I'm afraid I'm coming from more of a laymen's practical point of view, where I tend to observe the ordinances/sacraments being done in a more non-chalant way. So I get concerned.

    I guess to get back to my analogy of communion.... ( and please keep in mind that this is something that I've been struggling with for a very long time ) I personally tend to go in the opposite direction.

    I do interpret 1 Cor 11 in a way that definitely suggests that the recipient needs to be fully aware of what they're doing... and along the same thought, I also believe that the recipient of baptism also needs to be aware. "repent and be baptized."
  15. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    The sacramental understanding of baptism in the WCF is substantially different than in the LBC.

    WCF 27
    1. Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him: as also to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.
    2. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.
    3. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorising the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

    All of these got the axe in the LBC. The LBC describes baptism as an ordinance "appointed by the Lord Jesus" and as "holy appointments" in place of the sacramental language.

    Gone is the reference to baptism as being the sign and seal of the covenant of grace (also gone from 29.1).
    Gone is the "sacramental union" between the sign and the thing signified.
    Gone is every use of the term "grace" with reference to baptism.

    This isn't to say that you can't be a Reformed Baptist and hold to baptism as the sign and seal of the covenant of grace, a sacramental union, or baptism as a "means of grace." Some of the early Particular Baptists believed that. But I think it does mean that there was enough dissent among the Particular Baptists to the sacramental view in the Westminster that they chose to describe it as an ordinance rather than a sacrament.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
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