Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What Every Baptist Should Know About Believer's Baptism

Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) was considered by Baptists in the 18th and 19th Centuries as the pre-eminent Baptist theologue of his day. His Greek and Hebrew proficiency excelled the Anglican scholars of London and the Roman Catholic scholars of Europe. His works on the ancient Jewish writings have not been surpassed in scholarship to this day.

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, called Gill "his mentor in Israel." Dr. Gill was a contemporary and friend of Augustus Toplady, author of the great hymn, "Rock of Ages," William Cowper, and other world-renowned evangelicals of both London and Europe.

Dr. Gill is the only English speaking scholar to write a commentary on every book of Scriptures from the original languages (even non-English seaking Calvin skipped Revelation). After his commentary, Gill wrote his "Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity," a wonderful compilation of systemized doctrine. Usually interpreters base their commentaries on presuppositions. Gill exposited the Scriptures first, then systemetized his theology.

According to the scholarly historian Joseph Ivimey, if a pastor in the 1800's did not have Gill's Commentaries in his library, he was not considered a true Baptist in his day. Whether you agree with his soteriology or not (Gill was a Calvinist), no one can deny his Biblical erudition and theological acumen.

Gill was brilliant.

Read carefully the following excerpt from Gill's "Body of Divinity." His statements regarding baptism are thoroughly Biblical and reflect the historic view on baptism of Baptists everywhere. Following the excerpt I will then point out five serious errors in the new IMB policy regarding baptism.

Practical Divinity~Book 3

Chapter 1:

Of Baptism

As the first covenant, or testament, had ordinances of divine service, which are shaken, removed, and abolished; so the New Testament, or gospel dispensation, has ordinances of divine worship, which cannot be shaken, but will remain until the second coming of Christ: these, as Austin says {1}, are few; and easy to be observed, and of a very expressive signification. Among which, baptism must be reckoned one, and is proper to be treated of in the first place; for though it is not a church ordinance, it is an ordinance of God, and a part and branch of public worship.

When I say baptism is not a church ordinance, I mean baptism is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church; persons must first be baptized, and then added to the church, as the three thousand converts were; a church has nothing to do with the baptism of any, but to be satisfied they are baptized before they are admitted into communion with it.

Admission to baptism lies solely in the breast of the administrator, who is the only judge of qualifications for it, and has the sole power of receiving to it, and of rejecting from it; if nor satisfied, he may reject a person thought fit by a church, and admit a person to baptism not thought fit by a church; but a disagreement is not desirable nor advisable.

The orderly, regular, scriptural rule of proceeding seems to be this: a person inclined to submit to baptism, and to join in communion with a church, should first apply to an administrator; and upon giving him satisfaction, be baptized by him; and then should propose to the church for communion; when he would be able to answer all proper questions: if asked, to give a reason of the hope that is in him, he is ready to do it; if a testimony of his life and conversation is required, if none present can give it, he can direct where it is to be had; and if the question is put to him, whether he is a baptized person or not, he can answer in the affirmative, and give proof of it, and so the way is clear for his admission into church fellowship.

So Saul, when converted, was immediately baptized by Ananias, without any previous knowledge and consent of the church; and, it was many days after this that he proposed to join himself to the disciples, and was received, #Ac 9:18,19,23,26-28

The new IMB policy on baptism violates the above in five areas:

(1). The new policy forces baptism to take place within a church for identification with a church, not recognizing that baptism can, and often should, take place outside a church (winning the convert on the mission field and baptizing in a river or lake) and it represents one's unashamed identification with Jesus Christ and His followers.

(2). Thus, the new policy places the emphasis of baptism on the person's identification with a church, not identification with Christ.

(3). Therefore, the IMB is now asking questions about what the church who baptizes an individual believed, rather than asking what the individual being baptized believes. What is in the head of the baptizer is deemed more important than what is in the heart of the baptized.

(4). So the new IMB policy violates the historic Baptistic understanding of baptism, not to mention the Scriptural description of believer's baptism by immersion, by adopting a Landmark understanding of baptism with it's emphasis on examining the qualifications of the church, or person, doing the baptizing when both the New Testament and Baptist Faith and Message make no such demand.

(5). So the eventual end to the matter is that the IMB's sacerdotal and Landmark new policy on baptism violates the autonomy of the local Southern Baptist Church, by rejecting the prospective missionary candidate who is a member of an SBC church, who has been Scripturally baptized, but not by a "proper church," a condition only attached to Landmark theology.

The former policy of the IMB and the statement on baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message are both clear, biblical, and sufficient. The new policy is an eggregious error with continuing consequences in the field and SBC churches.

In His Grace,



Paul said...

Wade, it is my understanding that the new policies were drafted by Dr. John Floyd who is an administrator at Mid-America Seminary. I've had personal communication with two of our seminary presidents who also support this policy.

How in the world these highly educated men can't see these things is beyond me. At the same time, I am rather thankful that they included this baptism policy because I don't think there is any way they can scripturally defend this to the person in the pew. If that is true then it will fall by its own weight (if the people in the pews find out about it).

I have been told by Dr. Patterson that we have problems in the mission fields with our church plants becoming something other than Baptist. Are you aware of any of that?

Anonymous said...

Hey Wade,
Good blog (Andrew told me about it last week), it's about time you got on board with what seems like the newest channel of theological argumentation.

In reading through this stuff on your site, and those for your position and against your position one thing seems clear: That baptists seem very preoccupied with building their kingdom, and not necessarily THE kingdom. Being out of the baptist fold I guess I can say that, but I have been directing missions at Faith for 2 years now and a whole new world has been exposed to me in regards to missions. Not to mention going to Columbia Biblical Seminary, which is the preimminent missions training institution in the world.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty of all this don't you think there could be some give and take with the "prayer language" issue (potential slippery slope), but that the baptism issue is just completely ridiculous?

SIM, GFA, GEM, MAF...they aren't having these empty debates. Maybe they had them in the past...I don't know, but it seems from reading the rants on this blog that the SBC is a little zealous for the cause of their denomination, rather than the cause of Christ and his heart for the nations.

Feel free to delete,

*Read "The Next Christendom" by Phillip Jenkins or maybe K.P. Yohannon, and I think it will bring this all into perspective when it comes to the implications of these decisions (or lack of implications) on the field.

Anonymous said...

As a SBC pastor I can only conclude that the Trustees that implemented this policy don't care about sound theology, and don't really have a Kingdom mindset. The only possible way to implement a policy like this is for them to believe they sit above the local church, above the universal church, and above the very Word of God. Appears to me they are treading on dangerous ground.

Mike said...

My wife and I are involved in a church plant in O'Fallon, Missouri, and it has been our experience that local churches in this area are congregationally minded, not kingdom minded. We have actively sought help from and partnership with the existing SBC churches in our county, and to date we've received very little interest in either. We receive some support from the state and national conventions, but when it comes to sister churches on a local level pitching in, we're pretty much on our own.

In contrast, my dad is in a Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, church plant less than 5 miles from ours. Three local LCMS congregations have "donated" about 10-12 families each, meaning the new church started from day one with 30 or so families. The local churches help to fund the new church, and the synod also partners with them. They are getting ready to buy some land to build on because they are growing so fast that they can't find a place to meet.

Our church started 4 months earlier than theirs did, but we're only up to around 10-12 families right now. From what we can tell, we're about three years behind the progress of the Lutheran church down the street. I definitely acknowledge the beautiful truth that it is God that builds the church, not us, but it is discouraging.

Unlike many, I'm not a "Baptist for Life," so I don't necessarily have all of the SBC "team spirit" that some have. However, I think it is shameful that a denomination that prides itself on evangelism, and turns a deaf ear to Calvinism because it might diminish evangelism (i.e. Bobby Welch... that's a whole different story), and yet we're being put to shame by the Lutherans, who are hardly known for evangelism and church growth.

I have only been a baptist for 3 years or so, but it seems to me that we would do a much better job of reaching the lost if we would truly cooperate, not just in name only.


Anonymous said...

In not responding to your requests for communication, which were respectfully requested, these 'gentlemen' have violated the rules of common civility. I would have thought that common civility would be valued as a behavior of a Christian gentleman. I suppose now, the 'leadership' is ready to disavow civiity with the same fervor that it used to omit Christ from prominence in the BF&M 2000.

You are not dealing with Christians here, Wade. I think you know that. Be aware that they are using methods against the Church which may cause much harm.
L's Gran

Gary said...

Teenagers should NOT be baptized!

I was reading my Bible on the topic of Baptism last night when, like a bolt of lightning, this revelation came to me: there is not one single example in the Bible of teenagers being baptized! Why didn't I see this before? Why haven't other Christians seen this glaring fact before? What are we doing baptizing teenagers if there is no specific mention of this practice in the Bible??

"But teenagers are capable of making a mature, informed decision," you say.


Would you let your thirteen year old make a decision to buy a gun?
Would you let your thirteen year old make a decision to drive a car?
Would you let your thirteen year old make a decision to buy and drink alcohol?
Would you let your thirteen year old make a decision to get married, move away from home, join the army, or volunteer to participate in cancer drug trials?

No! Of course you wouldn't.

So what makes you think that a teenager has the maturity to make a decision to choose which religion to join and which god to believe in?

Logic, reason, and good ol' common sense make it clear that a thirteen year old does NOT have the maturity to make major life decisions, so what makes you think that he or she can make major "eternal life" decisions?

The Bible does not explicitly mention baptizing infants...I mean teenagers...so this practice is just another Catholic false teaching and must be abandoned and replaced with the true teachings of the Bible: Only adult men and women should be baptized in a true Christian church.

Since no Christian Church on planet earth follows this scriptural practice, which God has just revealed to me in my heart, I am starting my own Church as of today. We will only baptize adults over age 21.

Our new Church will be called the "Garyites". We are the true Church.