Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Importance of Baptism as Christ's Ordinance

Benji Ramsaur, a blogger friend and frequent commenter, emailed me the other day about the views of the 18th Century Sandy Creek Association of Baptist Churches on baptism.

Wade, I don't know if you ever thought about it, but it looks to me that the Sandy Creek Associaiton Confession (1816) is in agreement with you on Baptism and the Lord's Supper being ordinances of Christ. Here is statement #8 from their confession.

8. That baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the Lord, and to be continued by his church until his second coming. (emphasis mine)

I already knew what Benji pointed out to me. Still, he has done a favor by reminding us all of the doctrinal beliefs of some of our Southern Baptist forefathers regarding the ordinance of baptism. If the Sandy Creek Baptists were correct about this ordinance, and I believe they were, then the believer's baptism identifies him as a follower of Jesus Christ. Let me repeat what I just wrote so it can sink in Baptism identifies a believer with Jesus Christ -- not a local church.

The local church's responsibility is to ensure that, as a prerequisite to church membership, the member candidate has identified himself with Christ through baptism by immersion. When I was baptized, I was not baptized 'into membership within a local church,' but I was baptized into Christ.

In other words, when Christ died for His people at Calvary, I was included with them and in Him, and my water baptism symbolizes my union and identification with Him in His death (Colossians 2;12). When Christ was wrapped in linen and buried in the tomb for His people, I was included with them and was in Him, and my baptism is a picture of my identification with Him during His burial (Romans 6). When Christ rose from the dead, making complete satifaction and atonment for the sins of His people, I was included with them and was in Him. My water baptism is my outward confession of my eternal possession -- deliverance from the wrath to come through the person and work of Jesus Christ for me.

The Practical Application of Baptism as the Lord's Ordinance

If you can locate a copy of Pascal's text on North Carolina Baptist History, you'll find this note (page 109, Vol. 2):

The only meeting house in which the visiting Moravian ministers preached was that on Deep Creek, 30 miles from Salem, finished in 1772. Nearly always Soelle's successors (Soelle was a Moravian missionary who often helped the Baptists) preached in the houses of the friendly families found there by Soelle; uusally they were heard by large and attentive congregations, of whom some were Baptists, including preachers and exhorters. On these visits the Moravian minister often baptized (by immersion) believing children brought by parents to the preacher at the homes where he was entertained.

It's worth noting that Moravian theology is derivative of Brethren and Lutheran theology. Their theology needs to be more transparent on the doctrine of eternal security. At best, they are ambiguous. Deep Creek was part of the Sandy Creek Association until 1805. These Baptists at Deep Creek church had absolutely no problem accepting into their fellowship believers who were baptized by a visiting Moravian evangelist because the baptisms performed by the guest Moravian evangelist did not identify the believers baptized by him with the Moravian church, the Moravian doctrine, or the Moravian movement -- it identified those believers with Jesus Christ.

What's good enough for the Sandy Creek Baptists in the 18th Century is good enough for my Southern Baptist church in the 21st Century. When someone petitions our church for membership, we examine their faith and baptism. Their faith is to be in Christ alone for salvation, and their baptism is to be by immersion, picturing the believer's identification with Christ. It's the Lord's ordinance, not ours.

In His Grace,