Baptism for Church Membership

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by dh1948, Aug 25, 2008.

  1. dh1948

    dh1948
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    This morning I had breakfast with several pastors. The conversation gravitated toward the question of why Baptists use baptism as the prerequisite for church membership.

    Maybe some of you church historians and/or theologians can give some insight on this issue.
     
  2. Tom Butler

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    Here is what Dr. Malcolm Yarnell of Southwestern Seminary has to say:

    More from Dr. Yarnell:
    1846, West Union Baptist Association [my home association in Western Kentucky] recorded the following:


    (Source: page 253 of J.H. Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists, 1769-1885, Volume 2. )
    I found this at the Landmark Southern Baptist Website, which noted that this was the practice long before Landmarkism began to have influence.

    And from our own Southern Baptist Confession of Faith:
     
  3. Havensdad

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    I am Southern Baptist, but this kind of thing sickens me. This is the same thing the Catholics claim> that the value of the Baptism is somehow dependant on the one administering it. According to this, Phillip's baptizing of the Ethiopian Eunuch was insufficient.

    I agree, however, that Baptism should be prerequisite to membership. But a baptism in a good Bible based Non Baptist church is perfectly valid.
     
  4. Tom Butler

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    If the non-Baptist Bible-based church holds to a like faith and order as a Baptist church, the name on the sign is immaterial. Before I would accept a baptism from such a church, I would need to see its doctrinal statement.

    The reason that the local congregation is the arbiter of what constitutes a valid baptism is that the authority was given to it by Jesus Christ himself, in the Great Commission. Those assembled at his Ascension were told to baptize converts, and teach what he had taught them. Baptism is clearly followed by teaching, including the ordinances.

    Regarding the Ethiopian eunuch, he was baptized by Philip, a leading member of the congregation at Jerusalem. The church had already sent Peter and John to Samara to check on Philip's converts. The Holy Spirit validated the conversions. The Holy Spirit also directly ordered Philip to approach the Eunuch. It is not at all clear that the eunuch was not baptized into membership of the Jerusalem church. Philip acted under the authority of the Jerusalem congregation as a deacon and evangelist.

    The New Testament knows nothing of baptized non-church members. It clearly connects baptism and membership. In Acts 2:41-42, the order is clearly laid out: The preaching of the gospel, conversion, baptism, added to the church.

    The so-called Catholic connection is an old argument. The criteria is the scripture, not a knee jerk to the RCC which holds to the same practice.
     
  5. lbaker

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    I never have understood the "clear" connection between baptism and local church membership. I just don't see it.
     
  6. Pastor Larry

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    The "clear connection" is regenerate church membership. The NT teaches that only those who are regenerate are church members, and the way that regeneration is professed is through public baptism. Therefore, in order to join a church you must give a credible profession of faith that results in public confession through baptism.
     
  7. lbaker

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    Hmmmm, thanks, do you have a passage for all that?
     
  8. dh1948

    dh1948
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    Thanks....

    ....for the responses, but I am still not crystal clear on the issue. Guess I need to study some more.
     
  9. Pastor Larry

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    The NT as a whole gives this pattern, and Acts 2:41 gives it explicitly: They received the word, they were baptized, and then they were added to the church.

    Romans 6:4 makes it clear that baptism is public identification with Christ for salvation. \
     
  10. lbaker

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    The Acts passage sounds more like they were added to the "universal" church by Jesus after baptism to me. Doesn't specify anything about a local congregation that I can see.

    Romans 6:4 sure sounds as if it is more like an actual (although spiritual) burying and raising with Christ that is happening at baptism. Anyway it still doesn't mention local church membership.

    I would think that if we're going to make such a categorical statement as "the purpose of baptism is to make someone a member of a local congregation" we would have at least one passage that specifically referred to that. Something like "and they were all baptized into the local church at Corinth." I don't know of any passage like that, thus my questioning. If we do have one, someone please point it out. Thanks.
     
    #10 lbaker, Aug 26, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2008
  11. Jon-Marc

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    After I accepted Christ in 1963 I was baptized. No matter how many churches I join in my lifetime, I don't need to be baptized again.
     
  12. Pastor Larry

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    Interesting. So you think that this was not localized in Jerusalem? The text says that Peter was preaching in Jerusalem. Furthermore, there was no church that was not in Jerusalem at that time. So it doesn't sound anything like being added to the universal church.

    It doesn't mention local church membership, but it shows that baptism is identification with Christ.

    [quote[I would think that if we're going to make such a categorical statement as "the purpose of baptism is to make someone a member of a local congregation" we would have at least one passage that specifically referred to that. Something like "and they were all baptized into the local church at Corinth." I don't know of any passage like that, thus my questioning. If we do have one, someone please point it out. Thanks.[/quote]I don't know who said that "the purpose of baptism is to make someone a member of a local church." The purpose of baptism is obedience by public identification, and that leads to church membership. I think Acts 2:41 is explicit. I see no reason not to accept it as the pattern.
     
  13. Pastor Larry

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    Typically Baptists accept someone who was baptized in another church by church letter, accepting their baptism there upon receiving a letter that the individual was a member in good standing.
     
  14. lbaker

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    Okay, if the purpose of baptism is "obedience by public identification..." it seems like we ought to have a passage that says that. If Acts 2:41 is about identification/membership it seems like verse 38 would read something like "repent and be baptized so you can be a member of the local church in Jerusalem".
     
  15. Pastor Larry

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    There has been much written on baptism and the biblical defense of it if you are interested. Acts 2:41 is clear, as is Romans 6:4. I would encourage you to study. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because something is not said in the words you would use that it is therefore not said. And don't presume to speak on what v. 38 would have said.
     
  16. lbaker

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    PL,

    No offense intended here, but I can't help wondering to what extent you may be influenced by a pre-conceived idea of what those passages are about. It just appears to me that to an unbiased reader there's nothing there to conclusively point to a link between baptism and local church membership or identification with Christ.

    Thanks,

    Les
     
  17. Pastor Larry

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    No offense taken, and to be honest, my pre-conceived idea was that baptism had nothing to do with church membership. In fact, I was once baptized outside of a local church context (long story). I am convinced it was an invalid baptism, or more simply no baptism at all. However, by the Scriptures (I believe), I have been convinced to the contrary.

    So if you think that baptism has nothing to do with church membership and identification with Christ, what do you think it has to do with?
     
  18. PeterM

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    Regardless... every candidate for baptism should be held to the same standard of belief. If the candidate is coming from a church/tradidtion that holds to different standard when it comes to salvation/baptism, then "believer's baptism" should be encouraged and embraced. However, if the individual holds to the same understanding that we do as a church and has been baptized, their baptism is accepted as if it were done by us.

    Baptism is a personal step of belief and obedience in the person's life with Jesus and while I understand and agree that it should be a pre-requisite to chruch membership, I do have tension in the matter.
     
  19. lbaker

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    It appears to have something to do with forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit. This is NOT to say that I believe in any kind of baptismal regeneration. We are saved by Grace through Faith, Amen. But, there does appear to have been some kind of connection or correlation or something going on with conversion and baptism in the New Testament. I realize this contradicts traditional Baptist thought, but, I just can't get around what scripture seems to be saying. I guess you could say I think it has to do with identifying with Christ but in a literal rather than symbolic way. There is a definite "tension" between passages that link baptism and conversion and others that only speak of speak of faith and conversion.
     
  20. preachinjesus

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    For what it's worth the church I get to serve asks that all of our members to have been baptized by immersion after salvation. That's pretty much it.

    I don't understand the need for rebaptism (so long as it meets the criteria above) upon entering another church. Doesn't make sense to me. I had a friend who said that anyone baptized outside the SBC was not authentically baptized. Smacked of catholic imperialism I said, he got really mad. Doesn't make sense why people have issues here.

    We also have lots of people who have either not been baptized since conversion or were baptized another way. They just don't worry about church membership, particularly since it doesn't mean very much. :)
     

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